November 10, 2016

I hope this Veterans Day is meaningful to every member of our wonderful community. The recent election cycle is just one of countless examples of the importance of sustaining, strengthening, and protecting a free, democratic society, and I know we share deep gratitude to all veterans who served our country throughout its history. As a young boy, I visited Arlington National Cemetery with my parents and the image of the thousands of pure white headstones was an indelible image. Though my father flew a Corsair in WWII (the picture of his plane hangs in my office), he never talked about the war, but the silence at, and expanse of, Arlington said it all. So as we go about our business today (I am off to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve with some visitors from Singapore), I know we will all remember the sacrifice and service of everyone who served in America’s military.

During the past few days, our entire community has experienced a wide range of conflicting emotions as we have processed the results of the Presidential elections. While some students, staff, and families move through this transition more quickly and easily, others do not, so we must focus on safety and wellness of each and every one of our children.

I am so proud that our students are deeply invested and engaged in our country and this is a wonderful time to discuss the underlying principles of our democracy: freedom of speech, a collective commitment to equity, and our inalienable rights. It is important that we model compassion and respect for all members of our community. As caring adults we also have the opportunity to emphasize the beauty of diversity, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of coming together during times of transition. We must be constructive and thoughtful in our communication through the coming weeks with our children, to support them in seeking healing when they are hurt, and modeling humility if victorious.  

We are encouraging students to express their emotions in healthy ways - engaging in thoughtful discussions, civil discourse, and respectful debate; writing letters to elected officials and even their future selves; and practicing self care through mindfulness and/or physical activity. Despite our best efforts, we have seen some isolated incidents of harassment so if you notice that a student needs extra support, or if any incidents of harassment are shared with you, please notify the school immediately. We will take immediate and decisive action. Also, on site counseling and support are available. Please check in with the school psychologist and/or wellness center staff if additional support is needed for your child.  

Additionally, below are some resources that may be helpful to answer questions that your child may have about the election process:

Conversation starters/FAQ & Helpful Answers about Elections in General
Resources for explaining the election process/electoral college to kids
Wonderful advice from a local (Jesuit) psychologist: take a deep breath, remember that rhetoric isn’t reality & how we can ‘grow where we are planted.’ 

Turning to the Board meeting, we will have a long Superintendent’s Report that, in addition to Student and Staff success, includes:

Board Workshop on Special Education Report and Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) Process

We will be receiving the results of Dr. Thomas Hehir’s study of our Special Education programs and services sometime in the next few days. We are scheduling a Board workshop the morning of December 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to present the results of this report. We will discuss the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) process and our district’s and school sites' responsibility for implementing UCP. While we originally had this meeting scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Dr. Hehir was not available until 9:00 a.m. and we want to maximize the time that he and his team can participate via videoconference.

2017-18 School Year Calendar

The school year calendar is subject to collective bargaining with the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA). The district and PAEA have been, and still are, engaged in discussions regarding the 2017-18 school year calendar, as well as the calendars for 2018-19 and 2019-20. For purposes of planning, we are reasonably confident that for our students, the school year will begin sometime during the week of August 14, 2017, which is similar to when it began this past fall (opening days were August 15 and 16). We will send more information via the Superintendent’s Weekly Messages and Infinite Campus as we receive it.

Grade Reporting on Transcripts

At the last Board meeting, I informed the Board I would do some fact-finding regarding the proposed short-term solution and report back at this meeting. Paly found that 145 students would have a lower UC/CSU Weighted Grade Point Average (WGPA) than the Unweighted Grade Point Average (GPA), so we are giving this year’s seniors a choice on whether or not they want WGPA or GPA reported. Gunn is reporting WGPA per usual in the counseling section of the Common App, and for this year both WGPA and GPA will be on transcripts. As part of the fact-finding, I will also share how both schools calculate WGPA, the problems which exist with both systems, the number of Paly students requesting a WGPA transcript (as of this writing 38 of the 264 early decision/action/admission students have made the request), and data regarding how Paly students fare in the UC/CSU weighted system compared to how they would fare in the Gunn system. I will also have dates for the webinar – tentatively November 29 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. – and at least two open forum meetings at which we will be exploring long-term solutions. I will not be reporting on any long-term proposals at this Board meeting since we are still identifying the myriad questions, concerns, and unanticipated problems that various weighting systems must address.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

We will be reporting on the status of OCR cases that have not yet been resolved.

Safe Routes to School

In recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the Safe Routes to School partnership, the City/School Liaison Committee requested to give a presentation during a Board meeting. Because our agendas have been so full, we asked that they give an overview in five minutes or less. Their work is important in the daily lives of our schools and families and we look forward to another ten years with the Safe Routes team.

Parent Liaison Program

We are excited to announce that our Parent Liaison program is staffed and share how we expect their outreach work to support and engage families that have traditionally been underrepresented in our schools, and less likely to participate in school and schooling due to obstacles and difficulties in accessing programs and services.

Meeting Agenda

A. 2015-16 Parcel Tax Fiscal Report
B. Annual Strong Schools Bond Financial and Performance Audits
C. Citizens' Oversight Committee Annual Report on the Strong Schools Bond

These three reports are statutorily required and will be presented by Chief Business Officer (CBO) Cathy Mak, Bond Program Manager Dr. Robert Golton, and members of the committees.

D. BP/AR 6162.8 Research

The updated Board Policy/Administrative Regulation (BP/AR) 6162.8 establishes procedures for our students conducting advanced research to follow in order to familiarize them with a real human and animal subjects review process. Additionally, the process will revise current practices so that the District can, for the first time, in a centralized and consistent fashion, monitor activity of research projects in PAUSD that are using our students or staff as research subjects through a Human and Animal Subjects Review Committee (HASRC). The updated BP/AR will ensure the ethical conduct of all research involving our students and staff.

E. High School A-G and College Enrollment Report, AP Enrollment 

We will present District rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion from the high school graduating classes of 2008 to 2015, based on analysis of National Student Clearinghouse data. These data provide an overview of students’ college success after graduating from the District and provide information for the District to create a baseline measure of postsecondary success for historically underrepresented (HUR) graduates, as specified in the district’s Equity and Access focus goals. Overall, PAUSD graduates typically enroll in college and complete any degree at rates higher than the nation and comparable to state. However, historically underrepresented students and special education students in PAUSD enroll in college and complete degrees at lower rates than their PAUSD peers.

This presentation also reports on Advanced Placement (AP) course enrollment. Both females and HUR students are underrepresented in AP courses. Additionally, there is an AP exam performance achievement gap in some AP courses. AP participation and performance gaps are remaining challenges for the district to address.

Finally, this presentation reports on A-G completion rates, a state indicator of students’ college readiness and eligibility to attend a California public four-year university (University of California or California State University). Analysis by the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) Department has identified historical inconsistencies in tracking and reporting of A-G completion across years and across sites.

F. 2016-17 First Interim Financial Report 

This annual report includes an update on changes in revenues and expenses, general fund summary, a summary report on the other funds, and a five-year general fund projection based on DecisionInsite’s moderate projections (see below) that will be presented on the December 6 Board meeting. While we have some new revenues, we have some significant expenses in one area which adds to the projected deficit. We have made adjustments that can manage the additional deficit, but have eliminated an adjustment that would have decreased expenditures for special education aides.

G. Annual Authorization to Purchase Technology 

Following discussion at the last meeting, we are seeking Board approval to fund technology purchases with bond funds in alignment with the language approved by voters when the Strong Schools Bond measure was passed.

H. and I. Ratification of Tentative Agreements on Benefits with CSEA and PAEA

These items were presented for discussion and we are asking the Board to ratify agreements after both Associations do so with their membership.

J. Annual Report on School Impact Fees for 2015-16

Government Code section 66006(b)(1)(A-H) requires that each year the District make specific information available to the public pertaining to the impact fee fund. The fees are used for construction and reconstruction of school facilities necessary because of enrollment growth. For fiscal year 2015-16, the fees were $3.36 per square foot for residential construction, and $.54 per square foot for commercial construction.

K. Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) Matrix

This matrix lists policies for which California School Boards Association (CSBA) has issued recommended revisions in accordance with changes in state and federal laws. Each policy has been assigned to a staff member for review. We are asking Board members to prioritize policies for BPRC consideration or pull any for full Board discussion prior to BPRC discussion.

L. CSBA Call for Nominations for CSBA Delegate Assembly

CSBA is currently seeking delegates from each of its 21 regions. Any PAUSD Board member can apply to serve as a delegate for our region. Any nomination must be considered at a regular Board meeting and approved by a majority of the Board members. If no one from PAUSD is nominated, the Board will take action sometime between February 15 and March 1 to vote for a candidate from the list of nominees.

M. Plan for the Balance of $60 Million in the Elementary School Bond Program Reserve

Dr. Golton and staff have held a series of meetings with the elementary principals and will report on the process and rationale for the recommendations below. Pending the results of discussion at this meeting, it will be recommended at a subsequent meeting the Board of Education take the following actions:

  • Transfer $23,000,000 from the Elementary School Reserve to the Hoover Elementary School Project                
  • Transfer $37,132,808 from the Elementary School Reserve to the Multi-Use Building Projects
  • Authorize that $300,000 of the Multi-Use Building Projects funds be used to develop conceptual designs at three campuses:  Escondido, El Carmelo, and Hays

Next Meeting (December 6):  Enrollment Projections 

Looking ahead to our December 6 Board meeting, we will have a report on our enrollment projections from demographer, DecisionInsite.  We anticipate receiving the full report with charts and narratives by the end of November.  A few days ago we received preliminary enrollment projection numbers, with moderate and conservative enrollment projections. A brief summary of the moderate projections from CBO Mak follows:

Moderate Projection

The year’s moderate enrollment projection shows a significant decline of 15% (-789 students) at the elementary level over the next five years. The District has had five consecutive years of declining kindergarten enrollment since 2012. The significant decline reflects the smaller classes moving through the system.

The year’s moderate enrollment projection also shows a significant decline of 12% (-383 students) at the middle school level over the next five years. The middle schools have had continuous growth in the last three years. Enrollment is projected to remain flat in the next two years and start significant decline in 2019.

The year’s moderate enrollment projection shows significant growth of 13% (490 students) at the high school level over the next five years. The growth is from the current larger classes at the middle schools passing through the system. Enrollment will peak at 4,380 in 2020 and then starts to decline.

Total K-12
The total K-12 enrollment is projected to decline by 6% (-682 students) over the next five years and by 16% (-1,981 students) over the next 10 years.

We use the moderate enrollment projection for budgeting and planning. We have updated the multi-year projections in the First Interim Report in the November 15 Board packet with these enrollment numbers.

The conservative projection is included for reference. The conservative projection shows a total decline of 10% (-1,148 students) over the next five years and 26% (-3,076 students) over the next 10 years for total K-12 enrollment.

That wraps up this Superintendent’s Weekly Message. We are now distributing this document over both Schoology and Infinite Campus (IC). I have been writing weekly messages every Friday for more than two years now, so there is a long archive if you are interested in reading past messages. Also, please note that you can provide feedback. Last week I had 22 responses regarding the weighted grading topic, and while I don’t write back to everyone who provides feedback, I read them all and take them into consideration. For example, last week I gave a shout out to Gunn for The Crucible and was reminded in the feedback forum about Paly’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest. This is a terrific period piece comedy that runs at 7:30 p.m. on November 10 and 11, and at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 12.  Check out this photo!

Also, Paly’s football team made the playoffs and will face Los Gatos in a rematch at Los Gatos High School at 7:00 Friday evening. Go VIKINGS! And for the record, yes, I believe … I believe … I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win!