April 13, 2018

To Our PAUSD Community,

Happy Friday afternoon!  

This month is National Autism Awareness month!

“Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.” - The Autism Society of America

As we celebrate the 2018 National Autism Awareness Month, we promote awareness, acceptance, and we reflect on our efforts to serve and provide support to our students with autism.

During this month, we encourage acceptance and inclusion in all our schools and in our community. We aspire to have a strong appreciation of the unique talents and gifts of each of our students and are appreciative of the partnership between families and staff that help shape the student experience.

PAUSD Facilities Master Plan

The PAUSD school board is considering placing a bond measure on the November 2018, March 2020, or November 2020 ballot and a long-term Master Plan is needed in order to define the infrastructure needs across the District’s 19 campuses.

In August, a kick-off meeting was held to begin development of the Master Plan at which two master-planning committees for elementary and secondary schools were formed. The Master Planning meetings began in September and are in the process of defining districtwide standards. In addition, specific departments are being asked to reflect on their infrastructure needs.

Additionally, each school site has been brainstorming and identifying needs that are not currently being met by their physical site. The goal for each site is to generate a Conceptual Site Plan and a project list to share with the School Board. PAUSD has the opportunity to think into the future!

School Safety

I wanted to let you know I received another communication late last evening which included a school violence threat that was again non-specific to PAUSD or any of our school sites. The anonymous email threat was similar to the email hoax sent to districts throughout the state and nation last Sunday night and Monday morning. Upon receipt of the email last night, I reported it promptly to Palo Alto Police Department, who looked into it and responded back to me immediately. It is believed that the email was again distributed throughout the state and nation; law enforcement continues to work to determine the origin of the emails. As earlier in the week, some neighboring district superintendents were also in contact with each other to inquire about the receipt of another email. I’m so very sorry that things such as this continue to occur. Please know that with our partners at the Palo Alto Police Department, we will continue to actively look into any communication that voices threat to school safety, and that our staff will continue to be vigilant.

Summer Camps Held at PAUSD Sites

Looking for a summer camp in your neighborhood or at one of our Palo Alto Unified school sites? Now you can find it on the Palo Alto PTA Council website.

The camp providers listed above host activities/summer camps at PAUSD schools and pay rental fees to our District. These rental fees help to defray the cost of running our schools while providing local opportunities for our kids. This service is offered to give parents an easy way to find out what is being offered and where.

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

Art Department

Meet the Masters, a program coordinated by Art Education, is wrapping up another successful year. Our seven fabulous volunteer docents, Betty Anderson, Elisabeth Bonnet, Josephine Chien, Ananya Das, Kathryn Singh, Susan Snyder, and Alena Villari, made presentations for nearly 60 classes of elementary students. Each presentation consists of two visits and focuses on famous artists such as Hokusai, Jacob Lawrence, and Wayne Thiebaud. In the first visit, docents share information about the artist, and in the second visit, students do an art project inspired by that artist.

Special shout out to Meet the Masters Super Star Betty Anderson, a retired art teacher who spends several months each spring visiting family here in Palo Alto, and generously volunteers many hours each year. Betty, who is a favorite with students, classroom teachers, and MTM docents, heads home to Michigan next week. Thank you, Betty, and see you next year!

 Betty, Ananya, Josephine, Kathryn, Elisabeth, Karen, Emily, and Li MTM Star, Betty Anderson


To address the social and emotional needs of Fairmeadow students, our school applies Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies from three effective SEL methods. The Second Step program in K-2 and the Steps to Respect Program in 3-5 provide teachers with a menu of SEL lessons starting with recognizing emotions in oneself and leading to problem solving challenging social conflict with others.  Teachers choose from lessons in these evidence-based programs to prepare students for positive interactions inside and outside of the classroom, and to address social challenges as they arise.  Secondly, many teachers implement components of The Responsive Classroom approach.  

Responsive Classroom is an approach to daily instruction that emphasizes positive classroom community, collective responsibility, and social plus academic skills.  Important Responsive Classroom practices include daily morning meetings where the entire classroom gathers together to greet each other, share, and prepare for the day, as well as shared responsibility for classroom rules and routines.  Thirdly, this year we partner with the YMCA of Silicon Valley to implement the Project Cornerstone ABC (Asset Building Champion) Reader Program at Fairmeadow.  

Focused on growing positive relationships between children and a wide net of adults in the community, the ABC reader program features parent volunteers reading one picture book in classrooms across the school each month.  The intentionally chosen books focus on the theme of empathy, and provide a common language and common experience for all of our students that adults across the school can refer to in daily interactions both inside and outside of the classrooms.


This week, students in grades K-5 and staff enjoyed the hilarious and informative Oskar play, Oskar and the Last Straw! In the latest Oksar play from Theatreworks, Oskar learns about resilience and how to organize and prioritize the many things going on in his life. After spring break, third grade students began a 10-day Poetry at Play program, also with Theatreworks. It's an hour a day with a culminating performance on Friday, April 20. Students had their first activities this week and both teachers and students raved about this fun way to learn about poetry and theatrical expression!

Palo Verde

On Wednesday, April 11, Palo Verde hosted its annual Walk-a-thon. Students, staff, and volunteers spent part of their morning walking laps around the field with friends while listening to music. The Palo Verde Eagle even made an appearance, which was especially exciting for our younger students. A fun time was had by all!


Dance Team

The dance team went to the National competition in Anaheim over spring break, and great news…the girls took home a 3rd place trophy and medals in their Small Dance category! Our captain, Marie Davis, also got 4th place in the Drill down competition which is pretty awesome! They have worked so incredibly hard this season. If you’d like to SEE the award-winning dance, come to our Spring Showcase on Thursday, May 10!

(P.S.  A special shout-out to Jennifer Ramberg, Classified Staff member from the Testing Center who helped chaperone the trip! Could absolutely not have done it without her!)


Paly Thespian Troupe 909 participated in the annual California State Thespian Festival March 29-31 in Upland, California.  Sixty-two Thespian troupes from across the state, with 1,100 Thespians, were in attendance. Paly Thespians continue to shine as one of the top-performing theatre programs in the state.  Below is a full list of individual accomplishments. Congratulations to these talented and hard working students!

Paly’s twenty-six Thespian Troupe 909 students earned the following awards and recognitions:

  • First Place Sound Design Individual Event -- Emily Orr
  • Second Place Monologue Individual Event -- David Foster
  • State Student Thespian Officer Annie Tsui was re-elected for a second term
  • Outstanding Technician  Reid Sox-Harris - Projections
  • Callbacks Five students made Callbacks for their Monologues. (Individuals who make Callbacks are considered to be in the top 10 - 15% of Thespians in the state of California.)
  • All Festival Event Tech Crew Emily Orr
  • Audio, Jay Renaker – Lighting
  • Charlotte Saunders – Lighting
  • Reid Sox-Harris – Projections
  • Anya Trubelja – Lighting
  • Jesse Wilen - Audio
  • Opening Number Robert Vetter was selected for the Opening Dance number from the musical Mathilda
  • Closing Number Samuel Kim, Aida Mohamed, and Annie Tsui

PlayWorks is the staged reading production of original student material. Acceptance into PlayWorks as a performer or part of the production team is highly competitive.  Zoe Stanton-Savitz was selected as Assistant Director for PlayWorks, Cameron Miller, and Sofia Peterson were chosen as PlayWorks actors

Paly students earned 16 Superior ratings for their Individual Events. Superior is the highest possible rating and qualifies students to compete at the International Thespian Festival in June.

  • Isabel Armstrong & Derek Zhou (Musical Theatre Dance)
  • Anna Feenstra (Monologue)
  • David Foster (Monologue)
  • Devony Hof (Monologue)
  • Hannah Itzkowitz (Monologue)
  • Samuel Kim (Stage Management)
  • Emily Orr (Sound Design)
  • Sofia Peterson and Emily Zhang (Duet Acting)
  • Charlotte Saunders (Lighting Design)
  • Reid Sox-Harris (Lighting Design)
  • Robert Vetter (Monologue)
  • Gil Weissman (Monologue)
  • Jesse Wilen (Solo Musical)
  • Derek Zhou (Monologue)

Video Production

Alexander Selwyn, a Paly Freshman, won an Honorable Mention for his video entitled “Voting Rights: Gerrymandering” from StudentCam, C-SPAN's annual national video documentary competition. This year students were asked to create a short (5-7 minute) video documentary on a topic related to the 2018 competition theme, "The Constitution & You”. C-SPAN received 2,985 video submissions from over 5,700 students in 46 states and Washington, D.C. Only 150 students out of 5,700 nationwide were awarded.

Art & Writing Award

The following students have earned National Medals in the 2108 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers:

  • Emily Cheng (9th)
  • Jordan Dillard (11th)
  • Peter Gold (12th)
  • Devony Hof (11th)
  • Jessica Lee (11th)
  • Jenny Shi (10th)
  • Andrew Wang (9th)

Nearly 350,000 works of art and writing were submitted, and less than 1% were recognized at the national level.

National YoungArts Foundation recognized three Paly students who were among the 757 winners selected from over 7,600 applications from across the United States. Nicholas Padmanabhan, Jenny Shi, and Vivian Young.


After taking the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) in February and the American Invitational mathematics Exam (AIME) in March, three Paly students have qualified for the 2018 United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO). Congratulations to Matthew Ho, Janet Li, and Mihir Singhal!  They will take the two 5.5 hour-long USAMO contests this Wednesday and Thursday, April 18 and 19. Good luck to all of them!

Paly and Gunn Advanced Filmmaking students took a field trip to the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Paly & Gunn Advanced Filmmaking Students Trip to SFIFF

My best to you as your weekend begins,

Karen Hendricks