December 8, 2017

Hello to the PAUSD Community,

“As an individual, your beliefs and choices will be challenged and doubted by others who see things differently. If you firmly stick to what you believe in and choose to act in the most ethical way that you know how, you hold power and your actions will matter.”

I’d like to start this introduction with the quote above, pulled from the paper of a senior in college. First of all, I love it that my eldest daughter still permits me to proof some of her lengthier assignments prior to submitting them… and I also believe that she’d not mind her mom borrowing her words.  At work, as well as at home, I remain inspired by how the youth of today demonstrate intrinsic commitment to assessing and activating what is right, just, and ethical.  My appreciation to them!

My comments this week will focus on the work Palo Alto Unified School District has done around Title IX compliance and student safety. The District is committed to ensuring student safety, because students must feel safe in order to learn and to reach their full potential. I would like to take this opportunity to address the District’s commitment to accountability and building a relationship of trust with our students, parents, and our community.  

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment (RISE) Task Force

On October 30, 2017 as one of my first official actions as Interim Superintendent, I convened a Superintendent’s Task Force to spearhead and coordinate the district’s effort, and develop a strategic plan to address issues of sexual misconduct within our school community.  This was prioritized due to the seriousness of this issue, as well as the uniquely pivotal role that PAUSD is poised to play on behalf of districts throughout the state who are grappling with similar matters… as is our nation as a whole as we have a cultural reflection on sexual misconduct in our society.

Our RISE Task Force, has moved forward with regard to our phases of implementation. The work was organized into three phases:

Phase 1:
•    OCR Resolution Compliance
•    Make recommendations for High School components of strategic plan by January - March 2018    
Phase 2:
•    Make recommendations for Middle School components of strategic plan by April - June 2018
Phase 3: 
•    Make recommendations for Elementary School components of strategic plan for 2018-19
•    Ongoing Monitoring, Prevention Training and SEL Self and Social Awareness and Management Education 
Phase 1 focuses on OCR Resolution Compliance and recommendations for High School components of strategic plan by January ‐ March 2018, and April – June 2018.  

The Task Force has now split into four working groups:
I. Communication:
To effectively communicate our mission and progress thus far as well as outreach efforts to students, families, and staff. 
II. Office for Civil Rights (OCR):
To provide an update on progress regarding OCR compliance under the Resolution Agreement. 
III. Partnerships: 
Identify other school districts, community partners, and researched-based resources to partner with.
IV. Curriculum/Instruction: 
Develop and provide curriculum relating to safe and welcoming schools, comprehensive sexual health education, and social-emotional learning.

The update below is based on the recommendations from Working Groups 1 (Communication) and 2 (OCR and Compliance), and crafted by Paly and Gunn parent contributors, and District staff who have been overseeing the work with commitment and urgency.  Collectively, we believe that it is critical that we communicate progress, process, and planning to-date, commitment to accountability, adherence to corrective actions, continuous improvement, and aligned District practice. 

Our Communication Work Group recognizes that “Corrective actions have been taken with our systems, reporting, personnel, and training - and we are committed to a process of continuous improvement to achieve strong/best practice in a timely and sustainable manner. We recognize that for reasonable prevention to be successful, compliance with both the letter and spirit of all relevant laws by PAUSD administration, staff, teachers, community members, parents, and students is essential. Therefore, all must be informed and knowledgeable so they can identify, appropriately respond, report, and support anyone who is subject to sexual harassment.”

OCR and Title IX Compliance

Title IX Coordinator

PAUSD is extremely fortunate to have hired Megan Farrell, J.D., M.B.A.  as our permanent, full-time Title IX Officer.  Her extensive background is important to recognize in terms of the significance placed on this role in our District.

Megan C. Farrell has been a higher education compliance consultant for education entities focused on Title IX. She performed compliance reviews, conducted Title IX investigations, and coached administrators in implementing Title IX requirements. Previously, Megan served as Of Counsel to Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP in their San Francisco office, where she provided advice to educational institutions across the country on legal issues involving faculty, staff, and students. Megan has over fifteen years in the higher education sector and has served both private and public institutions as University Counsel, full-time Faculty, and Title IX Coordinator. She also worked with universities and K-12 schools nationally as Claims Counsel for United Educators Risk Retention Group and as an Education Practice leader for Marsh, Inc. Megan holds a law degree from Widener University, and a Masters of Business Administration from University of Maryland, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University. She is a member of the bars of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  Her understanding of the future into which our students will matriculate, her obvious technical expertise, and well as her ability to quickly become a thought partner in the district have established her here as an exceptionally valuable resource.

Resolution Agreement

On March 7, 2017, the District entered into a voluntary Resolution Agreement with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) agreeing to take actions outlined in the agreement in order to resolve issues raised by the OCR in the investigations of cases 09-13-5901 and 09-14-1217.

As per the agreement, the District has implemented the following:

1.    Board Policies and Administrative Regulations Revised. 
The following policies have been revised and approved by OCR before being adopted by the Board on September 12, 2017: 
Board Policy 5145.7 Sexual Harassment
Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 5145.3 Nondiscrimination and Harassment 
Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 1312.3 Uniform Complaint Procedures
The District has been notifying students, staff, and parents of the changes to the above policies by circulating the attached notices: Updated Policies and Uniform Complaint Procedures.

2.    Revision of Complaint Procedure Guidance Memorandum to Staff. 
On December 7, 2017, OCR approved District’s guidance memo to staff regarding complaint procedures.  

3.    Implementation of the Roots tracking system to track reports and complaints of sexual harassment.
This system allows the Title IX Coordinator to receive and track reports of complaints submitted by site administrators. Further detailed information includes:

As of August 2017, the District developed and launched a claims management system to manage all complaints related to Title IX and other types of discrimination.  The system logs all inquiries sent through the Compliance Officer email as well as all entries made by administrators and staff who receive reports of discrimination.

The process requires that inquiries that allege discrimination and violations of Title IX are responded to within 24 hours and the inquirer is offered the UCP process for their complaint.  Complaints are assigned to an appropriate investigator -- on-site, through the Title IX office, or an external investigator, and all matters are centrally monitored until conclusion.

The information that we are capturing will be helpful in performing data analysis to determine trends, opportunities for training, and other necessary outreach.  This data is updated weekly and shared with the public on our website.

Aside from the data and statistics, there are plans to update the Title IX webpage in the future to include additional relevant information including additional sexual misconduct resources, flow charts that describe the UCP process to complaining and responding parties, and future data analysis of the claim experience.

4.    Implementation of the Anonymous Complaints System.
Students and others can submit an anonymous complaint by sending an email to the Compliance Officer. The complaint will be received and processed by the Title IX Coordinator. 

5.    Staff Training regarding Title IX Compliance.
The District has been working consistently to provide training to all of its employees.  Further detail includes:

This year, every PAUSD employee has been expected to attend a Title IX workshop entitled Keeping Our Students Safe:  Title IX, Our Responsibility.  The trainings have been provided by Eve Fichtner, a partner at the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
(AALRR), who specializes in Title IX matters.

To date since August, we have trained a total of 2,122 employees.  We applied a very broad scope to this, and have included all individuals who receive pay from the District.  This included substitute teachers, coaches, and individuals who could be considered to have little contact with students in the scope of their work.  We have a final 120 employees remaining (including those hired in October or later), and one more session this year set for December 11, 2017.

To be specific, the workshops provided for:
•    Understanding Title IX in the school setting
•    Understanding PAUSD policies which protect students from sexual harassment, sexual violence, and retaliation
•    Understanding PAUSD policies on employee professional standards
•    Satisfying Title IX training for employees pursuant to OCR guidelines and the 2017 Resolution Agreement

And the following topics were addressed:
•    Overview of Title IX and California Education Code
•    Review of Board Policies related to 
o    Discrimination
o    Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
o    Retaliation
o    Professional Standards
•    Reporting Requirements for employees

6.    School Climate Assessment.
The District included OCR recommend questions related to student, parents and staff members experiences with sexual harassment and violence and reporting within our school system.  PAUSD’s Health and Wellness and Research and Evaluation and Assessment Departments have presented the findings to The Student Wellness Council to provide recommendations for programs to improve school climate particularly targeting this issue.  The Council is open for participation from all stakeholders.  They will continue collecting input and finalizing recommendations.

7.    Hiring of independent outside investigators to investigate into individually named matters.
With OCR and the Board’s approval the District has hired the law firm of Cozen O’Connor, nationally recognized for their investigations into Title IX complaints, to investigate these matters.

Representatives from Wellness and Student Services, Research and Evaluation, and the Interim Superintendent have reached out to both high schools to share and hear student thinking as the Task Force work becomes defined. The student voice in regards to next steps, including those around curriculum, instruction and partnerships is key.

There is more work to be done as we continue to move through strategic planning, but it is my hope that these updates related to our existing progress provide you with useful information, as well as a sense of our commitment to student safety and adherence to law. As the mom of three daughters and the person responsible for the experience of each student in PAUSD, there’s nothing that weighs on me more heavily than matters of safety and of inclusive support for our children in preparation for the post high school world they will enter.  

Upcoming Events

Renaming Schools Advisory Committee Meeting
Monday, December 11, 2017, from 7 – 9 p.m. in the Aspen Room at the District Office.

Board Policy Review Committee Meeting (BPRC)
Thursday, December 14, from 8:30 – 10 a.m. in the Board Room at the District Office. You can find the agenda on our website.

Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)
On December 14, from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m all stakeholders are invited to participate in a discussion about the California Dashboard data. The California Dashboard contains reports that display the performance of local educational agencies (LEAs), schools, and student groups on a set of state and local measures to assist in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas in need of improvement.
It is an opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback to the Palo Alto Unified LCAP team as the district begins to create goals for 2018-19 LCAP. More information can be found on the PAUSD’s LCAP page

Duveneck Elementary School
Principal's Coffee is taking place on Wednesday, December 13, from 8:05 – 9:00 a.m. in the Teacher's Lounge, Main Office. I’m looking forward to joining in this meeting!

Hoover Elementary School
The last meeting for the Take It Personally - Parenting Workshop will take place on December 11 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. in the MP room. This was a 6-week program offering a series of parent meetings to explore new ways to build stronger kids, stronger families, and stronger neighborhoods.

Ohlone Elementary School
First Friday Coffee/Principal Chat is taking place on Friday, December 15, from 8 – 9:00 a.m. in the MP room. Everyone is invited to mix and mingle over coffee!

Gunn High School
The TEDx club at Gunn High School is holding a conference at Palo Alto High School in the Haymarket Theatre on January 20th, from 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. This year's theme is "Crossroads", and we have ten amazing speakers lined up to execute phenomenal talks. Lunch and swag bags will be available for purchase. To see more information or purchase a ticket, visit their Facebook page.

Great Things Happening in PAUSD!

2017 Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code in Full Swing around PAUSD
This week has been exciting as teachers, staff, and student computer scientists have supported different computer and coding activities around the District. Here are some highlights:
•    Classrooms and libraries at different sites were open during lunch for students to explore computer science and coding activities.
•    JLS administrators got into the fun with students by trying their hand at coding.
•    4th and 5th grade classes from Fairmeadow Elementary were invited to celebrate the Hour of Code with the programming students at JLS serving as mentors for the younger students. 
•    Fun activities included keeping track of how many lines of code the elementary students created. 
•    For more information, see Terman Middle School’s LibGuide about computer science! 

Fairmeadow Elementary School
December 4th through 8th Fairmeadow Elementary School celebrated and acknowledged Inclusive Schools Week and the daily efforts of teachers, staff, and students to create an inclusive school for all students. Throughout the week, teachers read books on themes of inclusion in classrooms and led students through discussions and classroom activities. Last Wednesday, the children wrote about what makes them unique, and how their unique attributes are a gift to the school community. These colorful messages hang in a central location on campus, an impactful reminder of the contributions that every member of the school community offers to the school.

JLS Middle School
As you’ll see above, JLS has been partnering with Fairmeadow School in multiple ways. A group of our 8th grade Leadership students go to to the elementary school twice a week to interact and play with the Kindergarten students during their lunchtime. This week, four Fairmeadow 4th and 5th grade classes came to Ms. Willis’ 7º Computers class to participate in Hour of Code.

Students Collaboration at Fairmeadow and JLS

Palo Verde Elementary School
This week Palo Verde has celebrated Inclusive Schools Week by hosting "BIG Week". With a different theme each day, Palo Verde students practiced being BIG, a concept shared in the Project Cornerstone book with the same name. The various activities are attached to this email as well as a photo of one of the "BIG" posters created this week.

Inclusive Week Students Work

BIG Week Student Work

Palo Alto High School

Rachel Kellerman - Library
•    Paly hosted a Free Speech Forum on Tuesday Nov. 28 celebrating the launch of the Paly Journalism Archives with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian (Paly 1970), journalist Chris Kenrick (Paly 1970) and Palo Alto historian Steve Staiger. It was a great success with over 130 Journalism and Social Justice students in attendance. The panel was moderated by junior Noor Navaid, and the event was planned by junior Charlotte Kadifa in conjunction with the Library.

•    “Food for Thought”, will be the first 3 days of finals week (Monday, 12/18, Tuesday, 12/19, and Wednesday, 12/20). The MAC will be open until 8:00 with teachers available to help students if needed. Dinner will be provided. This is a wonderful program spear headed by classified staff member Mary Ellen Bena, and funded by Paly ASB.

Michael Najar – Visual and Performing Arts
•    All pillars on 100 bldg at Paly now have beautiful student art displayed, thanks to art teacher Kate McKenzie. The project was funded by Paly ASB.

•    3 Paly students were nominated for State Honor Choir.

•    The annual Madrigal Feaste, Saturday and Sunday, December 9 & 10, presented by Palo Alto High School Choirs is a theatrical Renaissance-themed concert. The two-day engagement invites attendees to join King Henry and Queen Kathryn Howard in a Yuletide celebration featuring twists on classic Renaissance personalities, whimsical performances and a banquet. The production boasts actors in full costume and encourages attendees to come in festive Renaissance garb, as well.

Carla Guerard – World Languages
•    Student Eileen Ha won 3rd place in the 44th Japanese Speech Contest organized by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco.  

Matt Hall – Student Activities 
•    The Paly Juggling Club is hosting “Game of Throws” on January 27 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center. Friends of Matt’s from Circus Canada and America’s Got Talent will perform, $10 admission.   

Elizabeth Spector – Wellness Center
•    The week of 12/11 – 12/15 is Self-Care Week with activities each day: 
*Monday: Choose to Snooze 
*Tuesday: Bath Salts
*Wednesday: Pet Therapy and Greeting card writing (to be donated to local organizations)
*Thursday: A-Z Salad Bar (Partnering with PTSA)
*Friday: Yoga (Partnering with PTSA).

Nicholas Padmanabhan 
•    Paly Junior, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2018 National Young Arts Foundation Competition for his guitar performance. Only 10% of the 7,500 entrants in six artistic disciplines won an award in this prestigious national competition. And a shout-out from Nicholas’ family:

 “As Nicholas works his way through junior year, balancing the guitar with his studies, our family is grateful for the wonderful support he receives daily from his teachers and all the Paly community. Thank you for all you do for Nicholas and all his schoolmates.” 

Olivia Chang 
•    This week Paly received the following Memorandum from Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) announcing the winner of the 2017 Congressional App Challenge. Congratulations to Olivia Chang. 

WASHINGTON, D.C— Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) announced the winner of the 2017 Congressional App Challenge today. Olivia Chang of Palo Alto High School won this year’s competition with her App, Mere, which allows users to journal, rate their mood and upload photos from the day. The App simplifies the journaling process which studies have shown helps promote self-esteem.
Congresswoman Eshoo, a founding Co-Chair of the 2015 bipartisan competition said: “Olivia saw the benefits that journaling had among her peers and developed an App to make it easier for everyone to do. Her App is innovative and will help users daily as they document their thoughts and emotions. Bravo to Olivia and every participant this year who demonstrated great knowhow, tech savvy and enormous potential.”

About the Congressional App Challenge
Established by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, this bipartisan competition is part of a nationwide event that invites high school students from all participating congressional districts to compete by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app,” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice. It is designed to promote innovation and engagement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education fields.
Apps are judged based on the following criteria: quality of the idea, including creativity and originality; implementation of the idea, including user experience and design; and demonstrated excellence of coding and programming skills. The winner from the 18th Congressional District was chosen by an independent panel of expert judges. Each winner of the Congressional App Challenge will receive $250 in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Credits and their App will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building and on for a year.

Kindness Calendar for December 2017 from Paly:

Paly Kindness Calendar

My best to you as the weekend begins,