February 16, 2018

Hello to the PAUSD Community,

We all continue to reel from the news of another school shooting, this time a mass shooting at a high school in Florida. The incidents create and resurface fear and grief, to say the least. We are aware of these reactions, and want to extend a note of reassurance that we have resources and staff available to support students, staff, and families with any emotions they are experiencing.

School sites are working to reach out and be present. Also, please feel welcome to contact your school principal with any needs you might have for support. Below is a wonderful note provided by Elizabeth Spector, Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator at Palo Alto High School:

“In light of the recent tragic school shooting in Florida, I am sharing some tips for talking to students about violence. While we have not seen an upswing in students discussing this event in the Wellness Center and Guidance Office, this is useful information, should the topic arise in your classroom. As always, if you are concerned about a student in your classroom, please send them to the Wellness Center accompanied by an adult.

Tragic events such as these can be difficult for all of us and I strongly encourage you to reach out for support if needed. If you're not sure where to start, the Wellness Center is a great resource for staff as well. Additionally, Staff Support Group will take place on Tuesday, February 20, during lunch (11:40 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.) in the Tower Building, Room 33. This group is run by Dr. Moira Kessler from Stanford's School Mental Health Team and it is open to all staff members. You can also schedule an individual support session with Dr. Kessler via e-mail. Taking care of ourselves is just as important as supporting our students.”

As your Interim Superintendent, please know that the safety of each of our students is our highest priority. Our District and sites are doing all that we can to provide a safe, supporting, and reassuring environment. Our partnerships with you, Palo Alto PD, and other entities continue to be critically important as we work together on behalf of our schools.

I know that we also stand together in anguish for those affected by this week’s shooting in Florida, and in commitment to supporting PAUSD students through tragic incidents such as this.

Professional Learning

We’re hoping that our families are already enjoying the four-day weekend. District staff are engaged here in a Professional Learning Day designed to provide strategic and  shared learning opportunities pertaining to job assignments.  Here is some information related to the day:

Secondary Schools

The Learning Summit 2.0: Celebrating Best Practices is being held at Paly, offering a conference-style Professional Learning Day for all secondary PAUSD staff.  Keynote speaker Ramsey Musallam kicked off the day with a presentation titled Curiosity, Structure, and the Art of Teaching. He focused on the relationship between creativity and structure in the context of student engagement and lesson planning.  The goal is for attendees to leave with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, how to intentionally spark student interest in the context of structured, collaborative approach to learning and instruction.

Participants then began to attend two additional sessions, choosing from over fifty options that fully support the District’s overarching goals: High Quality Teaching and Learning, Equity and Access, and Wellness and Safety. Finally, each discipline will gather as a 6-12 group to collaborate on best implementation of new learning in the context of the District’s alignment goal.

Elementary School

Elementary teachers had shared in their December 2017 Math Implementation survey that they wished for more opportunities to collaborate at staff meetings, and also more professional learning time to delve deeply into the Bridges Math Curriculum. In response to this request, every elementary school was given the opportunity to work with a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) at a Lab Day to further unpack the curriculum. Today’s Professional Learning Day was designed with grade-level needs in mind for the provision of time to deepen knowledge of Bridges Math Curriculum, explore questioning strategies, and share best instructional practices across the school sites. Our Elementary Principals are leading these sessions.

Special Education

Special Education Teachers and aides participated in a full morning of engaging professional development with behavior specialist, Soo Jin Cheng. Participants explored basic principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which included: how to manage behavioral challenges within the classroom environment; best practices in structuring the classroom environment for success, reinforcing positive behavior; de-escalation strategies; and teaching behavioral expectations. This professional development is one example of the many ways PAUSD is building capacity in its Special Education team to serve students with disabilities.

Professional Learning Day

Student Services Initiatives

The District is excited to announce new efforts to improve outcomes for students with dyslexia. Spearheaded by the Dyslexia Workgroup, the District has adopted the California Dyslexia Guidelines (CDE) as a framework for proactively and effectively addressing dyslexia. The Dyslexia Workgroup, comprised of a cross-disciplinary group of educators, will be exploring evidence-based structured literacy programs and strategies; identifying appropriate dyslexia screeners; and developing processes to ensure that the needs of students with dyslexia are addressed. The Workgroup has already launched trainings for teachers and specialists, and will continue efforts to provide training and professional development opportunities for educators focused on awareness of the short and long-term impact of dyslexia, recognizing warning signs, and the procedures to follow when they believe a child may have dyslexia. Showing tremendous support for the work, the Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a Dyslexia Resolution at the January 30 board meeting. For information about the Dyslexia Workgroup’s charge, you may contact Yolanda Conaway, the Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives and Operations. In addition, the CDE has created an e-mail inbox through which the public can send questions or comments pertaining to the dyslexia guidelines.

Upcoming Events

RISE Task Force Update

RISE is charged with delivering recommendations to the Superintendent for a unified K-12 strategic plan:

  • Assurance of compliance with OCR Resolutions, Title IX, state law, Board Policy and the District’s Administrative Regulations
  • Education of the community about rights and responsibilities
  • Promotion of a culture in which sexual assault, violence and harassment are not engaged in nor tolerated
  • Empowerment of all community members to interrupt and report incidents of sexual assault, violence and harassment
  • Provision of methods for rectification and reporting that are clear and responsive

We have moved forward with Phase 1 of this work:

  • *OCR Resolution Compliance
  • *Make recommendations for High School components of strategic plan by January - March  2018

Our Paly and Gunn Families have received the following update.  We invite all interested community members to join us for one of Anea Bogue’s sessions.  Please see information below, as well as the link to a flyer with details about these important events:

Dear Gunn and Paly Families,

Dealing with the challenging and uncomfortable subjects of sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault bullying, and violence can feel daunting for all of us. As difficult as these subjects can be, our increased awareness of these issues, coupled with our understanding that these behaviors have devastating short and long-term consequences for our students, demand that we face them head-on. Beyond keeping students safe and maintaining a sense of well-being, we want to provide them with awareness, education and practical tools to navigate these issues with a sense of confidence.

In partnership with local community resources, including YWCA and Health Connected trained health educators and mental health professionals, PAUSD is creating impactful programming designed to move our students and community towards strong “best practices.” Currently aligned work is being done at our high schools in order to:

  • Promote healthy, safe relationships
  • Increase awareness, education and response to sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying, and violence
  • Reduce risk and empower students during their high school years and beyond

We also want to empower parents to feel equipped, confident and supported in navigating these issues with teens. Our parent series will focus on providing key information regarding your rights, responsibilities and liability as parents, as well as providing you with expert insight on how to effectively broach these subjects with your teens in ways that minimize resistance, and risk. We want to promote mutual trust and greater connection.

As part of PAUSD’s ongoing District-wide approach, we are bringing subject experts to share their cutting-edge knowledge to inform and empower our students, staff, parents, and community.  These noted speakers have been purposefully researched and selected to create a gender-responsive, evidence-based, balanced, interactive and impactful program for our students and community.

This month, renowned empowerment coach Anea Bogue will begin presentations in the “Building Healthy Relationships and Creating a Culture of Consent” series, working with staff and students from February 23-28. Bogue will also be presenting to parents and community members at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 23 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 25.  We encourage you to attend one of these highly informative learning sessions.  Please see the attached flyer or Eventbrite for more details.

In April, Jackson Katz, Ph.D, internationally renowned for his pioneering scholarship and activism on issues of gender, race, and violence, will be here to talk with students, staff, and community. Dr. Katz has long been a major figure and thought leader in the growing global movement of men working to promote gender equality and prevent gender violence. Dr. Katz will be working with our juniors and seniors on April 11 and 12, and returning to work with our freshmen and sophomores on April 30 and May 1.  We will be hosting a parent event on April 11 at 7 p.m. and will provide more information on that soon.

We are committed to ensuring every student leaves PAUSD schools with a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual misconduct, consent and boundaries, healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, and harm reduction strategies when it comes to the use of drugs and alcohol.

Important Community News

PAUSD to Install Solar Energy Systems at Six School Sites

After undertaking a Districtwide solar study of all eighteen PAUSD school sites, the Board has approved installations at six sites: Palo Alto High School, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Terman Middle School, Ohlone Elementary School, Escondido Elementary School, and Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School.  Across all six schools, the total project size will be 1,429 kW, with three different structure types: roof mounted systems, carports, and field shade canopies.

The breakdown of the project types is as follows: 484 kW carport system at Palo Alto High School, 420 kW roof and shade canopy system at J. L. Stanford Middle School, 206 kW carport system at Terman Middle School, 64 roof system at Ohlone Elementary School, 164 kW shade canopy system at Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School, and 92 kW shade canopy system at Escondido Elementary School.

The solar energy systems are being designed with the target of offsetting each school site’s annual electricity bill for at least 20 years. The installations will also provide benefits beyond cost savings:

• Educational Benefits: The solar energy systems will serve as a learning laboratory for students. The contractor who is designing and installing the solar energy systems will provide curriculum on the subject of solar energy for teachers to share with their students.

• Student and Staff Comfort Benefits: The solar energy systems will serve as a shade structure in parking lot areas and athletic play fields.

• Environmental Benefits: In total, the electricity generated by these installations will offset the greenhouse gas emissions from over 102,000,000 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, or provide a reduction in carbon emissions equal to the amount of carbon absorbed by almost 2,000 acres of U.S. forest every year.

Two Town Hall-style meetings will be held to share more information with the community and answer questions about PAUSD’s solar plans. These meetings will be held on Wednesday, February 21, from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. in the Haymarket Theatre at Palo Alto High School, and on Thursday, February 22, from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. in the library at Terman Middle School.

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Program

The City of Palo Alto recognized Palo Alto students at the City Council Meeting on Monday, February 12, for their achievements in the Santa Clara Valley Science and Engineering Fair Association.

Kudos to the following PAUSD students:

  • Tian Chen (AAR, Senior at Gunn HS)
  • Kevin Frans (AAR, Senior at Gunn HS)
  • Frederick Nitta (AAR, Senior at Gunn HS)
  • Isabel Sperandio (AAR, Sophomore at Gunn HS)
  • Alex Gao (Senior at Gunn HS)
  • Roy Gross (7th grader at Terman MS)

AAR Student Recognition

Addison Elementary

All six of our grade levels have participated in a release day with our Reading Specialist to learn and practice our new reading assessment, the Benchmark Assessment System.  They completed the mid-year reading assessments and planned next steps with the varied readers.  This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our Reading Specialist, Kim Peckenpaugh.  Attached is a photo of our 5th grade team and Kim engaging in thoughtful conversation and planning reading instruction after analyzing assessment results.

Addison Reading Specialists

Hoover Elementary

Hoover’s former student, Vincent Zhou, is competing in the Winter Olympics Men's Figure Skating.

Hoover Parents Learn How to Support Math Learning at Home: Last week, a group of dedicated staff, including District TOSA, Mangla Oza; Reading Specialist, Susie Pickett; EL Specialist, Nancy Felch; and our Family Engagement Specialist, Denise Li; collaborated with Principal Katy Bimpson to host an evening of learning in East Palo Alto for Hoover families participating in the Voluntary Transfer Program. Food, translation, and childcare were provided as parents learned about the Bridges Math Curriculum, the shift in math instruction, and how they can support math learning at home. The evening culminated with their students teaching them how to play one of the Bridges Work Place games that they learned in class. It was a wonderfully informative community event! Earlier in the year, District TOSA, Nikole Manau, joined one of Ms. Bimpson’s Coffee and Conversation events to share similar Bridges information.

TOSA-Parent-Student at HooverTeachers on Special Assignment helping at Hoover

El Carmelo

El Carmelo Girl Scouts, Gabby and Allie, created a slide presentation regarding their Bronze Award project and presented it to the entire school. El Carmelo students supported their 5th grade peers by collecting 233 towels to support animals in a local animal shelter and a veterinary office! For more information, click here.

El Carmelo Girl Scouts

El Carmelo Year of the Dog, Lunar New Year Celebration

Creative and collaborative parent volunteers celebrated the diversity at El Carmelo through a wonderful lunchtime cultural event. Students participated in fun craft stations and sampled delicious Asian desserts during the Lunar New Year Celebration.

Chinese New Year's ActivitiesParent Volunteers

Walter Hays Elementary

On Tuesday, Walter Hays was thrilled to celebrate Black History Month with our very special guest speaker, Aesha Ash. She is a ballerina and founder of The Swan Dream Project and is passionate about providing a positive alternative to negative and limiting images of African-American women, and encourages all children to pursue their dreams regardless of their race or socioeconomic background.

Our students and teachers were completely captivated by Ash’s inspiring journey that took her from a small ballet school in Rochester NY, to dancing with the NYC Ballet and beyond!

Aesha with StudentsMs. Angie Cole and students

Jordan Middle School

The Sunflower Painting Project is a favorite at Jordan: Students study the work of three turn-of-the-century artists: Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri Matisse. They were prominent in three of the major Western art styles of that era: Impressionism, Expressionism, and Fauvism.

After looking at the work of these three artists, and viewing a demonstration of various painting styles and techniques, students make a large-scale painting in tempera, choosing a color scheme and carefully incorporating "double-loading" brushwork, sponge textures, and other specific techniques.

Art at Jordan

Gunn High School

Gunn alumnus, Joanne Reid, is competing in the biathlon in the Winter Olympics.

Wishing you a great long holiday weekend ahead,

Karen Hendricks