January 26, 2018

Hello to the PAUSD Community,

Happy Friday to All!

". . . the arts have been an inseparable part of the human journey; indeed, we depend on the arts to carry us toward the fullness of our humanity. We value them for themselves, and because we do, we believe knowing and practicing them is fundamental to the healthy development of our children's minds and spirits. That is why, in any civilization - ours included - the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term 'education.' We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge and skills in the arts."

–National Standards for Arts Education

In the interest of full disclosure, I should preface this by admitting that I was a student who was asked to not participate in elementary school choir in 4th Grade because I “couldn’t carry a tune.” This was pretty embarrassing, particularly since my mother was a music teacher. Arts at that time seemed to be an honor available to some who possessed an identified talent, as opposed to being an integral part of rich educational experience which will benefit ALL students and their journeys forward. The National Standards for Arts Education recognize the significance, and PAUSD exemplifies it.

I’m delighted to highlight some information here related to the thriving Visual and Performing Arts programs in Palo Alto Unified, with a shout out to faculty, students, families, and a greater community that actively provide for and participate in opportunities for our students to sing, dance, color, draw, paint, act, and inspire.


Palo Alto Unified School District music teachers are involved in many levels of leadership in the California Music Educators Association (CMEA). Todd Summers just completed two years of service as President of CMEA (2015-17), and continues to be actively involved in the organization.

At CMEA’s local music conference held at Chabot College on January 12 & 13, Angelina Fitzhugh, Brittney Kerby, and Tiffany Ou presented workshops for fellow educators highlighting innovative teaching strategies in solfege, technology, and adjudication sight reading protocol. Michael Najar conducted the middle school honor choir. In addition to teacher leaders and their successes, 85 PAUSD middle and high school band, orchestra, and choir students were chosen, through audition and teacher recommendations, to perform in local, state, and national honor groups.

Three teachers have recently been recipients of national awards. In December, Todd Summers was inducted into the John Philip Sousa Legion of Honor as an Honorary Laureate at the National Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago. Sandra Lewis was nominated as California’s “Teacher Who Makes a Difference.” Each year, community members, students, and colleagues nominate one teacher from each state. Ms. Lewis will be featured in the School Band and Orchestra Magazine in January 2019. Lisa Cornejo completed National Board Certification and joins that prestigious group of teachers. National Board Certification believes that teacher quality is the most important school-based variable in determining how well a child learns. Congratulations to these three outstanding music educators!


At their January Professional Development, Spectra teachers engaged in their first Curriculum Slam; likened to speed dating for educators! The five presenting teachers each gave a brief overview of a favorite project to their colleagues, who rotated among them. It was a hit! In response to feedback Art Center staff shared, we also had a discussion about how the annual, and much beloved, Youth Art Show at Palo Alto Art Center might evolve under the leadership of the new Art Coordinator.  Below you will see some of the current student art on display at our PAUSD District Office.

Owl ArtworkArtwork

For further information on Secondary Education in PAUSD, please read Assistant Superintendent Sharon Ofek’s Update.

Upcoming Events

Board Meetings

We have a regular Board meeting on Tuesday, January 30, 2018.

For your convenience, below is a list of Open Session Agenda Items:

  • Dyslexia Resolution No. 2017-18.09
  • Dyslexia Plan: This item is being presented to inform the Board of the progress and plans to implement the California Dyslexia Guidelines
  • Approval of PAUSD Comment Letter Regarding the Santa Clara County Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Stanford General Use Permit (GUP)
  • Grant Road County Housing Plan
  • Goal Updates: This item is to provide an update to the Board and community regarding initial efforts and progress toward meeting the Established Priorities within District Goals for this academic year
  • Term Limits

Palo Alto High School

Breaking Barriers in STEM

A Panel Discussion Sponsored by Girls in STEM and Paly Robotics is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, February 6 at 1 p.m. in the MAC Atrium. We welcome speakers from Google!

Paly Juggling Club presents its first ever three-day, free-to-the-public, juggling festival—Game of Throws!

We have jugglers coming from all over to share tricks, teach workshops, compete in games, and have fun! This will be a great event for anyone who wants to learn more about the circus arts and see some amazing feats of manipulation. This event will take place at the Small Gym in the Peery Family Center as follows:

Friday, January 26 from 5 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Saturday, January 27 from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Sunday, January 28 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Also, the Gala Show at 7 p.m. on Saturday night in the Performing Arts Center will feature America’s Got Talent Finalists The Passing Zone, Cirque du Soleil instructor (& Paly teacher) Matt Hall, as well as several other juggling and circus champions. Tickets are available online at the Paly Webstore or at the door for $10.  

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

PAUSD is in the news after being named the best school district in the State as determined by Niche rankings. This is one measurement alone, based on “rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more.”

In addition, Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School are both ranked in the top five of all public high schools in the state  in these Niche rankings. Any recognition of success is another testimony to the power of a community that works together on behalf of its children.  And we have awesome students here! Our thanks to each of you.

Food Services Department

The Student Nutrition Services Department, in conjunction with the PAUSD Wellness Council, has been requested to review and adjust the à la carte snack selections available for students to purchase at the secondary schools. The main emphasis of the review is to offer healthier alternatives.

Student Nutrition Services will be hosting an À La Carte Tasting Day on Thursday, February 22, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. in the JLS Training Room (Room 730) for all secondary students, parents, and interested community members. We want to give students and parents the opportunity to have a voice and input into the potential replacements and to solicit feedback with those selections and any additional suggestions via a short survey conducted at the event.

There will be a Label Reading Activity available for students to participate in. Upon completion students can submit their results to be included in a drawing for prizes.

It is our plan to begin making changes effective the week students return from Spring Break.

Addison Elementary

As you may remember, in June 2017, PAUSD voiced their support for creating more inclusive playgrounds at all Palo Alto schools and approved $300,000 in funds for the creation of an All-Inclusive Playground at Addison in partnership with the Magical Bridge Foundation. Yesterday, Santa Clara's County Supervisor Joe Simitian approved the $300,000 grant we wrote in October towards this project. In total, we have $600,000 in funds to move forward and create something very special for ALL our children and community. We hope to share information of how this playground positively impacts patterns of play so that other PAUSD schools may consider building one as well.

The construction of this playground will be where the portables are currently located near Middlefield and Lincoln. It will encompass approximately 0.4 acres and will provide four (4) zones of play with each zone providing a specific modality of play in multiple different ways regardless of ability or disability. We will also keep one current “traditional” play structure near AKC. When complete, the playground will be owned and managed by PAUSD. We hope to open the playground in 2020 after construction of our new buildings.

You can read more information on the grant here.

Duveneck Elementary

We had two great parent education events at Duveneck this week, both targeted our new math curriculum:  

Our PTA Association Meeting on Monday, January 22 included an overview of Bridges Mathematics. I presented our District's path to Bridges, a summary of Bridges (Problem/Investigations, Number Corner, Work Places, and Home Connections), and presented ideas for what parents can do to support their students learn through this new curriculum.  

Mangla Oza, Elementary TOSA, and I held a Parent Education Evening on Tuesday, January 23 to present the Bridges Curriculum to our parent community.  Child care and translation services were provided.  Our evening included an overview of the Bridges curriculum, a gallery walk of student work samples (grades K-5), and a hands-on, experiential learning session of the Work Places that our students experience on a frequent basis.

Ohlone Elementary

This week is Inclusive Schools Week for Ohlone. Students will be engaged in activities and discussions about inclusiveness and kindness. Ohlone strives to share an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and community. Students are making strips of papers that focus on how they feel included and how they include others. PTA will put the strips onto a school poster mid-week so that students, staff, and families can see all of the great ideas for keeping Ohlone inclusive and kind.   

Ohlone has also started a Kindness Challenge initiated by the Student Council. Ohlone kids have set a goal for 10,000 acts of kindness by Valentine’s Day. Students will write down their acts of kindness on paper hearts which will be posted in the principal’s window. The goal is to create so much kindness that Dawn Yoshinaga, school principal, cannot see out of her windows! Please come by and take a peek. It has begun!

Ohlone held its first Prospective Parent Information Meeting. Ms. Yoshinaga had the honor to share with the parent audience about core values and philosophy and had four parents joined in to share their personal experiences and reflections. Ohlone is a beautiful community where families and staff strive to create a collaborative, respectful, and compassionate school. Ms. Yoshinaga shared that Ohlone is a unique school where all model what we want to see in the students, a place where everyone loves to come every day to learn and grow. The site’s PTA and parent volunteers will continue to support the incoming parents by leading tours over the next few weeks. The Ohlone village is strong and the community is contributing in a variety of ways to help  grow the school community and stay true to the core values. 

Ohlone Student

Gunn High School

Junior Haoning Jiang read her piece “Ingredients” at the Flash Fiction Forum in San Jose on January 10; she was the only teen reader.

January 13-15 the Speech and Debate Team competed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational at James Logan High School. Seven Gunn teams won trophies and the winning team won first place in the finals. The winning team is Sid Jain and Arjun Prabhakar.

Music teachers Sandra Lewis and Todd Summers won recognition at the CMEA Bay Section Conference last December: Lewis was voted “California’s Music Educator That Makes a Difference,” and Summers was made an Honorary Laureate. Tiffany Ou presented a workshop on sight-reading with strings for Solfege Singing.

These students will represent Gunn in the California All State Band/Orchestra and the Santa Clara County Honor Band: Hyewon Ahn, Matthew Chan, Niklas Goodman, Gaya Gupta, Gio Kim, Youngju Kim, Keenan Lewis, Chris Liang, Mina Oh, Lauren Sheu, Madeleine Speagle, and Alan Yang.

Senior Andrew Shi was one of 300 young scientists nationwide to win a Regeneron Science Talent Search award for his project “Recursive Path-summing Simulation of Quantum Computation.”

Palo Alto High School

From Brett Griffiths, Video Production:

Two Paly student films will screen at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ recognized festival Cinequest. Congrats student filmmakers of "Tomato" and "Nadir".

This is a major accolade for the student filmmakers--one that starts a resume and really supports students’ goals as they apply themselves after high school. This red carpet event is great networking for students and a chance to attend screenings and Q&A's from other professional filmmakers.

Public screening information, dates and ticket information can be found here. Congrats to our community of student filmmakers!  We look forward to hearing back regarding content we sent to Scholastic and San Francisco International Film Festival in the upcoming week.

Wishing you a great weekend ahead!

Karen Hendricks