March 16, 2018

Hello to the PAUSD Community,

I want to begin by putting a spotlight for you on the important work of our Strategic Initiatives Department, which includes Special Education,  Advanced Authentic Research and Innovation, Wellness and Support Services, Health Services, and Research, Evaluation, and Assessment.

Special Education

The Department of Strategic Initiatives is teaming up to improve the delivery of programs and services in Special Education. The Division of Special Education (SPED), Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA), and Advanced Authentic Research and Innovation (AAR & I), and Education Services are working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Assistant Superintendent, Yolanda Conaway, along with Dr. Clarisse Haxton, Dr. Jeong Choe, and the Directors of Special Education, Alma Ellis and Dr. Stephanie Sheridan, are taking a strategic approach to planning. The Chief Academic Officers, Barbara Harris and Sharon Ofek are also offering their expertise by looking for opportunities to expand intervention services. The team is equity-minded and focused on measurable student outcomes and will be partnering with all stakeholders to ensure we meet the education-related needs of students, staff, and parents.

The team presented a preliminary plan for improvement to the Board on February 27, 2018, that focused on data-driven decision making, collaboration between general and special education teachers, and targeted professional development.

The PAUSD Community can expect to see several key deliverables by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year with the goal of creating inclusive schools with programs and services that promote the success of all students.

The team has already developed brochures that describe the services offered and is working on finalizing a special education parent handbook. Discussion is underway regarding increasing access to extra-curricular activities, creating standards-based Individualized Education Programs (IEP), and expanding the continuum of services. In addition, a parent education series will be offered to ensure that our parents are well informed and engaged participants in their child’s education.

Collaboration between students, families and school staff is a cornerstone of the work. The PAUSD Community Advisory Committee (CAC) continues to partner and collaborate with the team for continuous improvement as well. The CAC serves as an integral link to many of our families and we thank them for their support of our school community.  

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) & Innovation

As Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) students continue to run their projects and collect data, we are excited to see how their projects are taking shape. The spring Mentor/Student Forum was held at Paly on March 13 and also at Gunn on March 14, where mentors and staff focused on helping students analyze and present their data. Students were hard at work developing their final poster presentations. The AAR Celebratory Showcase featuring the students’ work will be held May 18 at 6:00 p.m. at the Paly Media Arts Center .

Our inaugural AP Seminar class, part of the new AP Capstone two-course sequence which also includes AP Research continues full steam ahead at Paly. Working with Ms. Lucy Filppu, students have now completed the first task of their three-part portfolio assignments, and over the course of the year, they have collectively generated hundreds of research reports on topics including the viability of aquaculture, safeguards against video game addiction, pregnancy complications resulting from the opioid epidemic, and the viability of crypto currency.

An Equity in AP session was held Tuesday, March 13, as a part of Paly. The session was led by AAR & Innovation liaison, teacher Deanna Chute and Paly Administrator Adam Paulson. This was the first in a three-part series discussing the concept of equity in AP classes. This first meeting took the form of a conversation and information-gathering session focusing on barriers and supports.

The Elementary Creativity Carts - a joint effort between AAR and Elementary Educational Services were restocked with fresh supplies and new seasonal materials in January, and it is exciting to see the students’ creations. Student work will be posted on the AAR website and featured at the AAR Celebratory Showcase.

Finally, congratulations to AAR students Tian Chen, Kevin Frans, Frederick Nitta, and Isabel Sperandio, who were recognized at the Palo Alto City Council meeting Monday, February 12, for their achievements in the Santa Clara Valley Science and Engineering Fair. 
For all the latest AAR news and updates, like/follow us on Facebook.

The Department of Wellness and Support Services Climate & Culture

Wellness and Support Services (WSS) advocates, nurtures, and sustains a positive department culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. WSS values diversity and places a high priority of maintaining a safe environment based on respect among all members of the school community.

As part of the Superintendent’s RISE (Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment) Task Force, the Wellness and Support Services Department and staff from the Wellness Centers have collaborated with the high school student and site leadership teams, the Title IX Office, Curriculum Instruction, and Research, Evaluation and Assessment Departments to improve the District’s efforts to prevent sexual misconduct, promote healthy relationships, provide education on consent, Title IX reporting, and encourage access to support.

The RISE Task Force hosted student, staff, and community events from Anea Bogue on February 23 and 28, and will be hosting Jackson Katz on April 11 and 12.

Community Parent Outreach

The Wellness and Support Services Department has partnered with the Palo Alto Police Department and Palo Alto Adult Education to offer Parent Project. This national program was created for parents with strong-willed teens. Topics addressed include understanding why teens do what they do, identifying gang involvement, music and media influences, friendships and dating, and alcohol and drug use. We will be having a graduation on March 29 for the parents who are completing the program.

Professional Development

As part of PAUSD’s commitment to provide safe and inclusive environments for all students, the Wellness & Support Services Department partnered with Adolescent School Counseling Outlet and Gender Spectrum to provide professional learning during the District’s Professional Development Day for classified and certificated staff members related to:

  • Introduction of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQQ) terminology, culture, laws, and statistics
  • Understanding the experiences of LGBTQQ students, focused on PAUSD
  • Best practices for the inclusion of LGBTQQ youth
  • Perspectives from youth and caregivers about gender

There will also be additional training options available in the near future.

Social Worker Appreciation

The Wellness and Support Services Department joins the National Association of Social Workers in dedicating March as National Social Worker Month. We want to highlight their dedication to enhancing the wellbeing of our students and families and meeting the basic needs of all people, especially the most vulnerable in our society. School social workers seek to ensure equitable education opportunities; ensure that students are mentally, physically, and emotionally present in the classroom; and promote respect and dignity for all students.

The Wellness and Support Services Department is fortunate to have two outstanding social workers that support students, families, and staff districtwide. During National Social Worker Month, we want to thank them for their services and the care they provide to our community.

Myrna Zendejas MSW, District Social Worker and Lissette Moore- Guerra LCSW, Student Services Coordinator

Health Services

The District nurses have completed approximately 3,800 vision screenings and 3,700 hearing screenings in relation to mandated screenings, IEP assessments, and teacher or parent referrals. Approximately 7% of students failed their vision screening and were referred for follow-up. Health Services worked in conjunction with Risk Management, District Leadership, and site personnel to update the Head Injury Protocol in order to improve our school staff abilities to recognize, respond, and minimize the risk of a concussion.

Health Connected

Teen Talk Middle School, is a comprehensive sexual health education program developed by Health Connected that provides an opportunity for students to receive consistent, medically accurate information about sexual health, healthy relationships, and family communication. We have offered one parent-night at each of the middle schools. JLS and Terman have already hosted their parent-night and Jordan’s is scheduled for Monday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. Parent-nights offer parents/guardians the opportunity to receive details about the content of instruction, the latest adolescent sexual health legislation, and raise any questions or concerns about the program. Teen Talk Middle School instruction is scheduled to begin at Terman on April 9, and Jordan and JLS on May 7.

Puberty Talk, is a five-session course, designed as an open forum for pre-teens to ask questions and get medically accurate, unbiased information about puberty developed by Health Connected. Four Puberty Talk Parent Nights were hosted this school year at Palo Verde, El Carmelo, Addison, and Escondido. Puberty Talk instruction is scheduled to begin at Nixon on March 26; Fairmeadow, Duveneck, and Escondido on April 9; and Addison on April 23. All other schools have completed the course.

For more information on the Health Connected or to view the instructional materials, contact your child’s school or Health Services at (650) 833-4240.

Wellness Outreach Efforts

Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools hosted a Healthy Relationship Resource Fair in the month of February. Community agencies such as Planned Parenthood, Impact Bay Area, Children's Health Council, Health Connected, Community Matters, One Love, Love is Respect, Next Door, and the previous Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney provided resources to students who attended the event.

Coco with A Counselor is an event being put on by the Bring Change 2 Mind Club in April at Gunn and Paly. School counselors, mental health therapists from Counseling and Support Services for Youth, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, and Stanford (CASSY, AACI), Wellness Center staff, and school psychologists will be participating in an informal lunch gathering with students. Students will have the opportunity to meet and connect with adults and students that can support them on campus and enjoy a warm beverage.

Human Resources

Our Human Resources Office is also keeping busy with the work of providing the most excellent staff and faculty for our students. Here are some highlights of current efforts:

Teacher Recruitment Fair

As we begin to prepare for the 2018/19 school year, and in keeping with our District strategic goal of creating an exceptional, positive teaching environment by developing, recruiting, and retaining the most talented staff and supporting a culture of professional growth and innovation, PAUSD will be participating in the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) Teacher Recruitment Fair on March 24 at the County Office of Education in San Jose.

The SCCOE Job Fair is an opportunity for PAUSD to meet potential certificated candidates including psychologists, counselors, school nurses, speech language pathologists, and audiologists.  All potential candidates pre-register to attend the job fair. PAUSD will be represented by Keith Wheeler— Equity Coordinator, Alma Ellis—Special Education Director, Amy Sheward—Special Education Coordinator, Tracey Berliner—Special Education Coordinator, Kathie Laurence—Gunn Principal, and Anne Brown. We have reserved a meeting room at the county office to conduct on-the-spot interviews.

It’s also important to capture this week as a very meaningful moment in time focused on the power of student voices raised in a call to the end of  gun violence and the assurance of safe schools. During the nationwide school walkout from 10:00 a.m. - 10:17 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, PAUSD school sites provided opportunities for students to be heard in an age appropriate manner that was consistent with school culture and gave space for student choice. We continue to applaud our students’ commitment to be on the forefront of driving social change on this topic and we support our students, and are appreciative of the thoughtful, safe, and respectful manner in which they participated.

Gunn students protest agaisnt gun violence on a national walkout on March 14, 2018.Gunn student walkout against gun violence

Please plan to join us for important upcoming safety events

March 21, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Paly Haymarket Theater

PAUSD will be hosting a parent event with Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Angela Alvarado. She will be presenting on some big topics in parenting in the digital age. Specifically, her presentation will discuss: How kids communicate, kids as publishers on the internet, digital reputation online, bullying, sexting and criminal activity.  For more information, please check the flyers for this event (in English, Spanish, and Mandarin).

Other Upcoming Events

This weekend: Cinequest - film industry red carpet/Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized qualifier film festival.  "Nadir" and "Tomato" - Two (2) Paly student films screen as part of their lineup THIS WEEKEND - For ticket/date information go here.  

Also happening, don’t miss out on Gunn High School’s production of King Lear.

March 22, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Palo Alto High School in the Performing Arts Center, Paly ASB is partnering with Rise Together Education in a fundraising event called "Paly¹s Got Talent.” The show will consist of student and staff acts, and Rise Together Education will host a silent auction in the lobby.  Doors open at 6:15 p.m., tickets are $10 per person. All proceeds benefit Rise Together Education, Palo Alto High School¹s non-profit organization that provides mentoring and college scholarships to Paly¹s low-income, first-generation students.

March 23, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Palo Alto High School in the Performing Arts Center, join us to celebrate excellence and award winning work from Spring 2017 - Winter 2018 at the 5th Annual Paly Student Film (and Animation) Festival. This event is PG-13 after intermission. There is no cost to attend.

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Program

AAR students are hard at work finishing their research projects and preparing their final presentations. The students met with their mentors this past week at the spring Mentor/Student Forum, where the mentors and PAUSD staff helped students analyze and present their data.

AAR Students hard at work .    AAR students working on final presentations

Art Department

The PAUSD District Office hall is currently featuring student artwork made under the inspired eye of JLS Art Teacher Erik Bowman (see photo). The exhibit includes a variety of creatures made from driftwood, including a pterodactyl (see photo), a blue whale, an octopus, a baby mammoth, a dinosaur, penguins, and more! There are also “stained glass” pieces made from colored tissue, Georgia O’Keefe-inspired flower paintings, and self-portraits created with ink and fingerprints. Many thanks to Ken Sandelin and Bruce Antink in the Warehouse for skillfully delivering the driftwood sculptures (see photo)! The JLS artwork will be on display in the District Office hall until mid-April.

Driftwood-made PterodactylErik Bowman poses for picture next to student driftwood artworkKen and Bruce unloading artwork


Our parents organized a walkout on Wednesday; we had approximately 50 students checked out and 100 individuals marching around the school.  One of our 5th graders gave a very inspirational speech outside the school. This walkout was a great success due to the very close collaboration between the school and the parents involved.  


Junior Girl Scout Troop 60016, composed of fifth grade students from Fairmeadow and Palo Verde, with a Cadet leader from JLS, have worked on sustainability issues all year. They worked on an energy audit of Fairmeadow and presented their findings and recommendations to the principal, Grant Althouse, earlier this year.

Currently, the Troop is pursuing a Bronze Award that will introduce an important issue to both the PAUSD and citywide community: disposable plastic drinking straw awareness month. The Troop is targeting May as the month when they plan to work on educating the community about the dangers associated with disposable plastic drinking straws. On Wednesday, the Troop presented their proposal at City Hall, where it was warmly received by City staff. The Troop will plans to approach City Council in April to request a formal proclamation in support of their Awareness Month plan.

Junior Girl Scout Troop 60016

Palo Verde

Palo Verde Elementary students participated in the walk-out by “walking in.” On March 14, during recess, students interested in standing up against violence created one-word note cards listing qualities they think people in our community need. Parent volunteers, staff members, and students came together and the results were posted in the school’s front office.

Student Artwork - One Word on Walking in

Student Artwork - One Word on Walking in Student Artwork - One Word on Walking in


The National Scholastic Press Association has named The Paly Voice website ( and The Campanile website ( as Pacemaker finalists. Only 46 student websites nationwide were named Pacemaker finalists, and Paly is the only school in the country to have two student websites named as finalists. Pacemaker winners will be announced at the national high school journalism convention in San Francisco in April. You can view the full list of finalists here.

Speaking of the San Francisco high school journalism convention, 145 Paly students will attend the convention on Friday, April 13, to learn more about all aspects of media arts, compete in various journalism competitions and find out what national awards Paly students and publications win. To learn more about the convention, click here.

Students from Latinos Unidos attended the Latino Student Conference at De Anza College where they learned about empowerment, leadership and identity. Dr. Cezar Cruz (pictured) spoke at the event and his words inspired the club to work on their own event to empower other students to take ownership of their education and be culturally aware of their history.

Latinos Unidos at Conference in De Anza College

Some students were wearing this Paly T-shirt. It states "The top five things I learned at Paly: Responsibility, Acceptance, Community, Open-Mindedness, and Perseverance."  Very true!

Congratulations to PALY students named as National Medalists for Scholastic Arts & Writing:

  • Emily Cheng - Memoir - Silver Medalist
  • Andrew Wang - Photography - Gold Medalist
  • Jordan Dillard - Poetry - Silver Medalist
  • Devany Hof - Science Fiction/fantasy - Gold Medalist
  • Jessica Lee - Drawing & Illustration - Gold Medalist
  • Jenny Shi - Painting - Gold Medalist

Gold Medalists, their parents,  and their teachers are invited to the National Awards Ceremony on June 7 in NYC at Carnegie Hall.

My best to you as the weekend begins,

Karen Hendricks