March 9, 2018

Hello to the PAUSD Community,

As many of you know, a 17-minute nationwide school walkout is scheduled for March 14 at 10:00 a.m. The walkout is being organized by the Women’s March Youth Empower Movement and is a response to the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The walkout is intended to spotlight the need for legislative action at the federal level to address gun violence in America’s schools. Following this tragedy, people began posting information on social media about planned school walkouts and protests. Discussions have unfolded at our school sites, and communication on the protests will certainly continue.

Some students, parents, and community members may be supporting planned demonstrations at our schools: one on Wednesday, March 14, and the second on Friday, April 20. The purpose behind these demonstrations is two-fold: to honor the lives lost in the Parkland shooting and for students to use their voices to enact change in government policies surrounding gun legislation.

Although neither the schools nor the District sanction a walkout, we know that many students are committed to exercising their right to participate and applaud their commitment to be on the forefront of driving social change on this topic. We can also anticipate that other students may not wish to engage in activities, and that all students have the potential of being triggered in a very personal emotional manner about school safety.

In order to maintain a safe environment for students who wish to voice their opinion during the school day, we have provided guidance to our school principals and their staffs. Principals have listened to input at their school sites to make certain that students have an opportunity to be heard in an age appropriate manner that is consistent with school culture. As we assess plans for potential or spontaneous peaceful demonstrations, we view these moments as learning opportunities while providing structure and protecting the instructional focus of our schools.

March 14, 10:00 a.m. - 10:17 a.m.
The activities on March 14 are set to begin at 10:00 a.m. and will last for 17 minutes; one minute for each life lost at Stoneman Douglas High School. Our intention is to support high school and middle school students (grades 6-12) in their individual need or desire to honor those impacted by school violence and to take a firm stand against future occurrences. Students will have the opportunity to express their opinions and engage in civil discussions with peers and adults about the incident.

High Schools / Middle Schools
Each school is handling the walkout in a way that makes sense for their student community. Most school schedules accommodate the majority of the walkout time. Each school leader has consulted with their student council to work in collaboration with them to support their right to free speech and civic engagement. Students in grades 6-12 will be able, if they choose, to exit their classrooms and congregate in a designated area on campus in order to give them the opportunity to express their feelings about the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, FL. Because guidance exists around these organized events, there will be no punitive measure for students who exercise their right to speech and activism during these 17 minutes. That said, each school expects all students to conduct themselves safely and respectfully during this time, modeling the peaceful activity already commenced by Gunn students on Friday, February 23.

No student will be compelled to participate in any walkout or other form of direct action.  By adjusting our schedule under these extraordinary circumstances, we are preparing as best we can for the safest and least disruptive scenario under which our community members can express their views. If a parent wishes to remove their child(ren) from school for the designated 17 minutes or any other portion of the day, they may contact the school office to make arrangements in advance to do so. Student check-out policies will remain in effect for the safety of campuses.

After 10:17 a.m., it is necessary for us to continue our school day with an uninterrupted focus on classroom instruction.

For information specific to your school site, please review messages being sent by school principals. You may also contact the school office with any questions, concerns and inputs.

Elementary Schools (TK-5)
For our younger students, we believe that participation in such events may increase the sense of fear and anxiety and would create additional safety concerns in ensuring sufficient supervision. All elementary principals are crafting a message for distribution to their school communities in alignment with feedback they have gathered from their stakeholders.

If a parent wishes to remove their child(ren) from school for the designated 17 minutes or any other portion of the day, they may contact the school office to make arrangements in advance to do so. Student check-out policies will remain in effect for the safety of campuses.

For information specific to your school site, please review messages being sent by school principals.  You may also contact the school office with any questions, concerns and inputs.

April 20, 10:00 a.m.
The second planned school walkout is on April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the tragic gun violence at Columbine High School in Colorado. Details about the event vary across social media from a full-day absence to signing children out (or having students walk out). We will provide you with additional information regarding that walkout in advance as well.

As provided by our Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Ann Dewan:

In the aftermath of such tragedies, educators work to ensure that every measure is taken to ensure the security of their campus. In addition, they provide a safe space for their students to share their concerns, ask questions, and find answers. Parents are often looking for resources to approach the difficult topic of school violence with their children.

Talking with Children About Violence, National Association of School
Talking to Children After a Shooting, American Psychological Association

New Board Resolution
We are bringing a Resolution to the March 13 Board Meeting: Palo Alto Unified School District Board Resolution Related to Action on Gun-Related Violence Prevention. You may access this Resolution on our Board meeting website

Although we are not sanctioning any student walkout, we see the opportunity at this pivotal moment in time to educate and empower our students (the next generation of leaders!) by maintaining a safe space and modeling civic engagement. As part of our practice, supervision of any peaceful demonstration includes working with our partners in law enforcement and county agencies to provide aligned resources. In addition, with community support, our high schools are also working to provide voter registration materials to students, and to facilitate the dialogue about the importance of exercising the right to vote. It is our hope that March 14 provides an impactful opportunity for us to come together as a community to address urgent and prevalent needs related to the safety of our youth, and that the conversations and advocacy will be taking place on days preceding and following that date as well.

Important News Regarding Site Principal Changes

Juana Briones Elementary School, Escondido Elementary School, and Palo Alto High School staff and communities have all received information regarding transition in leadership for the 2018-19 school year. Mr. Jacoubowsky is returning to his love of teaching, Mr. Merritt has announced his retirement, and Ms. Diorio has announced her resignation. We wish each of them the very best in their future endeavors, and thank them for their years of service to the District in their roles.

While more specific information will be coming soon from our Human Resources Department, I wanted to let you know that the District will immediately begin searching for excellent incoming principals with the goal of having permanent replacements in place by July 1, 2018. We are committed to having inclusive and transparent processes in the selection of our next principals, and will provide further details about opportunities to participate and to provide input.

Upcoming Events

We have a regular Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

For your convenience, below is a list of Open Session Agenda Items for the regular meeting:

  • Recommending School Names Advisory Committee
  • WASC Mid-Cycle High School Progress Reports
  • Second Interim Budget Report
  • Superintendent Search Process - Community Advisory Committee
  • Office for Civil Rights / Title IX / Uniform Complaint Procedures Update
  • Board Policy (BP) 6111 School Calendar
  • Board Policy (BP) 5131.62 Tobacco
  • Resolution No. 2017-18.11 Gun-Related Violence 
  • Appointment of Independent Auditors for the 2017-18 Audits
  • Authorization to Bid Summer Maintenance Projects

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

Equity Lecture Series

The second segment of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Equity Series focused on the experiences and voices of African-American students and parents. The discussion took place, Tuesday, March 6, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., in the District Office. This panel was followed by breakout sessions for small group discussions and was moderated by Dr. Angela Birts, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Menlo School.

The panel was designed to assist the African-American community to understand the challenges facing African-American families in the PAUSD, and to create a springboard for the entire District community to identify, advocate for, and support generated solutions. There were a range of questions, all producing insightful perspectives, laughter, and in many cases, shared experiences.

The audience was rich with diversity—as this was truly an inclusive and collaborative environment. One of the outcomes was to document the conversations from each facilitator, and categorize them into themes, so the information can be shared across the District and community at large. The findings, along with the presentation materials, will be published on the PAUSD website by the end of March.

Special Education

Last week, 41 special education secondary students from the Futures classes at Paly, Gunn, JLS, Terman, and Jordan attended science camp at Via West in Cupertino. This was the third consecutive year that the Futures classes attended camp, and this time there were 13 first-time campers. Students arrived to camp Thursday morning, settling into their cabins and participated in a variety of welcome activities just prior to heading out to Garrod Farm for an afternoon of horseback riding and hiking.

After an exciting and fun-filled afternoon, students returned back to Via West for a snack and evening activities that included recycling paper, tasting honey, making scrapbooks, and planting tomato plants in hanging water bottles. The festivities continued after dinner with a costume dance party that had both staff and students moving on the dance floor. On Friday, after a good night's rest, students scientists and artists - testing for the potability of river water, chefs - designing edible owls, and artists - creating UV bead bracelets and necklaces. After sharing a final meal together, students and staff loaded buses back to Palo Alto. It was a successful two days, filled with social and educational opportunities for all students.

Special Education Student on HorseSpecial Education Student at Science CampSpecial Education Student at Science Camp

Elementary Education

Our final Family Bridges Math event of the year is fast approaching. Please support by attending this amazing event. The flyer for this event is available in Spanish and Mandarin as well.

Barron Park

Often imitated, but never duplicated! The 4th Annual Barron Park Read Across the World ELAC Celebration. A reflection of our beautiful Barron Park diversity and cultures, parent and student readers read in their native languages for small groups of students during lunchtime. Students had an opportunity to shine by sharing their first languages with their peers. Others enjoyed hearing familiar Dr. Seuss (and other) stories, in their native language. All students were welcome to hear familiar stories in other languages. There were 13 different language/reading stations: Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Arabic, French, Hebrew, and English. What a fun way to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday, literacy, and language!

Barron Park Celebrating Read Across America DayBarron Park Students on Read Across America DayChildren at Barron Park celebrating Read Across America Day

El Carmelo

El Carmelo students and families have demonstrated their gratitude to teachers and staff during Staff Appreciation week. Each day teachers and staff were greeted with thoughtful gestures that bring smiles and warmed hearts including beautifully decorated classroom doors, delightful notes, thank you cards, appreciation letters, beautiful pictures, fragrant flowers, a delicious lunch, delectable desserts, specialty coffee and much, much more! El Carmelo teachers and staff feel truly honored by the outpouring of love and appreciation this week from our thoughtful families!

In an effort to disconnect and be present with each other and our environment, El Carmelo will be unplugged on Friday, March 9! Our campus will be technology free. The nationwide observance of National Day of Unplugging is March 9-10. Here are some fun technology free alternatives for the whole family:

  • Read books
  • Play math games
  • Take a hike
  • Find a new recipe and try it out
  • Play a board game
  • Explore the Bay Lands
  • Sing
  • Visit a new park
  • Take a bike ride
  • Create with found objects
  • Have a picnic
  • Visit friends or family
  • Family field trip

El Carmelo Unplugged Poster


170 K-5 students submitted inventions for the 10th Annual Hoover Invention Convention! Students think of real world problems and develop an invention to address the needs created by the problem. Mrs. Rigas, a retired 3rd grade teacher from Hoover, along with PTA parent volunteers start the process with students nearly eight weeks in advance and are on campus in their Invention Convention lab coats during recess to help students with ideas and problem solving. This fun family activity helps students to cultivate numerous Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills and culminated on March 6 in the Hoover MP room. We are so proud of our creative, hard-working inventors! A student who submitted an invention back in 2008 now has a US patent and has since submitted additional inventions as a result of the Invention Convention!

Hoover Invention ConventionHoover Invention Convention 2

Speaking of STEM skills, our 1st grade students have begun a teacher-created program where they rotate between all three classes on Fridays to do STEM activities. These activities bolster creativity, team work and problem-solving skills, while building stamina learning from valuable mistakes! One of this week’s activities challenged students to create a musical instrument that makes at least one sound!

STEM SkillsSTEM Planning Notebook


Service Day is organized and sponsored by the JLS PTA and Youth Community Service (YCS). It is a fun and meaningful way for JLS students, parents, teachers, and staff to volunteer in our local community.  

Community service projects took place on-campus at JLS as well as at off-campus locations (depending on the activity you choose).  Some of the service activities included:

  • Making blankets for children in foster care
  • Sorting donations at a food bank
  • Creating craft kits for individuals with disabilities
  • Working in an edible garden
  • Cooking a meal for adults who are homeless

Students helping on Service DayJLS Students on Service Day


We have just been notified by the National Geographic Society that our Jordan GeoBee Champion, Eugene Wei, has qualified to compete in the 2018 California State National Geographic State Bee. The contest will be held at California State University Fresno on Friday, April 6.

In order to qualify, Eugene not only had to win the Jordan Bee, but he also had to take a qualifying test. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top-scoring students in the state to compete in the State Bee of which Eugene is one! Congratulations, Eugene!


Gunn World Language teacher, Yanan Vrudny has received the California Language Teacher’s Association Outstanding Teacher of 2018 Award.

Senior Tian Chen and Junior Catherine Linetsky won places in the ArtNow exhibition, a juried Santa Clara County high school art exhibition and educational program presented by the New Museum in Los Gatos.

Gunn World Languages teacher Yanan Vrudny received the California Language Teachers’ Association Outstanding Teacher of 2018 Award. She will be honored on March 11 at their annual conference in Ontario, CA.

Tovah Skiles has been accepted by the College Board to be an AP Spanish Reader. She joins Gunn’s Gabriela Garger, who has been a reader for six years.

The Small Learning Community will present its first cross-curricular project, “World War Gunn,” on March 15 in the Staff Lounge.

The English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) will be held for ELL students on Thursday, March 15, at 8:30 a.m. in the library.

The Testing Resource Center (TRC) has moved from K12 to D2 (next to the Academic Center).

Thank you to Lynn Glover and Laurie Pennington for clearing out the K-building workroom in preparation for the relocation of the Copy Center there.

In response to the killing of 17 students by a gunman at a Florida school, Gunn students rallied for gun control at 7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. on February 26 in front of the library.

Life Coach Anea Bogue presented four assemblies (one per grade level) February 26 & 27 to engage students in discussions about healthy relationships. Jackson Katz will speak on the same subject to students April 11 and 30.


Hyunwoo Roh (Clarinet) and Sonny Young (Bassoon) were among 30 middle and high school students selected from 2000 auditions by the California Band Directors Association for the 2018 All State Honor Band.

Paly hosted a successful WASC visit on Monday, March 4, and Tuesday, March 5. The Visiting Committee Reported as our strengths:

  • Engaged students
  • Passionate, dedicated staff
  • Supportive community
  • Well-maintained, state-of-the-art facilities

Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) Monterey Trip -- 125 freshman, 12 student leaders, 12 parents, and 6 teachers had a wonderful day learning about Steinbeck and Cannery Row and then visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Wednesday, February 28.  

TEAM Monterery Trip

Paly Broadcast students along with Jordan MS broadcast students will be traveling to Nashville, TN on March 14 for the 2018 Student Television Network Convention. The convention brings over 3,000 broadcast and film students from over 250 schools around the nation together for fice days of training, seminars, and on-site contests culminating in an Academy Awards style closing ceremony. This year, Paly’s Noor Navaid was selected from hundreds of applicants to be one of the on-stage presenters at the closing ceremony based on a screen-test video she submitted. This will also be the first time Jordan MS students will travel with Paly students to attend the convention!  

This Friday running through next week the world premier of Venture hits the Paly Performing Arts Center stage. This is a collaborative project with book and music by Michael Najar, original choreography by Alyssa Bond, direction by Kathleen Woods and Meghan Hawkes, and vocal arrangements by Brittney Kerby.

Some interesting facts about this musical:

  • Most students to audition for a musical at Paly-65
  • Implementation of new high powered digital projector for use in backgrounds and scenes.
  • First Paly musical choreographed by an in-house Dance/PE teacher, Alyssa Bond.
  • Students played a major role in shaping character and storylines.  

Paly VAPA finished the 4th Annual Arts in Unusual Places with over 250 students participating.

My best to you as the weekend begins,

Karen Hendricks