May 25, 2018

Hello To Our PAUSD Community,

The end of May and the upcoming closure of the 2017-18 school year is certainly a time of transition, celebration, remembering… and looking forward. What a year this has been! Next week we will see 472 Gunn seniors and 478 Paly seniors cross the stage, accept their diplomas, and head out to spread their positive impact in the larger world that awaits. 980 rising ninth graders are completing studies at Jordan, Terman, and JLS Middle Schools; our high schools wait to welcome them in August. And our elementary students transition as well, to new grades, teachers, and as rising sixth graders on to Frank S. Greene Jr., Ellen Fletcher, and JLS Middle Schools.

For parents and loved ones, these passages are exciting and impactful to us too. Having had the chance to see all of my daughters through the K-12 experience and off into post-high school learnings, I have a sense of the emotions around these transitions. (PS: If any of you find yourselves swept by the enormity of dropping your “little ones” off at college campuses or for other significant steps in the months ahead, please send me an email! I’ve admittedly had tearful journeys home three times now after such events, but have made it through and know that you will also :-) )

I hope that the final week of school brings you all an opportunity to share in the joy and appreciation of work well done, and the anticipation of sunny summer days ahead.  

Paly's 2018 Yearbook Gunn's 2018 Yearbook

Welcome to Dr. Donald Austin

An important transition will be taking place here at the District Office as well, with the appointment of Dr. Donald Austin as the incoming Superintendent of Palo Alto Unified School District effective July 1, 2018. I’m including an excerpt from the Press Release announcing the selection made by our PAUSD Board of Education:

“Dr. Austin comes to PAUSD from Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD) where he has been Superintendent since August 2014. Under his leadership, PVPUSD successfully adopted new math curriculum and textbooks, created online options for students, implemented a robust professional development program, and rolled out a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, while earning California School Boards Association recognition for strategic planning, a Golden Bell award, recognition for multiple Gold Ribbon schools, and top rankings in the state and nation.

Prior to his role as Superintendent in PVPUSD, Dr. Austin was the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the Huntington Beach Union High School District. In this role, Dr. Austin is credited with spearheading the implementation of Common Core State Standards and increasing student admission to state universities. Before moving to the role of Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Austin was principal of Laguna Beach High School in Laguna Beach, California and La Sierra High School in Riverside, California.

A California native and the first member of his family to attend college, Dr. Austin grew up south of San Diego in Chula Vista. He holds an Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) from Azusa Pacific University and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.

Dr. Austin brings enthusiasm, a spirit of teamwork, and a commitment to youth. The Board is impressed by his experience, reputation for strong implementation skills, focus on mentorship, and history of building a collective sense of purpose.

Said Dr. Austin, “I have followed Palo Alto USD since my time as the principal of Laguna Beach High School and am thrilled to join the PAUSD team. I look forward to working together to do great things that support and empower all of our students.“

Dr. Austin is looking forward to being here in Palo Alto to be introduced at our June 5 Board Meeting.

With My Thanks

With Dr. Austin’s arrival in July, I’ll be moving back into my role as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Prior to that time I’ll be working closely with him for a smooth transition in the Superintendent’s Office, and am already greatly appreciating the collaboration that we have begun.

Please accept my most sincere and humble appreciation for the opportunity to have served as your Interim Superintendent since October 1. I’m grateful for the trust placed in me by our Board of Education, and for all of the support along the way. It’s been a year of meaningful work, strengthened by input from- and collaboration with- our students, families, staff, faculty, leadership team, trustees, neighbors, and community members. Thank you for the welcome and kindness you’ve shown me. I have tremendous pride in being part of the PAUSD team, and am excited about the great work ahead on behalf of the student experience here!

Summer Hours

As schools wrap up, please know that our District Office staff continues to be here to provide service to you. Our summer schedule is:

June 11-July 20:

  • Monday - Thursday, 7:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. We will be closed on Fridays.

Starting July 23, we resume regular hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Great Things Happening in PAUSD

Middle and High School Graduation/Promotion Ceremony Dates, Times, and Locations:

  • Gunn High School: Thursday, May 31 at 5:00 p.m. in the Football Field
  • Palo Alto High School: Thursday, May 31 at 5:30 p.m. in the Paly Quad
  • Jordan Middle School: Friday, June 1, 6:00 p.m. in the Hugh Center Court
  • Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School: Friday, June 1, 5:30 p.m. in the JLS Field
  • Terman Middle School: Friday, June 1, 5:30 p.m. in the Terman Amphitheater

Secondary Education

Middle School History Social-Science Textbook Selection Update

After a year of dedicated work, the Middle School History-Social Science (HSS) Textbook Selection Advisory Committee presented its recommendation for a new HSS program to the School Board on May 8. The Board approved the Committee’s recommendation, and PAUSD will be adopting TCI’s History Alive! California Series for grades 6-8. The new program, which is comprised both of a digital component and a physical textbook, will be in classrooms in the fall of 2018. Between now and August, teachers will be busy preparing to use the new materials. A full-day TCI training has been scheduled before the end of school. During this training, teachers will have a chance to familiarize themselves with the new platform and materials and also to begin planning their first unit for the fall. In addition, paid time is being offered during the summer months for interested teachers to engage in curriculum writing with their grade-level colleagues across the District.

Middle School Science Textbook Selection Advisory Committee

California’s State Board of Education is scheduled to release the list of approved publishers and programs in November 2018. In September, the Middle School Science Textbook Selection Advisory Committee will convene to explore and begin the process of piloting science materials that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the California Science Framework. The committee will make a recommendation for science instructional materials to the PAUSD Board of Education in the spring of 2019. The committee is comprised of elementary, middle, and high school science teachers, coordinators of English Language Development and Special Education, administrators, parents, and middle school students. The applications for interested parents and students are posted on the PAUSD website and will be sent out with beginning of the year mailings and advertised at Back to School Night presentations.


Over the past school year, 25 science teachers in grades 6-12 participated in the Explore Learning Challenge Success Grant for targeted professional learning in Science and Engineering Practices through using Gizmos. After favorable reviews and robust usage of this interim instructional material, PAUSD has contracted to use the Gizmos simulations in science classes for the 2018-19 school year. Science teachers who did not participate in the grant program are invited to join the Gizmos trainer in August to discover how Gizmos simulations can promote inquiry and authentic use of science and engineering practices.

Additional summer workshops for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will be facilitated by PAUSD Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) using the WestEd Making Sense of Science professional learning materials. These day-long workshops will explore NGSS through an in-depth exploration of the Crosscutting Concept of Energy and Matter, Flows, Cycles, and Conservation (August 2), and diving into the fascinating content area of Waves and their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (August 3).


Per Senate Bill 359, California school districts are required to share the placement process for mathematics classes at two junctures of a students’ academic career, entering 6th grade and entering 9th grade. Part of this bill also includes a review of practices.  As a result, the Mathematics Steering Committee has been reexamining the current documents for some time. A nearly-final draft of the document was also beta-tested with some parents whose feedback was taking into consideration for incorporation. The revised Mathematics Placement document will be posted on the PAUSD website as well as all secondary schools’ websites upon completion of translation.

Computer Science Curriculum Design Advisory Committee

The PAUSD PK-12 Computer Science Curriculum Design Advisory Committee presented its recommendations to the Board of Education on Tuesday, May 24, 2018. The recommendations shared were intended to create the infrastructure necessary to move forward in bringing Computer Science into the lives of every PAUSD student.

Making computer science a high school graduation requirement was the recommendation that attracted the most attention. The Gunn High School student representative to the Board of Education, who is not in support of an additional graduation requirement, published his opinion on social media, which called additional attention to the presentation. Students both in support and not in support of a requirement came to the Board meeting to share their opinions.

Ultimately, the Board of Education has asked that the work continue into next year.

PA-YOU!-SD Professional Learning

The Secondary Education team, including the Director of Professional Learning, is ramping up for the second annual PA-YOU!-SD summer professional learning opportunity. This offering supports the progress of the district’s alignment goal for all secondary teachers. The sessions offered will focus on the grading practices, strategies of assessment for learning, and developing classroom assessment literacy. We are excited to offer these sessions to staff in a way that differentiates where each teacher or course-alike team may be with regard to their understanding of the elements of the district’s goals as well as the components of the teaching cycle.

Visual and Performing Arts

Spectra elementary art teachers met at the Palo Alto Art Center on May 16, 2018 to share curriculum ideas. The annual PAUSD Youth Art Show was a great occasion to collaborate with colleagues and get inspired for the next school year! This school year, 20 Spectra art teachers taught at our 12 elementary schools, and also at Stanford Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. One strength of the Spectra art program is the willingness of teachers to learn from each other, with experienced teachers mentoring newer teachers. Thank you to PiE (and generous donors) for supporting our art programs!

On May 17, Palo Alto High School Theatre teacher, Kathleen Woods, and Art Coordinator, Li Ezzell, represented their respective arts organizations in Sacramento at the state-wide Stand Up for Music event. Representatives from the four state arts organizations (Theatre, Art, Music, and Dance) were at the state capitol to advocate for high-quality, sequential arts education for all California students. Kathleen serves on the Executive Board of the California Educational Theatre Association (CETA), and Li is the President-Elect of the California Art Education Association (CAEA). We are fortunate to have these two arts leaders here in PAUSD!

All middle school and high school theatre teachers met on May 18, 2018 to focus on Common Learning Targets as part of an ongoing districtwide initiative to align curriculum. They discussed the 6th grade electives wheel, and Theatre 1 and 2. Similarly, middle school and high school art teachers met for their own professional learning day on May 24, 2018. Next year, this professional learning will continue with a focus on Common Assessment.

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) & Innovation

The third annual AAR & Innovation Celebratory Showcase was held at the Paly Media Arts Center Friday, May 18. The Celebratory Showcase brought the community together to celebrate students’ work during the 2017-18 academic year and thank their mentors. The event—like the AAR & Innovation program itself—focused on empowering student voices. As AAR student Alia Jessup commented, “Being able to study a problem I care about through a close lens and have a chance to educate others about it was such a great opportunity. Thank you, AAR!”

This collaborative event featured over 300 students’ accomplishments, including poster presentations by AAR and Innovation students and inspiring student projects from AAR’s partner programs. Guests were greeted at the entrance by a customized Model T truck built by Gunn Auto Tech. The AP Capstone program exhibited presentations from AP Seminar. Paly’s Social Justice Pathway presented their capstone projects, which were conducted through AAR. Gunn Video Production screened several films that were written, directed, and produced by Gunn students this year. Culinary Arts students provided refreshments. Paly’s Early Childhood Development program displayed students’ child development projects, and the Gunn Robotics Team demonstrated their award-winning 2018 robot.

AAR & Innovation is very proud of all the students whose works were featured at the 2018 Celebratory Showcase.

Advanced Authentic Research and Innovation Celebratory Showcase Advanced Authentic Research and Innovation Showcase Project Collaborative AAR&I team poses for picutre at Celebratory Showcase Celebratory Showcase - poster presentations

Sustainable School Committee (SSC) Update

The Sustainable School Committee brings together community, parent, PAUSD leadership, and PAUSD staff to help the District frame and prioritize a variety of issues around sustainability in the schools.  The SSC achieved success on a variety of topics this school year. A fundamental partnership with Alva Spence, Food Service Director, has allowed PAUSD to make inroads on a number of initiatives, including reduction of single use plastic water bottles, disposable serving containers, and efforts to incorporate foods grown onsite into meals for students.  Another important partnership the SSC has fostered is with Zero Waste of Palo Alto, out of which the Zero Waste Champion program was born. This year alone, the efforts of the school site-based Champions to provide waste sorting education and support has diverted enough materials from the landfill to save PAUSD $37,000. The SSC has also provided leadership and guidance this year on the District's solar energy plan, Proposition 39 spending, and a variety of student and community efforts to bring sustainability into the schools.


Mrs. Julie Barnea, a beloved Hoover teacher who began her career in 1975, and taught at Hoover for the past 17 years, will be retiring this year, and what a gift she received when Olympic Skater, Vincent Zhou, a Hoover Alumni, personally invited her to watch him skate at the “Stars on Ice” event last weekend.

Mrs. Julie Barnea with Olympic skater, Vincent Zhou

First grade families gathered for an End-of-the-Year potluck last week, where families and teachers chatted and enjoyed a variety of delicious foods, including this cake made by one of our Hoover dads (the picture was taken a bit late)!

First grade families gathered for and End-of-the-Year potluck End-of-the-Year potluck at Hoover

Hoover engineers in second and fourth grades were busy with the Keva Planks that were purchased for each classroom over the past two years. 

Hoover engineers in 2nd and 4th grades enjoying Keva Planks 2nd and 4th grades enjoying Keva Planks

My best to you as your weekend begins,

Karen Hendricks