August 25, 2017

School is in full swing, and this week I have visited several classrooms. Seeing such high quality teaching and learning in action is inspirational, and I have been especially impressed with the Bridges lessons in elementary classrooms. The students have been highly engaged in interactive learning of basic facts, geometric patterns, and mathematical operations. This program is more than arithmetic! Please read this week’s informational message from our elementary educational services team.

Grade Weighting for Off Campus Advanced Placement Classes

Last spring the Board approved the staff recommendation to provide one additional grade point for every Advanced Placement (AP) class students take in their sophomore, junior, or senior year. For example, while PAUSD high school classes are graded on the traditional four-point scale (A = 4, B = 3, etc.), the transcript of students receiving an A in AP U.S. History (or any AP course) would have the letter grade and list a grade point of 5.0; the transcript of students receiving a B would likewise show the letter grade and list a grade point of 4.0. Recently, the question arose regarding whether or not Advanced Placement classes taken off campus, such as during the summer or online, would receive the extra grade weighting point. Board Policy 6141.1 provides the opportunity for students to take up to 40 units of off campus classes (of the 210 required for graduation), so this question is an important one. The answer is YES, because Advanced Placement classes are WASC accredited and the curriculum is determined by the College Board. However, classes taken off campus must be preapproved. Our high schools are currently in the process of calculating grade point averages – weighted and unweighted – for students applying to college, so if you have any questions regarding AP classes taken off campus, please contact the Guidance Office at Paly or Gunn.

Board Business

What happened to Board Reports??? Last year our Communications Coordinator sent out a summary of the Board meetings immediately following each meeting regardless of the hour. Once we hire a new Coordinator, we will resume these. For now, please look for short summaries in these Friday notes.

Action Items

The Board discussed five policies/administrative regulations that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) required the district to revise to align with federal laws and be internally consistent with one another. They are BP/AR 1312.3 (Uniform Complaint Procedure), BP/AR 5145.3 (Nondiscrimination Harassment) and BP 5145.7 (Sexual Harassment). These policies had been previously approved by OCR, but given the complexity of the documents and questions raised from the community, a vote was postponed until the September 12 regular meeting. 

The Board voted to increase the allocation for two legal firms, which included selecting Dannis Woliver Kelly (DWK) as the district’s legal firm for construction, personnel matters, and contractual issues. Allocation for Cozen O’Connor was increased to fund a temporary Title IX Coordinator and complete their investigation of the handling of two cases related to sexual misconduct. The firm of Atkinson, Adelson, Loya, Ruud, and Romo was retained to provide special education legal services, and the firm of Ellis Buehler Makus was retained to conduct Title IX investigations as needed. Funding for Lozano Smith was cut back, as it will only be needed to complete a few ongoing personnel and labor issues. New cases will be handled by DWK.

The Board also voted to authorize staff to move forward with the Request for Proposals (RFP) process to develop, issue, and evaluate proposals of solar vendors to implement solar energy projects at Paly, JLS, Terman, Nixon, and Escondido schools.

Discussion Items

The Board identified policies for the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) to discuss at the next meeting include the OCR-mandated revisions, updates to student records and class size policies, and reviewing BP 6172 and AR 6172 regarding Gifted and Talented Student Program, a program we no longer have because the State discontinued funding.

Superintendent’s Report

I noted the joy, dedication, and compassion of our teaching staff and shared a few remarks regarding the importance of a growth mindset, of the principle of the aggregation of small gains for improving teaching and learning, and the importance of meaningful, targeted homework and practice that advance learning, or what Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code, terms “Deep Practice.” In addition, I summarized the survey results of our sexual health education lessons from Health Connected and noted both the results and next steps from the climate survey that OCR required us to administer.

Finally, please note that all Board materials for this past meeting can be accessed here. The OCR Climate Survey Summary and Health Connected documents are in the Superintendent’s Report section. I encourage you to read both reports. The bottom line for Health Connected is: the parent, student, and staff survey results support revisions of some topics, providing ample opportunity for parent review and clear opt out notifications even for individual lessons, and the overall district strategy of teacher-based instruction using Health Connected as fully-aligned lessons meeting the state mandate. As for the OCR climate survey, we learned that while a relatively small number of students (~12%) and parents (~8%) report experiencing sexual harassment for themselves or their students, most choose not to report incidents. The majority of those non-reporting say they did not report incidents because the matters “did not rise to the level” of being important enough to report or they were “playful.” As a result, the report has a series of recommendations regarding staff training and important parent and student education sessions.

2017-18 Budget

While we are still awaiting the final number from the Controller regarding our tax distribution, the latest figures from the County Assessor indicates that tax revenue is 6.5%. We had estimated a 3.8% increase this year, so the increase in tax revenue amounts to about $4.419 million above our estimates. These funds will be used to provide a 3% increase to the teaching staff and classified staff, which amounts to $4.417 million. Administrative leaders are not eligible for this increase and we no longer include them in the umbrella of compensation increases for teachers and support staff.  While we would have preferred to have more flexibility if we reopened the 2017-18 contract, due to some misunderstanding and misinterpretation of contract language, we missed this opportunity. This caused some confusion but the union and district leadership worked through it and we are moving forward.

Back to School Nights

I hope that you all take the opportunity to participate in our Back to School Nights. I attended Paly’s last evening, and next week will do my best to get to Jordan, Terman, Gunn and a few of the elementaries for theirs. Please use these learning opportunities as a chance to hear about our curriculum, meet your child’s teachers, and perhaps befriend some of your child’s classmate’s parents.

Family Fun Night Correction

Last week I mentioned that the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education will be holding its annual Family Fun Day on September 17, at Mitchell Park. The event will begin at 4:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m.


In closing, I finally decided to “tweet.” My goal is to post one piece of district news and/or photo each day to share the terrific work of our staff and students, and have a tangible way of showing how we support our three district goals of Equity and Access, Wellness and Safety, and High Quality Teaching and Learning. Check out @suptmaxmcgee on Twitter.

Message from the City of Palo Alto Regarding Safe Routes to School

The great weather and variety of safe and convenient routes make Palo Alto a perfect place for our students to bike and walk to school. Starting their day with physical activity primes our students for an excellent day of learning! Plus, more students walking and biking equals fewer cars on the road, which translates to improved safety, less traffic congestion, and better air quality.

Your school’s Walk and Roll map shows route recommendations for your child’s school and can assist you in planning a good walking or biking route.  Find the maps, Safety Tips, a letter from the Police Chief, and other resources on the City’s Safe Routes to School page. The maps can also be found on your school’s website.

If walking or biking is not feasible for your student, please consider carpooling with a neighbor, especially when the weather turns rainy. If you must drive, be sure to share the road safely by putting away your cell phone and using extra caution where children are present.