March 4, 2016

A big thanks to the Board members for participating in Read Across America this week and the Palo Alto Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC) Sweetheart Awards last week.  Your continued advocacy and support for students with special needs is much appreciated – the students love hearing you read stories, and the teachers and parents love seeing you at the schools.  At tonight’s meeting we have a long list for the Superintendent’s Report, beginning with student and staff successes, which in turn, is the perfect segue into the Sweetheart Awards.  Christina Schmidt, Chair of CAC, and her team put together a very moving and meaningful evening in recognizing contributions of students, staff, teachers, parents, and administrators who had been nominated for the Sweetheart Recognition.  Each tribute was so personal and meaningful, and the photos will serve as enduring reminders of the countless contributions made to those with special needs.

Turning to the agenda, the Superintendent’s Report will begin with Student and Staff Successes, and a thank you to all of those who made the Sweetheart Awards such a triumph.  Also, I will mention the third quarter goals update that is enclosed in the Board packet, and launch the application process for the Renaming Schools Advisory Committee.  Regarding the elementary school mathematics exploration, I will provide an update on the parent survey and the timeline for committee selection.  The application is included in the packet.  In addition, I will update the community on the Cubberley planning process and responses to our Request for Proposals (RFPs) for both Special Education legal services and financial advisory services.

A.  Approval of Paint Gunn HS Project, Budget, and Authorization to Bid

This agenda item is first because we expect to have interested students, staff, and parents.  Working with a consultant, the committee gathered a great deal of input regarding repainting Gunn High School.  At tonight’s meeting Mr. Robert Golton, Bonds Program Manager, will introduce Architarian Design to present the proposed plan for Board discussion.

B.  Addison Project Donation, Pre-Construction Budget, and Contracts

Following the extended discussion at the last Board meeting, we are seeking the Board’s approval to accept the generous donation of $1,330,000.  This donation includes all activities up to and including bidding the project, but NOT the award of the project to a contractor or any other expenses incurred after contract award.  The Board is also asked to approve:

  1. The scope of the “Addison Project” as provided below
  2. The pre-construction budget for the “Addison Project”
  3. The architect agreement with Gelfand Partners for pre-construction services
  4. The contract for pre-construction project management services with fs3/Hodges
  5. The architect agreement with Gelfand Partners for Conceptual Designs for the other elementary schools

In response to questions regarding the donor and progressive parity, we have confirmed the donor intends to remain anonymous, and estimated the cost of improving all multi-purpose rooms.  Thanks to the anonymous donor’s gift to Addison, the $60,000,000 remaining in the Strong Schools Bond can be used to address needs in the other elementary schools.  Identifying and prioritizing these needs – as well as addressing the unfinished business of determining whether or not to open a thirteenth elementary school – will be matters to discuss at future Board meetings.

C.  AR 3290 - Gifts, Grants, and Bequests

In the course of developing this policy we have had the benefit of significant input from Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE), parents, boosters, and Board members.  These discussions have enabled us to clarify that the policy applies to one-time gifts and not to cumulative fundraising, and not just to gifts but also to competitive grants.  We also learned that some small gifts may eventually lead to larger gifts, and that even small gifts may result in long-term commitment of general funds – what we call the “free puppy” gift.  With these learnings in mind, the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) is bringing AR 3290 to the Board for discussion prior to action at a future meeting with two additions:

1. A paragraph that specifically addresses booster club donations

2. A sentence reading:  “The Superintendent shall seek direction from the Board prior to negotiating with a prospective donor if the anticipated donation is in excess of $1,000,000.”

The Board may choose to leave the policy as it stands, amend the language at the meeting, or return it to the BPRC for further review and revision.  Staff supports the policy as developed by the BPRC.

D.  Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee

In the Education Services weekly of Friday, February 26, 2016, we presented a draft charge and parameters for a Distributed Counseling Committee.  Staff strongly endorses the concepts and plan presented, as it would ideally lead to identical, or at least closely similar, models at each school.  That said, developing the model without first clarifying the social-emotional competencies needed to fully implement the School Counseling Logic Model (2014) and developing social-emotional learning standards for PreK-12 may be putting the proverbial cart before the horse.  

Recalling that Strategic Plan Initiative B3 is to “Improve system of counseling supports to prepare all students for academic, social-emotional, and post-secondary success,” we know much excellent work has been done in this regard based on the logic model counselors presented in 2014.  We all know, however, that strategic plan survey data and other quantitative and qualitative data have indicated improvements can still be made.  Moreover, Strategic Plan Action statement B3.1 states, “Implement a common guidance curriculum and evaluate its effectiveness to improve the quality and consistency of services with respect to academic advising, social-emotional support, and post-secondary planning.”  Social-emotional learning (SEL) provides the foundation for maintaining a healthy balance between the many physical and psychological pursuits a person will encounter over the course of their life.  Therefore, a unified approach to addressing the social-emotional learning needs of students to ensure the development of a common language, learning targets, and grade level competencies is proposed.

While all realize the importance of social-emotional learning, there still is not a coherent curriculum framework or set of learning targets for social-emotional learning PreK-12.  We think that these should be fully articulated by grade level and then we should develop a model to assure the curriculum is taught using a unified approach.  The staff will present a systemic overview of the needs and planning around the intersecting issues of wellness, mental health, coordinated school health model, and social-emotional learning.  This work will lead to a recommendation for a PreK-12 SEL curriculum for the Board’s consideration.

E.  Second Interim Financial Report

At the last meeting, Ms. Cathy Mak, Chief Business Officer, discussed some adjustments to revenues and expenses that have resulted in a net increase of approximately $530,000.  On the plus side are increased tax revenues, savings in legal costs, and a decrease in projected personnel costs.  On the debit side we saw a decrease in special education revenue, an increase in payments to school districts for inter-district transfers, and the Hanover Research contract for conducting research reviews including the study of intervention programs as outlined in the Board goals.  At tonight’s meeting we are asking the Board to approve 1) a positive certification to the County Superintendent that the District can meet its financial obligations through the end of the fiscal year and for the subsequent two years, and 2) the budget revisions listed in the projected year totals.

F.  One-time State Funded Professional Development

At the last meeting, Kelly Bikle, Coordinator of Professional Learning, presented a detailed plan for the use of the California Department of Education (CDE) “Educator Effectiveness Grant,” which is a one-time non‑competitive grant for districts to use for professional learning tied to specific goals.  By statute, school boards must review and accept the plans.  At the last meeting discussion, some Board members raised questions that went beyond the grant application, regarding how we fund professional development and measure its impact.  At tonight’s meeting, the Board is asked to accept the grant so we can put the state funds to good use.  In addition, Ms. Bikle has developed a brief presentation regarding how we gather evidence for the impact of professional learning and the different funding sources for it.

G.  Auhorization to Seek Bid Summer Maintenance Projects

This item is presented annually so the Board members can understand the scope and cost of summer work projects, many of which consist of infrastructure repair and renovation.  Following Mr. Golton’s presentation and Board discussion, we will be seeking approval at the next meeting.

In closing, it looks like it might be a wet weekend, so I hope you have ample time to rest for the two-day marathon with special Board meetings on Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and our regular Board meeting beginning at 5:00 p.m.  If you are looking for some outstanding entertainment, the middle schools’ production of Beauty and the Beast is four stars and then some.  I was able to attend last evening and every aspect of the show was so well done and such fun.  In addition to the acting, singing, and dancing, students ran the sound and lighting, had painted the stage sets, and even crafted the Beast’s mask from scratch.  It is not to be missed!