May 6, 2016

Between the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Tall Tree Awards, the Palo Alto Art Center Student Art Show, and the Palo Alto Partners in Education Leadership Circle donor celebration, it has been quite the full and festive week.  There has been some event every night, and no lack of activity every day, as we simultaneously begin wrapping up this year and preparing for the next year.  Also, we are excited to announce our last minute addition to the Board agenda that happened this week – discussion and approval of the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA) multi-year contracts.  Both groups will have ratified their contracts prior to the Board meeting, and we will announce the details and share the advantages to having a three-year deal in regards to retaining and recruiting excellent teachers, having a predictable district budget for our schools and predictable family budget for our staff, and now assuring time to discuss important contract language as we strive to discuss a handful of substantive issues that matter both to the Board and the Associations, including our teacher evaluation system.

Turning to the agenda, the Superintendent’s report will be a short one since the meeting is anticipated to be long.  First we will begin with Student and Staff Successes.  Next I will introduce our three new administrators: the principals of Palo Verde and Jordan, and the Chief Academic Officer for Secondary Education.  Each will say a few words, and I know we will give them a warm welcome.  Following that I will summarize how we have enhanced the elementary music program for next year and are addressing the needs of our advanced fourth grade string players.  Finally, I will provide an update on our current secondary enrollment.

Public Hearings and A-D.  Approval of Employee Contracts

Turning to the agenda, we will need to have three statutorily required Public Hearings, one on the school facility fees, and the other two on the PAEA and CSEA contracts.  From there we will move directly to our first four agenda items, A-D, to discuss these two contracts, along with the Palo Alto Management Association (PAMA) and Confidential/Supervisory non-certificated staff.  Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Scott Bowers and I are requesting the Board waive the two meeting rule so that, if approved, teachers can receive this year's increase in their June paycheck.

E.  Pilot Combining Algebra 1 and 1A at Gunn High School

At the last Board meeting, Instructional Supervisor Kathy Hawes, Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann, Chief Academic Officer of Secondary Education Katherine Baker, and Algebra teacher Toni Smith presented a proposed two-year pilot that would combine the two lowest lanes of ninth grade algebra into one.  At that time, the Board asked for additional information regarding supports needed to assure success of all students, an evaluation plan, and more details regarding the curriculum.  These matters have been addressed in the materials and will be presented and discussed at the Board meeting.  Given that this proposed pilot aligns with the district’s strategic plan and Board goals – as detailed in the materials in the packet – and is also supported by research, staff is urging the Board to approve the pilot.

Specifically, the pilot is aligned with:

  • District Goal #2:  CONSISTENT HIGH QUALITY TEACHING AND LEARNING.  Ensuring all students have consistent and equitable opportunities and access to high quality educational programs and services aligned with PAUSD’s vision and strategic plan, the district will foster conditions that provide a coherent district approach for aligning course curriculum frameworks, grading practices, homework expectations, project and testing schedules, and summative assessment instruments.
  • District Goal #4:  MINORITY ACHIEVEMENT AND TALENT DEVELOPMENT.  To raise the achievement of historically underrepresented (HUR) students and increase participation and success in rigorous classes at the secondary level, the district will assure equity of preparation, access, opportunity, and support from Pre-K to 12th grade, and by implementing essential recommendations of the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory (MATD) Committee with fidelity.
  • Strategic Plan Goals A:  Create an exceptional learning environment that equitably supports and appropriately challenges all students to reach their potential through a love of learning, mastery of the basics, and cultivation of higher-order skills:
    • Initiative A1:  Differentiate the educational experience to effectively engage, appropriately challenge, and ensure mastery for every student.
    • Initiative A3:  Significantly raise the achievement of historically underrepresented students by ensuring equity of preparation, access, and support from Pre-K to 12th Grade. 

F.  California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015

The California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, approved by the Governor in October 2015, requires governing boards of local educational agencies to “develop and adopt a fair, objective, and transparent mathematics placement policy” for students entering grade nine, “in a regularly scheduled public meeting” before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.  It further authorizes governing boards to implement a mathematics placement policy for students transitioning from elementary and middle school, and requires each governing board of a local educational agency to “ensure that its mathematics placement policy is posted on its Internet Web site.”

For the past several months, the Math Steering Committee, made up of Instructional Supervisors from the five secondary schools, along with the Secondary Math Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), have been working on aligning the criteria used for placing students in appropriate math courses as they transition from middle to high school.  The steering committee members decided to expand their efforts to include the criteria considered for math placement as students transition to middle school (sixth grade), as well as the placement criteria used for grades seven and eight.  The recommended pathways are included in the packet and will be presented by TOSA Suzanne Antink and CAO Katherine Baker.

Following this informational presentation, this item will need to be referred to the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) to create Board Policy 6152.1 so it can be adopted before the beginning of the next school year, in accordance with the requirements delineated by the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015.

G.  Additional Resource Allocations 2016-17

Once the PAEA and CSEA contracts are settled, we will have approximately $3,000,000 to support program additions.  Given past Board conversations and following long hours of staff deliberations, we have trimmed the list to drive more funding into class size reduction and co-teaching.  We have retained 1.2 FTE to support mathematics Response to Intervention (RtI) at the high schools, and retained but reduced some funding for breakfast for low-income students and athletics.  Breakfast will be provided at the Title 1 schools and each of the high schools will receive $50,000 toward athletic funding.  We also reduced the amount of funding necessary to support district office functions to $100,000 among three departments, which has support of our principals in order to improve responsiveness and effectiveness.

As for kindergarten, the elementary principals and district leaders fully support full/extended-day kindergarten at all sites as is the current practice at both Barron Park and Palo Verde.  We also realize that there are funding considerations and that the Think Tank process should be honored.  We have heard some of our veteran teachers extol the benefits of having half the class for an extended afternoon, twice a week, and other veteran teachers extol the benefits of full-day kindergarten.  However, we do not have compelling research in our district to support the contention of the former, only limited data to support that the longer day does have a positive effect on reading achievement through second grade.  Consequently, we are recommending that one cluster of non-choice schools (Palo Verde, Fairmeadow, and El Carmelo) adopt the current Palo Verde model where all students stay all afternoons for nearly the full primary day.

We are recommending that Barron Park retain its full-day model, and are encouraging one other school to continue conversations at the site about moving to a full-day model.  The other schools will pursue a model (Model C in the Board materials) that extends the kindergarten instructional day two afternoons a week until the primary dismissal time as well as some, but less, extended time in the afternoons the other two days each week.  This model affords both small group time alone in the room for half the class, and also the opportunity for struggling students to work separately with a certificated teacher during days in which they are not staying the full afternoon.  We intend to support the changes by adding 2 FTE for music and physical education, and assuring district support in order for all kindergarten classes to have a minimum of 10 hours of instructional aide time each week.  This plan increases the number of instructional minutes at all schools to at least 1,400 minutes per week and also gives us the opportunity to design and implement a thoughtful longitudinal evaluation in advance.  Ideally, we would retain these models for a four- or five-year period to study the extent to which each improves student learning for all students as well as targeted subgroups (historically underrepresented, English Learners, etc.) through the primary grades, and the extent to which each model strengthens important social-emotional skills such as self-regulation, attention, resilience, empathy, connectedness, and the like.

We realize that there are other important needs that were not funded, including additional funding for after-school tutoring for middle schools students, a library TOSA, expanding Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) at Paly and Small Learning Communities (SLC) at Gunn, and the living gardens programs.  All of these are important, but we had to determine priorities for district funding that would impact the most students and were most closely aligned with our vision and strategic plan.  Also, while we had originally intended to set aside funding for innovative high school programming (please see the attached High School Learning Design Team call in the packet), given that the Board had set aside $4,000,000 funding in the reserves for a new secondary school and later indicated that a new high school was not needed, we intend to use a portion of this money to seed innovative projects.

H.  First Reading of Revised Board Policies and Administrative Regulations

The BPRC reviewed the policies at its March 31, 2016 meeting and are presenting them for Board discussion.

I.  Resolution to Increase Facilities Fees and Adoption of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Notice of Exemption

At the last meeting Chief Business Official Cathy Mak presented a proposal to increase facilities fees and adoption of CEQA Notice of Exemption to increase the impact fee on residential development and on commercial/industrial development.  We are asking the Board to approve that proposal following a public hearing.

J.  Authorization to Bid Furnishings and Equipment for the Paly Performing Arts Center and a Contract Room 300 Renovation at Paly

Bond Program Manager Bob Golton will present a plan to authorize staff to seek bids for these two projects.  While the Performing Arts Center is completed, additional equipment is needed for production purposes.

K.  Award Painting Contract for Gunn High School

This matter was discussed and enthusiastically supported at a previous meeting, and due to the cost of the project, is now on the agenda for an action item instead of just for consent approval.

L.  Summer Maintenance Work

At the last meeting Mr. Golton presented the list of summer maintenance work.  Because the aggregate amount was significant, we are seeking approval as an action item instead of a consent item.

M.  Authorization to Extend Contract for Unleaded and Diesel Fuel

With the expiration of the contract for fuel purchase, Mr. Golton will present the responses to bids for providing fuel to operate our vehicles for the next three years, with two possible one-year extensions.  We are recommending Valley Oil Company be awarded the bid.

N.  Contracts for Legal Services for 2016-17

Following staff evaluation of legal services, we are proposing to continue our relationship with Lozano Smith, DWK, and Dora Dome.  We will be switching Special Education services from Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost to AALRR (Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo).

O.  Proposed Calendar for Board Meetings 2016-17

Following the traditional model for scheduling Board meetings, the staff has developed the attached schedule.  Please note that there are some considerations that will need to be discussed including:

  • Finalizing the date of the August retreat: the first meeting of the 2016-17 school year is August 23, so we would like to have the retreat the week of August 8.
  • There is one meeting in November 2016, scheduled for November 15, to ensure there is no meeting on November 8 due to Election Day and the week of Thanksgiving, November 21-25, 2016.  We would like to schedule a budget workshop at some point in November.
  • There is one meeting in December 2016, scheduled for December 6, to accommodate Winter Break so there is not a huge gap between meetings in November and December.
  • We would also like to schedule a budget workshop in January.
  • There is one meeting in April 2017, scheduled for April 18, to accommodate Spring Break.
  • Instead of having June meetings on June 13 and June 27, we propose June 6 and 20 so that the last Board meeting does not end so late in the month.

P.  Evolve Resolution

The Board will further consider a resolution that supports efforts to modify how the values of commercial properties in California are reassessed while maintaining Proposition 13 protections for residential properties and small businesses.  This item was discussed at its March 22, 2016 meeting, at which time staff was asked to seek advice from Michelle Underwood, Director of Governmental and External Relations for School Services of California.  We had received some cautionary language from her prior to the April 19 meeting, and at that time deferred a vote until we heard more from SF2.  Recent correspondence from Ms. Underwood provided amended language to one clause that is acceptable to Evolve and serves as a model for basic aid services. 

Original:  “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that tax revenues generated by modernizing how commercial property is reassessed benefit local schools and not accrue to the State of California as General Fund savings”

Amended:  “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that tax revenues generated by modernizing how commercial property is reassessed benefit the local school district in which they were generated and not accrue to the state or other local governments.

With this amended language staff is recommending approval of the resolution.

Q.  Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) Meeting May 20, 2016

A table of the policies proposed for discussion at the next BPRC meeting is included for informational purposes.  Please note the draft Intellectual Property (IP) Policy and the policy related to the Mathematics Placement Act (Item F).  Also, we have made progress on policy language on the following three items:

  • Intellectual Property Policy
  • Institutional Research Policy
  • Personnel – new language related to Professional Conduct (grooming)

Working with a patent attorney who was kind enough to provide pro bono services, the IP policy should be drafted and ready for review as early as next Friday, and will be posted for the May 20 BPRC meeting.

In closing, I hope that you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day this Sunday.  We will have the whole family together for a mighty barbecue, some family kickball, and cutthroat “moms vs. dads” Catch Phrase.  In addition, I am planning to catch up on email, having fallen behind this busy week, and shake this nagging cold that has laid me a bit low and be well-rested for a long and highly productive week.