Dear PAUSD community,

On behalf of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Board of Education (BOE), I am pleased to share with you highlights from the 2015-16 school year.  With our students at the center of PAUSD’s work, the District Strategic Plan guides the work that we do throughout the school year.  The five components of the Strategic Plan – Academic Excellence and Learning, Personal Development and Support, Innovative Staff Development and Recruitment, Optimized Budget and Infrastructure, and Governance and Communications – form the basis for improvement efforts in important aspects of the District’s operations.  With the Strategic Plan as the anchor for these improvement efforts, we are on a mission to close the gaps in opportunities and access that lead to disparities in achievement, and to ensure every PAUSD student has access to high quality teaching and learning in a welcoming, inclusive, safe, and supportive learning environment.  Together with our teachers, families, staff, and caring community, I am proud to share in this report highlights of the progress we made with you during the 2015-16 school year.  

Glenn W. “Max” McGee

Academic Excellence & Learning: Advanced Authentic Research (AAR)

AAR ShowcaseIn 2015-16, the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) program in the Division of Educational Services concluded its successful inaugural year. Through AAR, PAUSD students in grades 10-12 had the unique opportunity to investigate an authentic topic of their choosing.  The students were paired with mentors who supported and facilitated each student’s work in their own laboratories, offices, and other settings.  During the 2015-16 school year, AAR:

  • Engaged 101 high school students and their mentors to perform original research.
  • Hosted its first annual Celebratory Showcase, which featured more than 60 student-researched projects.  The projectscovered topics in the humanities, business, social science, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  
  • Earned an $800,000 grant from the California Department Dr McGee, BOE President Ms Emberling, Dr Choeof Education (CDE), which will allow for the program to expand and provide opportunities to additional students in 2016-17.
Academic Excellence & Learning/ Governance & Communication: Full-Day Kindergarten


In the 2016-17 school year, PAUSD kindergarten students will have additional time at school to learn and explore as a result of the PAUSD Board of Education’s vote of approval to extend the kindergarten day to a full school day.  Up until this vote, PAUSD’s 12 elementary schools offered a combination of three different kindergarten day models, with only one school offering the full day.

The conversations to extend the kindergarten day began in the winter of 2016 after the school district’s Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Advisory Committee included this initiative as one of 12 recommendations to improve the performance and results of the district’s Historically Underrepresented students (HUR).  Research shows that struggling students – a category in which HUR students in PAUSD are disproportionately represented – need to be ready by second or third grade and need more time in school to learn and acquire language and literacy skills.  The additional time at school for kindergartners to learn and explore also helps all students accrue social-emotional behavioral benefits, including self-regulation, attentiveness, self-confidence, and interpersonal skills. 

After a five-month engagement process led by the Superintendent’s Office and the Division of Educational Services, which included dialogue with teachers and parents, the PAUSD Board of Education approved full day kindergarten.  The new extended day will take effect in mid October every year.  This gradual start to the school year will help new kindergartners adapt to the longer day by getting them started in August on a half-day schedule.  

Personal Development & Support: Creating an Inclusive and Supporting Learning Environment

During the 2015-16 school year, the Division of Student Services led the school district in its efforts to continue the work of creating and maintaining environments where students feel included, supported, and safe for their learning.

The Board of Education approved the Student Services Department’s and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQQ) Committee’s Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 5157, titled Gender Identity and Access, as well as revisions to Administrative Regulation 5145.3 addressing Non- Discrimination/Harassment.  This policy and both administrative regulations are meant to support greater levels of awareness and understanding of bullying and harassment prevention.  This summer the LGBTQQ Committee will work on updating a school handbook to support all local schools as they create welcoming learning spaces for students who identify as transgender.  

Personal Development & Support: Wellness Centers to Provide Safe Spaces for Students

PAUSD is launching two wellness centers, one at each of the high schools.  Wellness centers provide safe and supportive environments in theWellness Center school setting where students can discuss a variety of topics.  The wellness programs provide culturally competent services in a confidential, nonjudgmental space staffed with professionals who are dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and educational outcomes of all students.  Through both on-campus programming and community-based partnerships, students will receive coordinated health education, assessment, counseling and other support services to maximize student engagement and success.  The school district has hired two Wellness Outreach Workers (WOWs) to support the wellness centers.  The WOWs will work closely with other wellness center staff and partners to support student success. 

Staff Development & Recruitment: Key Hires, as Recommended by MATD, to Support Success and Well-Being for ALL PAUSD Students

During the 2015-16 school year, the school district recruited two veteran educators whose work supports the school district’s efforts to better serve ALL PAUSD students.  The school district hired an Equity Coordinator and a Program Evaluation Coordinator, both positions that were created as recommended by the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Advisory Committee to improve the performance and results of the district’s Historically Underrepresented students (HUR). 

  • Equity Coordinator – Dr. Martha Castellon joined the Department of Academic Supports in the Division of Educational Services in January of 2016. As the Equity Coordinator, Dr. Castellon is charged with primarily implementing the District Equity Plan created by the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Committee.  The plan articulates the district’s vision for equity and inclusion.
  • Program Evaluation Coordinator – Dr. Clarisse Haxton joined the Department of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment in the Division of Educational Services in the spring of 2016.  As Program Evaluation Coordinator, Dr. Haxton leads the school district’s efforts to implement and review programs and systems as PAUSD focuses on improving educational equity and achievement.
Staff Development & Recruitment: PAUSD Educator Effectiveness Program Plan

In the 2015-16 school year, the Department of Professional Learning led the school district with creating the Educator Effectiveness Program Plan, focusing on professional learning that is comprehensive, sustained, and intensive around key priorities directly tied to the 2015-16 District Goals.  The District Goals, embedded in the overall strategic plan, are Personalized Learning, High Quality Teaching and Learning, Minority Achievement and Talent Development, and Safe and Welcoming Schools.  With the overall goal to improve student achievement, the Educator Effectiveness Program Plan supports teachers’, principals’, and support staffs’ effectiveness in raising students’ achievement by supporting them with professional learning in the following areas:

  • High Quality Teaching and Learning—assure every teacher has the resources and uses instructional methods necessary to engage every student in purposeful, joyful learning that maximizes each student’s opportunity to excel academically.
  • Equity and Access—create multiple pathways and support networks that promote and assure each and every student has access to programs, services, activities, and classes that enable them to achieve their fullest intellectual, creative, and social potential.
  • Wellness—design, develop, and implement a system to strengthen student and staff physical, social, and emotional health.
Budget & Infrastructure: Sound Financial Stewardship

PAUSD recognizes the responsibility to its stakeholders for the financial health of the school district and is dedicated to professional, prudent, School District Budgetand conservative financial planning and management.   Keeping the taxpayer in mind, these are some highlights in the school district’s budget, which continue to strengthen the district’s commitment to ensuring that taxpayers’ funds are invested wisely in PAUSD public education.  In 2015-16:

  • The school district successfully managed a balanced budget of $222 million in the General Fund.
  • The classroom was the focus of decision-making as $4 million was invested in program additions, of which $3.8 million was allocated to instructional programs.
  • The school district successfully implemented online purchase orders at all sites and departments.  Prior to this, the manual processing of purchase orders was in place.
  • The school district continues to be rated Aaa by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, one of the very few districts in California to earn that honor.  The Aaa rating is a testament to the financial stability of the school district.
  • The work of the professionals in the Business Services Division was recognized when the district earned the Meritorious Award for the 2015-16 Budget Book.  The Budget Book is a document which includes a wealth of information in graphic and narrative form to help inform the PAUSD taxpayer. 
Budget & Infrastructure: The Performing Arts Take Center Stage with Taxpayers’ Support

A decision that taxpayers made in 2008 will come to fruition this coming fall when the Palo Alto High School Performing Arts Center officially opens its doors.

In 2008, PAUSD’s supportive community went to the polls and approved the sale of PAUSD Facilities Bonds.  Proceeds from those bonds paid for the construction of the new state of the art structure on the northwestern corner of the campus.  While students and community members already had the opportunity to use the building late last spring, the official Opening Weekend is September 30-October 2, 2016.  

Governance & Communication: District Goals with Measures and Deliverables

This school year, PAUSD made strides in meeting the 2015-16 District Goals, which are embedded in the school district’s strategic plan.  These District Goals for 2015-16 are Personalized Learning, High Quality Teaching and Learning, Minority Achievement and Talent Development, and Safe and Welcoming Schools.  Highlights of the progress made in meeting the strategic-plan-aligned District Goals include:

  • Ownership for Personalized Learning:  The Department of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment designed a baseline for student feedback from student input surveys.  At the end of each semester, every PAUSD high school student has the opportunity to complete an anonymous survey on the class and the instructor for every course that they took that semester.  By hearing from students, the school district’s customers, the organization can look at areas of improving its services for student well-being and success.
  • Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD):  The school district hired the Equity Coordinator, who continued the school district’s work with implementing the MATD’s 12 recommendations around improving the educational experiences for Historically Underrepresented (HUR) students.

Progress made in meeting each 2015-16 District Goal can be found here, on page 179 of the Board packet presented to the PAUSD Board of Education during its June 13, 2016, Board retreat. The school district’s leadership team has been working on the 2016-17 District Goals with measures and deliverables, and soon will share a draft to the PAUSD Board of Education. 

Governance & Communication: Innovative Tools to Engage PAUSD Stakeholders

In 2015-16, PAUSD stakeholders had an additional communications vehicle to provide their input to the school district.  A tool typically used to deliver a presentation to an audience took a new role in PAUSD as the Superintendent held webinars to engage stakeholders in two-way communications by hearing their thoughts and comments and answering their questions.

With the Support of the Division of Technology Services, the Superintendent engaged in dialogue with stakeholders on topics such as the EMAC (Enrollment Management Advisory Committee) recommendations as well as full day kindergarten.  This new tool has become an important one in the communications tool box as evidenced by interested individuals from around the globe, such as viewers in Tokyo, who informed the school district of having watched the Investing in Kindergarten webinar.  Plans in 2016-17 include more opportunities to use webinars for open dialogue with the school district stakeholders.  

Student Success Highlights
  • Two teams from Barron Park Elementary entered the Stock Market Game competition during the 2015-16 school year and placed first and second place out of all the elementary schools in the Bay Area. The Stock Market Game, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation, is an online simulation of the global capital markets, which engages 4th-12th graders in the world of economics, investment, and personal finance. Principal Anne Brown and her students were invited to the Stock Market Game Program Awards Ceremony in San Francisco.
  • During the 2015-16 school year, Escondido Elementary Spanish Immersion 5th grade student Serafina Williams earned First Prize in a Spanish Writing Competition co-sponsored by the Embassy of Spain and the California Department of Education (CDE). Serafina was recognized in a ceremony at the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco. 
  • The Gunn High School Bands and Orchestras traveled to Hollywood in April to perform in a competitive festival hosted by the Worldstrides Performance Company.  The Gunn Freshman Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, and Big Band Jazz Ensemble were recognized with several awards including Overall Outstanding Orchestra and the Instrumental Sweepstakes Award.
  • A team of four Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) students was named champions of the Second Annual International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IM2C), a competition to help students understand the use of mathematics to solve real life problems from outside of the subject of mathematics.  The group of mathematicians from Palo Alto High School earned the global honor after competing with students from Virginia and other teams from 22 participating countries including Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.  Paly students Eric Foster, Andrew Lee, Kathryn Li, and Kangrong (Allison) Zhang along with mathematics teacher Mr. Radu Toma, will be recognized in Hamburg at the Congress on Mathematics Education.  Their 42-page solution to the problem, “Record Insurance,” represented the use of mathematics, statistics, and programming together to solve the real life problem, which asked them to design a model for the effective planning for payments and insurance for record-breaking performances at a track and field meet.
  • The Mathematical Association of America named a Palo Alto High School sophomore as this year’s winner of the 45th United States of America Mathematical Olympiad.  Mihir Singhal earned the nation’s top honor after competing with other juniors and seniors from across the country.  
  • A team of eight Palo Alto High students competed in Zero Robotics, which is a global contest programming actual robotic satellites that are on the International Space Station.  Their code scored more than any other robot earning the title of “Zero Robotics Virtual Finalist Champions.”  The competition is sponsored by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the European Space Agency (ESA). The students are rising sophomores Ryan Ehrlich and Robert Selwyn; rising juniors Bert Davies, Changwoo Ha, and Eric Liu; and rising seniors Benjamin Cohen-Wang, Vivian Tong, and Jonathon Zwiebel.  Mr. Christopher Kuszmaul is their teacher.