Superintendent's Update


Sometimes we need to be reminded of things we once knew. This was evident last week when we sent two teams to high-achieving school districts in Southern California to see practices that may benefit our students. The two teams returned energized and with some suggestions for us to consider.

Commitment to a core-beliefs was a theme for the school districts. While they all had their own culture, they each had a clear vision for their direction and aligned their actions, behaviors, and resources to support the mission. For example, one school district had a focus of improving literacy for English Language Learners (EL). They changed their observation protocol to evaluate and revise practices through the eyes of EL students, shifting attention from the deliverer of information to the learner of information.

Another “take away” from the visit was the power of well-implemented co-teaching models in Special Education classroom settings. In one district, the team reported no indication of which teacher was the content expert and which was the Special Education specialist. We are learning more about how they reached this point to replicate with our teachers.

In every case, professional development was overwhelmingly centralized to ensure allocation of resources to the biggest levers. While the breadth of professional development is reduced from our model, the focus and consistency of efforts proved a higher priority to advancing their focus areas.

Where do we go from here? It is a journey! Many organizations talk about creating a culture of continuous improvement. Our goal is to strategically introduce effective practices that fit our community and capacity to implement at a high level. It is easy to get excited about new ideas, but part of our charge is to move at a pace that limits downsides and has the potential for stronger outcomes for students. The things that work will be scaled up and replicated throughout the school district. It’s a healthy approach and exactly how the positive “outlier” districts reached their goals. One step at a time…We are on the right path!

Big picture


Fletcher Middle School Principal, Melissa Howell, with the support of District Office leaders, kicked off the first of many meetings to discuss plans to address the needs of low performing students. The staff participated in a SLOT analysis to identify the school’s Strengths, Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats to collect feedback that will help guide the design for equity and excellence. The work at Fletcher Middle School, coupled with efforts Districtwide, are designed to lead to sustainable improvements in the outcomes for all students.


PAUSD has submitted a letter of intent to collaborate with WestEd and Concord Consortium on a research project to develop professional learning resources around building data science fluency. If the National Science Foundation (NSF) funding is granted, this project would research the conditions that help secondary teachers gain skills to foster rich data science discourse in students. Selected teachers would design professional learning opportunities and give feedback to support data science instruction.


Plans are underway for one of the biggest PAUSD events for families. PAUSD has partnered with the PTAC, CAC, PiE, PAH, and parents to make this event even better than last year. The theme for this year’s event is Opening Doors to Student Wellbeing and Success. Topics around supporting diverse learners, health and wellbeing, academic success, and engaging with PAUSD, will provide parents with a variety of takeaways that will help them support their students in school and beyond. This event is all about empowering and engaging our most important partners…our parents!

Many thanks to the entire Equity and Student Affairs Team for leading the planning and logistics to ensure a successful event. We expect to attract over 500 families for this event. For more information on how you can be a part of this special event, please contact Lana Conaway.


Congratulations to all of the parents who completed the fall cycle of Parent Project© & Loving Solutions©. The Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) and PAUSD honored the parents and their families on Thursday, November 21, with a graduation ceremony and dinner. Parent Project© is an 11-week parenting skills program that provides practical tools to help parents find solutions in addressing challenging adolescent behaviors and strengthen family unity. Participants expressed their appreciation of the curriculum, discussions, and belonging to a cohort of other parents.

Loving Solutions© is a 10-week parenting skills program that targets families with children ages 5-10 who may be exhibiting challenging behaviors. Loving Solutions© utilizes the same principles found successful in Parent Project©, but these principles have been adapted to the needs of younger children. Families that completed the Loving Solutions© program, offered in both English and Spanish, shared that the program was very helpful and they feel more prepared and supported in their parenting efforts.

The next cycle of Parent Project© & Loving Solutions© is scheduled to begin Thursday, January 16, 2020. It will be held each Thursday night from 6:00-9:00 p.m. The program is taught in English and Spanish by instructors from both the PAPD and PAUSD. Dinner and childcare are available for participating families. While there is a nominal cost to participate in the program to cover materials, financial aid is available. Please contact Agent Brad Young at 650-329-2274 or Lissette Moore-Guerra, LCSW, at 650-329-3722 to save your space.


On Tuesday, November 19, Paly’s College and Career Center hosted a workshop for seniors to receive help with their college applications, during Tutorial. Two particular areas students sought help with were how to enter 7th and 8th grade math and world language courses as well as report dual enrollment courses.

Over 200 colleges and universities visited Paly this fall to learn about our school, give updates, and meet with interested students. Many presented the school with their school pennants which are displayed in the center’s conference room and as a part of two inspirational displays. The season of visits from college representatives wraps up as they shift from high school visits to reading college applications.


Paly Wellness Center sponsored activities during the last two weeks of November to celebrate Gratitude Month. Many teachers in the Social Studies and English departments participated in creating a chain of gratitude. Students shared on slips of paper something they are truly grateful for. Each of the slips was connected to create a chain of positivity and gratitude, which was displayed in the quad all week. Throughout the week there were Gratefulness Challenge boxes around campus where students filled out postcards with three things that they are grateful for and submit them for a chance to win a prize for them and a friend. On Tuesday, November 19, the Wellness Center hosted Grateful Yoga, guided meditation and gentle yoga class, led by our yoga teacher, where all who participated left feeling more thankful, relaxed, and peaceful! On Wednesday, November 20, the Wellness Team hosted a table for students to write thank you cards and letters. The Wellness Team delivered cards that were written for staff.

Gunn High School wrapped up Gratitude Month through a couple of activities aimed at giving thanks to ourselves and our community. During flex period, students learned about the importance of self-compassion and were given the task of writing letters to themselves expressing gratitude and kindness to themselves. This is the final task in the series of letters students wrote during flex period in previous weeks to other students and staff to show them appreciation and gratitude. Our two winners were finally chosen for this year’s Gratitude Challenge. Our winners got to pick from a variety of prizes to take home and received a free ticket to this year’s Turkey Feast for which all proceeds go to #TeamTrees to help plant millions of trees through the Arbor Day Foundation.


The Santa Clara County Office of Environmental Health has approved PAUSD's proposal to remove the packaging from the salad bar items offered at elementary school sites pending a successful pilot of the new program at El Carmelo Elementary School, which will run during December.

The pilot will involve the removal of the plastic portion cups/lids used for cut corn, cut up fruit, and beans and replaces them with stainless steel reusable cups. These cups will be placed on the same reusable lunch collection carts students use for their other reusable lunch ware and washed daily. All other produce will be removed from sealed plastic bags and will be loose in the salad bar just like any other salad bar students would go through in a restaurant environment.

If the pilot is successful, this second phase of Food Services waste reduction will be implemented at all PAUSD elementary schools during the second semester of the school year.


As the Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education prepares to launch a study of homework practices and strategies for remediation, Research Evaluation and Assessment (REA) has been piloting an innovative technology for students to contribute information about their experiences with schoolwork. In addition to a traditional survey going to all secondary students, invited high school students will participate in an Experience Sampling Method (ESM) study that explores both time and affect as the student navigates through school, home, and activities. There are currently seven District staff and two students testing the technology platform; a two-week study with ~150 students is planned to launch in early 2020.


Every year, PAUSD middle schools and high schools host events to provide information to families of rising 5th and 8th graders. Check the Registration Services website for dates and times of these events, and check school websites for additional events that may be happening throughout 2020. Students will automatically be enrolled in their neighborhood middle and high schools. Contact Registration Services for any questions regarding school enrollment.

2020-21 registration for new students opens on January 8, 2020 for current PAUSD residents. Families are encouraged to complete registrations within the Round 1 enrollment period, which ends on February 12, 2020. Check the Registration Services website for all registration instructions and deadlines for Choice Program applications.


On December 10, the PAUSD Board members heard a report on the redesign plans for middle grades math. After reviewing performance data and current practices in our instructional program, the working group of Instructional Leads (teachers), site and District administrators, and expert consultants created a plan to shift middle school content standards beginning with near year’s incoming 6th grade class. The plan includes the acceleration of content that better matches our students, culminating with students completing Algebra I or Geometry in 8th grade. For a more robust description of the plan at this point, please view the report and agenda item at MATH REPORT.


PAUSD staff has been working with MVLA staff to determine how best to increase the number of spots available to students in Middle College. The two districts have arrived at a plan of action. The Board will take final action to allocate funds supporting doubling the number of seats for Middle College next year.


Each year the secondary schools assess their course offerings and determine if additional courses should be added to their course catalogs. This year, the four new offerings: Advanced Audio & Music Production; Child Development 3; Digital Art Spectrum; and Principles of Business, were proposed at the December 10 Regular Board Meeting.

How does the system work to introduce new courses?

We received excellent questions at a recent meeting from parents about how the system works to introduce and approve new courses. Many factors determine the path new courses take, but here are some basic steps:

  • New courses or course concepts are submitted to site principals.
  • If a site principal believes the proposed courses are viable and fit the priorities of the school, the courses are moved to our Educational Services division for review and evaluation.
  • Once reviewed, evaluated, and assigned resources, the Board of Education reviews for approval.
  • After approval, classes are offered that reach minimum enrollment levels.

What is considered prior to adding new courses?

There are many factors considered before adding new courses. It is possible that high interest is not enough to lead to a new course and equally possible that a potential course with low numbers may still make it through. Some factors include:

  • Potential sustainability of the course over time.
  • Adequate number of initial interested students.
  • State-approved textbooks or materials.
  • Budget considerations.
  • Teacher credentialing issues and job market.
  • Impact upon existing courses.
  • Timing of proposal and alignment to District priorities at the time.
  • Models of success in neighboring school districts.

PAUSD wants to expand offerings without damaging existing programs. Change is often slower than desired, although there are paths to successful course expansions. Please let your site principals know if you have ideas or proposals. New courses are approved by early January each year and are submitted by November.


PAUSD is seeking a parent representative (PR) to serve on the BPRC for 2020. The BPRC was established as a Board of Education committee to assist the Board in its thinking about District policies. The Committee discusses policy and makes recommendations to the Board. The PR should be familiar with policies and Board operations and will provide parent/community perspective during BPRC meetings.

BPRC meetings typically take place once a month, on Friday mornings, from 8:30 until 10:00 at the District Office. (See below schedule). The PR should expect to spend 2-5 hours per month reading the various policies proposed for approval by the BPRC. In-person meeting attendance is optimal, though in certain circumstances with advance notice, participation may be arranged by phone conference.

To be considered for appointment to the Committee, please email Amanda Bark, Executive Assistant to General Counsel, by December 31, 2019, and describe any special qualifications or abilities you may have that would help you fulfill the PR role. The District will consider and approve the PR appointment by January 10, 2020.

More information on the charge of BPRC can be found on its committee page. Thank you for your interest!

2020 BPRC Meetings (8:30-10:00 a.m.):

Friday, January 31

Friday, February 21

Friday, March 20

Friday, April 24

Friday, May 15