Superintendent's Update


I recently had the opportunity to meet with students from our high schools as part of our new Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. It didn’t take long for them to feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts and opinions about a variety of topics. This didn’t surprise me. I was a little surprised by their strong desire for more uniformity and predictability across our school district. I expected students to hold a higher value for uniqueness and autonomy. Instead, they voiced a desire for our two high schools to look more similar than our current state.

Before we create a panic, our schools should have their own distinct cultures and strengths. The students said that there is value in having a consistent and calibrated curriculum, less dependent upon the individual teacher or school they are assigned. Creativity and innovation are important in Palo Alto and should remain celebrated cornerstones of the District. Our students simply stated that our courses should be recognizable by pace, grading, and outcomes regardless of which room the student is sitting.

Our students were also in favor of aligning the schedules of our two high schools in a way that may allow for more fluidity. They saw the potential in a system that would provide space for teachers and students to be less anchored to a single school from bell to bell. Our current schedules create impenetrable barriers to sharing of resources and collective problem-solving for issues facing all of our students. These viewpoints will be shared with both schools heading into schedule revisions in the future.

My last “take away” from the meeting is that we are clearly doing some things correctly. Our students are articulate, informed, engaged, and on their way to becoming productive citizens. They demonstrated a sense of fairness, global awareness, and a desire to make things better for all. We can all share a little piece of pride in the future leaders we are creating in Palo Alto!


This week, November 12-14, El Carmelo's kindergarten to second-grade teachers worked with a Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) Senior Staff Developer. The kindergarten and second-grade teachers focused their time on the new Phonics Units of Study. While the first-grade teachers focused mainly on Writing Workshop.

The kindergarten and second-grade teachers continued their work on the new Phonics Units of Study curriculum. They analyzed the phonics assessment results and planned differentiated small group lessons. Additionally, they delved deeper and compared the assessment data with student writing to see if phonics skills were being transferred. The Staff Developer also shared research about how to prioritize the continuum of skills; which ones are better taught in Reading Workshop versus Writing Workshop. Teachers then planned next steps for differentiated small group lessons for their classes.

First-grade teachers focused their time on Writing Workshop. They looked at the First-Grade Informational Writing Skills Checklist and analyzed student work, sorted it by need, created writing conference toolkits, and planned for differentiated small groups. Additionally, this group looked at the Phonics Units of Study curriculum to determine best practices for transitioning into the Reading and Writing Workshop.

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The Department’s Adaptive Physical Education (APE) team organized a Special Olympics soccer event, which was hosted at Greene Middle School. This event was attended by K-12 students in our moderate to severe learning centers and students in the Futures program. Kudos to our APE team for a successful, enjoyable, and all-around fabulous event!

The Department also partnered with Health Connected to provide a Teen Talk Parent night for parents of students in the Futures program. Teachers informed our Program Specialist that parents had questions regarding the Sex Education curriculum implemented in secondary programs. Parents who attended the ensuing information night shared that they appreciated the information and now feel comfortable about the curriculum.


This Tuesday and Wednesday high school science staff continued work with Jody Bintz, from Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), regarding the use of the Five Tools and Processes protocol. Teachers met at Foothill College in cross-school teams to apply the 5E Instructional Model to the unit of study that they had mapped out in October. In addition, they determined appropriate phenomena to drive learning and refined the alignment of their instructional practices. In this process, staff evaluate what to keep, tweak, or develop, so that learning activities are consistent and coherent with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


Members of the Middle School English Literature Selection Advisory Committee will hold their third meeting of the year on Wednesday, November 20, to continue discussion of the student literature survey. Sixty-eight percent of District middle schoolers completed the survey in September. Members will also read Emily Style’s Curriculum as Mirror and Window, (1988), and reflect on the significance of the central metaphor for their work. Finally, the group will continue to vet current PAUSD titles in grade-level reading groups; a process that they hope to wrap up by the end of the semester. After Winter Break, they will begin to read and vet new titles.


The LCAP is a three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services, and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address State and local priorities. The LCAP provides an opportunity for PAUSD to share its story of how, what, and why programs and services are selected to meet local needs. Stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on creating the plan. This school year the District will be creating a new three-year LCAP plan. The District Advisory Committee meets three times a year to hear about the process of creating the plan and to give input.

LCAP District Advisory Committee Dates:

  • November 21, 2019 - 6:00-7:00 p.m. District Office, Aspen Room
  • February 27, 2020 - 6:00-7:00 p.m. District Office, Board Room
  • April 23, 2020 - 6:00-7:00 p.m. District Office, Aspen Room


At the November 14 school counselor meeting, school sites shared best practices for using early indicators of students’ needs to provide intervention through the school’s Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS). The group shared resources and is developing consistent student assistance protocols and plans. Counselors engaged with Research, Evaluation, and Assessment around the current District and site data on student academic performance and attendance data. They analyzed disproportionality ratios in District, school and subject area data, and shared sitewide responses to the Quarter D/F List. The Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs shared recent equity problems of practice that were highlighted during the Board Meeting Equity Minute.


One noticeable feature missing from the transition to a common login procedure for all staff, students, and parents was the ability for parents to reset their own passwords without the assistance of staff. While procedures have long been established for students and staff, the self-service parent account reset did not exist at the time of launch. The feature now exists in the platform, enabling parents to reset their own ID Portal account password via a link sent to the email or SMS number on file. This feature is available in the “Need help?” section on the login screen of the ID Portal.


The Elementary Spectra Art Team (18 visual artists) engaged for their fourth professional learning event of the year. Having the opportunity to practice being a student is so important to adults who engage with young people. This week we continued to model, practice, and demonstrate “checking for understanding” while creating collaborative art projects. Teachers learned to create symbols that represent family and community as they designed their original work, collaborating and incorporating their visions of family and symbols in trees. Their products, along with PAUSD faculty art, will be on display in the District Office starting Monday, November 11.

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On November 3, Paly’s First-Generation Advisor and College Advisor, took seven seniors to tour five colleges and universities in Southern California. Paly hopes to hold another Southern California College Tour with the AVID junior class and first-generation college-bound students during spring semester.

On November 4, the College and Career Center (CCC) hosted former Paly counselor and Middlebury alum, Paige Johnson, who gave a presentation to seniors on how to prepare for college interviews. In addition, the CCC offered a college application workshop for students applying to non-Common Application Colleges on November 5.

The LatinX Club, sponsored by CCC advisor, celebrated the Day of the Dead on November 8 in the Quad at lunch. They offered students an opportunity to decorate sugar skulls, play games, and learn more about the holiday. They also set up an altar in front of Guidance to celebrate the lives of important Latino figures who have passed.


The REA team partnered with Wellness & Support Services to host a professional learning day for middle school counselors on Thursday, November 7. Middle school counselors worked with a Naviance representative to plan how to leverage Naviance to support students’ social emotional development and exploration of life and career planning.

Counselors from all three middle schools participated and learned about Naviance features including the Strengths Finder, Career Cluster Finder, and the Roadtrip Nation Video Series that follows professionals as they describe their career and life paths. The counselors designed their school Naviance platform and planned common lessons for piloting. This middle school pilot supports several aspects of the PAUSD Promise including Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Equity, & High-Quality Teaching and Learning and will expand on existing college, career and life readiness programming.

Naviance is a helpful tool for building student and family awareness of the wide variety of college and career paths and navigating the post high school planning process. This tool can be especially beneficial to first-generation college students and families. Naviance also includes free test prep for the SAT and ACT exams, financial planning support for parents, a comprehensive scholarship database, and school-specific estimated aid packages based on family need.


Our network staff will be performing routine maintenance and upgrades this coming Monday, November 25, from 5-10pm. Access to all PAUSD network based services will be slow or unavailable for short periods of time during this maintenance window. Please enjoy the time off and make arrangements for other activities during this time.


PAUSD is seeking applicants to serve on the FAC. The charge of the FAC is to provide transparency around the District’s budget and finances. Carolyn Chow, Chief Business Officer, will serve as the Committee’s chair.

The application and membership details can be found at the Fiscal Advisory Committee page.