Paly Community Update

Friday January 22, 2021

Dear New Year Viking Families!

We have officially passed the halfway point of what has become a very interesting school year. In all of my years of being a high school principal, this has been a year that has challenged me in new and different ways that I have never experienced before. I am sure that all of you are experiencing the same in both your personal and professional experiences this year.

While we are beginning to see a ray of hope with the leveling off of the number of COVID cases, the relief of the impact of this pandemic has yet to come. We have tried, in a variety of ways, to seek normalcy with our students’ experience at Paly this year, only to be pushed back with ongoing restrictions and shelter in place orders. Hopefully soon, we will be able to bring more student life back to Paly as restrictions begin to be lifted and revised.

Most of my experiences, so far this year, have been on creating plans, evaluating systems, and providing learning opportunities for teachers on how to effectively create learning experiences for students during our distance learning model. Upon our return to second semester, I decided it was time to move past the conversations regarding COVID and all that it entails, and begin a conversation that matters to all students. At our opening professional development session, prior to the start of second semester, we began the important conversation on the theme--Equity Matters for All Students.

Our professional development session was guided by the expertise of Enid Lee, who is an anti-racist professional development specialist, leadership coach and writer. Enid has consulted internationally on equitable education and continues to support educators in preparing all students to create and experience a world with greater justice and equity.

Our work with Enid will continue throughout the remainder of the school year, as she facilitates opportunities for the Paly staff to reflect upon our school and individual systems with a specific focus on the following areas: climate, content, pedagogy and assessment. The commonality between all four areas is student accessibility, which can be achieved with a welcoming environment, using thoughtful text, ensuring inclusive participation, and providing opportunities for student voice and feedback.

Having the conversation about equity is nothing new to most of the Paly staff. What I hope that you begin to see as parents, is action as our conversations move us towards reviewing and revising various aspects of our practice and policies and move to intentional improvements of accessing opportunities for all students. As Enid often mentions, “equity is the process and equality is the goal." I look forward to this work with the Paly staff as we take a serious look at what our systems are producing in terms of fair and equal opportunities for all students.


Beginning February 1, the Palo Alto Unified School District, the City of Palo Alto, and its partners will launch the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge and we hope you will join us.

For 21 days we will be engaging Palo Alto students, parents, staff, and the community at large in topics that will build our collective capacity towards racial and social justice. Participants will receive a link to the PAUSD engagement website and challenged to do one action each day to deepen community connections and further our understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity and the role they play in the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. The challenge can be done individually, with friends and family, or organization-wide.

The 21-Day Challenge is a powerful opportunity for shared learning and growth and invites the Palo Alto Community to develop a deeper understanding of how inequity and racism affect our lives and community.

For more information, please access the following link: 21 Day Equity Challenge

Student Cohorts Begin Tuesday, January 26

Since our return to the purple tier preemptively ended our efforts to provide a hybrid option to students for spring semester, both high schools have developed a cohort program to start bringing students on campus, beginning Tuesday, January 26, 2021. We have now created grade-specific cohorts, which have been filled first by students that opted for the original hybrid model. The students that have indicated a desire to participate in the new cohorts will have more detailed information sent to them today, Friday, January 22.

High School Athletics Update

HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS (from PAUSD Superintendent's Update)

The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) acted this week to move away from the proposed Central Coast Section (CCS) two season sports schedule. The league has prepared a proposal to create a three-season schedule. This means that teams in the SCVAL will not participate in any CCS or State playoffs this year as a trade-off for potentially offering an opportunity for more students to participate in a variety of sports.

The sports have been rearranged in the schedule to give the best possible opportunity for each sport to compete this year according to the tiered system put in place by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

The schedule is built upon the hopes and wishes that the pandemic conditions will improve substantially before the end of the year. Please be aware it is likely that some sports will not be able to compete at all. Sports in the purple tier may not participate while a Shelter-in-Place order is in effect.

The athletic directors are working with the league to develop tentative schedules for each sport. The groupings of sports can be found HERE.

Planning Senior Activities

As you might anticipate, we have already begun the planning process for the end of the school year senior activities, including graduation. Next week, representatives from both Paly and Gunn will be having discussions on activities that we can hopefully provide our seniors before the end of this school year. Student representatives from both schools are also planning combined senior events, including an upcoming Survivor Reality game. In order to provide the input of all of our seniors, the ASB is designing a survey that will provide students with an opportunity to suggest events and opportunities throughout the remainder of the school year. The PTSA is also working on providing seniors with memorable events and opportunities and they will be communicating their ideas to senior parents and students very soon. I will also be providing you with on-going updates as these events become finalized.

uPar Universal Protocol for Reading Accommodations

In our efforts to guide our work of identifying struggling readers and provide targeted interventions, we have started using the uPar Universal Protocol for Reading Accommodations, which is also a screening tool for dyslexia. Additionally, we will also incorporate an online reading level assessment tool called Lexia, to provide individualized reading level assessment data.

Using such assessments is aligned with CA Assembly Bill 1369, which requires districts to develop programs in identifying and supporting students with dyslexia and literacy struggles. Paly will be joining the efforts currently on-going at Gunn and our middle schools to meet the requirements of CA Assembly Bill 1369. Our initial target, for the uPar assessment, has been grades 9 and 10, which have already taken this assessment.

We will be continuing to use this assessment with our students in grades 11 and 12. The online assessment for these students is scheduled between February 3 an 10 during English class. Administering this type of assessment and providing accessible ways for using the data is important for the success of this project.

Guidance Office - Zoom Drop-in Hours

Guidance will continue to offer daily drop-in hours, hosted by Pamela Garcia. Students can reach Ms. Garcia using the following zoom link. She can help direct your student to the right person or set up a meeting with your school counselor. (Zoom: You can also reach Ms Garcia at


Daily drop-in hours:

Monday- Wednesday from 8:30-12:00 and 1:00-3:30

Thursday-Friday from 8:30-1:00 and 2:00-4:00

If at any time the Guidance drop-in zoom is unavailable, please contact the main office drop-in zoom.