Putting Students First

Ken is a member of the Palo Alto Unified School District board, elected in 2014.

The Latest from Ken's Blog

Every student in PAUSD has a right to an education free of harassment and discrimination so that they can enjoy the full benefits of a public school education. As a school board member, I take extremely seriously my obligation to ensure that the district meets its legal and moral obligations to students. Recent reports of the handling of complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault at Paly have raised legitimate concerns in the community about whether the district’s responses comply with district policy and state and federal law, including Title IX. I share those concerns, and I’m committed to understanding and correcting any deficiencies.

In responding to this situation, it’s critical to have transparency and accountability. The board recently directed a nationally renowned firm, Cozen O'Connor, to examine how the district responded in the recent Paly case. The board has committed to release the results of this independent investigation to the public to the extent possible. The report will inform the board's evaluation of Superintendent McGee's performance and consideration of next steps to improve PAUSD's compliance. This firm is also handling a review of some past incidents as part of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Resolution Agreement.

I have been strongly concerned with respecting the civil rights of our students -- and sexual harassment and assault are civil rights issues, protected under Title IX and state law  -- since before I joined the school board. In 2013, when the community learned of OCR’s finding that the district had violated the civil rights of a disabled Terman 6th grader by failing to respond properly to her complaints of bullying, I repeatedly urged the board to conduct the type of independent review that we are now undergoing. I wrote at the time that "Shining a light on problems is a necessary first step, whether the issues affect individual students or many of them."

Unfortunately, that board went in a different direction, and refused to publicly discuss the issues and instead protected the actions of the district and staff from scrutiny. When OCR launched an investigation of sexual harassment at Paly in the summer of 2013, the board similarly denied the issues and attacked federal civil rights enforcement. That resistance was a missed opportunity to improve the district's protections for students.

By contrast, the current board recently swiftly approved a resolution agreement with OCR that commits the district to improvements in handling Title IX complaints, enforced by three years of federal monitoring. I will continue to work with my colleagues on the school board to get an accurate understanding of the district’s compliance with board policy and state and federal law, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure full compliance. All of our students are entitled to attend our community’s schools without fear of discrimination, and with confidence that staff will follow with fidelity the district's policies on sexual harassment and complaint procedures when the need arises.

On Tuesday, February 14 the PAUSD school board will take up two issues with long-term implications for students: addressing the district's budget deficit and putting the district firmly on the path of guaranteeing students an education free of discrimination and harassment.

Office for Civil Rights

In December, the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) told the district that OCR had found after investigations that the district violated Title IX in several cases at Paly and Gunn. (Title IX is the federal law that protects students against discrimination at school based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity). These include cases of sexual harassment, dating violence, and violating professional boundaries by "grooming" of students.

OCR sent PAUSD a proposed Resolution Agreement to help the district achieve and maintain compliance with Title IX and other civil rights laws. The agreement includes policy changes, training, and doing investigations where the original investigations were done incorrectly or not at all.

In my view, the agreement will help the district in ensuring the right of all students to enjoy the benefits of a public education in Palo Alto. The district has worked with OCR, at the direction of Superintendent McGee and the school board, to clarify terms within an overall commitment to accept OCR's guidance. That process is nearly complete, and the board will discuss the final draft on Tuesday with a vote to approve the agreement on February 28. I look forward to supporting the agreement.

The district's approach to OCR now is a marked change from 2012-14, when the school board directed a program of resistance to OCR's investigations that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and worse failed to correct the issues that are now the subject of the new Resolution Agreement. That effort culminated in a resolution adopted by the school board in June 2014. The resolution sharply criticized OCR's investigations in Palo Alto. It also authorized the district to work to reverse OCR’s findings in the Terman case of disability-based bullying that resulted in an OCR finding of legal violations in 2012, and to engage in a lobbying effort to restrict OCR’s investigative authority.

I am strongly supporting Todd Collins in the upcoming school board election. Todd has also been endorsed by Mayor Pat Burt, the Palo Alto Weekly, the Daily Post, and the Paly Voice, as well as many current and former school board members and other elected officials. Todd brings to the board a decade-long record of effective volunteering, including an analysis of our school bond that saved district taxpayers over $800 million(!). He is the only candidate running for the board who fully grasps the importance of making sound financial decisions. Had he been on the board this past year, we might well have avoided the disastrous decisions to grant unnecessarily high pay raises and to avoid cutting non-educational expenditures that have led to the current budget deficits. Those deficits, in turn, will inevitably result in larger class sizes and less educational services to our students.

Weighted GPAs

There has recently been a lot of discussion about how weighted GPAs are calculated and reported at Paly and Gunn. (Weighted GPAs give extra points to certain classes that are seen as more difficult). Weighted GPAs are covered by an existing PAUSD board policy that requires the superintendent to recommend to the board whether GPAs should be weighted, and if so how. Dr. McGee is in the process of reviewing the district's current practices to make a recommendation. Weighted GPAs do not replace unweighted GPAs, which are the primary mechanism for summarizing student performance in their classes.

Although I have not yet reached a definitive conclusion on how this should be handled, my thinking at this time is that both high schools should include a weighted GPA on student transcripts in some form. For example, the weighted GPA could appear on all transcripts alongside the unweighted GPA. Alternatively, we could do what Ashland High School in Oregon does, which is to provide a separate transcript to the University of Oregon showing only weighted GPA.

Ken's priorities.

  Supporting each student's intellectual, social and emotional development.
  Reducing school overcrowding and creating positive learning environments by reopening closed schools. Read more...
  Preparing students with 21st century skills including foreign language instruction for all elementary school students. Read more...
  Making decisions based on data and best practices, in an inclusive, collaborative and responsive process. Read more...

Contact Ken

Ken would love to hear from you! You can email him at kdauber@pausd.org or give him a call at 650-906-4340.

Do you like this page?

Visit Ken on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Contact: kenneth.dauber@gmail.com or 650-906-4340

Download literature