Putting Students First
Ken is a member of the Palo Alto Unified School District board, elected in 2014.
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.
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.
The school board is meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13 beginning at 6:30 p.m., and addressing the deficit is again on the agenda. In addition to the board meeting, a town hall/webinar will be held on Thursday, Sept. 15, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Since the last meeting, the estimated deficit for this year as increased from $3.7 million to $4.2 million, a result of a new estimate from the County Controller.
As you know, I have advocated that the district respond to this ongoing deficit by cutting spending that is not related to teaching. That would protect our ability to hire the teachers that we need to prevent class size increases in the high schools over the next several years, and would preserve the reserves to maintain our teacher corps in the event of an economic downturn. For example, I have proposed that the district rescind the 4% raise to administrators for this year, in order to save approximately half a million dollars a year. There are obvious opportunities to streamline staffing in the district office, by modernizing business and HR operations and eliminating positions that are not mission critical.
||Supporting each student's intellectual, social and emotional development. Read more...
||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...
Ken would love to hear from you! You can email him at email@example.com or give him a call at 650-906-4340.