Putting Students First
Ken is a member of the Palo Alto Unified School District board, elected in 2014.
As you may know, the district is currently considering opening new schools to relieve overcrowding -- a 13th elementary school, a fourth middle, and even a new small third high school. I am writing to share my thoughts with you on this subject and to invite you to write me or visit my office hours to share your views with me.
What is EMAC? The Enrollment Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) was appointed in the spring and is charged with investigating whether the district needs more schools -- and if so, where those schools should be located. The elementary and secondary subcommittees presented preliminary recommendations at two special school board meetings in October and November, and the board had an opportunity to ask more detailed questions and make comments last week, at a regular meeting on November 10.
In responding to these recommendations, I have three main goals. First, to ensure that we have the right schools in the right places to provide the best possible education to the students in our district, given our resources. Second, to use our district resources in a way that provides the broadest possible benefits to students across the district and in all of our schools. Those goals mean to me that the district should expand capacity in elementary and middle school. Finally, it is critical that we have an open, transparent process in which the public has all the information and everyone has an equal ability to participate.
Unity Day is Wednesday, October 21. Remember to wear orange in honor of this celebration of unity and inclusion in our schools!
The next month on the school board includes several discussions with long-term implications for students in PAUSD. These include planning for potential new elementary, middle, and high schools; ensuring that our students are protected against sex and gender-based discrimination, including the "grooming" issue raised by the Kevin Sharp matter; and a discussion of how to improve budgeting in the context of an estimated $6 million estimated surplus of property tax revenues this year.
Next Office Hours are November 2
I won't be holding my regular Monday office hours on October 19 and October 26 (the date of a special board meeting on secondary school enrollment) but will resume on November 2. You can always see my schedule of upcoming events at Where's Ken?
Preventing Sex Discrimination in our Schools
The Weekly's coverage of allegations involving the "grooming" of a high school student by a teacher at Paly, Kevin Sharp, raised issues about the district's response to allegations of Title IX violations involving students. First, I would like to extend my sincere apologies to the student who was the focus of the grooming allegation and to her family. This was clearly a situation that no family should have to experience. Second, I commend the actions of the former student who came forward repeatedly to alert the district to Sharp’s alleged wrongdoing. He did an important community service. Finally, I could not be more impressed with the conduct of Paly Principal Kim Diorio, who was a model of moral clarity and professionalism in a difficult situation.
Coffee with Ken: Announcing My Weekly Office Hours
Beginning this Monday, September 28 I will be holding weekly “office hours” most Mondays from 6pm to 7pm at Palo Alto Cafe, 2675 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Come join me for a cup of coffee and conversation about whatever is on your mind about our schools! If you want to make sure that I will be there, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Or you can check the Where’s Ken page for updates
A New Policy for LGBTQQ Students
This coming Monday, September 28, the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC), on which I sit, will consider a proposed policy to protect and support LGBTQQ students in PAUSD. The meeting starts at 8:30am at the district headquarters at 25 Churchill Street. A committee of parents, teachers, and staff members has worked hard to produce a policy that will give all our students with safe and welcoming school environment regardless of gender identity, as required by law. In addition to moving the policy forward (the next step after committee approval will be the full school board), I am committed to providing for full implementation of the policy including education for students, training for staff, and ensuring that appropriate physical renovations are made. These include, for example, gender-neutral restrooms, showers, and locker rooms.
It's On Us
A year ago, the White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign, which “recognizes that the solution to sexual assault begins with all of us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.” The President has made the elimination of sexual harassment in our nation’s schools and colleges one of his highest priorities.
With this in mind, we can turn our attention to the situation here in PAUSD, where both of our high schools -- along with 40 other school districts and 124 colleges -- are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for possible violations of Title IX, a federal law that protects students against sexual harassment, including sexual assault and dating violence.
The Paly Campanile published an editorial last Friday criticizing my request in May 2013 that OCR consider offering advice (called "technical assistance") to PAUSD on Title IX compliance. My request was prompted by serious allegations involving sexual assault and harassment at Paly. The allegations were first reported in a story in the Verde, a student magazine, in April 2013. The Campanile editorial was reprinted in the Daily Post on Monday.
The student editors particularly criticize the fact that I reached out to OCR for technical assistance rather than limiting my inquiries about the matter to PAUSD officials. They write:
“If a parent catches his or her child performing illicit acts, the typical reaction would never be to dial 911. Instead, the issue would be resolved within the family. The same can be said for concerns expressed by those affiliated with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding PAUSD’s improper handling of Title IX . . . The Campanile believes that Dauber acted inappropriately by contacting a federal office rather than pushing to first resolve the conflict within the district.”
This argument is troubling because it is inconsistent with the ethos of “It’s On Us.” It is also factually inaccurate. I discuss these issues below.
||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 firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 650-906-4340.