Save the 2,008 at the School Board

Save the 2,008, a campaign to improve the lives of Palo Alto high school students led by former Gunn teacher Marc Vincenti, is on the school board agenda for our upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Also on the agenda are the district's annual goals and an interim report on the budget that shows a sharp increase in anticipated property tax revenue for the district.

I'm also very happy that the Board adopted at our last meeting a change to the district homework policy that limits total homework for high school students to 15 hours per week, including advanced, AP, and honors classes. That gives teachers, students, and parents a clear expectation and sets a sensible balance. One of my top priorities will be ensuring that our homework policy is implemented with fidelity.

Save the 2,008

Save the 2,008 consists of a 6-point plan for changes in school practices around homework, communication about grades, class size, cell phone use, AP classes, and academic honesty. One of its virtues, from my perspective, is its focus on changes calculated make a meaningful positive difference in the experience of students in school. I have long been a strong supporter of looking for ways -- such as setting reasonable time guidelines for homework -- to reduce student stress and promote stronger learning and engagement in our high schools. I see "Save the 2,008" in that light, along with other plans, like the "Supportive School Environments" component of the original Project Safety Net Plan, that also stress concrete changes to improve the everyday lives of our students. I'm looking forward to a robust discussion at the board meeting, and I appreciate the commitment, sense of urgency, and civic engagement that Mr. Vincenti and hundreds of Palo Alto community members are bringing to this issue. I hope you will be there.

Property Tax Revenues and Priorities

Property tax estimates for 2015-16 are $150 million, which represents an increase of $14 million or 10.25% over last year. That substantially exceeds the 5.24% growth reflected in the budget the Board adopted in June. The difference is roughly $6.7 million in revenue over the budgeted amount. I believe that this represents a real opportunity to bolster our central mission of teaching students, and I will be advocating for measures -- like hiring teachers to reduce class sizes, and improving our mental health supports and supports for struggling students -- that make effective use of these funds in a way that puts students first.

2015-16 Goals on the School Board Agenda

The September 8 board meeting includes discussion of 2015-16 goals, including an additional level of detail around specific metrics (for the draft to be discussed, see the board materials, beginning at page 286 in the PDF). I described the goals in a previous blog post. As I said at the last board meeting, these are strong, student-focused goals. On Tuesday, I will be focusing on some specific issues, including ensuring that special education services get a thorough review and that the district make tangible progress on homework policy implementation and reducing work pileups from test and project stacking for high school students. Please let me know your thoughts on the 2015-16 goals as well.

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