Saturday, October 31, 2009

Breaking the Stigma: Teenage Substance Abuse

Join Adolescent Counseling Services and the Paly PTSA for a community forum on teenage substance abuse.

Keynote Presenter:
Stephanie Brown, Ph.D.

Panelists from:
Adolescent Counseling Services
The Camp Recovery Center
Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC)
Palo Alto Drug & Alcohol Community Collaborative (PADACC)
Palo Alto Medical Foundation
All members of the community - families, parents, teens, or those interested in the topic - are invited to take part in an evening dedicated to discussing this very important issue.

Date | Time | Location
Thursday, November 12, 2009
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Cubberley Community Center | Room M2
4000 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303

For questions or more information, please contact Adolescent Counseling Services at (650) 424-0852.

Adolescent Counseling Services | 4000 Middlefield Road, Suite FH | Palo Alto, CA 94303 650-424-0852 | 650-424-9853 fax |

Fighting the Flu

Dear Parents,
Here is information from the Public Health Department regarding ways to Fight the Flu this season.

We Are Fighting the Flu!

Our school is seeing more cases of flu. With both seasonal flu and pandemic H1N1 circulating at our school and in the community, here are a few reminders about what to do.
  • Conduct daily health checks. Before you bring your child to school, check for fever (temperature of 100°F or higher) and any of the following flu symptoms: cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills or fatigue.
  • If your child has a fever, especially with another symptom, keep them home. If your child just doesn’t look or feel well, and has one or more of the flu symptoms, keep them home.
  • Stay home. Children and others with flu-like illness should stay home. Stay home for at least 24 hours after the child is fever-free without using medicines.
  • Get your flu vaccines. If you haven’t gotten your child the seasonal flu vaccine – get it now. Once the H1N1 vaccine is available, get that too! Children under 10 years of age will need booster shots.
  • Keep up the good health habits. Wash your hands, cover your cough and wash your hands often!
Please remember, at this time the symptoms and severity of pandemic H1N1 and seasonal flu are very similar. Most healthy children and adults will recover from the flu without any special medical attention. Just watch for worsening symptoms and/or difficulty breathing. If that happens, call your medical provider right away.

What to Do When You Think Your Child Has the Flu

If your child has a fever, especially with another symptom, keep them home. If your child just doesn’t look or feel well, and has one or more symptoms of the flu, keep them home. Keep them home for at least 24 hours after being fever-free without using medicines.
Flu symptoms include fever (temperature of 100°F or higher), cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.

Call or see a doctor if:
  • A child is younger than a year old.
  • Your child is more ill than you would expect.
  • Fever persists for more than three days.
  • Symptoms include being weary or sluggish, and the child does not improve after taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
  • There is an existing chronic illness or some other risk factor.
Go to the emergency department if your child shows any of the following symptoms:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color (call 911 immediately)
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Continued vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Please remember, most healthy children and adults will recover from the flu without any special medical attention. Just watch for worsening symptoms and if they happen, get to medical care right away.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gunn Crisis Resources

Kimberley Cowell, Assistant Principal

These are difficult times. In response to the recent tragedy, Gunn Guidance Services have revised the Gunn Crisis Resources webpage that contains many resourceful info for students and parents to deal with crisis situations. Copies of the revised list of resources (as of 10/21) are also available on the Main Office and Guidance office counters.

The latest update is a document about teen suicide prepared by KARA, provided below in its entirety.

Please be assured that Counselors and Psychiatrist are available to talk with your students at any time during the school day should they require emotional support for themselves or their friends.

Kimberley Cowell, Assistant Principal
Guidance Services
Gunn High School
(650) 354-8204

For Teachers and Parents
Helping Teens with Grief from Suicide

Be honest with yourself. Recognize that you are grieving too.

Be honest about your feelings. Share what you are feeling with your students, share with them through simple statements and comments about what you do to express and cope.

Be honest with the limits of your knowledge. The death may raise questions about what it feels like to die and what happens after death. You won't be able to answer many of their questions. Ask what they think so you can hear what their actual worries or concerns are.

Provide opportunities for feeling expression. When we grieve it is often a mixture of anger and sadness. Allow time for their tears. Let the students know that crying is a normal reaction to the death of a classmate and of a loved one.

Maintain class and home routine and rules. Students need structure and routine. Even with the interruption of a funeral or memorial service, your return to routine will provide reassurance to the students that life does go on.

Add feeling-related activities to your regular curriculum. The need to express feelings about the loss will continue for all your students. Many people are kinesthetic learners. In particular, the kinesthetic student is particularly comforted by art and writing projects built around feeling themes. Stories about coping with death and loss can be incorporated into the classroom reading activities. It is important to continue to provide opportunities for feeling expression. Talk about the student who died, use their name, remember their life.

Honor and affirm your privileged position. This is a time you have a very healing influence on your students. Showing them how to handle grief in even these small ways will help them in the future.

Words that Do Comfort the Grieving Student
  • I'm sorry.
  • I'm thinking of you.
  • I care.
  • You are so important to me.
  • I'm here for you.
  • I want to help.
  • If I were in your shoes, I think I'd feel that way to.
  • One of my favorite memories of _________ (use the name of the person or pet) is . . .
  • It seems so natural to cry at a time like this.
  • I don't know what to say but I know this must be very difficult for you.
  • Do you feel like talking for a while?
  • How do you feel today?
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL - When an individual is in severe emotional pain, there is often the desire to avoid that pain by "numbing out". Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are readily available to most teens and the use of these chemicals can become particularly attractive while grieving. A survey in a California drug and rehabilitation hospital for adolescents indicated that 86% to 92% of their patients had experienced the loss of someone significant in their life. The majority of these teens revealed that the abuse of these drugs occurred following the death, as they knew no other way out of their pain. Teens need to understand and process highly charged emotions and have concrete tools to assist them in their healing process. Teens need to learn that the use of drugs and alcohol merely puts their grief "on hold" and ultimately prolongs and complicates their recovery.

VIOLENT BEHAVIOR - When a death occurs, teens may be tempted to "strike out" not knowing what to do with their anger. When there is no understanding of the grief process and no safe place to vent these feelings of pain and confusion, violent or reckless behavior may often occur. Approximately 300 incarcerated teens were surveyed at a California Youth Authority facility. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed indicated that someone significant in their life had died. The average number of losses per teen was SIX. Rarely is an individual raised in an environment where anger is understood to be healthy and normal. We are usually punished for displaying anger or told to "calm down". Teens need to learn that anger is a very human response, but with that response comes the responsibility not to hurt ourselves or others. Teens must respect their feelings of anger and design healthy methods for their expression. Anger turned inward can lead to a lifetime of undefined depression.

SELF ESTEEM - A teen who is given the opportunity to understand and process their feelings of loss will feel empowered with the tools to handle losses that will continue to occur throughout life. Rather than becoming victimized, they frequently become our "wounded healers" reaching out to other troubled teens. While we cannot always change the circumstances that occur in life, we do have a choice as to how we will allow it to impact our lives and consequently the lives of those we love.

Observations about Teen Suicides
* The #1 cause of suicide is untreated depression.
This is the key point. Suicide is caused by depression; Depression is an illness that goes untreated because those who suffer are unaware of the cause and/or fear the stigma of "admitting" they have this medical problem.
Most of the time people who kill themselves are very sick with depression or one of the other types of depressive illnesses, which occur when the chemicals in a person's brain get out of balance or become disrupted in some way. Healthy people do not kill themselves.
Getting depression is involuntary - no one asks for it, just like people don't ask to get cancer or diabetes. But, we do know that depression is a treatable illness. That people can feel good again!
In other words, the stress of school, in itself, does not kill students. Making school "less stressful" does a lot to help students in general, but will probably have minimal impact on depressed or suicidal students.
But, talking about suicide or being aware of a suicide that happened in your family or to a close friend does not put you at risk for attempting it, if you are healthy. The only people who are at risk are those who are vulnerable in the first place - vulnerable because of an illness called depression or one of the other depressive illnesses. The risk increases if the illness is not treated.
Talking about suicide is not "contagious".
Why don't people talk about depression and suicide?
The main reason people don't talk about it is because of the stigma. People who suffer from depression are afraid that others will think they are "crazy", which is so untrue. And society still hasn't accepted depressive illnesses like they've accepted other diseases. Alcoholism is a good example - no one ever wanted to talk openly about that, and now look at how society views it. It's a disease that most people feel pretty comfortable discussing with others if it's in their family. They talk of the effect it has had on their lives and different treatment plans. And everyone is educated on the dangers of alcohol and on alcohol prevention. As for suicide, it's a topic that has a long history of being taboo - something that should just be forgotten, kind of swept under the rug. And that's why people keep dying. Suicide is so misunderstood by most people, so the myths are perpetuated. And the taboo prevents people from getting help, and prevents society from learning more about suicide and depression. If everyone were educated on these subjects, many lives could be saved.
Schools can help students suffering from depression feel more comfortable with seeking help. People who are role models can come forward and talk about their own depression, how they have gotten help for it, and have thrived despite depression. Class time and counselor time should be devoted to ensuring that students learn more about depression as an illness and have the opportunity to talk to a counselor without stigma.
Will "talking things out" cure depression?
The studies that have been done on "talk therapy" vs. using antidepressant medication have shown that in some mild depressions, talking to a counselor may ease some of the symptoms. But it has been proven that in severe depressions, talking things out will not cure the illness. It's like trying to talk a person out of having a heart attack. It just won't work. Most of the time, the person needs medication. Studies have shown that a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and antidepressant medication is the most effective way of treating most people who suffer from depression.
This is a very important point. You can't "cheer somebody up" when they are suffering from clinical depression, let alone suicidal. You can't just give them wisdom and perspective. They need professional psychological and medical help.
What should I tell students?"
A more detailed explanation might be: "Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, and sometimes a person's brain can get very sick - the sickness can cause a person to feel very badly inside. It also makes a person's thoughts get all jumbled and mixed up, so he can't think clearly. Some people can't think of any other way of stopping the hurt they feel inside. They don't understand that they don't have to feel that way, that they can get help." (It's important to note that there are people who were getting help for their depression and died anyway. Just as in other illnesses, a person can receive the best medical treatment and still not survive.)
Students need to know that the person who died loved them, but that because of the illness, the person may have been unable to convey that to them or think about how the children would feel after the loved one's death. They need to know that the suicide was not their fault, and that nothing they said or did, or didn't say or do, caused the death.
Some helpful hotlines and links:
Teen Suicide Santa Clara County Hotline 888-247-7717 (24/7)
Natl. Assoc. of Suicidology 800-suicide
Crisis Line, Santa Clara County (all ages) 408-279-8367
Suicide Hotline, North Santa Clara County 650-494-8420 (Dougy Center for Grieving Children) (Suicide Awareness/Voices for Education)

Kara is an independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation.
457 Kingsley Avenue. Palo Alto, CA 94301-3299.
(650) 321-5272

Kara is the Gothic root of the word "care." It means to reach out, to grieve with, to care, to lament.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

350 Days of Action! Global Warming Awareness Event

Lisa Altieri, Coordinator for the Barron Park Green Team
Wook Lee, Coordinator for the Gunn High School Green Team

The Gunn High School Green Team and the Barron Park Green Team are partnering together for an event to raise awareness about Global Warming. This event is part of an international day of climate action awareness organized by (For more information, visit the website.) The purpose of the event is to bring awareness to the number 350 - an internationally recognized number representing the highest level of carbon dioxide (ppm) in our atmosphere that we can maintain and still avoid serious climate change. We are currently at 387 so we have some work to do. The events are supposed to be visual, fun and creative! The event details:

When: Saturday, October 24th, 1-2pm
Where: Henry M. Gunn High School Football Field
Event: We will be gathering to spell out a big 350 with people on the field. If possible, wear Gunn High School colors (Red & Black) and Green to make the numbers stand out. We will also provide information flyers on the Global Warming goal of 350 (ppm CO2).

This will be a great fun event for everyone, children, families, etc. The event is open to everyone and free--we encourage all to bike or walk, if possible. Come join in the fun!

To help with the event, contact Lisa Altieri, Coordinator for the Barron Park Green Team at (650) 274-5171 (or or Wook Lee, Coordinator for the Gunn High School Green Team at

Yes, The Turkey Feast is Coming!

Marilyn Putney

Gunn’s annual Turkey Feast will be held in five weeks on Thursday, Nov. 19th during lunch so we need to start recruiting food donations and volunteers. It is one of Gunn's more popular and fun events where the students and staff feast on a delicious luncheon, (vegetarian bar included), build community spirit, and then donate the proceeds to a local charity. In the past we have had over 60 volunteers assisting and another 100 who donate food and money. The volunteers work in conjunction with the Student Executive Council and Lisa Hall, our Student Activities Director. We plan to feed 1400 people in 50 minutes so come and help! Last year we donated over $1700 to the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto through this charitable event!

For families that are new to this event, here is how it all works. 
On the day of the Turkey Feast, each Gunn student and staff member can purchase lunch and a drink for $5.00. Lunch for meat eaters will include turkey, dressing and gravy, salad, cranberry sauce, rolls and pie. Vegetarians will feast on a baked potato bar as well as salad, rolls and pie. Posters will be put up around school to remind students of the date and to bring their “lunch money”. We hope you and your family can all be a part of this special day!

To sign up to help please click on this link:

Here is what is needed:

50 Turkeys, at least 14 lbs. each.
Donate cooked and carved turkeys--delivered by 9:30 am on 11/19.
They can be cooked a day ahead, carved and refrigerated. 
No time to cook? Consider purchasing a cooked turkey or turkey breasts at Draegers, 
Piazzas, JJ&F or Safeway and then carve them yourself.

Pies. We need 175 of them.

Please donate your time for November 19th:
Food Prep -- 10:00 to 11:30
Set-up and serve -- 11:30 to 12:45
(12:45 to 1:00 -- Volunteers get to eat)
Clean-up -- 1:00 to 2:30


2 people to bake 25 potatoes each (wrapped in foil) and delivered that morning.
2 large pots of vegetarian chili – 15 servings each (recipe supplied if needed)
2 Costco sized containers of sour cream
2 Costco sized bags of grated cheddar cheese

Monetary donations are also gladly accepted. We will be purchasing salad, rolls, stuffing and gravy. The cost of food has skyrocketed.

Please contact Marilyn Putney if you have any questions,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

PTSA's Homecoming Barbecue

Diane Downend, Gunn PTSA President

Last night’s homecoming barbecue was a grand success thanks to our seasoned team of PTSA volunteers! The Gunn community thanks Alison Simonetti, Sara Jackson, Suzanne McKenna, Jennifer von Clemm, Clare Quinn and their small army of parent volunteers who set up, served Old Pro chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, and cleaned up! Also thanks to the many families that contributed desserts, salads and drinks. It was a night to remember for the over 300 students served, many who had been hard at work stuffing floats, in football practice and in airband rehearsals. The Homecoming Barbecue fueled enormous energy that filled the gym throughout the Night Rally. Kudos to all the airbands for their well choreographed and spirit-filled entertainment. The results…
First Place to the Class of 2010
Second Place to the Class of 2012
Third Place to the Class of 2011
Fourth Place to the Class of 2013

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra's Sinfonia Ensemble

First Concert of the Season
A Program of Renowned Composers from Around the World

November 15th Concert Features PACO Concerto Competition Winner
and Peninsula Local Violinist, Kyoko Inagawa

PACO’s Sinfonia will perform their first concert of the 2009-2010 season on Sunday, November 15 under the direction of PACO music director Benjamin Simon. This challenging program includes movements of four primary pieces and a variety of masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire performed by small ensembles comprised of Sinfonia members. From England comes Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 11 in A Major by Baroque master George Frederic Handel. The Sinfonia Orchestra will also perform the Marcia movement from Ernst Dohnanyi's virtuosic Serenade. From Italy comes Vitali's famous Chaconne. This powerful, emotion evoking movement performed by PACO concerto competition winner and local, twelve year old Kyoko Inagawa, is sure to make an impression with both the classical music novice as well as seasoned listeners alike. From Russia , The Sinfonia Orchestra will also performAnton Arensky's well-loved Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky. The concert will begin at 3:00 pm. at the Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd. in Palo Alto . Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for seniors and students. For more information, visit or call (650) 856-3848.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PAUSD Budget Overview

Lauren Janov
PTA Council Advocacy Chair

Calendar for Community Input/Additional Information

  • PAUSD meetings with stakeholders (i.e., PTAC Council) to generate ideas for budget savings and spending priorities - November
  • Site Council meetings to generate budget savings ideas -- by late November
  • PAUSD budget update - November 24 School Board Meeting
January and February
  • Board public study sessions - by mid-January
  • PAUSD School Board budget discussions and vote - January 26 and February 9th
Budget Information (as of October 2009)

2009-2010 School Year

PAUSD's "fair share" reduction of state funding is $2.6 million ($250/student) . This funding cut was covered by spending reserves and federal stimulus dollars and taking advantage of recent state categorical fund spending flexibility. 

The most current property tax projections suggest that this year’s local property tax revenues will come in 0.47% less than budgeted ($501,000 less); final property tax numbers will be available July 2010. 

That said, there was a positive balance of about $6 million for this fiscal year.
For 2009-10, PAUSD's total estimated ending reserves (General Fund and Basic Aid Reserve) are $20 million (13% of the budget). 

2010-2011 School Year

PAUSD's estimated state funding cut of $4.4 million (~$406 per student) and a recently announced zero estimated property tax growth (compared to the 3% increase incorporated into the budget) will create a $5.7 million structural deficit for the 2010-2011 school year.

This deficit does not reflect increased costs for enrollment growth (3.06% budgeted for 2010-11, 2.18% actual for 2009-10), contractual step and column salaries, pensions, health insurance premiums and utilities. 

2011-12 School Year and Beyond

The annual $5.7 million structural deficit will continue until state tax revenues pick up and will become significantly worse if California voters do not renew $10 billion of education funding set to expire this year.
Locally, PAUSD's parcel tax ($9.3 million generated annually) will expire unless renewed by local voters.

General Information

One proposal to soften the budget impact of these cuts and costs is to spend 2009-2010's ~$6 million ending fund balance over the next 3 years ($2 million/year) .
PAUSD staff plans to engage the principals, unions, PiE, PTA and community in addressing these fiscal issues, guided by these values:
Maintain academic excellence
  • Transparency and openness about our challenge

  • Continued support and fidelity to the district’s Strategic Plan

  • Participation by all stakeholder groups

  • Understanding of and dedication to what works educationally

  • Optimism about ability to solve problem

  • Long term fiscal health – no gimmicks

  • Staffing levels that sustain program quality as we grow
  • Avoiding layoffs is a high priority

See http://pausd. org/community/ board/downloads/ brd_packet/ item_013. pdf for more details.

Recent Major PAUSD Board Fiscal Actions
provided by PAUSD Business Department:

  • Sunsetting retiree medical benefits for employees hired after June 1, 2009. While it is difficult to quantify the amount of savings, retiree health benefit costs should decrease over time. (March 2009)
  • $1.475 million in 2009-2010 from increased class sizes/lower enrollment growth (May 2009)
  • ~$150,000 from a soft hiring freeze to date (re-hiring to replace 2 classified positions and 1 management position has been put on hold)
  • ~$4.7 million for 2008-09 for staff and teacher bonuses and raises 
(5% salary increase effective July 1, 2008 -- 2.5% base, 2.5% one-time payment) (March 2009)

4-Pathways to College

Kimberly Cowell
Assistant Principal

Parent Night on Wednesday, October 21 in the Gunn Library, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Representatives from Community College, California State University and a private institution will be on hand to present and answer questions. Linda Kirsch will give parents the latest University of California news. There are changes!

Guidance Department Appointments

Kimberly Cowell
Assistant Principal

Students can make appointments in the Guidance Department at any time. Each counselor has blank pink appointment slips on his/her door, and students fill these out and put them in the mailbox on the office door. Counselors are still doing drop-in at lunch for students only.

Please review with your child that a closed guidance counselor door means that the counselor is in a meeting, is working on a deadline, such as a recommendation letter, or is answering e-mail or returning a phone call that needs immediate attention. The student can fill out a pink appointment slip, indicating the best time to be seen, and put it in the door pocket.

A Review of the Counseling Calendar

Kimberly Cowell
Assistant Principal

  • 12th graders meet with their guidance counselor from September through mid-November. Parents can join in on these appointments with prior notice.
  • 9th graders will have a group advising session on either December 8 or 9 during the school day. This is not an event for parents.
  • 10th graders meet with guidance counselors starting in mid- November through mid-February. Guidance counselors prefer to meet with sophomores 1:1 for their initial conference.
  • 11th graders are seen for their appointment to review the transcript, courses for next school year, etc. from mid-February through the beginning of May. Parents can join in on these 30 – 45 minute appointments. Please let the guidance counselor know you would like this opportunity.

Guidance Department Happenings

Kimberly Cowell
Assistant Principal

The entire Guidance Department is hopping! There is much to be done, and not much time to do it. Every year fall is particularly busy as we assist seniors with college packets and support students who have had a rough start to the school year. These are our two biggest priorities at present, and this year we're being greatly impacted by almost double the number of early decision packets (over 150), which means guidance counselors are writing twice the number of recommendation letters, averaging 25 per counselor. Writing a thoughtful, well-conceived letter takes time, and so does the hour appointment with each senior on the counselor's caseload. Doing a thorough follow-up with struggling students, who need an attentive listener and the requisite parent contact, sometimes multiple contacts, is work that also takes care and time. All guidance counselors are reviewing the Warning Notice list and calling in students who are failing or have a "D" in multiple classes. Moreover, we’re still doing significant follow-up with students with mental health concerns. Finally, the e-mail traffic has been flying! All of us are receiving far more e-mails than can be answered in a day (3 times as many) - and they just keep coming.

We need your help!
We're asking parents to understand that it may take 72 hours to reply to your e-mail. Also, please do not drop in to see your child's counselor without an appointment. While it may "only take a minute," in truth, it usually doesn't and these kinds of drop-ins are occurring many times a day for EACH counselor. Please hold off on making appointments that are basically informational in nature until after Thanksgiving. The load will then be lifted (for the most part), and the meeting you have with your child's guidance counselor will then be more productive. The guidance counselor will be able to be fully attentive during the meeting with you and your student, and engage in meaningful planning and problem-solving.

If your child has a "D" or "F" in one class, please contact the teacher of that course directly. You don't need to contact the guidance counselor unless the problem persists.

Here's the exception: If your child is experiencing significant emotional and/or academic difficulties, then your student's guidance counselor does want to hear your concerns. Please be sure to contact the teachers of the courses that are problematic as well.

To provide the best service to those most in need or who may be on a deadline, we ask that parents support the Guidance Department by refraining from dropping in or making appointments at this time about matters that can wait until the fall madness is over!

Buy Pies TODAY!

Last Chance to Buy Pies! The sale ends Oct. 15th!

Purchase an extra pie and then donate it to the Turkey Feast on Nov. 19th!
DATE: Oct. 12
GOAL: 500

Click here for more information.

The Turkey Feast is Coming

Student Activities Center

Gunn’s annual Turkey Feast will be held in five weeks on Thursday, Nov. 19th during lunch. It is one of Gunn's more popular events where the students and staff feast on a delicious luncheon, (vegetarian bar included), build community spirit, and then donate the proceeds to a local charity. In the past we have had over 60 volunteers assisting and another 100 who donate food and money. The volunteers work in conjunction with the Student Executive Council and Lisa Hall, our Student Activities Director. We plan to feed 1400 people in 50 minutes so look for future postings about volunteering. Last year we donated $1700 to the EHP in East Palo Alto through this charitable event!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ArtSpeak! 2009/2010 Schedule

We're excited to announce the schedule of events for the 2009/2010 school year.
ArtSpeak! is dedicated to promoting the value of a visual arts education. Through a series of public presentations by practicing art professionals, we hope to foster dialog about, and awareness of the valuable role visual arts can play as a career path, as a creative source and outlet, and as a means to enhance visual literacy and creative problem solving.

All evening sessions start at 7:30pm in the School Board room at the back of the District Office at 25 Churchill.

October 8, 2009
Google and the Power of Doodles

Dennis Hwang
International Webmaster and Logo Designer, Google

Dennis Hwang is known for his creative reinventions of the Google logo, developed for all kinds of special and offbeat occasions. He’ll tell us how he got started doing his designs, show us some examples, and talk about the challenges juggling this creative pursuit with his full-time job (he’s the international webmaster at Google, overseeing all content development). He’s also a driving force behind Doodle 4 Google—a nationwide competition for K-12 students to reinvent the Google logo. He’ll talk about this exciting program and why Google believes so strongly in it.

November 5, 2009
Visual Arts Experience

Karen Kienzle
Executive Director, Palo Alto Art Center (along with a panel of program directors)

So what is the value of visual arts in a classroom environment? What are the benefits? The Palo Alto Art Center has a lot of experience with this very thing. For over thirty years, they have been bringing art to our schools, and bringing classrooms to art. We’ll learn about the Center’s wide range of programs for students and families, the philosophies behind them, what the Center has learned over the years, and why they feel the arts are so important for our community.

December 10, 2009
Developing Confidence in Your Creative Ability Through Design Thinking
The Stanford

Back by popular demand, Stanford’s has offered to lead another hands-on session for ArtSpeak! We’ll learn about the basic design process used at the and then we’ll all get the chance to put that process into action and make some prototypes. The wildly creative solutions that came out of last year’s session—from the students and their parents— were really inspiring and a lot of fun to take part in.

February 4, 2010
The Big Picture
Ann Badillo
Business Strategist and Vice President, Crawford Communications Group

Some challenges are so complicated the best way to see the big picture is to actually draw a big picture. Many corporations and global organizations use graphic facilitation to help them visualize and understand the nuances of complex issues, whether it’s developing a business strategy or finding solutions for global warming. Ann Badillo (business strategist, corporate coach, and Paly mom) has led many graphic facilitation sessions. She’ll tell us how they work, who uses them, show us some examples, and then, with the help of a graphic facilitator and artist, lead a session with the audience to create our own big picture.

March 4, 2010
The Importance of Design: Now
Cara McCarty
Curatorial Director, Cooper-Hewitt Museum (New York)

As Curatorial Director of America’s leading design museum, Cara McCarty understands the importance of design, how it affects every facet of our lives, and how crucial it is to meeting the challenges of 21st century. She’s also very familiar with the PAUSD, being a graduate of Escondido, Terman and Gunn. She’ll tell us about the latest thinking and trends in design, the Cooper-Hewitt’s commitment to arts education in our schools, and give us a sneak peek at some of the new shows in the works at the museum.

April 1, 2010
Art in Our Own Backyard
A Conversation with Paly and Gunn Art Teachers

Since ArtSpeak! is dedicated to promoting the value of a visual arts education, we thought it would be a good idea to feature some people who do exactly that every day: the art teachers at Paly and Gunn. We’ll talk about their philosophy of teaching art, learn how they manage to juggle being both teachers and artists, and see some samples of their work.

May 15, 2010
You Made It! Jamboree

Do you make robots? Invent new toys? Design computer games? Direct movies? Re-fashion bikes or create new fashions? We want to hear about it. The You Made It! Jamboree will be a celebration of student innovation and creativity. Show off what you made at this all day event at the Palo Alto Art Center. More information and entry forms will be available after the first of the year. (Keep an eye on the ArtSpeak! website or join our email list to keep up to date.)

ArtSpeak! is sponsored by the Palo Alto Council of PTAs. For more information, see

Less Than Two Weeks Left to Order Delicious Pies

DATE: Oct. 2
GOAL: 500


Pies are $16 each ($15 each when you buy more than two). Buy an extra or donate one to a special teacher or staff member--we can arrange to deliver the pie on your behalf. Tell your friends, co-workers and neighbors, too! Proceeds from the sales of GIZDICH RANCH PIES help keep Gunn's Graduation Night ticket prices down for grad night. Watsonville's Gizdich Ranch pies come frozen and flavors available for order include Ollalieberry, Apple, Pumpkin, and Raspberry. You can also order Sugarless Apple.

Place orders by Thursday, Oct. 15
Pick up is Thursday, Nov. 5, 4-6PM.

Order forms are available in the SAC and Gunn Office, or print one from here:

You can also order directly from Ronda Breier:
Questions? contact Marilyn Putney at

October and November Site Council Meeting Time Change

René Hart, Site Council Coordinator

The October 12 site council Meeting has been moved from 7pm to 3:30pm due to the college fair at PALY.

The November 9 site council meeting has been moved from 3:30pm to 7pm to accomodate parents and others who cannot make it to afternoon meetings.

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra 44th Season First Concert

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra

The Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra will perform their first concert of the 2009-2010 season on Saturday, October 24. PACO's first program of the season features the founder and first violinist of Quartet San Francisco, Jeremy Cohen. Classically trained, Jeremy's electrifying jazz performances have earned him nationwide accolades. PACO is proud to present the world premiere of Jeremy’s new jazz violin concerto, with Respighi’s lovely Ancient Airs and Dances and the dark, powerful Chamber Symphony based on Shostakovich’s famous String Quartet No. 8. Also on the program will be chamber music featuring the talented young musicians of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. The concert, to be conducted by PACO Music Director Benjamin Simon, will take place at 8:00 p.m. at the new Albert and Janet Schultz Cultural Hall on the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors, $5 students. For more information call 650-856-3848 or visit

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pie Sales: We Need Your Help to Reach Our Goal

Goal: 500
Pies sold: 41

Need to sell: 459


Pies are $16 each ($15 each when you buy more than two). Buy an extra or donate one to a special teacher or staff member--we can arrange to deliver the pie on your behalf. Tell your friends, co-workers and neighbors, too! Proceeds from the sales of GIZDICH RANCH PIES help keep Gunn's Graduation Night ticket prices down. Watsonville's Gizdich Ranch pies come frozen. The flavors available for order include Ollalieberry, Apple, Pumpkin, and Raspberry. You can also order Sugarless Apple.

Place orders by Thursday, Oct. 15

Pick up is Thursday, Nov. 5, 4-6PM.

Order forms are available in the SAC and Gunn Office, or print one from here:

You can also order directly from Ronda Breier:

Questions? Contact Marilyn Putney at

A little testing. A little college and career info. A little chat about the big picture.

Gunn Guidance Department

On Wednesday, October 14, we’re going to do something we’ve never done before: we’re devoting an entire morning to college admittance test preparation and career exploration. For seniors, there will also be some work on stress reduction and pondering some bigger questions, such as, “What does it mean to be truly happy?”

What are we doing?
  • 9th graders – EXPLORE
  • 10th graders – PLAN
  • 11th graders – PSAT
  • 12th graders – Guest speaker; College and career activities;

8:15 - approximately Noon
  • PLAN
  • PSAT

Senior activities
8:45 – 12:15
  • Speaker: Fred Luskin
  • Breakout Session 1 – ROCK/student led discussions in a debrief regarding Dr. Luskin’s talk
  • Breakout Session 2 – College and career topics
  • Breakout Session 3 – College and career topics
  • Each session is 45 minutes long
No afternoon classes
Homecoming class game and (possibly) float stuffing


  • First 2 assessments of ACT’s Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS)
  • Consists of 4 academic achievement tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science
  • Plus, contains an interest inventory and needs assessment
  • Content of both tests closely mirrors ACT
  • Scores correlate with established college/post- secondary readiness benchmarks
Why not just rely on STAR results?
  • Results are more specific than STAR and allows for more focused interventions, course planning, school profile with more detail
  • Provides career interest information
  • Needs assessment based on student’s perceived needs
  • Links students with relevant college and scholarship information
  • Score is an indicator of success on ACT
What is the PSAT?
  • Prep Test for the SAT
  • Test designed for 11th graders
  • Results can lead to scholarships

Palo Alto Walks & Rolls

Penny Ellson, PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee, 856-0736,

City Contact: Kathy Durham, Alternative Commute Coordinator, 329-2568,

Palo Alto Walks & Rolls

For Safer Streets, Healthier Bodies, a Greener Planet

PALO ALTO, CA — On October 5-9, PAUSD students will use alternatives to solo driving to school like walking, biking, skating, riding the bus, and carpooling. They will join children around the world who are celebrating International Walk to School Day which is October 7.

With creativity and a little initiative, many Palo Alto parents and children are finding ways to get themselves and others out of isolated autos and reconnected with the community. Stefan Rosner, an Escondido Elementary School parent and PTA Traffic Safety Representative rides a special tandem bicycle that he calls a “human-powered minivan” or “big yellow taxi” which he can use to carry two of his children to school (this year, his son, now in third grade, generally rides his own bike).

Other parents are investing in wagons, saddlebags, and other bike equipment designed to make bikes more user-friendly for school commuters. Many families have formed “walkpools”—groups of children who walk to school together, allowing parents of younger children to save time by taking turns walking with them. On Walk & Roll day, some Barron Park Elementary School families will walk to school as a group with Miner 49er and Pericles, the donkeys that live adjacent to their neighborhood park.

Walking and biking to school together is fun, but it is also important for developing children. “This event isn‘t just about reducing car trips, it is about preparing the whole child for life. Young children who walk and bike with their parents get to practice safety skills they will need all their lives,” PAUSD school board member Melissa Baten Caswell comments. She adds with a smile, “Use this time to teach your child safety skills and model a healthy, active lifestyle. Enjoy it. Give your child an out of car experience.” Caswell, a long-time supporter of Safe Routes to School programs, encourages families to give alternative school commutes a try.

At schools throughout PAUSD students will join on-campus “Walk & Roll” celebrations with varying activities at each site, including: student-created “Foot Power” collage projects and drawings for prizes, walking school buses, bike trains, and more. All twelve elementary schools and two middle schools are participating.

The City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Unified School District and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs formed a Safe Routes to School partnership to improve safety for students on their school commutes and encourage more families to use alternatives to driving more often. Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier notes, “This partnership has been a key factor in reversing the trend toward more students being driven to Palo Alto schools. We sponsor fun community events like Walk & Roll to encourage families to try alternative commutes. We also collaborate year round to engineer safer streets, target police enforcement on school routes and provide traffic safety education for children and parents. The idea is to encourage more people to use alternative modes more often. If they can't do it everyday, try once or twice a week. If they live too far from school, they might try a carpool or public transit. It makes a difference.”

Record Numbers of Palo Alto Students Exercise Foot Power

Many of us remember a time when walking and bicycling to school was a part of everyday life. In 1969, about half of all U. S. students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling. The story is different in Palo Alto where the number of elementary school children reporting they regularly walked or biked to school has actually increased over the last decade. Bicycle counts at both high schools were at ten-year record highs this month with Gunn reporting 633 bicyclists (33% of students) up from 180 (11% of students) in 1999. Paly’s count was also up from 220 (15%) in 1999 to 582 (32%) this year. That amounts to one third of all PAUSD high school students bicycling to school with many more students walking, taking public transit, and carpooling.

Board Member Caswell asks parents and children to join together to “ help us create a community environment that is friendly to people of all ages who want to use the street safely.”

For information about Safe Routes to School in Palo Alto, visit . For additional information, visit: International Walk to School in the USA, ; National Center for Safe Routes to School, ; International Walk to School,

Palo Alto PTA Council Town Hall

Palo Alto PTA Council

Live & Online

(1st Ever)

Town Hall


Everything You Wanted to Know

& Now Can Ask

School Board Members

Barb Mitchell & Dana Tom

Monday, October 26, 2009

7-8:30 pm

PAUSD Board Room (25 Churchill)

& on the Internet

Ever wondered:

§ How California’s economic straits affect our students, the choices Barb and Dana made with dwindling resources and their spending priorities for the future?

§ What the school board can do to keep students healthy – physically and mentally?

§ How much work remains to meet PAUSD Strategic Plan goal to engage, challenge, and support all students academically?

Join us for the first ever in a series of “Palo Alto PTA Council Live & Online Town Halls” as Moderator PTAC President Terry Godfrey asks School Board members Barb Mitchell & Dana Tom audience questions like these about education matters that matter before election day.

Can’t leave home? Watch live over the internet; plug in your speakers or headphones and go to

to download Microsoft Office Live Meeting (free) and view. Questions can be emailed before to or posed at the meeting live or via InterCall’s“Q&A” tab.

This event is open to the entire community.

Sponsored by the Palo Alto PTA Council.