Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Parcel Tax Campaign for PAUSD is Under Way!

Diane Downend , diane@edenbridgehomes.com

On Tuesday, January 12, the Palo Alto Board of Education voted unanimously to place a measure on the May 4 ballot to renew our expiring school parcel tax for six years and increase the rate by $96 ($8 per month). 66.7% or more of voters must approve the measure for it to pass. The renewal of this parcel tax is critical to our school district. The District is already facing projected deficits of over $5 million arising from state budget cuts. Without the parcel tax renewal, an additional $9.4 million of funding will sunset. The combined effect of these funding losses will be devastating to our schools.

Background: The PAUSD parcel tax was originally approved by over 70% of local voters in 2001 and renewed by over 70% of local voters in 2005. Now this funding is once again set to expire. If the parcel tax expires, our schools will lose $9.4 million in annual funding on top of the other funding reductions arising from the state budget cuts.

How is the parcel tax revenue utilized? It pays for people and programs. It pays for teachers, small class sizes, course offerings and instructional programs.

Didn't we just pass a bond measure in 2008? Yes, but it pays for buildings, not operational costs like teachers and programs. The bond measure allows the District to provide physical facilities to meet growing enrollment needs. It does not provide the staff and resources to deliver instruction out of those facilities.

Who receives the revenue generated by the parcel tax? All of the parcel tax funds flow to the Palo Alto Unified School District. It is not a City of Palo Alto tax. Voters include the whole school district: Palo Alto, Stanford and parts of Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley. All registered voters will receive a mail ballot.

This election will be vote by mail ballot only, with postage provided with the ballot. No polling places will be open on May 4. Voters must mail their ballots by April 30 at the latest because the ballots are due by May 4 and postmarks don’t count. There is an exemption available for senior citizens (age 65 and over) for which they must apply annually.

More information is provided in the attached flyer.

The success of this campaign depends on parent and student volunteers getting the word out. The Gunn PTSA needs a Volunteer Coordinator to lead the charge in recruiting approximately 35 phone bank volunteers and six individuals to deliver campaign signage. With 1,900 students and over 3,000 parents in our school community, this is not a daunting task. Please contact Diane Downend at diane@edenbridgehomes.com if you are willing to lead this effort. Thank you!

PTSA Drug and Alcohol Committee: Call for action to parents

Ildiko Ran, ildikoran@gmail.com

Parent’s Night: Tuesday, March 9th at 7PM in the Gunn Library.
Light refreshments will be served.

Dear Parents,

Our children have been participating in the Palo Alto Reality Check survey for the last few years, a tool that gives us insight and understanding of the local teen population's use, attitudes and perceptions of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) along with their related risk behaviors. Becky Beacom of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation has been studying the data gathered and has been active in planning adequate response to the students.

Our children have voiced their opinions and showed specific needs for better communication with the adults, both officials and their parents. Our kids did what we asked them: they told us what they think and what they need. Now it is our turn to respond.

In order to be the most effective and helpful parents to our teens we need to understand the major points of the survey results and need to come up with a plan of action in order to remedy the issues that we have influence over. In order to do this we, the PTSA think that a well-attended and interactive parent ed night is needed. We are fortunate in Palo Alto to have a community-wide organization, PADACC (Palo Alto Drug and Alcohol Community Collaborative) dealing with ATOD related issues, lead by school officials, mental health counselors and educators who show their concern for our children. We, the parents think we ought to show as much interest in our own children as they do!

The purpose of this letter is to
  • Inform you about some major points concluded from the survey, which call for our attention
  • Invite you to our parent ed night where Becky Beacom agreed to help us understand the findings of the survey and outline a response plan.

Please RSVP at gunnsafechoices@gmail.com regarding your intent to participate in our Tuesday, March 9th, 7PM parent meeting at Gunn High School in the Library.

While we all agree that the results show a positive trend in our children's ATOD related behaviors, we, as parents need to address the following crucial concerns:
  • Our children asked for improved communication with adults around ATOD.
  • The findings show that once in a situation where the safest choice would be to call their parents, our children prefer NOT to call us.
  • A large majority of students want youth voices to be included in future policy and decision-making.

The student responses suggest more discussion with students is called for - possibly focus groups - in order to extract the full meaning from their responses and for problem-solving on some of our most serious health risk behaviors. We would like to encourage you to attend our Parent’s Night where Becky Beacom will share her ideas and insights about the survey results and further steps that can be taken in order to respond to our children.
We want to create an environment where we address the issues at hand and where an interactive process among us will create better communication and ultimately a safer environment for our children.

Please RSVP by replying to gunnsafechoices@gmail.com
Parent’s Night: Tuesday, March 9th at 7PM in the Gunn Library.
Light refreshments will be served.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Ildiko Ran,
Parent liaison for Gunn Drug and Alcohol Committee

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Choir/Staff Musical Extravaganza February 9 and 10

Marilyn Putney, putneym@gmail.com

'Heavenly Bandstand' rocks Gunn High School!

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an evening of young love, lots of laughs and the music that continues to fill the best American Pie ever created. Parents and students don’t want to miss this original musical extravaganza ‘Heavenly Bandstand’ at Spangenberg Theatre, presented two nights only, Tuesday, February 9, and Wednesday February 10, starring the Gunn High School Choirs, the JLS and Terman Middle School Choirs, and 50 of your favorite Gunn staff.

The show begins at 8:00 p.m. and tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. You may buy tickets online at www.gunnchoir.org, or purchase them in the Gunn Student Activities Center starting February 1st.

Get out your poodle skirts and hair cream and prepare to stroll, mash potato and doo wop your way down memory lane. Our heroine, high school senior Annette, has fallen asleep in English class. In her dream, she is visited by Johnny Angel, who is desperate to leave his celestial home and return, one more time, to the Top Forty. But in order to make it back to earth, he will have to compete on Heavenly Bandstand. Hosted by none-other-than Dick Clark, the competition features the holiest music of the 50s and Johnny’s rivals include the King Himself, Elvis. Join the fun, as Johnny battles for his place on the charts, Annette searches for true love, and the rest of us once again savor the sweet taste of American Pie.

The show is directed by William Liberatore, Gunn’s own choir director who is also one of the Bay Area’s premier musical directors. His work has been seen at TheaterWorks, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, and Symphony Silicon Valley. The script is written by Nancy Hersage, who is the winner of five national playwriting awards and whose work has been produced in the U.S., Europe and Africa.

Community Service Opportunities

Diane Downend, diane@edenbridgehomes.com

Is your student looking for community service opportunities? A terrific resource is available at Bina's Blog: http://binasblogforgoodworks.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Parent Input on Teacher Performance

Martha Elderon, melderon@pausd.org

Each year at this time, parents and students are asked to provide input on teacher performance. We urge you to respond to this request because it is one of several important sources of information to help teachers and their supervisors improve instruction. Students will be asked to complete input forms in their classes. Parents are required to sign their input, while student input is anonymous.

Please remember that teachers’ assigned supervisors are the sole evaluators of teacher performance and that this input process is not an appropriate or effective means to present complaints. If you have a specific problem or concern about a teacher and you have not been able to resolve it, please contact their Instructional Supervisor.

Download the form from the Gunn PTA website here:

Other forms are available from the Gunn PTA website here:

Your completed form goes directly to the teacher and is not seen by anyone else unless the teacher chooses to share it. Return each form to
(Name of Teacher)
Gunn High School
780 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306.

You may also give your input to the teacher directly by email.

Noreen Likins
Principal, Gunn High School

Sibling Relationship Issues When One Sib Has Special Needs

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Hospitality begins at 6:45pm.
Meeting is 7 to 9 pm.
Springer Elementary School Multipurpose Room
1120 Rose Avenue, Mountain View 94040.

Sibling Relationship Issues When One Sib Has Special Needs
presented by Leslie Vasquez.
Leslie is the parent of two daughters, one with special health care needs. She grew up with a brother with multiple disabilities. Leslie, who has a Masters degree in Counseling, has served as a PHP support group facilitator, mentor parent, and board member for 9 years. Her talk focuses on the sibling relationship – why it’s important to focus on siblings in a special needs family and the ways parents and others can support siblings. She discusses the particular issues and concerns for siblings such as isolation, lack of information, loss of attention, embarrassment, guilt, and responsibility. She also addresses strategies parents can use to deal with these issues. Finally, she will discuss benefits of being positive and how siblings have a lot to gain by being actively involved with their special needs sibling.

This parent education event is sponsored by the SELPA 1 CAC (www.selpa1cac.org) All of our events are free and open to anyone who feels they might benefit. No registration is necessary.

Karen Mueller, mueller4@ix.netcom.com

2010 EdSource Forum "California at a Crossroads: Crisis or Opportunity?"

Diane Downend, diane@edenbridgehomes.com

Join education stakeholders and opinion leaders from all perspectives to hear national and state experts report and discuss the state's most current education policy issues on Friday, March 19, from 9 am to 3 pm at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara. For details and registration, visit www.edsource.org.

Please Support Track Watch

Diane Downend, diane@edenbridgehomes.com

There has been reported another contemplated suicide at the tracks by a Palo Alto teenager. A network of support, including police, the paid patrols, and volunteers at the Charleston crossing all worked together to help prevent another possible tragedy. And this wasn’t the only brush with death last week: Earlier in the week, the mom of a boy came to the patrol guard and asked him to keep a sharp lookout because that boy had threatened to come to the tracks to kill himself. She hoped the guard would save her son, if he made it to that point.

We MUST continue to staff the tracks, but we need your help to maintain the efforts. Here’s what is needed:

PLEASE donate to Trackwatch. You can either mail a check to the Palo Alto Police Department, c/o Barbara Teixeira, 275 Forest Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301, or go online to donate at http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/depts/csd/community_and_family_resources/safetynet/p4.asp. Please support this important effort to cool our local “suicide hot spot.”

Any gift is welcome, but the more you can do, the better. More than $36,000 of the about $90,000 needed for the school year has been raised thus far, but only 36 individuals have given. We had a generous donation from a local foundation, but we need more help. Gifts of $100 or more are especially helpful, but any amount helps. The city attorney has advised us that all donations to this fund are tax-deductible, since the City is a Qualified Organization according to IRS Publication 526, p. 3, para. 5, ex. 1. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf.

Please also help watch the tracks, and ask your friends to do so too. We have only about a dozen volunteers taking shifts right now. If all our high school parents would take only one hour, we’d be staffed for the rest of the school year, at both Charleston and Churchill. To sign up, email Caroline at hopepaloalto@gmail.com. When you write to Caroline mention that you are a parent.

Here’s some supporting research about why watching the tracks is so important: http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=18157

The Track Watch effort lies in the context of the much broader efforts that the city and schools are working together to achieve (please see http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/depts/csd/community_and_family_resources/safetynet/default.asp for more information).

Many thanks to Kathy Schroeder and Anat Admati for their help raising funds and awareness. Countless thanks to Marielena Gaona for her many, many hours at the tracks. To Caroline Cahmy for your organizing efforts and many hours at the tracks, thank you.

For any questions about the trackwatch expenditures, please contact Palo Alto Police Officer Ken Dueker, Kenneth.Dueker@CityofPaloAlto.org, or 650-617-3100 x1281.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Youth Forum February 6

Diane Downend, diane@edenbridgehomes.com

The first Youth Forum is coming up on February 6th. This event was planned by our youth with the support of the Youth Collaborative. They want their voices heard so they are coming together to talk about three main topics: Community Events, School Environment and Local Businesses. We want to be sure to include as many of our high school students as possible. The students are using Facebook to get the word out! There will be two follow up sessions, the first on Saturday, Feb 27th and the second on Saturday, April 3rd for the Community and Youth to come together to dialogue.

Community Task Force

Diane Downend, diane@edenbridgehomes.com

In response to the tragic events our community has experienced the City of Palo Alto, with its many partners, has taken an active role in developing short term and long term plans to address this crisis. On September 3, 2009 the City organized a multidisciplinary group of individuals to begin the dialogue of what is being done and what needs to be done to support youth and teens and prevent further tragedies.
  • The Community Task Force leadership team is comprised of
  • PAUSD - Carol Zepecki (Co-Chair)
  • City Recreation - Rob de Geus (Co Chair)
  • PAUSD - Wes Cedros
  • PAUSD - Linda Lenoir
  • Adolescent Counseling Services - Dr. Philippe Rey
  • Lucile Packard CH - Dr. Wren
  • Kara - Cyndy Ainsworth
  • Parent Representative - Pat Markevitch
  • Teen Representative - Palo Alto Youth Council
  • PTA Council - Terry Godfrey
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation - Becky Beacom
  • City Police - Ken Dueker
The Task Force has developed a website to help keep the community informed of their efforts and programs, all falling under the title of “Project Safety Net”. The website is www.cityofpaloalto.org/safetynet.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gunn Sports Booster Next Meeting

Steve Allen, Steve.Allen@GMX.com

January 20th will be the Gunn Sports Boosters next monthly general meeting from 6pm - 7pm in the Gunn Library. The Gunn Sports Boosters meet monthly on the third Wednesday of each school month. Come along and learn what you can do to help promote athletic excellence at Gunn.

Contact Steve.Allen@GMX.com for more information.

2009 Staff Holiday Luncheon

On December 17, 2009, under the inspired leadership of Kari Sreenivasan, Jan Terri and Estee Greif, the PTSA hosted a holiday luncheon for Gunn staff that yielded a warm environment where colleagues shared a home cooked meal and a restful moment. The fare included varieties of pasta from around the world, green salad, french bread and an array of home baked cookies. Kari, Jan and Estee artfully directed a small army of PTSA volunteers during set up, serving and clean up sessions. The best part was standing back to observe our extraordinary staff sitting down for a change, sharing each other's company in conversation and laughter. Thank you to all the volunteers that made this event the success it was. Thank you to all Gunn staff for everything you do each day to enrich the lives of our students. Best wishes to the entire Gunn community for a healthy and prosperous New Year in which your students thrive and seize magic moments in each and every day.

Diane Downend
PTSA President