Sunday, March 28, 2010

Underage Drinking and Driving – A Parent and Teen Guide

Diane Downend,

Traffic Safe Communities Network, in collaboration with the Trauma
Center at Stanford University Medical Center developed a terrific
resource called Underage Drinking and Driving – A Parent and Teen Guide.
For parents it provides basic information and conversation starters to
discuss healthy choices with your teens. For students it highlights
that the vast majority of students are making healthy choices so they
feel less pressure to succumb to risky behaviors. This valuable tool is
available on the Gunn High School PTSA website at

New PiE Executive Director Appointed

Diane Downend,

Lois Garland welcomes Kathy Schroeder as new PiE Executive Director

On behalf of the PiE Board, I am delighted to announce that Kathy
Schroeder has accepted our offer to join Palo Alto Partners in Education
as our next Executive Director. Many of you may already know Kathy. She
has a senior and freshman at Gunn and has worked as a tireless PAUSD
volunteer on parcel tax, bond and school board campaigns, as well as
several other local initiatives. In addition, through the years Kathy
has served in many leadership positions in her children’s schools:
Ohlone, JLS and Gunn. Most recently, her professional work has been as
a consultant at EdSource. We believe Kathy’s passion for PiE’s mission,
combined with her impressive professional skills, qualify her for all
facets of our ED role.

Kathy will join PiE on May 5 and assume the full responsibilities of the
ED position on May 10. Our current ED, Muneerah Merchant, will continue
to work with PiE through May 28 to help ensure a smooth transition.
While Muneerah leaves some awfully big shoes to fill, we are confident
that Kathy will do exceptional work for PiE.

PiE’s ED Search Committee, comprising a broad cross-section of our
board, undertook a very thorough process to select our next Executive
Director. Our search yielded 34 applicants from across the nation, many
of whom were well qualified for the position. The Search Committee
spent multiple weeks and countless hours reviewing resumes, interviewing
promising candidates, and checking references for the finalists for the
ED position. At the conclusion of this extensive and thoughtful
process, it became clear to us that Kathy is the best choice for PiE's
new ED.

Please join me in congratulating Kathy. We are excited about the many
talents that Kathy brings to our organization and are confident that she
will help PiE continue to provide strong support for our schools.

Lois Garland
PiE Board President

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Annual Recognition and Awards Luncheon May 20

Norma Hesterman,

At the Annual Recognition and Awards Luncheon, the Gunn Community recognizes and honors Gunn retirees and volunteers. Special Awards are given to staff members and volunteers who have given outstanding service to Gunn.

To make the luncheon a huge success, we need your help in three ways!
  • Mark your calendars and plan to attend: Thursday, May 20th
  • Make sure ALL volunteers are recognized and invited by listing all individuals (parents and community members) who have volunteered in your department, classroom or activity. Send your list to Norma Hesterman at the address below.
  • Make sure we honor those individuals who give exceptional service to Gunn by telling us briefly why this person is so special.

Each volunteer and staff person is special. There are some who go above and beyond their exceptional service to Gunn. Some do large tasks, some do many jobs, some have been helping consistently for years, but all have given a great deal of time and effort. We will select a few of these outstanding people and honor them with special recognition. Please indicate the name(s) of any special volunteers or staff members who stand a little taller than the rest. Also, please tell why this person is special (what he or she did, how it helped, how often it was, etc…so we can say why they are being honored).

Name of Nominee:

Why do you nominate this person?

Please feel free to use extra pages for more information about a nominee or for additional nominees.

Submitted by:


Please return this form to Norma Hesterman in the Main office or email by Tuesday, April 20th (earlier if possible!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

International Baccalaureate

Diane Downend,

Gunn Is Considering Implementing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program beginning in the 2011-2012 School Year

On March 16, 2010, a Gunn team comprised of Tom Jacoubowsky, Noreen Likins, Katya Villalobos, Gabriela Garger and Claudia Winkler hosted a presentation to the Gunn parent community about the International Baccalaureate Diploma program being examined for implementation at Gunn in the 2011-2012 school year. The meeting was attended by over 40 parents, most of whom expressed support and gratitude for the school undertaking this effort. If you missed this parent education event, the PowerPoint presentation that sets forth the framework for the discussion is available at

The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Diane Downend,

Stanford University School of Education
Cubberley Lecture Series

The Death and Life of the Great American School System:
How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Cubberley Auditorium, School of Education

485 Lasuen Mall — Reception to follow
Free and open to the public.

Please visit the Stanford University School of Education Facebook events page.

For more information, please call (650) 723-0630

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Project Safety Net Community Task Force - Minutes

Diane Downend,

March 11, 2010, 10:00am, Mitchell Park Community Center

Guest Speaker – Karen Marshall from the American Association of Suicidology (AAS)

  • Karen Marshall is the Program Development Director from the American Association of Suicidology. Karen spoke about the suicide in America, what is known about suicide clusters and community based approach suicide prevention strategies. Karen Marshall’s power point presentation can be seen at Project Safety Net website: click on Additional Resources

Updates – from the Executive Committee (EX):

  • Report to elected officials – EX is recommending a report from the Project Safety Net task force be prepared and presented to elected officials detailing what has been accomplished as a result of the task force efforts, what remains to be accomplished and recommendations for sustaining the effort. The tentative plan is to complete and present the report by the end of this school year.
  • Track Watch and rail security – Strategy P-4 Reduction of lethal means to self harm remains a critical strategy. Call to Action - People can help by supporting the volunteer group Track Watch and/or by donating money to support the paid security guards monitoring the tracks. For more information visit Strategy P-4 Reduction of lethal means to self harm
  • HEARD Alliance (Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression) reported on the three working groups focused on Schools, Primary Care and Mental Health. Among the initiatives being implemented are Gatekeeper programs, targeted screening, improved coordination of community treatment resources and enhanced connections between primary care, mental health and schools
  • Learning item – Dr. Ginsburg Visit Call to Action - excellent learning opportunity provided by the PTA Council - Dr. Ken Ginsburg: Building Resilience in Children and Teens Thurs. Mar 25, Resource fair and community social 6pm, Presentation 6:30pm, Spangenberg Theatre, Gunn. Using humor and real-life scenarios, Dr. Ken Ginsburg will teach you how to raise resilient children who can deal with stress in an increasingly complex world. His unique perspective emphasizes the developmental strengths of youth, equipping participants with skills needed to better teach kids to help themselves. Dr. Ginsburg is a nationally renowned pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. His books include A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens and Less Stress, More Success. Free. Sponsors include Palo Alto PTA Council, Palo Alto School PTAs, and Los Altos-Mountain View PTA Council. Flyer:
  • Youth Outreach – Palo Alto Youth Forum - Several Palo Alto youth and adult leaders are conducting a progressive series of youth forums where youth and adults from the Palo Alto community are engaging in facilitated discussions and mutual problem-solving around 3 areas of concern identified by youth leaders: youth voice in the schools, activities for young people in Palo Alto, business relationships with young people. There is one Session to go April 3, 2-5pm Mitchell Park Community Center Call to Action - Visit to explore how you can help take action resulting from the Palo Alto Youth Forum

41 Developmental Assets - A framework and guiding set of youth development principles for the Project Safety Net effort:

  • The Executive Committee is recommending Project Safety Net design a plan to implement the 41 Developmental Assets as broad and powerful community initiative to engage all adults to be Asset Builders. Chris Miller from the faith Community, Kathy Schroeder parent representative and Guest speaker Mike Wasserman, former Mayor from the Town of Los Gatos helped present the proposal. Call to Action - If you want to be on the 41 Developmental Assets working group contact Greg Hermann at

The meeting was concluded with a lunch and informal discussion on Project Safety Net’s efficacy, future needs and priorities

Principal Selection Input Committee

Diane Downend,

The Principal Selection Input Committee has formed. If you have any input for this committee or questions about the process, please contact Diane Downend, PTA President, at or Linda Lingg, Site Council Chair at

Gunn Softball night at the Old Pro!

Marianne Chowning-Dray,

Thanks to the Old Pro for hosting a fundraiser for Gunn Softball on Monday, March 22! The softball program will get 30% of all proceeds during our event from 6-9 that evening. Please help us pack the house and enjoy a great night out while supporting Titan Softball!

The Old Pro is located at 541 Ramona in downtown Palo Alto.

See you there!! Go Titans!

Project Cornerstone Parent Workshop Series

Diane Downend,

Come to our Free Parent Workshop Series on Helping Youth Thrive! Starting Monday March 29th

In an effort to think about how our work as parents promotes resilience and healthy success in our kids and teens, we have organized a Parent Group facilitated at no cost by Project Cornerstone ( Learn how to support our children's uniqueness and their efforts and dreams, and build a more supportive community.

Meets Six Mondays, 8:45 - 10:15 am, March 29 - May 10 (no meeting 4/12)
Location: JLS Rm 360
Please Join Us!!! Light refreshments courtesy of JLS PTA.
The only charge is a $10 requested donation for the workbook. To sign up in advance or learn more contact Ruth Gordon at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SELPA 1 CAC parent education event: Cognitive Therapies

Karen Mueller,

Cognitive Therapies presented by a panel of therapists. Cognitive enhancement with programs such as PACE, Brainware Safari, Cogmed, Interactive Metronome, and Captain’s Log can provide many benefits to all students. These programs use brain-based learning and assist those that need extra boosts with their auditory and visual functions and short and long term memory. Sound therapy can also play an important role in cognitive enhancement. Come hear several speakers discuss the benefits of these alternative approaches for students with LD, ADHD, and ASD.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 meeting is 7 to 9 pm. Hospitality begins at 6:45pm. Covington Elementary School Multipurpose Room, 205 Covington Road, Los Altos.

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

Palo Alto Drug and Alcohol Community Collaborative Releases 2009 Reality Check Survey Results

Diane Downend,

For the fifth year, Palo Alto Unified School District’s middle school and high school students shared information about their use, attitudes, and perceptions of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) and related risk behaviors through a survey known as the Palo Alto Reality Check Survey (PARCS). “More than 5,700 students participated in the 2009 survey,” noted Carol Zepecki, Director of Students Services, PAUSD, and member of the Palo Alto Drug and Alcohol Community Collaborative (PADACC), the organization responsible for conducting this survey. “We are pleased to begin sharing the results with students, parents, and the community,” said Zepecki.

Survey highlights include the following information:

  • The majority of high school students are making healthy decisions when it comes to alcohol, drug use, and related high risk behaviors. However, the number of students that do report regular substance use and high risk behaviors and attitudes (like DUI, binge drinking) is of concern and demands attention.

  • The majority of students overestimate the degree to which their school peers are involved in these behaviors (sometimes dramatically), which puts students at risk for higher use in the future.

  • The majority of students share school and community values regarding alcohol at dances, driving/riding under the influence or binge drinking, yet they expressed concern about the fairness and enforcement of particular policies (campus and community).

  • A large majority of students want youth voices to be included in future policy and decision making.

  • Middle school students indicated they are feeling safer physically and emotionally on all three campuses. Parents, teachers, and administrators have focused their efforts on decreasing verbal, social, physical, and electronic bullying. “We were especially heartened to see these results given our focus on reducing bullying,” says Kevin Skelly, Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent. “Any bullying is a problem, but our numbers are going in the right direction.”

Concerns indentified by the survey results include binge drinking, drinking and driving, and a need for better parent communication with their child regarding drug and alcohol use. Nationally, 59.6% of adolescents reported they talked to at least one parent about alcohol and other drugs. Only 50% of Palo Alto students report having such a discussion with a parent. “According to SAMHSA, researchers have found that adolescents who have such conversations with a parent are significantly less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs,” says Karin Bloom, Project Director, PADACC. “Having sit down, family dinners is one of the most effective prevention strategies out there,” says Bloom. Other strategies include car rides and watching your child’s favorite program with them – anything to create an atmosphere where your child trusts that you want to talk and listen to them.

Results of the 2009 PARCS can also be found on the PADACC website,

PADACC was founded in 2002 to reduce underage drinking and its impacts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp

Chloe Chen, Co-Director,

Palo Alto High School, the 2009 California Lincoln-Douglas Debate Champions, will once again be offering its annual Speech and Debate summer camp! This fun, engaging program is open to all incoming 6th through 10th graders from August 9-13. We will teach a variety of topics, including speaking confidently in front of an audience, persuasive argumentation, and logical thinking, while separating students into small, grade-specific labs. Participants may choose to attend the morning speech class, the afternoon debate class, or both. All proceeds support the Paly debate team and are tax-deductible.

Interested? For more information, please email for a registration form or call Alex Carter at (650) 833 9753.

News From The Gunn Library

Meg Omainsky,

There’s a lot going on at the Gunn Library! New librarian Meg Omainsky is updating many aspects of the library, including:
  • A revamp of the library website to make it more accessible and useful for students and teachers
  • A new laptop checkout system allowing students to borrow laptops during their lunch and prep periods
  • Updating group study rooms with new technology, as well as adding digital editing stations
  • An update of the Gunn library book collection
  • New exhibition of student art as well as creation virtual art display space
  • Renewal of the unused library courtyard, to be named the “Acorn Lounge” and cleaned up by students to create a new outdoor hangout space
  • Events and groups including a library book club, TED talk showings, and other possibilities including guest speakers
  • Help in integrating technology into the classroom, including the addition of four new online databases: JSTOR, a primary source historical archive, GREENR, an environmental science database, and AP science and Science Full Text, resources for science students.
  • Fostering greater communication between library and student body through the new website, Facebook, and the morning announcements
Meg Omainsky
Teacher Librarian
Gunn High School
780 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306
650- 354-8252

Sunday, March 7, 2010

State Ballot Petition

Diane Downend,

Local Control Of Local Classrooms Funding Act - State Parcel Tax Threshold

Senator Simitian has been trying for the last 10 years to get legislators to agree to lower the state parcel tax approval threshold from 2/3s to 55% of voters. While he is continuing his efforts to do this and plans to put it up for a vote before the legislature by summer's end, he is also supportive of putting a similar proposal on the ballot this November to give voters an opportunity to vote on it.

If 1 million signatures are gathered in this drive, November's state ballot will allow people to vote yes or no on whether school parcel tax elections for $250 or less can pass with a 55% yes vote instead of 2/3rds for parcel tax measures that are supported by at least 2/3 of the district's school board members.

Since 1983, 54% percent of parcel tax proposals passed; if the treshold had been 55% instead of 2/3rds, 96% would have passed.
Following is information regarding access to the petition. You are encouraged to print out the petition, take it to your friends, neighbors and colleagues for signatures, and mail the petition with signatures to the address below by May 1, 2010.

General Information:
Flyer: https://www. pdf

Gatherer Instructions:
To be an official signature gatherer, you must be eligible to vote or registered to vote in CA.
See https://www. generally and https://www. ("How Should I Approach People to Sign?") for suggestions on what to say.

- Go to https://www.
- Click on the number of signatures you think you can gather and click on "next"
- Read through this page, click the box on the bottom and click "finish"
- Click on "Click here to download the signature package as a PDF"
- Enter Santa Clara County on 1st Page of pdf

- Only California registered voters from Santa Clara County can sign (separate petitions are needed for separate counties)
- When you pass around the petition, present the ballot language with it
- People need to sign in order (i.e. don't hand out blank pages for signatures) (if you need more pages, you'll need to print out an entire new package)

When you've collected all the signatures:
- Fill out the Declaration of Circulator page
- For each petition set, mail the Declaration, 3 pages of the petition following it, and all signature pages to Californians for Improved School Funding, 751 Laurel Street #219, San Carlos, CA 94070-3113

You can start now, but it needs to be in the mail no later than May 1, 2010

Where and How:
According to the State PTA, PTA units do not need to vote on this since the California State PTA has taken a position supporting it. You can gather signatures at school sites at authorized PTA meetings or events held on school grounds, as long as PAUSD funds are not otherwise used to support the signature gathering. You should not collect signatures on school grounds in any other manner. You may also collect signatures off campus (ie, your friends, neighbors and colleagues).

2010 Site Council Parent Representatives Ballot

for Your 2010-2012 Gunn HS Site Council Parent Representatives

We are pleased to present the following slate of parent-candidates for the 2010-2011 Site Council. Each year, two of the four parent representatives serving on Site Council come up for re-election. According to Site Council bylaws, incumbent representatives can only serve two consecutive terms (four years). This year, Martha Bowden and Corey Levens retire their seats, following four years of distinguished service to Gunn’s Site Council. Thanks to Corey Levens and Martha Bowden who have graciously offered their services to our community.

Please vote for TWO (2) candidates and either mail or email it to the Site Council office here at Gunn. Same voting rules and April 1 deadline apply. Please email your E-ballot to: Please include your Gunn student's name and grade on your e-ballot. NOTE: YOU MUST HAVE A STUDENT ATTENDING GUNN THIS YEAR TO VOTE. ONLY ONE BALLOT PER HOUSEHOLD ACCEPTED. The ballot must be in the office by April 1.

If you have any questions about the election process or the Site Council, please call the office (650.849.7932) or email to the address given above. Election results will be announced in next month’s SPOTLIGHT and on the Gunn Connection. VOTE NOW!!!

____ JOHN BENZA, Parent of Jesse (10th grade)

John is the Director of Administration responsible to plan and direct operations, finances and facilities for a church and Pre-K through 8th grade school with 350 students. I oversee all administrative, financial and facilities issues covering 7 acres, 6 buildings, and 125 employees. Manage over $5M budget, including $2.1M on facilities management. Oversees personnel issues, including staffing, salaries and benefits management. Develops and makes board presentations of year-end results and upcoming annual budgets. Responsible for large capital projects such as construction and remodeling projects. Develops consistent level of professional policies and procedures across the organization.

John and Debbie are firm believers in public education despite his work association with a private school. Jesse has participated, and excelled, in PAUSD education since kindergarten. John served on the Barron Elementary School Site Council from 2003-2005. Debbie served as the volunteer crossing guard for the five years that Jesse attended Barron Elementary. John also served on the Site Council for Terman Middle School from 2005-2007. Additionally, John was selected to participate in the 2006-2007 PAUSD Attendance Area Advisory Task Force. I believe these past experiences have equipped me to understand, appreciate and anticipate the challenges and needs associated with our growing school populations. The whole world is represented here in the bay area and our public school system is second to none in demonstrating and leveraging the value of diversity in culture, language and heritage.

I want to serve on the Gunn High School Site Council as a way to utilize my professional skills and talents to directly benefit the PAUSD administration, the Gunn student and teacher community and Palo Alto residents at large. Since 2004, I have also served as a member of the Palo Alto Emergency Response Team and since 2005 as a Santa Clara County Emergency Communications Operator.

____ KAREN LESYNA, Parent of Lauren (9th grade)
Site council member for 2 years at Blach Middle School in Los Altos
RN by profession
Small Business Owner of Lite For Life for the last 6 years
Lauren is my last of 4 children, my first to attend Gunn
Past PTA president at Loyola elementary
Past Parliamentarian for the LA/Mtn view PTA council
Past member of the Los altos Education Foundation
Looking for a way to get more involved at Gunn

____ BOB SPOER, Parent of Daisy (9th grade)
I’ve served as Director of Global Talent for a major public high tech company, Trimble, in Silicon Valley, for the past 8 years. I’m in charge of preserving and expanding our culture of innovation and can bring this perspective to bear in the site council’s work. I manage the global talent budget and have been under budget every year. Moreover, I am part of a global HR team at Trimble and well versed in the leading edge HR policies and training programs which may be useful in review of new initiatives at Gunn. Earlier in my career, I was involved in public affairs as a member of US Senator’s Frank Lautenberg’s legislative staff in Washington so have an understanding of policy development in the public sector. I was appointed as a member of Community Board #9 in Manhattan and served on the Board for 3 years so have good experience in group decision making as it relates to policy development and budgeting. By my peers at work, I am seen as a creative “idea person” and seek my opinion because it is positively different and they want to get a different perspective._For more information about me, please feel free to view my profile on LinkedIn and in this YouTube video on behalf of LinkedIn

____ SUSAN THOMAS, Parent of Andrea Allen (9th grade)
I have 25 years’ experience in business, primarily working with organizations and individuals to build credibility and awareness for their business, professional and public sector initiatives. My areas of special interest include technology, education, energy and health care.
For the past five years I have worked with Apple’s education group on a variety of leadership and advocacy programs around education reform and the use of technology in teaching and learning. I am currently on a team of people working with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology on the National Education Technology Plan.

I began my career as a business journalist covering technology, banking and finance, and in the early 1980s became a public relations consultant with one of Silicon Valley’s top technology public relations firms. In 1988, I started my own public relations firm, which I owned and managed for 10 years before its acquisition by an international PR firm. I became a partner in this firm and for three years was director of its global technology practice. I have also served as a market analyst at a market research firm and as vice president of marketing for an enterprise software company.

I also serve on Boards of Directors and Advisory Councils of both for-profit and non-profit organizations.


Vote for 2 candidates either on paper or electronically NO LATER THAN APRIL 1.

Voters must have a student now at Gunn. One ballot per household, please.


Your Gunn Student’s Name:_________________________________


Mail to Gunn HS Site Council: 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Fax to Gunn HS Site Council : 650.493.7801
Email to:

Report on PTSA Participation at the Youth Forum

Greetings all,

On February 27, 2010, the second of three scheduled Youth Forums took place at Mitchell Park Community Center. The meeting was attended by approximately one hundred people. Gunn students with past involvement in the SEC, in ROCK and other leadership programs such as the Youth Council attended as well as many Paly students. Adults in attendance included representatives from the city, the fire department, the city council, the school board, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, PAUSD, PTAC, Gunn and Paly administrators, the PTSAs of Gunn and Paly and at large community members. I was accompanied by Caryn Gerber-Duffy, Grace Yu and Kathy Schroeder as Gunn PTSA representatives.

The teens crafted three subsets of discussion:
  1. Schools
    1. Students and School-Related Stress
    2. Relationships with adults on acampus and building community
    3. Youth voice on campus
  2. Youth and the Business Community-relationships and venues
  3. Community events-events for teens and places to hang out

The adults broke into groups representing each of the three topics based upon their native purpose for attendance, so the Gunn staff and PTSA folks invested their time in the Schools group. Similarly, the students broke into three groups, and each of those groups rotated through the three adult groups to form discussion groups lasting forty minutes each. In this manner, while the adults participated in only one topical group, the students were able to be heard in all three contexts.

Absent first hand knowledge of the conversations in groups 2 and 3, following is a summary of the Schools discussions.

  1. Students spoke about the pressures of tests overlapping and not knowing when tests will be held; expressed desire for a testing calendar and broader use of InClass.
  2. Students are frustrated by not knowing their grades or where they stand in some classes; expressed desire for periodic grade printouts, especially before finals and broader use of InClass.
  3. Students are frustrated by long delays between taking tests and getting the graded tests returned; not able to learn from mistakes before moving into new material.
  4. Students want all tests returned and reviewed with feedback regarding class averages so they know where they stand; students are frustrated by not getting exams back to learn from mistakes and to use as study tools; they believe teachers should have to write new tests each year rather than recycling old ones that then inhibits them from letting students have the exams
  5. Students feel competitive pressure from peers; perception that everyone else in the class is doing better; want teacher sensitivity to the pressure and reassurance.
  6. Compliance with homework free periods is not maintained. Students expressed a preference for exams before winter break and no homework over the break. Some asked that performance on finals be used only to enhance a grade, not to have an adverse impact.
  7. Students are frustrated that teacher evaluations seem to have no importance; they disappear with no accountability to the teachers; students feel thoughtful evaluations should be made available publicly; teachers with reported poor performance and/or attitude should be observed.
  8. Students want more direct input regarding policy and procedures at school so they feel empowered to influence decision-making on campus. The capital improvement plans at Gunn and Paly were used as an example. Another suggestion was broader student participation in the PTSAs.
  9. Students requested better communication. If their input about a topic is sought, but then not implemented, better communication regarding the decision-process, methodology and conclusion will be beneficial so they can better understand why the outcome was different than their preference.
  10. Students are frustrated by taking surveys and not getting timely feedback about outcomes.
  11. Some students feel teachers are not supportive of spirit week; some requested a Spring mini-version of Homecoming Week activities; students want more community building activities, some with cultural/ethnic themes
  12. Students indicated counselors are inaccessible; always busy; student caseloads are too large so more counselors are needed.
  13. Gunn students expressed a desire to explore a system akin to Paly’s advisory to provide for more one-on-one guidance around college planning with an assigned staff advisor; that advisor should be someone the student knows and trusts.
  14. Some students asked that parents be involved in counselor meetings.
  15. Students said they don’t know their counselor; they should be there in good times as well as bad; attend sports and other student extra-curricular activities.
  16. Students would like to see more one-on-one’s with their counselor and to start the college planning earlier than the junior year; in junior year college assemblies and financial aid workshops are needed; recommend a college preparation boot camp for juniors, likened to the freshman orientation.
  17. Students indicated the availability of ACS, its role, the campus representative and even the location is unclear to most students; they need to be introduced during freshman orientation to heighten awareness.
The third Youth Forum meeting is scheduled for April 3rd. At that meeting, the ball is in the court of the adults to report back to the students what tangible outcomes they have devised in response to the requests from students. As you can see from the above list, many of the items reside within the authority of the admin teams at school. The areas where the PTSA can provide support are more limited, but still valuable in the eyes of the students.

We always have a student representative on the PTSA roster. This is typically a student active in the SEC who serves as a conduit of information to and from the two organizations. I will contact our current student rep to convey the feedback from the Youth Forum that the PTSA is perceived as an avenue through which teens can have a voice on campus and increase their influence on decision-making. Hopefully we will be able to grow our student participation as we move into next year.

The students are eager to see more community building activities. Clearly, this is an arena where the PTSA can make a difference. In response to their desire for cultural/ethnic events, our recent International Fair fits the bill. Gunn students participating on the Forum spoke highly of the event. While this event has historically been hosted every other year by the PTSA, with a Health Fair in alternating years, we can certainly create a new tradition if we have the volunteers willing to step up and lead the charge to host the International Fair every year. This would be highly valued by the students as well as the staff. Anne Jensen, the IS for World Languages, let us know she would be delighted if we held our international lunch every year as a supplement to the activities of the staff and students in connection with International Week. Similarly, we could expand the Homecoming Barbecue activities. That event has typically been hosted in the evening to serve the athletes, air band participants, float stuffers and other students directly involved in Homecoming activities. Again, subject to recruiting the many necessary volunteers, the Homecoming Barbecue could become an all-school event similar to the Turkey Feast and International lunch. All it takes is volunteers. I am keenly sensitive to committing to more large events when so often our PTSA events are brought to life by the same small subset of volunteers, over and over again. I treasure those volunteers and don’t want to head in a direction of burnout. I want to preserve their dedication and fired up energy. I welcome feedback from the PTSA community regarding an annual International Fair and expanded Homecoming event and especially hope to hear from parents that have not been actively involved in the past but who want to improve their connectedness to Gunn and the world of their students.

The students engaged in the Youth Forum brought forth good ideas and thoughtful observations about their school environments. It is now incumbent on the parents, teachers, and administrators to respond with meaningful action plans. I have outlined a few projects that can be undertaken by the PTSA, limited solely by my imagination. I invite the imaginations of all of you to expand the list of possibilities and to offer the required leadership. Thank you for your support of our amazing teens.

Warm regards, Diane

Gunn Safe Choices Parent Education March 9, 7 PM

Ildiko Ran, Parent liaison for Gunn Drug and Alcohol Committee

Dear Parents,

As part of the Substance Awareness Week at Gunn High School we are organizing a Parent night on March 9th at 7PM. We would like to extend an invitation to incoming Freshman parents. Please read on to find out details.

Gunn students 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 on. 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, regarding your intent to participate in our March 9th, Tuesday 7PM parent meeting at Gunn High School in the Library. (Please mention your child's grade in your email)

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 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 Parents 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 this email at

Parents Night: March 9th, Tuesday 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