Thursday, April 29, 2010

U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $137,000

U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $137,000 to Help Three School Districts Recover from a Series of Student Suicides and a School Shooting
Project SERV grants total more than $1.1 million this fiscal year

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded three new Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grants, totaling more than $137,000, to school districts in California, New Mexico and Alabama to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following a series of student suicides and a middle school shooting. Project SERV grants provide funding to school districts and institutions of higher learning that have experienced a traumatic event and need resources to respond to the event and re-establish a safe learning environment. This fiscal year, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $1.1 million to 10 grantees, including the most recent grants to Palo Alto Unified School District, in Palo Alto, Calif.; the Mescalero Apache School District in Mescalero, N.M.; and the Madison City School District in Madison, Ala.

"When unfortunate events disrupt the lives of children and schools, it's vital that the learning process continue. Project SERV provides districts and institutions of higher learning with resources to help respond in a timely manner," Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, says.

Palo Alto Unified School District
Within the last nine months, the Palo Alto, Calif., community has been tragically impacted by four youth suicides. Even though the district has provided counseling and other services to its students, it still faces numerous challenges in responding to students' needs and requests for mental health services. Thus, the district requested and received a $50,000 Project SERV grant. To address the increase in student mental health needs, the district has proposed using their funds to hire a person to screen and coordinate local psychiatrists and therapists who have volunteered their services. In addition, funding will be used, among other things, for grief counseling, a peer support program, targeted depression screening for students, suicide awareness training for teachers, and the development of a website for parents, students and school staff that addresses suicide intervention.

Mescalero Apache School District

Mescalero Apache School District in Mescalero, N.M., was awarded a $48,040 Project SERV grant to restore its learning environment following a series of student suicides. In 2009, the rate of suicide in this small, impoverished, rural district on the Mescalero Apache Reservation increased dramatically. Ongoing difficulties in coping with the recent suicides have resulted in a growing number of students in need of mental health services. To help address these needs, the district has requested a grant to provide additional support services for students, staff and parents. It also is proposing to hire a part-time mental health provider, as well as provide specialized staff training on suicide assessment and intervention specific to the Native American culture.

Madison City School District
The Madison City School District in Madison, Ala., received a $39,273 Project SERV grant to help its students receive counseling and other mental health services following a February school shooting by a middle-school student that resulted in the death of a classmate. Following the homicide, the city hosted a community meeting to assist students and families in dealing with this tragedy. A week later in a completely separate incident, a professor at a nearby university in Huntsville shot and killed three co-workers, which also emotionally affected students. To help restore the learning environment at the middle school, the district is considering a series of measures to assist staff and students. The district is proposing to hire a full-time school resource officer for the remainder of the school year and a trained therapist to provide ongoing counseling to the students most impacted by the shooting. In addition, the district plans to hire substitute teachers, which will allow full-time teachers also emotionally impacted by the tragedies to attend individual and group counseling sessions.

Since FY 2001, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $27.4 million in Project SERV funding. To view a list of grantees and award amounts, visit

2010 Summer Youth Pass Available Starting May 21

San Mateo County youth can “just go” this summer with the 2010 SamTrans Summer Youth Pass , which will be available for purchase starting May 21. This $40 pass allows unlimited rides on SamTrans all summer, from June 1 to Aug. 31, and is available to kids 17 and younger.

As part of the transit agency’s “just go” theme, the SamTrans Web site has posted a list of fun destinations and a link to its new Facebook page for young people, SamTrans Youth. Go to or call 1-800-660-4287 for details.

PTSA Volunteer and Staff Appreciation Luncheon - May 20, 2010

Please mark your calendar for the annual luncheon honoring volunteers and staff at Gunn High School on May 20th. All volunteers are invited, so you are encouraged to forward this invitation to others who have made a difference at our school this past year.

At the luncheon, awards will be presented to recognize those volunteers and staff who have made outstanding contributions to Gunn.

This event is sponsored by the Gunn High School PTSA.
For event details:

Principal’s Cup (Teacher of the Year) Nomination

Martha Elderon,

Any student, parent, or staff member may nominate a teacher for this award. Please comment fully in those areas where your immediate knowledge can assist the School Site Council in fully appreciating the candidate.

This nomination form and support letters must be submitted to the Main office at Gunn High by Friday, May 21, 2010.

Eligibility: The individual must –
  • be a classroom teacher at Gunn
  • have completed at least five years of service at Gunn
  • be nominated by a Gunn student, parent or staff member
  • not be a previous winner
Criteria: Teacher excellence is reflected in
  • professional knowledge of discipline and expertise in classroom teaching
  • commitment to and effectiveness with students
  • respected leadership among colleagues
  • contribution to school community
  • ability to work as a team member
  • someone “who responds to individual needs,” is able to “take whomever s/he gets and make them shine”
Please respond to these criteria in one or two pages that you attach to this form:
  • S/he exhibits a high degree of professionalism in working with students, staff and parents
  • S/he engages students in achieving academic success and positive self-esteem
  • S/he fosters collegiality among staff
  • S/he promotes Gunn High School activities
  • S/he communicates enthusiasm in his/her work
Additional comments

Principal’s Cup Nomination

I nominate ________________________________________________ for the Principal’s Cup as the Outstanding Teacher at Gunn High School for 2009-10.

Your name:____________________________________

Your signature:____________________________________

Please attach your response with two additional letters of recommendation to support the nomination (so that the packet includes a teacher, a student and a parent perspective).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010-2011 SAT/ACT Dates

Joan Scherer,

Oct. 9 - SAT
Oct. 23 - ACT
Nov. 6 - SAT
Dec. 4 - SAT
Jan. 22 - SAT
Mar. 12 - SAT
Apr. 9 - ACT
May 7 - SAT
May 14 - UC Writing Test
June 4 – SAT

Site Council Run Off Election

Vote for 1 candidate either on paper or electronically NO LATER THAN APRIL 30.
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:

PIE Campaign Finishes

Belle Griffiths,

THANK YOU to the 496 Gunn families (30% of all Gunn families) that contributed to the PiE High School fund between last August and January 29th.

Total Amount Contributed District Wide: $2,900,000:

High school fund: $ 685,000
Middle school fund: $ 530,000
Elementary school fund: $ 1,685,000

The Palo Alto Partners in Education School Campaign finished on January 29th. This year’s campaign results set new records for PiE, enabling us to donate $2.9 million to the 17 Palo Alto public schools. Donations from Gunn families also achieved a new record with 30% of Gunn families donating to Partners in Education. Our sincere thanks to the Gunn community and families for their overwhelming generosity – every dollar will make a difference at Gunn in 2010-11.

Other PiE News:

CONGRATULATIONS to the following Gunn teachers who received teacher grants from PiE in the 2009 spring and fall grant rounds:

  • Angela Huerta, Improving Behavior

  • Edward Corpuz, Broadcast Journalism Video Production Camera Sound Design and Audio Production Curriculum Expansion

  • Kristi Bowers & Brian Tuomy, The Cold War - eReference

  • Janet Fox, Communicating Possibilities

  • Lauren Cory, Mock UN

  • Cindy Peters, Culinary Arts CookWise

  • Monica Espinoza, College Pathway

Many thanks to Principal Likens and her administrative staff for their dedicated time and efforts in support of PiE events at Gunn including the PiE sponsored tour of Gunn for incoming 9th grade parents. The tours were in great demand and over-subscribed this year, and as always, were amazing and very instructive to the Gunn newcomers.

Sincerely, and thank you so much from your Gunn PiE Team,

Belle Griffiths, Cherrill Spencer, Hazel Watson

Friday, April 16, 2010

PTSA Elects 2010-11 Officers

Annual elections were held at the April 8th PTSA meeting. The following members were elected to be Gunn's PTSA officers for 2010-2011. Please give them your congratulations and warm thanks the next time you see them!!
  • President – Grace Yu
  • Executive Vice President – Diane Downend
  • 1st VP HSA Awards – Karen Marvin, assisted by Estee Greif and Pat Chang
  • 2nd VP Membership – Cheryl Foung
  • 3rd VP Programs – Sigrid Pinsky, assisted by Ruth-Anne Siegel
  • Secretary - Duncan MacMillan
  • Treasurer – Jon Dukes-Schlossberg
  • Historian - Caryn Gerber-Duffy
Thanks also to the hard-working nominating committee: Jon Dukes-Schlossberg – chair and PTSA parliamentarian, Pam Shames, Karen Saxena, Hazel Watson, and Wendy Kandasamy.

Vivek Choksi of Los Altos Hills Named Regional Finalist in the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition

Vivek Choksi of Los Altos Hills Named Regional Finalist in the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2010 -- Vivek Choksi, a senior at Henry M.
Gunn High School, was recently named a Regional Finalist in the
prestigious Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition
(, the nation's leading public health
competition for high school students. He will compete for a college
scholarship of up to $50,000 in Washington, D.C., April 23-26, 2010.
Mr. Choksi was chosen for his work in determining risk factors for
cardiac death in the veteran population.

"With the nation facing a potentially catastrophic shortage of public
health professionals, it is critical that we cultivate the next
generation of public health talent," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D.,
M.B.A., President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Vivek's
outstanding work demonstrates that the future of epidemiology holds
great promise."

The YES Competition was established in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation and the College Board to inspire talented high school
students to apply epidemiological methods to the investigation of
public health issues and, ultimately, encourage the brightest young
minds to enter the field of public health. By 2020, the United States
will face a shortfall of more than 250,000 public health workers,
according to the Association of Schools of Public Health.

Ms. Choksi is one of 60 Regional Finalists invited to the nation's
capital to present their projects to a panel of distinguished judges
comprised of leading epidemiologists and public health experts. This
year's judges include epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, the former Deputy Commissioner for New York
City's Department of Health, and the Chief of the California
Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Disease, among
other prominent public health figures. All 60 Regional Finalists are
awarded at least $2,000 each. The top 12 YES Scholars advance to
compete as National Finalists for scholarships ranging from $15,000 to
$50,000. This year's 12 National Finalists will be announced Monday,
April 26.

"Teaching new generations about epidemiology has tremendous value not
only for those who go on to pursue careers in public health but for
all students. Through the study of epidemiology, students expand their
understanding of scientific methods and critical thinking," said
Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board. "These students are
addressing national and global health issues that are shaping the
world around us. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of their hard
work in the future."

The YES Competition awards nearly $500,000 in college scholarships
annually to 120 high school students. To date, the YES Competition
has awarded more than $3.2 million in scholarships. More than 4,000
students from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of
Columbia and American Samoa, have entered the YES Competition since
its inception. Six hundred thirty nine students entered in 2010.
Past winners have investigated bird flu outbreaks in humans,
posttraumatic stress disorder in combat veterans, and the link between
sleep deprivation and teen obesity, among many other urgent public
health challenges of our time.

Po Bronson to Speak in Palo Alto

Want to take a thought-provoking look at parenting?

Come hear Po Bronson, the author of NurtureShock, on Thursday, May 6th, 7pm-9pm at Paly’s Hay Market Theatre.

Here is what one PAUSD parent advises:
Every parent should hear this author and read his book. He distills the research about child rearing into useful practices and dispels many of the myths of parenting. There is tremendously useful and positive information about sleep, teaching about race, praising your child, why kids lie, why siblings fight, etc. I just wish it had been published a few years ago.

NurtureShock is available at Kepler's and at the presentation. Mr. Bronson will be available for book signing after the presentation.

Sponsored by PTA Council Parent Education
Sunny Dykwel and Mandy Lowell
PTA Council Parent Education Co-Chairs

Gunn Service Day

On Thursday 4 March 2010, 300 Gunn High School students gathered at the Spangenberg Theatre on campus to kick off Gunn Service Day, an annual event organized by Youth Community Service. Before dispersing to 14 various service sites throughout the Bay Area, students loosened up in opening activities and bonded with the group they will spend the rest of the day with through games and laughter. Students filled up on bagels, muffins, and fruit, generously donated by the Palo Alto Rotary Club, and mingled with supportive volunteers from the community, including Rotary Club members and parents. Following a warm and inspiring sendoff from School Principal Noreen Likins, in which the group of young men and women were commended for their dedication and commitment to service and their community, students filled up six big yellow buses and headed to their service sites. Partnering up with organizations like InnVision, Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT), Shelter Network, Ecumenical Hunger Program, and Canopy, students mulched trees, cultivated native plant life, packaged food for families, organized clothing and food closets, and mentored elementary school students among other things. Gunn students expressed that the day was well spent, as they were able to learn beyond their classrooms about the needs of the local community from the people in the community. They not only left the day with new friendships and a sense of pride in what was accomplished but also a greater understanding of issues their community faces. Youth Community Service teamed up with Lisa Hall, Jordan Huizing, Gunn Parents, and the YCS/Interact club on campus to organize Gunn Service Day. A big thank you to all those involved in the process!

Friday, April 2, 2010

YOUTH FORUM you spoke up and adults listened!!!

Now come hear how adults
plan to move YOUR IDEAS into ACTION!!
SAVE THE DATE! when: APRIL 3, 2010
where: mitchell park community center 3800 middlefield road palo alto, ca 94303

The Gunn Robotics Team Triumphs in Competition, Heads for Atlanta

Diane Downend,

GRT is Grateful for Engineering Mentors and Corporate Sponsorship

The fifty two students in the Engineering Technology class at Gunn refer to themselves as The Gunn Robotics Team, or GRT. GRT has a nice ring to it, and the word “team” comes much closer to describing the feel of the group than the word “class.”

“In this class we get to work together in groups to solve real problems,” says Matthew Stevens, a senior, “it really is a team that hangs together.” Whether you call it the Gunn Robotics Team or Engineering Technology, our group is legendary among educational circles, and it’s one of the most exciting project-based programs around.

The robotics team is the capstone course for all of the engineering sequences at Gunn, and it has become a home on campus for students who like to make things. On a typical afternoon – long after many students have gone home – we will have dozens of students doing computer aided drafting or computer animation in our computer space, assembling electronics or gear systems in our lab space, and machining or welding in the shop. These students have one thing in common: they like to try things out to see what works. “In GRT, the main way to learn is not through talking as much as learning through doing and interacting,” says Elle Allen, also a senior.

The students in GRT work on a host of projects during the year. Recently they converted a Ford pickup truck to an all-electric vehicle, they built a robotic haunted house for Fairmeadow Elementary School’s autumn fund raiser, and have done all kinds of engineering challenges and community service work. The centerpiece of the program, though, is the robot that they build each year for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Engineering, comes up with a new game each year, and the students have only 45 days to design and build a robot that will play that game. This year the robots play a type of soccer game on a field the size of a basketball court that has 12-inch high speed bumps on it. The competitions are wildly exciting and thousands of spectators attend.

While some FIRST robotics teams are headed up by teams of professional engineers and machinists, our group is eminently student-centered. “The Gunn Robotics Team is different from every other class at this school because students are largely responsible for deciding what we do,” says Neil Bhateja, this year’s student leader, “We have professional mentors who share their experience with us, but at the end of the day we make our own decisions and live with the results.”

Our learn-by-doing philosophy makes it tough for the students to compete with some of the more corporate-centered teams, in which robots may be designed and built entirely by professional engineers, but the experience for students can be seminal. “Being on the Gunn Robotics Team truly changed my life and shaped the direction of my career” said Caroline Connelly, who is now working for SpaceX Corp. “It made me realize that I was as good as any boy at engineering.”

This year the students competed in San Diego and San Jose with their 95-lb robot, and they won the large majority of their matches, coming in third overall in San Jose. Their next stop is the National FIRST Robotics Championships in Atlanta Georgia over Spring break. Many of the students have dyed their hair red to show team spirit, and our team will truly stand out in the crowd in the Georgia Dome.

The Gunn Robotics Team is open to sophomores through seniors who enroll in Engineering Technology, and there are no prerequisites for enrollment. There is a waiting list for the course, and students apply each winter to join.
The team is not funded through the school or the district, but instead relies on grants and corporate sponsorships for funding. This year we are grateful to Palo Alto Foundation for Education, the Linde Group, Sofinnova Ventures, and Qualcomm for their major support. We are always on the lookout for engineering and manufacturing mentors as well as for new corporate partnerships.

Please contact Bill Dunbar at for information or to volunteer.