Students, teachers, parents and community members alike were left shocked Tuesday when Board President Terry Godfrey announced that Dr. Max McGee would be resigning from his position as superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD).
McGee’s tenure was marked by innovation as well as controversy, and many speculate that the last straw leading to his resignation was the recent budget mishap, infamously dubbed the “six million dollar blunder.”
Other controversies for which McGee has received the brunt of the blame include separate cases of mishandled sexual assault, the elimination of zero period classes at Gunn and the messy controversy surrounding weighted grades at both Paly and Gunn.
The Campanile was never in support of McGee’s immediate resignation due of a lack of qualified replacements and the cost of hiring any interim or replacement superintendent. McGee, who has spent 45 years as an educator, had previously announced he would retire at the end of this school year.
We believe that the School Board’s action of accepting his resignation at the Sept. 26 Board meeting was counterproductive to its goals of maintaining a secure and healthy district, and not made in the best interest of students. While McGee has had several major missteps, some which were truly avoidable, he has also proven himself to be capable of carrying out the basic duties of a superintendent without error. So long as he continued to show his ability to function as a superintendent, the Board should have left him to carry out day-to-day operations, even if on an extremely short leash. While The Campanile maintains the view that McGee should have remained as superintendent until the end of the year, we cannot look to change the past, and must instead work to ensure the best future for the District, and more specifically its students.
Before we present our proposals for changes the District must implement, we must overhaul the Palo Alto community’s attitude toward the superintendent, as well as toward the PAUSD administration in general. While it is undeniable that McGee made numerous errors during his time as superintendent, the manner in which the community responded to these mistakes was inexcusable.
As a community, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct and present criticism constructively and without personal attacks or overly snide remarks. During Board meetings and on Palo Alto Weekly articles and community forums, countless community members relentlessly bashed McGee for others’ mistakes or for situations outside of his control, without acknowledging any of the improvements he has brought to the District. We commend Dr. McGee for handling this difficult situation with the utmost dignity and resigning with grace in spite of a passionate mob calling for his head.
Thank you, Dr. McGee, for your vision and dedication to the District during your three years as superintendent. While the journey has been turbulent at times, we commend you for constantly striving to improve student well-being in our District. After a challenging time as superintendent, we wish you the best in your future endeavors, and hope we can find a superintendent who makes a constant effort to communicate with students in PAUSD.
Many students have fond memories of McGee, and while his missteps will likely come to define his tenure at PAUSD, his memory as a jubilant and sociable presence will define his person in our minds.