Palo Alto High School’s next principal could be announced as soon as May, according to Anne Brown, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources of Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD).
Even as Paly staff and community members are still collecting their thoughts and emotions regarding Principal Kim Diorio’s announcement earlier this month that she will resign at the end of this school year, the District office is moving ahead to find her successor.
Brown said District officials are currently in the process of scheduling meetings with members of the Paly community to be held in April, although dates have not yet been finalized.
According to Brown, in these meetings, Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks will ask participants questions such as: “What are the things about the school that you value most?” “What are the challenges facing the school going forward?” and “What are the leadership qualities you value most in a principal?”
After getting input from the Paly community, a panel consisting of parents, students and staff will be formed to interview potential candidates for the position and select two to three finalists for the interim superintendent to review. Brown said the District hopes to make a selection in May.
Hendricks promises that the Board will do what is necessary to ensure the school continues to function properly during the transition between now and Diorio’s departure in June. Diorio has been at Paly for 11 years and principal since 2013.
“We appreciate Ms. Diorio’s many years of dedication and service to the Palo Alto Unified School District, and wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors,” Hendricks said in an email. “As with any change, we understand that it may be greeted with mixed emotions, but are confident that our students, families, staff and administration will continue to work together to maintain the excellence for which Paly is known.”
Members of Paly’s staff have echoed Hendricks’ sentiments since Diorio’s announcement.
Although math teacher Daniel Nguyen has only been at Paly for two years, he said based on his perception of the school and what happened before he came, he thinks Diorio did an “incredible job.”
“I thought she was a great principal. She absolutely cared about her students and her staff. I was very satisfied with how she was able to improve school culture especially in terms of inclusiveness. I’m going to miss her.”
However, not everyone shares Hendricks and Nguyen’s positive view of Diorio’s time as principal.
Palo Alto resident Kathy Jordan is unhappy with how the school handled the aftermath of several sexual assault allegations, as covered by a report done by an outside law firm faulting Diorio and others in the school leadership in these situations.
“[Diorio leaving] is one good step forward, but there is a long way to go,” Jordan said in a statement to The Campanile. “While others share blame, principals have responsibilities under the Ed Code, which Ms. Diorio did not fulfill … Students who had the courage to come forward were harmed by her actions and her inactions. There is a pervasive, toxic culture in PAUSD that doesn’t put student safety first.”
Earlier this week, Paly’s Site Council released a statement responding “to a series of events that have occurred over the past few years.”
“We felt it was important to respond since we do not want the voices of the few to have drowned out the silent majority,” the Site Council said in an email sent to various Paly publications.
In the statement, the Council members said they noticed the lack of respect given to district administrators, including Diorio, former Superintendent Max McGee and former Paly Assistant Principal Kathy Laurence.
“The behavior that has been displayed could result in us attracting individuals in a leadership or teaching role who are afraid to make decisions and will limit their transparency in order to survive. Fear of upsetting parents will trump what they believe is right for students. In addition, now we will be spending money on head hunters instead of students.”
Paly Site Council
The Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) also released a statement acknowledging Diorio’s dedication to Paly and encouraging members of the Paly community to support each other through this “sense of loss and perceived turmoil.”
The PTSA statement said, “We are sorry to see her [Diorio] go and wish her the best in her next pursuit.”