In order to give community members an overview of Paly, Palo Alto Partners in Education held a high school preview on Nov. 14 in the Performing Art Center. According to its website, PiE has held similar previews for all public high schools and middle schools at Palo Alto as an alternative to school tours.
According to Principal Adam Paulson, one of the main speakers, the preview was held to help community members, especially parents of prospective students, better understand the goals and culture of Paly as a local public high school and prepare parents for the high school career of their children.
Paulson began his speech by bringing up a question many parents were interested in: What does Paly do?
“We develop our students’ knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving skills and nurture their curiosity, creativity and resilience, empowering every child to reach his or her full intellectual, social and creative potential.”
In addition, Paulson described his perspective of the teachers at Paly.
“The school has amazing teachers,” Paulson said. “I really try to escape my office as much as I can to get into classrooms and see what’s happening. (The classes at Paly aren’t) just students in rows getting direct instructions. There are projects going on, there are students with their Chromebooks out working in small groups, and teachers really go in depth on their lessons.”
Besides the innovative curriculum in regular classes, Paulson also said there are many different pathways and extracurricular activities that stand out.
“Our pathways are another unique part of Paly, such as our Performing Arts Pathway and Social Justice Pathway,” Paulson said. “We have our different pathways of performing arts, environmental science, engineering and computer science and we hope to add more pathways as we progress.”
Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Spector said the Wellness Center is an important source of support for students’ school life that offers help whenever students need it.
“Students use it for a variety of reasons,” Spector said. “They can come in to take a 15-minute break if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and they can use their coping strategies in a safe, supported environment.”
Following the introduction to the wellness program, James Hamilton, the counselor for the Class of 2019, introduced the three levels of the counseling system.
According to Hamilton, the first level of counseling is the teacher advisor, who will keep track of the academic progress of students, give them general information on graduation requirement and assist them on course selection. The second level is the guidance counselor, who consults with students and parents about course selection and gives additional help and advices on schedule change such as class dropping. The third level is the college advisor, who meets individually with seniors and second-semester juniors, to discuss their secondary plans and give necessary advice for their future careers.
Hamilton also said eighth grade parent night, which will have more specific informations about Paly on Jan. 30.
After the speeches from the staff, PiE also invited three parents to share their experiences and advice with the audience.
Colleen Gormley, who has two sons at Paly, encouraged parents to get involved in school activities.
“I highly encourage you guys to volunteer as much as possible, read the journalism work and watch the sport games,” Gormley said. “It’s not for your kids’ behalf, but to get yourself used to the culture of the school.”
Sudeshna Raha, who has a daughter at Paly, encouraged new students to try hard courses that they are interested in.
“Don’t be afraid of taking hard courses, especially the AP courses. They will be extremely enjoyable if you love the subject, and you can always ask for help from your teachers or counselors when you feel like you can’t handle it.”
As an experienced parent of two school athletes, Mark Robins suggested new students experience the sports programs at Paly, even if they are not super competitive players.
“None of my kids, even if they are athletic, are the super star players,” Robbins said. “But they’ve all been involved in sports, and I think that’s a great way to get socialized and know people that they wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
At the end of the preview, Spector concluded that Paly has a complete program that will take care of its students academically, physically and mentally, so there is really nothing for parents to worry about.
“There are so many resources here, take advantage,” Spector said at the end of the night. “If you have questions, ask, and there is always someone who can help.”