Two weeks after Principal Adam Paulson announced his resignation, effective at the end of the 2019-20 school year, the administration held an open meeting in the Media Arts Center to gather student input on their preferences for the new Paly principal.
Assistant Principal Tom Keating announced that the Feb. 4 meeting was happening through a course update posted to the Schoology homepage the day before the meeting. Deputy Superintendent Karen Hendricks and Director of Certificated Human Resources Lisa Hickey were among the district administrators in attendance.
The six students who attended the meeting said they wanted a principal who is consistently reachable, has good communication with student journalists and who makes a true effort to connect with all students, not just vocal student leaders.
“(When it is) challenging to get time with the press, that makes it easier for (administration) to prepare for questions, which kind of defeats the purpose of asking tough questions in the first place,” junior Rohin Ghosh, a staff writer for Anthro Magazine, said at the meeting. “It creates a relationship of distrust with student press and creates an aura of somebody trying to hide something even if that’s not true. So I think we should have a very strong culture of transparency and a very strong compliance with student press freedom.”
Ghosh and junior Owen Longstreth, another member of Anthro Magazine, also touched on the importance of having a principal who can ensure Paly is compliant with state and federal laws — two years ago, Paulson had to navigate the aftermath of Paly’s Title IX scandal after the resignation of the previous principal, Kim Diorio.
“(One thing) that’s really been a problem these last couple of years is that we don’t meet compliance,” junior Owen Longstreth said at the meeting. “I want to see the principal and the administration of the school do their job without the scandals.”
Some students, like junior Michaela Seah, expressed concerns about whether administration would actually use student input given at the meeting in the actual hiring process.
“I thought (the meeting) was just for show,” Seah said. “I thought they were just doing this to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, we care about students,’ but then not actually fit (our input) into the requirements (for the new principal). I’m a little bit more optimistic now.”
During the meeting, administration announced that in the coming weeks, a survey would be sent to all students, staff and parents to gather input from more community members. The survey consists of a list of 14 to 15 statements about certain characteristics in a principal that users will mark on a scale of one to five, with one being least important and five being most important, as well as an open-ended section at the end for general input.
The survey was sent to staff on Feb. 4, and students and parents have not received it yet.
“We have a panel who makes a recommendation for finalists, and when we’re looking at our finalists, we look at the input from students, from staff, from the community in terms of what they prioritize to be the most important to see you who might be the best match,” Hickey said. “Where we really get into (community) input is when we do the rounds, and we come up with finalists and there are discussions about the finalists because all candidates have strengths and areas for growth.”
Administration also announced that students will be included on the interview panel for candidates who pass initial screening interviews with Superintendent Don Austin, Hendricks and Chief Academic Officer of Secondary Education Sharon Ofek. According to Hickey, who will be facilitating the panel interviews, on-site administration is still working on the logistics for how the students on the panel will be selected.
Among the others on the interview panel will be several site staff members, parents, district staff members, a member of the Palo Alto Educators Association and a member of the California School Employees Association. According to the district’s hiring timeline, which was released on their website on Jan. 24, the new Paly principal will be announced on March 13.