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Board’s canceling of international trips sparks controversy


The hot topic of discussion during the Sept. 24 Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education meeting was the approval for the conceptual design and scope of the projects for the Paly Tower Building renovation and possible plans for a Board Bond Advisory Committee.

Proposed additions to the renovation include a complete redesign of the two floors, an elevator and a new terrace. PAUSD board member Melissa Baten-Caswell said she hopes for the renovation to take make use of the old library room and to make the Tower Building more functional.

“We haven’t really been able to use that second floor of the building, or even really effectively use the first floor,” Caswell said.

The board also discussed the establishment of a BBAC.

“The board talked about creating a committee to provide policy guidance on master plans and educational specifications for building,” Caswell said. “The committee oversees a masterplan for building across the whole district.”

More specifically, the duties of the committee would include facilitating master plans, designing guidelines, approving designs for projects, managing funds and directing other bond program matters.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, the board discussed the Leadership Institute PAUSD assessment practice models and a board decision to ban school-sponsored international travel.

During open forum, many residents questioned the decision to ban school-sponsored international travel, especially since it cancels the annual Escondido Elementary School Spanish Immersion trip.

“I believe our children and their families make up the school district, together with the teacher and staff. I hope for open and inclusive discussion and decision making,” said the mother of a fifth-grade Spanish immersion student. “The decision to ban school-sponsored international travel for elementary schools in the district was apparently made behind closed doors by the executive board only.”

Numerous Escondido Spanish Immersion parents said they were upset by this ban.

“This trip has a long and successful history. Its educational value is undeniable. It is a true immersion in a language and culture. (The decision) is unacceptable without input from the teachers who have gone on this trip, prior administration, or the parents,” said the parent of a fourth-grader in the Spanish Immersion program. “What I would like to request is to have a path for discussion … We would like to be able to present our views as well as the data to back up the (fact) that the change of policy is not in the best interest of our children.”

However, since the subject of the matter was not on the agenda, board members were prohibited from giving a response.

Karen Hendriks shared the plans for the 2019-20 Leadership Institute. Staff members who are interested in the program receive guidance and training in leadership skills. The program hopes to foster vital skillsets for future leaders to guide PAUSD.

The superintendents of education services shared the learning assessment methodologies used in throughout the district. Assessment methods are comprised of two components, formative and summative.

Formative learning serves as benchmarks; they allow students to see their weaknesses and to receive feedback and improve. In contrast, summative learning provides the results of students’ learning, evaluating the overall efficacy of learning at the end of a unit.

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