Board addresses numerous community issues in recent meeting


Julian Hong

Declining enrollment and the PAUSD Promise were among the many items discussed at the April 18th  board of education meeting.

Board President Jennifer DiBrienza said the board is looking for ways to increase student enrollment, but Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin said she has apprehensions about the district’s plan for addressing the decrease. Part of the proposed solution would permit district employees working 75% of the time to enroll their children in PAUSD schools, invite full-time Palo Alto City employees to enroll their children in PAUSD, and establish enrollment timelines.

“I would like us to consider reducing the percentage to 50%, although 60% might be more feasible,” Baldwin said. “Please consider that our other benefits are already 50% or more, and other districts have implemented lower percentages.”

Board member Shana Segal said she was concerned about the potential surge in students if the board were to approve such a plan.

“We are a basic aid district, which means we don’t receive funding per student,” Segal said. “Increasing the number of students will actually decrease the funding per student. Can you explain the rationale behind increasing enrollment instead of focusing on having more money per student?”

Responding to these concerns, Superintendent Don Austin said the proposal would positively contribute to students’ education at sites experiencing declining enrollment. 

“Increased enrollment allows us to reduce the number of combination classes,” Austin said. “Although we could just add 10 teachers, it would cost about $1.5 million, and we wouldn’t have had the 7% compensation increase for all employees. We want to avoid the immediate need to close schools. If we were not a basic aid district, we would be closing at least two schools. By increasing enrollment, we can maintain more electives and extracurriculars at smaller schools, especially at the secondary level.”

Ultimately, the board approved the measure, 5-0, witt the Paly and Gunn student representatives also using their preferential vote to support the proposal.

In other matters, DiBrienza said the PAUSD Promise is being updated—a new item, innovation, is replacing healthy attendance. According to the Board Agenda ​​Discussion Item A, healthy attendance is now grouped underneath safety and wellness instead of being deleted. 

“(The PAUSD Promise) is a document on our website that people can see, and as long as it’s accessible, people will really understand our priorities and key performance indicators,” DiBrienza said. “I was also excited to see the innovation piece since we’re trying to look at ways we could innovate and better serve more students in a changing economy and world.”