Dear Ms. Gaona Mendoza,
.
First I want to congratulate you again, for being elected to the EPA school board! And to express my admiration for your brave voice and ongoing acts!
I hope that your child is doing better.
.
I wrote to you more than three years ago. I am copying my first open letter below.
.
A lot has happened since I first wrote to you.  I have addressed you quite a few times on this blog since then.  And you kindly responded to a few of my posts (the posts can be found using the search box on the right, above).
I wrote to you after the Oct 8, 2013 board meeting. Watching you (link #1, below) triggered my first open address. I was appalled. That 10/8/13  board meeting started with a celebration of unity, continued with reporting that Special Ed was 100% successful in implementing inclusion. .  As it turned out, not all was as rosy as presented in that meeting. The fact that PAUSD was under  California Department of Education (CDE)  investigation was not mentioned during that meeting, the recent Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resolution is the last of many occurrences proving that not all was perfect.
.
I watched you recently acknowledging a change and I wondered –
Did anyone except for Mr. Dauber apologize to you?  (While I feel Mr. Dauber’s recent apology was a gentleman’s act, he caused no harm, since he was not on the board at the time).
I am asking about a genuine apology from those who should have learned given all that went wrong, given all the resolutions, I am asking also since I mentioned the Civil Liberty Act of 1988 where acknowledgment and apology were defined as the the first steps, prerequisites to real correction.
Did any of those who actually wronged your child and you apologize?
.
Another question: The recent OCR resolution called for independent investigation. As it turns out, PAUSD will employ the investigator. Do you think that anyone paid by PAUSD can be independent?
.
I will not be able list all of my questions and thoughts here. More to come.
.
Yours, respectfully, with the greatest gratitude
Village Fool
.
..
And a few related thoughts and questions:
1. Independent investigation: this issue was discussed many times. I raised the clear need in my open address to Mr. Dauber on March 2013, asking him to form a shadow board. There was an online discussion about an ombudsman. I still think that any investigation needs to be done by an outside entity. I cannot see how a conflict of interest can be avoided here.
2. How come PAUSD went from 100% success to committees, investigations etc.? Can any institution this large credibly claim 100% success?
3. Are there any safe places or platforms to raise concerns without risking retaliation?
***
.
My first open address:

Open address to Ms. Mendoza, the Lady who addressed PAUSD board on 10/8/13, and few related thoughts —

Dear Ms. Mendoza,

I am writing to express my admiration, respect, gratitude and shame.

I will start with the shame – I was embarrassed to watch (link #1) the lack of empathy, lack of respect and the lack of gratitude – all these were totally due when you stood to speak up after the presentation about the “new vision” in special education.

The board and audience all should have applauded – you brought the change. None of the new declarations would have been offered without your courageous actions.

I truly hope your child is doing better. I think you know more than others why anyone who has high stakes in PAUSD will not come forward. Retaliation was mentioned so many times.

I hope the day will come when you will stand in front of PAUSD offices and the grateful, respectful, admiring people of Palo Alto, free from fear of retaliation, will stand in line to shake your hand – all in broad day light. I know I will be there.

Yours, respectfully,

village fool

.

And few related thoughts/questions –
1. I do not know who actually came forward to the Weekly with the information about the OCR settlement.
In any case – I am very thankful to the family who came forward. I noted that many times before.

2. I called many times, as have many others, for an independent investigation. We are still waiting for this, and still believe it is needed…
I think that the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (link #2) beautifully defines the logic behind attempting to correct wrongs. It seems to me this logic is especially compelling here, since it is about an education system. The preliminary steps, before any change is possible were defined as: 1. Acknowledge. 2. Apologize. 3. Educate. Unfortunately, it seems that PAUSD is in the pre-Acknowledge step. My address to Ms. Mendoza above was triggered by the board’s reaction to her on Tuesday evening, clearly showing their lack of acknowledgement.

3. Who do the board members represent? On 5/24/2013 (link #3) I wrote: ” …..The latest info as to the closed board sessions dealing with litigation had me wonder – Who are the board member serving? Info about the first OCR case revealed that the parents tried to contact the board members, seeking help. Seems that a closed session could be about a case where board members were contacted by community parents who ended addressing the OCR. I am wondering, simply – on what side are the board members? Closed session makes it clear that the board sides with the district officials – anyways, always. Should concerned parents try to contact the board members regarding concerns they have, knowing that the board always sides with the district officials? Conflict of interest?”

Link #1 –http://www.midpenmedia.org/watch/pausd_webcast/October/PAUSD_100813.html – Ms. Mendoza’: 1:46 hours
Link #2 – http://www.civics-online.org/library/formatted/texts/civilact1988.html
Link #3 – http://www.paloaltoonline.com/square/index.php?i=3&d=1&t=20391

Many  questions to follow.

Here is my post from May 2014. Please scroll down, a bit.

Blog Housekeeping, and – “A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners”

Blog Housekeeping –
This note is heads up  for those who signed up for email delivering of my postings  – Thank you!!!!

I have listed many times my thoughts about the ongoing censoring on PAOnline, which is “… an important area for discussion within the community about the power of censorship in shaping andbiasing the discussion on Palo Alto issues….”  – Anonymous (link #1).  I related more to this issue here (link #2), among many other places, and obviously on the page I dedicated to “Before and After” censoring/editing.

I am planning to comment here, posting, instead of using the “Ongoing” page  which I initially  dedicated to this purpose.  This may result in more frequent postings (depending on the events) – I wanted to give you a fair notice. I’ll try and see.
.
And –
Here are some thoughts related to recent news and comments posted both on the thread letting us know of the new Gunn principal (link #3), and the thread that listed a letter to the editor about the recent news as to Palo Alto high. (link #4):
The news of the new Gunn principal had me think of the broom quote I listed on the title. Without getting into any specific details regarding the new principal  (who I obviously do not know), having a new broom may totally make sense when a serious cleanup is called for.  A “new broom” can bring new fresh perspectives, free of the local habits formed over many years and taken for granted.
Many have called for an independent investigation into PAUSD practices. Such an investigation seems less likely than ever.  My estimation of the magnitude of the cleanup called for caused me to address Mr. Dauber more than a year ago, calling on him to form a Shadow PAUSD Board (Link #5), and ask him, again, on December 2013 to reconsider my suggestion (my blog – link #6.1, Palo Alto online – Link #6.2)
My perspective of the magnitude of the work called for to cleanup reminds me of Hercules, thinking of his choice as to the best method to clean the stables. Nobody wants to go the way Hercules went, or to throw out the baby with the bath water.
 I am still convinced that the bigger picture calls for a serious investigation of past events.  I suggested that the past decade be reviewed in my “objectives” for the PAUSD Shadow Board since I am convinced that some patterns were established well before the last Superintendent and all need to be identified.
.
The letter to the editor titled “Modeling Bad Behavior” (listed  in Link #4) caused me to think of the second part of the broom quote which I listed in the title. This letter deals with the story about the ex-principal of Palo Alto High.  (I did relate to teachers’ personal modeling in another post relating to the thread that brought us the news about PAUSD Board’s  secret meeting – link #7).
.

When the new principal of Palo Alto high was announced last year, the Weekly published an article titled:

“New Paly Principal Knows Her Way Around Campus” (link #8).  Again – the second part of the broom quote comes to mind.

The following is a partial list of questions I asked myself, particularly in light of the recently published allegations around the prior principal’s actions and his subsequent demotion.  I do hope that these questions were properly considered:

1.  Was Ms. Diorio aware of the sexual harassment allegations that were investigated by PAUSD officials before those became a cause for PAUSD official’s  investigation?

1.1 – If Ms. Diorio was aware of the allegations:
1.1.1  Where did she take the info?
1.1.2 – If she was aware, and did not forward the info, why didn’t she? (Was it because she was afraid of retaliation?)
.

1.2 If Ms. Diorio was not aware of the allegations –

1.2.1 Was she approachable to the woman who felt harassed?
1.2.2 How come she was not aware?
.
2. Streaking, campus culture etc. sampling –
2.1 Did Ms. Diorio think that a clothes-optional school is a blessing to this community?
2.2 If she did not approve of the streaking occurrences, where did she take her concerns before she was promoted? What did she do about her concerns?
.

Basically, if any of the allegations published about the prior principal are correct, did Ms. Diorio roam around campus with her eyes/ears/mouth closed?  And if so, why?

.
.
A week ago (2/28/17) I posted a partial description  of the circumstances that led to the complete closure of the  thread dealing with PAUSD secret meetings (link #1). I noted many times that I thought the info was super important, I could not underhand the rationale behind the heavy censorship, the way the discussion was stiffed.
Here are couple of examples of my  comments which were removed completely. I still cannot underhand why. Please note  “never been more disgusted” and  “Teachers too” comments, to which i related below. Seems to me that their comments are still very relevant.

Before- posted on 01/02/2014

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
0 minutes ago
village fool is a registered user.
@Never been more disgusted – Back in July you wrote:
“…Or maybe I will continue to teach my students that their democratic duty is to criticize their elected and paid leaders to ensure that they are representing us. My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be.”
I wished you, then, that you voice will be heard. I decided, then, to try to follow up with you.
I want to think that you also teach the virtues of free speech, First Amendment etc.

“teachers too” ended her/his comment here ( Web Link) saying: “… they are the people we pay to care for our kids, and they are all part of the problem. Until they recognize that and stop playing the game of silence, then only then will we be on the way to improvement.”

All correlates nicely to your July’s comment, above.

Wishing you that your voice will be heard and inspire your students. Many agree that teachers’ personal modeling can go a long way.
Happy New year!

(this is part of a longer post in my blog – Web Link)

After:

Comment removed, completely.

——————————

Before – posted 12/15/2013:

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
0 minutes ago

village fool is a registered user.

@Never been so disgusted – Back in July I decided to try and follow up with you. I posted here, yesterday, Saturday 12/14/12.
My sincere efforts to conform to the Terms of Use did not help me, and my comment disappeared completely. It can be found on my blog where I have posted samples of editing/censoring (Web Link)

Happy Holidays and Break! (I hope my holiday greetings will remain untouched)

After:

Post gone, completely.

——————————————–

Before:

The following comment was posted, and disappeared on Saturday, 12/14/13

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
1 hour ago

village fool is a registered user.

@Never been more disgusted – back in July you wrote – “…Or maybe I will continue to teach my students that their democratic duty is to criticize their elected and paid leaders to ensure that they are representing us. My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be.”
I wished you, then, that your voice would be heard.

Back in July I decided to try and follow up with you. I am writing to wish you a great Holiday and break!

I do hope that you are also teaching the virtues of free speech. I wonder if teaching the virtues of free speech include any type of personal modeling?
Back in July I could not have foreseen my comments being removed the way they have been now. I am aware that this thread was restricted only to those who log in. I am sorry about that, apparently this is a one way communication. I could suggest an alternative, but I think that having mentioned an alternative is one of the reasons that had my comments have disappeared completely, so I’ll refrain from mentioning alternatives.

I am copying “Teachers too”s comment (which was posted here: Web Link). This comment articulates parts of the thoughts I was having back in July. I am hoping that copying a comment which was not edited will help me in my sincere effort to conform here and have this comment remained untouched.

“Teachers too” wrote: “The school board is responsible for approving policy and directing the superintendent, currently Kevin Skelly, and they have been woefully incapable of these basic responsibilities. Increasingly absent are defensive excuses in this forum about how they are volunteers, good-people, and other emptiness designed to divert attention from how harmful the school board and Kevin Skelly have been to the PAUSD brand. Teachers are perhaps the biggest part of this particular thread. They are the most important adult at school in a student’s life and they have the most contact time with the student, and that includes the supervision and monitoring for the student’s well-being. In some of these bullying cases, the teacher has been accused, just like the principal, of failing to protect the student from bullying. In short, bullying has everything to do about teachers. It’s quite basic. Union folks have been eerily quiet about this whole mess. I think part is explained by a deal to remain quiet and collect raises, you know, don’t rock the boat and you’ll get what you want. I think the other part is that the union doesn’t know what to do, judging by the past few years of watching former PAEA president Triona Gogarty and current president Teri Baldwin publicly represent teachers at PAUSD board meetings, focusing of pay raises and nothing else. PAEA is one of the most powerful forces in PAUSD, nothing gets done without Skelly first asking for approval, and that includes anti-bullying policy. You would think that paying all these people more would result in the resolution of PAUSD problems, but it has had the opposite effect. Will the board’s 5-0 vote in 12 hours make Skelly a better leader? Well, did the 5-0 votes last month and in the spring to give raises to the teachers and principals make them better at what they do? They are all part of the organization, they are the people we pay to care for our kids, and they are all part of the problem. Until they recognize that and stop playing the game of silence, then only then will we be on the way to improvement. ”

Let me copy, again, the last sentence of “Teachers too”s comment – “… they are the people we pay to care for our kids, and they are all part of the problem. Until they recognize that and stop playing the game of silence, then only then will we be on the way to improvement. ”
This goes back to my points about modeling the virtues of free speech and exercising academic freedom.

Wishing you, again, great Holiday!

After:

Comment gone.  Completely.

.

.

Link#1 – http://www.paloaltoonline.com/square/2013/07/12/in-secret-school-board-weighs-not-cooperating-with-federal-agency

On July 2013 The PA Weekly published a thread titled:  In secret, school board weighs not cooperating with federal agency (link #1).
As it turns out  those discussions surfaced again,  rescind or not? etc.
I thought then that the info was ultra important and that the censoring silenced a very important discussion. Many comments vanished. The thread was made available  only to those who login very short time after I posted the question: 

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community

on Jul 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

I am confused – is it certain that the recent agreements with the OCR will be followed?

Making a thread available only to those who login proved to stifle the discussion. This thread took many twists, other threads relating to this issue popped up in an attempt to continue this discussion without logging in  (so I believe). This thread was a personal straw for me: the  combination of the importance the issue discussed and the censorship stifling the discussion was the  reason I decided to start a blog, a place where I cannot be deleted. I continued to try to point to the importance of those secret meetings. Most of my comments vanished, samples can be found of the page I dedicated to the ongoing censoring (link #3). The thread was locked completely after the editorial addressing the “Cut the Mike night” – Nadir.. Here are the comments leading to the secret meetings thread being locked completely (link #2):

Posted by yes, but, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:16 am

Town Square Moderator,

There is a separate thread which Village Fool keeps resuscitating which I believe is a method to ignite controversy surrounding similar issues. It’s among your top posts of the day. If people click, it just gets more views, usually few people have commented since the original thread was started.

I have appreciated your delivering news on the topics regardless of controversy; however, when posters use a thread to ignite passions towards one view or another, that seems unnecessary. Astroturf movements on Town Square should at least have real people behind them.

Palo Alto Online Moderator Response:

Thanks for pointing this out. We’ve closed that topic from further comment so this won’t happen any longer.

Discussion gone with the locking of this thread, until pretty recently. Rescind? Why? etc.

The above is a very partial tale. More censored comments  can be found a on the page I dedicated to the ongoing censoring. (link #3). 
 
And – 
Dear Ms. Gaona Mendoza- Congrats!  Another open letter is on the works. More than three years ago  I addressed you first time (link #4), I have written to you quite a few times since.  Thank you for your thoughtful responses and for all you do!
.
.
Link #1 – http://www.paloaltoonline.com/square/2013/07/12/in-secret-school-board-weighs-not-cooperating-with-federal-agency
Link #3 – https://villagefoolopenboard.wordpress.com/editing-before-and-after/
Link #4- https://villagefoolopenboard.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/open-address-to-ms-mendoza-the-lady-who-brought-the-office-of-civil-rights-ocr-to-pausd-and-few-related-thoughts/
@info on on Special Ed –

You started a thread on Palo Alto Online asking of ways to find info about Special Ed (link #1).  I am responding to you here in the hope that you will see my response since I cannot post online. My IP address is blocked and anything I post from another place noting “my name” vanishes.
.
The California Department of Education (CDE) maintains a site that may have some answers to the questions you asked. I do not know if you are familiar with this site – dataquest (link #2) below.
You can find all sorts of info about Special Ed, Enrollment by disability, enrollment by race, dropouts, etc., and you can compare district level, school level, etc. (not all info is available in all levels).
As an example – I just saw that PAUSD had on 2015/2016 118 white students and 20 Asian students who have been diagnosed to have “Specific Learning Disorder.”
.
Having written the above, I would take the info with a grain of salt. I say this because PAUSD was under investigation by the CDE.  This investigation was not reported to the public when Special Ed successes were presented to the school board three years ago. I refer to this meeting (link #3 below) when I wrote an open letter to Ms. Gaona Mendosa. I  must admit that I did not follow the resulting investigation closely – the random comments I read during the past three years indicate that Superintendent reported to the public only after the investigation ended and all issues were corrected. You may want to also check Edmond Burke’s blog (no longer active), which also referred to the CDE investigation.

And a few additional notes/questions (bearing in mind that I did not research current situation):
– You may see references to “specific learning disorder.” This used to be the biggest % of diagnosed disabilities.  Last I checked, California’s students are shortchanged on the National level compared to Vermont, for example. Meaning that, in order to qualify in California, a student has to have a “bigger difficulty” than a student who attends school in Vermont.  Students in other states may get the support they need early, while California students will not qualify. This inequity will have long term impacts not only the lack of support, but inequity (on a national level) where other states may have accommodations for SAT impacting college admissions, etc.
– Private placements:  Way back I heard of students attending Charles Armstrong school at PAUSD expense. Those who shared this with me and were interested in exploring this issue told me that private lawyers were apparently involved in some placements and the info about the settlement between the student’s family and PAUSD was to be kept confidential. I do not know if this info is correct. If it was correct, I do not know if the students were part of Dataquest’s statistics, nor how to see this expense. I do not know if there is a way to see how much $ PAUSD spent on legal settlements.  Also – if this info was correct, I am wondering if any underrepresented minority student was ever sent to such school.
– If the bit I mentioned above about Charles Armstrong school is accurate, it may be part of the explanation  (along other similar bits) why many thought that PAUSD’s Special Ed  was better years ago, as those who had the means to hire private lawyers got what they wanted.
.