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Portola Valley district superintendent resigns

Original post made on May 7, 2013

Carol Piraino, who picked up the reins at the Portola Valley School District last year in the wake of her predecessor's abrupt resignation while under investigation for financial irregularities, has announced she will resign as superintendent at the end of the school year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 11:22 AM

Comments (23)

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Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on May 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm

The district is like a revolving door for administrators. In the last few years there have been 2 principals at ormandale (looking for a new one now), 2 at Corte Madera, a couple of supers and assistant supers. The pay is good/very good. The facilities and kids are good. What is the reason for such high turnover (excluding the guy who was guilty of embezelment)? The teachers are relatively stable but not administration. Someone out there knows. Thanks.


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Posted by a realist
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on May 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

who knows exactly, but guessing the #1 reason for turnover is our community - parents with unrealistic expectations for their kids and what a public school can do, intense lobbying for programs and specific teachers, wealthy folks throwing their $s around and less wealthy feeling disenfranchised, parents who view ormondale as a feeder school to private school etc.. As much as we think of ourselves as open, caring, involved you only need to look at the community reaction to below-market housing, Priory selecting an athletic field to see that we are open, caring and involved only when people agree with or view. Otherwise, we can certainly be petty or worse..


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Posted by Education Reform
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Perhaps a good time to visit a school district consolidation. One school district with a common philosophy and foundation. Eliminate the administrative waste, turnover and retirement plans.

What package did she walk away with after 1 year of "service"? How much will her resignation cost the taxpayers this time?


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on May 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Between parents with too much time on their hands and an all powerful Teachers' Union it is very hard to change anything in our district. So the job ends up being hiring a principle a year and assembling Board packages. For years we have debated whether we even need a superintendent. While it is high paying and easy, it is not real meaningful. I suspect that is why she is leaving.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

See the first comment and you have your own answer!!


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Las Lomitas, Woodside, and Portola Valley all pay millions to have their own superintendents and administrative staff. Combining these three very tiny districts into one small district would improve staff quality and reduce expenses.


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Posted by Education Reform
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Taxpayer.. You are very right and throw in Menlo Park Unified with 5 schools and we have 4 school districts with 9 total schools, K-8.
The schools don't need more money, they need top manage the money they have better.


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Posted by Spartacus
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on May 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

The list of turn-over of principals and administrators at PVSD is much, much longer. It is pervasive, disturbing and enormously expensive. We need more accountability, not more money, for this school district truly to be successful. Better representation by the PVSD school board members of the broad spectrum of parents and citizens who elect them, rather than persistent pandering to the power of the teacher's union, would be an important, positive step.

Disproportionate influence over the PVSD board also comes from a few super wealthy with their own agenda. Merging PVSD with other local districts -- which are at least as high, arguably better, in terms of quality of instruction and education -- would dilute this unfortunate influence and also create substantial efficiencies. It is a sensible solution. The time has come.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Educator is a registered user.

If you are planning to merge the three elementary districts, it would make sense to re-form them into a Unified School District and start an exceptional high school that all three schools would feed into. This would reduce the load on Sequoia District's overflowing schools and maintain a community cohort in an excellent educational environment.


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Posted by Susan Smith
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 8, 2013 at 3:45 am

It would be very nice for all if La Honda/Pescadero, Woodside, King's Mountain Elementary, and Portola Valley were combined as one district. Certainly more equitable, and a better exposure to all walks of life..


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on May 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

NO MERGERS! With size comes increased politics and a complete loss of local control. The additional administration costs are a low single digit percent of the budget and a very small price to pay. Other districts would love to consolidate with PV to grab the facilities and money. A perfect example is the merger of the Alpine and MP Striker soccer clubs 2-3 years ago. The Menlo Park club got the PV fields and the PV kids got pushed down and out of the club. MP have the numbers and PV did not get a seat at the table. Club soccer participation in PV is at a record low while PV field use is at a record high.


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Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

The problem is the parents. Oh, and the teacher's too! Too many vocal parents, with good intentions and little knowledge and expertise in actually running a school district, combined with a teacher's union that works in detriment to the actual education of the children and you get this mess of a school district that just keeps spending more money while getting lower and lower test scores -- looks like it will likely get harder and harder to attract any talented administrators, or teachers for that matter, with this recipe for disaster.


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Posted by community member
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on May 8, 2013 at 10:46 am

Apparently you are only speaking of just one teacher as there would be no apostrophe after the word teacher if you were speaking of more than one. But you would know that if you had attended the excellent PVSD schools.


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Posted by Timing
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on May 8, 2013 at 11:41 am

Interesting that the PVSD Board did not announce the resignation of Superintendent Piraino until Sunday evening, after most votes for or against Measure O had been mailed. When did the Board (officially?) learn of the resignation? Did they "know," but not officially accept and announce the resignation until Measure O votes were secured? Transparency, trust... timing.


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Posted by Lily
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I agree with educator - it is time for school districts, especially small ones, to regionalize, administration and services.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

2182 citizens voted - about a 40% turnout.
1507 for
675 against

Which means that about 30% of the registered voters succeeded in raising the taxes on 100% of the citizens.

This shows the importance of every citizen exercising their right to vote.


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Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Oh, please "Timing" - this sort of accusatory type of speculation is precisely why we face so much turnover in leadership in our district.
I hope these 2 recent resignations in our schools serve as a wake-up call to our community regardng our behavior towards those who lead our schools. We simply never give any of these administrators (or Board Members) the benefit of the doubt and we question every attempt at change they make. Without any credentials, many of us have annointed ourselves the preeminent authority on elementary and middle school education. Our arrogance is appalling.
We are opening the door for talented educators to join the ranks of private schools where they do not deal with the complexity of municipal finance, teacher unions, and special education. If we add poorly behaved parents to the mix, we will surely run every talented administrator out of town. Let's take a moment to reflect on our own role in this turnover issue.



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Posted by Worked there
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

There are mainly truly wonderful teachers in the district, but there are some awful ones--and they have not only been there a long time but they are bullies and very divisive. With the teacher's union in PV run the way it is (not for the betterment of the school but to protect all teachers, which in this case means the bad ones, and to minimize the amount of work required), to make any real changes is an almost impossible task. A healthy work place is not possible when the employees don't support/trust one another. The PV schools are toxic. Why wouldn't someone leave for a healthier environment?
There needs to be a house cleaning and that will require a strong, very strong, administrator and the parents' support.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Worked there provides an interesting perspective.

Has or will the board do an exit interview with the departing superintendent to determine the real reasons for her departure?


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Posted by Spartacus
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on May 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I posted the following comment in response to the article noting that the PV parcel tax passed, but believe it is relevant to Mr. Carpenter's observation, above, and to this discussion generally.

*****

It seems inappropriate to allow some PV property owners -- many of whom are quite well-off and already pay a fraction of the property taxes paid by newer owners by virtue of Prop 13 -- to vote for this forced contribution by others, while preserving an "opt out" for themselves.

Assuming it is true that support for local schools (even if excessive) beneficially impacts property values, this creates a category of "free-riders."

Actually, it's more insidious: Those planning to "opt out" are incentivized to vote for an assessment which improves their own property values, knowing that they will benefit from something for which they do not have to pay.

-How many voted for this measure who plan to opt out?

-Would it have passed without these votes?

-To be consistent with the concept of equal protection (as well as basic fairness), shouldn't the measure be required to receive a 2/3 majority of those actually paying the tax?

-Are those opting out willing to have their names published? (Presumably fairly easily compiled from public records)

This would be a great topic for a follow-up article by the Almanac.


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Posted by CR
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on May 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Concur completely with 'Worked there', and most PV parents know who the teacher bullies are, and try to keep their children from their classes or remove them completely. The tenure situation is a joke, as the tenured bullies ensure the younger, better, more progressive teachers do not have the chance to stay, and they can continue to be as mean as they see fit.

The school district is a toxic environment for kids, parents, teachers and administrators. Don't blame the superintendent at all for wanting to leave. Wish her luck and much happiness away from the Cursed Middle School.



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Posted by LHPUSD Resident
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2013 at 9:39 am

While there are many good arguments for consolidation, as a resident of LHPUSD, I would be very concerned that the needs of the truly rural and less affluent part of the South Coast would be bulldozed under by the self-interest of the very affluent communities of Portola Valley and Woodside. I used to volunteer with a youth organization in PV and Woodside and changed communities for that volunteer work because so many of the parents in PV and Woodside were insufferable. Many well-meaning, bright, well-educated people, but also too many privileged folks who were arrogant, self important even in ignorance and who treated the volunteers like the hired help. I now do the same work in a less affluent, more diverse community and the parents are cordial, polite, respectful and understand the power of the words, "thank you for volunteering."

So, by all means pursue consolidation, but only with a philosophy of what is best for a much more ethnically, culturally and, most of all, socio-economically diverse community of families. If you really don't care about the quality of life and opportunity in the entire consolidated district, but rather only care whether or not Junior is going to get into Yale, then we really don't want to consolidate with you.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A great example of 'consolidation' is the Menlo Park Fire Protection District which was established before any of the cities it serves - East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton (plus parts of the unincorporated area of the county). The Fire District serves almost 100,000 very economically and social diverse citizens and provides each of them with exactly the same quality of service. There is no reasons that a consolidated school district could not do the same. The key is to establish a service standard and then to make sure that that same standard of service is provided to everyone in the district.


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