My son Paul is a Senior at Paly (Palo Alto High School) this year. I went to our final “Back to School” parents’ night last week. Starting at 6:45 pm on 10 September, I followed Paul’s daily schedule, managed to find all of his classrooms (crisscrossing the big campus as it grew dark), and talked with all of his teachers.
Paul is happy to be taking Geology, Advanced Sculpture, and Algebra-2 all year. He was surprised at how much he is also enjoying his semester-long Living Skills and Economics classes. Next semester, Economics is replaced by Sociology/History, and Living Skills is replaced by World Literature. Paul also has a Study Skills period so that he gets regular support for his learning disabilities. Paul is enjoying being the big guy in most of his classes this year, both as a Senior and because he stands almost six feet tall.
During the last three-plus years, we have found Paly to be either a good college preparatory school or a good school to support teens with physical and learning disabilities. Paly seems to do much less well teaching and supporting average kids. My family’s struggles with Paly have often been because Paul is in two groups which have no provision for overlap: he is intelligent and college-bound, and he has disabilities. Paly has good classes and services for one group or the other. Paly teachers are often excellent but we have also run into some who have minimal abilities (or desire) to support disabled students, despite our Individualized Education Program (IEP).
I observe that Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) teachers and administrators are under growing stress from overcrowded aging facilities plus social problems such as the increasing number of High School suicides in Palo Alto. We will leave Paly in June with mixed feelings.
Images Copyright 2009 by Katy Dickinson