School board looks to improve academic culture, support services

    The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will discuss student safety and health as well as engage in an informational presentation regarding various counseling programs at the meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the District Office.

    According to Supt. Max McGee, the presentation intends to explain mental health and wellness support systems available at high schools, while opening up discussion for future improvements.

    “The primary purpose is to share the depth and breadth of support we have for mental health supports,” McGee said. “As for improvement, we need to make sure every student feels they belong at our schools, are connected to other students, and have confidence and trust in a caring adult with whom they can talk at school.”

    The district is in the process of designing a survey to gather student input on the current services available, according to PAUSD Communications Coordinator Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley.

    “We are always learning more and improving these efforts,” Kappeler-Hurley said. “In order to better understand the student voice in this effort, we are in the process of creating a student survey on counseling services that we expect to administer in April and May.”

    On March 10, Palo Alto High School students and community members addressed the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education and urged administrators to repair the city’s broken academic climate during an Open Forum on Tuesday of last week, one day after the death of a Paly student by suicide.

    Senior and ASB President Claire Liu reminded the district to implement changes after thorough evaluative research and emphasized that the community must avoid any false presumptions.

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    Senior and ASB President Claire Liu voices her opinion to avoid approaching the subject of mental health with any preconceived notions during Open Forum at the board meeting on March 10. Liu was one of the three Paly students who spoke during the forum. Photo by Takaaki Sagawa.

    “We must be very cautious about blaming tragedies on causes that we don’t necessarily know to be the causes,” Liu said. “Let us approach this obstacle without blame, without assumptions, with empathy, with research, with student voice and [with] mental health experts.”

    McGee looks forward to hearing student input on the subject of mental health, and how to improve upon current offerings.

    “We [the Board] always appreciate community participation and listen closely to it,” McGee wrote in an email. “The board members and I were especially impressed with the students who spoke.”

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