Recently appointed principal Scott Laurence begins the 2004-2005 school year with plans to increase individual guidance for students as well as complete campus maintenance projects already in progress.
Laurence recognizes that “things have changed over the last 10 years” and considers a major issue to be “educating people on time.” “There’s more competition to get into various colleges, the pace of life is faster with the internet, there’s a lot of things that have changed around us,” Laurence said in an interview on Monday, Aug. 23. “In our trying to adapt, sometimes for adolescents — and even for adults — we get over scheduled.”
In combating student stress, Laurence plans to approach the issue with a different emphasis than past administrators. “I think what we’re going to have to do — and this is my goal — is be able to individually address students and what is good for them as individuals, and that’s going to be different,” Laurence said. “The focus is, you can say it’s ‘kid by kid,’ you can say it’s an ‘individual education plan,’ but the goal is —- and I’ve been talking about it over and over again with the people here — instead of trying to deal with stress, I want to deal with your stress.”
“I can’t do that with the system — I can do it with you,” Laurence added. “So that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to talk to kids [individually]. When we [the Paly community] were smaller, back in the days of 1,100 students, we did a better job.”
Laurence began his focus on the goal of specialized individual attention during his tenure as principal at Gunn. “Here you have to figure out how to do this with T.A.’s,” he said. “There [Gunn] you have to figure out how to do it with guidance counselors. You have to do it in a different way, but it’s still the same goal.”
Laurence is finding the transition from Gunn to Paly a smooth one. “Since I’ve been here for so many years, there’s not a lot of adapting that needs to go on,” Laurence said. “Since I know a lot of the teaching staff, I know how the school system works. I was a teaching aide. I was a football coach. I kind of know Paly rather well.”
Despite a thorough familiarity with both Paly and the Palo Alto Unified School District, Laurence worked over the summer with former interim principal Sandra Pearson to gain a broader perspective. “We [Pearson and I] are good friends,” Laurence said. “I’ve known her for … how many years. She gave me a lot of insight [into] a lot of things that have happened here over the last few years that I wasn’t aware of. We spent some real good quality time working together.”
As a part of his new position, Laurence has assumed a role in overseeing the completion of campus renovation projects. “For me, I’m still listening a lot, I’m still trying to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction, and with all the building — I’m sure you’ve noticed that the science building is gone — There’s some pretty major stuff going on right now. Our focus right now is getting the school open with as few glitches as possible, and right now I think we’re okay, and that’s what I’m doing,” Laurence said.
As students return to Paly this week, Laurence said he hopes that the student body, especially the incoming freshman class “feel welcome, and that they think that we [the administration] care about them as individuals.”