Principal reaches out to community with coffee and pizza

Kate Marinkovich, Author

Diorio pizza
Diorio poses with a pizza box from a student lunchtime meeting. “The more I listen to people the more good ideas I hear,” Diorio said. Photo by Kate Marinkovich.

In an effort to reach out to the Palo Alto High School community, Principal Kim Diorio has planned a new series of dates with students and parents.

Twice a month (once in the evening and once in the morning) she will meet with parents for coffee, and once a month at lunch she will meet with students for pizza. These meetings will provide a setting in which students and teachers can share their Paly experience and get to know Diorio.

“[I’m] trying to get a smaller group of students that I can just talk to every now and then, see how things are going, [and] get some feedback: what needs to improve, what needs to change, what we need to work on,” Diorio said. “There’s no real agenda, just getting to know each other better.”

The purpose of these sessions is to increase accessibility and transparency, according to Diorio.

“There is something to be said for that face-to-face contact,” Diorio said.

The parent coffee sessions are open to all parents who wish to attend. Dioro released an announcement of the sessions in the Paly Link, and is hoping to get a small group of parents to attend each. The student sessions, however, are not open to all students, rather specifically chosen by Diorio.

“For the student piece I will …  pick the different groups, but hopefully I’ll get a good cross-section,” Diorio said. “The more diversity and different types of students I can talk to, the better.”

For the most part the students chosen will share common activities or classes, according to Dioro. The first group of students she will meet with are the freshmen who participated in the Summer Bridge Program, a program designed to help the transition into high school. Next month she plans to meet with a group of seniors to evaluate the big picture and their four years at Paly.

However, Dioro will not make these events exclusive to different groups.

“I might even give passes to Mr. [Craig] Tuana and Mr. [Jerry] Berkson and tell them to hand these out to 25 random people on the quad and mix it up that way,” Diorio said.

These events have surfaced in close proximity to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges evaluations; however, the event was not created as a facet of the WASC initiative, according to Diorio.

“It is another way to reach and get a feeling, as we go through the WASC process, [of] what we need to work on, but I hope to continue it after WASC and make it a regular part of our school culture,” Diorio said.

Diorio has already met with one parent group (Mar. 6) and one student group (Mar. 18). According to Diorio, the first parent meeting was a success.

“I really like it,” said Diorio. “I enjoy getting to talk to [parents] I don’t normally get to talk to.”

Diorio has also acknowledged that sometimes these meetings will not be necessary, and is prepared for a time when no one comes.

“There’s no right or wrong,” Diorio said. “There might be times when people don’t need to come talk to me, but I want to give people a venue to at least get to know me.”

And in conclusion, that’s what this is: a chance for students and parent’s to get to know the principal, and for the principal to draw input from them.

“It’s an opportunity to listen to our students,” Diorio said. “Having been at Paly so long, I worry about students feeling like they don’t have a voice… so [its about] how can I meet with students and make sure their voice is heard. They have a principal who cares about them. I really do care about our kids and I want to hear from them.”