Written by: Ben Atlas
On Mar. 19, a report by Gunn’s Guidance Advisory Committee (GAC) was presented before the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) school board to provide recommendations for general improvement of the school. The report, authored by a group of 17 students, teachers, counselors and administrators provides a host of 41 suggestions to better the quality of life on campus. Each suggestion was unanimously approved by the committee members.
According to the GAC report, “GAC was charged to work together as representatives of diverse constituencies and viewpoints to recommend what it collaboratively believes to best support the academic, social-emotional and post-secondary needs of all Gunn High School students.” Recommendations for school improvement are organized into six categories: Support Structures, School Environment and Culture, Communication, Connection and Curriculum, Improving Outcomes for All and Leadership. A group of administrators including Principal Katya Villalobos presented possible plans of specific practices to implemented designed to promote social, academic and emotional wellness. Villalobos characterized the report as “framed to look at the strengths and weaknesses of our guidance system.” According to Villalobos, the administration will take an approach that involves goals for each of the upcoming three school years.
According to PAUSD Director of Secondary Education Michael Milliken, recommendations were based on expert opinions, focus groups and surveys of Gunn students and successes of other local schools. Assistant Principal Tom Jacoubowksy outlined three major points of implementation over the next year. The administration will create two additional assemblies: one presenting Gunn’s adolescent counseling services and another illustrating general ways for students to create a more emotionally stable community. The second assembly will include ways for students to give and seek help as well as ways to refer troubled friends to capable adults.
According to Jacoubowksy, the coming school year will also entail the extension of Titan 101 for one to two meetings for sophomores. Lastly, a new counselor will be introduced whose duties are strictly oriented around collegiate admissions. This “college and career counselor” will be able to focus exclusively on giving juniors and seniors advice about what to do after graduation.
As part of a larger long-term approach, the administration will be examining potential changes to the daily schedule. “Our current daily schedule, which has not changed in 20 years, makes it difficult for us to accommodate some of the GAC objectives,” Jacoubowksy said. According to Jacoubowksy, time for social and emotional help usually comes out of tutorial, class time or department meetings. Thus, altering the schedule may provide an easier path to integration for certain GAC objectives.
The report was published on Feb. 26, and was presented to the school board on Mar. 19. “We believe these goals are very doable. It’s a lot of work, but we can easily take action,” Villalobos said.