The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Final school-board meeting of the year sees discussion of PAUSD Promise, new high school courses, ethnic studies curriculum

At their Dec. 12 meeting, school-board members elected next year’s president and vice president, reviewed progress on the PAUSD Promise, approved new high school courses, and listened to community concerns about antisemitism and the ethnic studies curriculum during Open Forum. 

The Board elected current Vice President Jesse Ladomirak as Board president and current Board member Shana Segal as vice president for next year, as per the Board’s rotating-leadership system. In this system, the vice president becomes president the following year, and the member elected to the Board earliest becomes the new vice president. If two candidates were elected in the same year, the candidate with the larger share of the vote when elected becomes vice president. The Board president’s job is to create the meeting agendas with the Superintendent and the vice president, look over Board-approved committee assignments and talk to attorneys and the media. 

Following the election, Addison Elementary School Principal Jeffrey Downing presented an update on its PAUSD Promise equity goals, including developing better student-centered supports. In order to create an environment that better meets each student’s needs, Addison plans to conduct reading and math interventions and develop monthly life skills and Zones of Regulation, among other measures. 

“Zones of Regulation helps students develop language to describe feelings that they may have,” Downing said. “Naming these feelings and having strategies about how to deal with them helps students learn to self-regulate and minimize behavioral outburst.” 

These life skills will be featured on posters in every classroom and discussed in school assemblies, according to Downing. December’s life skill was generosity. 

The Board also approved two new high school courses for next year: Asian American Literature, proposed by Gunn English teacher Diane Ichikawa, and Advanced Placement Physics 2, proposed by Gunn Science Instructional Lead Laurie Pennington. With the addition of AP Physics 2, Gunn students will now have access to all available AP Physics courses. 

During the discussion, Board President Jesse Ladomirak noted that a lack of advanced humanities classes could compel students to take STEM courses that they don’t enjoy. 

“The reality is all of our students, not just the ones who thrive in STEM, are under an enormous amount of pressure to pack their high school transcripts with AP and honors courses in order to look good on college applications,” she said. “An unintended impact of that imbalance is that many students who enjoy and feel more confident in humanities classes can feel like they have no option but to forgo those classes and instead take more math and science because that’s where the AP and the honors courses are.”

Finally, during Open Forum, Jewish students and parents expressed concerns about antisemitism and exclusion or misrepresentation of Jewish experiences in the soon-to-be-required ethnic studies course. Two PAUSD students, including Paly sophomore Ella Segev, shared their personal experiences.  

“It was only three weeks after Oct. 7,” she said. “I was walking out of my class and some kid came up to me and said to my face ‘F the Jews, free Palestine.’ For the rest of that day, I was in utter shock that an incident like the ones I’ve seen on the news had personally happened to me. I have faced firsthand antisemitism for the first time in my life here at Paly.” 

Parents suggested adapting the ethnic studies course to include more Jewish-American history and urged the Board to give them a more active role in shaping the curriculum. PAUSD parent Linor Levav hopes to work with the Board to find a solution. 

“Along with others in our community, we are committed to working with the Board and administration to ensure the Jews are represented accurately and respected in our classrooms,” she said during the meeting.

The next school-board meeting will be on Jan. 16, 2024.

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About the Contributor
Lise Desveaux, Centerfold Editor
Senior Lise Desveaux is a centerfold editor for The Oracle and has been on staff since January 2021. Outside of school, she enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, reading and shopping on Etsy.
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