Paly, Gunn principals stepping down

By the Daily Post staff

In a Friday afternoon bombshell, Palo Alto School Superintendent Don Austin announced that the principals of both of the city’s high schools are stepping down in June.

Kathie Laurence, principal at Gunn, will become the district’s director of secondary education, and move to the main office at 25 Churchill Ave. Adam Paulson, principal at Paly, is stepping down for what were described as personal reasons.

In 2018, both Laurence and Paulson were criticized in an outside investigation of the district’s mishandling of a sex assault report.

A male Paly student had been convicted of sexual assault in a 2015 incident in a bathroom at a Palo Alto church, but administrators allowed him to remain on campus in violation of district policy. Then a girl reported that he sexually assaulted her in a bathroom at Paly in 2016.

The district hired the law firm of Cozen O’Connor to conduct an investigation into how the case was handled by administrators at Paly and 25 Churchill. At the time, Laurence and Paulson were assistant principals at Paly.

Others who came in for criticism in the Cozen O’Connor report were then-Superintendent Max McGee, former Assistant Superintendent for School Support Services Holly Wade, then Paly Principal Kim Diorio and assistant principals Jerry Berkson and Victoria Kim.

Laurence and Paulson will step down on June 30.

Paulson had been at the helm at Paly since April 2018. Laurence has led Gunn since July 2017.

Laurence made $186,996 in regular pay in 2018, and $266,536 when benefits are included, according to Transparent California, a website that keeps track of public sector pay. The same site says that Paulson made $178,486 in 2018, and $253,600 including benefits.

Austin will discuss the moves at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The district will post ads for the openings on Wednesday. Those ads will appear on Edjoin and LinkedIn.

The window to apply for the jobs closes on Feb. 18, and screening interviews will start Feb. 21. The screening will be done by Superintendent Austin, district HR chief Karen Hendricks and Sharon Ofek.

The new principals will be announced March 13, according to a timeline released by Austin.

Ofek, who was the district’s chief secondary (grades 7-12) academic officer, will now become associate superintendent of educational services at 25 Churchill and will serve as the lead for the entire division.


  1. I don’t know about Paly, but Gunn needs a fresh start. Not just the principal but the assistant principals need to go too, and some teachers. The place is disorganized and students are confused. Time for a housecleaning.

  2. Ofek wants to promote standards based grading, which means no more letter grades. Colleges won’t be happy with that, but I’m sure Ken Dauber will say it reduces stress.

  3. Karen Hendricks helped hire Adam Paulson, who didn’t follow state or federal laws or district policies in handling a sexual assault incident at Paly, harming a student. So great to have Karen Hendricks to hire someone else who broke the law.

  4. Kathie Laurence didn’t follow state or federal or district policies either in response to another paly sexual assault incident, hurting a student, according to PAUSDs own investigation. She was issued a disciplinary letter in her personnel file for it. Yet she was promoted to principal anyway and now is being promoted again. WHAT A JOKE. It certainly doesn’t matter if you don’t take care if students.

  5. Looking back it seems that warning signs/Called for questions were ignored.
    Example? Questions called for after Phil Winston left Paly. Health reasons, so we initially were let know. Only many months after the truth started to come out.
    Here is list of simple questions I posted on my blog back on May 2014, before the sexual assault on Paly’s campus :

    “..The following is a partial list of questions I asked myself, particularly in light of the recently published allegations around the prior principal’s actions and his subsequent demotion. I do hope that these questions were properly considered:

    1. Was Ms. Diorio aware of the sexual harassment allegations that were investigated by PAUSD officials before those became a cause for PAUSD official’s investigation?
    1.1 – If Ms. Diorio was aware of the allegations:
    1.1.1 Where did she take the info?
    1.1.2 – If she was aware, and did not forward the info, why didn’t she? (Was it because she was afraid of retaliation?)
    1.2 If Ms. Diorio was not aware of the allegations –

    1.2.1 Was she approachable to the woman who felt harassed?
    1.2.2 How come she was not aware?
    2. Streaking, campus culture etc. sampling –
    2.1 Did Ms. Diorio think that a clothes-optional school is a blessing to this community?
    2.2 If she did not approve of the streaking occurrences, where did she take her concerns before she was promoted? What did she do about her concerns?
    Basically, if any of the allegations published about the prior principal are correct, did Ms. Diorio roam around campus with her eyes/ears/mouth closed? And if so, why?”

    Copied from:

  6. Paly’s front office needs cleaning, especially Assistant Principal, Jerry Berkson, who is just a warm body. And Jenny, the receptionist, is so hyper and impatient that she intimidates and rushes the students.

  7. Why is the district in so much trouble with Title IX? These incidences tend to be mostly consensual among the teens involved…until the parents and adults get involved. Are there for-profit consultants involved here with Title IX within the district?

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