The Slice – Fall 2022

Spotlight on PAPiE Volunteers

It’s that time of year! Our PiE “Rally Days” are taking place this week throughout PAUSD. Spirited PiE volunteers in bright blue PiE shirts and caps are encouraging every PAUSD parent to pledge or donate to PiE before our Challenge Grant ends on Nov 14. 

So who, exactly, are the PiE volunteers in bright blue t-shirts and caps? In this Issue of The Slice, we’ll highlight some of our most dedicated PiE volunteers. We’ll ask and answer the questions: Who are they? Why do they volunteer for PiE? What impact does PiE have? And Why should you join them??

Elizabeth Olson

My kids: This is my 17th year in PAUSD, and I have been involved with PiE for nearly that long! I have three children ages 21, 19, and 16, who did Spanish immersion at Escondido, and attended Jordan/Greene and Paly. My youngest is currently a sophomore. In addition to PiE, I’ve served as PTA President at Escondido and Paly.

My PiE volunteer experience: Many years ago I was recruited to the PiE Board by another mom in my oldest child’s class. I oversaw School Development first, and then led the Leadership Circle. I was a PiE Rep at all three schools, and still am at Paly. In the early days at Escondido, the kids would make signs, we’d hang PiE plates on the trees, and hang photos of the classroom aides on each classroom door. PiE activities were homey and homemade back then, and we were only asking for $350 per child; things have really changed!

On the PiE Board I have sometimes been the crabby old person at the table  (AKA the person with institutional knowledge) who reminds everyone of what we did “back in the day.” Although I haven’t served on the PiE Board in the past few years, I’ve continued to make PiE presentations at Back-to-School Nights.

PiE’s impact on the community: I view PiE’s impact at a macro level. PiE enables PAUSD to provide an excellent education to ALL students in PAUSD. No matter how wide the equity gap is, PiE helps to level the playing field for ALL. PiE is also a great equalizer across the district – Every student is funded equally by PiE, no matter which school they attend. 

What I do when I’m not volunteering for PiE: I love hiking with my dog, playing tennis, and serving on the Paly PTA. I’m also on a few non-profit boards such as DreamCatchers that are focused on making high quality educational programs accessible to all kids.

Why you should volunteer for PiE: If you care about providing equal access to a quality education for all students, volunteer for PiE! I have really enjoyed working with other smart PiE volunteers with whom I can discuss all sorts of topics. In my early years as a volunteer, I appreciated being enlightened by the older parents who would share what was coming down the road in middle and high school. Linda Lyon has been an amazing and long-standing Executive Director who supports all the PiE volunteers and lightens our load. Palo Alto is unique in having such a strong education foundation – We’re very lucky to have PiE. Go PiE!!!!

Patrick Sullivan

My kids: My three kids went through Barron Park, Terman/Fletcher, and Gunn. My youngest is currently a 10th grader at Gunn. 

My PiE volunteer experience: I’ve been a PiE volunteer for almost 8 years, since we moved here. I started as a School Rep, then joined the PiE Board 6 years ago. I was previously the Director of Innovation Grants and am currently the VP Finance and Administration. I volunteer for PiE because I believe in public education and in supporting my children’s schools.

PiE’s impact on the community: I’m impressed with the breadth and variety of programs and resources PiE is able to fund throughout PAUSD. The Innovation Grants committee has funded all kinds of interesting projects such as the Short Story Machine at Fletcher.

Also the arts are very important to our family (my wife Jen was previously a Spectra Art teacher at Juana Briones Elementary School), and PiE enables our district to provide a high quality art education at all levels, from elementary through high school. PiE-funded classroom aides allow special needs students to be well integrated into the classroom, which benefits everyone.

What I do when I’m not volunteering for PiE: I have led recruiting and HR for high tech companies, have been at Google for the past 9 years and am currently supporting Google Cloud. I’m also on the board of One Warm Coat, a non-profit who’s mission is to provide free coats to children and adults in need while promoting volunteerism and environmental sustainability. In my free time I like to travel, hike, hang out with my family, and seek out and listen to live music.

Why you should volunteer for PiE: I invite you to come join our team of PiE volunteers!  Make an impact on our kids’ lives, and meet other creative, kind, wonderful, committed PiE volunteer parents. Since there are many PiE volunteers, we all share the load, and the time commitment for each person is not large. 

Rachel Miller

My kids: Have two sons, ages 22 and 15 who’ve attended Briones, Terman/Fletcher, and Gunn. My younger son is currently a sophomore at Gunn. 

My PiE volunteer experience: I started volunteering when my kids were in elementary school. My older son had gone to kindergarten in San Carlos, and when he started in Palo Alto, I saw the tremendous difference it made to have PiE-funded aides in his classroom. 

PiE’s impact on the community: Thanks to PiE, classroom aides at the elementary level dramatically impact the quality of education that ALL of our children receive. Classroom aides help teachers to provide more differentiation, supporting students with special needs, those who are excelling academically, and everyone in between. My older son directly benefited from his classroom aides.

PiE also funds counselors at all levels in PAUSD. We had a fantastic experience with our Fletcher counselor, Jovi Jonston. She provided my older son with outstanding support, which made a huge difference in his middle school experience.

What I do when I’m not volunteering for PiE: When I’m not volunteering for PiE, I’m very involved in supporting the ice hockey community, since my younger son plays on multiple hockey teams.

Why you should volunteer for PiE:  The time commitment to volunteer for PiE is minimal, yet the impact is huge. Sometimes all you have to do as a volunteer is show up in your PiE t-shirt and thank others for giving. You don’t have to beg for money, you’re just representing this fantastic organization and encouraging other parents to give. Most of the feedback I received as a volunteer was extremely positive; people were very appreciative of my efforts. Volunteering for PiE is a great way to meet other parents and support the community.

Heewon Park 

My kids: I’ve been a PAUSD parent for 13 years and I’ve been volunteering for PiE since 2009. My children have attended Briones, Terman/JLS, and Gunn. My oldest is now a freshman in college, my middle one is a Junior in high school, and my youngest is in 6th grade at JLS. 

My PiE volunteer experience: Muneerah Merchant (former PiE Executive Director) and I had kids at the same preschool and she encouraged me to volunteer for PiE when my oldest started kindergarten. I’ve been a PiE Rep at all three levels of schools and served on the PiE Board for four years in School Development, ultimately as VP of School Development.

PiE’s impact on the community: My kids have benefitted from PiE at all levels – personalized learning and Spectra Art in elementary school, and music and art electives and wellness/counseling in middle and high schools. My son’s Industrial Tech class, one of the PiE-funded wheel electives in 6th grade, made such an impact on him that he’s now majoring in Industrial Design. I think that many of PAUSD students’ most meaningful education experiences are funded by PiE! PiE’s impact on our community is tremendous across all education levels.

What I do when I’m not volunteering for PiE: I love working with kids, arts, and education. I’m currently the Director of School and Teacher Programs at Palo Alto Art Center. We serve elementary schools in Palo Alto and neighboring cities.

Why you should volunteer for PiE: If you want your child’s most meaningful educational experiences to continue, consider volunteering for PiE! You’ll get to meet fantastic, like-minded parents who really care about our community and enjoy giving their time and talent. It’s a great network and also really fun! There are many tiers of volunteers; you can volunteer for as few or as many hours as you choose. So come join us!

Ashley Tseng

My kids: I have two children. My older son is in 3rd grade at Hoover. He also attended Young Fives and then Addison for Kindergarten. My younger daughter is in Kindergarten at Hoover. She also attended Preschool Family at Greendell. 

My PiE volunteer experience: I’m a new PiE Rep; I was invited to join last summer. At first I was nervous about the time commitment, because I still had a preschooler, but I decided to give it a try – and it’s been a great experience. All the volunteer parents I met through PiE are very friendly and supportive and we share the same vision no matter which schools our children attend. I really feel a sense of community by volunteering at PiE. When I was recruited we had just one PiE Rep at Hoover who was a busy Stanford professor dad. I admired him for continuing to volunteer for PiE for years despite his busy schedule. I am glad that now we have more parents and we work well together as a team. Some volunteers even speak Spanish and Chinese so we are able to reach out to those families, too. It’s fun to volunteer at Back-to-School Night and Rally Days, when the whole community comes together to support our teachers and kids.

PiE’s impact on the community: PiE has a large impact on our children’s education. My children speak very highly of their classroom aides and music and art teachers, all funded by PiE. Their teachers are not only very caring, but also very inspiring! My daughter loves getting to use so many different materials in Spectra Art, and has even cried on occasion at home when missing her Spectra Art class. Even families who can’t afford private music and art lessons can benefit from these wonderful art and music programs at school. And even children who don’t love math and reading can discover their interests and embrace each others’ unique differences and strengths in music and Spectra Art… and they have a lot of fun singing and making music together in music class. When I saw the 5th grade band concert, it touched my heart to see kids from very different backgrounds feeling so much joy playing music together.

What I do when I’m not volunteering for PiE: I do outreach for the PTA and I like to host play dates. I also attend church in Palo Alto, and I love being active and hiking outdoors. When I bike to school with my kids, I feel connected not only to them but also to our community. 

Why you should volunteer for PiE:  We are so fortunate in Palo Alto to have PiE, which allows us to offer strong support to our elementary school teachers, and high quality music and art classes to all PAUSD students. Many neighboring school districts offer much less than PAUSD. Not all Palo Alto parents understand why we need PiE, but as PiE volunteers we can help spread accurate information. Volunteering for PiE is fun. If you volunteer you’ll meet other parents who share your belief in PiE’s mission to benefit ALL students. We need volunteers who speak Spanish, Chinese, and other languages, too – so please join us! Palo Alto is unique with its high level of community support and concern for quality education. By donating to PiE and volunteering for PiE, we can ensure that a high-quality education will continue to be provided to all students at all PAUSD schools. 

Are you interested in learning more about being a PiE volunteer? Please fill out this form!