Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and is well known for its rich tradition of educational excellence. The reputation of PAUSD as one of the top districts in the United States is by design, not by chance. In cooperation with a supportive community and dedicated parents, our teachers and staff work diligently to carry out the Board-adopted Strategic Plan and implement a road map that puts students on a direct path to academic achievement. District students consistently show high performance levels with scores for academic achievement in the top percentiles compared with student scores state wide and nationally. One of the strengths of our District comes from the multi-cultural diversity of its students. Although students come from different backgrounds, they share an excitement about learning and tend to be high achievers who wish to excel.

The high level of professionalism among teachers in the District is the key to student success. PAUSD offers some of the highest teacher salaries in the Bay Area and is able to hire many of the best and the brightest teachers in the state.

The community places a high value on education and supports the schools with generous commitments of time and money. Parents, businesses, government, agencies, community organizations, and local colleges and universities actively participate in the educational process through collaborative programs, public and private partnerships, and significant volunteer contributions.

PAUSD serves approximately 12,000 students who live in most, but not all, of the City of Palo Alto, certain areas of Los Altos Hills, and Portola Valley, as well as the Stanford University campus. The District consists of twelve K - 5 elementary schools, three middle schools (grades 6 - 8) and two high schools (grades 9 - 12). In addition, the District currently operates a pre-school, a Young Fives program, a self-supporting Adult School, the Hospital School at Stanford's Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, and Summer School.

Our Community

Considered one of the most desirable places to live on the San Francisco Peninsula, the Palo Alto area draws people of high educational professional status as well as a younger, more ethnically diverse Stanford University population. Ranked among the Bay Area's finest cities for its schools, parks libraries, and other city services, Palo Alto is also known for its shopping, restaurants, and theater.

Our History

The area that now is called Palo Alto has been inhabited for the past 5,000 years. Ohlone Indians lived here before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1769. The next hundred years saw the development of the missions along the length of California, followed by the granting of ranchos by Mexico to its favored citizens. The gradual movement of people into the area led to the formation of the town called Palo Alto (meaning tall tree) and its growth into the city we know today. Two major events have materially formed the city—the founding of Stanford University in 1891 and the founding of Hewlett Packard in 1939. With the first event, the intellectual and cultural seeds of the city were sown; with the latter event came the development of the town as a leader in technology and business.

Photo of old house for the first PAUSD high school

The school District was founded on March 20, 1893. The first school opened in September 1893 with two teachers and 70 pupils crowded into a temporary two-room schoolhouse. The District grew until 1967, when enrollment peaked at 15,575 students. At that time the District operated twenty-two K-6 elementary schools, three 7-9 junior high schools and three 10-12 high schools. Enrollment began to decline in the 1970s and continued to decline through the 1980s. The bottom of the decline was reached in 1989 when total enrollment stood at 7,452. The configuration of schools then stood at eleven elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools. Jordan Middle School has since been reopened as enrollment has increased, and in September 1998, a twelfth elementary school, Barron Park, was opened. In August 2001, Terman Middle School reopened as a third middle school.