April 30, 2007
Dear Ms. Lowell and Mr. Tom:
We would like to address a concern that Mr. Tom has raised. Mr. Tom is concerned that if he were to approve the choice program, supporters of Mandarin Immersion might still go forward with a charter petition.
On the other hand, as supporters of Mandarin Immersion, we are concerned that this school board might lukewarmly approve a choice program and, consequently, side-rail the charter movement. We are concerned that an uncommitted school board could then effectively kill the program through neglect, re-direction of resources or by reversing its decision within the next year or two.
As you reconsider the establishment of an MI choice program, we suggest that we work toward mutual assurances:
What Can MI Supporters Do?
It is our desire and intention to work in good faith with the school district. We have been clear about our goal for Mandarin Immersion and flexible with regard to the details of the program. We have been responsive to changing guidelines and expectations. We are committed to working collaboratively and straightforwardly with the school district to achieve successful Mandarin Immersion - and potentially even global FLES - educational opportunities for our public schools.
With satisfactory mutual assurances, we could turn back our attention from the charter option back to choice.
What Can the Board of Education Do?
You can do these very positive things to increase public confidence in your vote. If it is the case that this board votes for a choice program to begin in Palo Alto, we ask that you be clear on the record on the following:
• Your individual support of the MI choice program. The community looks to you for leadership, in word and deed. You might feel that this is a tough decision, but announce it in positive language. After all, in the end, this is about the children.
• Your understanding that your vote will likely adversely affect the charter school initiative (perhaps, you should ask for those parents to use their efforts to work on the choice program once again).
• Your commitment that this board will undertake concrete steps to assure that the program in fact begins at the earliest possible date. Such steps should reflect that the Board is working with staff and the Ohlone principal to ensure that the MI choice program goes forward.
• A commencement date of Fall 2007 for a partial immersion program at Ohlone for the MI choice program (say, 90% English - 10% Mandarin for 2007-08 academic year only) would be a true commitment. Is such a partial immersion program possible? We certainly believe so and you ought, at the very least, speak directly with Principal Susan Charles about the matter. We encourage that you do so prior to the May meetings.
For us personally, these points of clarification, stated publicly, would show that the Board is in good faith moving to address the concerns of the community and achieve a successful Mandarin Immersion program in Palo Alto.
In short, many supporters of MI are looking for a real and tangible commitment by the Board, and with such a commitment, we the undersigned would pledge to forgo the pursuit of the charter school.
We also encourage the Board, if it is seriously considering a choice program, to vote as early as possible. Any delay by the Board will be viewed unfavorably by everyone, no matter their position about Mandarin Immersion.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns. Please call us at 650-888-4752 if you should have questions.