News

School board OKs grant for Mandarin program

Nearly $200,000 federal grant approved 4-1, despite concerns about fairness, long-term funding

A federal grant will pay for start-up costs of next year's Mandarin-immersion program and for high-school Mandarin instruction, the Palo Alto school board voted 4-1 Tuesday night.

The district is required to match the $198,000 grant, but the board voted to accept it after staff reassurances of cost-neutrality for the MI program.

Board member Gail Price voted against accepting the money, citing concerns of long-term viability and fairness. Other board members voted in favor after questioning Superintendent Kevin Skelly, who tried to quell doubts and generate enthusiasm for the grant.

The U.S. Department of Education grant will take effect immediately to fund a Mandarin-immersion program for 80 students slated to start at Ohlone Elementary School in August.

The money will cover initial expenses such as staff training and purchase of equipment, according to a budget provided by Associate Superintendent Marilyn Cook and Becki Cohn-Vargas, the district's curriculum and professional development director. It will also pay for high-school Mandarin textbooks and supplies.

The matching funds required from the district will be provided by money already budgeted for the high school program, Cook said at the last board meeting.

Yet Price expressed suspicion Tuesday night that the grant would end up costing the district quite a bit.

"I have concerns about the supposed cost-neutrality of this program," she said.

According to grant terms the district could receive funds for three years, pending annual federal reviews. But the grant's limited timeline means the district may eventually have to ante up all the money for a Mandarin program, Price said.

"That money will have to come from our General Fund," she said.

Yet supporting programming with the General Fund is not unheard of, board member Dana Tom said.

The cost of reducing class size isn't completely covered by parcel-tax money, he said.

"From our General Fund we underwrite that difference because it's important to us," he said.

But Skelly sought to reassure board members that the money would only cover start-up costs. Accepting the grant would not set a precedent of generating operational costs the district would one day have to assume, he said.

"The grant will allow us to pay for start-up costs," he said repeatedly.

To ease misgivings about where the money goes, the district will track spending and present an outline in spring, Skelly vowed.

The bottom line is that the grant will improve educational quality, he said.

"We should use this grant to accept resources that will come into our district to move the level of teaching to our kids forward," he said.

Yet it was precisely the quality of a Mandarin program that concerned others.

It would be inequitable if Mandarin instruction became markedly better than the instruction of other languages, Price said.

Lowell asked if the technological supplies bought for the high-school Mandarin classes could also be used by students in other classes.

And parent Lynne Magill held aloft a beat-up book whose worn cover was slipping off its pages during the public comment period.

"This is my child's Japanese textbook," she said.

She asked if the grant money could be used for other foreign languages as well, citing a section of the federal Web site that described a long list of eligible languages.

There may be ways to spread some of the money, Skelly said.

"It's not in our interest to create a program that's luxurious while other programs suffer. I continue to see spillover opportunities in terms of this money," he said.

Price also questioned the grant's timeline, pointing out that instituting the program creates expectations for continuity.

The district can change its mind about taking federal money if a spring review determines it's not a good idea to accept it for a second year, Skelly said.

Price's objections echoed concerns raised last year during the long-standing debate about starting a Mandarin-immersion program. She was the only one to vote against the program on the final vote.

To counter the notion that taking the money was a political move tied to past opinions, board member Barb Mitchell pointed out that many programs are paid for by external grants.

"About 15 percent of the money the district receives comes from state or federal funding," she said. The money pays for features that enhance education, such as reading specialists or classroom aides, she said.

While responses from Skelly and Mitchell did not win over Price, others needed no reassurance.

"Since the beginning of my time on the board in 2003 we have struggled for money, and to get local money back from the federal government is really unique," board President Camille Townsend said.

"I view this as a positive," Tom agreed.

Lowell acknowledged that the Mandarin-immersion program will remain contentious for years to come, but voted to accept the grant because it will ultimately benefit children, she said.

In other business, the board:

* Heard an assessment report on testing that confirmed Palo Alto's high-achieving status. An average student scoring in the 50th percentile in Palo Alto would score in the 92nd percentile nationally, Assessment Director Bill Garrison reported.

About half the students at Palo Alto High School and Gunn took college-level advanced-placement tests last year, he said.

About 79 percent of students scored well enough to receive college credit, according to a presentation from Garrison and Assistant Superintendent Scott Laurence.

"It's a blessing and a curse," to have such a well-scoring district, Laurence said. Frequently students struggle with self-esteem of feeling mediocre when they are actually very talented, he said.

* Discussed an agreement with Los Altos School District to allow students in Los Altos Hills to choose between attending elementary school in Los Altos Hills or Palo Alto.

The agreement does not affect Palo Alto's schools financially because the district gets most funding from property tax revenues, Skelly said. The board will vote on the agreement at its Oct. 23 meeting.

(Arden Pennell can be e-mailed at apennell@paweekly.com.)

Comments

Posted by Math Doesn't Add Up, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2007 at 6:16 am

I got straight A's in math, but I am stumped with this problem:

A school board assures "cost neutrality" when voting in favor of a new school program. The school board then votes to match $198,000 for the program. How is that cost neutral?

What $198,000 of other district priorities won't be funded?


Posted by my math ain't that great but I get the concept, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2007 at 6:36 am

I am no supporter of this entire process and its results...but the $198,000 is money that would have been spent anyway on any part of Mandarin, like Skelly said, for example in teaching Mandarin at the high schools.

In other words, he is presenting is like a "shell" game..we take the $198,000, spend it on the MI, then take THAT $198,000 that would have been spent on MI to start it and run it for the first year, and spend THAT on the High School.

He is saying that since we have MI, and PAUSD applied for the grant, didn't get it, then got it ( after MI was approved) we may as well take the money and use it.

The end of the story is that he is saying it will be an additive of $198,00 to the District this year.

I like the Japanese book story!



Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:37 am

I think we ought to be watchful of how the MI elective program in the high schools gets the toys. It was interesting to note that Skelly didn't want it to become the glamorous, luxurious program and the other language electives have nothing. The Japanese text book falling apart was a great visual. However, that is just a text book. If MI gets the hi tech toys and the others get nothing, our students will certainly get the false impression of which language is more important.

My Spanish students have videos (not dvds) to help them learn and we have to pay for books that provide exercise and practice, what about the other languages? Anyone like to comment on the state of the learning materials in German? We know the Japanese use textbooks that need replacing. Do we presently have any technology of any description in any of our language classrooms?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:28 am

I would like Ohlone Parent and others Ohlone parents to monitor the roll out of 'goodies' in the elementary program as well, and hopefully report back as they see these details materialize. I don't trust the district staff to tell us the truth about this either.

Again, we have (from Barb this time), a comparison between funding of essentials like classroom aids and reading specialists, versus funding of optional luxuries for a few students, like language academies.

I think the grant funds should be used to fund high school mandarin program to the extent we would have funded high school mandarin or any other HIGH SCHOOL language elective (measured by how much we actually spend on the other high school language programs.)

It should not be spent on slathering luxuries on the elementary program. The staff including Cook, and Cohn-Vargas assured us repeatedly that NO district staff resources were needed to make this a great PAUSD quality program, and that only $10,950 per classroom was needed in start up funds. So the grant should cover $10,950 in start up funds, computers in the elementary program only to the extent and quality that ALL OTHER classrooms get computers - and that's it.

Anything ELSE (including R&D, project management, etc), spent on the elementary program is luxurious relative to our standard expenditure on elementary programming, and would create an ultra rich school.

If the board has ANY hope or interest of retaining the PIE concept (which is built on the concept of the community VALUE of equitable spreading of resources across the district) then they better make DARN sure they are completely 100% transparent on the spending on MI. I am NOT donating to PIE until I see this for a fact. Sorry, PIE and PAUSD - that means no PIE donations from me for another 2 years until we see evidence of this rollout.

The staff has used up their credibility, and Skelly was living off borrowed time - his record on this subject is as dismal as Callan's until he shows us proof otherwise. The new 3 new BOE members better be darn ready to step up to the plate on this.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:31 am

Could someone please clarify something for me? I thought we were rolling out with two 20-child k-1 strands of MI. How did we get to 80?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:36 am

When I read that I assumed that was a typo by the paper (because they obviously must have taken that from the Grant, not from the actual PAUSD board approved MI pilot agreement.) Because the Grant was written for the full original MI proposal of two grades per strand, with a K and first in the first year. That's not what the board eventually approved.

But then again there is almost NO similarity between the grant proposal and what the district approved. (middle school MI, extreme technology level, program managment and language specialists, parent education program, 40 new kids per year, etc. etc. etc.)

The federal government should probably be notified that the district accepted those resources on false pretenses.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:52 am

Well, I suppose Dr. Skelly, Marilyn Cook, Becky Cohn-Vargas and the Board must know what they are doing. They are the experts, after all. They say they do, and that it is all above-board and fair, so that must be true ;0)


Posted by transparency, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Natasha, of course they do. Who could think otherwise? With this grant, MI will be even more cost neutral than it was before!


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Maybe we'll even make a profit on MI, at the rate the spin is going . . .


Posted by Terrible, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Yes, that would be awful, the worst case: if MI brought in money for pausd!!


Posted by Why MI?, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:08 pm

This dilemma has not been brought up enough. We now have Chinese, we have Arabic classes in night school, yet you have to drive 30 minutes each way to Cupertino for someone to learn Hebrew. What is up with this?


Posted by cynical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:19 pm

threaten a charter.


Posted by Lisa Steinback, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:41 pm

So, the federal government is giving the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) $750,000 in grant money over the next three years for K-12 Mandarin. With over 90 Mandarin schools and after-school programs in our area, the Feds feel it necessary to grant us this money to create more. It sure seems like an irony for a wealthy district to be garnering this huge award, given that many districts across the country are struggling to teach English, math and the basics. Many poorer districts are barely able to administer federal requirements for the No Child Left Behind Law. It seems unthinkable that precious federal education tax dollars be spent so that wealthy districts can design boutique foreign language programs. It just doesn't seem right to me.


Posted by Lisa Steinback, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Dr. Skelly's old district (POWAY) got a FLAP grant this year for, get this, a Spanish program! He must be a pro at this FLAP grant stuff.
See the link: Web Link

We have been told, from the beginning, that the FLAP grant is only for Arabic, Russian, Mandarin and Hindi. I have been following this issue for a long time and never knew that FLAP grant monies can go to Spanish programs. I hope the new FLES taskforce will seriously look into opportunities to apply for FLAP monies to help support whatever programs come forth out of the taskforce. This could be a real enabler.


Posted by Lisa Steinback, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Roll-out of MI at Ohlone:

Year One: 2, K/1 classes (40 students)
In this first year, two-thirds of the kindergarteners don't have to have any Mandarin proficiency. One-third of the kindergartners must have Mandarin proficiency. The 20 first graders that enter during this year would also need to have some Mandarin proficiency, since they will progress to 2nd grade in the next year.

Year Two: 2, K/1 classes and 1 straight 2nd grade (only 20 new students enter the program)
In this year, again, two-thirds of the kindergarteners don't have to have any Mandarin proficiency. One-third of the kindergartners must have Mandarin proficiency. The first graders from last year proceed to 2nd grade. If there were any 1st grade students from Year One that had to leave the program for any reason (typically a 7% turnover in elem school) those 2nd grade spots must be filled with Mandarin-proficient students. Any siblings of those students from Year One are automatically enrolled in the program starting in kindergarten (district policy).

Year Three: 2 K/1 classes and 2 2/3 classes (20 new students, 80 students total)
In this year, again, two-thirds of the kindergarteners don't have to have any Mandarin proficiency. One-third of the kindergarteners must have Mandarin proficiency. The first graders from last year proceed to 2nd grade. The 2nd graders from last year proceed to 3rd grade. If there were any 1st or 2nd grade students from Year One that had to leave the program for any reason, those 2nd and 3rd grade spots must be filled with Mandarin-proficient students. Any siblings of those students from Years One and Two are automatically enrolled in the program starting in kindergarten (district policy).

Year Four: 2 K/1 classes, 2 2/3 classes and 1 straight 4th grade (20 new students, 100 students total)
a) any students lost due to attrition or moving from the area are backfilled with Mandarin-proficient students
b) siblings of existing students automatically get into the kinder spots

Year Five: 2 K/1 classes, 2 2/3 classes and 2 4/5 classes which would comprise the total program - 6 classes, 120 students in the Ohlone configuration. Only the first three years are approved to be located at Ohlone. The Board must approve a waiver to add more than 4 portables to Ohlone.


Posted by no waiver needed, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Lisa

They can follow the same model as Escondido. As SI displaced neighborhood kids at Escondido, MI can displace non-MI kids at Ohlone.
They won't need to struggle with a waiver for this, which would be harder to get through.


Posted by Math Doesn't Add Up, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2007 at 5:34 pm

"my math ain't that great but I get the concept" - Thank you for explaining the funding algorithm. I must have been absent the day they taught shell games in my AP mathematics class.

"parent" - I've already stopped my contributions to PIE. I realized a while back that PIE was making up for deficiencies in district funding, but I just now see the shell game corollary: shift funding for other programs to PIE so the district can fund MI.

"Lisa" - I agree with you ... it's unthinkable that precious federal education tax dollars are spent so that wealthy districts can design boutique foreign language programs. It just doesn't seem right to me either.

I hope the Board is prepared for a GAO audit or a visit from John Stossel.


Posted by To Math Doesn't Add up, just above, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:28 pm

I think it was an AP Accounting class that you were absent from, the day they explained this concept. :)


Posted by Following the Dollars, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 7:04 am

So the district gets $200,000 from the feds for MI and FLAP rules say this must be matched by our district dollar for dollar. That's $400,000 to be spent on Mandarin next year.

How is all that money going to be spent?

The feds require that at least 3/4 of its money be spent in our elementary schools. That's $150,000 of Fed money directed to Mandarin at Ohlone next year.

The MI study mentions the $11,000 startup for each new classroom in addition to the $10k the district already gives to new classrooms.

Perhaps too there will be a comparable amount to the $10,000 extra that Spanish Immersion costs the district each year for professional development, community activities and instructional materials.

As for the remaining $129,000 or so, that should reimburse the district for the salaries and benefits of the two teachers and aides that will be needed to run the two new Mandarin K/1 classrooms. Not much if any is left over for the Mandarin speaking administrator and arts specialist the district mentioned in early MI discussions.

Doesn't this FLAP grant save the PAUSD money at the elementary level? We'd have to pay teachers to teach these children if they were in our regular classrooms anyway. If those teachers teach in Mandarin, the federal government pays their salaries for us.

But it does raise another interesting question I don't know the answer to. How is the rest of the money -- the rest of the FLAP grant of $50,000 and the PAUSD match of $200,000 -- going to be spent next year? All must be spent on Mandarin. Does our current high school Mandarin program (staff and expenses) cost that much? If not, that presents a problem that I'd like to see addressed.

As for wealthy districts getting fed money when other districts may be more in need -- think of it this way. The feds think it is in our country's best interests to put dollars in Mandarin programs that have a good possibility of success. That produces more Mandarin speakers in the US and pilot programs that can be turned into successful model programs for other districts down the road. It is doubtful that those schools, which struggle with the basics, will be adding Mandarin to their programs anytime soon.

I've little invested in the MI debate. I'm just interested in seeing that new programs, MI or otherwise, not short-change our district's existing programs and priorities.


Posted by curious, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2007 at 7:16 am

To Following: Well written. If you take into account the salaries/benefits of only the Mandarin teachers at the 2 high schools, then spending the "matching" money there will be no problem.

However, I am intrigued that $150,000 MUST be spent at elementary school. Doesn't that mean that it MUST be matched at the elementary school by us also? Which would mean $300,000 in one year for 20 kids? Or am I understanding wrong? ( Plus facilities etc which aren't included in any of these computations)

Or can we really, legally and ethically, match it with spending at other levels? If so, then it will actually be additive to our district.

Where do you get your info?

Thanks


Posted by Following the Dollars, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:36 am

Check out the FLAP legislation:

www.ed.gov/programs/flap/legislation.html

I'm no expert, so don't know what rules there on match spending. On the face of it it appears that there are no restrictions on which grades the match spending can be directed to. Rules are the rules. Subjectivity doesn't play into it.

As for facilities and using money to pay for new portables, I don't know. Perhaps someone with some federal grant expertise can pipe in on that. I'd imagine that there are special rules for capital expenditures, even if only to set out what portion of building costs which have 50+ year lifetimes can be allocated to a 3-year grant.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:34 am

Crux of the problem summarized by "Following the Dollar": "The feds think it is in our country's best interests to put dollars in Mandarin programs that have a good possibility of success. That produces more Mandarin speakers in the US..."

But in the meantime they keep trying to pass more and greater NCLB laws that mandate that closing the achievement gap is the critical priority that needs to be solved. But where's the $$$ for that? Coming from our teachers paychecks?

So which is it - do we need to close the achievement gap, give a better safer education to kids across the country that aren't even able to pass the exit exam, or do we need more mandarin speakers and improved Mandarin language education?

I'm SICK of giving money to the federal, state and local governments, then donating more money to my kids classrooms, buying magazines, funding PIE, and on and on it goes - so we can have the government use our tax dollars to fund Mandarin classes in stead of fixing our education problems.

Its disgusting and pathetic. To the person who suggested contacting John Stossel. Great idea. I hope you were serious.


Posted by 3 new board members, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 11, 2007 at 10:11 am

Following: I too thought there was a requirement that 3/4 of the grant dollars go to our elementary program. On careful re-reading, however, I realized that this applies to the total amount of FLAP funds available for grants in any given year, and not to an individual education agency.

According to Marilyn Cook, the FLAP funds will be used only for startup costs and materials at the elementary level. Use of FLAP funds for ongoing salaries would cause yet another flap over appropriate use of private donations for staff.

We don't need a PiE flap on the heels of the FLAP flap and last year's flip flop flap where board members changed their votes after the Charter threat.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 12:03 pm

Regardless of the shell game, what matters is the end result. And there must be an accounting of how the program at the secondary and elementary level stack up against the rest of our program for PAUSD.

They can hide behind cock-eyed accounting for where the money comes from for matching, whos' money pays for what, etc.

By the way - Our district staff is no stranger to this - they admitted that donated funds for feasibility study couldn't buy direct instructional staff - but they hired a part time teacher to fill in Masuda's time on the MI study - they paid for THAT part time teacher with "district funds", but reimbursed the district for that with the donated PACE funds. But somehow, that doesn't equate (in their skewed accounting world) to violation of staffing policy that says they can't pay for direct instruction time with donated funds. Now THAT's a shell game.

The BOTTOM LINE is - will these programs be equitable? Will the Mandarin language offering at the high school level be on an equal footing with the other language offerings at the high school level? Technology, books, program management, special teacher training, etc.

Will the MI elementary program receive the same (not more) resources than the rest of our elementary program? The board approved a $10,950 extra per classroom. Period.

Is this what will occur, or not? Skelly, this is what we'll be looking for.

If the board and the superintendent wants to screw around with the federal government and try to use the grant funds on other stuff not in the BINDING COMMMITTMENT of the FLAP GRANT, or wants to try to pull the wool over the Department of Defense's eyes by saying that teachers they'd be paying for ANYWAY are MATCHING FUNDS for an investment in the mandarin program (which is a bald face lie - if we'd pay for them anyway - then they are not an investment in the program) then that's the Superintendent's and BOE's problem. I guess until the Feds come knocking on our door for fines or payback with interest, or something.. then it will be ALL our problems.

(I wonder what the penalty would be for accepting and using funds under false pretenses?)

But what matters most is whether the program remains equitable. So THAT's what we'll be watching.

And for those of you who say a year from now this will all blow over. You couldn't be more Naive. No, the BOE seems intent on digging in deeper and deeper and deeper on MI. Don't count on this community outcry going away until the program goes away.


Posted by thanks for the memories, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:08 pm

oh yes..now I remember, parent above is right..they did the shell game on the staffing issue for the feasibility study, too.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Now that the grant approval is done, I'm also interested in equity. My vision of equity is a little different: rather than keeping K-12 Mandarin technology, etc. at a comparatively low district standard in the name of equity, I'd like to see them raise the bar for the rest of the district (and pay for it).

Specifically, I'd like to see them go out of their way to spend a significant portion of the FLAP grant money on things that can benefit other students, too. For example, at Ohlone the special technology should be installed in a common place such as the library whenever possible, rather than the classroom. At the middle and high school levels, the language classrooms should be equipped with gear that can be utilized by other languages. Additional technology could be installed in the library rather than the classroom.

The MI parents are the greatest benefactors of the FLAP grant; a significant amount of the startup costs were expected to come out of the parents' pockets. Let the MI parents pay for Mandarin-specific materials such as books and CDs. Use the FLAP money for language-independent things such as computers and software.

Of course not all of the money can be used this way, but I'm watching to see how far they bend over backwards to make things fair and equitable for others. There must be a balance between what MI gives and takes from the community. So far the balance is heavily in their favor. This grant is an opportunity for them to correct the imbalance and give back to the rest of the PAUSD community. Let's see what they do.


Posted by never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2007 at 2:33 pm

YAP -- This is a great view of how things should be. Thanks for offering it. It's positive, and I would hope, hard for administrators to say no to. It makes perfect sense. Thanks.

On a similar note, OhlonePar - can you find out if PACE has made a donation to the Ohlone PTA yet. Or is there someone who can tell us if PACE has contributed to PiE in a big way.

Thanks, again YAP. This feels like the direction I want to move; okay, MI is here. How can we help as many students as possible benefit from this decision. It would help diminish the acrimony, and I hope, make people feel better about their donations of time and money to the schools.


Posted by Marianne M., a resident of Professorville
on Oct 11, 2007 at 2:48 pm

I don't have kids, I'm just a tax-payer. I guess I've
always voted for school bonds and library bonds, so I'm
on the side of a bit more tax-payer dollars going into
education, overall.

My question: is anyone in favor of MI? (Apart from the obvious,
which is the folks who've been championing it and proposing
the structure.) I haven't noticed anyone in this PA Weekly
forum speaking up for it. Are they intimidated? Not plugged
into this PA Weekly forum? Not interested in arguing about it
in this sort of forum? Don't exist in the same numbers? I don't
want to stir up a hornet's nest of ad hominem attacks, this
side against another side against another side, I'm just
curious that I haven't really read anyone who seems to be
in favor.

Now, I wouldn't say I'm strongly in favor, but I also generally
like the idea of foreign language immersion schools. I lived
abroad for a year ("immersion" in that I lived with host
families who didn't speak English) (granted, in high school)
and not only did I learn a lot of that language, it truly
was an invaluable learning experience in so many ways,
particularly in appreciating another culture's perspectives.
So to me, although MI (or other language immersion program)
obviously wouldn't transport the kids to another country
(except perhaps for exchange programs inspired by the
immersion programs) I think it would be great for the students
and (not to get too corny) for our society as a whole.

Marianne


Posted by Thanks, Marianne, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Yes, there are plenty of supporters for MI. Not a majority of the community, but the opponents of MI are not a majority of the community, either. You'll see the supporters apply for the lottery. You might see the opponents at every board meeting attempting to get the program canceled.

Both sides are minorities in the big picture of the school community and wider resident community. I'd say that a majority of the people who post here are opponents, as it appears, and probably the majority of proponents don't bother rising to the bait or try to argue in this forum. There's a few proponents who have written here, but the opponents are more prolific.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Marianne

I think if you ask around at the various elementary schools you will find people in both camps. From my experience, although I have met some people who think MI may be a good idea, they tend not to know very much about it. Of the remainder of the people at school, they also may not know too much about it, but they are much more reluctant to say that they think it is a good idea because they don't know much about it.

Few people I have met at school honestly say they don't care one way or the other. Most people are willing to talk about it though.


Posted by RealityCheck, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Thanks, Marianne:

You nailed it right on the head: To most people, this is a non-issue.

As for the rest:
The "winners" (pro-MI) "won", so they can lay low - why gloat or otherwise further incense the "losers" (the anti-MI crowd)?
Most of the anti-MI crowd probably have accepted the outcome and have moved on.
However, there are a few out there (see those names posted above) who invested a lot of time and effort in defeating this (for whatever real reason - all the ones they stated publicly never rang true with me) - and who can't (and won't) let go.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And guess what - they'll be consuming "precious resources" from the District as well by badgering teachers, administrators and the Board with constant questions and criticisms ad nauseum, all focused on this one small program.

So the question becomes: How much more of this will the public and the Board put up with before what seems to be an inevitable backlash happens - one that says, yes there are many other more important priorities than MI (or for that matter, FLES) - so let's finally move on and address them instead of wasting everyone's time debating MI/FLES!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Reality Check

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If the BoE had stuck with its original vote, do you think the MI crowd would have just "got over it and moved on". No. In fact, they didn't. They forced the hand of the BoE to renege their original vote. They didn't let go until they won. Now they are keeping quiet and probably waiting til their kids get up the grades before forcing the issue for Middle School.

The rest of us who oppose it, still oppose it because we know that this isn't the end of it. There is still what is going to happen in three years' time and what is going to happen in Middle School. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by 3 new board members, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 11, 2007 at 5:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Marianne,

Most people, I think, were pretty neutral at first. When the board voted MI down for various reasons, the pro-MI crowd threatened a charter. So for that reason, two members of the board changed their vote.

At that point, public opinion became much more anti-MI. And, yes, the MI supporters who posted here by name, pretty much did a disappearing act. People who supported MI in theory didn't like having the board's feet held to the fire.

RealityCheck, it's absurd to think the noisiest issue of the year has been forgotten three weeks before an election. It sounds like it's been a big topic at the candidate forums. I noticed that when I went on vacation, I came back and there were MI threads.

It's not a settled issue because there's no plan for what happens in three years. Also, at this point, it's affecting how people feel about bond issues.

It's about the money--that's always the reality.


Posted by q, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I'm probably remembering incorrectly but weren't at least some of the startup funds for the MI program supposed to come from private funds provided by anonymous MI supporters?


Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:01 pm

MI's also not settled because a new board could come in in November and put a moratorium on starting MI until the BOE has finally done the priority-setting and facilities planning that it should have done in the first place. The work done so far needn't be wasted, it could just be kept for future use. There's no worry with losing the FLAP grant, also, since MI was already cost-neutral right?

With a moratorium on, rather than an abandonment of, MI wouldn't that allow the BOE to turn down a charter application? They could say quite truthfully that it is in the works but that the precise timing depends on more pressing decisions being made first -- which is the main issue that most people opposed to MI had in the first place.




Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:02 pm

The board will tolerate as much as is required of them by the community - the public has a right to say whatever it want's to the board, and keep pertinent issues on the front burner - such as equity, transparency, use of district staff resources on district priorities, space and capacity issues et.

All these matters are in the future, and will continue to take the time of the board. The complaint that it's pesky opponents that keep these matters in front of the board is misplaced, propoganda, disinformation campaign of the MI proponents. If you want to find the reason that the board time is being wasted on MI, look no further than the root cause - the existence of MI - at the hands of those who are pushing it.

As for community position on MI - this is a fact - neither the board, district staff, superintendent or anybody else have EVER done an appropriate and complete survey of the community position on this matter. All thoughts on where the community stand on MI are anecdotal. But anecdotally I can tell you I get approached and thanked daily by people I don't know, who recognize me or my name for standing up and saying what needs to be said.


Posted by 3 new board members, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Thanks, OhlonePar, q, PA dad and parent, for expressing so well why Reality Check is way off base. My comments to RC didn't pass muster with the editors (I hate it when that happens), but you said it better anyway.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Anecdotally, most people don't know how strongly I feel about MI, so I hear the different viewpoints. It's less dislike of the idea of MI than how it was carried out. The latter infuriates people--generally starts with, "Don't even get me started . . ." and I hear it from very gentle, normally perky people.

RC, people aren't going to forget because we're talking about the schools. And that means you're talking about people's kids. People will fight to the wall if it concerns their kids. It's probably not coincidental that most of the anti-MI crowd in this forum tends to use monikers that are some variation on "parent" or "mom" or "dad".

Interestingly, the anti-MI crowd tends to be more consistent in its nom de guerres. The pro-MIers have gone from names to abstractions--i.e. RealityCheck, Another Point of View, names that tend to emphasize a certain righteousness of cause. No one name seems to stick around that long. They mutate with the tactics.

Which makes me think, frankly, that the pro-MI crowd on the forum is even smaller than it appears. Sort of how PACE had only nine signatures when they wrote their demand/agreement letter to the board.

There is support for MI outside of that, of course, but it looks a lot more passive.


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 12, 2007 at 6:00 am

Time is money too
What I want to know is how much time is the BoE and Kevin Skelly devoting to MI? The "rest of us" in the district who will not access this select program need attention too. Or is MI/Mandarin K-12 education the focus/priority of PAUSD now?


Posted by we (the majority), a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:18 am

"Or is MI/Mandarin K-12 education the focus/priority of PAUSD now?"

Yes. The board is controlled by a select group who are dictating the direction. We (the majority) generally don't get a look in.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:32 am

Why would you think Mandarin would take a large part of the Super's time? It is a pretty small program in the scheme of things for all the attention it gathers. And from the district's point of view, the BOE has set policy and they will implement. I assume they are spending time on the grant consummate with the amounts involved.

Personally, MI is not a big issue for me - the last super and the ability of the BOE to lead are though. MI exposed some of their weaknesses in a glaring way and divided the community - as such, it is an important example. But the program itself, I believer, is pretty minimal at this stage.


Posted by cynical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:53 am

Terry, I think you meant commensurate.

MI *should* be a small program, and use up minimal amounts of staff time. Again, transaprency rears its ugly head. It would be great to know exactly how much time Marilyn Cook and Becky Cohn-Vargas are spending on setting up the program in compliance with the grant's restrictions, talking with everyone who is going to be involved withthe program, etc. etc. etc. Time is money. Oh wait, the program is cost-neutral and requires minimal staff time.

I'll believe this grant can and will benefit the district as a whole when I see what they do with it. Bonds away!


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Sure Terry, minimal if you're drinking the koolaid or until you start adding up...

the angling for Garland (how much time and attention do you think that's going to take?)
the new rate of district growth generated by MI
The ongoing program reporting and transparency issues,
the pilot review and approval phase,
the detailed monitoring, reporting for the federal governement related to the grant funds.

the lawsuits when children are turned away from enrichment opportunity in PAUSD because they don't speak Mandarin.

the "oh we're just figuring out (2 years later) that the Ohlone method doesn't really fit for an MI classroom so MI brawls with Charles, and Charles brawls with the district staff and BOE.

the year 3-5 MI expansion to the Middle Schools proposal based on the classic: 'They get one, so we should too' argument. And ensuing public debate/discussion/outcry.

the back-to-the-drawing-board-with-the-bond-request phase for the district because voters rejected the fact that they failed to lay out a feasible plan for a facility for a new choice school that wouldn't displace neighborhood kids...

Lets see, anything else about MI that won't take up any board or district staff time?


Posted by Puzzled, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Why in the middle of California are we not spending our money on a district-wide elementary level Spanish program?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Puzzled,

Because Spanish isn't as trendy.

Parent,

Susan Charles v. PACE in a dark alley? I still give it to Charles. I don't think the MIers have any idea what they've left themselves in for. She'll have a way of just talking right over any complaints. I've known some pretty demanding parents get absolutely nowhere with her.


Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm

OhlonePar is right. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] That's why my money is on this pending reality: we keep the Choice MI program, because Board members have already said that they wouldn't "do that to families" (meaning pull out of the choice commitment). And, because PACE doesn't really want Ohlone, and as a group don't appreciate being steamrolled (Charles' favorite methodology, always with a velvet hammer, of course), we get to have a Charter school, too.

So Parent, add that to your list of potential costs for the 'minimal' impact of MI.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2007 at 5:35 pm

Never-Picked,

The board did also say that if the charter gets filed, they will shut down the MI program. Though who knows who will be on the board at that time, so . . . little wonder the pro-MI crowd wants to pretend there will be a backlash if we keep discussing this during the election. Their program's on trial run for three years. And, frankly, I don't think even Townsend's got the stomach to push it to a school of its own unless it becomes wildly popular and, frankly, I don't think the MI crowd has the political knack to pull that off.

Another possibility is that the Ohlone-MI strand may become Ohlone with a couple of hours of Mandarin instead of an immersion program.

My guess on the money, by the way. Well, two things--Charles ain't going to let us parents in on how it's being spent; also, the money will go all over the school. It's in her interest to do so, particularly if the MI parents are counting on being able to pull up stake in three years and take all their lovely equipment to Garland. I don't see why there wouldn't be some shell-game at the Ohlone level as well as the district level. She's wanted to improve the science program for years. I won't be surprised if that happens.

And she's got the argument already for doing it her way--Ohlone MI has to be part of the Ohlone program. She's in charge and MI is supposed to be integrated into the school. This isn't a little neighborhood school minding its own business, which would allow an immersion program to function more as a school within a school.

I think where things are going to fall down is at the actual instruction level.

Well, it should be sort of weirdly amusing to watch.


Posted by never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 12, 2007 at 6:33 pm

OP -- Can you remember when the Board said they would pull the plug if a Charter were filed? I was quoting directly from Dana Tom in my previous post. If I missed this important piece -- the plug-pulling -- that would go a long way to alleviating my worries.

As I write that I find myself asking 'why' it would make me feel better; it's not like the Board has kept its word on anything on this issue...

NP


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:15 am

It was the meeting when they voted it through--Dana Tom said it. Didn't strike me as having much in the way of teeth, more like Tom and Lowell trying to grab some shred of dignity as they caved in. Tom also wanted the board to agree not to consider new choice programs, something Camille Townsend sort of dismissed as a non-issue.


Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 13, 2007 at 7:32 pm

I truly don't remember that. I remember a big statement that the agreement to this pilot program doesn't guarantee a middle school program (yes, I did laugh out loud).

I guess even if they did say they would pull the plug, the acceptance of this grant makes it all a moot point anyway. As if it weren't a moot point to begin with.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm

NP,

It was all part of the caving with dignity, Dana went on about it for a little while, how they didn't need two systems.

It's part of the reason that I think certain kids are going to get into the MI lottery--if the kids of certain activists are in the system, then those activists have a vested interested in upsetting the apple cart--i.e. filing charter--because then the Ohlone-MI mash-up can be pulled.

Basically, the board is in massive dread of charters, though it sounds like they can be cost-effective. I mean, particularly given that the district does have some rental properties. What we got instead was a bunch of decision making shoved three years down the line.

And, of course, six years down the line, we'll have the big MI middle-school debate. Though if enrollment goes like Cupertino's, maybe not.

We'll probably have another trend by then.


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