Boundary Decisions no longer Relevant
Original post made by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2006
When the Board approves the next CHOICE program in February (and they are WELL on their way down this path), we will have four choice programs in our elementary schools (Hoover, Ohlone, Spanish Immersion and Mandarin Immersion), that will encompass 1220 students out of 4852. That's 26% of our elementary students in Choice programs. That also means that another 1220 are being sent to school sites other than the closest site in their neighborhood.
So that's 2440 students going to something other than neighborhood schools. Including inter-district transfers (about 29 this year), 51% of the students in this district will NOT be attending "neighborhood" schools. (2469/4852 = 51%)
So WHY in the WORLD are we wasting any time on BOUNDARIES? Shouldn't the district come right out and say The majority of this district is based on CHOICE programs. First we populate Choice programs, and then we place students at the next nearest school. Why play this game that we actually are operating a Neighborhood School community?
And in that case, then what's our STRATEGY for operating a District of Choice programs:
Here are some questions we should be able to answer:
1) How do we decide which Choice programs are going to exist is it first come first serve to start up new ones? Or is there to be a rationale related to community priorities? Is there a community input system for new programs? (Note the only real criteria stated in our Choice Policy Guidelines today are around cost neutrality.)
2) How do we staff a Choice Program District? Shouldn't we be hiring a stable of Program Directors, experts in that area? Why are there still 'site principles' and what are they in charge of?
3) How do we fund Choice Programs some will cost a lot more than others, right? You'd expect Industrial Arts, Science, Technology programs to cost more than 3-R's programs.
4) Do we care anymore about equitable cost per pupil? If so, how do we enforce that?
5) Do we care anymore about PIE? Is our Staffing Policy relevant? Don't we need to let CHOICE programs hire their own instructional staff?
6) Are PTA funding models relevant anymore? Why do PTA's carry the load for supplemental funding aren't they now secondary to the CHOICE program operations?
7) What are the criteria and reporting requirements for the ongoing operations of a particular Choice program? When do you shut them down? When are they not delivering?
8) What are our processes and rules for customizing curriculums and materials for custom Choice programs?
9) Are there different admissions processes for different programs? Are they all 'lottery' or do some allow for 'qualifying' for admission?
10) Does a district of commuter children need a system of school bussing? Why not?
11) Do we run a 'traditional' program anymore, or is the entire operation a matter of 'choice' programs? Perhaps we have a choice program called 'Traditional'?
The BOARD is SADLY falling down on the job in terms of setting STRATEGY for this district. They're walking with us, like Hansel and Gretel, quietly down a lovely tree lined path, without us (the Community, the Staff, or even the BOARD themselves), really understanding where we're going or how it's going to work. What's going to be there when we get there?
Who's in charge here anyway?