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Get harmony back!

Original post made by Pingyu Liu on Sep 24, 2007

Seven years ago, my wife and I moved to Palo Alto, largely attracted by the excellent Palo Alto school system. Since moving to Palo Alto, we've appreciated the quality education our daughter and son have received. Here I would like to say "thank you" to all PAUSD's teachers, staff, and current board members.
Since last year, I've noticed that the Mandarin Immersion (MI) program has became more and more of an issue. Although the board voted to adopt MI, the issue was handled in a way that led to many unwanted consequences, such as many unhappy parents, a divided community, and an overworked school board.
Let me say up front that MI would not benefit any of my children. It's having a scientist's conscience that has driven me to want to serve my community. I have used my research approach to study the MI issue. First, I put the MI issue into the category of "foreign language education for K-12." Second, I searched for all related historic and current information I could find in that category. Let me briefly present my research results here.
1. On January 5, 2006, President Bush launched the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI). Chinese is listed as a "critical need" foreign language. NSLI provides $24 million to help critical need languages education in K-12 through FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) grants.
2. On May 19, 2006, the Department of Education's OELA published a notice inviting applications for new FLAP grants.
3. In fall 2006, many school districts received FLAP awards:
Saint Paul Public School District was awarded a FLAP grant of about $680,000 for the Chinese Articulation Project.
Michigan's Lansing School District received an $801,556 three-year grant. The grant will fund the expansion of a program in Mandarin Chinese.
These facts show that MI supports the national strategic interest. While PAUSD's school board was fighting over the MI issue, other school districts in the nation were rapidly advancing in Mandarin Chinese education with the help of federal grants. My observation is that the board did not properly handle the MI issue. This mistake cost us dearly. It cost time, resources, and harmony in our community. This was partially due to board members not having solid experience with handling federal grants. This lack of relevant experience limited their vision to have only a local (rather than global) perspective. A board with members having diverse backgrounds and experiences could have prevented this kind of mistake. An independent scientist would be a good choice for the board.
I was invited to be an NIH grant review panelist. I know that federal grants not only provide financial assistance but also support strategic directions and critical needs of the nation. I want to contribute my experience to PAUSD.
Let's look forward. The nation is giving PAUSD another chance!
Recently, California Congresswoman Susan Davis introduced legislation—the U.S.-China Language Engagement Act—which provides $20M for 2008, and $25M for fiscal years from 2009 to 2012 for K-12's Chinese language education. PAUSD cannot afford to lose this new chance to win a federal grant for its Mandarin Chinese education. My experience in handling federal grants will help tremendously for PAUSD to win in the next round of FLAP grants. Winning a grant would save PAUSD a lot of time and resources. There would be no more fighting over the MI issue.
In 2008, we will start two MI pilot classes. I suggest that the admission policy should include two clauses. First, applications from non-Mandarin speaking families should be accepted with priority. This is designed to guarantee a fair and general access to Chinese language education. Second, students from Mandarin speaking families should constitute at least 30% of the total enrollment. This will make the "immersion" environment more realistic and challenging.
I believe that with all these done, we'd have harmony back in the community!
(Web Link)

Comments (52)

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2007 at 6:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Gosh, that didn't rate being editted! And another post just disappeared!

Ok, to re-phrase - that analysis seems way off base and simplistic to me, missing a lot of aspects that drove the debate MI. Whether you praise or condemn MI, I don't think that's the approach to thinking or problem solving that one would want to see in our elected councils.

Posted by Language Loving Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 24, 2007 at 7:08 pm

If the taxpayers and voters of Palo Alto want a language program that is funded entirely by our citizens and our government, I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is accepting money from unknown sources to sponsor a trip and feasibility study, and ultimately educate a select number of students for this program.

I have done quite a bit of research on this myself, and what I have discovered is shocking.

I plan on contacting officials in Washington, D.C. to clear this up, because there may be some violations regarding agencies accepting money from a Communist government to influence the minds of our young children. This includes the College Board.

The Chinese government has been spending millions of dollars to launch Mandarin programs all over the world.

If the money came from Hanban or the Confucius Institute Project, this is the "Chinese Government Office of Chinese Language Council" - this is the Beijing government - a communist government.

Web Link

or Web Link

The money would therefore be coming from a Communist source.

I would prefer that my child's education not be influenced by any foreign country, especially a communist country.

The Confucius Institute is extremely wealthy. If you do some research, you will see that they are violating other things (in Hong Kong).

While I love languages and speak another tonal Asian language, I think the way that China is going about this is insidious. They are finding loopholes in our government and public school systems to influence the minds of our children.

If we voted for a language program, and received a grant that was funded by our government, I have no problem with it.

Posted by Language Loving Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 24, 2007 at 7:32 pm

I apologize that my link to Hanban did not work.

Please try this link:

Web Link

If this link does not work, just type in Hanban in your Google search.

You will be amazed.

Posted by Language Loving Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 24, 2007 at 8:39 pm

I just found this link about the Palo Alto grant program:

Web Link

I am now researching where the money originates for FLAP grants - specifically Mandarin. I will keep you posted.

Posted by GetReal, a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Language Loving Parent:
First you say:
"If we voted for a language program, and received a grant that was funded by our government, I have no problem with it."

Then when you find out a grant from our gov't has been received, you say:
"I am now researching where the money originates for FLAP grants"

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And people wonder why the US education system sucks!

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 24, 2007 at 8:54 pm

What exactly is meant by the reporter's comment:

"All students will demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors."

It's just one thing after another around here. Inquiring minds still want to know the source of the $60K -- was it personal money from the PACE group? Was it money from the Chinese government? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] These are reasonable questions left unanswered by the district's continuing failure to respond to the FOIA and other accountability and transparency requests made in the last however many months. Why not just tell us? Not doing so gives the appearance that there is something to hide, even if there isn't. And it gets us back to the question of why the BoE didn't require ndisclosure of who was funding that big fat check. Of course, maybe they did require an accounting, in which case, let's have it.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 9:21 pm

The nation is giving PAUSD another chance to further a cause that is not favored by the majority of voters and residents of Palo Alto, and was not favored on principle by the Board of Education. (The board of educatoin was forced in to voting yes on MI for fear of a charter threat, and for no other reason.)

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Isn't this the same Liu that is a BOE candidate? We should very clearly understand what kind of 'harmony' we could expect if this person were elected. I don't even object to his support of MI as much as his blind committment to such a concept that has the promise of being so damaging to PAUSD.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Lets get harmony back and go back to 12 or 13 equally excellent neighborhood schools!

Nothing could be more damaging to the property values of this city than destroying our strong neighborhood school system with a system of luck based lottery schools which make a few fabulously wealthy and enriched, and the rest (by definition) lesser funded, and therefore perceived as inferior. Will it be YOUR neighborhood with the inferior school? Will it be YOUR neighborhood left without a neighborhood school all together?

Its wrong. A conglomoration of charter type choice schools is a really bad model for Palo Alto. As a tax payer and property owner, I take great offense to the concept of boosting one school up to the heights with a $700,000 investment while the rest of the schools struggle to get by with magazine drives, wrapping paper drives, etc.

The first step is for this BOE to act against vastly inequitable schools in this city by rejecting this grant. The next step is for the people to elect board members who understand and appreciate the value for EVERYONE of strong equitably funded neighborhood schools.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2007 at 9:55 pm

My goodness, how and WHY is the PAUSD Mandarin grant application and program on a Chinese UK website?
There are pictures of Edinburg on there too! This is too weird!

Posted by Amen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 9:58 pm

It's great that PAUSD can get money from the feds to support a cost-neutral program favored by a majority of voters and residents of Palo Alto, a program that the BOE was at first bullied into voting against.

Order has been restored.

Posted by Neighbrhood School Proponent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm

That's funny, I thought instituting MI was as easy as falling off a log, and Susan Charles and her one chinese speaking teacher were going to be doing this in their spare time with one hand tied behind their back. No problem.

Now they need $700,000 worth of funding to get it off the ground??

And how convenient that it materialized after the approval went through, even though it was turned down when the vote was no. In other words, everyone (except the public) knew this was waiting in the wings, if only those stubborn BOE's could be bullied into reversing their vote.

So, are they going to dole out $700,000 checks to each school to keep every neighborhood school on a level playing field in terms of resources?

Posted by Don't call me Shirley, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Surely you all recognize that the grant is for K-12 Mandarin program, not just for the MI program. Surely you jest when you disregard the fact that the MI program is cost neutral *to the district* in that extra costs of Mandarin materials, books, professional development, etc. are not coming out of the district's general fund, but being born by private donations or grants or other contributions *outside* of PAUSD.

Surely, you have full confidence in the 12 PAUSD elementary schools in delivering the same curriculum. Two schools in another language, but the content is the same.

And surely those of you who on one hand say language skills are really important and should be made available to all elementary students; those same people say that languages are not in the priorities list and shouldn't be addressed at this time.

Surely change is difficult and uncomfortable for some, but innovative and inspiring for others.

Posted by windfall, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2007 at 11:33 pm

If MI is cost neutral to the district then any grant money given to MI will mean that the district will not need to provide the MI program that same amount of money. This should be a windfall for the district. The money saved by the district, not having to pay the MI program, could be used to start a language program for the rest of the elementary children.

Posted by logician, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 8:02 am

check the logic:

MI is cost neutral to the district.
Ergo, the district is not providing MI any extra money.

The district is providing the same money to the MI classrooms as to any other classroom, teacher salary, custodial support, library support, etc.

The district is not saving any money from the grant because the grant is being spent on things that the district would not have spent.

Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2007 at 8:41 am

Right logician, the grant can be spent on items such as ipods for every child, PC's at each desk complete with a library of all the latest teaching materials and headphones so as not to disrupt the child in the next work station, high def. TV's for instructional videos, the sky's the limit. Should be a great program!

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 8:54 am

So, you are telling me that the MI classrooms will be stocked with all the latest high tech stuff, while my child's classroom has to make do with all the low tech, out of date stuff and parents donating (sorry fundraising through buying junk) for things like digital cameras, printers, etc. for our classrooms.

Now this is definitely sounding bad. Not only does my child not get language instruction, but gets left out on the updated technology too.

Winning the lottery sure sounds like winning the lottery.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 25, 2007 at 9:13 am

Clarification on what the grant will be used for can be found in Marilyn Cook's letter to Supt. Skelly dated today, Sept 25. It starts on page 44 of Web Link. The letter is part of the board packet will be presented at the board meeting tonight.

It's worth noting that this award requires 1:1 matching by the District. From Cook's letter, "District matching is achieved through existing personnel costs and the staff development general budget." The memo includes a revised Budget Detail which would clarify this conversation as far as what the grant will and won't cover, and how the matching will occur.

Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2007 at 9:41 am

Looks like the $52,000 for "equipment" mentioned in the report would be a possible source of funding for the items mentioned above.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:07 am

Well, we all heard Marilyn Cook, Becky Cohn Vargas and Susan Charles stand up and say the MI-Ohlone program they were presenting to the board could be executed excellently, up to PAUSD standards, with little or no incremental effort or cost whatsoever. Becky Cohn Vargas practically gushed about the fact that district staff wouldn't need to be involved at all and the program would be just fabulous. And Charles claimed that it would be really no trouble whatsoever to simply open up the kindergarten doors to an Ohlone program in Mandarin language, that would be up to par in every way with standard Ohlone programming.

And I assume we can take them for their word??

(Because if that was not true, then BOE approved the MI program on false pretenses??!)

Ok, so let's agree to suspend reality for a moment and say then it was true. If true then a huge funding windfall of $750K for Mandarin language education is entirely GRAVY for this program - a VAST enrichment of resources over and above anything in any of our elementary schools. All for PURE LUXURY (not necessities! Because remember the above "truth" says with certainty they can roll out the program virtually for free other than 10K per classroom incremental -just 20K per year incremental!)

The real train wreck here is what this huge funding windfall, directed to ONE elementary school choice program, means to the very fabric of our neighborhood school concept. We operate this district on a well understood principle of 12 equally excellent schools, that operate on a level playing field of resources. We approved PIE and support PIE annually, on this principle of equity across the schools.

Well, kiss that concept good-bye for good if the board accepts this huge sum of money for the benefit of one program. PAUSD returns to the dark ages of pre-PIE days where equity in our elementary schools was not a princple we cared about, stood up for. From here on out its every man (every school) for themselves!

Talk about unintended consequences!

BOE - are you willing to sell PAUSD's soul for a buck? Please have some integrity, and show the world that we have some integrity. You were forced against your own best judgement to accept the MI program. You are NOT forced to accept this grant - you have been told they can do this program excellently and ON PAR with PAUSD standard elementary offerings for free. So please support a level playing field for our elementary schools!!

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:14 am

$52,000 in equipment for Mandarin Laguage efforts in PAUSD. how luxurious for them.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:24 am

I'm confused about this grant. If PAUSD is supposed to match it, then accepting this grant will mean spending $750K or whatever the number was on the program (K-12 classes) out of district funds. Is Marilyn Cook saying that we would be spending that ANYWAY on two k-1 classrooms plus 2 high school mandarin teachers? If so, that would mean that the program is still benefitting from the FLAP matching funds. According to PiE principles, I think that money can't be spent on staff. So what exactly would it be used for? Also, is it really standard cost for two k-1 strands and 2 mandarin high school classes to cost $1,500,000? That seems mighty high, way above what the rest of the district is costing. Additionally, it is dangerous to rely on soft funds such as grants, donations etc. for ongoing programs. You set up the programs and then what happens if the funds dry up? Are we stuck with teh program? Are we stuck with funding it at previous levels that included the grant? This is basic knowledge among those who do accounting involving grants.

I hope the BoE and Dr. Skelly think long and hard and ask some probing questions (heck, including where that first $60K came from) before they willy-nilly accept Marilyn Cook's recommendation. I'm not saying it wouldn't be fair to fund the program that way, but how can anyone tell anything? Pleas how can anyone believe at face value anything that the 25 Churchill staff says about this program after the fiasco that was the Feasiblity Study?

Posted by windfall, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:38 am

What I was trying to say is that if the grant gives the MI program money then the district could "save" that same amount of money to be used elsewhere. MI says that they only need the same as the rest of the classrooms so they shouldn't really "need" the grant money, therefore, they can "return" the district money. Just a theory, I am sure that it would never happen.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:45 am

(don't call me) shirley - surely you recognize that the BOE has not approved a K-12 Mandarin program? The BOE specifically said they were not only NOT approving middle school, but they were not even discussing middle school. Marilyn Cook herself said over and over that no middle school study had been done. So how did a middle school MI program worm its way into the grant application?

And surely you saw the feasibility study presented by Marilyn Cook to the BOE, and the hours of testimony from the staff to BOE that said that no staff resources whatsoever would be needed to implement the MI program as presented for vote. So how did levels upon levels of staff resources worm their way into the grant application (program directors, mandarin specialists, assessment directors, etc)?

And (dont call me) Shirley - tell me where the feasibility study and staff talked about Parent Education offering for the MI participanting families? I don't remember seeing anything about that anywhere - except in the grant application.

And tell us where the feasibility study outlined the scope and cost of the Assessment effort by Stanford consultants (never mentioned in the feasibility study, never presented to the BOE, yet put forth in the grant application.)

None of this in the feasibility study - NONE of it presented to the Board - yet it all magically becomes a PAUSD committment reality through the grant application process.

And since the FLAP grant stipulates that acceptance of the grant becomes binding committment between PAUSD and the Federal government, per the program as delineated in the grant application itself, acceptance of the grant becomes defacto acceptance of all these elements of the program without ANY board discussion or vote on the full scope of the program.

The grant application itself creates a program that the BOE did not approve!

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:49 am

Yes, but the thing is, if I understand correctly, the grant is predicated on the district's spending that much on the program. So if the district spends $50,000 on the program and sends the rest of the money elsewhere, the grant will only cough up $50,000. So basically, if you accept the grant you double the funds going to the MI program -- the funds that you would have spent anyway, and then the grant that matches that amount dollar for dollar. The grant is earmarked. Its funds are limited to use for a Mandarin k-12 program, which at this point is 2 K-1 classrooms and a couple of Mandarin high school classes. So I don't see how transferring funds is a possibility. Bottom line, as I understand it, we have to spend the same amount of money to get the money, and it all has to be spent on Mandarin. (This is not how the FLAP grant was sold way back when -- it was sold as a way to fund the entire program so that it would actually be LESS than zero net cost to the district)

Anyone have a different understanding?

Posted by Logician, meet Logic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 10:56 am

Logician - right. The grant is for stuff that no one else in the district has, no else needs, and MI doesn't need. MI is going to have everything it needs to succeed at standard PAUSD funding levels.

Proof that MI doesn't need the money: according to staff reporting, Feasibiliyt Study, and copius staff testimony to the board - the program can be absolutely wonderful, at standard pausd funding levels, without any incremental staff time or any incremental PAUSD resources needed whatsoever.)

So why do we need the money? For greed's sake?

This sets a pretty ugly precedent for grabiness/greediness and disproportionate luxuries distributed inequitably across the district - why would the board agree to allow this other than for greediness sake?

I wonder if this BOE has the guts to act on principle?

Posted by grant reviewer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 11:03 am

Natasha - not sure I agree wholly - for example, there are developmental activities (such as development of curriculum, development of specialized assessment tools) in the grant application. So those would be spent today, for future use. So they wouldn't be limited to spending in the first year (for example), on K,1 activity.

Now, interms of 'matching' I believe the district set this up with a pretty loose definition of matching. The teachers, which all our students would have anyway - Mandarin or not - are being put up as the 'matching' resources for this grant. So, for example, we are telling the feds that the kindergarten teachers salary (say $100K) qualifies us for $100K of grant funds for other MI stuff. In my opinion, that's bogus. And perhaps would be challenged if the grant agency understood that PAUSD is not actually incurring ANY incremental investment for the MI program whatsoever. PAUSD has no skin in the game on this MI program. Good for PAUSD - but what would the granting agency say?

Posted by less than perfect pitch, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 11:31 am

How ironic that a topic with the title 'get harmony back', brings us directly back to the subject that is the most unharmious, discordant issue to face PAUSD in recent memory.

The suggestion that we take a $750K grant to FURTHER entrench this district in MI, and to suggest EXPANSION of MI before even the first student shows up for the pilot, is about the most unharmonious suggestion on this terribly divisive issue, that I could have imagined.

I think dissonance is the word that this author might have been looking for. He suggests harmony can be restored by increasing the dissonance in PAUSD by doubling (tripling, quadrupling) down on the MI effort? Its a baffling slap-in-the-face position for someone trying to attract voters.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Suggestion to actually get the harmony back:

BOE should hold off on a huge infusion of funding for MI until after the pilot phase is complete. Since it is true that the staff said they could put on a very excellent program within current PAUSD resources, it seems recklessly premature to spin up the MI program into the stratosphere of funding until after the pilot is shown to be successful.

The argument, "grab for the gusto now, or lose" - this is something like what happens to a home buyer looking at open houses - panic buying, When you see another couple people running around an open house, you think OMG, I'll never get another chance to get this 'fabulous, once in a life time' deal. It clouds your judgement.

BOE - don't panic. Don't dig us (or yourselves) into an even deeper hole on this. If Mandarin education is enjoying such huge widespread growth across the whole entire USA, and is so 'strategic' to the US government, then funding sources will be just as available three years from now as they are today - if not more so. The global need for something this "important" just doesn't dry up and go away three years from now (if you believe that propoganda line). AND, if true, then there is all kinds of R&D underway now for mandarin assessment tools, curriculum, etc., so PAUSD doesn't need to grow all this stuff on their own. Three years from now, they'll have much more developed curriculum, etc. to choose from, and they wont ~need~ as much in the way of resources to build a full program.

So all the way around, waiting for the pilot to play itself out is the more prudent action.

Posted by Oh my gosh, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2007 at 12:46 pm

I completely and unequivocally not let money, from whatever source, entice you into voting in any direction.

Either it is a good idea to have a very enriched k-12 Mandarin program, or it isn't. It should not be forced through by the waving of checks...

On principle,this should be turned down. We can not reward such behavior, writing up a grant for a program that the Board specifically said we did not want to pursue. Then getting it and putting us in this absurd position of having to bypass our vote ( again) and commit to a program that will need to be either continued post grants, or dismantled. Either scenario is an appalling scenario, given that there was no local choice in this matter through our Board.

Taxation without representation, again...THAT is what creates the lack of harmony, not simply being upset over the outcome.

Most of us are people that if we lose a vote, we accept the fact and move on. But if our votes, our wishes, are overridden, that is another story. THAT is what is causing disharmony here.

We are making yet another decision in the absence of any Strategic Plan to support it, any election on the future of our District to support it, or even just a community survey to support it. In fact, the last ( now horribly behind) strategic plan and goals and community survey concluded just the opposite.

It is wrong to keep doing this to us.

Posted by I was there too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 1:41 pm

I went to the School Board Candidate Forum last night. MI was brushed aside, with the attitude seeming to be that it we should 'all just get along'. Only Wynn Hauser, in a thinly veiled response, talked about ''equity" in the choice programs, and all kids ultimately getting the same curriculum in the elementary schools. The candidates will not bring up the issue of the long-term ramifications of MI unless the public demands it.

The biggest disappointment to me was that some of the questions asked were really softball questions. "Why do you want to be on the school board?" Who cares! We have big, serious, long-reaching important issues facing our district. The candidates need to be asked hard, controversial questions -- repeatedly, if necessary, until answers are given and commitments are made.

With a dozen more events planned, this is an unprecedented opportunity for the PAUSD community. I hope that more members of the online community show up to these events and ask the smart questions that are so often posted here.

Posted by board watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2007 at 2:00 pm

On the other hand, Wynn has publicly stated, in writing, that he does not favor revisiting MI. I am not sure what his stance is on MI going forward. He might have addressed it in one of his posts but I don't remember.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Sep 25, 2007 at 2:12 pm

To I was there too,

Agreed. I will be ready to ask hard questions.

The only problem with on the spot hard questions, is that it is sometimes difficult to give a concise answer under pressure.

I found that during the initial MI discussion, the board members (with the exception of Ms. Townsend's out of office reply) quickly and politely responded to my questions and concerns via email.

I was also able to provide all my factual data and concerns forward to the council members via email.

I would not have been able to do this in the tense 3 minutes alloted each speaker.

The board members even requested more information from me regarding the implementation of a MI program - which my husband and I opposed.

This was before the charter school was thrown at them.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2007 at 1:17 am

I Was There Too, what are these "hard questions" that we should get "commitments" on? I know that seems like a leading question, but I am genuinely curious - are there specific issue positions that would disqualify candidates in your mind?

Posted by anonymous coward, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2007 at 7:30 am

Yes, I will not vote for anyone who thinks it is a good idea to have different curricula at each public elementary school. Period.

different teaching styles..ok, maybe...

Public education is predicated on EQUAL OPPORTUNITY for all, not equal chance at the lottery for all. We can't enforce that in the nation or the state, but we sure as heck can make it a vision and stick to it as best we can for our own district.

Aside from that, I will not vote for anyone who wants to give one group a "choice" while taking away the choice of another group. That is not "choice", it is "takeover".

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 7:37 am

Hi coward,

So, just to be very clear on your position:

1. Would you want the candidate to change the board policy regarding choice programs?

2. Would you want the candidate to champion eliminating SI and MI?

3. Would you want the candidate to eliminate all choice programs so that all schools are neighborhood schools?

Your (somewhat) extremist views beg clarification.

Posted by I was there too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm


I appreciate the fact that you were clear that you were curious and not antagonistic.

To answer your last question first, I'm not sure if there is a specific answer that would disqualify a candidate in my mind. But I'd like to know their thinking and position on several issues, and I'd like to know that they've actually been thinking about things. Dr. Liu answered "I don't know" a number of times Monday night. While I appreciate his honesty, that's not an answer I'm looking for. I'd even appreciate an answer that indicates an understanding of all the complexities of a situation without giving a specific answer. For example, a candidate could say 'I'm not sure about issue x, and before I gave an answer on that I would need to look at A, B, C, D, and E. I will study that and have an answer ready by the next forum, or via email by this date.'

The questions I would like to see answered have to do a great deal with the Choice programs at our schools. How many is enough? Do we expand the ones we have before we add anymore, since all of them are indeed holding waitlists currently, and we can expect the same of MI? Young 5s hardly seems like a choice, more a necessity; what is the candidate's requirements to expand that program? What happens when MI runs out of room at Ohlone? Do they expect for existing Ohlone classrooms to become MI? Or do they plan to move MI to a different building? And then what of MI the Ohlone way? Is it dumped, or does Ohlone have a satellite in a different building? What is the vision for that? It is the district policy that a choice program not displace neighborhood kids, but Escondido is growing by leaps and bounds. Will SI have to move out, or will those neighborhood kids be given a priority spot in SI classes? What did they learn from the MI experience -- even though most of them weren't on the Board? (At Duvenck, they were all singing the same 'move on' song, but I would consider this question important -- possibly the most important one I would ask -- and would hope for a thoughtful and complete answer and not a 'barn building', 'let bygones be bygones' answer, as I think the question has nothing to do with re-hashing the past, but everything to do with what a Board Member might do in the future.)

There are other issues as well -- budget priorities, expectations of teachers, the way information is both sought and shared, middle school and high school expansions, but this is enough from me for now.

Posted by 1.5 cents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:20 pm

"The questions I would like to see answered have to do a great deal with the Choice programs at our schools. How many is enough?"

I don't understand your focus on this. Is the board considering other choice programs? Is there pressure from parents for another choice program? Is there an organized group pushing for a new choice program? Is there a charter in the wings?

If not, then this focus seems mostly backward-looking to me.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Here's the problem with the flippant (ignorant?), 'move on' answer to the MI issue.

The only part of MI that is in the past is the board approval vote. The ENTIRETY of the development, implementation, rollout is IN STILL IN THE FUTURE.

Are we honestly expected to sit back and say "The program has been approved (based on the theoretical outline provided to us on paper) so anything that happens in the FUTURE implementation phase just 'is'. Are we really just expected to hand over the reigns to Marilyn Cook and Grace Mah, and Susan Charles and accept whatever happens with the program development, the spending, the funding, the cost neutrality, the student results, the lottery, the location, etc - the way a blacktop accepts a steam roller?

That's an absolutely ludicrous position - which by the way our new superintendent supports! As far as he is concerned, which he made abundantly clear last night - no discussion allowed on MI - because its water under the bridge.

I'm looking for a candidate that knows better and will be promoting accountability and transparency to the community on the rollout of this program and who will be holding true to the parameters for that program that were set forth by this board (ie: accountability, cost neutrality, equity against other PAUSD elementary programs, appropriate and unbiased ethnic balance, student oucomes that exceed PAUSD standards, transparent lottery, etc.)

Do we have any of these candidates? Melissa's the only one I've heard talk about accountability. But I don't know if its on the matter of MI or more generally speaking.

I'm tired of letting the District staff skate all over us.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:45 pm

1.5 cents: Sure, backward looking, until the next one comes along. Then its all about using the 'precendent' and the pathetic swiss cheese policy as defense for the next ridiculous program that shows up waiving a check in a board meeting. Didn't your mother ever teach you - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 1:25 am

And let's not forget the big question--where the hell does MI go in 3 years?

The only way to move on at this juncture would be to stop the program. Otherwise, wayyyy too many problems. We've got a program and no space. Simple really.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 27, 2007 at 1:47 am

OhlonePar, I don't think stopping the program is an option. Being an immersion program, there will be children in grades K, 1 & 2 who will have been taught primarily in Mandarin. It's not fair to these students to drop immersion mid-stream when they haven't had adequate English instruction. I remember hearing this discussion somewhere – probably some board meeting – and they proposed that in the worst case, should MI fail for whatever reason, the currently enrolled students would complete their K-5 immersion.

This seems fair for the MI students but terribly complicated for the program. They'll have to complete the development of the curriculum to grade 5 for this 'small' group of students. Vested interest. And then there's that nice juicy grant. More vested interest. I don't see any scenario where MI ends after 3 years. "Pilot" was simply required terminology for the board vote.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2007 at 1:48 am

Ohlone Par, did you see my posts? I was looking for you. I just sent a letter off to two Congresswomen, and several to Washington, D.C., CNN, and NBC, and a close friend of mine who is a syndicated journalist.

Posted by curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:59 am

Concerned Parent,

Please let us know what response you get from the congresswomen, CNN, and others.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 9:03 am

So, you're saying a three year scenario would be you have three years worth of kids who are so far below grade level in English that it wouldn't be 'fair' to get them in English instructions pronto. I'd say it wouldn't be fair to do anything other than that.

And the only answer at that point would be to continue teaching them in Mandarin? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:13 am

Yet Another,

No, I don't expect them to just stop the program either. But because of that, there's no just "moving on" because there is such a space issue. I think it's interesting that the grant is for a 240-student school and then a K-12 program.

What's interesting in that light is how unsuccessful the first Cupertino class is--I think it's six kids in that first year now. Way less than a class' worth.

Concerned, I did see your posts and look at the links, but I haven't really had the time to analyze them and think them through. I think there's been some question before as to whether the $60K came from China.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:28 am

Wow, the PA Online staff have their giant clipping shears out today. Parent, I read your original response and can't remember what was so incredibly offensive that had to be deleted. Can you write it again more delicately worded?

I'm assuming you're using the word 'you' in a general sense, because I didn't design how immersion works and am not here to defend it. I'm neutral - it is what it is.

The way SI (and MI, eventually) works is that Kindergarteners are taught primarily in the foreign language - they're 'immersed'. It's about 80-90% foreign language, I think. Every year that percent decreases, until the end of fifth grade when they are supposedly at the same level of English reading/writing proficiency as non-immersion students. My hunch is that a kindergarten immersion student can successfully transfer to traditional first grade. (At least for SI, I'm not so sure about MI since the alphabet is different.) First to second is a little more challenging, and second to third is even more so. This is why the District addressed how to serve the initial group of MI students, should the program be canceled after the 3-year pilot.

It takes a great leap of faith on the part of English-only speaking parents for the first few years. That's one of the reasons a 'community within a community' forms: these parents need a lot of support from each other first in assisting their children, and second in getting reassurance that it was the right decision. It's scary when faced with STAR testing in second grade and their child has barely been taught in English.

I think this addresses your deleted comment, but if not please comment again.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:29 am

In retrospect it's astonishing how hard MI supporters have lobbied to get MI here when there are so many thriving Mandarin programs available in our region!

Is it worth it to throw a strong public school district (PAUSD)into confusion and also add a monkey wrench into the question of future district facilities needs/plans? MI makes things a lot more complicated around here, and how many students out of all of PAUSD may benefit from MI??? Apparently, now MI is seen as "umlimited" in expansion - I am shocked.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:31 am

What I meant is, very FEW students will benefit from MI, however there are grand plans to lock in expansion; yet I doubt that many parents will really jump onto the bandwagon. Still, facilities and related services will be co-opted by the program.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:43 am

Don't worry, k, there will be plenty of parents jumping onto the bandwagon. PAUSD has a world-wide reputation. The 'Overseas Chinese Web Guide' has a list of recommended schools & school districts in the US. Web Link Palo Alto and Cupertino are prominently featured. If you click on the navigation links on the left you can find Palo Alto under 'Top Schools', 'Chinese Schools' and 'Santa Clara County API'.

Posted by Elementary School Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Sep 28, 2007 at 4:45 am

That web Link! Is this why we are so overcrowded? Looks like the flood gates are wide open. Come one, come all, get the best education right next to Stanford and it's free! Impress your friends back home and tell them that you made it here.

I heard that you have to pay for the decent schools in Asia and it is competitive to get in.

Bring out more portables! What is the population over there?
We are friendly lot of people, lets roll out the red carpet (no pun intended)

Posted by clarification, again., a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2007 at 7:50 am

To whoever asked the question about change Board policy on Choice.

No, stick to Board policy in the whole..choice works if it is "feasible", definition doesn't mean "do-able" it if it feasible w/in context, priorities, strategic plan.

In that light, I would suggest changing the way the Board policy is written to make the English and the context of the English clearer. We have never said that we want to become a district of all alternative schools, with each kid getting the eduation they win through lottery, in the name of "choice", which means one person wins in choice while the other loses in choice, in the way it has been set up.

Have a Board that understands we don't do end-runs around our District Strategic plan, nor around valid district-wide surveys of what the district sees as priorities.

We've been around and around this, no point in continuing it.

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