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Mandarin Immersion Solution: A Charter in Mountain View?

Original post made by Language Lover/Give Peace a Chance, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2007

The discussion about the potential for a Mandarin Immersion charter in Mountain View to be a great solution for everyone has been happening on several threads, so I'm starting it again here.

From a previous post:
I'm wondering why PACE doesn't consider pushing for a charter school in Mountain View instead of Palo Alto? The advantages have been given on various other boards, so I will try to list them here:

1) Mountain View is currently facing declining enrollments; they even recently closed a school. They have space. Palo Alto is overenrolled and facing more enrollments with lots of new housing coming on line soon.

2) Mountain View, as expressed in a previous post, has a surplus of city funds. Palo Alto has a deficit.

3) Mountain View has a Spanish Immersion program which, unlike Palo Alto's choice program with limited enrollment, expands to take everyone who wants to be in the program, including students from Palo Alto. A Mandarin Immersion program could similarly take students from the MV district and Palo Alto.

4) A Mandarin Immersion program would attract new students and be a boon for the reputation of the Mountain View school district, which suffers some relative to Palo Alto and Los Altos schools (probably not deservedly as much as it does).

5) Palo Alto families interested in MI could go there for elementary, then continue in Palo Alto schools for middle and high school if they wished. By then, maybe Palo Alto would at least have summer immersion here, and a comprehensive language plan for all kids, including elementary kids who currently have no language instruction in neighborhood schools, through high school.

6) Because MV doesn't suffer the space, facilities, and monetary constraints of PA at the moment, an MI charter school in MV could start with grades beyond just K/1 -- it could start with prepared kids up to grade 2 or 3, meaning the kids of several of the interested PA PACE families who are now too old to start in K/1 would get the benefits of an MI program after all.

7) Mountain View schools are funded differently, they're a revenue limit district (I know nothing about this, I am remembering a discussion about charter schools and the different ways schools are funded in this area). From the previous post, it seemed that Mountain View was a better choice for a charter school than a basic aid district like Palo Alto because of the way the schools are funded.

8) Mountain View school district as a whole is probably a better fit right now with the mission of charter schools.

9) There is a lot of support in Mountain View for this kind of language instruction.

10) Palo Alto is facing space problems, and if PACE is right in their assertions about MI, this would free up some spaces in our elementary schools for now (though this is somewhat debatable -- are the people most likely to go now sending their kids to private schools?)

11) Mountain View is nearby.

12) Best of all, PACE gets the MI program it wants, without limitations -- even better than they would get here in PA -- no more controversy in Palo Alto, and we can direct our energy to strategic planning, and getting the kind of language program that offers the best language strategy for ALL of Palo Alto's children, and is more flexible for the future.

I would love to hear any comments, including from Mountain View Language Lovers.


From "OhlonePar" on another thread:

A charter school would recieve about $5600 per PAUSD student from the district no mattter where the charter is.

The charter will receive the same amount per student no matter what district they come from.

In addition, if the PAUSD charter has more than 80 students from PAUSD, then the district is obliged to provide school facilities for those students--though not for the students from other districts, for whom they can charge market rate.

A couple of reasons why it makes sense for PACE to pursue the MV charter option:

1. Space. Mountain View has unused school space and would probably be willing to rent it at a reasonable rate to a school that would attract students. PACE proposed a 460-student charter. Seriously, where is that going to go in PA?

2. Rent. Rents are lower in Mountain View. Market rate in Palo Alto would be *steep*.

3. A PAUSD charter could end up in Mountain View anyway. The district doesn't have to provide facilities in the district if none are available. (Though as I recall, it should be in the county. So between here and Gilroy) By dealing directly with Mountain View, the PACE charter is more likely to have control over its space because it would be dealing with a district that would benefit from having them.

Basically, the bottom line is such that the school is more likely to succeed under MV's jurisdiction.

This seems like a great solution!! Wouldn't it be nice to find something that was positive for everyone and allowed us to stop the bickering and get this school going? I haven't seen any other proposals even come close. This wouldn't preclude a future school in Palo Alto, either; wouldn't it be great if people who want MI NOW could get what they want and still work toward something in Palo Alto with strategic planning/on a more realistic time scale given Palo Alto's problems? This seems to be the ticket.

Comments (70)

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Thanks for starting this thread, it is an interesting question.

The point I've seen made elsewhere is that if a charter is started in MV, it will have to give priority to MV children if it is over-subscribed. I don't know the rules, but that seems logical. So if PACE and other PA families put in the hard work to create a charter, they would hate to see their own kids not able to attend. Of course that could happen in PA too, but if the chances are higher in MV, that would make it unattractive to pace.

Maybe there are ways for the charter to preferentially admit kids of involved parents (would make sense - I'm sure it comes up in other charter situations); that would help.

Again, I am just repeating what I read elsewhere - if others know the facts, that would be helpful.



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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Fred,
That's not a problem for the foreseeable near or distant future. Despite the boom causing overenrollment in Los Altos and Palo Alto, Mountain View lost students and closed a school recently. Mountain View's Spanish Immersion program operates at a school with non-immersion students; still they were willing to expand to take anyone who wanted to enroll, including families from Palo Alto who couldn't get into the SI choice program in Palo Alto. (This has been discussed on other threads.)

Mountain View has the space to plan for expansion, so that this is not an issue. In fact, this is the only scenario I can envision for all the students who want MI in Palo Alto to actually get it -- the choice proposal in Palo Alto is extremely space-limited and would likely be oversubscribed. Plus, there is nowhere for the program to go after three years -- there is no reason to start a school that has to be shut down after three years for lack of space when it's possible to start one that has lots of space. So, if you're concerned about Palo Alto kids not being able to get in to the program, that's actually a more realistic concern in Palo Alto.

It also doesn't eliminate the possibility for a Palo Alto MI program in the future, should it appear the Mtn View program will be oversubscribed (though this is extremely unlikely). We will all be better off in this scenario, because the people coming back to Palo Alto will have the experience of running a school and an MI program.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 2, 2007 at 9:54 pm

A few more thoughts:
Remember, an MI choice program as now proposed would have nowhere to go after three years and would have to shut down if it couldn't find space. More likely it would end up causing PAUSD-WWIII. This and other serious problems wouldn't be an issue with a charter in Mountain View.

Here's the greatest point in favor: with Grace Mah on the County Board, which is very interested in charter programs, she could be a guardian angel for the program. I doubt very much that in a few months she will see charters as the poor second choice she portrayed them as earlier in the Weekly. There wouldn't be the same opposition to a program in Mountain View -- there never would have to be a vote on the County level, it would likely be approved locally. Grace could be involved in a positive way and there wouldn't be a conflict of interest. No more rancor. Everyone's energies go to doing what is best for the kids. Each side gets what it wants. Harmony. What could be better?!

(What is wrong, People? Has everyone been fighting so long, no one is willing to jump on an idea with so many positives and potential to end the bickering?)

OhlonePar: This is a powerful point you have made, that if PACE files a charter petition in Palo Alto, it could end up in Mountain View anyway -- to the benefit of the program which will then have the space it needs and be cheaper to operate. In fact, as near as I can tell, this makes the balance sheet even more favorable for a charter than choice for all sides.

Where do you get this point from, and how much discretion does PAUSD have in this matter? Could it plan on this in weighing costs?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2007 at 12:42 am

Hi A.J.,

I picked it up from one the Web sites on charter school laws in California. It was one of the things that made me realize that EPA, which is very pro-charter, isn't the right answer for MI, but Mountain View could be. I'm not sure how much leeway the board has. Unless MI started with multiple grades at the get-go, I'm not sure PAUSD has to provide anything but the $5600 or so at the beginning.

I was thinking along similar lines as you today. At this point, PACE has solicited interest in an MI charter program. If PACE now accepts a small choice program at Ohlone, there's pretty much no way that it will meet the demand. Ohlone can only fit one strand--maybe--which means slots for 20 kinders. That's only if it's approved for six portables.

Grace Mah claimed she had 100 families interested. That's way more than 20 spots. If I were a PACE parent I'd be a bit worried that I'd spent a lot of time on pursuing a program in which my child could not participate. Basically building support meant building competition for spaces.

If PACE is dreaming of 460-student charters with year-round instruction are its members going to be anywhere satisfied with one thread of Mandarin done in the mellow (for Palo Alto) Ohlone Way? (With the exception of Nico.)

In other words, I could see the board opening the choice program and some of the PACE parents pushing through a charter anyway when their kid didn't get into the Ohlone MI or they didn't like the project-based format.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2007 at 1:04 am

Opening the choice program is a looming war in PAUSD -- I think going down that road, given that there is no facility to house it in three years, which both sides acknowledge, is just a fool's choice.

People have brought up some good questions on the list. There has been one really strange, hostile poster who had no actual reasons to substantiate the hostility toward Mountain View, but I think Nico and Grace are actually in this to get the language program and are probably considering any good way to get it seriously. As I said, this has the potential for Grace to really be a guardian angel, it could work out fortuitously for everyone.

So, PAEE, what happens to the cost of a charter if PAUSD locates it in Mountain View (and assuming then that it would be a full school that could take all interested students from surrounding towns)? Is there anyone who can show how much it costs/benefits Palo Alto AND Mountain View? What happens to the cost equation if PACE were to approach Mtn View/Whisman for the charter?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2007 at 1:55 pm

If the charter is in MV, it is not a PAUSD charter - its a MV charter.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2007 at 5:00 pm

palo alto mom,
That's a really important point -- can PAUSD locate a charter in Mountain View or anywhere else in the county that works per what OhlonePar has said? OhlonePar says it comes from the state web site on charter schools -- it would be nice to get more info.

If PAUSD could locate a charter in Mountain View or even Sunnyvale, this still has many cost advantages (though Sunnyvale IMO is too far away). It also has the advantage that Palo Alto students would get priority if the school fills, though this is a very unlikely scenario even if the charter were through the Mountain View district.

One of the most important reasons for PAUSD to locate a charter in Mtn View is to get the space -- we could enroll all PAUSD students who want immersion, whereas a program in PA would even at its inception exclude a lot of students in the district who want to go. The program could also take out-of-district students. It sounds like this is a greater financial advantage for Mtn View school district given the way schools are funded -- is it for PAUSD?

I think an important issue is academic standards. A charter school is a charter school and has a certain amount of freedom. The whole point is that they do not have to do things the local district's way. They do have to be accountable -- but do they have to be accountable to the academic standard of the district that approves the charter, or is it a standard that is set by the charter (and then subsequently has to be met and proven to be met by to the state)?

Whether a charter is in Mtn View or PA, approved through PAUSD or Mtn View/Whisman is probably irrelevant to the academic standards of the school -- that's the whole point of charters. Does anyone have any more knowledgeable input on this?

It seems an MI program started by parents from Palo Alto who put PAUSD curriculum standards in the charter would quickly develop a good reputation, regardless of which district approves the charter.

Well, I'm gratified that there doesn't seem to be any griping -- that usually means something good on this forum -- but how about some positive input if you agree (BRIDGE BUILDING INPUT :-) !) Again, just think, EVERYONE PRETTY MUCH GETS WHAT THEY WANT! Come on, people!!


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Don't everyone answer at once!

Does anyone know if there is a precedent for a JOINT DISTRICT CHARTER? So the two districts could share costs -- and thus get a better school for the money spent -- and also ensure that both district's kids get priority?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2007 at 5:40 pm

I knew I should have bookmarked it, so naturally, I can't find the site, but anyway, here's part of the education code:

CA Codes (edc:47605-47608)

"
(d) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) or subdivision (a) of Section
47605, a charter school that is unable to locate within the
geographic boundaries of the chartering school district may establish
one site outside the boundaries of the school district, but within
the county within which that school district is located, if the
school district where the charter school proposes to operate is
notified in advance of the charter petition approval, the county
superintendent of schools is notified of the location of the charter
school before it commences operations, and either of the following
circumstances exist:
(1) The school has attempted to locate a single site or facility
to house the entire program but such a facility or site is
unavailable in the area in which the school chooses to locate.
(2) The site is needed for temporary use during a construction or
expansion project."

Here's the law on preference:

(B) However, if the number of pupils who wish to attend the
charter school exceeds the school's capacity, attendance, except for
existing pupils of the charter school, shall be determined by a
public random drawing. Preference shall be extended to pupils
currently attending the charter school and pupils who reside in the
county except as provided for in Section 47614.5. Other preferences
may be permitted by the chartering authority on an individual school
basis and only if consistent with the law.
****************

Note that the only mandated preference is for current students and kids that live in the *county.* So, no, an MV MI charter would not be required to give preference to MV kids. Just kids in Santa Clara County.

A lot of this is about size and ambition. The charter proposal is bigger than most of the elementary schools in PA. (And you can't turn the public schools into charters.) Garland's too small a site (and in use).


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Thanks!

ABOUT ACADEMIC STANDARDS OF A CHARTER SCHOOL LOCATED IN MOUNTAIN VIEW:

With a charter school, it makes no difference to the academic standards whether the charter is granted through Palo Alto or Mountain View districts. So, they aren't getting a Palo Alto vs. Mountain View school , they are getting a charter which is whatever the founders of the charter make of it. And you better bet that Grace Mah and Nico, as well as other PACE members are going to make sure it has high academic standards! In fact, locating the school in Mtn View will give far more latitude, because it can be a direct-instruction program or whatever best fits the needs of the school.

This is from the Santa Clara County web site, about charter schools academic standards:
"Each charter school chartered by the County Board of Education is required to have a detailed plan for student academic success, and to make that plan available to the public by posting it on this web site."

So, rest assured, those who value the Palo Alto schools standard of education, a charter allows the charter to set the academic standard regardless of where the building is -- that is the whole point of charte schools!! And I think everyone who has followed this discussion, and anyone in PACE knows without question that Grace will make sure that standard is high, as good or better than in regular Palo Alto schools.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2007 at 9:38 pm

So I think we're talking about four basic options here:

1 - A choice school in PA -- unpopular with PAUSD BOE (per their last vote) but being reconsidered because they fear a charter school in the district would be worse for them.

2 - A charter school overseen by PAUSD housed in-district – even more unpopular with PAUSD BOE because they think it will hurt them even more financially. Others are not so persuaded that it would be worse. Most agree it would be a burden on the district, however.

3 - A charter school overseen by PAUSD but housed out of district because they don't have space -- not discussed by the PAUSD BOE yet, but one possible outcome of a charter application to the PAUSD. If that flies in the face of what PACE want, however, it could be a recipe for endless lawsuits as per Los Altos/Bullis Charter. More harm for the district.

4 - A charter school overseen by the Mountain View/Whisman BOE – not addressed by PACE or the Mountain View/Whisman district so far as I know but supported by many on this forum. Has the potential advantages enumerated by Language Lover in the original post above.

It seems to me that of the four the last is the one that has the best potential to satisfy all parties. Beyond its not having the cache of a Palo Alto address, few substantive criticisms of this idea have yet been raised.

What's in it for everyone? A few highlights:

PACE gets a charter in an immersion-friendly district that is not basic aid and so won't be inflicting harm on either PAUSD or Mountain View/Whisman. PACE gets to create a larger program. Because it's a charter, that program can be both more robust and more innovative from a pedagogical point of view than the ad-hoc Ohlone-MI mash-up choice program would ever be. It could be a really exciting school and still very close to Palo Alto.

The Mountain View/Whisman district gets an exciting new school and more students.

The Palo Alto BOE avoids financial harm that charter schools bring upon basic aid districts. It gets to address everything it feels it needs to address before it can open new choice programs. It gets a chance to hash out a world languages strategy before starting a new language program (which is where I come from in my opposition to starting an MI choice program now). That overarching strategic process may recommend starting an MI immersion in Palo Alto down the road, though, especially once MI in Mountain View is a proven hit and once PAUSD has addressed its more pressing priorities successfully.

The wider Palo Alto education community won't feel that either a choice or a charter school has been forced upon the district. We won't have the acrimony that is highly likely to persist with either a choice or charter school in PAUSD. Opponents to MI in Palo Alto, if the evidence of this board is anything to go by, would welcome this move. Most are very supportive of language education but, for reasons of equity or process, can't support a new MI choice program in the district right now. They would wish a charter Mountain View well.

So – here's the big question -- what does PACE think? PACE members have been invited several times in this and other threads to respond to this idea. How do these options look from your perspective? What are your concerns about a charter application to Mountain View given the advantages to that idea suggested above?

In referring to MI, PACE's Nico Janik pledged at the last Palo Alto BOE meeting to, "work toward whichever option is best for Palo Alto."

Given that both a MI choice program and a MI charter program will hurt Palo Alto, and that a MI charter in Mountain View would do neither, isn't a charter in Mountain View the best option for Palo Alto?

Talking of harm to Palo Alto, PACE is costing PAUSD money right now. Because the BOE fears a charter application, staff have been directed to spend more time, when they are already very busy, on revisiting the choice option.

If PACE is would prefer a charter, either in Palo Alto or Mountain View, the PAUSD would benefit greatly by knowing that preference. They could call off the new choice study and get on with everything else they need to do.

Is there any reason why PACE cannot reveal their intentions -- if not to this forum then at least to the Palo Alto BOE -- now?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Has anybody asked Mountain View what they think? If they are "immersion-friendly" wouldn't they rather have their own choice program instead of a charter school?


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2007 at 11:43 pm

I think if you look at MV's attitude toward its SI program, and how it advertises welcoming students from neighboring cities, you'll get an idea of what they would think in Mtn View. It's a community that values language, has a large, vibrant Chinese population, and has underenrollment of its schools (and because of the way the schools are financed, would benefit from charter students swelling the ranks). And frankly, Mtn View is clearly a place that is looking at all fresh ideas for creating a vibrant community.

Would they rather have their own choice program is a question to ask them. Maybe there is a preference, but I don't see a down side to a charter, especially since high academic standards that could be set by a charter would attract students and might augment the reputation of the district because of this special school offering. If PACE prefers a charter, the district would also benefit from the energy they put into making a good school their own way.

Simon, Thanks for another thoughtful post. I have to disagree about option #3, though. I don't see that it's analogous to the Bullis situation. Let's face it, Bullis is stuck in a bunch of old portables that were slated to be torn down. If anything, Los Altos has a bigger problem with affordable space than Palo Alto does, so that's more analogous to a charter going in somewhere in PA. That's not going to happen to an MI charter in Mtn View.

I think option 4 has a lot of advantages over option 3, but PACE members may prefer to apply for the charter through Palo Alto because at least for them the PA board is a known entity. It doesn't preclude LOCATING the charter in Mountain View for the many advantages, and since Palo Alto has voted to take money from other districts if it had a charter, there are fewer financial disadvantages than before. But I agree with you, option 4 is probably the best, especially since, frankly, the Mountain View board is likely to be enthusiastic to work with and building the school would be a much more positive experience for all involved. That energy and positive attitude WILL translate to a better school.

I think PACE members haven't said anything because they hadn't considered this option before -- hopefully it means they are thinking about it. It seems there are so many advantages to this route, it really does seem like the first "solution" to the predicament, not a compromise.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:53 am

One other thing if I'm reading the charter law correctly. I think PACE has to submit a location along with the charter application.


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 4, 2007 at 9:33 am

How sure is it that Palo Alto does not have to give space? I was under the impression that a charter can take priority over a lease, causing Palo Alto to vacate Garland and place MI in there at great loss of an early termination penalty and loss of market-rate rent for that campus. I mean, they have to provide the space for the Palo Alto kids. This is according to case law I think, and is in addition to the recent caselaw that says charter facilities have to be contiguous to each other for one program. Anyone know more about this?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 9:40 am

AJ - you are confused. You assume that PACE actually want's a charter. You are assigning the wrong motive to PACE.

PACE wants an MI in Palo Alto, and their first preference is for a program that is developed, starte, run and all risk assumed by PAUSD. A choice program.

The charter threat is nothing more than leverage to get what they want.

You won't be able to convince them to 'locate a charter in Mt. View' anymore than you'd convince a bank robber to drop his weapon and switch to a wet noodle.

You are also therefore confused about the ability of the logic and benefits to the charter school to sway PACE into consider Mt. View for their 'charter'.

By the way, even after the choice program is well established, you can be sure the 'charter threat' will not magically disappear. As well it should PACE will continue to dangle that threat over the board to continue to get what they want out of the district for their choice program, because the board did a very excellent job of teaching them that the charter threat is so big and bad and scary that it should be avoided at all cost.

AJ - I think if you think for a moment from their shoes, you will see that trying to convince PACE of the wonders of a charter school in Mt. View is nonsense.


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Posted by Par
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 10:56 am

Natasha, that's a very important hinge issue - whether PAUSD is at capacity or not. If they can be required to vacate a long standing lease to make space to the charter school, then the whole premise of being able to locate the charter outside of Palo Alto falls through.

if you have have some specific case law references in mind, that you can point us to, that would be helpful to help us figure out what the truth is.

The Ed code says that if a district doesn't have available space (yes, the space does have to be contiguous) that the district can provide the space out of the district borders.

And the district only has to provide the space for indistrict kids. So far, I haven't seen any case law yet that forces the district to provide space for out of district kids.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist - do you know of any? And how we can also read it?

The real crux of the question is whether the district can be forced to break lease contracts in order to provide the space. And whether this has been tested in court before. And even if it has - is the scenario that was tested ~really~ similar to PAUSD's? Because what I see is that the fearful board, and others, are pointing at some legal suits (like Ridgecrest) as a big fear factor, even when the situation is totally different.

The real problem is that PAUSD BOE doesn't have the stomach to fight any of it, and apparently that's probably just as well because based on the meeting on 3/27 they don't appear to have what it would take to do a really effective legal job on this.


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Posted by Language Lover/Give Peace a Chance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:32 am

If the board grants a choice program at Ohlone, what does everyone think will happen in three years when space runs out? The PACE people will just fold it up nicely? Right.

What's going to happen when they get tired of the portables and decide the district owes them a real school facility? Going down the choice path GUARANTEES the same kinds of headaches and legal troubles we are being threatened with for a charter.

The great thing about a charter is how hands on it is. The people who start and run the charter will develop a much greater sense of what it takes to run a school and a greater value of public resources. A few years from now, I think this option, whether through Palo Alto or elsewhere, stands the best chance of bringing future harmony and peace.

Grace Mah has said they are willing to go the charter route. She is now in a provisional seat on a County board which is very pro charter. Yes, she levied it as a threat, but I don't think there is any reason to assume she has no intention of going that route. Clearly the PA board thinks so, too.

This is really an important point, because if Grace Mah is going to serve on the county board, the PA board probably doesn't want to always be on her bad side. Going the choice route will ensure that they are always on her bad side, because there will be ongoing demands and conflict, especially the looming facility demand.

But with a charter -- assuming, for good reason, that a charter that would be better for PA than a choice program -- Palo Alto has the opportunity to actually grant PACE and Ms. Mah what they want, keeping our relationship with the county board on good footing. So unless people are prepared to file a petition against her appointment in the next three weeks, which I don't think will happen, we are all better off thinking of what will be best for the city and our ability to work together in the future. The county board is also so pro-charter, if Grace Mah wasn't thinking seriously about it then, she will be soon. I think calling it a loaded gun that she wasn't prepared to shoot is unproductive if not wrong.

How much is a charter really a "threat" compared to a choice program -- why would the skeptics assume Grace Mah's interpretation there and not anywhere else? The PAEE analysis right now is the only spreadsheet done by an accountant, and it seems that a charter is the better choice for the district. I think the result surprised PAEE people, too.

If you think Grace Mah was bluffing, how can you be sure she wasn't bluffing about a charter being a "threat"?

I personally believe PACE is mostly made up of parents who really want, above anything else, to get a quality dual immersion education for their kids. They have said they will form a charter to get it. Even if you think they didn't really mean it then, if there is a solution that makes a charter far more attractive, why wouldn't they consider it? (Please, no sour grapes, this is about coming up with a solution.)


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:48 am

Mountain View does have their own problems, naturally it's necessary to find out whether circumstances would make this a favorable option for them or not.

Slater Elementary School, which was closed recently, has been rented by Google. From PADN Web Link:
"Faltering enrollment and budget constraints forced the school district to close Slater earlier this year, leaving only a small preschool program on the campus.

But after five years the district could move back into the school if enrollment starts to rise, as the district has projected, said Rebecca Wright, the district's chief financial officer.

"The board felt much more comfortable doing a five-year agreement, rather than the traditional 20-year," she said. "This does give us some flexibility." "

Ironically, I found out that other schools have been crowded because of the Slater closing. There were some major financial reasons to close the school -- it's possible that a charter would be a very welcome thing because of the increased enrollment. I think (but not sure) that one of the three programs at the Castro School site right now is technically a charter.

Mtn View parents are currently forming a languages advisory group for the schools. It is a very enthusiastic group that would likely be a welcome place to explore an MI school in Mtn View.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Language Lover:

I didn't say she was bluffing. Obviously its only a threat that works if you're willing to shoot. That's what makes it effective doesn't it?

But that doesn't change the statements above. They want what they want, when they want it and where they want it, and its not a charter, its a PAUSD MI program. If they have to, they'll do a charter - but it WILL be in Palo Alto. (Because the only way it causes the action they desire is if its in Palo Alto. If they walk away and submit a charter application to Mt. View - that's not much of a threat to PAUSD, is it?)

But what they want is a Palo Alto MI program, and their first choice is to have PAUSD foot the bill. And frankly they know they DONT have to give any good reason for it. "Just Cuz" is a good enough reason for them.

So now, the board says, we believe they'll pull the trigger so we give. What they should have said was - you're going to shoot us either way, so lets fight it out.

By the way - the financial result was no suprise to PAEE - its what they've been saying all along. Which tells me you haven't really been paying attention to the arguments. Many have said all along that the biggest issue with the choice program was the financial risk aspect, the significant start up costs, and the district overhead - which were never in the bogus 'feasibility study' cost neutral equation.

These are the significant costs that are avoided if PACE does this as a charter. And I think that they should be required to do it themselves if they want to do it. Then let them go do it.

I for one hope its NOT a bluff and that she files a charter anyway - because it gives the board permission to stop the wasteful, non-priority, MI choice program, and relieves PAUSD of that burden.


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Par, I've done a little more research.

A case that seems apropos is SEQUOIA UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT v. AURORA CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL, in Redwood City (Appellate case from 2003). The appellate court found that a non-sponsoring district may still be required to provide space for its in-district students. So I guess that would mean that Palo Alto could approve a charter and, if the minimum number of Mountain View students enrolled, the Mountain View district would have to give them space if they asked and it was available. I suppose then that the opposite would be true: if enough Palo Alto children were enrolledin a Mountain View charter, their parents could demand and receive space (assuming space were available). Need to get an Ed. lawyer to read this though.

Cite: Web Link

On October 1, 2002, Environmental wrote Centinela and submitted a request for facilities based on section 47614, subdivision (b). In its request, Environmental projected a total of 246 in-district students, including 83 in the class of 2005, 81 in the class of 2006, and 82 in the class of 2007. It also provided information about its instructional calendar, the general geographic area in which it wished to locate, and special facility needs for its program.

Centinela requested the following information: student names and dates of birth, home addresses, names of parents or guardians, grade levels, and schools and school districts attended. In response, Environmental stated that it could not comply because the information was confidential and could not be released without parental consent. fn. 2 As well, Environmental maintained that it had provided all the information required by the regulations. It did, however, offer to discuss alternative methods for addressing Centinela's concerns.

A Los Angeles Appeals Court found in 2004 that a charter school applicant must still make a reasonable showing of the basis for its in-district facilities request, e.g, student residence information, to demonstrate that the number of in-district students claimed by the charter school to be prepared to enroll is in fact reasonably accurate (i.e., in the case of an MI charter application here, proof that students who are supposedly Palo Alto residents for purposes of the facilities request are in fact Palo Alto residents). The court declined to say what showing would be reasonably sufficient, but limited itself to saying that the failure to back up its numbers at all in its application was not enough.
(ENVIRONMENTAL CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL v. CENTINELA VALLEY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT)



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Posted by Par
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Has anyone from PACE approached Mt. View with an MI discussion?

When did that occur? And what was the response from Mt. View?

AJ, maybe you'd be willing to place a call to the Mt. View Superintendent and ask him for some insight? I've heard he's a nice guy.. Please let us know what you find out.

This would be one easy test of whether PACE was truly interested in making a successful charter, or whether they are just using the charter petition as a big stick against PAUSD.

Because logic would say - if you want to start a new business you go to where the environment is friendly, where you get financial help, you get a warm welcome, you get a mutually beneficial relationship, you reduce the likeliness of expensive litigation, you get a more welcoming public constituency, you get plenty of prospective customers, where the cost of rent will be lower, where the costs of teachers will be lower, where competition will be lower, interest in the program will be high, publicity will be favorable, etc.

I think that if the honest to goodness motive was to start a successful ~charter~ school, they'd be looking all over the place, including (but not limited to) Mt. View.


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Sorry for the incoherent email above. something pasted unexpectedly. I meant to say:

Par, I've done a little more research.




A case that seems apropos is SEQUOIA UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT v. AURORA CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL, in Redwood City (Appellate case from 2003). The appellate court found that a non-sponsoring district may still be required to provide space for its in-district students. So I guess that would mean that Palo Alto could approve a charter and, if the minimum number of Mountain View students enrolled, the Mountain View district would have to give them space if they asked and it was available. I suppose then that the opposite would be true: if enough Palo Alto children were enrolled in a Mountain View charter, their parents could demand and receive space (assuming space were available). Need to get an Ed. lawyer to read this though.

Cite: Web Link

A Los Angeles Appeals Court found in 2004 that a charter school applicant must still make a reasonable showing of the basis for its in-district facilities request, e.g, student residence information, to demonstrate that the number of in-district students claimed by the charter school to be prepared to enroll is in fact reasonably accurate (i.e., in the case of an MI charter application here, proof that students who are supposedly Palo Alto residents for purposes of the facilities request are in fact Palo Alto residents). In that case, the requesting charter applicant did not provide any basis for its projected numbers of in-district students, and the district asked for Centinela requested the following information: student names and dates of birth, home addresses, names of parents or guardians, grade levels, and schools and school districts attended. The court declined to say what showing would be reasonably sufficient, but limited itself to saying that the applicant's failure to back up its numbers at all in its application was not enough. (ENVIRONMENTAL CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL v. CENTINELA VALLEY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT).

Still not able to pin down whether a school district would be required to break a lease to provide the space -- some charter schools have asserted that is the case. But if the lease were up, the charter school could get first dibs on the space I think. Again, Ed. attorney could respond more precisely.

Wish the attorney at the hearing the other night had been a little clearer and better informed and less anti-charter (pro-Callan?)biased so we could have seen an actually informative instead of partisan analysis.


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Posted by Par
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Hi Natasha, That link required a password so maybe you can answer one more question. I wonder if in the Sequioa case, was Aurora a county approved charter, where Sequoia School District was trying to avoid providing the space? Or was the Aurora charter approved by a different district?

Its accepted that a county approved charter (like Bullis) the district where that charter is located (ie: Los Altos) is still required to provide the space for the charter for in district kids. But I don't think charter law requires a non-charter authority district to provide space for its own students attending some other district's charter.

It would be counter intuitive because the other thing charter laws say now since prop 39 is that a charter has to be provided contiguous space. So how could Sequoia provide space for its own students (who would be the out of district students in Aurora if that was a charter approved by a different district charter).

The charter school in that case would have space in two different districts.


Now, if Aurora was approved as a county charter, and put in Sequoia District then Sequoia's students are in-district students and would get space from Sequoia.

I think maybe that charter was a county approved charter and the local district was trying to argue against providing the space?

Otherwise, it seems like it would create a situation where the charter had its kids split up in a variety of districts to get that space. What a mess that would be!

I'm looking online now to see if I can tell what kind of charter aurora is if its still there.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Absent any argument from PACE about whether they prefer a choice to a charter program, or Palo Alto to Mountain View, let's assume for a moment that it's a wash for them. Perhaps the advantages and costs to them in going either the choice or charter route are even.

So why doesn't PACE decide the question on how much harm they will do to Palo Alto? Harming the school district you are planning to work with (either as boosters of a choice program or as the managers of a charter) is surely bad strategy when you have an option that sets you on a less antagonistic path with pretty much the same result (a very good charter close by in Mountain View).

Sure, the charter threat might mean PACE gets a (half-baked) MI choice program at Ohlone that might get cut in three years -- but it would also be hurting the district in the meantime, not least by distracting time and resources away from things that the BOE has said they want to address first. Worse, it will do nothing to end the tensions and resentments in the district that we are currently experiencing – certainly for the next three years. More harm to all and a poor outcome for PACE.

Or PACE can have a fine charter school in Palo Alto (assuming it makes a legitimate application, which it surely can). But that, too, brings with it the chance of plenty of legal expenditure – and so less money available for all students – on both sides.

The Mountain View scenario still gives PACE a great charter school close by. If Nico Janik's desire not to hurt the PAUSD is true of the group as a whole, why not got that route? Again, can anyone from PACE articulate why this is not a good idea?

And why not come out publicly to tell everyone what PACE's preference is?

From comments made here by Nico and others it sounds like there is a lot of (justified) excitement in PACE about the possibility of their creating a charter school. So where does PACE stand now?

There's an urgency to this. If PACE really would prefer a charter (and to my mind that gets them a much superior MI program), either in PA or elsewhere, then PACE's current silence is causing the PAUSD unnecessary harm (by expending time and resources on a new look at a choice option) right now.

I agree with those who argue that the time for a choice option is now past anyway, precisely because of PACE's use of the charter threat. It's their right to do that, but it should signal to the PAUSD board what is likely to happen when they try and manage the choice program in ways that do not satisfy PACE. And even if the BOE and PACE were suddenly to become the greatest of friendly cooperators (which I hope they would) in a choice scenario, those who objected to MI as a choice program are not going to go away. We have to expect that the program will continue to be a huge distraction and absorber of time and energy for everyone, not least staff and the BOE, for years to come.

I agree with Parent that it would help enormously if the BOE now reversed itself and said that it was simply not going to revisit the choice option and would welcome a charter application which it would judge on its merits. Why can't the Palo Alto BOE also talk with PACE and ask why they can't go to Mountain View?

We need PACE to articulate what they really want and we need the PAUSD Board to see that a choice option is no longer better than a charter, now that PACE has demonstrated a willingness to use it as a threat.


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Posted by Par
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Natasha, never mind. I found a summary of it. Sounds like Sequoia High school District convinced Aurora to file for a charter as a high school, under the elementary district instead of under Sequoia district. The elementary district was very poor and had a hard time providing the space. The judge ruled that Sequoia had to provide the space for their Sequioa high school district students.

Quentin Kopp was the judge in this case, sounds like a real friend to California education. A real winner. Sounds like he was also one of the originators of charter laws.

So its sounds like the lawyers in this case made a big mistake in not asking for a change in judge (whatever they call that) - aren't there any rules of not letting legislative branch and judiciary branch overlap? What's that called?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Parent,

I think the charter school began as a pressure tactic to get a choice program, but I really get the sense that since PACE began getting into it, that some of them would really prefer a charter. As I've said before, with the exception of Nico, I think there's little interest in the Ohlone Way from the PACErs. I think they've always wanted a lot of control over the program. Just the stuff Nico mentioned lends credence to this.

The basic problem with Ohlone is space. PACE drummed up interest in MI for its charter application. If they accept a small choice MI at Ohlone (and it's got to be small--they can't force the conversion of a public school), the parents risk losing spots. One hundred applicants for 20 spots? Will there be a geographic preference as there is with the other choice schools? Would you want to spend five years on getting an MI program and then have the odds of getting in at 5 to 1?

In other words, they kind of overdid it. The choice program is less feasible than it less was. And, because they created demand, and because the MI choice program can't be expanded, if PACE doesn't apply for a charter now, someone else will three years down the line.

As for an early termination of the Stratford lease--well, I think you could add Stratford to the mix--they also have rights.

Grace Mah, at the same time, would have a real conflict-of-interest--leading a charge against a district she's supposed to represent.

The district only has to provide space for in-district students if there are 80 or more of them. PACE may or may not have that at the get-go. It depends on whether they open up the higher grades.

Didn't know Slater was leased to Google--that was the site I thought would work. In PA, I'd assume they'll get some rooms at Cubberly. The other thing I can think of is some deal with the city for the Ventura site, which looks run-down, but it is a school building. I know it's a community center, but is it ever used?

I think Dana Tom's right in that the district needs a guarantee that no charter app. will be filed. His mistake is thinking that Grace Mah can speak for other peitioners. I think she'd try, but I think the smallness of the choice program means people are going to be unhappy and look for alternatives for *their* kids.


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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Simon - one big error in your thinking.

You said:

"the charter threat might mean PACE gets a (half-baked) MI choice program at Ohlone that might get cut in three years"

See, you're still not thinking like a warrior.

The charter threat doesn't magically go away the day that the Board caves in to a choice program. Grace still has that handy little application in her pocket - basically forever. So, every 2 weeks or so (every time there's a board meeting) there will be the MI Choice group showing up at the board meeting for their new demands. You can be sure there will be nothing half-baked about their program.

And you might as well assume now that they won't go anywhere in three years - they'll get Garland, or Duveneck, or ALL of Ohlone, or any other thing they demand from the Board because the board has already SHOWN them that they get whatever they want if they just show up with a charter petition in their back pocket (insert chattering teeth of board members here..)

See how it works? This is why you might hear the advice 'don't negotiate with terrorists'

The ONLY thing that makes this go away now would be changes in the charter laws, that neutralize the strength of that threat. And the issue now is a whether a grass roots effort can muster a much larger scale california wide effort to fix the charter laws, and/or to elect representation in our state government, to protect public school districts from legalized looting.

One more option, deterent. Hmmmm. What would be a deterent? A lot of hard work they hadn't bargained for, and the promise of prolonged legal battles with a community that decided it wasn't going to lay down and let them chop its successful school district into a million little pieces? Or a program that actually didn't work. That would be another deterent - because no parents would come.

I think they'll be smart enough to realize that they get MORE, with LESS WORK, and LESS RISK, by accepting the choice program now from the compliant board, and putting their charter petition in a handy drawer somewhere. If they still pull that out - theyprobably realize their choice program goes away, and the game is on.

One thing that PAUSD should do ASAP is start a legal defense fund - so its clear they're willing to fight and that they have the community supported funding for the fight.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Did anyone see the article in the Chronicle about the little boy who has had one year of intensive immersion in Mandarin and is having some good results learning early conversational Mandarin? I am relieved to hear he is having some success.

It said the teacher spoke 100% Mandarin throughout Kindergarten.

The article didn't say anything about if he's leaving Kindergarten prepared for first grade level academically, or if he's prepared at grade level in English. I guess that's a small price to pay to learn how to say Hello, How are you, I'm sleepy, in Mandarin.


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Posted by Parent of a prek
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm

As I read that article I found myself wondering..

I wonder how useful that child will find his rudimentary Mandarin skills (versus say, improved English skills) over the next couple years. I hope they serve him well.

I also noticed the mother said that her child was already approaching the point where she wouldn't be able to help with homework. So if that little guy find himself to be a medium level learner (of anything) the responsibility for extra help lies completely on the school. Wow, big burden and big expectation set on the school system. I wonder what that costs?

Maybe there's a whole aspect of 'cost neutral' that no one's tallying up here..

And I also wonder if a person's willingness to experiement on their kid's education is different depending on the alternative that would be available to them otherwise. I mean, does a PAUSD resident feel the same about opting of their local school district than a SF resident? Is it the same risk/reward decision? Just wondering.

Finally, I hope they keep track of the results of all these kids over the next several years and report it out. It would be a great service to everyone who is trying to understand, rationalize or defend this concept.


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I really hate the extortion feelin of the PACE charter or Choice problem.


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2007 at 8:35 pm

The silence is deafening - when it comes to PACE people - what does all this discussion about Mt. View matter when PACE will go ahead with whatever suits their agenda??


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Silence??? Closer to Talk Radio. Say it loud enough with enough conviction for the already converted.

I don't know if PACE reads these rants but I wouldn't if I were in their shoes.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:13 pm

In various posts, there still seems to be confusion between a Mandarin-English dual-immersion program, which I believe is being proposed, and intensive Mandarin instruction. It makes no sense to talk about a summer intensive Mandarin language program as if it could be a dual immersion program. Many posters may know the difference, but judging from oral input at the two long board meetings earlier this year I would say that many opponents of MI are confused. To say that there are already many options for students to have a dual-immersion experience is incorrect while it is true that there are options for obtaining Mandarin language instruction outside the normal school structure. As a practical matter, those options don't open a path for acquisition of Mandarin language skills and exposure to Chinese culture to children of non-Chinese backgrounds. What I like about the choice program is that it would make another kind of rich educational experience available within PAUSD to children of diverse backgrounds.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:31 pm

I found this article in the Daily News from right before the last board mtg on the issue:

"For the first time in the history of the Palo Alto school district a charter school may open. This week, supporters of a Mandarin immersion program confirmed they are working on plans to start a bilingual charter school.

At Tuesday's board meeting, the school district's attorney will answer questions from board members on the ramifications of a charter school opening in the district.

"We do have a group of parents working on starting a charter school, but we are just in the formative part of the process," said Grace Mah, founder of Palo Alto Chinese Education.

Mah said the tentative plan is to launch a kindergarten through fifth grade bilingual Mandarin immersion program for a small group of students. She said the school would likely start with two classes each of kindergarten and first grade students as early as 2008.

Mah said a big decision the parents have yet to make is whether they will try to form a countywide charter school, or one limited to the Palo Alto school district. If they petition the county to create a charter school, they could bypass the school board, which last month rejected a proposal last month for a pilot Mandarin immersion program.

Mah said the parents "are getting the feeling the district wouldn't authorize it ... going straight to the county saves us some of that energy."

Of the two options, parent Pauline Navarro, who opposed the immersion program, said she hopes the group chooses "whichever one that hurts the district financially the least."

Because Palo Alto is a basic aid district - one that is largely funded through local property taxes and receives little state money - it would have to pay the standard block grant of between $5,560 and $6,737 for each student attending a district charter school and maintain oversight of the facility, though it could charge the school a fee for this. With a countywide charter school, Santa Clara County would assume the oversight. In either scenario, the school district might be responsible for providing a facility for the school.

But Mah said the early plans call for renting space not located in a district building. She said the school would receive some state funding and a group of parents from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Cupertino is exploring private sources of funding.

Mah was part of a group that proposed a Mandarin charter school in 2003, which the board voted against.

School Board President Camille Townsend said the board had been notified of the tentative charter plans by its supporters. Previously, districts had to co-sign applications for charter schools - a rule that was changed last winter to allow organizers to directly petition the county. "

It's quite clear that PACE is planning a charter and is thinking outside the PA borders when its considering a countywide charter. It also says,"But Mah said the early plans call for renting space not located in a district building." So they are open to considering any good space that allows for the program.

Now the only thing I'm confused by is why Grace Mah would then put herself on the county board, because recusing herself from a vote would not be enough to eliminate conflicts of interest, since her influence would still remain, it would be a conflict for the whole board to be involved when she is on the board -- and it kind of opens the county to lawsuits if they don't handle the conflict-of-interest problem well. Unless (hopefully) the state law has something about how to avoid problems in a case like this. (There probably is general law but nothing specific.)


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 5, 2007 at 12:30 am

Observer,
I don't think people are confused, people are trying to find a compromise. In the real world, compromise usually means no one gets what they want!

I understand the meaning and value of immersion instruction and the results versus other kinds of language instruction, but I also feel that in the public school arena with limited resources, if it can't be all, something is better than nothing. (Though I don't think PACE has done anything to enlighten different kinds of immersion instruction in order to help find the one that would be the best fit -- Nico Janik has said as much that all they ever considered was this one approach. You are saying you "know the difference" between immersion and intensive instruction, yet PACE has done nothing to enlighten how this difference -- or the difference between different IMMERSION approaches that might be more practical in our district -- is big enough to be worth the potentially incredible difference in cost and pain between one and the other. As I said, Nico Janik has said publicly that PACE hasn't considered other kinds of IMMERSION approaches. Some of those immersion approaches, such as partial immersion (which was mentioned by an MI proponent in a research article on another post), could be managed with the foreign language half of the program as afternoon programs on existing campuses without requiring a separate school facility -- no one has provided any comparisons of such different approaches which would allow a more workable program in our district.)

Ohlone and Hoover as choice programs are different than SI and now the MI proposal, because Ohlone and Hoover offer the same curriculum as all the other PA schools, they just have a different philosophy about the educational approach. SI actually offers an educational opportunity, foreign language, that children in other schools do not get the benefit of. That was already controversial when SI was introduced. It is naturally controversial now that someone is proposing it again, because resources are far more limited, and the concerns around it when SI was introduced were never resolved, the steps that proponents said would resolve the unfairness were never fully realized. (Realistically, once they got theirs, they didn't care what anyone else got. That's coming back to haunt MI.)

Again, this was a whole new kettle of fish, the concept of an exclusive, lottery school that offered an educational opportunity not available to other students (as opposed to just a different approach to providing the same educational opportunities). The conflicts around that when SI was started were never resolved.

I can see that my child, who gets music instruction outside of school, would benefit from the kind of rich musical environment of the schools in, say, Bloomington Indiana (music education capitol of the country). Early music "immersion" can be just as essential to later musical fluency as language immersion. I know there are other parents who would be interested. I think my child would benefit from a richer musical environment and some foreign language. My child gets neither. This is a public school district; I have decided to send my child to public school. I can do what I can to improve it, but I also realize it's not a private school. I realize that resources are finite and that while I may want the above benefit, I am not ENTITLED to it. When I am talking about a rich music environment or immersion language, who is to say which is better just because one group knows how to band together and work the system? It would be great if we could have all of those things in our district, but in the real world, in a town of our size, it's not realistic.

My family, like so many, paid so much money to live in a district with these good schools, that we cannot afford to get a private education for those things. You could go to Cupertino to get public mandarin immersion instruction. There is nowhere in that radius where I could get an equivalent public music environment. If there was equal interest in our town, would it make the need for the one more compelling that the other?

I'm not at all saying we shouldn't TRY to get as much opportunity as we can, that we shouldn't TRY to get these things if there is interest. I am saying that it's important to do strategic planning and work from the priorities of parents in the district. This is PUBLIC SCHOOL. I know we benefit from having high expectations, but for heaven's sakes, we have some of the best public schools in the country, let's not ruin them for everyone by being too demanding for a small group. Again, I'm not saying don't try for new opportunities -- but be open to solutions, be flexible and work WITH people who are trying to find solutions across philosophical divides, and if it really can't be done one way without harming the district (i.e., a lot of kids), think of other ways the ESSENTIAL goal can be accomplished.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2007 at 12:30 am

A.J.,

Very interesting article, thanks. If they start with four classes, that's 80 students so I expect they're looking for private locations because unless all 80 students are from PA, the district doesn't have to provide space.

Hmmmm,

You can't convert a normal public school into a charter without a whole lot of legal loops. Basically, the faculty has to agree and, since, the bulk of them aren't qualified to teach Mandarin at either Duveneck or Ohlone I don't see them signing away their jobs, do you?

If there's any way for PACE to do its charter without damaging the district (which will affect them since housing prices reflect school quality) then I think that's the best solution on many grounds.

And if they applied directly to the county, maybe the board could, oh, actually attend to some other matters.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 5, 2007 at 1:39 am

But what does the county do when there are personal conflicts of interest on the county board? Where does the application go then?

Naturally, conflicts of interest swing both ways. If PACE finds some kind of solution that everyone can live with, the school and PA kids who go there benefit from her guardianship on the board.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2007 at 4:16 pm

A.J.

I don't see how the dual immersion model, in which the same curriculum standards are addressed as in other models of instruction used in PAUSD, can be provided as you suggest—teaching the "foreign" language in the afternoon. Which is the "foreign" language for a kindergarten student starting in the program? Could be Mandarin, could be English. You are again confusing foreign language instruction with a dual immersion program. Lots of studies show that the dual-immersion model can be successful, but doing it half-heartedly is likely to fail. PAUSD should not attempt a program that is bound to disappoint.

Talking about a Music Immersion program also shows confusion about the concept. You can't teach history, math, science, language arts, all the subjects that make up the curriculum, in Music, but that's exactly what you do in a dual immersion program, teach the curriculum using two languages instead of one. What you suggest you'd like to see sounds like a music-based magnet school, and it is a reasonable idea. I'm sure some districts have them, at least at the secondary level. The level of support for MI, though, is clearly greater than for any other single choice option, including Music Intensive.

Another distraction to clear consideration of the MI proposal has been to argue that a district-wide FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) would be less costly, more beneficial, or both, than implementing the MI choice program. Let's take the feasibility study figure for additional cost of the MI program-- $11,000 start-up cost for each grade level as it is added--and double it (like you, I expect there are likely to be hidden costs that aren't fully accounted for in the study). That makes about $130,000 over six years for an MI program that has strong support and a known model for implementation. Compare that to the estimated cost of $2 million to implement a FLES program. Where's the demonstrated community support for putting that kind of money into a language enrichment program?

I think it would be great if Palo Alto came up with a fully-funded, effective FLES program for all students, but I don't see community priorities aligned that way, and we haven't yet heard the persuasive arguments for a FLES program that would move the community to put its limited funds there rather than towards other needs.

Spanish Immersion and Mandarin Immersion are not threats to bringing more foreign language instruction into the district for all students. Either they have no impact one way or the other or they will stimulate an interest in foreign languages at the elementary level and move people to work for a district-wide FLES program.

Regarding the feasibility of PAUSD's using Mt. View-Whisman District facilities for a charter school, today's Mountain View Voice has an article about that city's shortage of school space for newly approved housing projects. Palo Alto can't count on our neighbor for a solution to the school site problem posed by the MI Charter School proposal.

Observer


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Observer, when people say its more costly they are talking about on a per pupil basis. If someone suggested we offer FLES to 5% of the students only, then you might find FLES would be less expensive.

I would also say (again, which MI proponents continue to ignore) that an MI program also uses district staff resources and assessment requirements that have not been counted anywhere in your 11,000 figure.

This is a major stumbling block to compromise - unrealistic numbers and refusal to count the full cost of the MI proposal. Until that happens the community will continue to feel slighted.

You might as well say the MI program is cost neutral and provide no information to back it up, for all the truth that is in the 11,000 figure.

You might want to refer back to the trust and respect issues with the superintendent and her staff discussed in another thread.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2007 at 6:37 pm

This may be a complete red herring or something entirely different, but wasn't a law passed at either the state or federal level banning bilingual education a few years ago. I seem to remember lots of discussion about it some years ago, but it was probably something to do with spanish speaking children being taught in their own language rather than learning English, but I would rather like to have some clarification on this point and know how it all fits in here.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2007 at 7:41 pm

There was prop 227 in California that said every student had to be taught in English, EL learners had to be provided transition services that helped them get up to english proficiency - but that parents have the right to WAIVE THEIR RIGHTS to education in English.

This was in response to schools that were not providing proper services to get ELL kids into mainstream English. They were sticking kids (against parents will) in classrooms taught in their own language instead of helping them get English skills.

Prop 209 doesn't make bilingual education illegal though. I don't know if there's an English language law at the Federal level. I sort of doubt it though - because there are apparently non-english speaking classrooms popping up all over - because it makes all this sense to treat English language skills as a secondary concern for kids' education in the US.


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Posted by Par
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2007 at 11:10 am

If PAUSD is at capacity, then the charter laws say the district can provide space out of the district for the charter school (as long as its in the same county, contiguous space for the charter school, and reasonable equivalent to what PAUSD offers its other kids). So if Mt. View is full, then I guess they start spreading their search out from there. Even better. The farther south they go, the lower the real estate rental costs for PAUSD - and for the charter who will be picking up the facility bill for the out of district kids.

Seems that it is perfectly within the law. Anybody aware of a court case that challenges the district's ability to locate the charter outside of PAUSD boundaries?


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2007 at 12:57 pm

If you read the article posted about the Slater closing, it's clear that Mountain View has crowding issues because they've closed a school due to UNDERenrollment and money problems because of that underenrollment. Adding a charter MAY (though one would have to explore the specifics) be a help to them. Given the values of parents in the district, they may be interested in finding a way to implement MI even given some hurdles.

Observer, your numbers for FLES are exaggerated, and your numbers for MI are incomplete, which has been the basis for disagreement all along. MI is only "cost neutral" if you leave out the fact that it will need a facility in three years (at a huge expense), or if you consider those three initial portables at Ohlone now as costing nothing because MI deserves them over any other priority, which is kind of self-serving. Also, FLES is a program that would serve ALL students in the district, so as pointed out by another poster, the PER STUDENT cost is vastly lower for FLES than MI. Again, this is a PUBLIC SCHOOL system, and thinking about serving ALL students best is usually a priority over figuring out how the district can provide a private school education to a few.

Your post clearly shows that you have not considered any of the other methods for teaching IMMERSION, and are trying to apply the setup of the one immersion program pushed by PACE to the suggestion I made. I was bringing up an IMMERSION program posted by an MI proponent in a research article, it's called "partial immersion". It would be implemented differently than the program proposed by PACE. MI proponents have made no attempt to compare the different kinds of IMMERSION programs that have been tried and studied to compare costs and results, and to see how they would work best in Palo Alto. Nico Janik has stated this, and it's clear from posts like yours that this is true.

You are the one with too narrow a view of language immersion programs, you don't seem to understand that there are other models of language IMMERSION that have been implemented and that might work better given the circumstances we have here in Palo Alto. So you don't get your Mercedes, perhaps you can still get a Lexus that works great at half the price. Makes a difference if it means you get the car.

And another thing: I'm really tired of MI proponents denigrating FLES. There is a lot of support for FLES in the community, but we are trying to work within the system and not demand it above other priorities. How do you know there is more support for MI, just because MI proponents are more aggressive in their demands? MI proponents have not been willing to wait for strategic planning, or WL task force work, so YOU DON"T KNOW THIS, that's just your opinion because you prefer MI.

Those who support FLES often do so because they are thinking about ALL of the district kids, and thus are not willing to be as selfish in pushing for what they want. This does not mean that we/they do not really, really value FLES and what it can provide for ALL the kids in the district. You obviously don't think FLES is worth considering and would rather having nothing if you can't have immersion. Many of us think immersion is great and would like to find a way to get it for the kids who want it; but we also think it's a travesty that the majority of kids have no language instruction at all and consider offering this to be a priority over offering immersion to a few. This is a statement of priorities, not saying FLES is the same as MI. You clearly don't think they conflict, but a lot of people in this town clearly do.

On a separate note, the Spanish Immersion program in Mountain View takes kids from all over the place, some drive a long way to get that program. If PAUSD can afford a school site in Sunnyvale, or Santa Clara, is PACE going to choose NOT to start MI -- especially on a campus that could be used long into the future and could accomodate all interested families, not just the few that could fit at Ohlone -- just because the site isn't in Palo Alto right now? If language immersion means that little to this group that it's not worth doing if it's not within the bounds of this city, then I don't think the board should be taking this group so seriously.


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Posted by Spoiled brats
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 6, 2007 at 1:05 pm


So MI proponents want only Mandarin Immension. They want it now, and they want it in Palo Alto. They won't go if it's not in Palo Alto.

It reminds me of a 2 year old child at the supermarket who plops of the floor and throws a big tantrum because he wants THIS candy and he wants it RIGHT NOW and RIGHT here, and he won't have anything else, anywhere else, any other time...


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Posted by Actions Speak Louder than Words
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm

AJ - now you're getting it -

If they are INDEED interested in a mandarin immersion program for the sake of creating a mandarin immersion school that is a great program, well run, focused on serving the needs of the students, that benefits a broadly diverse students population and that serves the best interest of the community, (ALL the community, not just carving a special spot for the IN-CHARTER kids, but good for education in that community over all), which is not selfish or driven by self intereste (ie: I LOVE PALO ALTO), then they will indeed look at all the options for creating that school elsewhere. They'll look at finances both inside and outside of the charter, and they'll look at an impact analysis, and they'll look at the demographics of the communities, and the potential student base, traffic impact, and all those things.

There are alot of reasons why Palo Alto would not be the best place to create that program for the sake of success of that program or for the sake of Palo Alto. Question is do they care?

On the other hand if they just want PALO ALTO to give them what they want, then they in fact could care less about all of the above, and just want a piece of PAUSD - by hook or by crook by gosh they will have their piece of PAUSD giving them their MI dreams.

So it really comes down to their motives.

And folks - actions speak louder than words.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Observer,
You wrote, "I think it would be great if Palo Alto came up with a fully-funded, effective FLES program for all students, but I don't see community priorities aligned that way, and we haven't yet heard the persuasive arguments for a FLES program that would move the community to put its limited funds there rather than towards other needs."

If you have been listening, many more posters have essentially said, "I think it would be great if Palo Alto came up with a fully-funded, effective MI program, but I don't see community priorities aligned that way, and we haven't yet heard the persuasive arguments for an MI program that would move the community to put its limited funds there rather than towards other needs."

Finally an MI proponent admits we have limited resources in this town!!

The reason you haven't heard those things about FLES is that
1) you have not been listening, and
2) you insulate yourself among people with your point of view

From where I sit, there is clearly more support and way less opposition for implementing FLES than the choice MI program -- many PACE'rs have said all along that they realize there isn't broad support for MI, but that's not what drives them. If you finally see the importance of assessing community support, why don't we both agree to work through strategic planning and the WL task force in order to see where the priorities lie?

The problem has been all along that this does not give PACE'rs MI fast enough, which is completely understandable since they want it for their kids. So the charter route is really the best and least controversial way to go for the future. Grace Mah has suggested herself that PACE will find a location anywhere in the county that works, what progress has been made in that regard?


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Par,
Based on what you wrote, then why are BoE members rushing to head off a charter by leaning towards a Choice MI program? From what you wrote, it doesn't sound like a charter would be that much of a problem.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Exactly right, k -- that's what a lot of us are wondering!

Although the charter application was leveled as a threat, and that threat is what the board is responding to, it actually seems like the route that would both give advocates of MI a better program and be less costly (in terms of money, district personnel time, and future fights).

It also means MI advocates have to work a lot harder and put more of themselves into a school -- probably another reason to make it sound ominous and threatening on the face of it. However, I think a lot of MI advocates are now beginning to realize that it would also result in a far better school, without the guaranteed fights up the road with the choice program, and would allow a larger more robust program.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 6, 2007 at 7:15 pm

"Where the law of the majority ceases to be acknowledged, there government ends, the law of the strongest takes its place, and life and property are his who can take them."

Thomas Jefferson to Annapolis Citizens


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Posted by Language Lover/Give Peace a Chance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Here's an interesting tidbit from Smithsonian Magazine, February 2007:

"After receiving his bathelor's degree in 1825, Longfellow [the poet] spent three years in Europe learning French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese, then five years teaching European languages at Bowdoin and translating scholarly texts for classroom use. ... Three years later [3 years after 1831], Harvard College named him Smith Professor of Modern Languages and of Belles Lettres."

You can't draw sweeping conclusions from an anecdote, and I believe early language exposure is good. It does however illustrate a different kind of immersion with obviously satisfactory results.

I have a family member who can no longer speak her native language well, and she came to this country as an adult, and regularly returned the first 20 years. Total immersion from infancy continuing for decades also doesn't guarantee the language will stay if it isn't used.

I'm not arguing against MI, just posting some food for thought.


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Posted by Native Weakness
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 6, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Longfellow with his immersion made a good name for himself.
Your relative forgot his/her native-language and is living in oblivion.
Hmmm... where do you think the problem lies.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2007 at 9:57 am

A.J.

I think the original premise of this thread, that a Mandarin Charter School developed from the push by Palo Alto residents for a choice MI program in Palo Alto would be a nice fit in Mountain View is incorrect.

For Palo Alto outsiders to argue that Mountain View has space that could be used to get PAUSD off the hook for providing classrooms when Mountain View is still smarting from the closure of a school (since leased to Google) and worried now about the adequacy of school facilities as they add housing in Mountain View seems unrealistic.

For MI opponents to argue that Palo Alto MI advocates really would get a better program if they would just take their program elsewhere is unconvincing.

You mention the support in Mountain View for this kind of instruction. Accounts of people camping out this spring so they could be assured of getting their children signed up for the Spanish-English Dual Immersion program at Castro shows support is there now. But three years ago opponents of dual immersion were doing all they could to kill the program. It was being cut back and blamed (unfairly) for low test scores at Castro despite the fact that scores for students in the dual immersion program were higher than those for students in the English only stream.

One of the arguments of the opponents was that the needs of Spanish-speaking students were being sacrificed for the benefit of selfish English-language parents who wanted their kids to have the advantage of learning Spanish. The dual-immersion model calls for instruction in the early years to be highly weighted toward the non-majority language, in that case Spanish.

A parallel argument in Palo Alto on the MI choice program would be that selfish non-Chinese parents are looking to get an advantage for their kids by encouraging Mandarin-speaking parents to put their children in a program where they would bring needed linguistic and cultural resources to the classroom at the cost of being directly immersed in an English-only school environment from day one of kindergarten. I don't think that argument has been a major theme in Palo Alto's debate over dual immersion programs, either Spanish (actual) or Mandarin (potential).

If it hadn't been for the courageous struggle of the dual immersion staff and the parent community two-and-a-half years ago to save and expand the program, Spanish Dual Immersion in Mountain View likely would be just limping along now or perhaps eliminated altogether.

Observer


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 7, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Observer,
Your message didn't at all address the issue of locating a charter in another town in order to get all the many advantages outlined in the original post. There are two scenarios: charter through PAUSD but located elsewhere for the space and lower rent advantage and, charter through another school district in the county because of other advantages as outlined above.

Mountain View is a different community than Palo Alto; the demographic and the concerns the community had to work on were very different. I think characterizing it as similar to the debate we are having now is incorrect and self-serving (in that you are trying to use it as an argument for why MI should succeed here), especially since Mountain View as a district was facing declining enrollments when it began its SI program.

I still don't see a compelling argument (or any argument at all) for why a charter program has to be located within the boundaries of Palo Alto -- Grace Mah has said herself that PACE will be looking for a suitable location anywhere in the County.

If actually approaching Mtn View helps Mountain View more than just renting space there because of the way their district is funded and because of their underenrollment (IF is the question), it might be advantageous for all sides if PACE approached Mountain View directly. No reason to argue it until someone asks Mountain View directly. Perhaps it's not a good idea, perhaps it is. If it is, it could have significant advantages for the MI program as outlined in the original post.

Surely there are vacant or soon-to-be vacant schools, churches with school facilities, or even easily adapted office locations that will allow for the 450-child school envisioned by PACE. A charter will be a commuter school anyway. PACE wants this school now, and isn't willing to wait for a more workable schedule given district problems in PA. It's understandable that they would want to prioritize getting the school now for their own kids. PACE's leader has stated publicly that any location in the County that will work is good for PACE, that PACE will be actively seeking such a location. And, that's a scenario that will allow a large enough school for every interested family to attend.

So what's the problem? Seems like a lot of the opposition is now on board with the charter idea. PACE brought it up and is clearly on board. Nico Janik has expressed the hope of making it work in a way that is least hurtful to Palo Alto, and the charter seems to be that way. A location somewhere where rents are cheaper and space is more plentiful seems just the thing.

So let's stop wallowing in past rancor and starting talking about how to make this work. Right now it seems like the "opposition" is putting forth all the ideas for how to constructively move forward!


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Observer,

It comes down to this:

Mountain View gets money for additional students. Palo Alto doesn't.

Ergo, anything that builds enrollment in Mountain View brings in money. Anything that expands enrollment in Palo Alto means less money per student in Palo Alto.

One district's resources expand with the population, the other's does not.

The Google lease is a five-year one. Since they're not a school, it may be that they'll leave earlier. Or not.

Public schools can't be converted to charters without widespread agreement. There's no place in Palo Alto that could become a 450-student school that I can think of. Garland is a small site. So is the Ventura community center.

Presumably an MI charter in Mountain View would draw from Mountain View, so it could possibly offset some of the current overcrowding there as well as here.

Remember, it's unlikely that PA will be on the hook for providing *any* facilities the first year of the charter--you need 80 students from Palo Alto before that kicks in.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2007 at 7:44 pm

A school district can't be required to rent non-district space for a charter if there are no district facilities available. I don't know how space owned by the district and currently rented factors into that.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2007 at 11:49 am

AJ and Ohlone Par,

I agree that it is hard to imagine a 450-student MI charter school finding a home in Palo Alto, so if that is the goal, exploring all options for locating it makes sense.

The better option, in my opinion, is to return to the MI Choice proposal rejected in January. Bring this innovative program into the mainstream of the district by allowing it to start at Ohlone, blend it from the start with the Ohlone approach, and see how it works. To have a Charter School result from the five-year process of trying to bring MI to the district would be an opportunity lost.

How many districts in this country could look at the nation-wide interest in Mandarin and find resources already present in the district not only to add a class or two of Mandarin at the high school level but to start a small dual-immersion program at the elementary level?

Housing the program is a challenge, one that I thought would kill MI in January. But the Ohlone option opened a way to get started. When a new elementary school site is opened, it would make sense to put MI at that location as the program grows to K-5. This way you won't disrupt an ongoing neighborhood school community.

A lot of the energy behind opposition to MI in January came from the fact that no current school site could give up rooms on its campus for MI to even get started, much less expand to its full form. There were other reasons to oppose MI, but this one was particularly potent and nearly impossible to counter credibly until the surprise Ohlone proposal was put forward.

When it looked as though the choice was between implementing the MI Choice program at low financial cost but against strong opposition and postponing final action until some indefinite time in the future, the board opted for the latter. Now it's clear that the district doesn't have the option of indefinite postponement at no cost, it has to choose between the costs of a choice MI program and the costs of an MI Charter School.

I hope what doesn't get overlooked is a comparison of the benefits to the Palo Alto community of one versus the other. My own preference is to see the district embrace the cross-cultural learning opportunity of MI choice and bring this energy and sense of opportunity into the mainstream. Settling for a charter school would be a disappointing outcome for PAUSD.

Observer


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 10, 2007 at 3:05 pm

I don't see why a charter school would be "settling". Other districts across the country start charters to get MI, I just looked at an online charter application in Massachusetts for an MI program.

Ohlone doesn't have space for the program for very long. If you are starting there and saying that space must be found in three years, then that space is part of the cost equation, and the program no longer is cost neutral. The program becomes an expensive commitment, one that promises to keep Palo Alto awash in controversy and probably litigation for years to come.

Ohlone allows only a small fraction of the interested families to start anyway. A charter allows a more full realization of the program.

From the DISTRICT's standpoint, a charter is a much better course. Because PACE will not wait for strategic planning, a charter is the lower risk course. The choice program ensures ongoing and future rancor because of the facility and trust issues; once the choice program is begun, PAUSD has that commitment forever, even without being able to plan for it in a way that works best for the district and all of the children it serves. A charter has to be renewed in five years. The charter will be evaluated for whether it is meeting its goals. It will do a better job of accomplishing the goals for the people who want it; if it does, it will be renewed and proceed on its own momentum. If it does not, it fails (and charter schools do fail), and PAUSD no longer has that commitment.

I have read the analysis the district did, and there was no examination of whether other kinds of immersion programs would work better in our district. For example, the above-mentioned charter looked at some of the programs PAUSD looked at, yet they managed to describe which ones were one-way immersion (virtually all of them), and which were dual immersion (Cupertino).

Dual immersion does produce the best fluency, but one-way immersion also produces excellent fluency and has some distinct cost and implementation advantages. The feasibility study only extolled the virtues of dual immersion but did no comparison and made no mention of the advantages of one-way immersion. One-way immersion would be a reasonable compromise given realities in the district, is described as cheaper, and would allow more options for locating the program. It might be especially helpful in the case of Mandarin because the writing systems are so different; children in one-way immersion do fare better along the way in English. But one-way immersion doesn't seem acceptable to PACE (though Nico has admitted no one considered anything else but dual immersion), and given that the SI program is dual-immersion, it would be on the face of it unfair. I find it a little strange that PACE is willing to accept an untried mishmash of the Ohlone Way and dual immersion and "see how it works" but is not willing to accept a proven immersion method, one-way immersion, which might be made to work at Hoover, for example.

A charter school circumvents all these problems. It allows PACE to get the school it wants on its timetable. It does not preclude going forward in the future in other ways in Palo Alto, but would allow the rest of the community to proceed through strategic planning. In just this forum we have vastly different opinions about how much community support there is for MI; it would allow that process to proceed.

I think asking people in the community if they support MI is a very different question than asking if they are aware that PAUSD elementary school students have no language instruction available to them at all -- something most people can't fathom given the reputation of our district, since virtually all districts of similar caliber have some language instruction available at elementary level -- and whether FLES or MI should be the priority, you would find most people would consider FLES the first priority. I do not buy the handwaving that MI would have no impact on FLES, especially since resources are finite. Like many other concerned parents, I would like to see how all of this fits in strategic planning and not commit to a huge, permanent program that isn't a top priority before that process is completed. (And if you think it IS a top priority, what's the harm in waiting for that process to confirm it and moving forward on more solid footing?)

I have also looked at the PAEE analysis -- the only cost analysis done by an accountant, which uses actual numbers -- and it's clear a charter is the cheaper route. In my book, a program that allows one to get more of its goals, allows those benefitting to be involved in setting up and running the school, is cheaper, allows more flexibility for the district in using its resources and solving its significant problems, etc., etc. -- in my book, that's a better program. I can't see how you would think that is "disappointing" -- in my book, that's a clear and unequivocal success.


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 10, 2007 at 3:17 pm

If WVWSD ran an MI charter, it would certainly be a more effectively run school. MVWSD, operating on half the per-pupil revenues, achieves test scores for any demographic group that compare quite nicely with PAUSD's.

Keep fighting among yourselves-- its quite entertaining


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 10, 2007 at 4:52 pm

Sounds like MVWSD and the city of MV are working with the same set of skills - more for the money!


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 10, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Dear eric,
Not sure why that jab at the end was necessary, a lot of us have been saying that an MI program either as a choice through MVWSD or as a charter would be a much better course, for a long list of advantages to both MVWSD and the MI program. ALSO because of a better climate for starting something like this in Mountain View!! I have no idea why the PACE people are being so touchy about Mtn View.


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 12, 2007 at 9:04 am

PA Mom- not exactly. The city of MV is quite solid financially (one of the few AAA bond rated cities in the nation). MVWSD gets deeply screwed by a special tax district set up in Shoreline (wont bore you with the details, but in a nutshell Google and other big property tax generators in Shoreline provide zero benefit to MV. With that, we might be basic aid, too. Sigh...), and operates on a VERY tight shoestring. The district does an incredible job with what they have, the city itself is just financially very strong.


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Posted by yuen
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 12, 2007 at 9:30 am

In my opinion people want to learn chinese, pelase go to the chihese after school. If Palo Alto has money to start up chinese immersion, they should use the money for more other activity like music, math, sports, science etc. This is very fair to all students in Palo Alto children.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2007 at 10:14 am

Eric - I meant it as a compliment, I'm very impressed with both the city of MV and the quality of the education kids are receiving in MV (we have several good friends with elementary/middle school kids in the MV school district).


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 12, 2007 at 10:58 am

Eric - I'm with Palo alto mom. I know the energy and care that parents put into the Mv schools. But on that subject, isn't there some way the city could put some of that surplus this year into a trust to send extra dollars to the schools every year? Just 10% of it would be a significant investment.

yuen - I think the goal of trying to teach immersion to kids so that their Chinese is fluent is laudable. I agree with your assessment, though, that we need to be fair to all of Palo Alto children. I wish PACE members would think more flexibly and creatively to get what they want in the best way given all the realities. The longer this goes on, the more clear it becomes that they had one plan and didn't give much thought to anything external to it. Arguing for that one plan instead of trying to keep their eyes on the central goal and adapt to get it in a way that was fair to all Palo Alto students has created a lot of opposition that would otherwise have been support. Now people are entrenched in arguing -- it makes talking about new ideas even harder.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 12, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Yuen,

I share your enthusiasm for music, math, sports etc.--it would be nice if extra funds were on hand to support those things. Sadly, the district is strapped for money.

Fortunately, there is a way to improve the district at no cost--Chinese immersion. The board promised to speak with those supporting MI, and with any luck they'll come to some kind of agreement and PAUSD will have a cost-neutral MI program up and running next year!


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm

PA Mom-- I did understand (and, on behalf of my town, thanks...)-- just wanted to clarify that there's a BIG difference between the financial health of the city and the district.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 12, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Parent,
You need to read the past discussion and the feasibility study itself -- there were a number of flaws and omissions that mean unfortunately that the program is most definitely NOT cost neutral. The biggest problem is that the cost of a facility is not factored in -- the program can only fit for three years in those portables at Ohlone (and those are only cost neutral if you make a lot of assumptions that aren't fair to everyone else, either).

It won't be much of an improvement for the district when the program sues the district for a facility in three years.

I personally think PAUSD should give the money it took for the feasibility study back to PACE. Then maybe we can all move forward in good faith, taking a look at the priorities of the district and how to spend our money in a sound and efficient way to get good results for the district's kids.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2007 at 6:22 pm


Anonymous,

If PAUSD has to educate the kids in Palo Alto classrooms anyway and classroom space is so tight that the district is looking at when, not whether, to reopen a school, to argue that the cost of providing classes for these kids should be charged to "extra costs for MI" is not convincing.

After three years, if the program is a success, of course the district would continue to provide classrooms for the additional grades, as they are added. Why would a situation arise where the MI program has to "sue(s) the district for a facility"?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 14, 2007 at 4:16 pm

observer,
We really don't need to get back into this, it's been discussed so many times. The district can't move kids in and out of an MI program the way it could a neighborhood school, so committing those resources is an extra, and could mean the opening of a facility where otherwise it would not have been necessary. Any delays in the need to open a facility not only puts off that cost, but puts off the possibility that the facility will have to be opened at all. A public MI program will also likely draw kids out of local private programs, etc. etc.

MI proponents haven't done enough (anything) to figure out how they could implement a program without needing a separate facility, such as considering other kinds of immersion programs.

If PAUSD commits to a choice program now, do you think they are just going to fold the program in three years when they run out of space? Or do you think they will sue or whatever other bullying they need to get a facility they want, regardless of other needs in the district? Given their past self-interest, if there are extra costs associated with MI and not anticipated, do you think it likely that they will raise the money or bully PAUSD for it?

The board said "NO" to the choice program for good reasons. They should stick by that decision. PACE and Grace Mah have said they are willing to go the charter route, and there are many reasons this would result in a better program for all involved, IF PACE members do the requisite work.

I think in that regard, Habitat for Humanity has it right. They require those who want to receive this extraordinary gift to spend time and effort on it. If PACE members work toward a charter, they and the program will gain something priceless and intangible that they won't get otherwise. The program will be better for it. If perhaps the program isn't worth doing that kind of work for, then PAUSD will have the leeway to move forward, deal with more urgent priorities, and bring in language programs in the context of other needs. Certainly, the charter route also reduces the "risk" that they will have to commit another separate facility to a specialty program. As has been noted in other discussions, if PACE files for a charter, PAUSD doesn't have to provide space until the program exceeds 80 PAUSD students, and then it can find space elsewhere in the County (i.e., cheaper).


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