Anti-MI group wants election on Mah; cost =$1,000,000 Schools & Kids, posted by Everyparent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2007 at 8:13 pm
So, I guess Faith Brigel has something against Grace Mah.
Over the past year, she fought tooth and nail against Mah's proposal for a Mandarin program in PAUSD.
Now she has started a petition to push Mah out of her seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Brigel would like us taxpayers to cough up one million dollars so she can have a special election. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Whatever you think of the Mandarin idea, it boggles the mind that anyone would choose to hack away at the county's limited resources [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by PA resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2007 at 10:51 pm
First, take a deep breath. Keep in mind that the timing of the petition didn't allow much research on costs of an election. I think Faith's efforts are understandable, considering Grace's determination to get her program into PAUSD, no matter the cost to the district. But, unlike Grace, I'll bet you $100 bucks that once Faith realizes how expensive an election would be, will drop her effort, because she's not in this to cost the county an unreasonable amount of money. She isn't going to push this election and strong arm county taxpayers into unreasonable financial costs to get her way. I wish I could say the same thing of MI proponents. So relax already.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 12:10 am
What's the basis for the $1 million estimate? I know it was given by some official, but I'm wondering how they came up with it.
Faith Brigel was quoted as saying she thought it was more like $40K to $50K.
Are you really surprised that some people don't want Grace Mah on the county board of education? They disagree with her views. There wasn't an election.
And she's been pushing for a cause that did not win support of the board. I think there are real questions about why the county board chose someone who clearly does not represent the mainstream view of her district. Indeed, there was a certain sense of giving it to Palo Alto in some of the quotes by the head of the county board.
Other issues that have crossed my mind--and as I've said, I'm split on the petition--Grace Mah is a charter supporter. Is it in our best interest *as a basic-aid district* to have a strong charter supporter representing us at the county level?
I keep wondering to what extent the county board is trying to take advantage of the political disarray in the PAUSD with a kind of power grab, by appointing someone who's been fighting the board for years.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 9:00 am
We ALL prefer the opportunity to have an election, but it is recognized across America that when a position is vacated, it is cumbersome and costly to hold an election for a temporary replacement. That's why we have a line of succession for the presidency and that's why governors appoint senators to finish off a term, and so on down to lowly county board positions.
Faith, we all had the chance to write letters and let the county board hear our opinions on the candidates, and from what I hear/read in the news, they did get a lot of correspondance from the public. I don't know why they chose Mah, but the board interviewed all three candidates in a public setting, and they deemed her the best for a short-term position. Now that you realize how expensive a special election would be, I hope you will grit your teeth and back off from a very expensive election. Our democratic process is designed so that we don't have to foot the bill for elections every time there is a vacancy.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 11:11 am
The costs of simply adding a couple candidates onto an election that will already happen in November have not been explored, nor have the costs of a mail-in election.
I have my severe doubts that it costs 1 million to run a whole, special, separate election, and 4/5ths of that ( $800,000) to simply add a couple names to a ballot that is already going to happen in November. Makes no sense to me. That needs exploring.
Saying this is something against Grace Mah is absurd. I have read the petition. This is something FOR representative government. A lot can happen in 1 1/2 years of voting on a County Board on issues that affect us.
Notice the petitioners are willing to take the chance that Grace would win an election.
From the beginning, this has been about REPRESENTATION, or the lack therof.
I agree with whoever said take a deep breath. The vitriol of the original post is astonishing, especially considering that it is coming from the "winning" side! Everyparent..it is ok to use the law on your side when it is to your benefit, but not to use it when it works against you?
Posted by PA resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 3:15 pm
Common guys - this has nothing to do with "revenge." It's whether or not Grace is the best person to oversee public education policy in Santa Clara. I for one, would like to hear what the heck she believes in, other than MI - I've never heard of her doing anything, let alone speaking about any other program, ever, like achievement gap issues, for example. I'll try and do an internet search on her and see if anything pops up other than MI. I'll eat my words if I find anything she's actively accomplished in education unrelated to MI - otherwise, talk about actions speaking louder than words.
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 3:55 pm
What the heck is this discussion about? The County Board of Education web site said if people oppose Mah's appointment, they can submit a petition of signatures. Where does a special election fit in this? If someone doesn't like the appointment, there is still time to submit the requisite petition. Did I miss something?
There were three qualified candidates, but the Board didn't just flip a coin, Grace Mah is an intelligent and hardworking person and that likely came across in the interview, whatever you may think of how she has handled MI.
I have been very critical of how Ms. Mah has handled dealing with PAUSD and her apparent lack of willingness to work with people who have legitimate concerns for how what she wants will affect the district and the kids it serves. But many of us who opposed the MI plan she has pushed (note: not MI, just this plan) aren't presently opposing her appointment, and I haven't met a single other person who has expressed any sentiment of "revenge". I've heard a lot of people express sentiments that the appointment may end up being a blessing in the end.
I wouldn't jump to conclusions about Faith Brigel, either. If she believes Grace Mah took the appointment to get connections or power to further something that could harm PAUSD, then she is acting in good faith, not revenge. I think anyone who has been involved in this debate could see how she might feel that way.
One may question whether there is a better way to the end -- but I don't see any hard facts about what is going on to judge here.
Can everyone please limit future posts on this thread to facts and not rehashing bad feelings from the past?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 7:19 pm
I saw a tape of the interview of the 3 candidates.
Ask the County for a copy. Ms. Mah's was the shortest of all the interviews. She talked about working for 6 years to "bring an enrichment program" to PAUSD, and about working on the Site Council for her son's school. That was the extent of her public work in education. Her other credentials had to do with her professional business/engineering background. There was no other discussion related to her educational qualifications, and the only other "public works" qualification she brought forth was her work at the YMCA.
So, no, as far as I could see, her interview was not what compelled the SCCOE B of E to select her. They clearly had decided based on speaking to her prior to the selection interview, and for reasons that they do not feel obliged to reveal.
They stated that what they were looking for was a person with experience, but they forgot to say what kind of experience, and we all assumed it had something to do with educational work for all kids, and prior Board experience
Posted by Watchful, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2007 at 11:32 pm
When you watched the tape, did you also notice that Mah was the only candidate who used her allotted time to speak directly to the questions asked without sidetracking, and because she was succinct and direct, she was the only one who did not run out of time and therefore the only candidate to cover each of the questions?
Let's not accuse the BOE of unfair practices. They all adhered to the correct public process and did not sneak in any pre-interviews. Their selection was based on written submissions of candidates, public interviews, and statements pro/con from the public. All above board.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2007 at 12:18 pm
To Watchful: We did not see the same tape. Nobody ran out of time, everyone answered each question, in varying degrees of detail.
Oh well, it doesn't really matter, does it? It turns into a he said/she said thing.
I hope the County figures out a way to put it, or at least future meetings, on their site. I think it is strange that the County has no way of making their meetings publicly available online. I hope they figure that out soon.
By the way, I was looking for voting records of the current SCCOE board and Bill Evers, and can't find anything other than minutes up through 2004. Anybody know how to find that info?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2007 at 12:20 pm
To Watchful: OH yes, another clue we didn't see the same tape was that the Board stated ( via Mr. Rummelhof) that each Board member spoke with each candidate prior to the public interview meeting. I haven't heard the other 2 candidates confirm this, but I assume it is true.
Posted by Anon Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2007 at 8:36 pm
We have already had two petitions (one for and one against MI) and now we have another. If having a petition is good for the goose, then it is also good for the gander. It strikes me that one day soon it will be petitions rather than elections that get action. The only difference I see in this is that in an election the votes are anonymous whereas a petition by definition has to have names and addresses open for public scrutiny.
Posted by Anon Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2007 at 8:41 pm
I also meant to add to my above comment....
The other thing that a petition has over an election is that a petition can be signed by residents who are not citizens. An election has registered voters who must be citizens. Therefore in an area like Palo Alto where many of the residents may not be citizens, then petitions can be a useful tool to reflect the feelings of the people as a whole as those who sign a petition may not be able to vote in an election.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 17, 2007 at 5:21 pm
If the anti-MI crowd was out to get Grace Mah, they would be pushing the whole issue of who donated the money for the feasibility study/boondoggle, and how it may be playing a role in board members' decision to resurrect the choice vote.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Apr 17, 2007 at 9:08 pm
There is nothing to push. The district took the money with no strings attached and now has no recourse. (I do agree with the idea of transparency: there should be no anonymous donations for anything, whether stadium lights or feasibility studies. Another debate.)
As to whether or not they are out to get her, that is an interesting question.
Posted by Donor, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Apr 17, 2007 at 10:37 pm
Yes, there SHOULD be anonymous donations if that's important to donors.
I don't like seeing my name/donations listed in the newspaper or online. I personally have donated amounts from $25 to $1000 to school and community groups, and once I see my name in print, especially with a dollar amount, I have to think about whether I will give to that organization again.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 18, 2007 at 7:32 am
When there is a single donation of $30000, with the anonymity of the donor fiercly protected, it makes one wonder what and who has that much interest in this district, and why? Many of us wanted to know who was funding the MI push. Still wondering...
Posted by Resident Donor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 18, 2007 at 11:15 am
I never like my name being used in a donation. Period. However, we must reveal who the donors are in political races, because it is a signal about who supports the candidate, and a clue to who might benefit.
And, I believe the same should be true for donations for programs/equipt etc that ARE NOT ALREADY DECIDED ON by the "authorities", whoever they may be. For policy decisions concerning tax funded programs, we must know who is trying to influence our policies.
Otherwise, to take it to its silly extreme, we end up with an anonymous donation by the the local Meat Packer's association to fund a study for determining if there should be more meat in the kids' lunches, or something. Would anybody trust the results if the conclusion was that the kids' lunches should have meat every day?
That is the critical difference in this never ending discussion about anonymous donations.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm
Don't be silly. If I make a large donation to The Carter Center, they aren't as a result going to force a public school system to spend $1.5 million to open a school on my behalf (and loudly proclaim it costs nothing). No problems with quid pro quo and public money.
How can the board legally keep the donors anonymous when the feasibility study was such a boondoggle? What was all that hullaballoo about council members not even taking a cup of coffee? Aren't board members subject to undue influence, and how can that be legal? Does the public have any recourse?
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:17 pm
I asked the question a while back, and will ask it again: What every happened to that man who kept standing up and telling the Board that he was making Freedom of Information Act requests for disclosure of the donors -- apparently there was a legal basis for requiring this -- and that in the face of that law the staff were still refusing to disclose the donors. He asked to Board to direct the staff to release the names and numbers in the interests of transaprency. To date, I haven't noticed any Board resolution on this issue, nor (clearly) have we ween the numbers and IDs. So is there a legal basis for refusing such a request or not?
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:37 pm
Your reply just underlines the problem.
YOU don't see an issue with anonymous donations in some cases (the carter center analogy doesn't make sense, so substitute some random example), but OTHERS would disagree. Many would say the MI feasibility study is good case where anonymity is fine. You disagree. That is why no donations should be anonymous: well-intentioned people can disagree about where the danger of impropriety lies.
There are no good reasons for anonymity in government.
I think someone from PACE once said the board does not have the names of individual donors. If that is right, then the board cannot provide what it does not have and it obviously cannot retroactively insist that PACE reveal its donors.
Posted by Tax paying Mom, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 4:08 pm
At first, I did not have much of an opinion about this issue. But after learning the extent to which a minority of people will go to just to exercise their own will, even after the PAUSD board reached a decision, has galvanized me to action. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Until ALL children in the PAUSD have a chance at learning a second language - especially beginning in the elementary grades - there is absolutely no excuse for a MI program. None!
Posted by Paly Student, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Apr 19, 2007 at 7:21 pm
I'm not here to incite wars and stuff. I've been thinking about the "MI" program a long time, and it brings up this question: why not teach Hebrew?
Heres the thing:
Mandarin/Chinese is taught at night at Jordan. Arabic is taught at Palo Alto Adult School. American Sign Language is taught as a regular class at Paly. Hebrew? Oh, you have to drive all the way to Cupertino once a week for 2 hours. Seeing as there are lots of Israelis and people who can benefit from Hebrew, why can't there be after-school-hours Hebrew taught in Palo Alto? So many people (myself included) have had very bad experiences from non-accredited foreign language teachers (forcing me to repeat Spanish 1). We looked into Hebrew, but it was too much of a hassle. Just my 2 cents.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 11:12 pm
"There are no good reasons for anonymity in government."
Parent - I was agreeing with you 100%, you misconstrued my message.
The Carter Center is a private charity, not a government program or agency. If you give to a private charity focused on humanitarian efforts like curing millions of poor people with curable diseases who can't get the cures otherwise (like the Carter Center does), it seems like that's a very different situation than giving money to government where public policy and the expenditure of public dollars is at stake. Clearly, we have the latter with the money given for the MI feasibility study.
If the board took the money without asking for the individual donors names (IF), they still took the money from PACE, a small group led by Grace Mah. How much of that money was hers anyway?
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 8:07 am
Marge thanked Grace for all her efforts for 'all our students'.
Marge's children must be in the 2% of PAUSD students that are going to be served by the MI drive?
Or perhaps Marge is from out of town and is giving thanks for installing a charter school in Palo Alto that Marge's kids will come to on Palo Alto tax payer dollar?
Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand what "all our students" means?
Marge - can you provide any more information on what Grace is doing for all our students? It could perhaps be helpful to share that with everyone. New info we haven't yet heard? Hot off the press? Please elaborate.
Posted by Marge, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Apr 20, 2007 at 8:33 am
No my own chldren would not be affeced by the MI. It IS my belief that Grace Mah is a woman who believes that education is very important, and that spreading your wings to learn is important for everyone.
Andrea, I feel very sorry if you feel you have "lost" the good fight.
Perhaps it is time to move on, and let go of the anger.
I think that the Paly Student has a great idea. Somewhere in the district to learn Hebrew. After-hours, or adult education sounds good.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:00 am
So in other words Marge, you don't have an answer about how Grace has helped "all the students". And it's interesting to note that you advise those students who want to learn Hebrew to find an after hours or adult school. Hmm, that wasn't quite good enough for the MI folks, though. For them, beginning right from kindergarten is the only acceptable path.
But thanks anyway for you soothing words about moving on and letting go of anger.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:18 am
Marge - there is no "fight" that's been lost. Just many (1000+) concerned parents (and majority of the BoE) who still believe putting MI into our schools right now, due to enrollment contraints, etc. (mentioned countless times on these threads)is the wrong desision.
And, many who wonder why Grace was chosen for a county board of education position when all she's shown us in PA is that's she's a 1 tick pony who will press for MI in PA to benefit a small fraction of district kids, no matter the cost to ALL our district's kids, or how many times the BoE says no.
Yes, in the end she may get her charter, but at what political cost to her? I believe that a charter school siphoning off funds from PAUSD won't go over well with parents who are asked constantly to give money to the district to support schools.
Do you know that PIE asks for $500/per kid per year? That's $1500 for my family. The parcel tax is another $400+ per year. We've donated over $500 to our school PTA this year alone. We've bought holiday wrapping paper, purchased supplies for schools, and participated countless fundraisers over the years. We are a two parent working family and frankly, I could use this money to give my kids music lessons every week instead of bi-monthly, which is what I can afford. My worry is that some of the 1000+ people who signed the petition against MI will have similar stories, only they may decide that the only way to be heard is by stopping their financial support of our schools.
How could they do that, you might ask? Well, money talks, when no one appears to be listening otherwise.
Grace may think that tenacity is a righteous quality, but I think that knowing when to stop, having the wisdom to let go and on move on to tackle the next issue, that is, if she is passionate about education in general, is what will garner my respect in this case.
Posted by Tenacity, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 11:20 am
In response to pa mom's post above:
"... she's [Grace Mah] shown us in PA is that's she's a 1 tick pony who will press for MI in PA to benefit"
Well a one tick pony running in the right direction would be more appropriate.
"Grace may think that tenacity is a righteous quality"
Don't we all do?
"Yes, in the end she may get her charter, but at what political cost to her?"
Remember she took the position of a person vacated by a person who took a presidential appointment. Grace Mah may be on the way there. She has the qualifications of having been to US top 10 universities (which we all dream of for our children) and she has shown tenacity.
Posted by Marge, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Apr 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm
Just what is wrong here? So many people, so much anger. Anger takes entirely too much energy. So, how about putting all that energy into something you really believe in. Something that will make your life better?
If you really are that unhappy about buying wrapping paper, candy, working in your child's classes and events, you don't have to. You live in a place where you have a choice. Make choices that will bring you more joy and satisfaction. Run for the BoE. Become the kind of teacher you wish your chidren had.
We have all had to make many decisions on our lives. For me, nothing has brought me more joy or satisfaction than being with my family. My husband, of course, but my kids too. I love helping in the class, driving their friends around, watching them become wonderful young adults is the best. I also loved teaching when I did that.
So, I think I will now bow out of all this, and leave it to the rest of you. Good luck to all of you, no matter which side you are on.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:13 pm
Can anyone advise how to get in touch with the groups that would like to see a more neutral party appointed to the county boe for the interim term? I would like to lend my support to that effort, but they do not seem to have a website. I would also like to ask the local boe why they would appoint a person with such controversial views to a position like this?