Faith cancels petition drive Schools & Kids, posted by Thanks, Faith, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Apr 19, 2007 at 5:49 pm
PAWeekly article about the petition to recall Grace Mah shows that Faith Brigel DOES care about PAUSD. She got incomplete/bad misinformation and when faced with the realities of the situation did a good thing and cancelled the petition. Maybe we all could learn a lesson from her.
"She [Brigel] said the process of launching the petition challenge generated substantial interest and support, with "more and more people getting involved." Some involved in the challenge are still looking at a possible Brown Act (state open-meeting law) violation and other possible irregularities in the appointment."
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:42 pm
No, she dropped it out of concern for the District and the community, not because of what a few people chose to think of as a vendetta. She gathered information in the last couple weeks that clarified to her that the cost in finances and human resources was not worth the benefit.
Obviously your perception is your reality, and nothing anyone can say will change that, but my perception is that her overiding values were what began the petition, and what ended it.
Hurray for her courage. It takes a strong person to publicly change a path when confronted with new information.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm
Crowd ? --
Seems like the Board is revisiting Choice as we speak -- as the lesser of two evils proposed by the MI crowd, with the notion that it is the lesser of two evils based at least initially on the Superintendent's biased and incomplete report of relative costs. I undestood that some members of PACE had also, prior to that report, met with the Super privately and told her that they still want MI Choice but are prepared to file a Charter petition if they don't get that in this latest round of consideration following the Board's January vote. Has something changed? Is that no longer the case? And Where in the world did you get the notion that *I* advocate revisiting MI? If you've followed my comments on any of these threads or my live comments to the Board of a few weeks ago, you will know that I believe we should NOT backtrack, should NOT reconsider MI Choice, and should just move forward -- take the petition as and when it comes, and that's that.
Posted by Lisa, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Apr 20, 2007 at 5:44 pm
PACE wants MI. Choice should have been the easier, faster route. However, we now know they could have saved a lot of time by going straight for a charter instead of playing by the rules amd ever-higher hurdles set by the dsitrict for choice. They made the mistake of thinking that waiting until the district said the time was "right" for a choice petition to move forward. The district should have just said "no" unambigously four years ago.
Posted by Faith Brigel, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2007 at 5:54 pm
I rarely read the Online - but have recently. People seem to be making assumptions about my intentions. And I want to thank those contributors who have defended my position. ( Like- the first one here.)
I would like to clarify my actions myself. I realize that my words will give some who oppose my views more to criticize - but I will risk it in the hopes that other people will learn my intentions.
Firstly, the petition will be discontinued due to the cost to the county. I do not want the county to spend 1 million to have an election just to have a recall. That would be totally counter to what I have been trying to do in Palo Alto. And it is not up to me anyway to make that decision for the county- it is the constituent’ responsibility to request democracy.
To explain the process that I went through. I was asked to run this petition with only two and one half weeks left to get about 2,000 signatures. We attempted all along to get information from the county board in terms of expenses, and the least expensive way to go about this. And if it could be done with no oost to the county. We heard about a mail-in ballot and tried to find out about that cost. We then heard that there were some issues that were being questioned about the voting process. So far, it seems that even if one of the members of the county board made a motion to reconsider even during the provisional period- it would all lead to a costly election - which I personally would like to avoid.
The reason that I agreed to help with this petition is not because I have a vendetta, but because I feel that the candidate who was appointed, based on the actions and behavior that she has shown over the past five years would not protect the values that we respect- namely equity in education. And in reviewing the other two candidates' resumes, they both had a lot more experience in education and community work. When a person feels opposed to an appointment there is a democractic way to respond which is what I did. I was thinking of giving more information re how I came to my conclusion - but that would take up a lot more space. I may do it at a later time. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but I wanted to start to make my views more public. Thank you,
Posted by Rodham, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2007 at 6:37 am
Obviously Faith and the petitioners couldn't go forward when they learned a special election would cost $1 million -- but that amount of money for a special eleciton is an outrage. It creates a situation that practically stops anyone from challenging bizarre decisions like the one to appoint Grace Mah, so the county ed board can operate without voter supervision. Things are out of control at the county when the cost of running an election balloons to $10 per registered voter -- Liz Kniss, are you reading this?
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2007 at 10:08 pm
Just to counter what was expressed above, I am not in favor of revisiting the choice program at this time.
Ohlone and Hoover are different than SI, because they offer the same Palo Alto curriculum through different educational philosophies. SI on the other hand offers an educational opportunity to a few students that is not available to other students in the district. When SI was begun, there was controversy in large part because of this. And those problems were never addressed after the fact. That could have been predicted.
I think creating more choice programs that offer exclusive educational opportunities to a few students that are not available to other students to any extent is not the role of a public school district, especially not one the size of Palo Alto. I think going down that road where more and more programs like that can be so easily created is destructive to the system overall. We do not have infinite resources, and we do have core priorities that would be threatened by that. This is a big reason so many people have been active against THIS proposal, but I don't think it means people are against immersion education.
So while I do favor an MI program, I do not favor revisiting the choice program.
But yes, I do think a charter could be a good answer, especially if the people running the charter consider, as Grace Mah has publicly stated, finding the most optimal location anywhere in the county. It may be possible to even submit the charter through another district that is revenue limit, and thus create a financial advantage for that district (and more of a welcome for the program). I would love to see the PACE people use the energy to create the best program they can in this way, one that would not use up their energy with the bounds and constraints we have now in this district. The trouble is, if we continue through to revote the choice program, it will further inflame the community and solidify opposition.
I see that some people oppose a charter no matter what, which I don't understand. Several pro-MI people have also made very angry posts at me for supporting the charter, which I really don't understand since they suggested it, and since it seems like the way to get a really complete, viable immersion school.
It seems there are ways to address the disagreements through a charter, a true win-win where both sides could agree they get what they want.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 9:45 am
It is entirely reasonable to ask that PACE show concern for fiscal constraints (and the choice guidelines require it). Fortunately they did so from the beginning, which is why they worked so hard to craft a program that is cost-neutral.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 10:16 am
Parent, if the choice program comes to fruition, one can only hope that the BOE builds cost accountability into implementation. Continuously stating that it will be cost neutral does not make it so. Others have done analysis and have not come to the same conclusion as you and as PACE as to what this district will be paying for MI. However this district so far has not demonstrated an interest or ability to monitor SI, so you may be able to fly under the radar and remain unaccountable for MI as well.
Barb Mitchell, in her attempt to pursuade the board to approve MI in the first go round, pledged that she would be accountable to us for the program's costs. And if Grace's next goal is a spot on the PAUSD board, perhaps she will join Barb in this effort. However, we're off to a bad start, as we still don't have transparency around the feasibility study donors. So I think that we will never know if SI or MI have been cost neutral, since neither Grace nor the BOE seems to feel this this type of disclosure is relevant, no matter how many people call for it.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 12:42 pm
Well, I guess it bears repeating that the best neutral, professional accounting we have is from the district, and that projects the program would be cost neutral. Putting out a biased calculation just doesn't disprove the feasibility study.
I don't follow your remarks about the feasibility donors. That had nothing to do with PACE or Grace. It was the board that set up the parameters and asked PACE to fund the study.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 1:07 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As to the feasibility donors, the board didn't care enough how the anonymous donation of $30000 would be perceived and Grace didn't seem to feel that transparency was important. Why would one, based on their prior actions, expect that future actions by these same people would be any different or better?
Anonymous asks whether any of that feasibility money was Grace's. I must admit I never even thought about it being from Grace. I read PACE's proposal for MI wherin they stated that some interested parties in seeing MI in this district included the Chinese Government, which is dedicating funds to promote Chinese language in the US. The Chinese Consulate was listed as a supporter. When the donations were itemized, my mind went back to that report and I assumed that that largest donor was either a government entity or a private corporation (which may see profits in providing curriculum for these endeavors around the country). I may be jumping to conclusions but we can only speculate for now. Perhaps a more open process would have quelled my speculations.
And as I recall, it was Grace, waving the check from PACE who volunteered and cajoled to fund the study. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by You go, Grace, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 2:26 pm
I don;t think that Faith Brigel should be lauded for her cancelling the recall drive. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Once the cost became public--she knew that she would be raked over the coals for starting a drive that would cost $1+ million and she to protect her "good name".
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm
Dear You Go Grace -
There is animosity towards Grace because she has been pushing a program which benefits only a few children in the district at at time when there are too many other issues of importance to all the students. Even if the program itself was revenue neutral - how many district $$ have been spent in just the debate?
I don't there is a general dislike of the increase in Asian American in Palo Alto, but I do think there is resentment in schools that have a tradition of high parental volunteerism being negatively impacted by parents who don't feel the need to volunteer and who do not value the sense of community in our schools.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 3:46 pm
To fill in what was deleted from my prior post: The feasibility study presented by MFC and her staff was not even close to being a professional neutral accounting. Did you ever see a spread sheet? Some asked; none was provided, ever. Just because some keep repeating that MI will be cost neurtal doesn't make it so.
Posted by Barbara, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 5:04 pm
Note to all - Please stop ascribing motive and intent to other people's postings. If you doubt their honesty, ask them directly. But it does a terrible disservice to public discourse to directly contradict someone's statements, as "You go Grace" did in attacking Faith.
Also, turning opposition of MI or Grace Mah's appointment into issues of race and "vendetta" deflects and distracts from the legitimate discussion of how to best utilize limited PAUSD resources and function in the Democratic process.
I have read and heard comments from both proponents and opponets of MI that have made me cringe. But the out-of-bounds comments that malign and insult should not be the focus of authentic debate. Let's get back on topic, listen to one another's points of view, and show some respect for each other....no matter their positions on issues or their ethnicity, religion, sexual-orientation, etc.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 6:14 pm
Barbara, well said.
Honest, intelligent, ethical people can completely disagree in this area. I know people that I respect who like the idea that each elementary school in a district have a different curriculum and emphasis in one district, and others who like the idea of every elementary school having the same curriculum, with differences limited to different teaching styles. One argues "parent choice", the other argues "equality in educational opportunities".
I am sure there are people with baser motivations for their positions on both sides of this debate, but I certainly don't like the emphasis on them from anyone. There will always be people with questionable motives in any debate. I agree with you Barbara, let's stick to the debate of ideas, facts, effects etc and assume the best motivations of all.
Posted by Anonymous parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 10:04 pm
Palo Alto has traditionally been a neighborhood-school centered, every-school-teaches-the-same-curriculum-but-perhaps-with-a-different-flavor sort of place. People move here and pay the price in order to send their kids to those schools.
If someone is really interested in a school district that is all choice with elementary schools offering different educational opportunities that other schools in the same district don't have, there are other districts like San Francisco which do that. In fact, I know a family who moved here because of the reputation of the schools then moved to San Francisco this year when they realized their own philosophy fit better with that kind of model. Had that family instead chosen to stay here and try to make Palo Alto district fit what they wanted, they could have expected a fight like we are embroiled in over MI.
Resident, so many people sacrifice to live here so that they can send their kids to PA public schools, it makes me wonder why anyone would move here if they favored schools with different curricula? At the very least, they could have the decency not to complain about PA being so contentious while they try to pull apart a system that other people have sacrificed in order to get for their kids.
Posted by Longtime resident, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Apr 22, 2007 at 10:30 pm
Anonymous parent, PAUSD has a well-defined grade-by-grade curriculum which is taught in all schools, neighborhood and choice. Alernative programs cover the same material -- each in their own "flavors," as you put it. Even in immersion education, it's the same core curriculum, delivered in a second language. People move to Palo Alto for the schools, but that doesn't mean they're thinking "neighborhood" or "alterantive" when they make that decision. I lived in Palo Alto before making babies, and it wasn't until a year or two before kindergarten that I began to pay attention to which school my child would go to. I assumed there would be choice, as there is in preschool, to visit schools and decide which "flavor" would most suit our child/family.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:10 am
There is another thread here about living in a multi-culture society which addresses just this point. People here are very different and have completely different ideas of what a school should do for their children. This is generally a cultural issue as different cultures perceive education as something different. I myself am beginning to wonder how we manage to get along so well as sometimes the differences in our cultures make common goals almost poles apart.
Posted by You go, Grace, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:18 am
I find it interesting that the editors chose to remove my comments suggesting that either a vendetta or racism may be playing a role in the opposition to Grace Mah, especially when these items were discussed in the recent Sj Mercury News story about the opposition to Grace Mah
Posted by Anonymous parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:32 am
Palo Alto is a neighborhood-school-centered district. It is also a public school district. I hear a lot of the posters above talking like they would over choosing a private school. If you had those kinds of expectations, don't ruin our district trying to grab what you want for a few kids. Send your kid to private school, like everyone else before you whose expectations could not be met through the resources of public school.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:49 am
Sharon Noguchi wrote that other slanted article that put Grace Mah up on a pedestal and slammed anyone opposing MI. I've heard she is a PAUSD parent -- she should disclose her connection to Mah.
Nothing in that long article mentions that much of the opposition has been because PAUSD children have no language education offerings at all in elementary school, and many people think offering FLES FIRST is more in keeping with the values of public school. Nothing in that article mentions the considerable support of MI in the community that Mah has pushed away by insisting for PACE-personal reasons that MI move ahead of imminent strategic planning and other priorities.
Nowhere in the long article does she mention that the MI program might force a seven-figure facility expenditure in an overcrowded district. No, we're all "tax-wealthy".
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
What is Noguchi's relationship with Mah? The articles by high-school students in the Paly Voice have been infinitely more informative, balanced, and fair. And well-written.
Posted by Change Agent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:00 am
There's another thread about change management in Palo Alto, and I think one quote from "Resident" is pertinent here:
"There are some changes we would all like to make and what I would like to make different is probably very different from the next guy. So, Palo Alto, will continue to be just what it is, if you like it, great and if you don't, wait a bit and see what happens next.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 21 minutes ago"
What if Palo Alto *isn't* "a neighborhood-school-centered district"? Or what if it *changes* out from that vision? Is there some path to change that can be smooth?
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:06 am
The genesis of this debate, I believe, is whether choice (lottery)schools/boutique programs are preferred by most in this district or is the neighborhood school concept preferred? Additionally, debate exists about whether 5% of our public school kids should benefit from language immersion when none of our elementary school kids currently have language instruction (FLES)(unlike other similar districts).
I've always wondered why a new "choice" program should be implemented at all when the other "choice" programs are turning away kids in droves. For example, if you aren't a sibling of a currently enrolled SI student, your chances of getting in the program are slight. Why isn't SI enlarged to allow those who want to participate a better chance of getting in BEFORE another new one is added?
Furthermore, adding yet another "choice" program puts serious constraints on our already enormous over-enrollment issues. When people start throwing around terms like "vendetta" I think they haven't been paying attention.
It would be great if this forum could be used to discuss solutions instead of all this rhetoric that gets thrown around. I guess a few people need to vent, but I tend not to respond to posters who
simply want to throw inflammatory gas on the fire.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:18 am
This forum has been used to discuss solutions. Right now, there's a good one: PACE finds an optimal location in the County to locate a charter, and perhaps even applies for it through another city IF the funding scenario is more optimal (i.e., revenue limit).
Grace Mah was quoted in the Weekly saying PACE is looking for a location anywhere in the County -- I think we should be asking why her supporters are continuing to stir up controversy on this forum instead of telling us with due excitement about those plans. A lot of us are waiting.
What's the progress on the charter? Why isn't Mah discussing the ins and outs of location that would help resolve the controversy, especially when she said months ago that she and her supporters are actively looking anywhere in the County for a location? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Voter, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:23 am
AJ. You've heard Grace state publicly that she would be looking for a location for a charter other than PAUSD? When? Where? I've only heard Mi proponents say they want it in Palo Alto, just because they want it in Palo Alto. I'd like to know if they are really looking at charter outside of PAUSD, because that would be a very big difference to what we've heard so far.
It would be a very significant breakthough in their willingness to do the right thing. Maybe they were inspired by Faith.
I think the PAUSD BOE should refuse to take any further action on an MI choice program until this group clarifies their plans for a charter. Why should PAUSD go through the start up effort on a choice program if a charter school is going through anyway, which would also siphon off most of the supporters for MI as well?
Also, on the issue of Mah on the County Board - she's said she would recuse herself from any county decision on an MI charter in PAUSD. But actually, as a leader in creating and a charter school, wouldn't she actually have to recuse herself on all charter decisions by that board?
She wouldn't be very unbiased on charter decisions, as a principal player in an operating charter school. Wouldn't that be conflict of interest for her to participate on ~any~ charter decisions, now that she's identified herself as a driver, creator, key player of a charter school?
And another question. While I thought Noguchi's article once again was an attempt to smear opponents to MI without justification (again she resorted to trying reduce the issue to 'racism', discounting any of the real issues involved), Noguchi made a comment that no one seems to think much about: impropriety in the county board decision making process - a secret ballot they held on the appointment? - a potential Brown Act Violation? Can they do that?
Can we expect any accountability from the county board on that? By Whom? How? Anybody know? Perhaps Grace, being a county board member, can comment about how the accountability works in such a case.
Posted by Another PA mom, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:55 am
PA Mom, the point of choice is choosing. The waiting lists you talk about show that people really want alternatives. It sounds like you don't like MI, yet you'd expand the existing choices. OK, let's say we move Hoover and Ohlone to 4-strand sites, open a second Ohlone campus (perhaps swap the present location for two 3-strand sites). That would satisfy a lot of people who prefer those alternatives to traditional neighborhood schools, and then the attendance boundaries could be redrawn to meet the new realities.
However, what if I think there's something missing from a traditional school, and I'm not interested in Hoover, Ohlone, or SI. Personally, I'd prefer more alternatives, not fewer choices. MI would be fine. So would a school that emphasizes music education. I'm sure other parents have wish lists too. If enough parents come together to show strong support for a new idea, wonderful--let it happen. That's why state law provides for alternative schools and charter schools. Parents who have real choices are much more likely to invest themselves in making their kids' education succeed.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 11:31 am
Another PA Mom
I don't get it. If someone doesn't like what is offered in PAUSD schools then yes, they do have plenty of choice
Choice 1 - go private
Choice 2 - move elsewhere
Choice 3 - put up with what is available and pay for after school classes to achieve what you find is missing
I find it increasingly sad to find that people still disagree with how best to achieve their goals. If we go with those who want more choice then I don't think we will ever suit everyone. We can't end up with 12 or even 13 choice schools. We can't have an immersion program for every language that is spoken in PA homes. We can't whittle down the waiting lists for the existing choice programs without making the present schools bigger than the accepted size of schools (with the exception of Ohlone which I believe can be made from a 3 1/2 strand school to a 4 strand school relatively easily).
The mentality which makes people buy a home and then tear it down to build just what they want is very similar to the mentality of parents who want to tear down the existing PAUSD system and change it to just what they want. In an ideal world, we would all like to live in the home of our dreams in the best location going. However, as realists we know that won't happen in Palo Alto. Likewise, getting the best education in the world that suits your particular view is just as unrealistic. My personal view of what I would like to see in education is not going to happen here. If I value it more than other reasons for living in Palo Alto, then I know I would have to move elsewhere. However, I have other reasons for living in Palo Alto and I have to weigh those against the education I find. If my education needs are more important than the other needs, I would move. Otherwise I just have to accept what is available and do my utmost to make it fit my child's needs and then do my best to get my other needs for their education found at home, or in other after school venues.
Posted by Veto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 11:34 am
If we're going down a path of expanded choice schools as you describe, then what's the process for determining the choices we'll offer. Resources are finite, so how do we decide? First come first serve? Or the folks with the biggest wallets decide?
You said if 'enough' parents show up with an idea, that's all that really matters? How many is enough? Two or Three, as long as they show up with cash? We just hand them over a campus and their 'share' of the district funding and say go for it?
Eventually that damages everyone - including the self interested special interest groups that came knocking for 'their share'
That's like trying to run a household of 15 kids, and doing that by dividing up your paycheck and all your other resources into 15ths and sending everyone on their own. Not much will get done for the whole. You'll end up wasting alot and duplicating alot that could have been done more efficiently only once. You'll be lucky if more than half of them end up with a place to live.
Charter laws are there that let you do that. And that makes it the right thing to do in PAUSD? No it does not.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 11:55 am
Language Lover and others: I'm beginning to see the light with the idea of placing an MI charter school somewhere in the county. I have a question about the charter option: Does anyone know why Grace doesn't just go straight to the county and have the county oversee it? What's the downside to this? If the point is to get an MI program going, why does PAUSD have to be involved at all?
Another PA mom - How could your options possibly work without moving huge numbers of kids from their current schools? I'd be interested in hearing a specific scenario of how you’d accomplish this, because it sounds like what you are suggesting is a huge restructuring; do you really think this is realistic?
Posted by Another PA mom, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 12:56 pm
PA mom, I'm merely talking possibilities, but you're right that there would have to be restructuring if there were more choices.
Veto, it's hard to take your comment that "two or three" parents would be "enough" to justify a new alterantive program. Programs can be large or small, but they have to have sufficient numbers to fill the classrooms allocated to them. If there's lots of enthusiasm for different alternatives, then the schools in effect may end up competing for students--and any program that can't keep its numbers up would have to relocate to a smaller site or be phased out. As for money, it's the district's responsibility to figure out what "cost-neutrality" means and then send the bill to alternative programs that have excess costs--that's the district policy, and the district needs to follow its own policy.
The trend in California and nationwide is toward more parental involvement and more educational options. Parents who actively choose an educational program are more likely to embrace the program and support it with their hearts, minds, time, energy, and pocketbooks. Many parents already have a strong sense of buy-in, commitment, and zest, but there are also many parents who value education but who are not particularly inspired by the options that exist. We're all stakeholders, we do not all have the same beliefs or dreams for our kids, and there's no one educational model that can meet all needs.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 2:02 pm
So, "PAUSD, Love it or leave it." It has a nice repressive scent. You guys are thinking outside the box when you dig into the 70s pro-war slogan storage box.
Yours is one model for community, but another is one which embraces diversity and change. The fourth option, Parent, is to change the system.
And Anon, why are you rushing to dis Noguchi? She did a straight-forward, professional job of reporting what is going on. It would have been poor reporting to ignore the ugly racial divide, as you call it. Throwing a blanket of silence over racism does not eliminate it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 2:03 pm
So, "PAUSD, Love it or leave it." It has a nice repressive scent. You guys are thinking outside the box when you dig into the 70s pro-war slogan storage box.
Yours is one model for community, but another is one which embraces diversity and change. The fourth option, Parent, is to change the system.
And Anon, why are you rushing to dis Noguchi? She did a straight-forward, professional job of reporting what is going on. It would have been poor reporting to ignore the ugly racial divide, as you call it. Throwing a blanket of silence over racism does not eliminate it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 2:28 pm
Say for instance that a group of jews, or muslims, or christians, or tree huggers, decided that they wanted more of their religious outlook presented in their education and got together and found that there were enough kindergartners who wanted this to approach the district and ask for it. They could say that it would be open to any who were interested of whatever religion and it could be done as a lottery. What about a group of people who wanted their children geared up for British GCSE exams, or Australian exams, or Canadian exams, but they didn't have to be of that nationality, just interested in that form of education. What would be the feeling here. I feel sure that the answer would be to go private, or to go back to Britain, or Australia, or Canada. The point being, is that we can take choice to extremes and we have to draw the line somewhere. We cannot all realistically expect PAUSD to meet all our desires, no matter how earnest we are and would it be right for PAUSD ethically to try?
Posted by Another PA mom, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 3:55 pm
It's the BOE's job to determine the educational merits of any proposed choice program. Who knows...
- Tree huggers might be a logo for parents seeking a strong science/ecology program.
- Parents of different faiths might band together for a strong social studies program with a theme tracing the role and impact of religious thinking on immigration, settlement, notion of Manifest Destiny, Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution, music, diversity, and more.
- UK exams--I'm stumped!
What you have to keep in mind is that the PAUSD curriculum still must be satisfied. If it's accomplished with a twist, a different emphasis, a different method, a different philosophy... well, it's still PAUSD curriculum.
I agree, Parent, that we can't expect PAUSD to meet all our desires, but it has made no attempt--zero-- to bring educational innovation to the district in years. PAUSD's lighthouse went dim years ago. The admininstration's approach is hands-off: reactive, not proactive. They leave it up to parents and individual teachers to shine light on new ideas.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm
to Another PA Mom: I strongly disagree that PAUSD has made no attempt to bring innovation to our District in years. This is true only if you define it as meaning bringing a new "choice" program into the area.
PAUSD has - brought in new and improved teaching methods of language arts throughout the elementary programs, with rising scores as a result: brought in new, improved, and expanded options for "remedial" math and english education through the math and English "academies"; brought in a new language ( Mandarin) in the High Schools: added summer classes at all levels; brought in new and improved technology at all levels, including computers; is bringing in improved methods for "diagnosing" and therefore "treating" kids with problems as young as kindergarten: is starting a new and improved way of teaching math to our elementary students: brought in a way of equalizing access to staffing funds so each school has an equal chance to choose which "extras programs" it wants to fund, and fully supported working with parents who are trying to develop methods of addressing our "at risk" kids of color, and worked to bring "differentiated teaching" into the classroom, so that kids of all abilities and backgrounds can stay in one classroom and be challenged..
That is off the top of my head.
My definition of innovation is different from yours. My value is for innovation that benefits all appropriate kids throughout the target grade level in a district.
I have been very happy that PAUSD has made such great progress for all of our kids in spite of constant pressures. I have been delighted with the emphasis of pulling everyone up.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 5:33 pm
Experimenting on kids for innovation's sake is all well and good, but what you are talking about is descontructing one of the top performing school district's in California for the sake of running a series of experimental programs. (Yes, PAUSD has plenty of room for improvement, we might start at the top with the Superintendent and a Board that knows how to think and act strategically.) Then I say, lets talk about what needs improvement and fix it. You don't go throwing the baby out with the bathwater because a special interest group is having a hissy fit about not getting the luxury program of their dreams.
And you say - just bill the innovative specialty program for the incremental costs of whatever they dream up, as if access to quality education is the right of the wealthy. Because afterall, when the program gets REALLy fancy, like it is at Bullis, and the cost of participation gets high - who gets the priveledge of particpating? The wealthy.
The rest of the regular folks get the sloppy leftovers of the 'basic' program, whatever the fragmented chopped to shreds district can afford after all the wealthy programs take theirs.
What you're talking about is wrong - an experimenta restructuring that a failing district might want to try, but which a high performing district should not be 'shamed' or tricked into trying.
You are not correct in stating that because PAUSD isn't off experimenting, that they are failing. PAUSD can afford to let other districts innovate, and adopt winning proven strategies and programs as they come - and as they solve the problems the district faces.
If you want trick programs in PAUSD, you should be required to prove they work first. (Not just that alot of other district are jumping on the fad bandwagon now, but that they actually have a history.) There is no 'first to market' win in a public education for bleeding edge innovation.
And by proving, that means by PROVING - on papers, with test scores, with same student historical results, with demographic data. Not by sending a few biased administrators to stand in classroom doorways to be wowed by a few kids speaking Mandarin.
I don't think Palo Altan's should let a few fringe agitators hijack PAUSD.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 5:45 pm
No rush to "dis" Noguchi, as you say. Since the Weekly staff deleted what I said, I will clarify it: I believe Noguchi's article was inflammatory, and stirred up divides that weren't there in the vast majority of the opposition.
You think it would have been poor reporting for her to miss stirring up those sentiments. I think it was poor reporting for her to miss the actual facts: That most of the controversy revolves around less sexy topics like the use of scarce resources in an oversubscribed district -- Noguchi, in a surprisingly similar way to the MI-ers, talks about "tax-wealthy" Palo Alto and ignores how we are actually funded, that we are dealing with serious overcrowding and the specific MI proposal would require Palo Alto to pitch in a facility for its program to continue three years after it starts up, a $1.5M plus cost not factored into the MI-ers equation.
I think it was poor reporting that in NEITHER article she did, did she mention once that there is no elementary school language instruction for all kids in the PA district, and that many people who would otherwise support MI are against ANY new immersion program until all children have access to some language instruction in elementary school. Not once did she mention that the district hasn't been through a strategic planning cycle in seven or eight years, that another one is imminent, but MI-ers refuse to wait and work with other parents to see how their plan could fit in with other basic priorities. Absolutely no mention of concerns that there are better ways to bring MI to the district under the current constraints.
Fiscal responsibility isn't sexy enough for the Mercury News to buy the article, I guess. Reasonable but persistent parents who want our money spent in the best way for public schools -- not good enough. If Noguchi had to bring up the race card, she could have made a balanced article by being less fawning of Grace Mah and pointing out how many people believe Mah has cynically used the race card against people who disagree with her.
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 6:52 pm
I agree that the Mercury News article was strangely out of touch with the debate that has been happening here. Compare it to the conclusion in this Palo Alto Weekly Editorial:
"While the case for MI has been strong and well-made, we agree with the board majority that there are clear strategic-planning pre-requisites that need to be completed first -- including defining an affordable overall language plan for all grades and identifying long-term space for an MI program." Web Link If you look back a year, that's what the Weekly reported was a major reason for opposition to MI then, too.
Someone asked for a link to the statement Grace Mah made, that PACE was actively looking for locations for a charter anywhere in the county. (I saw this first-hand before writing, but that was several topics ago.) I think this was in a Weekly article, I may have included a link on another discussion, but I'm not finding it easily now. I was surprised when I came across that -- it was Grace herself who made that statement. Though in the article, it seemed like something of a threat, it seems to me more like an olive branch in disguise now. I think that it has the potential for being the solution out of this mess. Anyway, if anyone has the time to hunt down that link, I'd appreciate it on behalf of whomever asked above.
I believe the statement was made fairly early on, around the time of the vote against MI. Surprising then the much later statements by Nico and others against even considering Mountain View for a charter. I hope they don't ignore a great idea just because previous opponent thought of it -- or, in this case, it seems Grace thought of it, and some of her opponents came on board. What's wrong with that?!!
School board meeting attendees should have to attend mandatory potlucks -- quotes in the newspapers and on online forums don't allow all the emotional signals and body language, and they espceially don't allow people to make instantaneous apologies if something is misconstrued. Far less likely that people will go off on angry tangents.
Posted by Winston Smith, a resident of another community, on Apr 23, 2007 at 8:30 pm
Of course, if one expects a news article to lay out all one's positions in detail, one has misunderstood what a news article is. Perhaps one was thinking of "editorial"?
Why object to reporting racism? Reporting it does not create it. Not reporting it will not erase it. (Unless, it is Nineteen Eighty-four, and we are talking about the Ministry of Truth and thoughtcrime.)
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:52 pm
You would have to know the history of this debate to understand. I'm not objecting to reporting of racism. I'm objecting to making it up almost entirely of whole cloth and inserting it in a debate where less sexy things like concerns over fiscal problems are really the cause of disagreement.
If you want to understand what has really been going on, read the articles in the Paly Voice. (go to the Paly Voice web site and search on "mandarin immersion") Given what I have seen over the course of this debate, these articles really get to the heart of what is going on and don't distort.
I've seen enough of it in my life that I am very interested in the accurate reporting of racism. It concerns me just as much when people cry racism falsely, because of how it negates and demeans those who need to complain when there is real racism.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 9:33 am
I'm weary of it, too, MI Fatigue, it's too bad the principles in this don't take a more collaborative approach.
Winston, probably the most important thing for you to understand from reading that slanted article in the Mercury News is the way this sentence was wrongly used :
"Some perceive - but say only anonymously online - that a Mandarin-language program caters to a "wealthy minority" who don't deserve a "special program.""
Anyone familiar with this debate would realize that people have long been objecting to disproportionately allotting scarce financial and facilities resources to a small group of kids in the district, without regard to the needs of all kids in the district -- the use of the word "minority" in the discussions has consistently been about "MINORITY" versus "MAJORITY", not about a racial or ethnic minority. To have suggested otherwise by misusing such a sentence was really dispicable.
Read the history on the TownSquare, watch the BOE meetings. Parents have been complaining about a small group of parents (who according to the Merc article are mostly white anyway?) trying to bully PAUSD into giving their kids a specialty private school education at the expense of everone else. That's what "minority" means -- people have been talking a lot about what public school education means, and how we should be fair in the use of public school resources. The MI people have been talking like they are oblivious to what financial impact their specific proposal will have on the rest of the district. They have complained online about the taxes THEY are paying (as if other parents aren't paying the same taxes).
It was disingenuous and wrong of Noguchi to twist around that kind of phrase to make it seem as if there was any racial meaning to that. Read the history.
Posted by Person, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 11:03 am
You should also be aware that the use of the term 'minority' in this debate has only ever been used to refer to numbers - that a small number of people with resources have been driving this issue through PAUSD. As opposed to a majority of voters who prefer focus on...
Noguchi's use of the term 'minority' here to imply racial minority is instigating racial slur where there has been none, none implied, none intended, none stated.
The actual issue here is about a SMALL group of 2-5 (at tops 10) people bending the will of the community to their own whims. It doesn't have anything to do with race.
In fact as we all know the MI program is not about race either. This just simply is not a racial issue. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Another perspective, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:21 pm
Person, when the MI wars began, there were quite a few MI-opposers at the board meetings speaking against providing a "heritage" language program. In this case, "heritage" related to ethnic Chinese, i.e., a racial minority. There were assumptions that "rich" parents didn't want to pay for weekend Chinese classes and were trying to foist "their responsibility" to teach "their children" "their heritage language" on the public school system. There was also an assumption that classes would be overrun with children of Chinese heritage because Chinese was of little interest or value to anyone else, and particularly to other ethnic minorities.
Then there was the statement of Palo alto mom: "I don't there is a general dislike of the increase in Asian American in Palo Alto, but I do think there is resentment in schools that have a tradition of high parental volunteerism being negatively impacted by parents who don't feel the need to volunteer and who do not value the sense of community in our schools." I don't think this comment was intended to be racist, but I think it shows ignorance and insensitivity. How welcoming is our community to people who are not highly-educated, highly articulate, and assertive? How many parents can feel comfortable as a member of equal standing in our (over)confident, outspoken community if the newcomers are still struggling to understand and make themselves understood in English or if they have come from cultures where parents would never dream of asserting themselves in school affairs? Whether people have money or not, whether they come from Asia, Latin America, or EPA, if they have not or CANnot assimilate to the Palo Alto way. How often do those of us who are comfortable hanging around on campus, volunteering, and proclaiming our views here on this message board--how often do we go out of our way to greet new faces on campus, faces that do not look like ours? And if we do happen to greet them once, do we engage them in conversation again? Do we encourage our children to invite their children home for playdates? If we want people to become like us, it is our job to invite them into our world, make them feel comfortable, not override or dismiss their "different" ideas, etc. That is not always easy to do, and it is very hard for outsiders to insert themselves into a group. Joining the mainstream is a slow process, usually done one small step at a time. If we act like Palo Alto Parents toward newcomers, we'll intimidate them to stay away.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:31 pm
Another perspective, your call for tolerance was eloquent, but maybe you haven't been to school in Palo Alto in awhile. In our school, ethnic minorities are the majority, we have almost as many native languages in our classroom as we have kids. We also have quite a few kids from East Palo Alto, and you wouldn't know who they are unless you had a piece of paper telling you. I haven't seen diversity as a barrier to anyone making friends or making anyone a part of the community.
Most of the debate about MI has been about strategic planning and fiscal responsibility. Period. That some people chose to pull in race inappropriately is really ugly, but fortunately it has not been the focus of discussion.
Posted by person, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:01 pm
Well that's funny because creating "separate but equal" programming in the schools doesn't seem like a great way to improve bringing all the cultures and peoples together.
I read the initial paperwork on the MI proposal, and I believe the specific focus on ethnic heritage stuff came directly from the very unfortunate first paragraph of the proposal: "CI would provide students with fluency in Mandarin and Asian Cultural Proficiency". What? Why would we target an entire school full of students, across their entire 6 year K-5 career, to 'cultural proficiency' of a single culture. Any culture?
I don't think its racist to object to using public school system for teaching a cultural 'proficiency'. In fact, I think its racist to suggest such a thing. Racism is generally a term reserved for someone who believes one culture is 'better' than another or one deserves special treatment over another.
What if we suggest that Duveneck be dedicated to teaching US Culutural Proficiency? Would there be an outcry? Sure would. I assume people across this district expect our schools to be devoted to cross cultural awareness, education and understanding not 'proficiency' in one culture. We certainly have a diversity of many cultures represented in this community, and our children deserve to gain exposure and understanding, appreciation and caring for all of them. We need to learn how to get along, I don't see how that happens when you pull out and create boundary walls.
Now if the schools want to educate on a variety of cultural heritage topics (ie: history, geography, social studies, for many cultures), then I think that's appropriate for the public school system and will further diversity and cross cultural awareness.
Please don't assign racism to the opposition who is in fact opposing racism.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:11 pm
I think we have to be very careful here. The word "culture" is becoming the pc word for "race" and will soon mean "racism or racial" in any political scenario. It is unfortunate that the word "race" is now taboo in the same way that "gay" is taboo when describing a dress or curtains which are brightly colored.
When we talk about MI, we have to use pc words to make sure that we are not offending anyone even though we have no intention to do so or even to inadvertantly put a slant on things which we didn't originally intend. This makes life pretty complicated and it is particularly welcome to be able to say things on this forum where anonymity is the norm as we do not wish to be judged something that we are not.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm
According to wikipedia, the terms half mast and half staff are synonomous. Although the term half mast sounds more nautical, the terms are usually looked at as more culturally different rather than anything else.
The fact that there are two terms for the same thing shows exactly the problems we have here in a multi cultural society and is a good indication of how something very minor can take on new life when talking across cultures. Yes, it does read that half staff is the correct americanism, but that doesn't mean that someone not using that term can be considered un-american. Just, that they have started off from a different starting block.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 2:23 pm
Dear Another Perspective -
Our schools are so good partly because of our rich tradition of supporting the teachers in many ways - both with our time and our dollars. It think there is resentment towards people who take advantage of our school system but think that just paying their tax dollars is enough. People with a sense of entitlement.
When you make a real effort to be welcoming and encourage people to participate in the community and are rebuffed many times and have to "fill in the gaps" for their lack of responsibility, there is resentment. I have been in a variety of situations - school, sports and church and after reaching out to parents who are new to the community and sometimes the country experienced the following: invitations to events are declined, playdates can only be at our house because they are too busy for hosting kids at their house, invitations to help at school in a variety of ways and times are decline because they do not feel it is their job to help, don't stay to watch their kids games, are late picking their kids up from sports or school or playdates because their time is more important. This has been a variety of people - none of them with 6 kids or multiple jobs or unable to communicate. Just parents willing to let someone else do the work.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 4:48 pm
Person and Anon,
Racism played a role from the beginning. It wasn't a motivating factor for most or even many opponents, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Many opponents told us that only Chinese (or Asians) would sign up their kids for MI. In the same breath, they'd say that those who really wanted MI could afford after-school programs (most of which are exclusively for native speakers): the message was Chinese people are economically dominant and their educational desires can therefore be ignored. Then, we were told that this minority was pushy. Finally, many people said publicly that Chinese people should not expect the district to teach their children Chinese.
The subtext was: rich, pushy Chinese are unfairly trying to change our (caucasian) community and we don't like it.
So, the merc gets it dead right when it notes the racism in the complaints about the "wealthy minority." (To the list of those who agree, we can add board members, community members and the New York Times.)
Of course, there were other motivations, but it is cowardly to try to shout down those who point out the racist subtext to part of the debate. In fact, it is racist to try to rob the victims of the right to complain.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 5:30 pm
Thank you for acknowledging that "[Race] wasn't a motivating factor for most or even many opponents." You wouldn't know that from reading Noguchi's article.
The debate was not about race, ethnicity, culture. The debate was about resources. Noguchi's article somehow failed to miss the crux of the issue entirely. The article failed in entirety to mention what the debate has been about!
Here's what the Feb. 1 Weekly article had to say about the vote meeting:
"The debate centered largely on whether the immersion program would siphon resources from other programs. " If you read the many articles in the Paly Voice, Weekly, or PADN, or read the history online, you will see that this has been an argument over resources and fairness.
It's about resources. It's about an overcrowded district where neighborhood schools are overflowing. It's about a district where no child in elementary school has access to any foreign language instruction at all. It's about MI proposing a three-year program and disingenuously saying they would fold the program if a facility didn't magically appear by then. It's about a sloppy, hand-waving feasibility study done without any spreadsheet accounting that proponents keep calling cost neutral, when it clearly isn't. It's about a small group of people (of who knows what ethnic background) with a huge sense of entitlement.
I'm sure you could cherry pick out some objectionable comments from somewhere in this long debate, I'll grant you there is often at least one bad apple in every bunch (on both sides).
But Noguchi actually took something out of context for her article, and used the word "minority" as if it meant ethnic minority, when it did not -- it meant only a small number of students relative to the vast majority of the student population. The disagreement has centered around using a lot of resources for a very small number of students in an overcrowded district. It was either sloppy or slanted journalism, and it was an undue slander to our district and our community.
What is your ethnic makeup? You have just made an assumption about mine that negates your argument. This debate has not fallen along ethnic and racial lines. When you falsely cry racism, you are hurting those who are really victimized by racism. Perhaps you don't have enough exposure to know what that's really like.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 6:30 pm
You tell me that for you it is not about race. Absolutely, I'll take you at your word.
But for others, it is about race. So the Merc was right to point out that the anti-campaign was motivated, partly, by racism against a particular minority. As I said above, here "minority" did actually refer to a minority. It was troubling to many.
I don't follow your claim that I made an assumption about your race. You've dropped hints here and there that you are, to use the hippest phrase, a person of color. Are you saying that minorities cannot be racist? Didn't get it.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 7:25 pm
I would invite you to read the article again. It may as well have been written by Grace Mah herself. That's not the role of journalism, to be a mouthpiece for the views of one's friends at the expense of a community.
As you said yourself: "[Race] wasn't a motivating factor for most or even many opponents." That is quite obvious from even the heated debates on this forum. It just wasn't the issue. If you read Noguchi's article, you would think it was the only issue.
I am also taking your word that the racism you saw was there, but I never saw those comments, I have never come across anyone expressing those sentiments, and I haven't seen it in even very heated online discussion. And I've been following this debate for a long time. If the racists were there, they were a tiny "minority."
I have seen some MI-proponents cynically use race against others who disagreed with them. (I know private people who were genuinely hurt by these charges which were just wrong.) If that is what this article was about, for the sake of balance, it should have mentioned that. But that's not what the article was about.
The article purported to be about the opposition to Grace Mah's selection to the County Board and about the Mandarin Immersion debate. As such, it could have at least included SOME or maybe even ONE fact about 99.99% of what the opposition and debate were about!! It wouldn't have been hard to find in the many articles written by local newspapers, even the high school paper. But no, the writer pulled a sentence out of context with the word "minority" in it, and used it as if it meant "ethnic minority" which it did not. The debates about MINORITY meant "small group" -- and were not about the racial or ethnic makeup of the group.
Whether the issue was about race for some people, that quote was misused, and the topic that it represented was falsely communicated to the public. Noguchi said absolutely nothing about the main issue everyone was arguing about, which is that in a public school, one has to have a sense of fairness toward all students, and not disproportionately allocate resources to a very small group just because they agitate for it.