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Lost trust , Lost donations: The MI cost to our schools

Original post made by parent pockets, Monroe Park, on May 6, 2007

Will MI cost Palo Alto schools the bond measure?

Comments (33)

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Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2007 at 2:51 pm

I have reluctantly decided to vote no on any school related tax or bond, and withhold my donations to PIE until FLES is implemented in our schools for every elementary school child. By the way, my kids are too old to benefit from FLES, but I'm fed up with this board's position (flip flop) on MI, the lack of PAUSD transparency, and the board's inability to stand up to a small special interest group who in my opinion has only their own best interests in mind - as illustrated by their charter threat.
It's been a long time in coming as this is really an aboutface for me. But there you have it.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2007 at 2:59 pm

That bond measure is huge. Even in the best of circumstances, it would be a tough sale. I've never voted against a school bond issue, but at this point, I simply don't trust the board--I mean, PACE is tiny and they knuckled under.

The way I see it, there are the people who will vote against the bond because they vote against bonds and taxes--that's at least 20 percent of the vote.

Then there are people who vote against bond issues unless there's a personal stake--someone pushes them to vote or its their local school.
I think the MI flip-flop alienated some (others weren't paying attention.)

Then there are the people who actually keep track of what's going on and who usually vote for school bonds. Ithink the MI split has angered this group. Not will a lot of them vote against the bond issue (though some will still vote for it), they won't be selling their neighbors and friends on the bond issue--which is what got the last one through.

So, yes, the MI debacle is probably gonna cost a *lot* of money. Which is frankly something the schoolboard should have thought of and Grace Mah as a district rep ought to have thought of.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 3:34 pm

I believe that from the beginning the board has taken an extremely narrow view of the costs of the MI program. Repeatedly refusing to ask the staff to put hard numbers behind MOST of the staff and district resource costs that are behind the running of choice programs.

So the fact that they mostly fear a charter because of a few hundred thousand in legal fees for potential litigation, its so narrow minded. The total costs of the entire MI as a choice program, in this district are going to be huge.

Mah, as a public official has definitely NOT been thinking about the costs to this district of her manuevers. The benefits she seeks will accrue to very few.

I can not support sending funding to this board who have proven they are at the mercy of special interests. I'll have to send funds through my site PTA (only) from now on.


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Posted by Where is the beef
a resident of Community Center
on May 6, 2007 at 3:42 pm

Palo Alto Residents,

The school district budget is 120 Million. PiE donation for 2006 was 2 Million. Even if we lose half of the donation we may have 1 Million.

Do people realize that donations are a drop in the bucket anyways.

We Parents (not PTA) should be paying more attention to how 120 Million is spent rather than get overly busy collecting the 2 Million.



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Posted by Hey wait!
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2007 at 4:07 pm

I'm a classroom aide and my salary comes from PiE. Although I would be sad to have fewer hours due to reduced PiE donations, believe me, I would completely understand why donations would taper off if MI goes through. This board is not trustworthy with our public funds.

When Susan Charles asked for an asst principal in order to successfully house the MI strand, cost "neutral" went skipping out the door.

I love my job but I'm mad enough at the Bd to let some of it go. I don't presume to speak for any other aide or person paid for by PiE funds, just myself.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 4:54 pm

WHOA!!! Don't think the Board has anything to do with PiE Expenditures!! The money is given back on a per student basis to each school. THAT school then decides how to use the money for staffing.

Please don't let PiE Funds go down.

As for Bonds and Parcel Taxes. For me it depends what happens from now on. Yes, I believe 4 of our Board really, really blew it by even asking for funds for a feasibility study, let alone taking the money.

Ok, they did, we went through a horrible year, they are doing what they think, right or wrong, is best for the District given our choices now.

I am reserving judgement. Let's see if they have learned any lessons about HOW TO SET POLICY, and HOW TO PRIORITIZE, then I will decide how to vote on whatever the next bond/parcel tax is..


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Posted by actually . . .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Seems to many that PiE simply hands over money and does not question the District (super., board, whatever) on the use of those funds. Unless the PiE leaders want to be a little more discriminating in their donations (ie erquest and expect accountability), why should parents come up with all that money PiE requests, on top of the parcel tax, and possibly on top of additional bond fund taxes?


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Posted by Excuse me, enrollment is growing...
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 6, 2007 at 6:18 pm

For those of you who don't understand the distinction between PiE and district funding, the bond measure(s) and growing enrollment:

1. The district enrollment is growing. Ohlone is slated to grow, either with Mandarin Ohlone or with English Ohlone. The assistant principal would be joining Susan Charles, regardless of MI.

2. MI is cost neutral to the district. The startup costs will be born by parent donations and fundraising. These startup costs are not for teachers during the school day, so do not break any funding policy (PiE or district).

3. PiE money goes to each student on a per capita basis, with the school principal spending the money on each site as they so choose. MI students at Ohlone would get the same piece of the PiE as all of the Ohlone students, to be spent as Susan Charles deems necessary.

My opinion is that contrary to the people stirring the pot on TownSquare, most Palo Altans don't know about or care about MI.

And those of you who know about funding and student spending are smart enough to see the fallacy in many of the arguments above.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Excused

Where do you get your information that Susan Charles wants an VP at Ohlone regardless of MI.

Where do you get your information that most Palo Altans don't know or care about MI. I think that may have been the case many months ago, but more are finding out by asking questions and reading the newspapers and then they generally do have an opinion. I have found many of my "not caring" neighbors are coming into the "seriously concerned" category even if they do not have children in school.


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Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Excused - Susan Charles requested the vice principal in conjunction with MI - there has been no decision on where portables are to be placed related to over enrollment, and no discussion on hiring needs as a result as of yet. Are you privy to information that most of us aren't aware of? If so, would like to hear it.

Thanks...


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Posted by need to provide for my children's education
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 10:21 pm


I need to save my donations to buy foreign language for my children since it's going to be a long time before the schools can accommodate that need.


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Posted by Hey wait
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2007 at 1:09 am

Excuse me:
I know exactly how PiE funds are raised and how they are spent. They DO indeed have to go through the Bd of Ed to each school site per capita to be used by the principal. I was just saying that since it is technically dispersed through the Bd and people aren't feeling great about the Bd, then donations *might* go down, not that they *will* go down.

I was at an event this weekend where a dozen school moms were all talking about MI and none of them has been on this thread. Yes, they all know about it; yes they all don't like it; yes, they all vote and no, they are not happy...

If you don't think that people outside this discussion are paying attention, then please, volunteer to lead the next bond measure...


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Posted by Say Bye to PiE
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 7, 2007 at 7:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Hey wait
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2007 at 8:36 am

Before we all go ballistic about Bye to PiE's post let's consider that it's just trolling for a fight to make MI look even worse. I'm not an MI fan, but this is way over the top and unlikely to have come from an MI supporter.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 9:52 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:33 am

It was exactly this kind of threat (to defeat the next parcel tax) that got us here in the first place. That threat is why the board voted down MI choice the first time. It certainly will not help us move forward now.


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Posted by Don't Get It
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2007 at 1:06 pm

I don't understand the logic of someone saying, "I won't give money to THIS board" in the future. THIS board will be gone by the next time there's a bond measure. Who knows who the new board members will be?"

Right now, I don't think anybody likes THIS board much, regardless of their views. But why take frustration out on the school children of Palo Alto? Withholding future money from kids due to anger at today's board members is an odd way to express an opinion.


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Posted by prek
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Lets see who the next board is before we decide to give them a blank check. And by the way, THIS board might have at least one board member who thinks she's going to get re-elected. I'd be flabbergasted if she actually thought she could get re-elected, but Camille should understand that her presence on this board, making really poor decisions that effect this community for years to come, while she has no regard for most of this community, is no longer welcome.

THIS is the board that we have to work with now, right? And THIS is the board who is dragging us all around in the muck as they bend over backwards to accomodate special interests.

So THIS is the board that should be hearing this now.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Shaking my head
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2007 at 1:57 pm

prek said: "THIS is the board who is dragging us all around in the muck as they bend over backwards to accomodate special interests."

Disagree. I don't believe this THIS board wants to accommodate anyone. They're in the muck, all right. In fact, they've managed to make everyone unhappy, from PAEE to PACE and everyone in between.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 3:07 pm

We desperately need 3 very strong people to run for the Board. Who will they be? Who has the kind of chutzpah to take the heat? Who has the kind of time these guys all give to our District? ( Regardless of what you think of any one of them, you have to admit that giving THAT MUCH to the District is an incredibly selfless act). Who has kids who have been through our district, and has been very involved in the schools so that they understand who we are? Who has been paying attention to our politics and finances over the last couple years?
Who is that selfless that they can do this job?

Step forward if you are one of these people..I will venture a guess you will get a lot of people to work for you and get you elected.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Where's the beef,
That's an interesting moniker you chose -- "beef" could mean either "substance" or "conflict." I wonder if you realize the irony of the latter meaning, given PACE's disinclination to understand what the beef really is about.

If you have an annual household budget of $120,000 that pays for housing, taxes, utilities and energy, insurance, medical care, transportation, clothing, food, etc. etc., taking $1,000 away from a $2,000 annual recreation/classes budget is a huge deal.

The cost of the extra portables that PACE would need to continue its program after three years (and which are not factored into its "cost neutral" equation) exceeds the annual deferred maintenance budget for the entire district. No wonder you refer to $1 million as if it were a drop in the bucket.

It's always good to have extra eyes looking for waste -- but treating $1 million that directly benefits our classrooms as if it were chump change because of a $120 million budget which pays for teachers salaries, administrative & maintenance salaries, facilities, maintenance, utilities, grounds upkeep, supplies, instructional materials, etc. etc., is kind of like saying if your household budget is $120,000 every year, then losing $1,000 here and there is no big deal.

That's been the source of controversy all along -- one side is treating the district as a deep pocket for whom $1 million is chump change and buildings are free, the other is trying to do the best for all the children in our newly overcrowded district with finite resources.


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Posted by Excuse me, enrollment is growing...
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 7, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Tagging on to my previous message:

For those of you who don't understand the distinction between PiE and district funding, the bond measure(s) and growing enrollment:

1. The district enrollment is growing. Ohlone is slated to grow, either with Mandarin Ohlone or with English Ohlone. The assistant principal would be joining Susan Charles, regardless of MI.

2. MI is cost neutral to the district. The startup costs will be born by parent donations and fundraising. These startup costs are not for teachers during the school day, so do not break any funding policy (PiE or district).

3. PiE money goes to each student on a per capita basis, with the school principal spending the money on each site as they so choose. MI students at Ohlone would get the same piece of the PiE as all of the Ohlone students, to be spent as Susan Charles deems necessary.

**New**
4. The portables are part of the district budget for enrollment growth. This is enrollment growth that is projected by the demographers and not anything targeted for MI. MI will not be adding students to PAUSD. MI is just rearranging PAUSD kids. The portables would be needed at Ohlone or somewhere else to accomodate the increased number of PAUSD kids, MI or not.

...

And those of you who know about funding and student spending are smart enough to see the fallacy in many of the arguments above.

Lots of people are unhappy with the board right now. There's lots of reasons. I agree with someone who said above that let's not take it out on the kids. Let's elect better officials.




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Posted by Another citizen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2007 at 7:29 pm

> The cost of the extra portables that PACE would need to continue its program after three years (and which are not factored into its "cost neutral" equation)

I am as opposed to MI in our district now (and especially since the threat letter) as the next guy, but we have to be careful about facility costs. MI isn't a strict add to the district. In theory, most of the students who enroll in MI would otherwise be at a neighborhood school or a different lottery program, so technically the facility cost should be neutral.

However, there are two ways in which facility costs are likely to go up somewhat (though not as much as the full cost of all the facilities being used by MI classes). These are:
* If MI attacts new residents to PAUSD or pulls kids from private school into public then total enrollment and need for facilities increases.
* If MI doesn't maintain a full class of 20 kids in each classroom (22 for grades 4 & 5) then we need more facilities district-wide as we can't reduce total classroom need by shifting kids from any other program to MI. (This is true for SI as well).


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Once again, where is the information that says Ohlone would need a vice principal if it expanded its English Ohlone program? The cost of a vice principal was never budgeted into the needs of MI or anything else. All of our larger elementary schools without a choice program run without vice principals.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2007 at 7:57 pm

As far as I know, no other elementary school has an asst principal - not even Hays which is a large school.

Cost neutral? Although we would be moving kids from another PAUSD school, there is still the costs (already be incured) of district staff, the BOE, the principal at Ohlone (unless you think this is energy neutral too) instructional materials, etc.


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Posted by pa mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Excuse me - It's simply wrong to assert that there is any reason other than MI that Susan Charles asked for a vice principal - wrong because you are making a blanket statement as if you know this as fact. I concur with the previous posters who state that, among other examples, that Hays, a much larger school, has no vice principal.

Perhaps as the program grows an assistant principal will be necessary, as enrollment could reach upwards of 600 children. This will be the first elementary school of this size in PA and could very well require help at the top. Not to mention the fact that a commuter school of this size will probably require other cost expenditures, such as the hiring of crossing guards for the massive traffic that results. I say, good luck to you Ohlone.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 8:48 pm

There is another argument that we haven't mentioned yet about Ohlone becoming a 600 student school. This is not a neighborhood school in the sense that the majority of the students will live outside the immediate neighborhood and will require to be driven to school. Now a neighborhood school of 600+ is one thing, as of course many of those students will be able to bike or walk to school, but a commuter school of 600+ can cause traffic like we do not see at an elementary school anywhere else in Palo Alto. Coupled with the fact that Palo Verde is less than a mile away on one of the cross streets (Louis) and very close to the other cross street (Greer), it would put pressure on this neighborhood more than any other.

I would contest that if we are to have an elementary school of this size, it should be neighborhood, not choice.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Everybody needs to write your comments to the board, they have email addresses, it's very simple. A poster earlier said there will be one more informational meeting tomorrow night before the vote -- go, send your messages and intelligent comments. Do not lie down and let this board hand the keys of the district to Grace Mah. Given the way she has handled this, I do not want her running the district, do you?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Janet
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 8, 2007 at 7:04 am


There was talk several years ago about adding an assistant principal to large elementaries. The tipping point was to be 500 students. Seems like a good idea in general, both for the additional support and for the "training ground" it provides for future principals.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Principal Charles has not been bashful about asking for support of various sorts for Ohlone while answering questions from the board: additional training for a new program, a vice principal if numbers get high-- pretty standard stuff to request if you're in charge of a program.

Why not let board members know what your wish list would be? You won't get it if you don't ask, and you might have a bit of additional leverage because the district is requesting a special effort from you and your staff.


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Posted by careful parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Has anyone read the thread about the Mandarin speech contest awards? I thought this was really interesting:

"James Matthews, Principal of YCIS-SV, said "we're extremely proud of all of our students who participated in this competition, they all did extremely well, and we're particularly gratified that six of our 13 entrants won honors in the 9 categories we competed in. We think this validates our school's fun thematic hybrid approach to teaching Mandarin. We believe a hybrid approach makes Mandarin fluency more widely available than strict dual-immersion programs,"

For well over a decade, Yew Chung's sister schools in Shanghai & Beijing have taught primarily non-Mandarin speaking expatriate children living in China. Bucking the local trend of dual-immersion, at Yew Chung International School, core classes such as Math, Science, and English Language Arts are taught solely in English by California-credentialed native English speakers. Only 30% of Yew Chung's daily class time is conducted in Mandarin (about 1.5 hours per day) by a separate native Mandarin-speaking teacher who has been specifically trained in the Yew Chung methods."

So, you don't HAVE to have a dual-immersion program to teach excellent fluency. If Mountain View doesn't want an MI charter, this would be why -- they already have something better that costs less. If PACErs want MI, and it has to be in Palo Alto or else, they owe it to the district to investigate other methods of teaching that would create fluency but might be worked out on existing campuses, without balkanizing them. They haven't presented any comparisons whatsoever.

A lot changed in our city in the last few years. I don't think anyone was prepared for the overcrowding in our district. It's no one's fault, but it's reality. Now is NOT the time for this MI plan. Fortunately, PACErs do have some excellent private school options to choose from in this area.


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Posted by like it
a resident of Southgate
on May 11, 2007 at 7:00 pm

I like the idea proposed by "careful parent" ... in the year we have why not look at other models. What does it HAVE to be MI or the highway?


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on May 12, 2007 at 7:58 am

"[Why] does it HAVE to be MI or the highway?"

Because MI says so and we don't have a board with enough backbone to say "no, not at this time". Er, consistently.




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