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Community Discussion on Mandarin Immersion

Original post made by Parent on May 18, 2007

Mon, May 21, Mon 2-4pm in the Terman Café

PAUSD Board Members Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom will conduct this public
forum. The PAUSD Board of Education has scheduled a vote for May 22,
Tues, to reconsider a Mandarin Immersion choice program. On May 17,
Thurs, the Terman Middle School PTA Executive Board passed a resolution
urging the Board of Education to delay the vote until such time as
there has been reasonable opportunity for public debate and community
participation. PAUSD Board members Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom have
asked to meet with the Terman PTA Executive Board and other concerned
members of the community in a public forum to discuss this issue in
advance of the vote. While this meeting is on shorter than ideal
notice, please join us for an opportunity to improve community dialogue
on this controversial issue. Contact Duncan MacMillan at
dmcmllan@pacbell.net with any questions or comments

Comments (58)

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 19, 2007 at 12:32 am

Way to go Terman PTA!


Posted by Duncan MacMillan, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 19, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Notice of this special meeting appeared in the Terman Middle School electronic news message to Terman parents. The meeting is not intended be open to the general public - parents, primarily from the Terman community are expected. Since this meeting is starting before dismissal, we have concerns for parking and traffic safety.

It would be appreciated if the general public would NOT attend this meeting and instead concentrate their attention on the PAUSD board meeting this Tuesday evening or at any future meetings that might be scheduled that are truly open to the general public. The PAUSD agenda can be viewed at Web Link. Refer to Item IV.d, action item #14.

Thank you, Duncan MacMillan


Posted by Duncan MacMillan, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 19, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Notice of this special meeting appeared in the Terman Middle School electronic news message to Terman parents. The meeting is not intended be open to the general public - parents, primarily from the Terman community are expected. Since this meeting is starting before dismissal, we have concerns for parking and traffic safety.

It would be appreciated if the general public would NOT attend this meeting and instead concentrate their attention on the PAUSD board meeting this Tuesday evening or at any future meetings that might be scheduled that are truly open to the general public. The PAUSD agenda can be viewed at Web Link. Refer to Item IV.d, action item #14.

Thank you, Duncan MacMillan


Posted by El School Mom, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 19, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Mr. MacMillan,
Notice of this meeting also appeared in the electronic news to Juana Briones parents. Since we are the closest elementary school, are we welcome? (Especially since there is no need for parking.)


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2007 at 10:49 pm

Duncan,
The title of your post says "Community Discussion" and you say, "PAUSD Board members Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom have asked to meet with the Terman PTA Executive Board and other concerned members of the community in a public forum . . . "That sounds like an open invitation, but then you say it's only for Terman folks.

Since the meeting takes place the day before the projected vote, what other opportunities do we have for public debate? Ideally we should have several of these community discussions before the board makes its decision.

I applaud the Terman PTA Executive Board for its "resolution urging the Board of Education to delay the vote until such time as there has been reasonable opportunity for public debate and community participation. . " I also think the vote should be delayed for a number of reasons.

I hope you can convince Dana and Mandy that it's in everyone's best interest – children, school board, and residents – to delay voting on this controversial issue.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2007 at 12:59 am

Duncan and Terman PTA:

Exactly how much time is needed for a "reasonable opportunity for public debate and community participation"?

Mandarin Immersion has been debated at many PAUSD Board Meetings during the last five years. It has been written about in local and regional newspapers. There have been numerous threads here on Town Square. Anyone who either attends PAUSD Board Meetings, reads a newspaper or visits Town Square has known about this.

The PAUSD Staff Report recommends that the PAUSD Board approve the current proposal. Susan Charles, the Principal at Ohlone, where the program will be placed, supports the current proposal. The PAUSD Board Members,except one, appear to favor the current proposal.

We elected the Board to represent all of us. They have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the school district. Let's let them do that!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Stanford
on May 20, 2007 at 6:59 am

Joe, we did...January 30th. This issue is about turning over the vote the Board DID have, and the reasons for it.

I always find it interesting that human nature seems to be that when a vote goes the "right" way, the approvers want everyone to "respect the democratic process", but when it goes the "wrong" way, the disapprovers look for ways to overturn the vote, usually through the courts.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2007 at 8:55 am

Did the Mandarin Immersion proponents really threaten to take PAUSD to court? I hadn't heard that.

I only heard that the Mandarin Immersion opponents accused the Board of acting illegally when re-considering the current proposal. Oh, and wasn't there a group that accused the County Board of Education of violating the Brown Act with their appointment of Grace Mah. Neither accusation held up to the light of day, but they sure make the MI opponents look like they are willing to attack any governing body that doesn't do what they want.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2007 at 9:14 am

There appears to be several reasons to delay a vote - a new superintendent, Area Attendence group's recommendation of opening another elementary school, lack of trust in the lottery process being just a few.


Posted by Brown Act supporter, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 20, 2007 at 10:21 am

Joe:
The County Board of Education did violate the Brown Act when it appointed Grace Mah by secretly polling the board members. The Brown Act explicitly requires that voting on all items not exempted by the Act take place in public.

The County Board was challenged on this, and did admit they had made a mistake in this area, and said that they wouldn't do it again. To have pursued this further, the group that initiated the challenge would have had to file a lawsuit and force an election, something that the group did not feel was in the best interests of the county.

To say the accusation didn't hold up to the light of day is inaccurate.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Brown Act supporter,

I never saw any public statement from the County Board of Education admitting to violating the Brown Act. Where did you obtain your information?

There are criminal penalties for violating the Brown Act. IF the County Board of Education had violated the Brown Act, do you believe that they would publicly admit to criminal wrongdoing? Wouldn't their attornies advise them to not incriminate themselves?

IF there had been criminal wrongdoing, why wasn't the violation prosecuted? Why are the attornies employed by the County Board of Education and the State not able to understand and enforce the laws that you cite?

Maybe your view of what happened is not supported by reality?


Posted by Worn Out, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 20, 2007 at 2:17 pm

"Palo alto mom" said, "There appears to be several reasons to delay a vote - a new superintendent..."

Are you suggesting the BOE just take a vacation until August, when the new superintendent is on board? If the new superintendent wants to influence any decisions between now and the end of the school year, let him do so now.

It would be irresponsible for the board to stop taking action on issues between now on the arrival of the new guy. It's time for the board to get on with this and all its other business. Controversies come and go. Let's start looking for the next one so the new superintendent can be in on the fun from the start.

Enough is Enough. I am


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Joe, if you are trying to stay anonymous, you should know that your turn of phrase is showing.


Posted by Duncan, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 20, 2007 at 6:03 pm

1. To El School Mom (Juana Briones):

The notice of the parent meeting went to Terman's feeder schools as well. Especially if you can walk in, come on over. If someone needs to drive, please park on neighborhood streets and walk the last bit.

2. To those who think delay is not prudent/justified:

This is an issue of REVERSING a previous PAUSD board vote against instituting a Mandarin immersion program, which was arrived at after many months of discussion. The board discussion about reversing course has been going on for only weeks, not months.

In addition, the board is potentially reversing itself under threat of a charter being formed if they do not cave in to MI-supporter demands. The swing votes on the board seem to be willing to re-decide the issue based on which undesirable outcome (choice or charter) is cheaper, forgetting that another choice program of either flavor doesn't make sense in the first place.

Many of us agree whole-heartedly with the original finding of the board and we think that represents a majority view - neighborhood elementary schools need support more than another choice program; foreign language instruction needs to find its way into all of our elementary schools before the privilege is doled out to a select few as an immersion program; and caving into threats from a small, special-interest group is not something that bodes well for the district.

If the reversal occurs, the new superintendent will be facing a new elementary school landscape, with a kind of tipping point having occurred toward choice programs compared to neighborhood schools. The new superintendent should be involved as this is not just an example of "business as usual" by the board - if the decision against MI is to be reversed, it seems appropriate that the new superintendent should be a party to that decision.

Best course: Let the original board decision stand – PAUSD will not benefit from another choice program which will come at the expense of neighborhood schools.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the Terman PTA.

Duncan


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2007 at 6:14 pm


Web Link
Palo Alto Daily News

Here's the link to the PA Daily News article on the Brown Act issue. There may be other reports, but this is the one I found. A third-party (Californians Aware, a watch-dog group) claims the Board "unequivocally violated the Brown Act."

The Board defends their process based on previous custom and somewhat on the facts (details I don't fully understand), and ends with, "We'll look for a better, more transparent way to do it in the future if it's a source of concern for people, which obviously it is."

I don't think that adds up quite to an admission of guilt but it does acknowledge the the process was not as transparent as it could be, in the spirit of the Brown Act. On the other hand, it doesn't appear (to me anyway) that anything untoward was intended by the Board.

Fred


Posted by Ojbectives, please, a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2007 at 9:45 pm

hi duncan,

since you're the person in charge of this meeting - or is it mandy and dana who are "conducting" this meeting - what exactly is going to be discussed?

will this be a "public debate"? if so, who's debate what?

or is the pta resolution the only topic for discussion - and that says only to delay the vote, not the merits of voting yes or no.

please clarify, thanks.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2007 at 9:49 pm

This meeting sounds like just another opportunity to stir the pot and foment controversy. No doubt that MI is controversial, but fanning the fire is not in the district's best interests. It's time to move on, one way or another.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Why is it "time to move on?" If the answer is "no", MIers won't let things "move on." We're in this because they wouldn't let things move on after the "no" vote in January. If the answer is "yes", now is definitely not the best time. Why shouldn't it wait for the new superintendant and strategic planning?

In Menlo Park, they just proposed FLES and SI as part of their strategic planning. And because of that, without controversy. We could have had that.


Posted by Get it right, a resident of Community Center
on May 20, 2007 at 11:30 pm

MIers did not ask the board to reconsider their vote. Mandy and Dana asked the rest of the board to reconsider the Jan vote based on new charter information.


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 21, 2007 at 6:35 am

Question: What is the real purpose of the community discussion at Terman?

1. To argue against MI (board agenda item)?
2. To argue delayed vote on MI? (= No on choice, Yes on charter movement)
3. To argue against choice in general?


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 21, 2007 at 9:00 am

Dear Worn Out - I don't expect the BOE to be on hold til the new Superintendent arrives, but I would expect them to hold off on such a divisive issue.


Posted by Miffed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 11:19 am

This is pretty confusing. Mandy and Dana are "conducting" a public forum, but who's in and who's out?

The entire community has been invited — maybe, but Duncan has rescinded the invite except to Terman and feeder schools. Which feeder schools? Does Hoover count as a feeder, since it feeds a lot of students into the DI program at Terman? Gunn is carryingg the announcement — not a feeder. Are they invited or crashing?

Mandy & Dana, don't you think the rest of the community might want to be in on this too? After all, when do the rest of us get a chance before tomorrow?


Posted by Resident non Terman, Gunn, or feeder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 11:24 am

I do agree with miffed above.

If 2 members of the Board are having a meeting then the public should be invited, period. If there are problems with size, traffic, etc. then there should be more than one meeting, maybe at another site with other Board members. Regardless of this being an MI meeting, the fact that there is a meeting on a contraversial topic means that people from all over PAUSD are interested. This sort of meeting should not be exclusive, fortunately it doesn't appear to be secret. It follows, that I wonder if there are any "secret" meetings going on elsewhere that haven't been well publicised!


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 21, 2007 at 11:41 am

Hurray for Terman for organizing the meeting. Too bad other schools didn't think to do the same. Ohlone comes to mind - has the Ohlone PTA discussed MI in their meetings? Do they have an official opinion? Are they interested in getting parent input? How about Ohlone's site council?

When SI was proposed to move to Escondido, the site council and PTA had many discussions over how it would affect the school. These discussions seemed only natural.


BTW, I find it hard to compare the two situations: SI & MI. Escondido has an administrative staff that already speaks Spanish. For example, when student awards are given during assemblies, Principal Gary Prehn congratulates the students in Spanish. Very impressive. When a student (or parent) comes in to the office for help, Bella the school secretary is fluent in Spanish. There was no need to hire any additional staff or translators: the skills were already there before SI arrived. There are many Escondido students & parents in non-SI who speak/understand Spanish, so the program blends in quite well. It's a good fit.

I don't see Ohlone having similar existing talent and resources for supporting MI (or demographics, for that matter), therefore the programs and their impact are not exactly equal.


Posted by Duncan, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 21, 2007 at 11:43 am

In response to questions about who is in charge and what will be discussed at the parents' meeting at Terman this afternoon:

The meeting will not be chaired by me. I expect that either the current president or evp of the Terman PTA will moderate the discussion.

The meeting is being held at the request of boardmembers Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom to discuss the PTA executive board resolution to delay any action to reverse the previous vote of the board (against establishing an MI program) until public hearings on that reversal can be held (refer also to MI-supporter letter of April 30, 2007 to members Tom and Lowell) and until such time as the new superintendent can become a party to the discussion on establishing another choice program in PAUSD.

With that as the subject area, I imagine the discussion will center on the reasons the board is considering a reversal, the impact of a reversal on future controversies, and (probably) the +/- of expanding the choice concept. I also imagine that Mandy and Dana will help set the scope of the discussion at the outset since they are apparently trying to find out what is on the minds of Terman-area parents.


Posted by Non parent of Terman, Gunn, or feeder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 11:57 am

Duncan

Thank you for coming back and clarifying this, but since the meeting was at the request of 2 Board Members, how can it be open to some parties and not others?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 12:40 pm

FYI - Board members meet with PTAs and Schools all the time, without inviting "the whole public", so I don't see this as a problem.

Since Terman is the PTA that had the gumption to send in the resolution, and it is probably only those 2 Board members who are in question as to the outcome of their vote, it seems only natural that those 2 meet with Terman folks.

The only confusion was the title "public meeting". I suspect that was a confusion of terminology. or perhaps even an "oops", not having thought through the ramifications of making it "public". Let's not be too hard on everyone.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 12:40 pm

FYI - Board members meet with PTAs and Schools all the time, without inviting "the whole public", so I don't see this as a problem.

Since Terman is the PTA that had the gumption to send in the resolution, and it is probably only those 2 Board members who are in question as to the outcome of their vote, it seems only natural that those 2 meet with Terman folks.

The only confusion was the title "public meeting". I suspect that was a confusion of terminology. or perhaps even an "oops", not having thought through the ramifications of making it "public". Let's not be too hard on everyone.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I think its interesting that the PTA statement to the board was enough to smoke out Dana and Mandy for some accountability to that community. But the individual letter writing and contacts that have been made since the last board meeting, have not been enough to get similar results.

There is a feeling that hte process has been hijacked, and there is no accountability of the board to the community that elected them. This meeting is the first 'evidence' that any of the board members are listening.

Its seems that the PTA's of the rest of our schools are doing a great disservice to the community by putting their collective head in the sand, and failing to make a statement when it seems that its one of the only effective ways to get the board to sit up and at least listen.

PTAs - short of taking a ya or na stand on MI, will you at least ask the board to hold public forums on this matter of charter versus choice, before the final vote?


Posted by non Terman, Gunn or feeder parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Would anyone who went to this meeting today like to comment on what happened please.


Posted by Mum, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2007 at 8:39 am

"Would anyone who went to this meeting today like to comment on what happened please."

About 20 people showed up, plus a couple of reporters. Same stuff we've heard at previous board meetings.


Posted by parent too, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2007 at 9:08 am

The board has been handed a very tough problem. I believe they have the best interests of the kids and schools as their priority. I'm glad they are taking the time to let the discussion continue. This is not a slam dunk obvious problem. There are good arguements in all directions. Let's applaud them for listening and hope as a community we come to a decision that really does the most good for the most kids.


Posted by parent too again, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2007 at 9:13 am

As a community we must decide our position on charter schools. As someone pointed out: If MI goes through (either as a choice or charter school), it's very likely some other special interst group will try to force their hand using the same approach. And so, we will be having this debate again. In a community like Palo Alto is the charter idea really justified -- don't we all really deserve to get our own special way... we are all so very entitled afterall...


Posted by Duncan, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 22, 2007 at 9:15 am

In response to BP Mum about hearing the "same stuff heard at previous board meetings": Yes but it was at least clear that Mandy and Dana are fixated on the single issue of a charter and that they both said they still think a choice program is not in the best interests of the district (their original vote). This is 100% an issue of a vocal, small special-interest group using a charter as a jawbone and the board caving in. After the Terman meeting, there is little other way for me to read the situation. If tonight's board meeting goes the way of reversing the board vote against MI (or one in a week or two), PAUSD can put out a new sign at 25 Churchill: "Cry charter, we cave"


Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2007 at 9:18 am

So why is this such a tough problem? Why isn't the Board directly addressing this tiny MI group and asking them not to harm our district? Because of that sham-boondoggle of a feasibility study they took $60k for.

The Board needs to own up to their mistakes, and admit that errors and ommissions in the feasibility study made for a lot of controversy.

I'll applaud them when they start to show some real leadership and courage to do what is best for our district and for the most kids.


Posted by jerry underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

At the meeting Dana Tom and Mandy Lowell distributed a thoughtful, clear explanation of the reasoning behind their vote reversal. Their chart showing pros and cons on Charter and Choice is a useful tool for getting a handle on the various pieces of the puzzle.

They also handed out information on charter schools from the Dept. of Ed web site that indicates it's quite likely that a charter application would be successful if submitted.

It was clear that there hasn't been much communication across the lines between advocates and critics of MI.

Thank you, Mandy and Dana, for making this effort to explain your position at greater length than is possible at a board meeting.



Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Jerry, you are right. They have been approaching this very pragmatically, and carefully. They are in a horrible position, and have come to a conclusion with the best info they have. I am sure nobody in this town wants to be in their shoes ( or Gail's)

But, I have to correct the impression you leave with your comment of "for and against MI".

It hasn't been between advocates and critics of MI, it has been between advocates of an MI program RIGHT NOW, in THIS WAY, with THIS DONATION, and the opposite who just wanted to come up with a cohesive plan for foreign language in our district, which may or many not have included another immersion program or expanding the one we have, in the context of a our Strategic plan, in line with our priorities, and CHOOSE our next step. We wanted to do it from the ground up, not roof down. We wanted to PLAN and CHOOSE our way, not simply react to a group.

Within the latter group, there were many different opinions, including a contingent who were against ANY more immersion programs, period, for reasons already beaten to death, and separate from WHICH language is the immersion target. And many of us don't want any more "choice" programs, period, not wanting to slide ever closer to a District like SF with virtually all schools "won" by lottery. Again, the reasons have been beaten to death. It is even true that a few us don't want any foreign language to be offered in our elementary schools until we are shown that everything possible is being done to assure each and every kid is progressing the best he can in core,critical subjects like math, reading, writing, critical thinking and science.

But, it would have been nice to find out what the majority opinion was in these questions... through a referendum, or through which School Board candidate we elect next, or through a well planned new Strategic planning process, instead of having the whole thing rise like a phoenix out of the prior 4 years' ashes and swoop over us.

This has bypassed this town's wishes completely.

Well, in any case the final swoop is tonight. Let's hope that after the vote tonight we can put it all behind us, make the best of it, heal and go onto the next steps in our District. I will be delighted when it is over, sort of like the feeling of having a sore tooth removed.

And then, maybe, we can get back to work on choosing our next steps.


Posted by Tired, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 22, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Resident: "Let's hope that after the vote tonight we can put it all behind us, make the best of it, heal and go onto the next steps in our District. I will be delighted when it is over, sort of like the feeling of having a sore tooth removed."

Resident, I appreciate all your other comments, but the fact is, even after tonight, it still won't be over. The board has made it clear that it will try to avoid a charter school at all costs. So, when MI proponents want more than one strand, the district will have to provide more strands (or they'll start a charter), or after the first wave of students finishes elementary school, and MI parents want to expand into middle school, the district will have to find a way to make that happen (or they'll start a charter), and if they want to become independent of the Ohlone Way because its no-homework philosophy doesn't work well for a language that requires lots of practice and repetition to become fluent and literate, the district will have to say, "of course" (or they'll start a charter).

It will never be over.

Ever.


Posted by Tired, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 22, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Resident: "Let's hope that after the vote tonight we can put it all behind us, make the best of it, heal and go onto the next steps in our District. I will be delighted when it is over, sort of like the feeling of having a sore tooth removed."

Resident, I appreciate all your other comments, but the fact is, even after tonight, it still won't be over. The board has made it clear that it will try to avoid a charter school at all costs. So, when MI proponents want more than one strand, the district will have to provide more strands (or they'll start a charter), or after the first wave of students finishes elementary school, and MI parents want to expand into middle school, the district will have to find a way to make that happen (or they'll start a charter), and if they want to become independent of the Ohlone Way because its no-homework philosophy doesn't work well for a language that requires lots of practice and repetition to become fluent and literate, the district will have to say, "of course" (or they'll start a charter).

It will never be over.

Ever.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 23, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Tired, certainly you are right.

IT WILL NERVER BE OVER.

And in 2008, in front of the School Bond promotion, it will fall upon the new Board and
new Superintendant to try to regain public support.

Maybe they will be able. Maybe not.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Hmmm,

Once the PACEr kids get past K/1 it will be over one way or another. Fact is PACE is small and its lost support by being too hard-nosed. It wouldn't be an ongoing issue if it weren't for a couple of very narrow-focused parents.

I think plenty of people who favor MI don't want it at the expense of their school district. There's your split right there.


Posted by disheartened, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2007 at 4:48 pm

"And in 2008, in front of the School Bond promotion, it will fall upon the new Board and new Superintendant to try to regain public support."

I think the board has already lost any near future bond proposals whether or not they approve MI. Naysayers will easily be able to leverage the current board "leadership" to ensure any bond is voted down.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 23, 2007 at 9:13 pm

I don't understand the knee-jerk fear of a Charter School. It's way cheaper to the district than a "Choice" (Lottery) School. Dana Tom told the Terman crowd that PAUSD spends $10k or $12k per kid, I forget which. But only $5.5k would need to be spent for every PAUSD kid at an MI Charter. He claimed there is no savings, but doesn't that defy belief? A Choice School would need to disrupt an elementary school neighborhood, but Bullis Charter is in portables on a middle school campus. Bullis is so popular that 100s of in-district kids are turned away (and in-district kids have enrollment preference).

What am I not understanding? It just seems like Backward-Land for the Board to announce that they've pretty much made up their minds and, THEN the Financial Chief says he will do a detailed financial analysis. Has he examined the finances of LASD to see how Bullis Charter has affected them? (And the expense of teaching a kid has to be considered an expense, whether the kid is at a regular school or a charter school.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 24, 2007 at 7:55 am

CHARTER or CHOICE ? Come to think of it, one option increases capacity for more students, and the other does not. Increased capacity is a good thing.


Posted by still watching, a resident of Professorville
on May 25, 2007 at 8:47 pm

It's only a matter of time before another special interest group proposes a charter in Palo Alto. As one writer observed "this is Palo Alto, aren't we all entitled to having exactly what we want, no matter how it affects others?"


Posted by still watching, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 26, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Dear Tired,
Isn't this the kind of thing that happens when the powers that be try to negotiate with terrorists? At this point, I think the best course is to let MI form a charter school. As I understand it, the whole purpose of charter schools in general is to let people experiment with educational ideas free of the constraints of the school districts who must in contrast provide the best education they can for the greater mass of student. If the MI team somehow comes up with a formula for this proposed immersion program that actually teaches mandarin, graduates kids ready to succeed in middleschool and produces a diverse student body, that's great! PASUD can learn from the experience and implement MI as a district program.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 1:29 am

still watching,

come now, that would make too much sense.


Posted by still watching, a resident of Professorville
on May 27, 2007 at 8:34 am

Actually, is it correct that PAUSD can deny the MI charter application? In this case, MI can decide to send their application to the let the County. It the county accepts the MI charter does this shift the legal costs of running a charter to the county -- would this free PAUSD to do what it does well and what it needs to focus on doing: educating lots of different kinds of kids from various background? As a county charter the MI experience and ideas can be used to the benefit of schools throughout Santa Clara County. How does a the cost to PAUSD differ if it's a county-sponsored charter vs. a district-sponsored charter?


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 9:50 am

Still watching,

The town hall meeting will have professionals (probably district lawyers) answering charter school questions.

Be there or be square (or unenlightened). Ignorance is bliss.


PAUSD TOWN HALL on MANDARIN IMMERSION

District personnel & other professionals will meet with the public to provide a summary of charter school laws, choice schools, and financing, and to receive input from the community.

Thu May 31, MP Room, Ohlone School, 7 p.m.

Location: 950 Amarillo Ave.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 27, 2007 at 11:04 am

Yes, PAUSD can reject the Charter, as LASD rejected Bullis'. Bullis is chartered by the County, which provides oversight and receives compensation for that service, I believe. Still, PAUSD must provide space for in-district kids after the school has 80 kids, I believe. (But those kids are in classrooms anyway.) It also transfers $5.6k per kid (of the approx. $10k it normally spends per kid). It sounds like a bargain for PAUSD.

Regarding immersion in general, I though that Spanish dual immersion was created in response to Spanish speaking parents' objection that immersing their kids in English was too hard. So it's ironic that parents want their kids immersed in Mandarin as a way to achieve fluency. The original problem was that Spanish-speaking kids were not succeeding in English-speaking schools, right?. If immersion is so great, then why weren't the Spanish-speaking kids achieving fluency? Aren't Mandarin-speaking kids doing great in English schools? So what's the purpose of MI that makes it something an elem. school board should spend time on? To me, the only fluency they should worry about is fluency in English. The Board should've saved the $60k and suggested to PACE that they pursue a Charter. Way cheaper.


Posted by feeling jaded, a resident of Southgate
on May 27, 2007 at 11:41 am

Regarding Thursday's Town Hall meeting, will all the board members be present? I'd like to think that ALL the members are open-minded and interested in community input. The climate has changed since the last vote. Will they take that into consideration? Do they care about what we, the voters and community they serve, think? I hope the underlying goal of this meeting isn't appeasement.


Posted by Just the facts, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 11:58 am

According to remarks by board members, the district must approve the charter unless the application fails to meet the state's criteria. In other words, the district cannot reject a charter because of increasing enrollment, or because the district is strapped, or because it doesn't fit with priorities, or because it doesn't agree with the educational model.

Provided the charter is competently written, the board has no choice.

And no, Nancy, Spanish immersion was not motivated by Spanish-speaking kids who had difficulty in English. It came from a group of parents who wanted their children to become bi-lingual and bi-literate.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 27, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Bullis' charter was rejected by LASD and approved by the County at one meeting -- same charter. LASD's rejection claimed that the charter wasn't educationally "sound" or something else vague. There were no changes made, but the County approved it. It was just politics.

So way back when, some group of parents wanted bi-literate kids. Why didn't the PAUSD Board say, "Sorry, our job is high-quality education in English for all kids in the district. If you want something else, try a private school or after-school classes?" Now it does seem like they are obligated to create choice programs for any group that wants it.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Nancy -

I believe SI was also started to add students to an under-enrolled school.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm

"I believe SI was also started to add students to an under-enrolled school."

Was Fairmeadow under-enrolled at the time? SI started at Fairmeadow then moved to Escondido because it had more space. I get the impression that it started in much the same way as MI - a group of parents who wanted to introduce bilingual education for their children - although their attitudes seemed more flexible than what we're seeing now.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 12:54 am

Nancy,

Ohlone doesn't have space for a charter. We're at capacity according to the district's guidelines. The AAG said we could fit in another three cubicles. Susan Charles likes to think we could squeeze in six and 600 students. I think that would lead to severe overcrowding, particularly for a magnet school with about ten parking spaces and a lot of commuting students.

From what I've read of charter law, however, PAUSD is required to prove space for the charter once there are 80 kids from the district. However, it doesn't actually have to do so in Palo Alto if it's unfeasible. It just has to do it within the county. Given our lack of space, a PA charter could end up in Mountain View or Sunnyvale.

Grace Mah is projecting a charter of 400 to 500 students, there's no place for that in Palo Alto except maybe Cubberley and not there if it's turned back into a high school.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 28, 2007 at 9:47 am

Overcrowded schools? You're forgetting about all the public campuses that have been leased to private schools, like Fremont Hills Elem. in my neighborhood. These are state properties which school boards control. Shouldn't public education needs take priority over the "need" for private schools? Shouldn't school boards avoid tying up these properties for long terms? But in a Basic Aid district it's financially advantageous to put many priv. schools in our neighborhoods and hope that lots of kids will leave the public system. I'm not for vouchers, but school districts should be compensated per kid, so they are motivated to teach more kids, not fewer. Sorry, this is off-topic.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2007 at 10:13 am

Nancy

You raise a good point. When there was a lottery for kindergarten spaces in Palo Alto last year, the BOE congratulated themselves when this waiting list disappeared and very few actually started in schools across town. They didn't acknowledge that these families opted for private school because they couldn't get into their local neighborhood school. They "felt" that families only put their names down as matter of course at the public schools in case they couldn't get into the private school of their choice. This is possibly the case in a few cases, but I am sure that the rumors of overcrowding out may have been the prequel.

The point is that there are a lot of people in Palo Alto who choose to send their kids to private schools. My fear is that if the economy changes, many families will have to rethink their choices and send their kids into public education for financial reasons.

It is important to note that Palo Alto public schools could not house all the kids that live in Palo Alto. If it wasn't for homeschooling (of which there are lots) and private schools, we would be in a situation very much worse than we are in at present.


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