Comments/reactions from MI meeting? Schools & Kids, posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online, on May 31, 2007 at 11:11 pm Tyler Hanley is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Please share your comments and reactions to Thursday night's "town hall" meeting at Ohlone School on the Mandarin Immersion proposal--to be decided next Tuesday by the school board.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 31, 2007 at 11:40 pm
Hey, I'll go.
MI choice keeps getting less and less popular. Lots of angry parents tonight, neither the professional facilitator, the charms of Susan Charles, nor the lecture on being a model of civility for other districts from Mary Alice Callan did the trick.
Though it did make me feel 16 again, during my antiauthoritarian punk phase. Given Callan's reputation, I found her self-righteousness pretty amusing.
People asked hard questions of the district lawyers, Callan and the finance guy. Lots of hedging.
Most interesting part to me were the comments of parents who sent their kids to charter schools in other districts. They made it clear that it's not simply a case of the district ceding all control--things are negotiated and charters can be a good answer.
The overall attempt seemed to be to make the charter as big and scary as possible. People weren't buying it.
It's become quite clear that for the district, it's not really the money, it's the lack of control and the ignominy of the charter taint.
I don't think they realized that we non-educators don't view it that way.
Lots of ugly possibilities raised about the future of Ohlone--after three years, the school will hit 500. At which point, the district could make the school even bigger; transfer MI--though where?; or "merge" some of it into Ohlone--i.e. effectively removing some of the Ohlone strands.
Tonight Susan Charles was talking about just 80 students, a couple of weeks ago at the board meeting, she was talking about managing a campus of 620. Which is it, guys?
My favorite flawed assumption was from the finance guy who assumed that PiE donations would grow, that the money in the district is a given. Ohlone, for example, could use its PiE money to make up the MI costs.
Note to finance guy, doesn't work if PiE donations drop, does it?
Much as the fecklessness of the board irritates me, at least they lack of the arrogance of the PAUSD school bureaucracy.
Posted by Liz, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:24 am
Susan Charles on 80 vs. 620 students:
80 = # of MI students after 3 years
620 = 4 strands English = 1 strand Mandarin after 6 years (and toss in SDC).
Jerry Matranga was accurate in reporting sources of discretionary funds to schools (PiE, PTA, SIP, categorical) but he incorrectly gave the impression that PiE would be used for excess MI costs. Excess MI costs, by policy, must come from MI parent fundraising/donations. (He mentioned the donations, but didn't tie them to excess costs.) The discretionary funds would be spent as the principal/site council determine -- for Ohlone students in general.
I think it's basically correct that the district does not want to lose control, but perhaps not so much losing control of what the charter does as losing control of what the district must do. There's a lot of burden that would be put on administrators at Churchill to provide the oversight/evaluation of charters, required by law. This is year after year after year stuff for the life of the charter. I didn't see the responses of lawyers and administratrators as hedging. I think they were explaining it the way they see it.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:40 am
Tonight Susan Charles talked as if 500 were the real cap. Two weeks ago, the number seemed to be 620--i.e. MI stays as one strand at Ohlone.
At this point, it's all a lose-lose proposition. At 620, Ohlone is severely overcrowded, but there are unlikely to be anywhere near enough MI spots to meet the demand.
And we simply get the charter threat again. There's nothing binding anybody.
I assume the real plan is to toss MI onto Garland while Susan Charles gets kudos for getting Grace Mah off the district's back.
As for the district losing control--it already lost control. Caving into demands for an unpopular program that overcrowds a school demonstrates that.
I mean when you get Callan ordering adults to behave civilly and Susan Charles preaching on how everyone needs to let go of their anger and be a community, the horses have left the gate.
The anger is there and it's not going to go away because Churchill wishes it would. The grievance is real--we *are* being pushed around by a small group. Our strong support of public schools is being exploited.
People want the board to fight and the board (and Churchill)seems to think it shouldn't because it will lose. There's a basic split.
There's little point of talking peace, when people want justice.
Posted by fly on the wall, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:51 am
I got the impression that the legal advice and budget projections were conducted with the goal of understanding the worse-case scenario of a charter: find the reasons why we should fear a charter. The data felt very one-sided.
I'd like to see a similar analysis conducted by an expert who is biased in favor of charters. More specifically, I'd like the board to analyze that data side by side with the existing data. What will the two reports have in common? Where will they differ? In the areas that they differ widely, which is the truer truth???
Of course this is just wishful thinking at this point. It's apparent that the purpose of last night's meeting was to get the public used to the idea of how the vote will go down next week. MI lottery, here we come.
Posted by wow, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 3:27 am
My reaction to the Town Hall meeting? I left with sadness and bewilderment. How can a small group of parents take us to such an extreme situation and not feel any responsibility, compassion, or sense of doing the right thing in the interest of the greater community?
I'm sure they feel that bringing MI to Palo Alto is a gift of sorts, and that their view of what the "right thing" is differs from mine & others.
Let's look at where we are, and then how we got here.
1. An overwhelmingly negative community reaction to pushing MI through at this time, in the way that it's being pursued.
2. The lasting affects of an angry, agitated community.
3. Board members who have been trying to address this issue as delicately and diplomatically as possible (I believe in their good intentions), yet now their reelections are on the line.
4. A program with only a 3-year housing plan in an overcrowded district.
5. A program that bumps ahead in priority of existing lotteries.
6. Yet another lottery that serves only a select few, leaving more ill-will within the district.
How we got here:
1. A small group proposed a small program which will benefit only their children and a few select others.
2. They were strung along with a series of hurdles, rather than a series of "no, not now"s.
3. A board vote of no, after more than a dozen meetings. By this time the group must have felt incredible frustration, along with a sense that they've invested too much to accept 'no' graciously.
4. A threat of a charter - only in Palo Alto - if they don't get their way on their terms.
5. A backpedaling of the board with an imminent vote reversal. To be fair, it's not a case of flip-flopping: they've been backed into a corner.
I see two responsible parties here: the small group of parents who want THIS program at THIS time under THEIR terms regardless of the adverse affects, and a board who wouldn't say no from the start.
Now the board will pay dearly for their part. Some will be voted out, no doubt about it. Addressing overcrowding will become more difficult with the introduction of another group of students who must be housed as a unit. Getting future school bonds to pass will be a greater challenge than ever. PiE money might be jeopardized.
*Should* these be acceptable outcomes and responses? It's immaterial, because right or wrong it *will* be part of the outcome.
What I'd like to know is where in all this do the PACE folks that created this situation bare their burden of responsibility for the outcome? Nowhere, as far as I can tell.
Ask them if they're okay with potentially shrinking Ohlone's program so that theirs can grow after 3 years, and they shrug. Not their problem. They've got their program, now the BOE can suffer the consequences of the outcome. What if the next school bond fails? Again, they say it's not their fault because people shouldn't hurt themselves that way. Maybe not, but wake up to the reality that people DO, and it's directly linked to how PACE forced a re-vote with their threat of a charter.
Are they within their rights to do so? Of course. But somewhere there has to be some sense of decency, of doing the right thing for the common good, of being aware of the full effect of their actions, and whether those unintended consequences sit well with them. I cannot imagine how it could, but they simply shrug.
Yes, I'm sad & bewildered that good, decent people can behave so selfishly and narrow-visioned.
Posted by Disappointed, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 1, 2007 at 6:58 am
I think the meeting went about as expected and I for one will not vote for those on this BOE who vote to bring MI to Palo Alto at this time in this manner. Everyone has learned an important lesson: If you have a program that you would like to see offered in the district, simply get educated on how to initiate a charter school and use that knowledge against the Board to get what you want. I plan on doing my homework. The really amazing part is that you don't even need to file the charter school petition, just threaten to file one. Knowledge is power.
Posted by Quiet Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:30 am
So where does that leave the rest of us who want language education for all students in our elementary schools? We can't exactly threaten a charter if we don't get what we want. The Board has made it clear they don't think we are serious if we believe in going with the system. I'm not interested in agitating and threatening. I want to be sure that my desires for the district will work without impinging on important programs for disabled kids or english language learners. Board members have pretty much said that our waiting to see how things work out in strategic planning is a sign that we don't care about FLES. I'm pretty disgusted about the whole thing.
Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:30 am
The community had the opportunity to ask questions of district administrators and the lawyers who advise the district on charter matters. Attendees were put in the situation that board members are placed in: The administration says this, the legal situation is that, the politics are something else. Decide.
Apart from the call to the barricades of total MI rejection by one member of the audience, there seemed finally to be a realization that the realistic options for PAUSD are two: Choice MI at Ohlone or a charter MI school. Questions and comments from the audience were largely dominated by opponents of the MI program.
A very informative exchange did take place on the question of whether other charter proposals would be equally treated. Supt. Callan explained that legally all charter proposals must be dealt with in the same fashion, this is not a case of favoritism for a particular program.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm
Palo alto mom,
That signature thing was interesting. First, it was claimed that PACE had a 100 families signed up for a charter, then it turned into no signatures because there wasn't actually a petition when the district was asked how many of those 100 families were in Palo Alto.
The ironic thing about all of this is that visible support for MI is shrinking. I'd say a charter is actually less likely than it was three months ago. The main supporters seem to be parents at the International School who don't want to pay private school tuition.
There are people who might enroll in a charter after it showed that it could run, but there aren't hundreds and hundreds at this point. At some point, it's not worth joining the pariahs. And that is what it's become. Since there are so many Chinese schools around here and, I understand, many are reasonably priced, it's not that hard to keep your kid in the PAUSD and supplement with Chinese after school.
I assume that everyone's hoping that all the anger will just go away when people get used to the idea, but I don't think it's going to happen. The offense is too egregious and the issue's going to come up every time the overcrowding issue comes up--which is a lot.
Yuck, what a disaster. Could have been averted if the board had been less passive. Instead of leading PACE along, they should have said, "No, we can't do this on your timeline because of overcrowding. Let's see what we can do that doesn't displace kids or overcrowd the schools." It could have made PACE part of a workable solution instead of the problem.
Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 7:59 pm
I"m not going to defend PACE's recent tactics, but no one, not the board, not PACE, predicted the overcrowding problem that developed really this year. PACE started their bid for this program five years ago. The board bears a lot of responsibility for taking the money from PACE and producing such an incomplete study. They should have done a spreadsheet accounting if the proposal hinged on cost neutrality, rather than just saying that it was and thinking everyone would just believe it because they said so. How much of the board's behavior now is out of a sense of owing something to PACE over how the board handled everything? I think it's a factor.
Posted by OhloneMom, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:14 pm
Starting a program without an exit plan seems incredibly unsound to me! In the next 6 years or less, in time my incoming Kinder will be at Ohlone, MI will start, launch and could leave, or not, depending on what the school board thinks (perhaps all of Ohlone will be MI, who knows!) How can you start a program without really thinking this through.
What does this mean for the rest of the Ohlone community, to embrace this program and then have it leave? The question of what happens 3 years into the program was asked directly at least 2 times at the meeting and was answered with a "we don't know"...
And then when MI, in the Ohlone model, moves off site, is that second school an Ohlone type school - after all, those parents have signed up for the Ohlone philosohy as well as MI. If MI moves, then Ohlone philosophy must move with them and so then we have 2 Ohlones? And if it stays on site, then the Ohlone non-MI program is capped at its current size forever and perhaps even shrinks to accomodate a growing MI program? That can't sound so good to all those parents who really want to get into Ohlone.
Posted by ivana spine, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:26 pm
The present board (Gail Price excepted) has not demonstrated a commitment to community priorities and has been disrespectful of the efforts of many community volunteers to set an agenda with the BoE for the district.
Being a custodian of districts funds and the trust of the community to follow through on the agenda and priorities established with them are great responsibilities. This board failed to stand up for those priorities and make tough decisions. The BoE accepted money from PACE, it allocated staff time and agenda time to MI. All easy to do. They could have said no at any time. They had a mandate from the community to do so. MI did not make the "top 10" list. They could have put it at #11.
While BoE concerns over loss of control of the charter and funds may have merit, does this outwiegh the loss of community trust and sending a message that the district can be bullied effectively? Is it just another easy decision to say the MI choice "frying pan" is better than the charter "fire"?
The BoE can still say no. The community priority list exists. The charter petition does not. I hope the BoE will find the strength to resist the bully, and get back to work on the community-established priorities. If the charter materializes, then respond. If the charter must be approved given the present process, then it will be an easy decision for the BoE.
I do not intend to vote for any BoE member that votes in favor of MI.
If the BoE approves MI choice, I will no longer trust them to be custodians of our districts funds and to pursue the priorities it "worked on" with the community.
I did donate to PiE this year (as in previous years), but this year I withheld part of it until after the vote by the BOE on MI choice program. When they voted against the MI choice program, I mailed in my check. I regret doing so.
I am still hopeful that members of the board will find the stregth to say no to MI choice and get back to the community agenda, but I have learned to hold onto my wallet.
Posted by Personally..., a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:39 pm
I just don't want MI as a part of our elementary schools. It's causing more headaches than it's worth. There's no way the Pro-IM crowd will manage to get a Charter School off of the ground. Zero chance it will happen.
And the threat of the charter was the last straw for me (personally) on this issue. I'd vote against MI just for that, if necessary.
I'd love to see the School Board turn down the MI proposal/threat. It's the right thing to do.
Posted by ivana spine, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:51 pm
I am not concerned about a charter school. The BoE is.
The process at present allows groups to request the creation of charter school. While there is no petition at present, the BoE seems to be concerned one may materialize and the consequences of this. MI came back on the agenda because of the concern about pursuit of a charter by PACE.
Posted by ivana spine, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:12 am
You suggest reasons why people are opposed to MI, but you have not commented on the trust and community agenda issue. I am curious how you feel about the BoE/community efforts to set priorities for the district being disrupted.
Perhaps this does not bother you as you were not one of the many people who were involved in this development. I suspect you would be surpised how many people are very disappointed.
It is not particularly relevent to me (and to many people active in their school communities, PiE and other district-wide activities) what specific program gains priotity in attention and support by the board over the "top 10" priorities. What is relevent is that something not on the community priority list is being successful in garnering such attention. Many are concerned that a non-priority item has been so elevated that is may even become a reality through legal methods -- yet ones which are disrespectful to the community process.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:38 am
Have you not listened to district's attorneys over how much they've spent over legal hassles?
Lozano Smith said themselves they thought the district would have a hard time turning a charter petition from the Chinese folks down because of the level of competence they've seen. And these guys are the charter experts. They are the ones who would review any charter petition.
The MI folks already started working on a petition. Grace Mah is a Santa Clara county board member. The Santa Clara county board chose her for a reason. It seems to me that she would do whatever it took to make a solid charter if only to impress upon her colleagues in Santa Clara that she knows what she's doing.
And have you not seen the district's reports over how much in more disruption a charter school would present to the district than a choice? $150,000 or more?
The board is simply protecting the district from a charter.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:45 am
and another point.
You wrote: "ones which are disrespectful to the community process."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The board asked to put MI back on the agenda. No one forced them. They could have said no long time ago.
But they are listening to their legal advice, Lowell's done her own legal research, they've looked at how other districts like Los Altos have spent $300,000 is ongoing legal fees. Tom said he's even talked to legislators in Sacramento.
The board is simply protecting from a charter that could spiral the district out of control.
Posted by Ohlone parent from Greer Road,, a member of the Ohlone School community, on Jun 2, 2007 at 1:51 am
The vapid and condescending quotes from Susan Charles ends another content-free article in our darling weekly. It is so easy for Ms Callan and Ms Charles to take holier-than-thou positions on this topic, when all that the majority is upset about is the PAUSD over-turning its own vote and allocating resources to a program which is not in our top-10 list of priorities. Dear reporter, there were a lot of good questions asked -- about process, about Charter School expenses, about priorities. How come none of those questions make it to your report?
Posted by Ohlone parent from Greer Road, a member of the Ohlone School community, on Jun 2, 2007 at 1:58 am
From Jan 2007 onwards this has become a political fight. A well-funded and organized minority wanted to push a program through, and they have succeeded by painting an inept BoE into a corner and thus forcing it to reverse its own vote. There will be long-term consequences for the community. The majority of the parents (a well-educated and logical bunch, last time I checked -- not flag waving racists as they are being painted as) feel the process has been subverted and a low-priority program has been funded. It is pretty clear the BoE and the media are not interested in the fissures this might bring to light. I am dismayed that PACE and the MI proponents are not thinking of how this will affect the community going forward. We have a lose-lose situation here.
Posted by amanda, a member of the Addison School community, on Jun 2, 2007 at 7:32 am
I support more foreign language immersion programs in our schools; I'd be happy if every elementary school had at least one, and if Mandarin is the next one up, fine. For children in Mandarin speaking households, it provides essential training in reading and writing which they will need as adults operating in that language; for children from non-Mandarin speaking households, it is probably the only feasible way to learn the language. As someone who participated in a tri-lingual school as a child and envied the children whose school expected them to master four or five languages (they had better school uniforms too), I experience mono-lingual education as a huge waste of potential. It may be that the district can deliver this kind of opportunity for everyone, and it may be that the Mandarin proposal would be an impediment to achieving this; I'm skeptical. I do belive that for a significant number of residents, this kind of opportunity is just as important as such other wonderful programs as theater, football, soccer, music--and in no case is it appropriate to describe advocacy for such programs as selfish. In many cases only a few students qualify or benefit from a particular program, but th fact that some people are fine volleyball players or clarinetists does enrich all of us. I'd be fine with telling would-be athletes to go do it through private programs while the PAUSD limited itself to life-long sports/phys. ed sorts of options, because I think our national shortage of fluent speakers of Mandarin, Arabic, French, Japanese, and dozens of other languages is more serious than shrinking the soccer gap. (And that the joys of operating in more than one language are tremendous.)
Posted by Get a grip, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 9:04 am
The "majority" is over half... of the community, of PAUSD parents, ...
Over HALF of the community, PAUSD parents,
DON'T CARE about MI.
Yes, there is a majority of noisy opponents who are against MI.
But hardly a majority of the community.
The board has to represent THE MAJORITY of the community, their constituents - who don't care about MI. They have fiduciary responsibility to save money, preferably by a choice program instead of a charter school.
Please put some perspective on this.
Even the TownSquare articles are only viewed by less than 2000 folks (hits on the different threads)
Posted by not a lawyer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 10:22 am
terry: "If you really were so concerned, you'd probably would have contacted the folks in Sacramento to change charter law."
What an excellent idea!
One very real concern that keeps coming up is the fear of PACE continuing to hold the district hostage by threatening charter every time things don't go their way. The next critical point will be 3 years from now, when MI hits its space limit. If things don't go in MI's favor, that's a natural point where they could again say, "meet our demands or face a charter".
There are 3 years to change charter laws. How about it, folks? Anyone ready to take organized action in fixing the charter laws?
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:11 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I am of Asian ancestry, and I do not support this program. Another Chinese friend has commented that everyone she knows who would want Mandarin is already satisfying those educational needs elsewhere and no one understands why PACE is doing this to our district.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:16 am
I'm pointing out an obvious truth, which is observable at the board meetings. Before the vote, the meetings had MI supporters, at the Jan 30 vote, the room was about half and half. Now, there are about five MI supporters who show up at these meetings.
PACE's tactics made people angry. And, delusions, to the contrary, it's widespread. At this point, I can name many of the MI supporters, I can only name some of the opponents, because I've seen many different people speak.
At this point, there's an equity situation going on. A tiny handful of students are going to get a perk at the expense of others.
And you want people to think that's great. It doesn't work that way.
Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 1:23 pm
I started following this issue late in the game and thought that the MI Choice was dead in the water because there was no place for it to go. Someone in the Briones community did an analysis when rumor had it that Briones was being eyed for an MI site because of lower enrollment.
It had convincing data--to me anyway--to show why Briones would be a terrible site, but then she added what shaped my assessment of why MI was probably dead: every other school in the district had equally valid reasons why MI couldn't go there.
Another reason I thought it would fail was cost. I wasn't aware that Choice programs, by PAUSD regulations, must be cost neutral to the district.
Something else I was uneasy about, too, was that it might result in a situation where we'd get a school enclave of predominantly one ethnicity implementing a Direct Instruction model of instruction familiar to parents from most parts of the world, who know from their own successful school experiences how to guide their children under that style but would be uncomfortable with different methods.
Some of this tension goes back to when first Ohlone and then Hoover were set up. One nice thing for teachers in the neighborhood schools was that because of the choice schools they were less likely to have to have to reconcile their teaching style with demands of insistent parents who wanted to pull instruction in opposite directions--integrated curriculum, open structure and lots of parental presence in the classroom on one hand, and direct instruction with little direct involvement of parents in the classroom (but lots at home, and strong support for the school) on the other.
The change for me came when I went to the Jan. 9 meeting and heard discussion of the feasibility study and the superintendent's recommendation to place a pilot program at Ohlone. I thought it was a bold stroke that might salvage MI's prospects.
I was a little skeptical, though, about how the program would fit with Ohlone. I still don't know if it will work, but Ms. Charles's repeated and consistent assertion that it will be Ohlone/MI and not MI camping uneasily on Ohlone land and that her staff is eager to use this as an opportunity, not a curse, has made me feel that Choice MI at Ohlone is at least potentially good for PAUSD.
My concern since that Jan. 9 meeting has been with the nature of the discussion and the extent to which people are accorded respect. This is a test of Palo Alto's ability to be "light on its feet" as the city, and the global and regional context it is in, continues to change.
If I've given offense, I apologize and will try to do better. I accept the criticism of myself without conceding that PACE and its backers should apologize for inconveniencing people in the district with different priorities in working towards its goals.
Posted by one pa mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 2:04 pm
OhlonePar, I appreciate your comments. In spite of the attacks leveled at you, or perhaps because of, your posts have always been intelligent and right on. Jerry, I don't always agree with you, but I appreciate your well-written posts and your attemps to keep things civil.
OhlonePar, do you see from Jerry's post why Susan Charles is the main reason for the BOE's reversal? They see a way out, a way to get it off their hands. They don't really care about anything else. If the Ohlone "community" is not okay with this, they need to let Susan Charles know. Also, as someone who used to think the Ohlone approach to "community" meant teaching about the wider "community", I am finding Susan Charles' approach to seem very self-absorbed and indifferent to any part of the community outside of Ohlone. I don't understand it, it's really different than what I thought Ohlone was when I considered entering the lottery for my own family.
Posted by Multicultural, a member of the Fairmeadow School community, on Jun 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm
Jerry or OhlonePar,
I wondered about how well an MI program would fit into Ohlone. I recall hearing that Ohlone has a "little or no homework" policy. Is this still the case? If so, has Susan Charles commented on whether a future MI program at Ohlone will be allowed to have homework and not to follow this "Ohlone Way" philosophy ?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:03 pm
I appreciate the return to the topic.
I don't think MI belongs at Briones because Briones is going to get hit with a big upsurge in enrollment because of the housing developments.
All the MI at Ohlone does is guarantee another battle three years down the road at which point we're faced with a mega-elementary school with two programs (would you want your child in that situation?), moving MI (but where will there be space? This isn't SI moving to the underenrolled Escondido. There won't be underenrolled schools in three years.), killing MI (nice guys, let's interrupt the education of children.), or cutting down existing Ohlone strands, a program with a long waiting list.
So, given the conflicting desires, how well--really!--do you think the two communities are going to mesh? I want a reasonably sized school that focuses on student-led education. I want people I know to get a chance at it for their kids. The MI crowd wants something else. But we're sharing limited space. And the Ohlone community wasn't given a vote.
Do you see why there are no good solutions here? Ohlone at MI is politically expedient, but it's not good. The reason I've always favored a charter in MV is that everybody gets what they want. Why is it that it's never been seriously discussed?
I do understand PACE's attitude--they were led down the path and they really want this. However, I do blame them for not being able to step back beyond what they want for their children and look at the number-crunch realities here. I don't think it's an accident that many of PACE's most active members don't have kids in the public school system--a number of them have kids in private schools. PACE's focus has been narrowly focused and they deserve criticism for that. And for not engaging.
Grace Mah used to post a lot here, but she did not respond. My guess is that she saw it as a way of avoiding arguments. However, avoidance of one led to the avoidance of discussion. And, possibly, a compromise that could have worked for the community.
But that means acknowledging that there is a community and that it's fair for that community to have some input. But we didn't get that--thus the anger.
One pa mom,
The Ohlone community doesn't control Susan Charles. She's in a politically strong position here and this is to her personal advantage. I do have quite a bit of respect for her, but I think she and others, like Barb Mitchell, have talked themselves into an unrealistic scenario.
Oh Thursday, Charles said this was a chance to address the Ohlone community and claimed that Ohlone had welcomed it. I saw parents from Ohlone over and over criticize and question the proposal.
I think it's really a case of families not wanting the program, but respecting what Susan Charles has done with the Ohlone program enough that they don't want to get into a public dispute with her.
Also, Charles support of the program is a way to maintain control over the program. I think she saw the possibility of an MI charter or independent program being plonked on the Ohlone site anyway.
If I were going to fault Charles for anything it was for suggesting that the Ohlone campus could fit six cubicles, when the AAAG says it can manage three. This has given people all sorts of unrealistic expectations about what can fit on the campus.
So much of this all boils down to control issues. Charles wants control of programs on her campus. Churchill wants control of all the schools.
What's not getting controlled and can't be is the skyrocketing school population. Palo Alto approved a ton of housing units without giving a lot of thought to the overcrowding problems. You still get outmoded notions that people with kids don't move into townhouses and apartments. Fact is, people do that all the time to get their kids in this district.
And the idea that we're going to add a magnet program to attract more kids . . . anyway, there's a certain desperation to this optimism. I found the Thursday meeting fascinating just because the usual rhetoric from Charles and Callan was failing so badly.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm
Yep, there's a "no homework" policy at Ohlone. HOWEVER, if you don't complete a project, you take it home.
Charles insists that the MI curriculum will be the Ohlone curriculum, but in Mandarin. Given that the Ohlone curriculum doesn't exist in Mandarin, I don't know what that means. And I don't know how an English speaker learns Mandarin without some memorization and drilling, anymore than you learn an instrument without practicing.
When I did immersion, there was a lot of homework. We also were supposed to keep speaking the language during our free time.
Posted by Multicultural, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:13 pm
Thanks responding and the clarification.
I wonder if an Ohlone-based MI program will have to redefine projects in order to get the memorization and drilling required to be successful.
I do not believe the curriculum discussed prior to the selection of Ohlone mentioned if there would be homework or not. The constraint of "no homework" would certainly change the way the curriculum was presented to students at Fairmeadow. Since the MI instructional materials have not yet been put together, I suppose they could be designed for a "no homework" model like Ohlone's.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:20 pm
Getting back to the original question of our comments & reactions to the Town Hall meeting...
I was struck (after the meeting when it was too late) that no one asked PACE any questions. Nor were Mandy or Dana asked anything.*
What I would have liked to ask PACE members, in a public forum, is 1) how do they feel about what they're doing and will be doing to our district in general and Ohlone in particular; and 2) why won't they consider a Mountain View charter or other options?
(*Incidentally, I learned that the reason the other 3 board members were not present is that they thought Mandy or Dana might be speaking, and Brown Act prohibits more than 2 board members being present when any of them speak. Camille did pop in before & after the meeting. It's not clear why they couldn't all come at least to listen, and excuse themselves if & when the two board members spoke.)
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm
Thanks to Jerry Matranga's patience, I'm beginning to understand how the district can calculate that $5.6k is more than $12k. I'm not saying that I concede the point, but there are some funds that PAUSD gets from the state the it would not get if some kids are in a charter school. I had assumed that "locally funded" means that all funds come from local property tax, plus categoricals for *real* expenditures, e.g. "we need extra funds for our 100 learning disabled kids," as opposed to "we have 10000 students, therefore the state assumes that we have 80 learning disabled kids and gives us extra funding for that.") So from Jerry's point of view, the approximately 11% of PAUSD's funds that come from the state would be affected by the shift of 80 kids to a charter school. Still, it seems like it would be an extremely small effect.
What I took away from the Thurs. meeting is that Palo Alto parents are way less complacent, much more activist, than Los Altos parents. That's probably true of the communities, in general. Also, the whole justification for Choice Schools needs to be re-examined. But I am rabidly pro-neighborhood school, living in a small city with 1600 kids who have NO public elementary schools. (PAUSD closed our Fremont Hills Elem. decades ago. To me, fairness and equitability demands that the AAAG use "length of closure" as the criteria for re-opening.)
The bottom line for me is that the only fluency for elem. kids that the BOE should be concerned with is English. If Escondido is helping Spanish-speaking kids get fluent in English, then great. I can't imagine why Hoover and Ohlone have their own sites. Why haven't they been distributed to every neighborhood that has a "strand" that wants those styles? It reminds me of the DI situation at Terman: it's cost neutral, but the principal says that even though many kids lose out in the lottery, she isn't allowed to convert more GI classes to DI! Wacky.
I'm new to this choice stuff and I agree that Susan Charles was charming, but I bet some of you old-timers are getting mighty tired of hearing how special "the Ohlone Way" is.
Posted by ivana spine, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:58 pm
You have said a lot of things, but you still have not answered my question about the BoE/community efforts to set priorities for the district being disrupted about MI.
The community priority process took place. Proponents of language immersion were, like all other members of the district, welcome to participate. A set of district/community priorities were established. MI was not on the list.
The disruption of these priorities is a concern to many people in the PAUSD community (myself included). The BoE gave MI choice an extra hearing in a study funded by proponents. Then, it opted to pass on it. So, twice, the process did not choose MI choice. BoE members have gone on record saying that reconsideration of MI choice is in response to the concern of the charter.
I will not speculate how you feel about this in a post. I am now asking again, do you think this disruption of district/community priorities using the charter is an acceptable method for a group to get what it wants? Is this a good precedent for the BoE to weigh its decisions based on the threat (however realistic yet not submitted) of a charter program?
If another group presents a realistic yet not submitted charter program, would you recommend the board also agree to set up a choice program for it? Where do you draw the line? By "you", I mean you, terry. What is your advice for the BoE in trying to say no in the future to these requests? All the arguments you stated above and you believe to be persuasive in support for MI would be valid for AI, BI, CI, DI, EI and so on. What is your argument for preventing the alphabet of charters?
I do not believe the BoE is merely making a decision between MI choice and MI immersion -- and which causes the least stress for the districts resources at the moment. I believe the BoE is establishing a precedent for how to get what you want by leveraging the charter rules. It is unclear what the long term ramifications of this will be. I strongly urge the BoE to not open up this Pandora's box.
So, will you, terry, be in favor of an alphabet of immersion programs if they have the same level of charter potential and dedicated people behind them? If not, what is the reason you would recommend the BoE give for saying no to the others after saying yes to MI? Do you think this future is a good thing for our community?
I am interested in your thoughts on this matter. Our BoE has more at stake here than just a single program. Precedents last a long time.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:10 pm
Ohlone and Hoover have their own sites because back in the 70s, post prop 13, PAUSD closed a third of its schools. Ohlone and Hoover came about because groups of parents and educators were willing to basically take over sites that would have otherwise been closed and possibly torn down.
When you talk about closing Ohlone and converting it to a neighborhood school you're talking about shutting a highly successful school that's been around for 30 years. And it would do nothing to ease overcrowding in the district.
As it is, Hoover and Ohlone help the district manage overflow because they get people to leave a spot open at a neighborhood school. I'm in the Duveneck district--if my child were at Duveneck instead of Ohlone, another child would have been sent to Juana Briones.
There is some neighborhood preference with the choice schools.
While a DI strand might work, Ohlone's "way" is dependent upon a lot of interaction between the different classes. The teachers coordinate curriculums both within the grade levels and up and down. K/1 classes are paired with the 4/5 classes. They do joint projects together. There's also cross-pollination between the regular and special-ed classrooms.
The Ohlone method is amazing when it works--there's just this sheer joy in learning. I've had educators though tell me it's a difficult kind of school to run well--it takes a tremendous amount of planning and organization by the faculty if the whole thing's not going to be chaotic. And I have a lot of respect for Susan Charles in that regard.
But I still think MI and Ohlone don't mix in a productive way. I suppose they could do marching drills for the Mandarin numbering system . . . I also think getting enough native Mandarin speakers is going to be a challenge because the Ohlone Way is almost diametrically opposed to the descriptions I've heard of education in China and Hong Kong.
Posted by Briones parent, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:01 am
I'd like to point out that the space issue was a distant second reason for why this MI plan was not welcome at Briones, at least for Briones parents. We have a distinct culture in our school of diversity, tolerance, supporting each other as parents, teaching the whole child, close-knit community. We are one of the most diverse schools in PA. Briones parents would not have stood for having their campus carved up that way. We currently have the OH campus at Briones, OH students are mainstreamed and parents of non-OH kids think that's an asset. Had there been space -- and there wasn't -- parents at Briones would have given such a fight to avoid having a balkanized campus.
Please stop talking about us like we're just an overflow bucket. I'd rather be at this campus than any in our town because of the approach to education and the unqiue campus culture. (I know that's not what you meant, OhlonePar.) Yes, we are small, and not exactly commuter friendly, but MI earned a lot of new opponents when they eyed our neighborhood school as if it were just some kind of space consideration.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:59 am
Sorry about that. I didn't mean it as a putdown of Juana Briones, which I've heard numerous parents say they love. It was a reference to people being forced out of their neighborhood school and, yes, having to commute to a school that is 20 minutes away in heavy traffic. It wasn't about the school once you got there. I just figure that people who choose neighborhood schools generally want their school to be in their neighborhood. (Heck, it helps a lot to be in walking distance of Ohlone.)
And, yes, it's no fun getting eyed as the hunting ground. I'm sure PACE deems us the launching pad for grabbing half of Garland.
Oh for a board with a backbone and a less arrogant super.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 5:53 am
I will answer your questions.
You wrote: You have said a lot of things, but you still have not answered my question about the BoE/community efforts to set priorities for the district being disrupted about MI.
The community priority process took place. Proponents of language immersion were, like all other members of the district, welcome to participate. A set of district/community priorities were established. MI was not on the list.
a) The MI folks have not disrupted district priorities. The BoE choose to take $60,000 in donations and do a feasibility study. The BoE then felt it important or interesting enough to meet more than just several times on the topic.
You wrote: The disruption of these priorities is a concern to many people in the PAUSD community (myself included). The BoE gave MI choice an extra hearing in a study funded by proponents. Then, it opted to pass on it. So, twice, the process did not choose MI choice. BoE members have gone on record saying that reconsideration of MI choice is in response to the concern of the charter.
a) And the BoE rightly should consider concerns of a charter. Charter law is permissive. Any interested person may bring a charter petition.
You wrote: I will not speculate how you feel about this in a post. I am now asking again, do you think this disruption of district/community priorities using the charter is an acceptable method for a group to get what it wants? Is this a good precedent for the BoE to weigh its decisions based on the threat (however realistic yet not submitted) of a charter program?
a) I encourage you to read charter law. Charters were established for the primary purpose of competing with district schools to keep them in check.
b) I think charters can be harmful to district’s who want to maintain control - especially in a district like Palo Alto where space is sparse.
c) The charter petition is not a threat, but rather a means for negotiating with a district. Anyone can do this.
d) As for precedent, I think the circumstances in this case are unique. The BoE took $60,000 and did a feasability study which said the district could do an MI choice while working on strategic plan goals. So MIers know choice is possible. The BoE knows that MI choice is possible in the district. The BoE is also faced with a group who has worked tirelessly on this program for years. They have a leader, Grace Mah, who serves as a Santa Clara county school board member. The Santa Clara School Board favors charters. Mah met with the superintendent and the charter association in San Francisco. Charter law permits schools that compete with district schools.
Given all these facts, I’d say the circumstances here are unusual. I also think Mah has worked in good faith with the district. She has kept the BoE informed of all her steps that she has taken.
Someone else could choose to not to meet with the district, not donate money for a feasibility study, not wait until the feasibility says the program is doable before throwing a charter petition at the district and then ask for what they want. That, in my opinion, would be a threat.
In this case MIers in good faith went through the local system. They worked in good faith with the district. When the district failed them, they in good faith looked to charter law.
Also there is a principal, Susan Charles, who said she would be happy with MI choice at her school, but not a charter. The MI folks are once again working with the district. They have agreed in their letter signed by 9 to abdicate their rights as granted by charter law in exchange for a choice program even though they know their children may not be able to attend.
Thus, as for precedent, this sets a great example for how people who seek choice programs in the future ought to first work with districts before seeking a charter petition. The flippant comments parents who say they want a charter in French or Polish, do not follow the MI model.
And I think the BoE has probably learned their lesson in taking donations from parents and then allowing a feasibility study that comes out positively in favor of a program.
You wrote: If another group presents a realistic yet not submitted charter program, would you recommend the board also agree to set up a choice program for it? Where do you draw the line? By "you", I mean you, terry. What is your advice for the BoE in trying to say no in the future to these requests? All the arguments you stated above and you believe to be persuasive in support for MI would be valid for AI, BI, CI, DI, EI and so on. What is your argument for preventing the alphabet of charters?
a) Charter law is permissive. That is charter law. I encourage you to study it.
b) The only way to change charter law is to advocate that the legislators in Sacramento change it. I agree that charters will detract from district control. In Palo Alto where space is sparse, a charter would pose a nuisance.
c) BoEs can always say no. They have that choice no matter how much they try to spin the blame on MIers. What if you or someone else feels strongly about an arts program that the BoE turns down? And then you or that person begins working on a charter for an art school. The board would probably try to mobilize the public and spin the same blame on you for bringing a charter.
The BoE knew they could spin the public into attacking MI to divert attention from the real issue that they have a fiduciary duty, as someone mentioned earlier, to keep the district from losing money.
You wrote: I do not believe the BoE is merely making a decision between MI choice and MI immersion -- and which causes the least stress for the districts resources at the moment. I believe the BoE is establishing a precedent for how to get what you want by leveraging the charter rules. It is unclear what the long term ramifications of this will be. I strongly urge the BoE to not open up this Pandora's box.
a) Please see my comments above.
You wrote: So, will you, terry, be in favor of an alphabet of immersion programs if they have the same level of charter potential and dedicated people behind them? If not, what is the reason you would recommend the BoE give for saying no to the others after saying yes to MI? Do you think this future is a good thing for our community?
a) If there is in earnest a group of parents who want another immersion program in another language, I would favor they go to the BoE first, donate their money and wait for a positive result from a feasibility study – just as MIers did.
b) Yes, I believe this is a good thing for our community.
You wrote: I am interested in your thoughts on this matter. Our BoE has more at stake here than just a single program. Precedents last a long time.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 6:12 am
One additional matter...Please look at how much LASD has spent on fighting Bullis Charter School (a non-languaged based school): $300,000. That's just in legal fees and does not take into consideration staff, basic aid loss, etc.
If you want a charter in an arts program or another language program, please go through PAUSD and persuade the BoE to do a feasability study before bringing a charter.
However, you may choose not to do so, and that is a right also allowed under charter law.
MIers have worked in good faith with PAUSD as they continue to do so now.
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:19 am
It occurs to many that many people in this debate think nothing of the controversy now because they say we've heard it all with the SI program. They think this will all die down if MI gets this program. (I don't think that's going to happen.)
The trouble is that this way of doing things is what made MI so controversial this time, that was brought up when SI went through, that the next language would be harder. In a way, the MI effort is being hampered by being the same as the SI effort. If we put through this MI program this way, it will virtually lock out any future immersion attempts in other languages.
We should be considering other kinds of fluency instruction. I just looked it up, and that school in Mountain View that teaches fluency is Yew Cheung. From a posted article already on this forum: "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."
Why not see if this method can be brought to Palo Alto schools? For example, if the program could be offered at Hoover, without changing the curriculum too much during the day but by adding on instruction of 1.5 hours at the end of the day for anyone who wants to learn Mandarin fluency, this would be an opportunity that could be offered to all Hoover students without needing a new separate campus. It would probably fit better with Hoover's direct instruction philosophy already. I could see this kind of program being more of a pilot for the possibility of having other similar fluency programs at any of the other PA campuses that want it -- in fact, if such a thing were put through, it should be with the promise that any other PA campus that wants it (in whatever language) could get the same thing. Since it would be kind of an elective that only the kids who want to take have to take, you wouldn't have quite the same problems with extending the school day issues that FLES has. This would also make summer immersion programs a natural extension. The problem I see is that this would make FLES more difficult, but that would be offset by the language fluency opportunity available on ALL campuses. The advantage is that this doesn't require a separate campus and languages can be added and changed as the district needs. It doesn't take away flexibility from our overenrolled district, it's more fair, it doesn't lock out future programs and changes, and it still provides a proven fluency program.
Has anyone explored this possibility? I would think it could be implemented by next fall, too. It could be implemented without impacting Hoover the way the proposed dual immersion program would impact Ohlone and without changing the size of the school. It also presents the possibility of allowing the kids in higher grades to begin getting the language instruction, rather than just kindergarteners to start. (I don't know if this is true for sure, it would depend on this teaching method, though I suppose you could just give all kids in the beginning the same opportunities as the kinders if that is the case.) And this is more likely to fit with Hoover's existing educational philosophy. Then also because all campuses would be promised the same opportunity, Ohlone students would still get their language opportunity, too, only they could pick Mandarin or even another language. And we would be giving a fluency opportunity to all PA kids. It occurs to me that this would even allow more than one language fluency program at a given campus. And it might not even be more expensive to do that if the teachers already speak those different languages. I have to admit, this would probably also be easier and cheaper than FLES, but again, it would at least be a fluency/language opportunity for all PA kids.
Also, this doesn't lock out other very different kinds of programs in the future, if everyone at a given campus wants to do something very different but modeled on this approach, they could do it. We also have an existing program, Yew Cheung, to go to for guidance. How does that sound, Jane?
Posted by Yet Another Palo ALto Mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 9:14 am
I plan not to vote for anyone with wishy-washy decision making. Gail and Barb, while on opposite sides of this issue, have been clear and consistent in their thinking. Not true for the rest of the board - the remaining 3 all deserve to be replaced.
Posted by ivana spine, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 11:51 am
I appreciate your thoughtful response to my questions.
Your point about the district allowing itself to be distracted by the $60,000 to fund a study is well taken. This, in my opinion, was a serious error by the BoE as it was the first step away from the priorities established by a community process. I believe they should have said no, and I think they should return the money.
I am not sure I understand your comment: "As for precedent, I think the circumstances in this case are unique." Historically, that may be true. I do not know enough about how SI began to comment. But, my concern is the future. What part of the process do you think another group would not be able replicate so that MI would remain unique?
a) raising money from anonymous doners (on the order of $60,000) to fund a feasability study
b) a group with stamina to complete the process
c) a leader with political connections
d) a county board which is supporting of charter schools
e) permissive charter law
f) a leader who can meet with school officials and charter associations outside PAUSD
I believe these conditions can occur again. Having MI as a "success story" may well make it easier to rally the effort. The formula for getting what you want will be known if MI is approved. This event could lower the bar.
For example, the cost of a feasibility study should be lower given the previous MI funded study. Raising money may be easier given the role model MI provided.
Other factors you mention show no signs of changing in the near future. For instance, I do not see charter law changing anytime soon.
So, I will not try to guess what you, terry, think will make MI unique as the district moves into the future. Is it really all of those points or just a few. Please let me know which ones.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:31 pm
I appreciate that the conversation has become more civil.
There is one additional and key factor that also makes this situation unique: a principal at a school who said she would welcome the program.
Yes, there are smart, passionate people with money in Palo Alto who could ask the BoE to do another feasibility study.
But all those factors a) through f) you and I cited above, plus a principal who said she would house the program makes this a very unique situation indeed.
And yes, it can recur. However, you now have a BoE and community who are much more well informed of how this has come about since the beginning, and I think that a BoE will think much more carefully in the future about how to handle a) donations to do a feasibility study.
It'd be interesting to study if a situation with this exact series of events had occurred in the past.
There is nothing I can do about charter law, except maybe join you in contacting Ira Ruskin.
Posted by terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:35 pm
Oh, and if a series of events did recur where a feasibility study came out positive as a result of donations and had a principal who welcomed the program - no doubt I'd probably welcome that program to the district too.
I'd love to also see a choice program for the arts, science or another language. The more options I have for my child the better - especially when the district has said that a choice program per district policy must be cost neutral.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 1:38 pm
Terry: You would love to see a district where every elementary school is a different "choice" school offering a subject nobody else has, so that you have to choose which subject is the one your 5 year old will major in?
So, we have a "math" choice program, a "science" program, an "art" choice program..but the rest of the schools get no math, science or art.
Do you support vouchers for religious schools? That is also providing "choice" to kids/families with public dollars. Framing is everything.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 2:59 pm
I am opposed to all District programs which use public education dollars to provide a subject to a few while the rest don't get any of the subject.
I would have a real problem even if there were a dual Immersion program in a district where everyone who didn't get in to the immersion program still had enough of the target language to allow complete fluency/literacy etc by the end of High School, but I could see my way around to rationalize this use of tax dollars. I would even go so far to support it if it were truly a choice for EVERYONE, in that there were a way to guarantee that EVERYONE who wanted the dual language immersion program got it, with no transportation or ability barriers (ie bus provided so parents who can't drive their kids to the school can still have their kids in the school)
My philosophy is ...same educational opportunities for all in elementary school, and maybe even middle school.
By high school, kids who have been exposed to ALL subjects should be allowed to follow their passions and abilities and specialize. As long as ALL QUALIFIED students have access to every program and course, I fully support "choice" in high school.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 4:03 pm
So would to support the abolition of Hoover, Ohlone and SI - all choice programs in which in my opinion not all district kids may attend and benefit a only a few?
A choice program in high school would also benefit only a few, but if a group went through the district, the district did a feasibility study in favor of it, and a principal at high school wanted to house program, I would support it too. I agree with you there.
As for transportation - how about vouchers from PAUSD for moving MI to Mountain View - 50 cents per mile and a then some for parents time?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm
Terry, please read more carefully.
ONE: I did not say I would abolish what exists. I WILL say that I completely oppose creating more of the same problems.
TWO: I did not say I oppose all choice programs, I said " I am opposed to all District programs which use public education dollars to provide a subject to a few while the rest don't get any of the subject". Ohlone and Hoover provide the same subjects as the rest of the district. Therefore, different instructional models with same curriculum are open to discussion. I find a problem with semantics here, combining "different curriculum" choice programs with "different instructional methods" curriculum.
THREE: re: High School Choice I said "As long as ALL QUALIFIED students have access to every program and course, I fully support "choice" in high school." That is not the same as supporting a program that would only benefit a few. That is supporting a program where EVERYONE who is qualified and wishes to pursue a specialization, so to speak, in High School has the chance to do so.
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 3, 2007 at 7:09 pm
Terry wrote that LASD spent $300k fighting Bullis Charter. That doesn't mean that PAUSD should or will need to. The legal battle that I know of was over our assertion that sticking us in portables on a middle school campus was not equivalent to the beautiful, just-renovated facilities that every other school in LASD enjoys. We lost the fight, so it's unlikely that PAMI (Palo Alto MI) Charter would try to fight the same battle.
Also, LASD does not charter Bullis, so they don't have administrative costs for oversight. Believe it or not, my understanding is that LASD *does* now want to charter Bullis and receive the compensation for oversight.
Last point, Terry, is that LASD is just on the verge of Basic Aid. I believe they spend about $8k per kid. PAUSD spends $12k per kid, so it doesn't seem like the $5.6k per charter kid would cause financial trouble. LASD initially "proved" that Bullis Charter would bankrupt them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To me, a charter is a cheap choice (lottery) school that gives the district flexibility in site choice, because a charter school doesn't need to displace strands in elementary schools. It gives parents an opportunity to create the school of their dreams and to pay much of the cost. At Bullis, last year's donation request was $3500 per kid. Through the years, how much have Escondido/Hoover/Ohlone parents paid?
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 3, 2007 at 9:14 pm
Parent, to believe that more Choice programs will not displace more kids is comforting; but I don't believe it. To most easily see the fallacy of this, pretend Choice programs expanded to occupy all elementary schools; Overflow would be tremendous, even if they were all called "Choice" and no longer "Neighborhood." On the other hand, remove all aspects of Choice schools; then you would have less overflow traffic than now. Between these two end-points in a TIGHT capacity situation like P.A. is today, I do believe every added Choice/Lottery program does increase overflow. This is not negated by simply stating some schoolswill be called "Choice", and not "Neighborhood." A rose is a rose........ Starting small with a new Choice program at Ohlone, letting it grow, then moving it to another location in 3-4 years, so Ohlone does not get squuezed, will result in Combined Choice seats of about 600 at Ohlone (with the new Choice program moved out, but the expanded Ohlone capacity to accommodate them now filled with Ohlone students only), plus the expanded New Choice Program, now located elsewhere, squeezing that new location. So that's like raising the Choice students centered initially at Ohlone from around 500 today, to 800 in a few years.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 12:07 am
The blunt truth is that I don't think the PACE crew has many children in PAUSD. Some had kids who graduated, several have kids in private schools. So they don't have any investment or real knowledged of this public school system. And if they don't like it, they'll just go back to their private schools and leave the rest of us to clean up the mess.
Posted by gunn parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 4, 2007 at 6:38 am
At PALY there is a "choice program" available for only 100 freshman, who are selected by lottery, it's called TEAM. It's not available for the rest of the freshman and Gunn does not have any equivalent program.
Posted by TEAM Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 4, 2007 at 9:02 am
Paly does have a TEAM program for freshman and it is selected by lottery. Generally speaking, all of those in the lottery who applied by the right date do get in although they may not hear right away. It is a "choice program" in that you have to apply. It does follow exactly the same curriculum, taught in the regular way. What makes it different is that there are more field trips because all TEAM teachers go on all the field trips and the core subjects are all taught by these TEAM teachers which enables them to work together well. There are also more group projects, e.g. the water balloon battle which teaches trench wafare for both history of the 1st world war and also English, All Quiet on the Western Front. The same group of kids are together for most of their classes and they do a lot of team building, but the electives are all mixed in with the general Paly population. It is a good program and may not be for everyone.
There is no reason why all programs at Paly have to be identical to all programs at Gunn. I am sure that there are some excellent Gunn programs which Paly does not have. The two high schools do not have to be identical in flavor as long as the specifics are egually balanced at the end result.
Gunn has German, Paly does not. Some would see that German is therefore a "choice" program that Paly doesn't have. I personally would have preferred my son to learn German rather than Spanish. It is swings and roundabouts.
Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 10:00 am
High schools by definition have a lot of choices and ability to specialize - there are several levels of the core subjects, tons of electives, multiple languages, AP classes, Middle College, etc. Just look at the courses available at both Gunn and Paly.
Middle school has some choice in 7th and 8th, math levels, language, music and other electives.
Elementary has a little choice, with Ohlone and Hoover being teaching style differences (which you will also find at the rest of the schools, every school has its personality). SI being the only real "choice" available to just a few - especially if you don't have a sibling already in the program.
Posted by Gary Gechlik, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 1:41 pm
The idea of instructing students on Mandarin is a good one. One of the challenges is overcoming prejudice.
Many Americans have a very short memory when it comes to Chinese immigration policy.
From my review of California history, the state has always been very prejudicial against the Chinese. This is simply a fact of life.
Many people like to look at the success of the Chinese in America and claim it is somehow unfair.
In fact, the only thing that is unfair is how hard Chinese people have to work.
The bottom line is that Mandarin is an important language in about 1/4th of the world. Like Hebrew, Mandarin is a relatively ancient language that appeals to a smaller population of people. However, what can be demonstrated in the United States, is that this small population of speakers are very influential later in life by reinforcing traditional cultural norms.
I think that the community should embrace Mandarin instruction. As an entry requirement, they can insist that math scores are very high.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 4:06 pm
What does our less than admirable history in dealing with Chinese immigrants have to do with choosing a language? How will teaching a small group of children Mandarin give everyone a wider perspective. Or overcome prejudice?
By your reasoning, (Chinese not treated well in the past) we should first teach our kids Japanese (lots of immigration restrictions *and* we stuck Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII), Spanish (we have a long history of mistreating migrant workers) and, best of all, Native American languages--nothing like wiping out populations for true guilt.
I'm not sure what age of language has to do with anything--should we study hieroglyphics? Try to decipher Sumerian Linear A and B?
Lots of people have to work hard in this country. You think the homesteaders were taking it easy? Or the Irish and Italian immigrants who worked in unregulated factories? Even now, as a country, we work a lot of hours and take less vacation compared to much of the world--Japan being the ongoing exception.
I read recently that one of the downsides in the Leave No Child Behind act is that instruction time in history had dropped. The result's a lot of distorted thinking and unexamined biases.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 4:45 pm
Can't blame an adult with poor analytical and logical skills on NCLB. NCLB is only 6 years old.
With any luck, the forcing of teachers and administrators to think more analytically in how to objectify their schools' results in order to get NCLB money will "trickle down" in teaching the students to be more analytical thinkers.
We tend to emote reactively, not think proactively. I, personally, think the loss of balance of these two critical sides to our decision making ability is what lands us in messes such as this.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2007 at 11:20 pm
Could someone please define “DI strand” and “OH kid”? Thanks.
Because of China's increasing power, Mandarin has become a fad, which is detracting us from the essentials. English is still the language of business. I can't help thinking that the Chinese are laughing at us while teaching their own kids English, math and science.
Two articles from The London Times below. Note that GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education.
Mandarin may be spoken of as a language of the future, but gaining a good GCSE in it now is a huge challenge, says Sian Griffiths
“Although Edexcel, the only board that offers the qualification, does not keep figures on candidates’ ethnic backgrounds, its proportion of A* grades in Mandarin GCSE is an astonishing 91% - compared with 3% in maths or 11% in German - fuelling the suspicion that most of the 4,000 entrants are native speakers.”
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 6:37 am
To clear the "huh?" reaction to the OH definition...originally meant Orthopedically Handicapped. It is a program at Briones that was originally intended for kids with various physical challenges. Never have heard the "Occupational Health" definition applied to the Briones program, but since everyone has always called it OH, maybe the words changed to be less restrictive and more PC.
Though if that is the official name now, it looks like a dept of the govt program OSHA!
Posted by concerned parent and homeowner, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 6:42 am
Could someone please expand on the comment made in this or another,related thread that families in South Palo Alto cannot get their kids into Gunn? Is this a permanent thing? My kids are in elementary and we moved to South PA precisely because we wanted them to go to Gunn. Aside from the possibility that Cubberly will be reopened in a few years, is it now PAUSD policy not to let South PA kids into Gunn? If so, where do they go? Thanks for clarification.
Posted by Survey Says, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:55 am
Language immersion programs designed to teach native English speakers a new language declined in the last 7 years according to a survey of Center for Applied Languages, a private, nonprofit organization "working to improve communication through better understanding of language and culture" based in Washington, DC. The peak in their data for the number of total and partial immersion schools was reached in 1999 and has dropped a few percent since then.
Posted by another voice, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:59 am
Concerned parent - I have yet to hear of a currently enrolled PAUSD student not getting into Gunn or Paly, whichever is their designated feeder school. New families just moving to PA (I think the kinder enrollment date in Feb is the cut-off) would not necessarily get a spot - although they have to put the student either at Gunn or Paly.
Posted by HS Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 9:37 am
As it stands at present, any student who lives in the Gunn area of South Palo Alto, i.e. South of Loma Verde (east of Middlefield) and South of the Creek (west of Middlefield) is in the Gunn area and also in JLS. If your student is in the district they will automatically be enrolled into Gunn when the time comes. If someone is new to the district, either through moving in or coming from home school or private schools, and they register by the date in January, they will be enrolled in Gunn. If there is a late enrollment, they will not be guaranteed a place in Gunn. Traditionally, Gunn closes around June for late enrollees and they will be placed in Paly.
Those students who are in JLS and live South of Oregon, but north of the boundaries defined above, are in the Paly area. This area has become to be known as the gray area. These students will automatically be enrolled in Paly and if you want to get into Gunn you will have to apply for an intra district transfer. This transfer is unlikely to happen, however anyone trying to get a intradistrict transfer from Gunn to Paly is likely to get it.
The reasons for this are to keep the two high schools at relatively the same size. If enrollment was to continue after the present close date, Gunn would become very much bigger than Paly. If all the requests for transfers were to be granted, Gunn would become much bigger than Paly. This is a tool to keep the two high schools similar size.
As you rightly say, this is what the present situation is and since the BoE and AAAG have been working on boundaries, there is no saying what may happen in the future, particularly if Cubberly does re-open as a regular high school. However, if you have already got one child into Gunn and have younger siblings, these will be grandfathered in for as long as there are siblings currently enrolled in the high school.
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 5, 2007 at 2:53 pm
Speaking as a parent from the JLS to Paly gray zone, I'd like it if the high schools were not so rigidly aligned with the middle schools. It would it a lot easier for the gray zone kids if each high school mixed in some (maybe 20% minimum?) students from each middle school. Maybe they could reshape the high school lines more or less north/south and the middle school lines more east/west.
Although I'm not sorry my kids are going to Paly instead of to Gunn!
Posted by Briones parent, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Jun 5, 2007 at 11:39 pm
You may be right about the OH definition, but it seems to me I have seen "occupational health" as the acronym's meaning. I stand to be corrected, though! These days, "occupational health" services broadly refers to services for people of any age with disability -- not just for employment, but also education,mobility, home and personal care, social activities, etc. Services that help people with disabilities function in all areas of life. Given Briones' heavy emphasis on teaching the whole child, I guess I also assumed this was the meaning. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.