School board backs Mandarin immersion 4-1 Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:42 am
In a historic vote Tuesday night the Palo Alto Board of Education voted 4-1 (board member Gail Price dissenting) to launch a controversial Mandarin immersion "choice" program within PAUSD as a way to head off a more expensive, time-consuming charter school.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:09 am
No, I'm not assuming my child will get in to the program. It's a lottery, and I'll have to go with the luck of the draw.
If the program had started this fall, I would still have worked on making it successful, when I KNOW my kid won't benefit directly, and that he MIGHT NOT get in by the time his age makes him eligible.
As I said tonight at the board meeting,
I want to thank the board for reconsidering (and voting positively on) an Ohlone MI program.
We've been supportive of MI in public schools thru five years and 20 meetings.
We support the approved, scheduled, and funded world language task force and its efforts to bring world languages to all elementary school students. I have personally offered to assist the task force in any appropriate way. For those who are concerned about the costs of FLES, I'm not afraid of addressing the costs, and asking for money. I've done it before. I'm a new PiE rep this year and am looking forward to working on fundraising across the district.
We want to move forward and channel our energy and passion constructively towards improving our children's education.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:55 am
I never refused to consider a charter in Mountain View. In fact, the Mountain View school board and superintendent are planning to tour the Mountain View Yew Chung International School to learn about their methodology. I don't know whether it's to look at incorporating possible FLES or an immersion program into Mountain View.
I didn't tell them to investigate Yew Chung, but I'm glad that they are looking around.
If Mountain View decides to expand world languages in their school district, that's great!
I don't believe MI as a choice program worsens the school district's overenrollment problems. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.
Some school board members support big campuses. That's a school board policy and decision. I support the school board's view and decisions with regards to school capacity.
I believe you have used the word racism more in your public postings here in TownSquare than I have.
Honest debate is with a moderator/facilitator. Not anonymous bashing.
I have talked with respectful opposition, along with offered to meet with some of the less respectful opposition. If you want to talk, OhlonePar, just send me an email or call me. My email and phone are on the PACE website, www.geocities.com/PACEforKids
I don't expect to work with the whole community, just the part who wants to work with me. There are those (dare I include you) who won't work with me. That's your choice.a
I am going to work to support the world languages task force, are you?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:56 am
The Weekly article says school staff will be traveling to China this summer for educational opportunities. And this is being paid for by the district I seem to recall -- it was already spelled out as an expense. How is it that this is actually necessary when we have so many immersion programs here in the Bay Area?
And what is the convoluted excuse this time for how this is "cost neutral"? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:06 am
MI as a choice program is cost-neutral TO THE DISTRICT. The district is not paying for the travel - the money is coming from the PACE donations.
The PACE money has not all been spent, and it will NOT be spent on teacher salaries during class time (required board policy). Travel expenses for teachers is within the board policy. If PACE money wasn't there, the teachers would not be going on the trips.
Learning about Chinese education in China is remarkably different from learning about immersion programs locally. We may have to agree to disagree on this one.
Since you don't mind spilling a few beans, how about giving the whole story? What kinds of school safety problems are you concerned about? Have you talked to the principal of the school, have you talked to board members, have your concerns been acknowledged by many in your school community?
I don't suggest you send out a survey to see if the majority of the community would vote for this safety issue. (OK, that's a joke.)
I would suggest you find money cooperatively instead of threaten. Or ask for donations, grants, and other contributions - that's what I did.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 3:54 am
what is YOUR direction now? is your direction just "not MI"? sorry, that is the direction that the board has taken. it's not only my direction.
when the board voted in january to take "your direction" which was not my direction, i proceeded to continue working on my direction.
with the current board's vote tonight, you are free to continue working on your direction, and if it's against MI, I can't help you.
if you feel that pro-FLES isn't your direction, sorry I can't help you. as I said, I will be working on the pro-FLES direction. not on my terms, but in conjunction with the board and staff and world language task force. if you don't like that direction, we'll have to agree to disagree. preferably without judgment of methods.
Posted by thank you gail, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 6:58 am
Interesting night. Dana and Mandy seemed to do what they felt was least damaging. Gail voted consistently. I have no idea what Barb was thinking the first time, but she was consistent. Camille, well, there will be a big push to find candidates to stand against her in the next election. Should be fun to hear her justify never having mentioned that her husband is connected with a pro-China program through his work (oops!) and that he regularly speaks at meetings without identifying himself, if the scuttlebutt is correct. The parade of MI supporters who talked exclusively about how wonderful immersion is and how easily young children learn Mandarin (using their kids as props) totally missed the point -- who cares if it's the best ever in the universe, if it takes away from the rest -- and make no mistake, it will. But hey, maybe they'll get it down the road. And according to Molly, ANY price is not too high to bring this to those lucky few children who get in. What a great civics lesson THAT kid learned. Will we ever find out who those anonymous donors were?
Meanwhile, thank you, Gail for nearly 8 years of consistency in the face of overt hostility from the previous board and indifference and frequent dismissal from the current one.
Now let's get back to rebuilding trust on every level in the district, and to giving all the remaining kids a better education. After all, Grace, that's what the rest of us were doing. There is a LOT of room for improvement.
Posted by MIed Out, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 6:58 am
As an amused observer, I am constantly amazed at the vitriol the MI program has created. What happened to the days where public officials were entrusted to do their jobs without parents questioning their every decision. The Palo Alto process is broken! Everyone talks about wanting to have community-wide open and honest dialogue and then expect that their voice will always be listened to. Guess what, there will be disagreements and you won't always get your way. That's reality. That's how diverse communities operate. So stop acting like spoiled children and jumping up and down like your hair is on fire every time a decision is made that doesn't meet your narrow interests. Towns cannot be governed effectively when everyone feels like their voice is not only listened to but is acted upon. My solution: Find public officials who have the spine to fix this process instead of being intimidated by the vocal minority (while I am ambivalent about MI I feel that the board swayed to anti-MI forces at first and later to charter threats. I am not sure they really know how they feel about the inherent nature of the program. Such timidity and lack of clarity should be rewarded with one term. Does everyone still need to feel popular?) Please stop with the MI chats, your vindictive behavior and find other amusements which are productive to society.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 6:58 am
Grace, though I applaud your persistence and patience, I have to say I don't applaud your ability to listen.
You continue to frame this as about FLES VERSUS MI issue. For some it was what the final straw was, yes. But, had you been listening, you would have heard that the unifying theme was about keeping our district a unified district, with excellent education, same curriculum, including FLES type programming, for all. It was about the direction of our district. It was about the question, when do we have enough "choice" programs ( remember, choice for some means taking away the choice of others, which is why I put the word "choice" in quotation marks)
Well, I know there are some who will continue to hear the last year as you do, but it doesn't matter at this point, it is done.
By the way, you imply you invited more than one person to speak with you who refused. Who were they?
I have seen you imply this before in the newspapers, so I have spoken with a couple of the more public members of the "opposition" who have said they have no idea when this happened. I think it puts them in a bad light to imply they were so rude. So, I was wondering who you invited and when and how? Or, perhaps better, if you don't want to embarrass anyone, would be to state who you DIDN'T invite, (by phone or e-mail or through the paee.us website). Otherwise you are smearing many good folks, making it appear that many people turned down your request.
Congratulations on your program, and on being the PiE rep. I have to say, I completely disagree with how you think about the purpose of public elementary schools, but you do have guts!
Posted by O Ye of Little Faith, a resident of another community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:03 am
This just in from the Palo Alto Weekly:
Parent Faith Brigel reiterated her opposition to the program. "It's only going to be for a small number (of students), and I could feel jealous."
You must be kidding me. This sums up the problem so well. While it might be good for the community, if I feel jealous about not getting in then we can't have it. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:20 am
To O Ye: Yes, so much better to deny the reality of all the kids who lost the lottery for SI, and now will lose the lottery for MI.
You have NO CLUE how many kids/familes feel completely cheated from our system. They were ok with it before this last year, waiting patiently for the time when either the SI program would expand enough to have room for everyone who wants it, or there would at least be Spanish for all in elementary school. They swallowed the constant stream of happiness and pride from their classmates for being able to sail through the APs, and stayed happy, for them. It was the reality of our District.
The thing now is that they see a whole new program being created, which will create another set of 9 kids for every kid accepted into it, who get nothing while their classmates get an excellent foreign language instruction. We are now looking at a full kindergarten's worth, 20 kids, per year who will try for the MI/SI lottery and lose. By the time the kids get to 12th grade, instead of having hundreds of kids from our school system who have "lost" the lottery, we will be up to thousands.
Not to mention all the other problems with choice programs that have been beat to death. I wonder what the next one will be in 10 years?
The only thing I can figure is that people who see this as a good thing come from families which flipped a coin to see which of the 10 kids would go to Stanford, instead of sending all 10 kids to a UC school.
Maybe that is right for some people. I believe for our District Family it is simply wrong.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:32 am
I have never considered FLES and MI as mutually exclusive. I have always supported FLES. My support has not been the same for both, but it's always been there.
It's unfortunate that so many people feel that FLES is pitted against MI. It's not one or the other, in my opinion. It's BOTH, in my vision. Just not simultaneously. I believe many people fear that FLES will not happen (despite the funded scheduled plan for the world language task force) now that MI has been approved. I disagree with that thought, and we'll just have to agree to disagree.
I have likewise asked the board to make a statement of how many choice programs are enough programs? Is it an absolute number of programs, is it the number of children enrolled, is it a percentage of kids (of all of PAUSD) who are enrolled in any choice program (elementary school only?), ... what?
I've asked to have the guidelines and policy clearly add in the new "criteria" which were reviewed for MI: total school enrollment, school capacity, increasing/decreasing enrollment, number of choice programs, overall percentage of kids in choice programs, applicability to the strategic plan, majority (of whom) votes, etc.
I'm willing to consider improving the policy and making things more clear for future efforts (and that's not a threat!).
I've offered to talk with Pauline, Lisa, and Faith, but they have never set up a time that works for all of us (individually and together). You can ask them why. I never said they refused, but it's never worked out.
If you want more details, you can email me directly.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 8:49 am
I trust, that the policty will continue that no one can choose to enter both the Ohlone and Hoover lotteries, the fact being that they are polar opposites. This will naturally mean that parents will have to choose whether to go for MI or Hoover and be unable to enter both lotteries.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 8:50 am
Great on getting Mandarin Immersion into the school district. Although I would have preferred a charter school because I feel that overall the program would have been much better without the interference from the school board.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 9:29 am
I feel very surprised that Grace Mah has spent so much time since the vote last night in politely answering all the criticisms connected to her crusade against the caring parents of Palo Alto's schoolchildren. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We now have so many unanswered questions which is going to be left to a new BoE to sort out. Where will MI go after three years? Who will be the next group to demand a choice program for their particular interest? What will happen when these MI students get to middle school? What will happen when the schools in the south get so crowded from all the new housing? What will happen when the kids in the program are unable to read the latest Harry Potter (or whatever) book in English and are more interested in reading the latest "red" book from China? What will happen when the so called Chinese culture that the students are learning turns out to be communist propaganda cleverly designed to attract US kids? What happens when we realise that we have so many "choices" in Palo Alto that those in regular programs start feeling they are second best?
These are just a few of the justifiable questions, I am sure that there are a lot more. A visit by educators to China at Pace's expense, now the teachers are getting a free summer trip to China. When will the next group of teachers expect a free vacation overseas?
I think that a few in Palo Alto have won the highest stakes poker game and the rest of us have to make do with second best.
Posted by O Ye of Little Faith, a resident of another community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 9:55 am
I wanted to respond to resident's comments:
"You have NO CLUE how many kids/familes feel completely cheated from our system."
Remember PA has one of the top school systems in the country. Step back a minute and appreciate what you DO have. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If you feel so cheated out of the system, send your kids to private schools or move out of town. These negative attitudes are a cancer to our community. There are many roads to success in this world. While not getting into a choice program may close some doors, it will open others. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Shan Phillips, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 9:58 am
I'm disappointed to see people on both sides of this issue slamming individuals- namely Grace and Faith. Lets stop criticizing individuals- and if you really feel you need to do so, at least have the gumption to use your name.
Posted by viva Grace, a member of the Nixon School community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:32 am
Here's another perspective . . .
THANK YOU Grace Mah!
Thank you for all your leadership, hard work, and as my family would say, chutzpah, in getting MI passed!
Your persistence, smarts, and ongoing willingness to devote immense quantities of personal time on school district issues should stand as a civics lesson for us all. Hey, everyone, it's easy to carp, more difficult to devote real time and energy to community mobilization for educational enhancement (MI and FLES).
Like you, Grace, I look forward to having my child enter the MI lottery next year, and like you, I am aware that my little darling's name might well not be pulled from the hat. But, hey, I'm an adult and I recognize that I can't have everything that I want. And who knows, if an immense number of folks want their children to be part of MI and if Ohlone has so much space, then the Board might even want to consider in the years ahead making MI three or four strands, not just two.
Posted by Guarded, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:45 am
I'm an Ohlone parent, and while I don't believe MI is a good choice for our school district at this time, I'm believe more firmly in moving forward. And I will be working with you when you come to Ohlone -- because like OhlonePar, I have no doubt that your name will be pulled from the hat.
And here is something else you need to know. I have paid attention to the way that MI was brought to the district, and you may choose to spin this anyway you wish, but your behaviour speaks for itself.
So while I will be at Site Council meetings with you, and PTA meetings with you, and CVC meetings with you -- and while our kids will have playdates and attend each other's birthday parties, you need to know, that because of your previous behaviour, there will always be a bit of doubt for me. I will be wondering what the "real" agenda is. I will wonder what the consequences will be when your ideas are rejected by the Ohlone community -- because that is bound to happen, not because of who you are, but because it happens to all people at some point or another. There will always be a shadow in my mind about what your real intentions are. And that will get in the way or our relationship, and possibly our work. And all of these feelings are a natural consequence of your decisions.
Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:01 am
The context of Faith's comments to the board (which were misquoted in the paper because they were taken out of context) were that the board is making a mistake by caving in to a small special interest group. There are others that would like just as much to have their own special needs serviced by PAUSD, and those other languages are just as deserving: Italian, French, German, etc. This is a bad precendent; caving in to committing the district resources to choice programs which we do not have the capacity to sustain, when the board already analyzed (for 5+ years) and determined were not appropriate for the district. These other groups might just as well say "Im Jealous, I get mine now" and go about to demand THEIR own thing as well. It a very poor way to run the school district.
(My comment, not Faith's: This by the way is the EXACT original motiviation for the MI crowd, in response to the original SI. A big whiny lot demanding special treatment at community expense.)
JLS Parent - Faith by the way was community minded, logical, and reasonable enough to listen, learn and change her course when she found out that the recall actions would be too costly. The fact that she dropped that petition speaks volumes on her integrity.
Posted by enough with the nastiness, a member of the Ohlone School community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:02 am
Welcome to the real world. The kids that are own children play with from day to day might not always be parented by the very people we'd most like to have as our friends. I learned that a long time ago.
Personally, no matter who my children want to play with, I'd be honored by the chance to become good friends with Grace Mah. Anyone like Grace who is willing to endure the kind of public character attacks that folks have been dishing, is the kind of person I'd like to befriend.
Let's be a little nicer with each other, what do you think?
Posted by Shan Phiillips, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:03 am
1. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you feel the need to attack someone or their motives- have the gumption to use your real name
2. If you (and OhlonePar in an earlier post) really believe that Grace (or anyone for that matter) has a way to circumvent the lottery, then why don’t you ask the board to make a policy and/or process change to protect the fairness of the lottery at all choice programs instead of hurling innuendos?
Posted by Duveneck Mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:20 am
I think we should just agree to disagree and move on. Let's make our schools the best possible.
I assume my daughter will lose the lottery for MI at Ohlone, just as we lost other lotteries in the school district. That isn't such a big deal because I like walking to the neighborhood school.
However, we really need to work to give all students foreign language at the age it is easiest for them to acquire the skills, which means as young as possible.
If we can't get it going during the school day soon, until we can get it going, we should offer a strong after school option, with scholarships to all who cannot afford it. One day a week is not enough, and it needs to be a better program than what is offered now.
Any suggestions on how to do this? What can we do to do this?
Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:22 am
no more name calling,
The initiative itself was the selfishness; if you had put the time into coming up with a reasonable compromise, such as an alternative fluency proposal that would have had a lesser impact on our district, you wouldn't be perceived as so selfish now. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Guarded, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:40 am
Dear Shan and Enough,
I didn't intend my post to be a character attack or to be unkind, and I apologize if my words, which were written with a tinge of sadness and not anger, came across that way.
I was responding to Grace's earlier posts in this thread: "I don't expect to work with the whole community, just the part who wants to work with me. There are those ... who won't work with me. That's your choice."
I will work with Grace when she's at Ohlone. I would work with her on FLES. I'm assuming she wants to work with me. I believe in moving forward. However, moving forward doesn't mean that the past is forgotten, or that previous motives are ignored. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] This is the truth of my feelings. I don't know that they are particularly unkind. They are not intended to be. They just are. Is it more kind to pretend that they are not there? Is it more kind to withhold my concerns? I haven't found that to be the Ohlone way, Enough. I've found just the opposite to be true: say what you are feeling, reveal your truth and you motivations, so that then the entire community can work together. Can we maintain our climate of trust and partnership if there is this other stuff simmering? Grace and I may be able to develop a friendship at some point. It just may take awhile. I guess that is all I was trying to say.
Shan, my unwillilngness to share my name has nothing to do with "gumption", and more to do with the realities of the world in which we live. If we are ever introduced, I will happily reveal myself to you!
Regarding the lottery process: I would love to see the District staff take over the lottery draws, publicly, possibly even televised. My suggestions to Board members have been rebuffed, saying they have absolute in the staff at the schools. I'm not sure what to do when I've been dismissed by the BOE. Any suggestions?
Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:45 am
By the way, did anyone else hear in the board meeting last night the comment that they'd cover their funding needs with "their PIE money".
EXCUSE ME? As far as I understood it - PIE monies were distributed to the principal at the school, with discretion to spend on what they see fit to beneift the school. So what if Ohlone needs a new play structure, or a new science room - do they pay for that out of the "Ohlone" money, after writing a check to MI for "THEIR" money. GOOD LUCK OHLONE! you have quite a little fight on your hands.
The amount of unpaid time they've spent on this proposal? Oh my god, now I've heard everything. That's like asking the city to congratulate vandalists for generously painting the city streets with spraypaint money out of their own pockets and volunteer hours.
Posted by thank you also Gail Price, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:56 am
Our family's kids are older so we're way past caring about getting into any lottery for this specialty program (which indeed it is), so that isn't the issue for us. Nonetheless, I can't help be curious to learn whose kids make it into this program with an "informal" selection process. I suggest a "formal" public process would be better for the community to have confidence in the process.
I assume it will now be enforced by PAUSD that parents may not enter both the Hoover and Ohlone and/or? Ohlone/MI lotteries.
It STILL seems unfair to institute a small boutique program for a select few tiny kids at this time when there are district-wide needs and priorities that will now have to be adjusted to cater to this program -- facilities issues come to mind right away -- which are under strain and difficult to plan for already. MI will be a long-term complication for sure for the planners, and I find it odd that MI is being placed at Ohlone which has a different philosophy and I will be watching to see how long that lasts. Any bets on who will demand Garland School soon, which should go to neighborhood children?
I am sorry to see the neighborhood school concept - which was so appealing about Palo Alto with small nearby schools - be disregarded in favor of boutique programs that will cause complications/unevenness in student populations, increase transit issues, and cause splits in the community.
Thank you, Gail Price, for working for all the children in the district.
Posted by nutbug, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:38 pm
Guarded, I think the BOE allowed Susan Charles to gloss over the lottery process issue. The answer to the question about how the lottery is conducted seemed simple, sensible and fair on the surface. However upon reflection, I would like to know if the pot from which the names are drawn includes ALL of those who submitted, or if the names are first vetted by Susan Charles (at Ohlone, or others at other sites)prior to being put into the pot. In previous threads it was said that Ms Charles requires essays, etc, by the parents to help her determine whether their children will fit with the Ohlone Way. Is Ms Charles screening and then hand selecting which names make it into the lottery pot? Anyone know the answer? Is there a district policy as to how the lotteries will be conducted, by whom, and can the public attend? The question of public attendance was mentioned, but there was talk of a privacy issue. Surely there are ways to conduct a lottery without revealing private imformation about who has been selected--assign numbers perhaps?
If there are going to be "lucky kids" who are admitted to our ever-growing selection of choice programs and if we are expected to believe that we all have an equal chance at winning a spot, let's make sure the whole process is transparent and above reproach.
Posted by Please, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:39 pm
Parent, I think you make a good point. Maybe it would be more palatable if Grace were taking less a tone of "work with me on MY projects, on MY terms, or we'll 'agree to disagree'" and more of "I look forward to joining the Ohlone community if my child is admitted in the MI lottery, and to supporting Ohlone in any way I can moving forward." Whatever. I wish everyone would just stop talking about MI and turn to fixing the serious problems that many people aren't even willing to acknowledge exist in this "extraordinary" district and these "exceptional" schools.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:40 pm
Guarded: "Regarding the lottery process: I would love to see the District staff take over the lottery draws, publicly, possibly even televised. My suggestions to Board members have been rebuffed, saying they have absolute in the staff at the schools. I'm not sure what to do when I've been dismissed by the BOE. Any suggestions?"
There ought to be a district-wide policy that all lotteries must be announced in advance to the public - date, time, location - and open to the public. I don't think district staff need to take over. Whoever is currently holding the lotteries may continue to do so in nearly the same manner, simply with the public in attendance. If there's so much confidence in the system, then there should be no problem with having it be observed. Not necessarily changed; just witnessed by the general public.
There are issues with confidentiality. These can easily be overcome by assigning the entries numbers and possibly gender, or whatever other basic facts are needed when determining winners - short of the students' names. The numbers can be assigned by the district attendance office.
This is not that impossibly hard, it has minimal impact on district employees, and it'll go a long way with instilling trust in the process and reducing unfounded gossip & rumors. Or, if you're more skeptical, it'll help reduce rigged results.
Thank you for your honest comments, Guarded. And another public thank you to Gail Price for staying on point with a logical, well-reasoned decision.
Posted by Pauline, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:44 pm
I just got a call, so am reading this thread.
I am very, very sad to hear that, you, Grace, think I didn't make time to talk to you upon your invitation. Grace, many apologies that you didn't get any answer from me.
If you wrote me by e-mail and it wasn't obvious who it was from, either by subject line or by your name in the e-mail, I probably deleted it. I delete anything I don't know before even opening it.
If you called me, I am sorry, I never got a message. Maybe it was the connection. I know sometimes I think I am leaving a message and later it turns out that the call was dropped.
If you wrote through PAEE, I didn't receive any message through that site.
It is a real pity that we all couldn't have sat down together last fall. At the very least, it would have been nice to simply talk in private. I will say out loud that it never occured to me that I, or any of us, had any actual ability to effect any change in the outcome, except through raising awareness and talking to the Board. Taking it to a personal level, as if I, or any one else, had any power to change anything, simply didn't occur to me last fall. I never saw myself as having any decision making ability. I saw this whole thing as a decision point for our Board between 2 different visions for what the elementary school part of the District should look like, and how decisions should be made.
I will say that in April sometime, I think it was, a mutual friend tried to put me together with Nico for a little chat, which ended up happening at the meeting where you were selected to the County Board, but by then it was clear that the "train was rolling" and nothing short of a Board vote was going to make any difference. So, we decided to shake hands and keep moving. You may recall I tried to make a lighthearted moment which fell like a brick when I congratulated you at this meeting!
I hope that some good comes out of this, more than the obvious good to the kids in the program. I hope that we, including us as a community, our District and our future Boards, have learned how to prevent such a horrific disintegration in the future.
I suggest anyone with ideas on how to prevent this let their ideas be known to the Board. Perhaps through policy changes concerning "choice" programs to be clearer, or perhaps through implementing a "special" protocol for open and mediated discussion of contentious issues in public, or perhaps through changing how/when our district accepts donations so that there is not unintended pain caused, etc.
In the meantime, Grace, again I regret deeply that I never realized that my talking to you last fall might have had an effect on the process, the desires of PACE, or the outcome. If it had entered my mind, I would have contacted you, myself!
At this point, I offer you my congratulations, and my hopes that we can all get past the incredible amount of hurt and vitriol many of us have endured in this last year, and eventually heal this and get back to working together for the good of the whole district. Maybe we will even run into each other at a coffee shop and chat in a relaxed moment.
I will also copy and paste this to e-mail to your website, and if anyone reading this knows Grace's e-mail personally, I would appreciate you sending it on to her.
Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:12 pm
While I still believe a new choice program is wrong for the district in a multitude of ways, I agree with the need for more transparency in the lottery process. I may be wrong about this, but I think [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]'s children both got into SI - a program that allegedly has only 5 openings for non-sibling kids.
There may be a need to eliminate or reduce the number of automatic sibling slots in all the programs, or give the new slots to students who represent a minority (as in the smaller group - not ethnicity) to attempt to preserve diversity in our choice programs. We should make an attempt to let our choice programs reflect the make-up of the district when ever possible - including reaching out to parent groups that may not consider the program otherwise.
Posted by curious, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:17 pm
I am disappointed with the board and PACE. This is a special interst program and does a disservice to all children in palo alto by diverting resource and energy to a program we don't really need. Another example of Palo Alto I got mine attitude.
Posted by Another Ohlone Parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:49 pm
Ok, although I completely agree with the need for FLES, I disagree with the need for Mandarin right now. Given that our school board bowed to the charter school pressure, I propose the following:
1) Recall the school board as we have > 15 months before Mandarin immersion starts. We should be able to motivate enough people to sign the petitions and hold a special election. Single topic -- not the vote on Mandarin, but electing a school board that has it's priorities in the *right* order!
2) Propose another charter school along the lines of SI or a math/science magnet or a music/art magnet. Come on, it was so easy to threaten the current school board with a Mandarin charter, so why can't we have even more popular topic charter schools?
The bottom line -- once the current school board opened the pandora's box by caving to charter pressure, all bets are off....
Posted by Palo Verde Mother, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:51 pm
I personnally think that the district was strong-armed into this decision. It is a terrible way to do things, and it does set a bad precedent. And this applies whatever the merits of an MI program are, if any.
I certainly hope my comment will not be deleted as I don't think it should be. Thank you.
Posted by We now return to regularly scheduled programming, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm
Please implement more art/music/science/math/[your choice here] programs in our elementary schools. These programs would be cost neutral--it's totally feasible and cost neutral since PAUSD already employs teachers and has classroooms and stuff. Please take me and my friends seriously or I will petition for a charter school. Really, I mean it. (Stop looking at me like that, Ms. Price.)
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 3:24 pm
Shoot, my long response to all of this was chewed up.
First, I think it's interesting how on top of MV's actions Grace has been. In other words, if the board had called PACE's bluff, they would have gone to Mountain View where there's a campus.
Second, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]
Third, I'm not accusing Grace of jimmying the lottery. She doesn't need to. It's entirely within Susan Charles and the district's interest to see that her child gets into the program. Given that a third of all the PAUSD teacher's kids in the district go to Ohlone, I'm not convinced that the draws--or rather the post-draws are entirely random.
I think it's telling that the pro-MI side is attacking people. It feels like the pro-MI side is really miffed that anyone's angry with them over this. Hubris, to put it mildy.
Okay, on to Grace.
Grace, [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I find your answers evasive. I didn't ask what school administrators thought of large schools. I asked whether you thought Ohlone, a school never designed to be a large one, should have 620 kids on it. You didn't answer the question.
I will infer given your lack of denial that you're all for an overcrowded campus as long as it has Mandarin Immersion. Please speak up if you disagree with my assessment here.
Your support for FLES is late, to say the least, and your attempt to wave the olive branch is undermined by your complaints about how people have responded here. You say you reached out to people, but no one seems to know anything about it. Your comment does not jibe with what I've observed online, on PAMP and in-person. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The World Language Task Force? Maybe I'll be there, though my priority at this point is see that district regulations and charter laws are amended so that special-interest groups can't force the board into decisions that are unsound.
This is not a case where the past is the past, the problems engendered by this will be with us for several years and will explode four years down the line when the Ohlone-expansion and/or Garland's reopening are up for grabs.
As it is, PACE's actions threaten future bond issues--people won't vote for something if they think it's going to be a special-interest giveaway. It's also created a tremendous amount of negative energy toward the choice schools, most of which have been trying to peacefully coexist. In my view, MI Choice threatens to damage Ohlone from both the inside and out.
Posted by it's too bad, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:35 pm
I confess that I was shocked to wake up on Wednesday morning and see that MI was a reality in the PAUSD. Our family has attended school here generation after generation since the 1904. I guess I hoped that reason would overcome the "freight train of MI" and that our school board would vote for what is best for the district as a whole and all of the kids who attend school here. Essentially, the PAUSD has been held hostage and a select group got their way. How unfortunate that language education isn't being taught to ALL our kids - and for what it's worth, that language for everyone should be Spanish, not Mandarin.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:41 pm
My main problem with Susan Hong's reporting isn't bias, but a lack of analysis. She needed to push a little harder about the consequences and ask some tougher questions.
But she's at a weekly, so she's just getting experience. I had far more problems with some of the Merc columns.
Note to Eds: Grace Mah made a remark about my discussing racism. You removed my response, which was to point out that my discussing it here is hardly analogous to her using it in the national media as the head of a special-interest group. It's one thing to remove an entire exchange, but to remove my defense and leave the accusation seems unfair.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 8:28 pm
I am certainly withdrawing my voting support for any school bonds and financial support for PIE (Partners In Education). When PAUSD did not offer what I felt my child needed, I put her in a private school. I did not expect the Palo Alto taxpayers to pay for her needs. The Mandarin Immersion supporters are a wealthy part of the community who could afford to pay for private education instead of expecting taxpayers to fund the education of their children in Mandarin. I do not want to pay for this. Any money I donate in the future will exclusively be to my child's school in response to the direct appeal.
Posted by Jon S, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:17 pm
Why do I see cowardice from people who post here just like the people who post on the Paly Voice? If it is because people are afraid of losing their reputation by saying what they believe and thus being identified, they should not be posting at all. Even a first name basis would pave the way for a serious conversation. There is an element of privacy that warrants omittance, which would be the poster's last name.
Other than that, I want to hold adults, parents for that matter, to a higher standard of communication, because if they fail to carry out a conversation in a civilized and respectful manner, then I cringe at how their children are being educated, and how they will interact with people they do not necessarily agree with.
OhlonePar and the likes should be ashamed of themselves for their inability to address Mrs. Mah as they would in real life. The administrators have done a good job of keeping conversations clean, and hopefully that will continue.
I challenge not them but posters to check what they write before they enter the verification code and click "submit". Sometimes emotions get the better of us, and as a result, we say things that we may regret upon reflection.
In the student social world when you join a "group" on an issue, you expose your name and profile picture, and you have the option of deleting(retracting) your comment. Maybe the forum admins can learn a few things from the company based downtown here;) It just seems like the real forums will allow for better identification of posters, legitimizing them and creating order on what otherwise is a dauntingly open forum
Posted by gary antonick, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:18 pm
It's probably important to remember the historical signficance of what we're trying to do. Americans have always chugged along happily with a single language, at least as a goal, while much of the rest of the world has developed the competency to educate fluency in two or more languages, especially since the second world war. We English-speaking parents with our Berlitz French and Spanish are now facing a scary reality never expected or planned for: our children will have significantly more and better opportunities in nearly any profession if they can speak both Spanish and Mandarin. Thirty years from now, the US will be much more integrated with Mexico, and China will dominate the world business stage. Isn't it amazing?
It will take some time to develop language programs that work for PAUSD. As we progress, let's be generous with each other and focus on the end goal. Hooray for Grace Mah and Susan Charles and others who have the courage to confront intertia, fail, possibly, and try again.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:42 pm
My first thought on reading these posts was that Grace Mah was being very gracious and diplomatic. I don’t like the “attack” comments, though with the PA Online editor’s habit of deleting innocuous stuff, I wasn’t sure just how many or how severe the attacks were. In any case, name-calling and attacks reflect more on the caller than the callee.
But after reading for a while, I went back to my original impression that PACE just pushed through its own selfish agenda for a very small number of district kids, which is not what public schools should be about. Sadly, our school board didn’t have the guts to stand up to threats. (Yes, it’s a threat when you say to someone, “I won’t do X if you do Y.”)
Much of the problem we’ve got now – and will have for years to come – stems from the school board 4 or 5 years ago encouraging PACE, rather than being decisive and saying, “Not now. Not on the priority list. Let’s see how we can work Mandarin into FLES.” So if I was a PACE member, I would have been angry having been down the garden path and then dumped.
What still bothers me is, where is the money coming from? We never found out who put up the $66,000 for the feasibility study. The board never found out either, and they didn’t seem to care.
Now we learn that there’s money left over to send teachers to China! If this isn’t illegal, it sure doesn’t seem ethical. The board and/or the administration should not allow these trips. Paying someone’s travel to a foreign country could be a mighty big influencer! Remember Jack Abramoff?
Several posters have made a compelling case for oversight on the lottery. I sent an email to the board earlier this week suggesting the same thing and got this reply from one board member: “Susan Charles confirmed that their would be other people than her in the room, a site council person or PTA representative and staff person.”
I think we need something more reassuring – not because I suspect wrongdoing, but because there has been so much dissension over MI. For Charles’ sake, the lottery should be made public. “yet another parent” had some excellent suggestions on how to ensure fairness. If Grace Mah’s child does get into the program, there should be no possible suspicion that the lottery was fixed.
Posted by observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:25 pm
"though with the PA Online editor’s habit of deleting innocuous stuff, I wasn’t sure just how many or how severe the attacks were."
Some of the deleted posts were incredibly mild. For example, Grace accused someone of using the word racism more than she did. I called her on it and said that it's a useless comparison when she's been largely absent from the conversation since January. I wrote that I was glad she was back, and that I felt she did the district and the community a major disservice by disappearing for so many months.
You can decide for yourself if these comments are attacks or innocuous, but decide quickly. This might get deleted, too. In the meantime, Grace's accusation stands. Editor, please be fair and delete her accusation, too. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Observer, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:04 am
You have clearly come late to this discussion. This was never about whether we should teach language in our schools or not. Many, many proponents of language instruction in PAUSD, even Mandarin (like myself), were opposed to this plan, because it requires a classroom for each grade of each strand, we are in a crisis for space, and because it offers language to a few while the rest of district kids have none at all.
Nico Janik admitted in this forum that PACE never considered any other fluency instruction models, they went with dual immersion because that's what SI is. Earlier in this thread above, Grace Mah mentions MV's visit to the Yew Cheung school in a positive light, despite the fact that her own group never seriously considered the approach. As someone pointed out in an earlier thread, the Yew Cheung approach teaches Mandarin FLUENCY with only 1.5 hours of Mandarin a day, the rest of the classes are taught in English.
If we brought this approach to Palo Alto, with guidance from a school that is in our backyard, we could be offering language FLUENCY instruction to all PAUSD kids without needing to add a separate school or choice program. Each neighborhood school could offer a longer day to those who wished to take language, a kind of after-school elective. And many of the same "cost neutral" justifications PACE used could apply here: we could use existing teachers at campuses who speak those languages fluently already, we're already paying their benefits and overhead, adding a few hours a week wouldn't be a significant added cost. And each campus would have the option of having whatever language or languageS that they wished. Those languages could change over time as needs changed, without all the trauma of trying to change a program like MI. Any given school could offer more than one language at the same time, giving kids the opportunity to develop multiple-language fluency by the end of elementary school.
And, we could offer the program from the get-go to kids of all grade, not just kinders. Plus, kids in the upper grades could be grouped by instructional needs, rather than requiring a separate teacher and room for every grade and every strand. Most importantly, the rooms would be existing classrooms and existing schools and there would be no disruptions or constraints on facilities as we work through the overcrowding issues.
This is a FLUENCY proposal, not a FLES proposal. It would offer, more cheaply than FLES by far, and possibly cost-neutral (if we're allowed to work our arguments to suit our purposes in the same way PACE has), and AVAILABLE TO ALL CHILDREN IN OUR DISTRICT. All of these people writing in supporting this coup think you are supporting language education in our district, and you have no idea what you are talking about. PACE has been so inflexible in pushing for what they want for a few kids, and have been unwilling to make any compromises at all, even for other proven fluency programs that would work better for our district.
And frankly, if we got a fluency instructional model like this going - adding significant educational capacity this way - it could apply to other types of instruction as any campus wished, music, math, etc., etc., as we got more experience with it. All without adding schools, taking space away from our neighborhood schools, causing crisis over adding more choice programs and hurting the neighborhood schools, and without adding significant cost. Or even technically changing the length of the official school day, it's kind of an end run around that problem. We could change and adapt to be the best we can in the future, rather than getting a cumbersome program that once here, is here for good.
I would like to know from Grace if she has a different perspective on what "FLES" means than other supporters who have posted here.
So far, they have talking about giving the other Ohlone kids Mandarin as if that is FLES, which is completely missing the point. Teaching Mandarin to the other kids at Ohlone and leaving everyone else in the district with no language instruction at all is not FLES, it's another slap in our faces. Are you committing to bringing FLES to the rest of the district, or are you just talking about Ohlone, which only narrowly serves your own purposes to co-exist on that campus? If you are willing to work for district-wide FLES, I will be rooting for you to redeem yourself. If you are talking about just Ohlone... How about trying to implement this above immersion model (simultaneously with your MI program, I realize there's no talking you into any alternatives) so that other kids in Palo Alto can have the same opportunity at fluency instruction for a fraction of the cost of FLES and a fraction of the disruption of the MI program? Actions speak louder than words, and given past tendencies I wouldn't fully believe you unless I saw you putting word to deed, but I would be willing to bury the hatchet over that.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:14 am
I've used my name online. It used to be my habit, in fact. Until I got cyberstalked. It has nothing to do with what I would or would not say in person--particularly as I have spoken publicly about this. One person who knows me immediately pegged who I was.
Also, given people's willingness to involve their children--i.e. posts about whose children could play with whom as a result of this dispute--makes me wary. Oh, heck, one child who spoke at a meeting was attacked online. I'm OhlonePar because I have a child there and I WILL NOT involve my child in this. And that means I don't forbid friendships based on parental politics.
I've made my reasons for anonymity clear before--though I post under one moniker here for consistency's sake--the online eds, however, removed my explanation. But, basically, I've seen what happens to MI opponents who use their names here. It's ugly and ongoing.
Posted by Change of heart?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:27 am
Weren't you the one who argued on this forum that it was "fair" for Susan Charles to prescreen the lottery applicants for an appropriate fit to Ohlone (this policy obviously benefitted your family)? Now you seem to be casting a question about whether this process will be "fair" for the MI lottery.
I really think the lottery should be totally random, as it wouldn't take much for an intelligent person, with a child at Hoover, to write an essay that fits "The Ohlone Way."
Posted by Jon S., a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:52 am
I'm sorry to hear you were cyberstalked, because I know that sort of behavior is very unsettling and utterly evil.
Politiking and putting children into the fray is something I and I am sure many others like yourself feel is quite absurd. Forgive my naiveness, but I am quite alarmed at so many issues in our community and in a broader context our nation that have polarized to the extreme. Of course there are sides to the issues, but for emotions to reach the point of antagonism, it makes me wonder what direction people want for our education system. To progress or regress? Or keep the status quo? Decisions decisions, it must be a headache
I'm gonna complain till the end about how primitive this system of discussion is. On sites like instructables.com you need to have an account, and indented replies (like a file tree) make navigation and viewing easier. Gizmodo.com uses a nice easy and clean system for quickly signing in users and allowing them to say what they wish.
Also Admins need to start putting in [Post removed by PA Online staff due to ________]There must be a reason and it must be valid, otherwise the discussion should be moved to a friendlier environment
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 1:05 am
Change of Heart,
No, I still think an essay to show that you understand the school's philosophy is legitimate. We were and are unconnected politically. We did, though, live in the draw area. And while that may not be random, I think that preference is fair and practical. More kids walk to school and the neighborhood that bears the brunt of the traffic gets some advantage. I also support geographical preference for the other choice schools.
And you're right, the essay IS easy. It's simply a way to show that you're not randomly applying to all choice programs so you can then pick and choose--this has happened. Everybody has the same shot at writing an essay.
The essay has little to do with the possibility of allowing some kids into MI because it's politically expedient to do so. In other words, you can have a straight drawing, but does that drawing cover all applicants? Or do you set a spot or two aside as a favor? Or, which I'm more inclined to think what happens, give those a bit of preference after the initial lottery when openings inevitably occur and the process isn't tightly screened?
I'm all for transparency--provided there's some protection of confidentiality issues. It's not going to be a truly random drawing though because of the geographic issue, the sibling preference and the balancing between girls and boys. A girl in the Ohlone draw area does have a better chance of getting in than a boy in Barron Park.
But all of this points to, I think, less of an issue with Ohlone lottery applications than the breakdown of trust with the district.
As I said, I think MI Choice damages Ohlone both inside and out.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 1:21 am
I realize I've been posting online for more than 10 years. If you want to see true wastelands, check old Usenet forums.
It's been angry here, but I don't think it's gotten to the point of total pointless flamewar. I've seen relatively few people stalk off, which says something given the subject.
The moderation here varies a lot--clearly, different eds have different points of tolerance. I can deal with most of the edits--they don't want anything too personal. At other times, I feel they go overboard. It's particularly irritating to me if an edit mangles the meaning of a post.
The crux of the matter isn't the language here, per se. A lot of us feel that PACE crossed a line when it threatened a charter in order to get a choice program at a school that's already at capacity and will be severely overcrowded as a result. In other words, to me, it was an *uncivil* action. And in some ways the response to that will be, by its nature, uncivil and adversarial.
PACE, of course, feels it was worth it. There's a very, very strong disagreement as to what is "right" in this context. There isn't really a nice conversation to be had in that sense.
Grace Mah, if you notice, didn't answer me when I asked whether she thought Ohlone should have more than 600 kids on it. She was evasive. She is also evasive and nonresponsive in person. I met her more than once socially by the way--years before all of this, so my impression of her has never been formed solely by this controversy.
Posted by Parent of a prek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:57 am
Yes I also notice it that article (again) reduces the issue to racism, in order to avoid an in depth discussion of the real issues and concerns of the community. Talk about flaming a conversation - call the person on the other side of your conversation a racist and see how long that conversation lasts. Its a classic way to 'win' an argument.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 11:31 am
Sharon Noguchi ought to be ashamed.
"After a six-year battle in Palo Alto, however, Tuesday's decision by the school board to start a program in 2008 left Mandarin immersion opponents dismayed. They had argued that the program would crowd neighborhood schools, exclude the majority of children and cater to a small minority. Lurking beneath the debate was an ethnic resentment usually voiced privately or anonymously."
There was a lot of nastiness on BOTH sides, and to phrase it the way she did implies that the debate was *secretly* grounded on racism that people would not publicly acknowledge.
Excuse me, but I stand firm in my publicly, non-anonymously stated comments that you shouldn't create a list of goals and then let a program that is *not even on the list* jump in at the front of the line. It's not right. I would have been just as furious if it had been a program in ANY opther language. Some opponents are racist, some proponents are racists too, and that conversation gets us exactly nowhere. Because I am Caucasian does not mean I oppose the program on racial grounds, and I am deeply offended at the implication to the contrary. The implication that only proponents could morally fight for what they believed in is also unspeakable.
Better get back to talking to my brick wall. The people who will understand my comments already did, and the people who won't never did and never seemed to want to. Calling the opponents racist is not a great way to build consensus. But maybe that was never the goal.
I'm still interested in knowing who contributed to the feasibility study and travel fund. For one thing, if any of the donors had a conflict of interest, that would be important for the public to know. Weekly? How about it? A FOIA request?
Then we can move on to bolstering what's left of the community and trying to fix the deep problems in the district that have been allowed to fester for the past 5 years as MI, a NON PRIORITY ITEM, took the front burner.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:11 pm
I wrote a letter to the editor of the Mercury News stating how dismayed I was that this article was on the front page of the paper as if it is a news article, instead of on the editorial or feature page. I also tried to point out some of the concerns of those opposed to MI as the Mercury News has never printed any of those without editorial comments about them that minimize the concerns or make them seem silly. We'll see if the letter gets printed. My guess is no.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 7, 2007 at 1:48 pm
"Thirty years from now, the US will be much more integrated with Mexico, and China will dominate the world business stage. Isn't it amazing?"
Yes, and the Chinese will be conducting their business in...English. English is the language of math, science and technology. It's the future language of business, too. Already there are more English-speaking people in China than the U.S. (!) As we race to learn Mandarin, they are racing even faster to learn English.
Posted by change of heart?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:01 pm
So OhlonePar, what you are advising is that anyone interested in MI should move to the neighborhood near Ohlone to increase their odds of getting in? As I recall from one of your postings elsewhere, you no longer live in that neighborhood and do not walk or bike to school because crossing Oregon is too dangerous. So what benefit does that have for Ohlone or the residents near Ohlone?
As for your anyone can write an essay, I don't agree. Sophisticated individuals who know how to game the system can write the right kind of essay, but for those whom English is not their primary language, I do not think this is such an easy task!
As for asking Grace Mah about the 600 kids on campus, have you also asked that question of Susan Charles, because Susan is the one who volunteered Ohlone for the pilot program? If you are so concerned about the overcrowding and transportation issues, maybe you should transfer back to your neighborhood school. Oh yeah, I forgot that school is already overcrowded.
Please try to look more closely at how your analysis benefits people in your situation and not necessarily the community at large.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:06 pm
I clicked on the link to the Palo Alto Daily News article "School Board OKs Mandarin Immersion Choice Program" by Kristen Peterson - now that was a professional, informative, unbiased article. My faith in reporters is restored.
Posted by really?, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:20 pm
because Susan is the one who volunteered Ohlone for the pilot program?
When did Susan ever say that she "volunteered Ohlone" for this pilot? All reports on this aspect stated that she was happy to work with MI or without MI. As always, Susan will attempt to make whatever is proposed a success but I've never seen it stated that she volunteered Ohlone.
Posted by Pauline, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:42 pm
Kristina Peterson is the only reporter ( PA Daily) to do a good job of accurately reporting the MI story.
She was the only one who showed any effect from reading my early, long and boring letters to her ( and all the journalists) about the "rest of the story", and to actually TALK to me and every one else on this issue.
She is the only one who understood that there were multiple, valid reasons on both sides of the issue, and that the vast majority of reasons that concerned most people were listed on the petition.
She was the only one not looking simply for a divisive "sound bite" from me when she spoke to me. She wanted to actually understand.
She was the only one to acknowledge that there were, frankly, a couple really nauseating comments on both sides, by just a couple people, spoken publicly and posted anonymously, over and over, and therefore wisely decided to ignore both extremes as not being representative of the true and decent nature of the vast majority of the people on either side of this issue.
I have a great deal of respect for her ( and for the Paly Newspaper, which was careful also in how it reported) for keeping the "story" focus on issues, facts, ideas, philosophies, and not sinking to trying to divine the mindset of an entire group of people on either side simply on the basis of a couple extremist public and anonymous speakers.
People tend to see in others what they themselves are, so I have decided that Kristina is a decent person who sees the decent in others, and who is doing everything possible to not show any of her own bias in her journalistic work. She is the only journalist I have read where I haven't got a single clue what she, personally, believes, because she has not used her pieces as "editorials", and she is generally very careful to use precise, neutral language, not loaded words.
Posted by really?, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:58 pm
but it was presented at the first Board meeting in Jan where she spoke that she had "stepped forward", or some such talk.
I think the comment in January was "step up" rather than "step forward" as in embrace what was already being thrust upon her and make it a success rather than Ms. Charles actively seeking to have MI at Ohlone.
The location of MI was a huge barrier in the initial study, which was finessed by the proposal to place it at Ohlone rather than a neighborhood school.
The position of the board had, until recently, been for small elementary schools (max. ~350). This no longer appears to apply to choice schools - I guess that's what you have to sacrifice for choice.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:00 pm
Resident, I was at those board meetings and I heard something different from what you did. I heard the administrators (*not* Ms. Charles) say that they had gone to her and informed her that they were planning to put Ohlone at her campus if it were voted in. In response, she had said that she would work with the MI folks to ensure that if MI was there it would be implemented in the Ohlone Way, that is to say in a way that employed the instruction methods used at Ohlone with a strong view toward using the Mandarin speaking teachers to teach the rest of the Ohlone children Mandarin as well.
Consdiering the explosion over breach of trust between the administration and the Management Team shortly before this went down, and considering that Ms. Charles was the President of that same Management Team, I still question exactly how "voluntary" it was and wonder how much it was a case of her agreeing to something she had no option of refusing. I also remember seeing her body language and hearing her tone, and I thought I saw reserve and careful word choice and articulation rather than enthusiasm. I never saw anything that I think would lead one to believe that she enthusiastically embraced this concept. Although hey, now she gets a "cost-neutral" assistant principal for those extra students that the site has never had room for before when they were merely going to be taught English.
MI proponents won their game of chicken. Even Mandy and Dana, in changing their votes, made it clear that they were not changing their minds, they did not think this was fair or acceptable, and they were only voting against the prospective charter, not *for* MI. Please, let's at least not rewrite history to pretend that everyone except the local few "anonymous racists" loved the idea and wanted it to happen.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:36 pm
Natasha; Fair enough. Point taken. I remember wondering the same thing, how "voluntary" it was, but I also remember thinking how nice that Charles took such a high moral stand, deriding those of us who were in opposition as ...what was the word?..oh yes, merely "disgruntled", then went on to tell the completely apples and oranges story about how she wasn't accepted to Stanford, but that didn't mean that she wanted Stanford to shut down because SHE wasn't disgruntled.
She showed a complete lack of understanding of what it was all about, a complete inability to distinguish public elementary schools from private universities, and that is what led many of us to conclude that she had willingly put her school forward in order to take the "high ground", and show the rest of us uncivilized masses the RIGHT way to approach it.
Many will not forget that. On the other hand, maybe we were being defensive after the constant barrage of jokes at our expense, and derogatory assumptions about us.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm
Yeah, Resident, I remember that as well. "If I don't get into Stanford, do I say there should be no Stanford?" Um, Ms. Charles, not exactly on point. Ditto "disgruntlement" -- understatement or dismissal?
I just really don't want my perspective, or the many, many valid objections that opponents voiced, to be chalked up in hindsight to "sour grapes" or "lack of vision" or "racism" or one of the myriad other dismissive descriptions I've already seen starting up. Ok, they got their program, and at what cost remains to be seen. Sounds as though you and I agree on this.
I say, let MI and Ohlone have each other, and let's the rest of us get back to the business of welcoming the new superintendent, trying to get better differentiation for all children, stopping the bullying pandemic that on at leasst some campuses starts with the Churchill administration and goes all the way down to the playground, working to balance the potential surge in direct appeal contributions and reduction in PiE dollars that this may engender, etc. etc. etc. There is still an ongoing Trust investigation, and there are still many Callan-regime adminisatrators in place to examine in that context. And of course, our children to raise and summertime to relish.
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:20 pm
Prepare for a period of *total quiet no news* now on this as MI winners hope we forget about the MI fiasco. I have a long memory and will be hoping to hear some occasional news, perhaps on how the summer trip to China went.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:39 pm
I kind of hesitate to say this as an Ohlone alum (at least my kid is - and we loved Ohlone when we were there) but the only thing this materialistic community seems to understand is money money money. If I were still at Ohlone and I did not agree with MI being put on my campus I would definitely not donate to the direct appeal. Furthermore I would send them a letter stating exactly why. Instead, I would donate direct projects or items that are needed by the school that have nothing to do with MI - for example, if the farm needed something, or the band. Certainly PIE is out now also.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:44 pm
Great idea. In future we should give what our schools need rather than checks. English textbooks and library books, english computers and programs, music equipment, sport equipment, etc. etc. I think that this is something we can really do to show what we think without harming the students at large.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:52 pm
Michele and Parent --
I completely understand your sentiments. I do have to wonder if that is not exactly what the MI people will do with THEIR donations. We will see, now that they have a boutique program for their narrow set of lottery winners and siblings, whether they donate to PiE, the school at large, or to their own program. Isn't that what people say happened with SI, or did I get that wrong?
What a shame. And so the compartmentalization continues.
And by the way, if anyone thinks the schools are equal in this town, let me know and I can tell you how sadly, sadly wrong you are. The Board knows it. But it hasn't changed yet in our five years in elementary school and I don't believe it will wince it's the dirty little secret no one will acknowledge. But that's a subject for another thread.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:03 pm
Michele: Yes, it’s all about money. Without that $66,000 from PACE (donors still unknown), we would not have MI. The message seems to be that anyone with enough money can buy a program in our public schools.
Parent wrote: “A visit by educators to China at Pace's expense, now the teachers are getting a free summer trip to China.” When did PACE pay for educators to go to China?
I’m told that the Chinese government paid for trips last summer and will again this summer. These trips are for hundreds of educators from all over the US and are independent of any immersion programs. Not sure who’s supposed to be teaching whom.
Given that China and India are producing so many scientists and engineers -- all of whom speak English -- maybe we should be inviting their teachers to come and show us how to do it.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:26 pm
Change of Heart,
Ohlone is still close to where I live. I'd have the same transit issues with any school except Garland. Very different than crossing town. We do occasionally bike and walk it--but I wouldn't have a child cross Oregon on his or her own.
Take a look at the "essay" before you draw conclusions about it. There are many ESL parents there. Like it or not, Ohlone has done very well under Principal Charles. I suspect it doesn't hurt that the families know what kind of program it is.
And, yes, if you want a particular choice program, it helps to be in its catchment area.
And, no, Susan Charles didn't "volunteer" the school. The district approached her. She said this in board meetings. No one has disputed it.
Is the system perfect? No. Your suggestions, though, have other problems in my opinion. My own preference was and is to expand Ohlone's program a half strand (three cubicles) to allow in a greater percentage of applicants.
Posted by S., Gunn Student, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:35 pm
I wish that the administrators of this board would stop erasing comments. If we can't get all viewpoints and arguments out in the open, nothing will be resolved. Either we need a different place to discuss this, or board admins that aren't so trigger-happy with the "Delete Comment" button. Maybe that way we could say if Grace's accusations of racism have a leg to stand on, or if she's simply taking advantage of the fact that nobody can see the comments she's replying to. By all means, delete profanity or vulgar comments, but when one side of the debate keeps bringing the topic around to racism, it doesn't look good if there's no sign of racism to be found.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:52 pm
Ohlone Par and others
Marilyn Cooke said at the last AAAG meeting that if any of the school lotteries was giving any preference to anyone living close then that was against the rules and she wants to hear about it. She was speaking particularly to Escondido and SI but the way she spoke gave the indication it was for all schools. If preferential treatment is being given to any local residents, it is against the rules.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:59 pm
I've seen comments before they're erased (and written some of them)--personal attacks, negative stuff about a particular person, comments on the first comment. Anything that makes the eds nervous that the whole things going to go up in flames tends to get the delete button.
But honest-to-god racism? Evidence for it tends to be pretty iffy--and subject to debate--i.e. is it racist to be concerned about Hoover's increasingly Asian demographics when other district schools are becoming more diverse? That one calmed down, but it's not clearcut and swings both ways.
Posted by Dad of 4, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:06 pm
I don't think that the school board has any clue as to the damage that they have done to our local school community. Not that I expect any of them to be around after this term... The precedent that a narrow interest group can co-opt district resources through the mildest of extortion threats has opened this board up to being rolled over at whim. As well, the board choosing to spend scarce disctict dollars on vanity programs at the same time they say they cannot afford to open a 13th grade school despite the AAAG Committee's strong recomendations (much less FLES) shows a clear lack of commitment to their fiduciary duty to all the children of the district. Finally, the hypocrisy that everyone in the community should come together and contribute to PIE in order to share resources in a fair manner; when those shared resources will now be directed in part to staffing and aids for an exclusionary program will pretty much kill that concept as well as that source of funding for the schools. A Very Sad Result for Palo Alto as a Whole and Education in Palo Alto in Particular.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:27 pm
I had been under the impression that Palo Alto was supposed to be a beacon for good education. I think that the beacon concept has now gone. In future, Palo Alto will look like a "how not to" manual. I know that local communities have been watching this and are hiding their smirks in their sleeves. I know that the tv stations are avoiding this subject probably because they can't get a handle on it. I know that the Merc and the SF Chronicle are getting the stories wrong. Likewise KLIV which is probably using the same source.
It is about time there was some in depth reporting from one of the tv stations giving an impartial account.
And, to go back to my original thought. We are no longer a beacon. We are a joke.
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:49 pm
Regarding Bullis Charter: Mandarin -- yes; Immersion -- no. I've seen FLES and some other acronym mentioned. Our dynamic principal wrote in a recent weekly bulletin that "the recommendation" is to start teaching Mandarin in all K and 1 classes this fall, then add a grade each year. It wasn't clear whose recommendation it was. My only concern is that, as in PA, gaining support from parents doesn't seem to be a concern.
I'm one of many founders of BCS and two of my kids still go there. My kids have also attended old Bullis, Briones, and Nixon. BCS uses ILPs, like in PA, but sets a much higher bar, in general, so that even the bright kids are challenged. Any school could do that. The whole standard curriculum, plus music, drama, art, PE, and environmental science is taught Mon-Thurs. Any school could do that. There are "Houses," like clubs that span grades, so the older kids kind of take charge of the younger ones. Any school could do that. On Friday, the teachers and kids expand their horizons. Each kid gets 3 electives, so they move around to different teachers. My kids have had French, German, Spanish, keyboarding, vegetarian cooking, extra art or dancing or logic or... The regular teachers teach these. Actually, a parent teaches the vegetarian cooking class, with a regular teacher's supervision. Can't every school do that? I wish they all would at least try. I think that part of why the districts are so anti-charter is that it shows how much more is possible. Oh, the teachers also teach after school classes, like violin, crocheting, play production, homework club, or just-for-fun games. I don't know if union teachers are allowed to do that.
Posted by curious, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:06 pm
The languages issue is complex and yes, with MI we flubbed it. The fact is the whole discussion has somehow reflected badly on everyone in Palo Alto. I look forward now to seeing what we can learn from this. We really won't know more until we see how it plays out in the class room. My fondest wish is for the 5th grade MI class to have a look of broad diversity. Let's hope the program really does attract and retain kids from all different cultural backgrounds.
Posted by Mel, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:36 pm
I'm curious how the class size would be maintained as natural attrition occurs over the years. The San Jose Mercury article mentioned that after 9 years, 6 children had graduated from the original class 20 kindergartners. As children move away or drop out of the program, there probably wouldn't be children with the language experience to take their place. Does this mean the district would be using a classroom and a full-time teacher for a class of 6? Or would they combine grades? If the class sizes get smaller each year with attrition the costs per student would go up and up.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:42 pm
That's interesting. I had no idea that the geographic preferment was against the rules because it's always seemed pretty above-board. But if it's against the rules then it should not be happening. I thought it was something that was known and agreed to.
Last year a friend of mine on the Escondido SI waitlist said she received a letter saying her child probably wouldn't get into the SI bubble class because preference was being given to kids in the overfilled northern cluster.
There seems to be marked inconsistency to say the least.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:55 pm
The attrition issue is one of those must-not-be-discussed things that came up over and over. Even well-established programs like the Cantonese program in SF seem to have a drop-off around 4th, 5th grade, but any time the attrition issue was brought up about Cupertino--yeow. At one point, I was pretty much viewed as the Last Temptation of MI for asking questions about attrition and achievement in Cupertino.
Ohlone does combine grades--so it's quite possible they could go from two K/1s to one 4/5. Or they could end up with three kids too many and, yes, being paying a lot of money for empty seats.
Among other things, we need a school board that will demand real accountability from the MI program--cost-neutral needs to be cost-neutral; the demographics do need to be balanced; and the achievement needs to be solid.
If it were me, I'd honestly look for an afterschool program just because this one is so experimental. SI's curriculum was a lot more solid.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:59 pm
I agree with you. Even now, I keep reading about alternatives for language instruction that seem like they really should have been explored.
Part of the problem was this passivity on the part of the board and Churchill. It left a vaccuum which meant PACE in its single-mindedness could rush in and pretty much dictate the terms of the discussion. Leadership from the board could have stopped it, but Camille Townsend's own entanglements made that difficult.
Posted by OutsideObserver, a resident of another community, on Jun 7, 2007 at 11:51 pm
"The crux of the matter isn't the language here, per se. A lot of us feel that PACE crossed a line when it threatened a charter in order to get a choice program at a school that's already at capacity and will be severely overcrowded as a result. In other words, to me, it was an *uncivil* action. And in some ways the response to that will be, by its nature, uncivil and adversarial."
Sorry, OhlonePar, but the line was crossed - by both sides - way before the charter proposal. And you were one of the leaders in crossing that line from the anti-MI side. I would suggest to all involved to finally GIVE IT A REST, although I sincerely doubt that will happen.
Posted by Observer (not "observer" above), a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:59 am
Gary wrote: "Perhaps Yew Cheung is a wildly better option than MI. I'd love to see something inclusive like Yew Cheung get implemented. Who's willing to do what it takes?"
Good question. I don't know, Gary -- please talk to Paul Losch, I will do the same. And please keep bringing it up, our district would benefit. However, I don't feel as if I can be involved anymore because Grace Mah now seems to be in charge and I frankly am not a martyr. She clearly has no interest in bringing Yew Cheung type instruction to the district and has now turned her eye toward "FLES" -- which based on her non-response to the above, I would have to assume means the very anti-FLES idea of bringing Mandarin to just Ohlone students to serve her purpose of co-existing on the Ohlone campus -- while the rest of kids in our district continue to get no language instruction at all, more effort that will be bound to impede or conflict with WLTF (World Languages Task Force) efforts to hash out a comprehensive language plan for our district.
Menlo Park just introduced FLES and SI through strategic planning, not surprisingly without any controversy. We could have done that, too, if we had not been forced to deal with this one person's plan pushed first. Now I feel that the whole WLTF effort will be impaired, not necessairly just because this MI program was implemented ahead of everythng else, but because Grace Mah will continue to be the dominating influence. I personally would not be able to get anything done.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 2:53 am
My actions re: Mandarin Immersion only date to late January. Not a lot of time for me to have crossed any lines prior to the charter threat, let alone "way before."
So, sorry, let's drop the both sides are wrong nonsense--it's a convenient out because everyone knows PACE went over the line on this one--way over. And, no, you can't find anything comparable on the other side. Which is, of course, why you didn't specify a particular wrongdoing.
Don't give up on WLTF. I doubt Grace is going to be as major an influence as you think. She got what she wanted--the FLES stuff sounds more like trying to look good to the community. Though, of course, it's done in a way that kind of ignores the fact that her presence may do more harm than good.
It's kind of odd to have a community activist who's so sort of tone deaf to the actual community.
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Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:24 am
I agree that Spanish is the language that makes sense around here.
I was in San Jose earlier this week and since I needed to get something from Target, I chose to visit one there. Indeed, this was a culture shock. I was definitely the only non-hispanic I saw and it was apparent that they were not used to non Spanish speaking customers. The signs were in Spanish, the birthday cards were in Spanish (you had to look for English cards) the clerks could not speak more than passing English.
After my Target trip, I looked for a deli or "subway" to buy a sandwich for lunch and all I could find were mexican style food places. I couldn't even find what I would recognise as a grocery store. I don't mind Mexican food so that wasn't the problem. I was just surprised that that was all that was there.
I hadn't realised the extent to which San Jose was predominately Spanish speaking. It may have been that particular area, but I felt I was in a foreign country.
In Palo Alto we feel that English speakers are in the majority, but it was a wake up call to me to find that just so relatively close, in such a large city as San Jose, there are large areas which are not so.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:36 am
Exactly - this is why MI is really a step in the wrong direction. What we need is universal primary school education in foreign language. And since we are educating future Californians, they need to learn how to speak Spanish, in my opinion. And I am talking about EVERY kindergartener, not just 40 privileged ones.
(No personal bias - my first language was actually French)
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:48 am
Nancy: WOW! I’m impressed. Bullis sounds terrific. No wonder people want charter schools.
I don’t have any kids, so the complexity of our schools is a mystery to me. I still don’t know what a “strand” is or a “catchment area or “bubble cluster.” I just recently learned about OH and DI on another post. But you ask an excellent question, Nancy: Can’t every school do what Bullis does?
Re Yew Chung: I sent the URL about this to the board last month. Web Link
One board member wrote back saying, “It looks like PAUSD's Spanish Immersion program and MI proposal, a dual immersion model which splits the daily instruction into English and Spanish/Mandarin segments, with more English as the children advance in grade.”
Is there a difference? If so, does the board know of the difference?
Re Spanish: In Atlanta ALL kids get Spanish from kindergarten. Mandarin classes are available after hours.
Posted by Lynn, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:58 am
The following is a letter I sent to all Board of Ed. members the day of the second vote on the MI program. I'm posting it here because I don't feel that some of my concerns have ever been addressed by the board, particularly the fact that I believe that the district is in the midst of a major governance crisis right now.
Although I believe that the outcome of the vote on Mandarin immersion tonight is a foregone conclusion, in one last-ditch effort to try to change your minds I give you this summary of my primary concerns about implementing this program a year from now. Although I certainly don't agree with all of you, I'd like to thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this.
A governance crisis is a big red flag for a district headed for financial trouble. Neither of these programs, MI or FLES, is going to benefit anyone if the district is financially strained and cutbacks have to be made to those as well as other programs and services to keep us financially viable. I don't think it's fair to expect Kevin Skelly to come into the midst of this crisis with a major new program committed to by the Board. Here's why I think we have a governance crisis in our district:
Senior management is tainted:
• Entire middle management team distrusts Senior Cabinet. Yes, Callan and Matranga are retiring, but many people feel that Cook is as culpable as Callan in fostering the negative and bitter atmosphere that exists today.
• After Cynthia Pino was terminated, Cook was promoted to her position, and Bowers appointed to Cook's in a secret meeting where no agenda was posted.
• When Laurence was appointed, the initial agenda did not have his appointment on it. Three hours later, an updated agenda was emailed out, with a note that one item was added in closed session. I do not believe that this decision was made in three hours, but rather that the first agenda was sent out as a decoy to minimize the number of people who would even notice that an assistant superintendent appointment was about to be made.
• The Cook and Bowers appointments caused uproar among middle management. The fact that no one cared about this is evidenced by the fact that a very similar, secretive process was used for the appointment of Laurence, almost two years after the Cook/Bowers flap.
• Lozano and Smith law firm was sanctioned by a California Federal judge in 2005 for lying and obstruction of justice in a case involving a special education student, and ordered to conduct ethics training for all of its attorneys and shareholders. This is the firm that did nothing to ensure that the Brown Act was followed during the years of Callan's tenure. I can't help but wonder how many other legal matters have been swept under the carpet by the Lozano Smith/Callan alliance. I think we're about to find out when we get a new, more trustworthy superintendent and business manager.
Community distrusts the school board:
• Too much flip flopping on this MI question
• Apparently going to give in to a small determined group of individuals who are threatening the district to get their way.
• Rewards people who take from the district, not those who give to the district.
STATE BUDGET-MAY REVISE
I have some real concerns about some of the areas of recommended cutbacks in order to account for the missing $364 million in the May Revise, and how they could affect our budget, and consequently how that might affect plans to start an MI Choice program and/or FLES.
Teachers & Classrooms:
At the May 22 BoE meeting, Jerry Matranga said, in his presentation about Charter schools, that you cannot assume that when 20 students leave the district for a Charter school, that you can save the cost of one teacher and classroom. He said that other districts with Charter schools that he talked to had not experienced the anticipated cost savings in terms of teaching staff.
But the corollary must also be true, which is that you don't necessarily save on a teacher and a classroom when 20 kids go to a Choice program. You do, however, incur the costs of an incremental, Mandarin speaking, BCLAD certified teacher for every 20 students, beyond the point where we already have those teachers in our district who want to teach in this program.
Either you save one FTE for every 20 kids going to a Charter school or you don't, but it would the same for a Choice program, and you haven't done due diligence on this question if you don't know the answer.
Other start up costs for staff:
The following list was taken from the timeline in the Feasibility Study. Every single one of these items involves staff time that I don't think is accounted for in the start up costs. In my experience at JLS, staff gets paid for everything, including attending Site Council meetings and running student clubs at lunch.
• School staff participates in educational travel opportunities to China.
• Review available Mandarin curriculum and purchase materials.
• Provide extensive opportunities for principal and key staff to visit existing successful programs, including programs observed during the feasibility study project, to receive training in bilingual education, and to collaborate on implementation plans.
• Establish Mandarin curriculum standards and program standards that are equivalent to English only standards. Establish assessment tools in Mandarin to monitor progress of students in the program.
• Examine ways to allow a new teacher to become familiar with the Ohlone Way of teaching mixed grade classes and managing the English curriculum and with the collaborative environment of the school during the spring semester (through subbing, student teaching, interning, job sharing, etc.)
• Hold information meetings for parents so that they can become familiar both with Ohlone School and with the plans for the Mandarin Immersion program.
I feel very strongly that the general public does not want MI, and would stand behind the district on future bond measures and other endeavors if a Charter school were imposed on the district, whereas if a Choice program is voted in by a majority of board members out of fear of the consequences of a Charter school, that people would feel that the district is out of touch and withdraw financial and other support.
One way to measure this is to ask Susan Bailey how many donations came in to PiE after January 30 of this year. I know a number of people who waited to give until after the board vote was taken, and now feel cheated with respect to their contributions.
Is the program sustainable by others besides Susan Charles and Grace? I worry that their skills are so unique and specialized that no one else could pull this off. Anything can happen to people that could impact their ability to do their jobs: health and family issues, moving out of the area, career aspirations, etc. It's unreliable and risky to put all our eggs in the Susan Charles/Grace Mah basket.
Several things Susan said at the last BoE meeting on May 22 give the impression that this program will be a sort of outlaw program in the district, and statements like the following make me very nervous:
• Monica Lynch will go to China and "grab all the educational materials she can get her hands on."
• We are "enamored" of this idea of Mandarin at Ohlone
• After a couple years of MI we will start to "play" with the idea of expanding Mandarin instruction into the larger student body.
The worst thing that could happen to our district is not the formation of a Charter school, because that is likely to happen at some point anyway unless some legal loopholes are closed.
The worst thing that could happen is the collapse of community support, and you have the power to prevent that from happening, tonight.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 11:01 am
Even though French is a language I love and studied, I'm with everyone here--Spanish is the true second language of California. I could easily use it every day--with the mailman, in restaurants, stores, at work.
And it's an easier language for English speakers than Mandarin, so I think it would be better for FLES. Plus, the kids could get some real life practice easily.
I realize that people figure Ohlone kids are lucky because they're supposed to get some Mandarin FLES, but learning to count in Mandarin seems kind of futile to me--it would take years to learn Mandarin well enough to read it, let alone write it.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm
Parent - please ask Marilyn Cook in the next AAAG meeting to explain why we have an email that says SI was granted their half strand expansion with clear instructions to give preference to the overcrowded north schools (listed by name)...
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm
nancy - maybe you could do us a favor and ask your BCS leadership how in the world they think they'll teach Mandarin to kids without Immersion? Won't that just be monumental waste of everyone's time and money? They should probably get some advice from our own MI proponents over here who say its just not worth trying to teach Mandarin in any way other than Immersion, its impossible, dreadful, wast of time, so inferior not even worth a discussion on options other than Immersion.
Someone is feeding someone a line of bull? Maybe you can find out for us more about who the Mandarin proponets are over there. I wonder if we'd recognize any of the names in that effort? Hmmmm.
Posted by Amazed parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 3:22 pm
How many people has this fiasco caused to think about not voting for the next (necessary) school bond? How much of the margin of necessary support has been lost? This BOE (with one exception) is not thinking strategically, and taking voters for granted.
Posted by Faith Brigel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 4:37 pm
There has been some discussion Online about the opponents being invited to talk and some accepting that offer and others(me) not. This is an email that I just sent to Grace, hopefully to clarify.
About two months ago after you had apparently put an open offer Online to talk to people and then said in the newspaper that that was an offer to the opponents to talk to you; you emailed me about talking with a mediator present. I agreed, but you never contacted me after that, and I did not follow up on it.
This past week I called and emailed you on Sunday to see about meeting Sunday, Monday or Tuesday before the vote. You could only meet after Tues. - at which point I did not have any time the rest of the week, at the time that you requested.
I have been back and forth with Lisa, Jamie and Lynn trying to find out who would want to meet with you, and a time that would work for all of us to get together with you. I then was able to clear my schedule for next week on two days at 9:30 a.m. the time that you wrote you preferred.
However, I just read Online which I do not do very much. There I read where you were describing people who had been trying to get together with you as- the less respectful opponents. In case I had any doubt who you were referring to- further down you wrote that the people who you were describing were Lisa, Pauline, and me, Faith. And to make this worse, you then offered to discuss this situation further with that person offline.
These transactions have made me feel that you are not sincere in your offer to talk, and I feel that any discussions at this point would not be positive or constructive.
So, I respectfully decline at this time to meet with you and a mediator.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 4:50 pm
Okay, the geographic preference thing is just getting weird. I think there are reasons for it as well as against it. But to try to play it both ways, which is what it sounds like what the district is doing is just one more example of high-handedness and dishonesty.
Obviously, I'm fine with some sorts of criteria, but what those criteria are should be right out front and clear. This two-facedness is just damning. Frankly, I just don't buy that the choice schools were breaking the official rules for the fun of it--certainly not openly to the point of sending out a letter as SI Escondido did.
Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 5:23 pm
I think in the kinder lottery last year, the north cluster got preference for all of Escondido - not just the SI program. Its the closest school to the 3 north cluster schools (Hays, Addison and Duveneck) which were WAY over enrolled last year (by 40+ kinders) I believe it is District policy to try to send kids who are over flowed from their neighborhood school to the closet one with room. By the way, I believe the kinder lottery is a public, very transparent process held at the District offices.
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2007 at 5:48 pm
On the voting issue - yes, I am voting against school bonds for awhile. Also I am voting against any current school board member except Gail Price. I understand that they were between a rock and a hard place - that is, pay a lot of taxpayer money for a choice program or pay even more for a charter school, but I still think they need to go.
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:55 pm
parent wanted to know how Bullis Charter could teach Mandarin without immersion. Perhaps the principal has in mind benefits of early foreign language instruction other than eventually achieving fluency. My son happened to have a 1st grade teacher at BCS who could speak Spanish with a Castilian accent. So she taught the kids some Spanish and they all have a nice Castilian accent now, a bit of a foundation for learning more languages, a start at understanding grammars for all languages (which is also useful for compiler construction), plus alleged enhanced brain synapse development.
My opinion is that the only fluency that an American elem. school BoE should be concerned with is English. Mandarin allegedly is a good choice because of the tones, which will stimulate auditory development, and the characters, which will stimulate visual development. But I suspect that most parents would prefer Spanish because our kids will probably need to use it every day.
I went to college with so many brilliant Chinese engineers who couldn't write a decent page of expository prose in English if they spent a week on it. My worry is that delaying the acquisition of English for the Mandarin-speaking kids at Ohlone MI will result in adults who are half-lingual in two languages.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:58 pm
"Okay, the geographic preference thing is just getting weird. I think there are reasons for it as well as against it. But to try to play it both ways, which is what it sounds like what the district is doing..."
Huh! Glad to see someone else coming to the same conclusion. I'm trying to get to the bottom of the lottery selection process. There are a few things I'd like to have transparently disclosed. 1) A complete breakdown for each program of how many students applied and were accepted for the last 5 years. 2) What are the lottery selection rules for each program.
I started with SI and yes, they do give the neighborhood students a small percent-based extra crack at the lottery. I was directed to the district attendance office for complete 5-year records. These numbers are public, I believe.
Unlike the U.S., where standardized test scores are just one factor weighed by universities, how Chinese students do on the "gaokao" determines everything. Students list their top three schools and their major and hope their score is high enough to win a place.
Extracurricular activities do not count, and neither do high school grades. And forget writing about volunteer work; there are no essays to persuade admissions officers.
The Ministry of Education says only 5.7 million students — or 60 percent of those who take the test — will be able to enter college. Those who do not make the cut must wait a year to take the test again.
Posted by J. Lee, a member of the Fairmeadow School community, on Jun 10, 2007 at 2:10 am
I regret that I didn't go to the School Trustees meetig to complain about this before they voted. They don't they understand that those of us from China (I emigrated here in 2002) want to know English! Why would you want to learn the language of people who make an average 5000 (US) annual who come from mostly agricultural locales? Was there a long list of Palo Alto citizens who wished their children to learn Mandarin? Who would bother? The rest of the world is learning English. In fact, English is frequently required for graduation in China. Why on Earth would Palo Alto do this? I am new here so perhaps I do not understand this.
Posted by resident, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2007 at 9:22 am
Yes, you are new here. You may talk to the school trustees, but understand that this program is for those people who WANT to learn Mandarin. It is not a mandatory program. That's why it's called a "choice" program.
In fact, there is a long line of Palo Altans who want to learn Mandarin.
And if you don't want to, you don't have to. But it's within the school trustees purview to deny that option to all children in the district, or to offer it to those who want it. And if it's popular, and fulfills other school board policy, they could expand it.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2007 at 12:55 pm
He who controls the name controls the debate.
"Choice Program" includes all types of choices. Since when does anyone think that "most" of the "opposition" ( I prefer the term "proponents of true choice") is anti-choice programs?
Some of us are completely pro-choice programs...if they have the same curriculum, are open to EVERYONE who wants it, not just a few by luck, and don't take away the choice of the local kid to go to the local school.
So, a different teaching style, with the same curriculum, in a non-neighborhood building, or next door to a neighborhood school, big enough to take everyone who wants it..more power to the school choice!
Posted by Lottery Loser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2007 at 2:17 pm
Democracy was hijacked with the approval of MI and I have lost faith in the BOE to support the educational needs of ALL kids in PAUSD. I understand that SI serves 17 families; yes that's one seven, when siblings are factored in.
Further, younger siblings are being admitted as part of the Spanish speaking quota, preped by tutors and their older sibs, and very few SI students are actually Hispanic in origin. Many teachers are not even native Spanish speakers. If we're going to do immersion programs in PAUSD, let's at least do them properly, and, has been said ad nauseum, make them available to ALL students who wish to enroll. instead of rewarding the lucky few (very few) families who hit the jackpot.
It infuriates me that the Board did not concede the unfairness of the lottery process and the exclusivity of immersion programs,as proposed. As a result of being figuratively "kicked in the gut" by the School Board, I can no longer stomach funding this dysfunctional district. In future, we will direct our generous annual donations directly to our neighborhood school. Just call me..
Posted by Just checking, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 10, 2007 at 4:21 pm
Please check with your source. There may be an important point here, but the numbers don't seem to work. With close to 200 students in the program and only 17 families, that would be an average of well over 10 children per family in SI.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 10, 2007 at 10:32 pm
"This is a want. A strong want, and justified by the choice program policy and charter school legislation."
Let me get this straight. You're saying that MI is a strong want, and that it's justified in part because the charter school laws are written such that a charter can be an effective threat?
Sorry, but I don't subscribe to the "because it's legal it's right" ideology.
"Again, most of the opponents are fundamentally against choice programs."
No, MOST of the opponents are fundamentally against adding a new program that's not part of the strategic plan while the district is grappling with overcrowding issues. The time table demands and the charter threat negotiation technique after a board vote of 'no' didn't help.
Only SOME of those opponents are also fundamentally against lottery programs. Case in point: how many MI opponents from Ohlone, Hoover, SI and Y5 are fundamentally against lottery programs?
Posted by Michele, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 7:28 am
Can one of the MI opposition leaders PLEASE PLEASE write to the Mercury News and explain to them that the $11,000 the MI proponents are going to donate to buy the curriculum is merely a drop in the bucket? They can't seriously believe that this is all the money needed to run the program! I am so sick of that newspaper I am almost ready to cancel my subscription and get the New York Times and/or Wall Street Journal for real news. The Merc's editorial today was inexcusable.
If the 4 local Cantonese and Mandarin immersion programs can be run cost neutral TO THE DISTRICT, why can't this new one in Palo Alto be done likewise? Our very own SI program started up with less than $3k per classroom, which was covered by parents (NOT THE DISTRICT).
The Cupertino program has a parent budget of less than $30K, and they pay for aides.
Posted by Lottery Loser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:40 am
Dear Just Checking -- OK, my number were low for SI families served, however, it IS true that depending upon the year, something like less than %20 percent of lottery applicants get in. The preference for neighborhood kids DOES discriminate against those not lucky enough to live in the Escondido boundry. I'm not vindictive, but I do feel like my rights as a public school family have been trampled by a powerful, pushy, self-seeking, and selfish SMALL group of citizens. The reason it took 20 board meetings and five years to approve MI is that this program was an incredibly hard sell. Instead of beating a dead horse, the Board should have nixed MI and focused to FLES for ALL elementary students years ago.
My position is: I refuse to subsidise a program (through PiE, bond measures, votes) beneficial to other kids that my own child was denied through lottery.
Posted by Lottery Loser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm
I support FLES (foreign language in elementary schools) which benefits all kids. All Board members except Camille have expressed support for FLES in PAUSD and MI opponents have been assured a "World Language Task Force" will be funded as a first step toward FLES. There definitely is plenty of momentum and interest in our community so I look forward to this going forward even though it will be too late for kids already in the school system (including mine).
Immersion is undoubtedly the best way to become fluent, but unless immersion is available to all kids who want it, it has no place in a public school.
Besides, it sounds as though MI is generously funded by private sources so it's probable that PiE money would be less essential to MI than for to non-special interest schools.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm
All this talk about PIE money makes me wonder about something. Is it possible that the SI parents (and future MI parents) who donate to their own SIPAPA and PACE funds donate less to the more general funds such as PIE and PTA? I'm asking this to find out the truth - not to stir up more contentious feelings.
Does PIE keep track of who donates? Are the numbers available to find out how much money SI and non-SI families at Escondido donate? Or, how much a PAUSD family donates before and after having a child admitted to SI?
PIE was established to create more equity across the district, and to lessen the attitude that "my money should only help my kid". I'm wondering (not stating this as a proposed truth) if the immersion programs work counter to that objective. Do some (many?) immersion families donate less to the general pot because of their immersion donations, and will some (many?) non-immersion families donate less to the general pot because of the way MI was approved?
Posted by lottery winner, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 3:04 pm
Yet Another Parent,
PIE was established to create more equity across the district, and to lessen the attitude that "my money should only help my kid".
We've seen how the system works. So, yes, from now on my money will only help my kids. The board has shown it has lost control and so will no longer get my support through PiE or bonds. This is the true cost of the board's vote.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 11, 2007 at 5:45 pm
Parent, good point. I'm not interested in invading people's privacy. I'm just curious whether PIE anonymously tracks any of this data. But perhaps you're right: it's not necessarily accurate to attach a motive to people's actions. I'm thinking that if there are general trends that can be monitored and attempted to be understood, why not give it a try? Since PIE set out to accomplish a few objectives, it'd be nice to know how well those objectives are being met.
Posted by Thinking, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2007 at 12:53 am
You could instantly win back a lot of support from the community if you came up with an alternate fluency language plan and proposed it yourself -- something like Yew Cheung with extra instruction available to all who want it at the end of the school day, or...? There are lots of cost savings over FLES similar to what has been envisioned for choice at Ohlone, and not nearly so many constraints. Wouldn't you rather have your name on a more positive, robust, community-supported and proven program? Do you really want to face the fight three years down the road over facilities for this unproven Ohlone-MI marriage, when you could get something now for everyone that would go long into the future in our town? People would quickly forget the acrimony. Please think about it.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2007 at 9:20 am
That's right - its not necessary to attach motive, its only necessary to understand the outcome. The outcome of the funding set up with SI and MI are programs that cost some amount more than the standard PAUSD programming, with private donations expected to make up the incremental.
Therefore, priviate donations funneled by the participants directly into their program
Therefore, antithetical to the PIE concept.
Therefore, these programs set a dangerous precendent for the demise of PIE
Poster above is exactly correct in saying the board has lost control. The board is pointing the community directly down the path of disbanding PIE for direct donation methods. Its a big shame.
How long will it take for donors to decide to stop donating to a community pot, which ALL go and dip into, when people believe a few programs don't contribute to the pot, but instead contribute directly to their own program but still go dip in to the community pot too.
Is it really happening that way? I notice PIE publishes the particpation rate by school. I think they should publish the participation rate by program so the community can feel more confident that this isn't really occuring.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 12, 2007 at 10:01 am
"Is it really happening that way? I notice PIE publishes the particpation rate by school. I think they should publish the participation rate by program so the community can feel more confident that this isn't really occuring."
Well stated! My goal after this MI fiasco is to bring more transparency to the district. I've started with the lottery programs. A next step would be that PiE data. I'm tired of the rumors & gossip that are based on inaccurate or hypothetical data. Let's get the facts first. And if there are indeed problems, they'll be exposed in the fact-publicizing process.