Six school board candidates vie for three spots Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Aug 2, 2007 at 8:16 pm
Three months before the election, with three seats up for grabs, six people have expressed interest in running for the Palo Alto Board of Education, according to Santa Clara County Deputy Registrar Marie Alvarado.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 2, 2007, 5:59 PM
Posted by Board Watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 2, 2007 at 8:16 pm
I am disappointed that no one from AAAG has decided to run. This particular group spent many hours discussing issues, but more than this, were really well educated on many issues that are going to be important in the next few years. The high school task force will also be educating the members of that group on issues and although they will still be meeting during the campaign window, they would also be educated candidates.
I feel that some of the people running have not shown themselves to be au fait with what has been happening in the boundaries issues and the overcrowding issues, not to mention the MI issue. I would like to have seen someone who was making a stand on these issues for their platform.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 2, 2007 at 10:13 pm
If I remember correctly, Wynn Hausser wrote an eloquent letter to the editor in the PA Weekly a while back regarding MI, not sure of the date. He was not in favor of it at that time. I will be listening carefully to the candidates opinions regarding peer streaming, choice programs versus neighborhood schools and boundary issues. Will be looking forward to hearing more from these candidates.
Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 3, 2007 at 10:54 am
Should we be concerned about Barbara Klaussner's being on the Board? As a district staff member she was in a position to hear a great many confidences from the Management Team, confidences that she would not have heard if she had not been "inside". Should we be concerned about the effect on the Management Team's trust that this might have? Also, Barb Mitchell has apparently been vetting Klaussner around town as "her" type of candidate, one who has a similar working style to Barb. Is this a red flag for a return to the old-style Board cliquishness? Also, considering Barb's track record so far, do we want to have someon who is likely to vote in lock-step with her? These questions should be addressed, preferably by Ms. Klassner and Ms. Mitchell, well in advance of the election.
Posted by hope to be informed voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 3, 2007 at 7:55 pm
Since this particular school board election seems to be more critical than average, given the very hot and difficult issues we have right now, I was wondering what the Weekly's plans were for helping the community understand each candidates positions on these issues. Will there be a public forum? Interviews?
Will any of the weekly reporters go out and find out these candidates positions on MI and other issues?
Can we expect this from the Weekly? or the Daily? Or are we out of luck? If not, how do we find this important information out? Anyone know?
Posted by Resident of PAUSD, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:52 am
I hope each candidate puts up a website with firm opinions on what policy s/he would favor to address the many questions we will have concerning specific issues so we can vote for the people who represent what we believe is right. The Board sets the policy for how our District will head into the next generation of children's education.
I also want a record of every vote Ms Townsend made in her tenure so far....
1) growing enrollment and what to do about it..schedule changes? more facitities? more students housed in our current facilities?
2) Whether or not we should have more lottery programs
3) Whether or not we should expand our current lottery programs to accomodate the waiting lists ( including, and perhaps especially, the young 5s, since this is the best way to prepare the unprepared for kindergarten)
3) Whether or not we should have any kind of elementary school foreign language instruction.
4) Whether or not the day should be longer for school kids, and/or full day for kindergarten.
5)Policies concerning student stress reduction ie: homework over the summer for upcoming AP classes, finals after winter break so kids feel the need to study when they should be resting ( my bias revealed)
6) Whether or not each elementary school should become at least 1/2 immersion program
7) Whether or not we have achieved the best possible manner of teaching the fundamentals of math/English to every elementary child in this district, and science.
8) Whether or not we should have an alternative high school track for the non-college bound. ( Old fashioned Vocational Ed)
9) What is the responsibility of the District in addressing education gaps, and what can we do as a District to raise the lower end?
10) What, if anything, more should we be doing to catch children with learning issues before 3rd grade?
11) What, if anything, more should we be doing to increase assistance to the Special Education component of our District?
12) What, if anything, should our District do to protect itself from Charter threats, or is a Charter really a threat?
13) What, if anything, political advocacy should our District be involved in for the protection of Basic Aid Districts?
These are a few things that come to mind.Take them and use them as you wish.
Posted by RWE, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 7, 2007 at 7:14 pm
The above is an interesting list, mostly because there is not ONE word about whether or not our BOE and PAUSD officials should be soliciting the opinions of teachers and site administrators regarding the EDUCATIONAL fallout of the above suggestions.
The list above proves more than anything else that BOE elections are mostly about POLITICS, and have little to do with the reality of how education happens IN THE CLASSROOM.
Most teachers I know roll their eyes at lists like this, as they have experienced - and live daily with - the noonsense that passes for "educational strategy" wrought mostly by people who have little or no knowledge of what the true impact of their decisions have on the education of the children that have been placed in their management trust.
When will we see an educator or two vie for the BOE - We NEED this, if for no other reason to stop the narcissistic rendering of policy that has no other pupose than to oeroetuate this sick system of school district governance by those with least knowledge of education.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:03 pm
Ummm, of course school-board elections are about politics. Like, by definition.
The superintendent and the people working for him should be representing the educator's point-of-view, while the BOE is representing the public's.
The last time, we got a double whammy. Callan clearly wasn't representing the educators--in fact, she was hired to beat them down.
Meanwhile, we had Townsend who actually said that the opinion of the public didn't matter--which is a peculiar stance for an elected official.
There are a couple of people running with educational backgrounds--if they put forth sensible opinions, I'll vote for them. But I'm not going to vote for someone just because she's been a GATE math specialist.
Posted by PTA member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 14, 2007 at 11:32 pm
I really question Melissa's leadership qualities when, as president of the PTA Council, she helped to create divisiveness in the school community about MI. If she was a true leader, she would have worked to bring information out, not promote her personal anti-MI opinions in an alleged neutral position.
What did she do to help the community work together on the MI front?
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 7:04 am
I would like to know exactly what you say Melissa did in her leadership capacity to create divisiveness. From reading PA Online I would say a majority of Palo Altans feel the divisiveness came from the MI proponents' approach of MI or bust.
I am interested to hear more about Melissa's (and all candidates') position on the various issues.
Posted by PAUSD Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:20 am
Yes, the PTA was silent during the MI furore. However, as the PTA should be a truly reprepresentative body in my opinion, I wasn't too surprised. Just remember how divisive it tried to be a couple of years ago when it wanted to back homosexual issues.
No, I think that judging Melissa by her PTA office strategy is not a good idea. Instead, we should look at her leadership role and her personal opinions. The top dog in the PTA must be representative of the body of the PTA as a whole. What the individual's personal opinions are in a divisive matter are different to what the public personae must be. Judge her leadership qualities and what she did to unite the PTA as a whole, not what she gave as a private opinion.
If the PTA becomes political it will underly its worth. It should be seen to be unpolitical. The politics of the individuals are for BoE not PTA.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:59 am
Melissa was silent in the MI debate. How is that an abuse of power? It thought the PTA was supposed to remain neutral.
Perhaps by remaining neutral that pissed off 'PTA member' and 'watchful citizen' - because MI supporters approached the PTA for support and were rejected. (Rightfully so.)
In fact, if they are saying Melissa opposed MI and used her influence toward that cause - I will definitely support her. So please tell us more about what Melissa did that was so harmful to the MI cause. I was undecided in supporting her because I was under the impression that she tried to remain completely neutral on MI.
Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 11:49 am
If Melissa used a neutral position to promote her own political agenda, that's just plain wrong. In that case, I'd agree with PTA member: anyone but her.
BUT, before she is tarred and feathered, someone needs to say what "used her neutral position" means. Let's hear what she did. Let's not judge her on vague allegations. Let's judge her on her actions and words. So, no more slander, just facts, thanks.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 12:00 pm
Exactly, what does 'used her neutral position' mean? As far as I can see she stayed out of the MI debate and (perhaps) recommended the PTA stay out of it as well.
(Sorry MI supporters if that is viewed as a dis to the MI agenda - yes its true that MI failed to gain wide support from all but a few corners of the community.)
So Dad, how would staying out of it (Because her role in the PTA required it) promote her own political agenda?
I'd rather see someone who respected the 'neutrality' of her official capacity, than someone who has used her official capacity on the BOE to shamelessly promote her own (unexplainable and usupportable) special agenda.
Dad, I absolutely agree. Lets hear something specific, other than vague allegations about what she did that was an abuse of her office to further her own agenda.
As I said, I am undecided because I haven't heard her position on MI at all yet. So I'm quite interested.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 12:08 pm
Are you asking us to believe that Mah is not advocating for her own MI agenda in her role on the county board of education?
And that Townsend is not advocating for her own MI agenda in her role on the PAUSD BOE?
Isn't this why its so important for us to understand the candidates' positions on these issues? (MI and others?) Because once they get in these roles - thats sort of what they do by definition - they Advocate to get things done. As a voter the real question is not whether they 'advocate' but whether they are advocating to get things done that you agree with.
Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 1:57 pm
"So Dad, how would staying out of it (Because her role in the PTA required it) promote her own political agenda?"
It wouldn't. I agree with you. You say she stayed out of it. Someone above said she meddled in some way. I have no idea who is right. I would like to hear specifics, otherwise I'll ignore the allegation and look forward to hearing her platform.
As for board members, it's their job to vote things up or down--call it an agenda if you want, doesn't matter. (I believe Mah would have to recuse herself from any MI-specific vote.)
I want to hear the candidates' thoughts on the district on issues going forward. I'm not interested in cornering candidates into taking a stand on divisive issues that are water under the bridge. It doesn't seem helpful to me to ask, "How would you have voted?"
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 2:06 pm
the board does alot more than just take votes. They go to meetings, they go to federal state and local level political gatherings, they represent our district on every issue. They talk to many people, they work with many consituents. Advocating is alot more than what happens at the board meeting during the final vote.
I don't care to know how they would have voted either. I would like to hear their positions on MI from here on out - next steps, accoutability, transparency, location, strategic priorities, etc. The MI program is hardly water under the bridge!
Posted by The facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 3:03 pm
I was there, and was extremely impressed with Melissa when she spoke up.
Melissa spoke as a private citizen her own personal view that MI was not an appropriate use of our time and funds at this time in a Board meeting. She CLEARLY delineated in that meeting that she was speaking for herself, and herself as a citizen, only. She was very clear that she was not speaking for the PTA, which was only right since there was no voting done by any of the PTAs to see what PTA members thought was the right thing to do.
Neither she nor any other PTA member or leader would have the right or ability to speak for any other PTA member without any data.
Holding any kind of office, elected or volunteer, does not mean that the person loses his or her constitutional right to free speech.
She is knowledgeable, clear-headed, a logical and strategic thinker, and isn't afraid to speak her mind. I have't always agreed with some of the details of her decisions, but I am voting for her as one of the 3 candidates for the Board because I can trust her to be transparent and honest, and truly work for the best interest of every kid.
Posted by Agree with Parent, sort of, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 3:07 pm
I don't even care about the MI position of a candidate..I want to know if they support creating more exclusive "lottery" elementary programs in our district, or if they support keeping the neighborhood schools we have and the one coming down the pike NEIGHBORHOOD.
I want to know if they support expanding the lottery programs we have now so that they can truly take everyone who chooses them, or if they want to keep them limited.
Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 4:27 pm
So there are two cases in which Melissa is said to have spoken against MI.
1. At a board meeting. I agree with "Facts," This seems unproblematic since she spoke as a private citizen, and is entitled to express her opinion in that forum.
2. At PTA district meetings and in emails to PTA presidents. Wow, if this is true, it's an ethical breach. The president ought not appropriate PTA meetings or PTA email to trot out her hobbyhorse, whatever it might be. That's dirty. As "Facts" points out, no vote was taken so she was representing no one but herself. Why didn't we hear about this before?
I don't care how "clear-headed" her thinking is, if it's true that misused her position by speaking against MI at PTA district meetings or in PTA emails. No board members who play dirty!
Posted by ap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 5:38 pm
I assume anonymous and PA Dad also strenuously object to Camille trotting out her opinions on MI and foisting them on the entire community. I sure do.
I'd like to see the emails - knowing full well that Melissa refused to take a stand on MI debate at that time, I find it unbelievable that she was taking a bias anti-MI position in any emails. Frankly, I think anonymous is lying until and unless they provide the actual words that were spoken.
PA Dad - how is it an unethical breach. As was said above, she's allowed to have an opinion as a person - if indeed she took this position (again doubt she did), was it as a individual or was it construed to be on behalf of Palo Alto PTA?
Again folks - what the heck do you think politicians do? They influence.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 6:26 pm
There's a lot of innuendo floating around here. I'm inclined to assume those who are dissing Melissa don't agree with her purported stance regarding MI. Perhaps this is yet another reason we have a hard time finding good candidates - they are maligned before getting out of the starting gate.
Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2007 at 6:37 pm
It's Camille's job to have opinions, so no I couldn't object on that score.
But yes, I'd like to see the emails, too, so that we don't go off half-cocked. Given your remarks, ap, I assume you'd condemn Melissa if the emails do surface.
It's a breach if she used her position as president of the PTA (public forums or email to pta leaders) to further her own political agenda, pa. It's not a breach if she merely spoke to the board as a private individual and identified herself as speaking as such. You've confused the pta president with a political position.
BTW, most of the meeting ( over 2 hours) was spent discussing the
Mandarin Immersion program proposal. Many parents from Palo Alto and
Clearly there are many benefits to learning a foriegn language in an
immersion setting and there is certainly a demand for Mandarin
However, we are a Public School system and our charter is to serve
all of our students. For this reason, the question that I came away from the meeting with was:
" Is an additional language immersion program (serving a small
number of students) the best investment of time and resources for our district right now? All of our children are citizens of the world and will be part of the global economy. Is there a language program that would serve more of our children?"
A number of emails flew back and forth, both supporters and opposers (at this point, Melissa should have tabled the discussion to a full counciol meeting with a balance of complete information, not opinions based on misinformation). She made a weak attempt to stem the discussion by sending the following to the PTA presidents:
I have heard many people say that they feel that new investment is
different from existing investment in Choice programs. For Spanish Immersion for example, the start up costs are already sunk costs.
That said, I as I mentioned yesterday, I would really like to suspend
comment on this topic on the Yahoo group and give everyone a chance to be part of the discussion on this at the next Unit President's meeting. It is apparent that many in this group have strong feelings about this topic.
Now I am breaking my own rule. But we need to be careful about ALL of our assumptions.
When you look at an investment you need to look at the cost and the
opportunity cost. At PAUSD new program investment includes time and $.
The start-up costs discussed at the Board Meeting did not include:
- Administrative time ( Marilyn and her staff have limited bandwidth)
- Any costs for continuing this program into Middle school
- Technology. Grace Ma said that technology was not included in the
numbers presented. She also said that the program would need PC computers - not MACs. Adding the PC platform would mean extra time for the Technology folks at the District office to make sure that these new PCs are properly tied into the PAUSD MAC environment.
There would probably be some overlap between parents and community members that invest in this program and those that PiE would be soliciting. Many people have a limited amount of funds that they will donate to schools in any one time period.
Now please let's stop and hold this conversation for the President's
meeting. I will ask Marilyn Cook if she can come in and talk about the overall PAUSD Foriegn Language Strategy and the proposed plan for this program.
By not staying neutral, contributing to half-baked arguments, without giving a full opportunity for all sides to discuss openly and fully all the information, Melissa was not a responsible PTA Council President, in my opinion.
I believe she should have offered an open discussion, or study session, which she stated much later in the game, to really give the program a fair shake. But NO, she took her bias to the council informally, using her position as president, and just dropped it like a bomb to break apart the community - with no effort to patch things up or try to fix the damage.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 16, 2007 at 8:18 pm
Oh please. Everything I just read was completely appropriate and included in all cases a disclaimer for needing to hold the discussion for appropriate setting, and plea to direction of taking that discussion to a public forum No offer to of open discussion or study session until "MUCH LATER? Like two sentences later?? Well yes, if your a conclusion jumper I can see why reading through to the end of email would be problematic.
Please. PTA prez and PA parent are desparate disgruntled MI proponents who are trying to save MI by fishing for a reason to taint this candidates ethics.
But thanks for posting the letter in question so we can use our own judgement to see that you are clearly fishing.
Posted by Unintended consequences, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 7:28 am
Hmm...since it isn't clarified and I have to read between the lines until it is, this all seems to be an open discussion on some kind of a Yahoo group meant for Presidents of all the PTAs in the District. Therefore, I guess the PTA Prez above thinks that nobody should have been allowed to use their positions of great influence to post an opinion, and Melissa should not have been allowed to post hers, either.
Interesting approach to the freedom of speech concept, and shows a great deal of insight into the thinking of the posting PTA Prez's thinking about how much "power" he thinks that Melissa has to bend the minds of the sheep-like PTA Presidents of the OTHER schools as she gives her opinion and thoughts. Had she played devil's advocate in the OTHER direction, doubt sincerely he would be raising it now.
By the way, I suppose this PTA Prez would also object to Melissa participating in any way in a PTA Council meeting with her questions and comments, since Presidents are not allowed to give opinions and thoughts? Next time there is something that this PTA Prez wants and the PTA Council Pres speaks up in favor of it, I hope this PTA Prez condemns the inappropriate use of Presidential "power" also.
When losing in the realm of persuasion, call names and shut down speech.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:02 am
PTA Prez - I think Melissa's comments were well thought out and not inflammatory at all. Just wondering how you would feel if another PTA President posted some of your comments - intended only for the other presidents - on this forum. Say your views on PiE?
Posted by Free Speech !, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:17 am
Someone I know just sent me the "rest" of the Yahoo Group that smearer posted above...Smearer evidently DOESN'T think it was wrong for 3 of the PTA Presidents to write vehement supporting comments of MI in this same discussion group, to which Melissa was responding ( and others, I might add).
The usual splice and dice out of context smearing taking place. Be grateful that the rest of us don't post YOUR postings meant for all the PTA presidents' eyes on this thread.
Maybe we should start a separate thread about when it is, and is not, appropriate for people to speak their opinions.
Posted by Looking for leadership, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:27 am
Interesting how often people justify misbehavior by shouting freedom of speech. Sorry, it won't fly here.
Melissa's role within the PTA ought to have been neutral: facilitating a fair, balanced, informed discussion of the issue. From these emails, we see she ignored her duties and simply took the opportunity to agitate for her own political agenda. (She repeats her own position several times and then tries to tell the Yahoo group to pipe down.) It's within her right to free speech all right, but it breaks faith with her role within the PTA. We cannot trust someone like that.
Also, as PTA prez points out, she had the additional responsibility of fostering a sense of community; instead she chose to promote divisiveness. That's not leadership, which we desperately need on the board.
Please note this is not about whether you like MI. It is about how Melissa handled her role. Palo alto mom, it's nice you agree with Melissa's line of thought in her emails, but that is beside the point. Did she lead an informed, balanced discussion or provoke a cat fight?
Report card for her: Poor judgement, untrustworthy and no leadership skills=F.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:32 am
wow! I'd say "poor judgment, untrustworthy and no leadership skills" described Camille. It's true, the field of candidates is getting smaller. We don't know about the others because they haven't given us information to judge them by.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 10:12 am
Whether or not I agree with Melissa was not my point - although I am sure each PTA unit president, exec board, etc. has opinions.
My point was that as a PTA president and a member of that Yahoo group, the posts were meant only for other presidents. It was rude and irresponsible to post what was meant to be a discussion among peers - especially posting only part of it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 1:23 pm
I think it is much too early to completely dismiss one candidate out of six for three places when we know so little of the remainder. You may or may not like the way Melissa handled herself in the emails above and you may or may not agree with her views on MI. But, and it is a big but, there are still candidates out there of whom we have little knowledge.
This is going to be a strange election and it may be that there are no ideal candidates for some of us which means that we will end up voting for those we like least. This is a funny way of doing things but in the crop we have this may be the only way.
I would suggest giving each candidate a vote out of ten on various categories and then voting for those with the highest scores, possibly giving some weight to the categories you value most. But, be realistic and don't dismiss anyone too soon.
Posted by observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 1:45 pm
PA mom, you say we shouldn't see what Melissa wrote. And the PTA Exec Board denies what was clearly sent out to the PTA presidents and exec board.
Talk about ethics!
I completely agree with Looking for Leadership. Melissa demonstrated poor behavior, using the PTA Yahoo Group to be divisive instead of bring balance. She had a lot of potential to bring the community together, but she blew it. Or purposely ignored it.
Posted by Stick to the facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm
They were not e-mails, they were a private Yahoo discussion group...note..DISCUSSION group..apparently the speaker of the words "cat fight" ( interesting choice of words and somewhat revealing of the thought processes of the writer ) does not think that a PTA Council President has a role in participating in a DISCUSSION with PTA Presidents.
And yes, I do "shout freedom of speech" whenever possible, with all US citizens guaranteed the right to express any political opinion they wish, only limited by being responsible in not causing danger to anyone...
Even if you DON'T subscribe to a basic constitutional right, are you trying to say that you don't think a PTA Council President has the duty to express her opinion in a private discussion group on something related to our school district? I do. I believe the PTA Council President has the duty to tell all he/she believes to be true concerning any issue facing our District.
Let's carry this further. Do you think PTA presidents should keep their thoughts to themselves in PTA Exec Board meetings? Are they simply there to facilitate meetings and not express any thoughts or opinions? What about the PTA Council Secretary? Treasurer? Since every person on an Exec Board carries a title of some sort, at which point is a "job" allowed to speak?
Sorry, your logic doesn't fly.
BTW, why don't you post all the other private comments made by the other PTA Presidents, since they were all using their positions of power to present their thoughts to each other?
Posted by Stick to the facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 2:04 pm
Observer: What PTA Exec Board clearly denying WHAT was sent out? Wow..the depths of this smearing! If there is something that you want to publish..do it! Show your guts and use your name, if you are going to smear!
And, by the way....I guess that expressing a different opinion is being "divisive" when you don't agree with it, and "honest" when you do. Sorry, your logic doesn't fly. Along the same lines of thinking, I guess that on the Board of Education, President Camille should keep her opinions to herself also in the closed sessions, let alone in the open sessions. We wouldn't want her to abuse her position of power, would we?
Don't think that would go over too well with you, would it?
Posted by Looking, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 3:53 pm
Your first comment is garbled, sorry didn't get it.
As has been mentioned, the issue is not what Melissa's opinion of MI was. The issue is how she misused her position to further her political agenda. As a PTA leader, her job was to facilitate an informed discussion, not foment a fight. She decided to deliver a pre-emptive broadside on a particular issue and then instructed others not to respond (rebut).
(The board is different from the PTA. Board members are expected to steer the district with their opinions, which should be discussed in public. It is not their job to facilitate a discussion within the PTA.)
I don't understand why you are angry about this. We have her words above, so this is just fact. Don't you agree that the top PTA officer has a responsibility to lead the PTA, to create an environment in which issues can be discussed rationally? Or is it a bully pulpit to be used at whim?
It seems clear she failed to show even minimal leadership on this issue. We don't need an ideologue with no leadership skills on the board.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 5:36 pm
Well, I'm looking at the 'evidence' posted above and what I see is some current PTA president using access to a private discussion group (which does appear to be a DISCUSSION forum), where PTA presidents appeared to be having a discussion on the MI issue where Melissa adds thoughts along with a request to stay unbiased, and countering some sort of 'givens' that someone else had apparently posted.
It looks like she was responding in a give and take discussion, not making pronouncement or appearing to represent official PTA position. I didn't see anything pre-emtive about it. I saw her ask to bring this to a full and open discussion in the PTA president unit meeting. How is that shutting down discussion?
And in what part was she 'bullying'? Like, when she asked people to hold the converstation in the full group forum where everything could come out in the open?
And she also requested the group to remain open minded to both sides of the debate, and asked that they table discussion for a public meeting.
So all in all, I don't see any trust and respect violation other than from PTA Prez who attempted to smear Melissa in a very underhanded way, by posting partial, private conversations.
At this point, I hope that 'Free Speech' above, who also had access to the entire conversation will indeed post the entire conversation with names so that we can get the strait and untainted story, and the school communities from which those "PTA Prez's" come from know exactly WHO they are voting into their PTA leadership positions. People this underhanded should be exposed for what they are.
And clearly they have no issue with being 'outed' as they had no problem with 'outing' Melissa.
So lets lay it all on the line PTA Prez - shall we??
Posted by Looking, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 6:27 pm
Your post doesn't fit the quotes above.
From the looks of it a discussion was not already going on. Melissa brought it up, and argued against MI. Then, after some unspecified exchange, she again argued against MI and asked others not to talk about it anymore. Finally, she argued against MI a third time and again asked others not to rebut her.
Despite your claims, she never made a request to stay unbiased and she never asked the group to remain open-minded.
She was not merely adding her thoughts to an ongoing discussion. She tried to pre-empt the discussion by attacking MI.
She was just using her position to further her political goals without regard to the office she was supposed to fulfill. Poor judgement, no leadership.
Posted by pa parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 7:36 pm
Melissa is running for a public office. The other PTA presidents aren't.
Melissa was the PTA Council President, a leadership position to be used in public discussion without bias. PTA discussions, when broadcast to all the PTA presidents is "public". If she had kept her opinions to private individuals, that'd be OK. But using the PTA discussion group to post her position against MI and then continue to formant one-sided discussion in the "public" PTA discussion group, is just not acceptable behavior.
Camille developed her opinion after election, even before election. She was not in a position that's supposed to be neutral, and after being elected, she's been consistent.
It'll be interesting to see how Melissa backpedals or tries to justify her behavior. Again, no matter her opinion on MI, but her on her actions as PTA council president.
When you're a leader, you're looked upon to higher standards. She fell big time.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 7:42 pm
I'm reading it differently I see that she was summarizing a PAUSD Board meeting for the PA Prez discussion group a BOE meeting that was monopolized by the MI issue. So she didn't 'bring it up' but she report on it. She did add her opinion in the form of food for thought at the end of the first section, but did not ask no one to not discuss it after her initial post.
There was apparently significant discussion before she asked that it be tabled and discussed later AT A LIVE MEETING (somehow that equates to shutting down discussion? Right)
When the discussion continued she replied again. She outlined concerns that (apparently because we don't know) were not brought up but which the PTA's should make themselves aware of. She again asked for MORE discussion at a follow up meeting, and stated she wanted to get Marilyn Cook to come in for more info sharing. Again, hardly a bully attempt to shut down discussion. Interesting, wonder if Marlyn Cook ever showed her face there and how that next meeting went. We'll probably never know, except through the tainted and bitter perspective of PA Prez and Looking.
So we read the above selectively chosen string differently. We won't know for sure until we see the whole thing and can judge the whole thing in context for ourselves. Not really a 'fair fight' until someone puts the whole story out there, is it? I guess as long as only the partial selective story is posted, you are free to keep making unfounded smears. How very PRC of you.
So how 'bout it "Prez"? Or should we start calling you "Money Where Mouth Is"
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2007 at 8:56 pm
I don't know Melissa, I've never heard her platform, never talked to her and never heard her speak on any subject. I have no idea if I'll vote for her. Why am I defending her? I'm not. Im arguing on the side of logic, and particulary arguing ~against~ a thin attempt by MI Proponents to try to shut down a candidate who it SEEMS perhaps is not rolling over and going with their agenda so willingly.
Heaven forbid we should have a PTA member asking some hard questions that the MI proponents and the staff who put together the incomplete feasibility study can't answer...
Since the PTA is supposed to be so neutral and PC, I doubt any of them will stoop to this conversation. (Well, we had at least one, but even that one could be a troll - even that we don't know for sure.)
FYI, Im anxiously awaiting statements from Melissa and the rest of the candidates on their MI position and their platform. I don't believe I or anyone else can know from what has been posted above.
And you're right. Not impressed with Camille. Know her position on MI loud and clear, and will not vote for her.
Posted by PTA Member, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Aug 17, 2007 at 10:25 pm
The PTA is not, as several on this thread have claimed, a neutral organization. It is an advocacy organization which can and does take positions on many legislative issues at the local, county, state and national level.
It is entirely consistent with the PTA's mission to oppose a program that serves just a tiny percentage of district students, and particularly one which discriminates on the basis of language for admission to the program after second grade.
I don't see anything in the email fragments posted here that show that Melissa overstepped her bounds as PTA Council President. In fact, I think she was rather conservative and restrained with respect to this issue.
Posted by Keep Focused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 8:34 am
I hope Palo Altans are broad-minded enough to not make this school board election a single MI issue election, no matter how passionately they feel about the MI process, players, or outcome.
Whatever your views on MI may be, all can agree that staff and board time spent debating it this last year took time away from other important school district work that needed to be done. A fact that was lost on many who were following the MI debate only in the news and which, it appears from the discussion above, board candidate Melissa Caswell wanted people to factor in when forming their own views on MI.
Keeping the focus on MI going forward will confuse voters and put the district's other work even further behind.
Equally important, bad outcomes on other issues likely to come before the school board these next 2-4 years will make the MI debate seem like a cakewalk.
More than ever, we need board members who are already up-to-speed on very complicated issues both in education and state legislation, who are smart, have time to devote, and are hard working, and who are well-respected locally and broadly for their ability to act quickly, accessibility, creative thinking, and effective advocacy. Their take and actions on MI won't help me decide who is best for the job.
The first crucial challenge that jumps to my mind in a list of many is new, stepped up funding challenges.
According to Joe Simitian, state policy makers will try to restructure how all California schools are funded this year or next, which could have a huge negative impact on Palo Alto schools. Local funding concerns mount too as the board will need to find ways to address the cost of demonstrable and sustained enrollment growth without taking what is needed away from students already in the system.
These issues and others, but not MI, should keep Palo Alto awake at night.
Posted by Watching, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 8:59 am
I suspect the focus on MI continues because it is a Schematic for 2 very different ideas about what is appropriate use of public education funds. An "icon", if you will.
It isn't even about Choice programs, I think. It is about whether or not a prospective Board member believes that it is an appropriate use of education funds to develop an exclusive, lottery based program which can exclude an elementary school child on the basis of what ability the kid has at the mere age of 5, and can exclude a child on the basis of whether or not a parent can can arrange to get the kid to the school.
On top of that, it is about whether or not a prospective Board member believes it is an appropriate use of education funds to fund a program available to a very few kids in a District, on the basis of luck.
So, I suspect that the MI thing is going to be used as shorthand for this. Proponents are going to try to paint it as "pro-choice in education" and "pro-diversity and tolerance", and opponents are going to paint it as "anti-private schools with public funds, anti-exclusionary practices of public elementary school kids"
Posted by PTA Member, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 9:49 am
I agree with you wholeheartedly about the need to not make MI the central issue of this campaign. There is so much work that needs to be done, and so many other pressing issues that are currently before the BoE or will be over the next few months, not the least of which is that the state budget has not yet been finalized.
I plan to ask the candidates how they will monitor the MI program to ensure it stays within the financial constraints of the Feasibility Study. I plan to ask them about the decision making process and timeline for housing the program after two years (Currently, Ohlone is approved for three additional modular classrooms, enough for only two years of MI). But I don't want to rehash and critique the previous board's decision making process, or ask the new board to overturn the MI decision. Otherwise we'll get so mired once again in the MI debate that we'll never have time to learn about the candidates' views on so many other critical issues this district faces.
I also hope that as we can look for and identify positive qualities of the candidates for school board, rather than focus on the negative aspects of the incumbent, as I've seen mentioned in previous comments. A nasty, negative campaign season will only serve to further divide and hurt our community, and prevent us from working together to make our schools the very best they can be.
Keep Focused, you also said, "According to Joe Simitian, state policy makers will try to restructure how all California schools are funded this year or next,"
I'm very interested in this. Can you point me to your source?
Posted by Keep Focused Too, a resident of another community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 10:14 am
I think what Keeping Focused is trying to keep voters focused on is what is more important --
How prospective board members feel about a no-cost program or if they have money to spend.
How prospective board members feel about something that involves a small program, impacting a small number of kids or challenges looming that will impact all our kids and the broader non-kid community too.
No one person will fit everyone's vision of a picture perfect candidate. Like Keeping Focused, my vote will be for board members based on big picture, big impact issues.
BTW -- I tend to think of education as partly a series of "uses of education funds to fund a program available to a very few kids in a District." Lots of things in education use public funds for small interest- or ability-based populations that not all kids use: for example, school psychologists, lunch time hula hooping, before school reading academies, high school Japanese, or any program one school sponsors that the school down the street does not have. The big and little things add up to serving the needs of all students, and shouldn't be voted in or out just because of their size.
MI was voted in in part because it didn't cost more than what it costs to teach those children in other Palo Alto classrooms, so will not be taking money away from other pressing district needs.
And all of this is said by someone who was neither a proponent or opponent of MI.
Posted by voter, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 1:54 pm
fundamental to voting for a candidate is feeling that you can trust them, that they are fair, good listening skills, etc.
the MI mention about Melissa's bad behavior, and reflection on her leadership skills (or lack there of) or extending to questioning her character, is basic to what she is. before you ask all the logistic questions or policy questions or platform issues, you need to believe in the candidate.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 2:14 pm
Talking about Camille, it is not her stand on MI that puts me against her (even though I do not agree with her). She showed consistency and her views were well known. That is not necessarily a reason for being against her. Where she fails is the poor leadership, the inability to acknowledge the logical arguments against her views and the blatant disregard for those who held the opposing view particularly those fellow board members. True, the MI topic is the biggie, but I feel sure that there will be times that I would disagree with a Board Member's decision. I can respect someone who votes against my point of view if they have seen to be open minded, listened to all the pros and cons, and made a decision on this fairly. What I do not agree with is coming to a discussion with an emotional one sided argument which does not hold water and then blatantly refusing to put any weight on the arguments against it.
Camille showed nothing but emotional, pie in the sky, rapture at the MI discussions and put all rational arguments against it as negative feelings against the principle rather than well thought out concerns.
For someone to have this child like idealogy to remain on the Board is like letting the characters in a fairy tale loose on the Board. I think the majority of Palo Atans, regardless of whether they have children in PAUSD or not, will see that someone like this should not be in public office.
Posted by Still paying attention, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 2:38 pm
In response to Keep Focused Too who commented on the concept of using public funds for small interest groups and said
"Lots of things in education use public funds for small interest- or ability-based populations that not all kids use: for example, school psychologists, lunch time hula hooping, before school reading academies, high school Japanese, or any program one school sponsors that the school down the street does not have."
1) All the programs mentionned are available to all children who want it or need it, not on the basis of lottery or limited to kids who have a certain level in an area in elementary school. The psychologists are not doled out to kids on the basis of lottery, the before school reading programs are open to all kids who need it as exhibited by scoring below a certain level on reading tests, high school Japanese is open to all who want to take it, etc.
2) One school choosing to use its discretionary funds for an enriched science program for the whole school while another school chooses to use its funds for an enriched art program does not mean that one school gets no art and the other gets no science.
This, in my opinion faulty, logic comes up over and over again in reference to lottery based choice programs and in reference to an elementary school immersion program. We have to remember to think what basic principles and philosophies concerning public education tax dollars we want, and vote accordingly. If we want a district with many different schools that teach different subjects, where the children get the education they win in a lottery, well, fine, that is what we will vote in. If not, we won't.
My vote is for the Board Candidate who favors school programs that are open to all who want it or need it. Truly equal access to all programs,especially in elementary school.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 3:46 pm
Still paying attention -
I really like your philosophy of "open to all who want or need it".
Unfortunately, even in our relatively financially healthy district, there are kids at every school who want and/or need more help or enrichment then they are receiving. I suspect if you asked any school principal if they could spend more $$ on resource teachers, psychologists, ELL support, reading or math academy, enrichment for gifted kids, etc. they would tell you that right now they pick the neediest kids to support, there are many more who go without.
Posted by Keep Focused Too, a resident of another community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 4:34 pm
Stilling Paying Attention --
Does that mean that you would nix the Young 5s program, Ohlone, Hoover and Spanish Immersion too because they are lottery programs?
I echo Palo Alto mom’s comments. Schools all over town have programs that have limited space and kids are turned away from them. Some classes at our middle and high schools have limited seats and end up turning kids away, perhaps even Japanese class. Sports teams can only take a fraction of the students interested. Not all kids who could be helped by school psychologists have access to them because of their heavy workloads. Ditto the reading academy. The list goes on. All of these are in a way a form of popular choice programs in that they are available only to people who request them, they have limited space so some may be left without, and those using them are not always the most in need.
Do you advocate that our schools do away with all of these because they are not “school programs that are open to all who want it or need it”?
A good idea?
- Teachers are very grateful that options exist for some of the kids in our district so they don't have to meet vastly differing demands and needs, even if not all kids get the help they could use.
- If you go back you will find that each one of these formal choice programs was formed to meet a need neighborhood schools could not.
- They are immensely popular as is evident from their long waiting lists.
Kids get a good education in their neighborhood schools; while losing a spot in a lottery program may be disappointing, students' education is not harmed if they have to go to schools near home instead.
If what you are suggesting instead is that every school should have multiple mini-choice programs in them, suggest how that would be feasible given differing interests at each site and limited financial resources. If it is just that you want foreign language in all elementary schools, isn't the district looking into that right now? Check out the mentions of the World Language/FLES Task Force on the PAUSD website.
Posted by Parent too, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 4:44 pm
To the "voter" about five posts above:
Essentially, what you just typed is, "Before one knows any facts about anything, one has to make an emotional decision." If that's the way you choose to live, well, no one can help you. Where facts are irrelevant, no reasoning is possible.
But you might consider actually glancing at facts, and all the facts, before you let your pro-MI bias make your emotional decision for you.
As I understand it, PTA rules are pretty clear about not taking a specific stance on divisive issues where no clear-cut advocacy position for children exists. I don't believe Melissa should be faulted for not using PTAC to take a stance. In fact, if she had a personal bias on this topic, not dragging PTAC into it is admirable. What she posts on a private Yahoo discussion group should not, I believe, be held against her if her public stance was decidedly impartial.
Whether or not the poster PTA Prez is running for office, quoting from a private Yahoo group without permission is abhorrent. That poster should be ashamed. But even having gotten their way, the pro-MI group is astounding for its rudeness, lack of ethics, and abrasive behavior. That of course makes it even sadder that the anti-MI group's behavior has been even worse.
Generally, if all the MI folks, pro or anti, could just take a chill pill, this entire town would be better off. Like toddlers, the folks in these group just can't seem to turn loose of the toy they're all fighting over. No compromise, no "it's done so let's be constructive," just 24/7 yuckiness that I, for one, am EXTREMELY tired of reading.
Let's focus on the more important issues for this district, shall we? Maybe enrollment growth, facilities planning, funding, and other crucial concerns could, for a change, be those discussed instead of freaking Mandarin Immersion.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm
Judge and Jury
Sorry, I don't agree with you. I don't mind not agreeing with Camille. I can take that. Yes, she was consistent. I can take that. Barb was also very pro MI. However, she used logical arguments and could see the opposite point of view. She didn't look at MI through rose colored spectacles and was able to give good reasoned, pursuasive statements to present her vote. I didn't agree with her but I liked the way she worked. Camille had no good reasons for voting for MI and just jumped on to the "wouldn't it be wonderful" bandwagon.
On top of that, she is a poor leader. She quite obviously took her presiding role as that of attempting to coerce her board members to see things her way and when they didn't she could not even treat them all the same. From her body language, to using formal names rather than first names and even what in a child might have been called a temper tantrum, she just didn't do the job well.
I want to see all board members, particularly whoever is in the Chair, to be able to rise above pettiness and to do the job graciously.
Camille just doesn't fit the role of an elected official. I don't mind that she liked MI from the start, I just don't like the way she liked it. I want to see more than emotionaly, starry eyed wonder, from the Board. I want to see realism.
Posted by Looking for Objective Info, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 5:07 pm
How about the other issues a few readers a few posts back spoke too?
Anyone know anything about the experiences of those running, their education, backgrounds, etc. that would add value to any funding challenges that the district may face or anything else looming in the big picture? (Please, no more comments on MI, ethics or leadership style, which most would agree are pretty subjective and impossible to verify on an anonymous forum like this so not really helpful.)
Posted by parent, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 7:02 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As someone said above, she could have done all her politicking in private emails. But a PTA yahoo group is fair game. Remember what Dear Abby says, you should never write anything that you wouldn't be proud to have published in the front page of the newspaper (or TownSquare).
Posted by Incredulous, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Aug 18, 2007 at 9:04 pm
There are 6 people running for 3 school board spots. Isn't it just possible that the "whistle blower" is an opponent using this anonymous forum to gain a competitive edge?
Someone has an axe to grind or advantage to gain by being so free wheeling with his or her criticism and character accusations.
If the poster wants to be believed, post your name so readers can assess your bias and determine for themselves whether what you say should be given any weight. Ever heard of the 6th amendment right to confront an accuser before being judged?
Don't be mislead. There is no way to know whether what is posted on Town Square is true.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 1:46 am
Seems to me that Melissa's defense is that posts made in an e-mail discussion group and then leaked can hardly be construed as her having misused her PTA position to publicly oppose Mandarin Immersion.
Hers is not a political position--she wasn't elected by the public, not does she control public funds or a public entity. To confuse that with, say, Grace Mah's conflict-of-interest in pushing for a charter school while gunning for a public position that would let her decide on charter schools, shows a convenient willingness to muddle the issues.
I just don't see the breach of ethics here--particularly, given that the PTA does, indeed, take sides on occasion. This is a red herring.
What's really going on is that MI isn't a done deal, since it will pop up as a huge issue in a couple of years when it has nowhere to go. The Pro-MI crowd doesn't want three new board members who won't favor their program. Melissa, because of her experience, is naturally a strong candidate and seen as a threat to the pro-MI crowd. So, we're already seeing an anonymous smear campaign and an attempt to make a slimeball out of nothing.
Anyway, I'm with some of the other posters--I'd like to know more about some of the other candidates--particularly Barbara Klausner and Pingyu Liu.
Posted by Once again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 10:23 am
In response to Keep Focused Too..I am glad you wrote your response to Still Paying Attention. It gives me a chance to dissect it. Not being disrespectful, but I submit that you are mixing concepts and philosophies, and failing to see critical differences in access issues.
I am quoting what you wrote below, with my responses in CAPS within your writing.
Stilling Paying Attention --
Does that mean that you would nix the Young 5s program, Ohlone, Hoover and Spanish Immersion too because they are lottery programs? ( NO I WOULD ASSURE THAT ALL WHO WANT THEM, GET THEM, SO THEY ARE TRULY CHOICE NOT LUCK, SINCE WE HAVE DECIDED TO HAVE THEM)
I echo Palo Alto mom’s comments. Schools all over town have programs that have limited space and kids are turned away from them. Some classes at our middle and high schools have limited seats and end up turning kids away,( GIVE FACTUAL EVIDENCE..I HAVE SEEN NONE OF THIS AT ALL IN ANY OF THE 3 LEVELS) perhaps even Japanese class. Sports teams can only take a fraction of the students interested. ( NO, SPORTS TEAMS ARE AFTER SCHOOL, AND TAKE THE TOP QUALIFIED COMPETITIVE KIDS WHO COMPETE TO GAIN ENTRANCE..BIG DIFFERENCE..BUT KEEP SAYING IT IS EQUAL, IT REVEALS A LOT) Not all kids who could be helped by school psychologists have access to them because of their heavy workloads ( AGAIN, KEEP SAYING THIS, THOSE IN MOST NEED HAVE ACCESS, NOBODY IS DENIED ON THE BASIS OF ANYTHING OTHER THAN PRIORITIZED NEED..BIG DIFFERENCE). Ditto the reading academy.( KEEP SAYING THIS ALSO, THOSE MOST IN NEED ARE OFFERED A SPOT, AND SINCE IT IS NEVER FILLED WITH THOSE WHO MOST QUALIFY, THE SECOND TIER KIDS GET INVITED NEXT..AGAIN, NEED BASED) The list goes on.(YES, IT DOES. EVERY KID COULD USE A PSYCHOLOGIST AND ONE ON ONE INSTRUCTION AND MORE HOURS OF SCHOOL AND MORE PE AND MORE ART AND MORE READING ETC..IT IS CALLED TRIAGE OR PRIORITIZING, AND NOBODY CONFUSES THIS AS BEING THE SAME THING AS DESIRE) All of these are in a way a form of popular choice programs in that they are available only to people who request them (NO, PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM IN ACADEMICS, OR COMPETE FOR THEM IN SPORTS), they have limited space so some may be left without ( THE ONES WHO DO NOT QUALIFY ARE LEFT OUT, BIG DIFFERENCE), and those using them are not always the most in need ( ABSOLUTELY, THOSE IN MOST NEED ARE SERVED FIRST... UNLESS THEIR PARENT(S) REFUSE, WHICH OFTEN HAPPENS)
Do you advocate that our schools do away with all of these because they are not “school programs that are open to all who want it or need it”? ( YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENTIATING, BUT OTHERS CAN)
A good idea?
- Teachers are very grateful that options exist for some of the kids in our district so they don't have to meet vastly differing demands and needs, even if not all kids get the help they could use. ( YES..AND??)
- If you go back you will find that each one of these formal choice programs was formed to meet a need neighborhood schools could not. ( YES, APPROVED BASED ON A NEED,,,,NOT DESIRE..IN THE CASE OF SI, IT WAS JUSTIFIED ON THE NEED TO BRING AT RISK SPANISH SPEAKING KIDS A BETTER OPTION FOR LEARNING ENGLISH..THUS BEGAN THE SLIPPERY SLOPE)
- They are immensely popular as is evident from their long waiting lists. ( YES, THEY ARE..AND IF SO, AND IF THEY ARE CHOICE, WHY DON'T WE FILL THE DEMAND FOR THESE PROGRAMS SO THAT EVERYONE ACTUALLY HAS A REAL CHOICE? 100 KIDS APPLYING FOR 12 SPOTS IN SI IS NOT CHOICE, BUT LUCK.
BY THE WAY, THE "CHOICE" PROGRAMS YOU HAVE SEGUED INTO ARE NOT THE SPECIAL ED, PSYCHOLOGIST AND SPORTS PROGRAMS YOU WERE THROWING OUT A FEW PARAGRAPHS AGO. VERY CRITICAL DIFFERENCES)
Kids get a good education in their neighborhood schools; while losing a spot in a lottery program may be disappointing, students' education is not harmed if they have to go to schools near home instead. (ASSUMING THEY HAVE A SCHOOL NEAR THEIR HOME..AS FOR THE "NOT HARMED" ARGUMENT, BY THE SAME ARGUMENT, WE COULD SHUT DOWN ALL THE CHOICE PROGRAMS AND NOBODY WOULD BE HARMED, SO WHY DO WE HAVE THEM? )
If what you are suggesting instead is that every school should have multiple mini-choice programs ( WHERE DID YOU GET THAT? I AM STATING A FACT, THAT EACH SCHOOL HAS DISCRETIONARY INCOME, SOME FROM DISTRICT, SOME FROM PIE, WHICH THEY CHOOSE TO USE AS THEY WISH) in them, suggest how that would be feasible given differing interests at each site and limited financial resources. If it is just that you want foreign language in all elementary schools, isn't the district looking into that right now? Check out the mentions of the World Language/FLES Task Force on the PAUSD website.( I DON'T HAVE ANY OPINION ON WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS OR ISNT' FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN ALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, THIS IS A DISCUSSION ON WHETHER OR NOT THIS PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION FUND USE, WHICH WILL LEAD TO EVERY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BEING VERY DIFFERENT, AND EACH KID GETTING THE EDUCATION THEY WIN BY LOTERY, IS THE ONE WE WANT. THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES ARE GREAT. I REGRET SUPPORTING SI WHEN IT STARTED. I WAS TOO YOUNG AND NAIVE AND SELFISH TO REALIZE WHERE THE THINKING WOULD LEAD.)
BY THE WAY, I WILL BE AMAZED AND DELIGHTED IF EVEN ALL THE 6TH GRADERS CAN TAKE A FOREIGN LANGUAGE.
Posted by Keep Focused Too, a resident of another community, 17 hours ago
Again, nobody is saying do away with young 5s, competitive sports etc. Focusing on the ONE aspect of "not accepting all who want it" denies the reality of and difference between programs that are meant to be competitive or for a certain population in extra need, and programs that are set up to be "won" on a lottery so that a kid gets the education he "wins".
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 11:36 am
The elementary school my kids attended was able to consistently fill its academy, with kids being turned away. There are kids who needed the resource teacher, who end up hiring a tutor they can ill afford instead. And as far as the choice programs go - how many non-siblings get a slot in a typical year?
Posted by Keep Focused Too, a resident of another community, on Aug 19, 2007 at 11:46 am
Check your facts.
If you call the Young 5s program and Ohlone (not sure about Hoover) they'll tell you that every year they have more kids wanting space than get in. They will tell you too that children get in based on a lottery and they do not and I believe cannot look at who is the most in need to figure out who gets a seat in their school. If your parents like the Ohlone philosophy, your son qualifies for the Ohlone lottery. If your daughter is old enough for kindergarten, she can ask to be in Young 5s whether she is mature for her age or not.
So the choice is simple:
1. Can them under the theory that they do not fit into your definition of public schools which is the same for all mainstreamed students or nothing different for any of them.
2. Expand the programs to meet the need. When you call the schools ask them about this too. It is not as easy as it sounds logistically or financially.
3. Do the fine balancing act the district has been doing for years with these popular programs.
I don't want to cut down your comments sentence by sentence as you have done to mine, but just know your facts are not right on your other points either.
Town Square is not particularly pleasant or helpful forum unless posters do their research before they press "submit."
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 12:05 pm
Okay, did some basic Google searches on Barbara Klausner and Pingyu Liu. Klausner seems pretty straightforward, ran a math program at Nixon, where she also seems to have been active on the site council. Obviously, there's an interest in math education and GATE programs--which seem to not be emphasized in this district. I'd like to hear from her about balancing specialty programs v. all-over district issues. She's been running a special program, but at a neighborhood school, so it could be interesting to hear her perspective.
Liu, on the other hand, has been a real stumper. The Daily lists Liu as a free-lance writer. I can't find anything written by him under either Pingyu Liu or PY Liu that fits that description. There seems to be a Pingyu Liu affiliated with Stanford's radiology oncology lab who's coauthored some scientific papaers . . . There's also a Pingyu and Carolyn Liu who have donated to PiE. But it's completely unclear who Liu is.
Also, the Daily News said a James Cook took out filing papers for the election. Did he actually file them and, if so, who is he?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 1:41 pm
Re: the Ohlone lottery. I've heard that it was hell to get in this year as a non-sibling, very few openings. It's incredibly frustrating that Ohlone can't be expanded a half strand when the demand for the Ohlone program is so clearly not being met.
We all pay for all the programs. I think it's absurd that the odds of getting into a lottery program are looking like the odds of getting into an Ivy League college.
Posted by Voice of reason, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 10:51 pm
So, some people see nothing wrong when Melissa misuses the PTA presidency to further her own political agenda.
No points for guessing that this is the anti-MI gang again, who'd love nothing more than to elect someone on a single issue, no matter what her ethics so they can pursue their narrow goal. Wow, how low will they sink?
What would these same people have said if Melissa had misused her position to argue for MI? Obvious.
No, we need someone with leadership skills and ethics, not an infighter who is uninterested in her constituency.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2007 at 11:49 pm
Voice of Reason,
The PTA allows for advocacy. There's nothing I've seen here that shows she misused her position to further her own political agenda.
Sounds like other PTA presidents DID argue for MI in the Yahoo! forum and, no, I have no problem with that either.
I mean it's actually weirdly funny that you think that being a PTA pres. somehow means you have no right to express your opinion on an educational matter. Unless, you can show that she used PTA funds to drum up opposition and fund her candidacy, I think you've got nothing but a really screwy attempt at a smear campaign.
And what is the smear? Ms. Caswell expressed her opinion. And you don't like it.
Posted by Voice of Reason, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2007 at 10:58 am
As pta president, Melissa had a duty to foster a fair-minded discussion. Instead, she made a bad choice and tried to pre-empt the discussion.
You believe this is OK--but only because you hope she will vote against MI down the road. Perhaps she will even violate some board ethics--in keeping with past behavior--in pushing against MI! Goody for you.
How sad. For some it comes to this: the ends justify the means. Thus the rush to defend dirty politics.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2007 at 11:02 am
I think we are really getting wild here. As I remember it, when the MI debate was really hot, there were discussions everywhere all over town about MI. From school playgrounds, sports bleachers, church socials, coffee shops, Midtown Safeways, you name it, there were people in hot debate about the issue. For a group of elected PTA presidents not to discuss the topic would have been horrendous. The yahoo discussion group is the same as a playground group of parents debating the issue. A formal PTA meeting is not the same thing. For the PTA council to have ignored the topic would have been unrealistic. For them to vote on whether they were for or against MI would have been unethical. For the individuals to give their individual opinion in a private discussion (which is what a yahoo group is) is fine with me. There was no political lobbying going on which is what would be wrong if that had been the case. I am actually pleased to see that the PTA Presidents did have differences of opinion among themselves. This shows that they are truly a diversified group which makes for a stronger body altogether. For Melissa at that stage to be using the group as a lobbying for her election to the BoE is farfetched. She was doing just what almost everyone else was doing, stating her opinion as an individual. For her not to have done that would have been implying that she had no opinion at all and for someone not to have had an opinion either way would have asked the question, "why is she doing this job if she couldn't care one way or the other on something so current?" For her to be impartial then there had to have been a vote. There was no vote on whether the PTA should support or not, therefore she did not have to be unbiaised.
Don't judge one candidate on something like this. It just makes the election a one topic race and I for one think that there are other things the candidates should be judged on rather than how they handled themselves during the debaucle.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2007 at 2:33 pm
Parent says it well. An e-mail discussion group is not a formal meeting. *Obviously* a discussion took place, which Caswell, from what bits we have, sought to keep from overwhelming other issues.
Would that our school board had that kind of sense. It's frustrating to see how many priorities were shoved aside while the MI debate went on and on and on.
Once again, an expression of an opinion in a discussion group is not an unethical use of position--particularly if your ideal is that discussion should be fostered. You seem to be confusing ethical issues--as if Baten-Caswell were a judge or something.
Given that there aren't nearly enough spots for the existing choice programs, why does it make sense to add yet another choice program in a location that guarantees the choice program with the most applicants can't expand?
Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2007 at 3:53 pm
Sorry, the presidents yahoogroup is not private. It's a forum for discussion. As council president, Melissa was reporting on a meeting and not being objective. Putting her personal opinion in the objective report was inappropriate. She could have opened a general discussion, calling for everyone's participation, instead she threw her stones, attempted to shut down the yahoogroup discussion, and then never had a full discussion at the council or presidents meeting.
Besides the poor leadership quality of objectivity while leading a group, she also did not step up to heal the divisiveness that she saw in the community and among the PTA presidents. A real leader would make efforts to bring the community together, instead of letting things get worse (neglect) or passive resistance to do anything, just letting things fester under her watch.
MI isn't the issue so much as her lack of leadership in objectivity in an official capacity, and her negligence of the community divisiveness that she didn't work to fix.
She's entitled to her opinion, but she has to be a leader, and she wasn't.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm
Sounds like it was a forum for discussion limited to an approved group. In other words--private. It wasn't in a public meeting while she was in her role as president.
You're confusing, by the way, objectivity with neutrality. You may not like the way she ran the discussion, but to claim she was unethical is nonsense based on the information presented.
As for her leadership abilities, again, there's insufficient information here to make that kind of call. We, or at least I, don't know the context in which she made those comments. (Whereas, I know the context of Camille Townsend's comments.)
Posted by Another resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 9:47 am
My experience of Yahoo groups is that they exist for an invited membership. To belong, you have to be invited by the initiator and for the majority, no one but the initiator can invite new members. This sounds like a private group to me, or how I define private.
I do belong to one Yahoo group that I requested to join from a link on a web page, but remembering back, I had to request an invitation from the initiator to join. I also vaguely remember that in the pre-amble to joining there was a legal disclaimer containing the information that it was private and making any of the discussion public (such as posting parts on this forum) was contravening the terms of the agreement which I was opting to join.
For this reason, I think that anything that has been made public from this Yahoo group should be ignored. Editing parts of what was said to make someone sound a lot worse than they were is common in the gutter press. In fact, I am sure that anything can be misconstrued by anyone with a little bit of clever editing. Consequently, to whoever the whistle blower was of these comments, I highly question both your motive and your honor. To me, this is just the same as secretly recording a private conversation to which you were party and then broadcasting what you deemed to be newsworthy. Another tactic of the gutter press.
For the rest of us, I don't think any of these tactics should be given any credence. Firstly, because we cannot trust that they are what they say they are. Secondly, because giving the whistle blower the satisfaction of throwing the cat among the pigeons is just blowing their own tender ego. Thirdly, I hope that all of us in Yahoo groups remember that it is a privilege to join and that they are supposed to be ethical and discreet. By violating those terms, you have revoked your privilege and should not be invited to join a Yahoo group again.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 11:28 am
Your experience with Yahoo Groups is the same as mine. I think this is worse than trolling (i.e. provoking for the hell of it), it's a smear job aimed at discrediting the most qualified (in terms of experience) board candidate.
I don't think it's got much traction though--we're getting a little self-righteous blustering and then *poof* we get another sockpuppet.
Posted by Parent 2, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm
Parent states, "For the PTA council to have ignored the topic would have been unrealistic. For them to vote on whether they were for or against MI would have been unethical."
Actually, it is not unethical for the PTA to have a position on a local issue. From the CA State PTA website (under the advocacy tab), "Unit, council and district PTAs are responsible for taking action on local issues originating in school districts, cities, regions, or counties." and "PTAs can and must participate actively in the process through which public policy decisions are made."
The PTA Council could have voted to have a position but first they would have needed to conduct a study, presented their findings, and voted.
I know that some parents at some of your schools have suggested that the PTA take a position on a choice or charter school program for Mandarin Immersion. Some PTAC officers also asked if the Council should take a position.
The outcome of our discussion at the May 9 Executive Board meeting was to NOT take a pro or con position on any kind of Mandarin program, but rather to encourage individuals to be informed and express their opinions directly to the Board of Education. And to let them know that the BOE will be voting on this item at its May 22 meeting.
This decision was reached, in part, based on a review of the California State PTA policies and guidelines regarding local advocacy, beginning in Section 4.1 of the State PTA Toolkit [a link to the PTA web site "Advocacy" section of the Toolkit is pasted below].
In a nutshell, the policy calls for a "study" to be conducted prior to taking a vote. Given the very short period of time before the BOE votes, we quickly concluded that doing a proper study was, in itself, an insurmountable obstacle. The additional steps following the study made it absolutely clear that we did not have the time to do it right.
One could reasonably argue that we have been "studying" the issue for several months, but we have not done it in the formal way described in the Toolkit. With the heightened level of emotional investment -- on both sides -- in this issue, we felt it was especially important to closely adhere to the guidelines in order to defend taking a position or the position itself.
In the absence of a Council pro/con position, PTA Units are free to make an independent judgment. I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with the guidelines and consider the risks and benefits to your community, no matter what course of action you choose. I would recommend, however, that you move forward "by the book" to ensure a defensible process and outcome.
I am happy to answer any questions you might have. In addition, Dan Dykwel (PTAC EVP and President-elect) and Barbara Spreng (past PTA President and Sixth District President-elect) join me in being available to lend support to you as you deal with your community around this issue.
It's unfortunate that she refers questions to two anti-MI PTA officials, and also that she didn't try to lead a study session back early in the discussion, instead of running out of time and spouting her own opinion without open discussion.
Sounds like she abdicated her responsibility, along with her character.
Posted by Just Moved Here, a resident of Stanford, on Aug 21, 2007 at 2:19 pm
Just moved here with my husband. Cannot express just how disillusioned I am by this thread, and we don't even have kids yet. I'm seriously reconsidering our decision to live here. Get a grip people - is this how you behave in front of your kids? No wonder all I ever see around here is a ME ME ME mentality!
Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Just Moved Here: Don't jump to conclusions. Remember the 80/20 rule: 20% of the posters generate 80% of the posts. Some people just live to see their lofty opinions on the computer screen. Oh, is that my name I see? (-;
Posted by go now, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 3:17 pm
I'm seriously reconsidering our decision to live here.
You should - seriously. Everything to do with the schools here is extremely selfish. Avoid sending your children to the public schools in Palo Alto if you can. Everyone just wants to get what they can out the disctrict and to hell with the rest. The BoE simply bows down to any special interest group. They really aren't in control.
Posted by Alan, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2007 at 11:57 pm
The evidence presented on this board about "Melissa using a neutral post to promote a political agenda" is underwhelming.
To me it appears she participated in a "discussion" on a DISCUSSION BOARD about something everyone was talking about at the time. To say she tried to "preempt" other from discussing this topic is really funny. This is PALO ALTO, people do express their opinions. She preempted nothing.
The second letter seems to actually SUPPORT the position that she remained neutral in a public forum and in fact did NOT promote her own political agenda.
Those that remain anonymous, and smear this candidate have had the opposite effect on me. I don't know her, but I'm now voting for her.
Posted by Alan, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2007 at 12:09 am
I will now use my vast power to "preempt" and further discussion of Melissa on this thread. This thread is about 6 candidate, and we have really only discussed two in any detail. I want to hear about the other candidates.
Time to start dishing out the smear on them, too. Please do remain anonymous while you do it however. We are a gullible group here and will never question any anonymous poster's motives.
Posted by Always vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2007 at 1:26 am
I have read a lot of the MI threads, and frankly I am getting the distinct feeling from the above that one person is trying to smear Melissa over and over again. I sincerely hope this is not a particular person whose style seems to be showing, it would be unseemly...
I didn't have an opinion about Melissa until this discussion. I remember the rancor and am amazed at how neutral and well-reasoned her comments were. I see no bias or agenda in them, they are amazingly neutral. She asked intelligent, pithy, unemotional questions. It looks to me that she tried to ask for cooling off. She didn't crusade FOR MI, that's all I see. Someone seems to be out to get her for that.
I'm tempted to join her campaign just based on the very well-reasoned and unbiased comments she made in the midst of a heated debate.
MI proponents cried racism anytime they didn't like well-reasoned opposition; this seems to be a new tactic to smear a candidate whose views on MI are not in lock-step with theirs.
Posted by Muckraker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2007 at 8:16 pm
Thank you, Always vote - I do!
But I disagree with your attempt to blame one person for bringing Melissa's judgment in question. With the outpouring (not) of defense of her messages and intentions, clearly a number of PTA presidents and PTA Council members think she screwed up.
There's not just one person on the yahoo group besides Melissa.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2007 at 9:39 pm
There is no evidence that more than one person on the PTA Council or Presidents give a failing grade to Melissa. There is one person who has flaunted the privacy code and passed on items from the Yahoo group. We know that one person can post here under multiple names so there is no evidence to say that a "number" are against Melissa.
And just because none of them are sticking up for her, it may be that they do not read this forum. Alternatively, they may feel that anything they try to do would be fodder for the likes of you when it gets misconstrued.