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School Board candidates with kids in PRIVATE schools

Original post made by PAUSD parent on Oct 15, 2007

What do folks think of candidates who have kids in private schools? Both Barbara Klausner and Melissa Caswell chose Castilleja for their daughters.

I'm impressed with their credentials, and endorsements, but chosing private over public and then running for the school board gives me pause.

Comments (91)

Posted by Sherri, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 15, 2007 at 6:55 pm


Sounds like Bill and Hillary. Hypocracy is nothing new, but glad you pointed it out.

Posted by Peter, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 15, 2007 at 7:12 pm

I'm not sure it's really hypocracy. For certain kids with certain needs, places like Castilleja are quite appropriate. Rather than condemn these people, one might commend them for their interest in preserving and promoting public schools.

Posted by Sherri, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 15, 2007 at 7:30 pm


All kids have "certain needs", but we would be hyprocrits if we send our 'special' kids to the private schools, while most of the rest are expected to deal with their "certain needs" in publics, then have the temerity to run for PAUSD Board positions.

If the candidates that sent their own kids to the privates are willing to support educational vouchers, then they would not be hypocrits. However, I do not think that they would support this idea. Therefore, they are hypocrits.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Well, here are two families that had 'specialty' desires for their own version of education, and they had the integrity to go pay for private education to get that specialty desire met, instead of dragging the rest of us through some customization drive impacting the entire community with a selfish demand that they be provided their own special corner of education perfection. I commend them for understanding the difference between public resources and private education wants and desires.

I also commend them for devoting extra personal resources to a private education to meet their own family's needs, and still having enough left over to give to the betterment of our public school system. Good for them. They sound generous. Not selfish.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Sherri, why don't you ask them what they think before calling them hypocrites? This kind of labeling of candidates based on how you think they'd answer is harsh.

Posted by Sherri, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 15, 2007 at 8:49 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 15, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Sherri, have you even looked into private schools in the area and how they work? Because if you had, you would know that private schools, including Castilleja, give generous scholarships to a sizable number of students so that not only the uber rich can send their children there. Sending your child to private school does not automatically make you elitist.

My own children have spent three years recovering from being horribly bullied in a Palo Alto elementary school with the principal complicit in the abuse. I didn't ask PAUSD to pick up the tab for three years of therapy, or for the cost of educating them in a private school. PAUSD gets my tax dollars and bond dollars and I don't even cost the district a dime. Neither do Barb and Melissa, where their daughters are concerned.

Decades of studies show that MANY girls learn more and take more intellectual risks if they are in single-sex schools, especially at middle school level. There are reasons besides elitism to send your daughter to one. Besides, the alternative would have been to threaten a charter for girls-only education, which some might argue is more of a need than MI.

Ditto on parent and yet another parent's responses.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Melissa Baten-Caswell and Barbara Klausner are exceptional contributors to community, and otherwise exceptional people. They shold stand proud on their prior records. I trust that they will be exceptional BOE members.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Perhaps they see the school system wanting and they would like to fix it before placing their daughters back in.

Perhaps they believe in the research that middle school girls learn better if they dont share a classroom with boys.

Perhaps they like the smaller class sizes.

I think asking them why they choose private vs public is fair and if you dont like their answer, dont vote for them.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2007 at 9:47 pm

PAUSD Parent,

Another way to frame the query in this thread:

"What do folks think about BOE members who have children in public schools, but through pure hubris and less-than-optimal decision-making reduce the effectiveness of those public schools?"

Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 15, 2007 at 10:35 pm

sorry, rwe, what did that mean?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Don't both Klausner and Baten-Caswell have children in public schools as well? So, is it still hypocrisy if some kids are in the public system? Or simply making choices depending on those children's needs or wants?

If you want something that you can't expect the public school system to reasonably provide, I'm not sure I see the problem with going outside of it.

But I think it's worth asking them.

Posted by JLS Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2007 at 7:53 am

While the district is concerned about the size of the high schools no one seems to be addressing the problem that JLS and Jordan are too large. My question is if Melissa and Barbara's daughters are at Castilleja (a nice, small school) and Wynn, I believe, may have one at Terman which has around 650 kids(and will not grow much above this number), how will any of them understand that increasing JLS and Jordan from 900 to potentially 1100 kids, doesn't make sense. Heck, 900 kids is too many already to have together for this age bracket.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:34 am

I asked Melissa Baten-Caswell why her daughter was at Castilleja. Melissa said her daughter really wanted to go to an all girls school - there is not a public alternative.

Melissa also commented - I believe much more importantly - that she is running for School Board because she want to improve the district for all the students, not just her own (and she still has a child in PAUSD).

Current BOE members also have kids at private schools as do many strong PiE supporters and Board members.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:40 am

I know of many parents who take their kids out of public schools for the middle school years and put them in a smaller, friendly middle school or alternatively home school, just for the middle school years as the rumours about middle schools in general (not necessarily ours) are that kids have a hard time. Some of the middle schools used are religious ones with the reasoning that middle school years is a good time for them to get a basis of their religious teachings. These kids then return to public high schools. By looking at the numbers from last year's 5th and 8th grades and comparing them with these year's 6th and 9th grade numbers from 11th day enrollment, there seems to be some correlation to this trend.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:51 am

Having had kids at Jordan, I can't blame anyone for sending their child to a school with leadership. The lack of leadership at Jordan trickles down thru all the layers, although there are still many caring, wonderful teachers, many have left since the current principal came on board. In particular, the lack of skilled math teachers (except for the highest level kids) is troubling.

Middle school is a hard age, but why become a middle school teacher or administrator if you don't like kids?

Posted by for the children, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:01 am

"Melissa also commented ... that she is running for School Board because she want to improve the district for all the students, not just her own (and she still has a child in PAUSD)."

Now THAT is a refreshing point of view! Compare it to the selfishness exhibited within the PAUSD over the last couple of years and you can see why we need a change.

Posted by Instead of presuming, try asking, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:38 pm

It would be an understandable question if PAUSD had an all-girls' middle school...but we don't, and nobody has tried to bludgeon into one. More power to them.

Maybe a fair question would be "Would you consider looking at a way to offer an all girls or all boys middle or high school educational alternative to those who would thrive in such an environment?". Who knows? Maybe a 3rd middle school campus could be structured so that is was "split" in this way or something, and maybe one of the "schools within schools" options would be about separating genders.

Clearly, it isn't for everyone, but there would also be ways to engage boys more fully in a curriculum and atmosphere that appeals to boys more, just like some girls who might fade away in competition with the more aggressive boys tend to do better in finding their strengths in all girls' schools.

Posted by t-in-c, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Open LAH and Cubberly as grades 6-12 schools - one for girls and the other for boys. Make them IB and add a few trade classes and you've covered a few more bases.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Maybe we should consider school vouchers so that those residents not wealthy enough (or connectd enough) to put their kids in private schools that fit their ideas of what would be best for their children would have the same choices that these School Board candidates do.

Seems only fair.

Posted by yea vouchers!, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Count me in on the vouchers..though, just as an FYI, not too many people who can't afford $30,000/year are going to be able to afford $23,000/year ( assuming the vouchers are $7,000 per kid to used toward tuition at any non-religious school). You will still have private schools and public schools, with even fewer "more well-off" kids in the public school as there is more flight. Won't change anything in that regard. It will allow more "$10,000/year" schools to exist, though. So, don't look to vouchers to even out the "private school" thing. I don't want it to do that anyway. Free country, and all that. But, vouchers WOULD let public schools compete and GET MONEY FOR more students at the "good schools" across district lines etc.

After all, a private school that would cost $10,000/year, like Challenger, suddenly becomes accessible to a LOT more people at $3,000/year.

Posted by yea t-in-c, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:40 pm


Posted by Don't forget the result of private schools, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Besides, anyone living in PA with a kid in private school is only GIVING to our District..still paying for the school without actually making the schools pay for the education of their kids. Don't forget, we are a basic aid..same amount of money regardless of number of kids in school.

From that perspective..THANKS MELISSA AND BARBARA and whoever the other Board member is that people are saying has a kid in a private school ( I really don't is a silly thing to me).

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm

PA mom,

Just out of curiosity who on the current board has kids in private schools and where?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm

It's a reasonable question to wonder/ask why a school board candidate (or school board member) with school-age children does not have their child(ren) in PAUSD. If they are public figures, they should answer/address this question. I sense a lack of confidence in the system.

Posted by PAUSD parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:17 pm

According to PADN: Web Link

Caswell has one in a PAUSD school, and one at Castilleja

Klausner has one at Castilleja (and 2 others who attended PAUSD schools in past)

Hauser has 2 in PAUSD schools

Ezran has 3 in PAUSD schools

Liu has one in a PAUSD school (and one graduated)

Townsend had 2 who attended PAUSD schools

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Thanks PAUSD,

Useful link, the answers from the candidates were interesting. I realized I'd lived here longer than anyone but Wynn Hausser. Another mark in his favor. <g>

More vagueness from Townsend while Pingyu Liu just isn't tuned into the management issue--basically he's saying he's planning to learn on the job. We don't need a good student right now, we need someone who can lead.

Klausner seems pretty sharp.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Not sure if it is relevant, but I have noticed several homes around town with law signs for both Townsend and Ezran which sounds an interesting combination to me.

I am still of the opinion that a balanced board with differing opinions rather than carbon copies of each other is what is needed. I do not think that Towsend should be re-elected because of her past performance, but I think that Baten-Caswell, Hauser and Klausner are too similar for more liking and I would be concerned that in some hypothetical scenario in the future that they may be so similar that they do not look further than the narrowness of their similar opinions when it comes to being open minded. Saying that, I have no reason to disagree with any of them on any of their electioneering, but I can't say that the three of them on the Board with Tom and Mitchell will make for an ideal Board.

I do like Ezran's obvious different outlook due to his education elsewhere. I think that some of the values he has experienced from this will make for valuable discussion. I don't necessarily agree with him on some of what he has to say, but the fact that he is saying it shows that there would be times when different aspects to a problem will be discussed and he could bring forward a different point of view when necessary. I think it is quite possible that he could be a really good board member, but he needs to get better understanding of some of the problems that we have. It doesn't mean that he can't become better educated on them, I just feel that there are some issues where he hasn't done enough homework and that is what bothers me.

Asking him direct questions on areas where he seems badly informed have actually caused him to look at those areas and become better informed. I hesitate to say that I would support him, just that I haven't been able to rule him out.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 6:38 pm


I understand what you're saying and there are things I like about Claude Ezran. My concern is a bit more strategic. I really, really don't want Camille Townsend back on the board--the MI thing was bad and so was her buddy-buddy relationship with Callan. We can add to that that she seems, after all this, to still be pretty clueless about the district. It was interesting in the daily article that when she talked about communication and such, she didn't say a thing about dealing with those of us who don't work for the district, but pay for it.

So, I have four candidates who would be satisfactory board members to me--the question to me is which three have the best chance of getting more votes than Camille Townsend, who has the incumbent advantage?

I'd note that none of the candidates are locals. They all seemed to have been educated elsewhere, with the exception of Wynn Hausser, which, among other things, can make them unfamiliar with what a bad California district looks like. I don't object to Claude Ezran and Pingyu Liu being emigres, but I don't know that I see it as an advantage. I mean, do other countries even do this whole local school board thing? The U.S. system seems so fragmented and semi-anarchic compared to the more centralized, national systems in Europe and Asia.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Ohlone Par

I think you have pointed out something that I may be forgetting. It isn't always just voting for who we want to win, but sometimes it is preventing who we definitely do not want. For this reason alone, I think you may be right on who to vote for. I would like to see more balance and am still leaning towards Ezran, but I am not sure if he has enough support to beat Townsend. Therefore, I will probably stay away from him. Pity.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 7:36 pm


I've had to hold my nose a number of times and vote accordingly. The Ezran issue is interesting because presumably the pro-MI crowd would vote for him, Townsend and maybe Pingyu Liu--though I saw a Townsend, Klausner front yard the other day. (The front of my house feels so sparse in comparison, despite all the leaves piling up.) If Ezran got a cross-over vote, would he then get in because he got votes from both sides?

In my neck of the woods, I see a pretty even mix of Wynn, Baten-Caswell, Klausner and Ezran signs. I see an occasional Townsend. I've yet to see a Pingyu Liu, so I don't think the campaign organization for him is up to the level of the other candidates, but that's just me, literally on the street, observing.

The endorsements from the papers will be interesting just because I think the race is going to be pretty tight.

Posted by émigré, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:26 pm

OhlonePar said:

"I don't object to Claude Ezran and Pingyu Liu being emigres, BUT..." (my emphasis on the but)

There, we've got it. A Palo Alto parent who admits that she does "not object to people being emigres BUT...".

This confirms what I have always felt as a foreign born US citizen and parent in Palo Alto schools: that we are considered second class citizens by native born parents. Boy, oh boy, have I felt it on school campuses here...

Did it ever occur to anyone that, since such (often very educated, intelligent) foreign born parents have had 2 or 3 children in public schools here for years, they have most likely learned and become quite familiar with how a public school system functions here in the US, and in PA in particular ??? Of course they have learned it. Give me a break... it would insulting to assume otherwise.

On the other hand, also knowing systems that work differently, such as in their native countries, may give them the ability to come up with novel ideas that might work well here in Palo Alto.

Please, oh please, really give up on your old, counterproductive stereotypes. Thank you.

NB: I have not made up my mind on who to vote for. And even though I am foreign born, I will not vote Townsend. I was horrified by the whole MI circus. My children are bilingual because I used some of the MANY resources available to make my children bilingual outside of PAUSD, without blackmailing the school district into providing bilingual education. The MI supporters who created the whole situation were extremely narrow minded and selfish in my opinion.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:08 pm


I'm sorry I upset you, but my comment was made in response to another poster saying that Ezran's being educated elsewhere was an advantage.
So, this was not a slam on emigres, but on whether there's value-added.

I think you're bringing some of your own perceptions here to the table--you feel you are considered a second-class citizen by native-born parents--ergo, that's what my comment means. It's not that simple.

As for novel ideas--well, as a local, let me reverse this one for you. Do you know how many times I've seen people come to California and decide they know what's best for the rest of us? I mean, how often have I read sneers about Eichlers and the unimportance of any buildings in Palo Alto that predate the dot-com boom? It's part of the California tradition that people arrive here and decide tradition should be thrown out the window. That's right, let's be novel and devalue anything that was here before we got here. I mean, how would you feel if a bunch of Americans moved in and decided that your home town/city/village was ugly and the more buildings razed, the better. People seem to feel perfectly comfortable saying that about Palo Alto

I think if you're not from California that you really have no idea what it feels like to have people so bloody eager to destroy the physical marks of your history. It's the flip side of the tremendous creative energy that's here, but sometimes it gets real old and real tiring to live in a place where people are so eager to remake your town into this year's fashion.

Back to the schools,

Fact is, we don't seem to have *one* person running for school board who actually attended a public school in California. None of them seem to have much experience with what happened to districts outside of Palo Alto. As someone who did go through that, I *do* see gaps in understanding how our semi-broken educational system in this state and what does and does not work. And I see knowledge gaps in those who do not have that experience. The kind of mistakes that get made aren't mistakes due to a lack of novelty, but a lack of savvy about how people react and a certain knows-what's-best impulsiveness. (The classic thing is this area is to confuse business with politics--why oh why can't our public institutions work like our well-run corporations?)

If you've been reading my posts, then you'd realize that there are things I like about Ezran and while I'm leaning away from voting for him, it's a difficult choice for me. And one of the things that's concerned me is that he doesn't see the implications of some choices. Parent's comment was that his background may have something to do with that and he seems to learn (i.e. listen), which is a good thing. So part of a back-and-forth instead of an attempt to marginalize naturalized citizens.

Just out of curiosity, if I moved to your native country, how long would it be before I was accepted as even a second-class citizen? How many emigres are running for school board? And are seen as perfectly viable candidates?

And how would my kids be seen--as locals or something else?

Posted by Seen It Before, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:42 am


Yes, it is a sad truth that there are plenty of people around here who say (or just think) negative things about foreigners (or naturalized Americans) purely because they are foreigners. It's called xenophobia. Since this is Palo Alto, and we all have high expectations for tolerance, this is usually prefaced with a defensive remark ("I don't object to X being an emigre, but" or "some of my best friends are Z, but ...").

Given that people feel free to make remarks like this, it is no wonder that you would begin to feel that you are considered a second-class citizen.

In my experience, it is a minority who thinks like this. Most native-born parents I know are happy to have new arrivals among us because you bring novel viewpoints and invigorate American culture--this is the old American story.

You don't need to have grown up here to have valuable opinions about the school system. Anyone who hides behind that figleaf has other issues with foreigners.

Posted by Public School Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:54 pm

Thank you for raising this question...I didn't notice on the campaign materials that these two candidates had kids at private schools instead of PAUSD. I do find it troubling. I am stuck with the consequences of the School Board's decisions, but they would not be.

Posted by Came from another country and welcomed with open arms, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I have to say that I sense a chip on a shoulder.

Before anyone from another country starts accusing Americans of believing emigres are second-class....think about your own country and ask how many immigrants hold high political offices ( I am thinking of our recent examples of the woman from Mexico who was our National Treasurer, and of our very own Arnie, and there are several Congressmen who are from other countries)...and please post how many immigrants can even begin to seriously run for even a local election like a school board in your home country.

Then accuse us of seeing immigrants as "second class". I have family in 3 other countries, and because other countries are so much older, I suppose, there is the idea that even 2nd and 3rd generation "foreign" citizens are still "foreigners". Here, most people get it...once a citizen, you are an American, period. This is the most diverse country in the world, and the one with the most immigrants from all over the world.

So, quit the chip.

Posted by GBD, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Public School Parent,
If you reject candidates who do not have students in the district you would have to exclude Townsend (both her kids have graduated) and Klausner (one kid has graduated, one is in private school). Caswell has one child in the PAUSD, one in private school.

Posted by Just the Facts, a resident of University South
on Oct 20, 2007 at 8:54 am

Re private schools & Board candidates: Ezran's children have all gone to a local private school until 5th grade. They entered PAUSD in the 5th grade.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2007 at 10:55 am

Just the Facts,

Hmmm, that's interesting about Ezran's kids--so there's a whole class of schools with which he has no immediate familiarity. With the other ones, you have some in public, some in private--but to put none of your kids through the elementary schools? That goes beyond a particular choice for an individual child.

What's going on there? Has he said?

Posted by Keep your eye on the goal, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2007 at 11:07 am

I think this whole "private school" thing is silly, to be blunt.

Ezran's kids went to French Immersion. He has made no bones about the fact that he supported MI in the last year. He likes immersion programs.

Klausner and Caswell have daughters who have begged for/will do better in an all girls' environment, at least for now.

Other candidates may have TRIED to get their kids into private schools for different reasons, but failed.

One current Board member had a child in a coed private high school, nobody ever brought it up.

Of the 5 new candidates, Klausner is the only one who has had a kid go k-12 in our district.

So, are we making the new eligibility rule that a Board member must have had a minimum number of kids go k-12 in our district? Heck, let's add the kids must be from different countries for diversity reasons and let's even say from 50-150 IQ so that they really have had a broad range of experience in our District.

Come on guys, we are talking about policy makers here, people who have the vision the majority want, not people who have to be expert in everything!

I understand the point, that some investment in the results of their decisions would be nice, but frankly very few young people have the time or knowledge to run for a Board seat a few years before their kids enter the district, so most Board people's kids will never "reap" the benefits or liabilities of the Board decisions.

We need to remember the goal...policies for our district that match our values and goals.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2007 at 12:33 pm


Thanks for the explanation--that makes sense. This means, though, that Ezran is probably socially connected to the PACE crew since a bunch of them are connected to the International School, which is the French (as well as Mandarin) immersion program around here.

But, as you say, Ezran supported MI, so it's above-board. I respect his integrity.

On the other hand, it does mean that he's pretty removed from the whole elementary school resource/neighborhood overflow debate. It's had no immediate relevance to his life. I think it helps to spend some time in the elementary PTA/site council trenches. I think it's at the elementary level that people really get to know the school district.

So, in and of itself, it's not a make-or-break thing, just sort of one more thing that, I think, indicates how he'll vote and to what areas he'll bring first-hand experience. Also, in this case, where some of his educational values are.

So, if it were Ezran v. Klausner, I'd have to say her hands-on involvment in the public elementary schools as both a teacher and parent, would give her a slight edge to me.

But I mean that in a practical way. I don't have a moral issue with board members sending their kids to private schools. I think if you want to pay for something not offered by the public schools, it's fine.

Posted by Keep, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Ok, OP..I get your point. I got a little prickly there, but you are right. If someone has had no worries about the results of the unintended consequences of specialty programs on their own elementary kids, then their empathy in that regard would be low. Gotta give him credit, though, he didn't try to force a French Immersion program down our throats. Though..with his MI support last year, and his continued lack of comprehension of the issues surrounding it, would he support an FI program if it came through?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2007 at 4:52 pm


I don't like how the private-school thing was used as a black-and-white reason to oppose a candidate, either. In the Ezran case, however, it does raise some issues because of the particulars and what's happening in the district.

I think he listens, but there seems to be over and over a certain lack of experience or knowledge that affects his judgment. I think there'd be a big knowledge gap if none of your kids (or you) went to a public elementary school. I think it's irrelevant in many regards and private instruction in order for your kids to speak your native tongue is a worthy aim, but it is a lack if you're running for school board.

It means that there's that much more learning on the job among other things. And, yes, does he even know where he stands on the neighborhood v. lottery/choice debate? And what the pros and cons are of each side?

I asked him here what should happen to MI in three years. He answered that he didn't know. (Which is better that Camille Townsend trying to have it both ways--she said she thought MI could stay at Ohlone while simultaneously saying that the number of modulars on campuses should be reduced when possible. Another example of how Camille does not compute.)

I haven't gotten the sense that he's put a lot of thought into the elementaries. He seems more focused on the high schools and maybe his not ever being involved in the elementaries if the reason why.

I mean, I'm an elementary school parent--it clearly affects my agenda and areas of knowledge.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Are there any candidates that support neighborhood schools?

My children are in public school in Palo Alto, and I would like to keep them there. However, I am concerned that our neighborhood schools are being taken over by specialty programs. I have a friend whose children go to Escondido school. She like that they can walk down to school, but she says it is very overcrowded with the Spanish Immersion program.

Has anybody ever considered how the specialty programs affect our neighborhood schools?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2007 at 2:13 am

Hi Jane,

Your concern is part of the ongoing debate here. But, anyway, Hausser, Klausner and Baten Caswell are more neighborhood friendly than the other three candidates, though none of the candidates have come out in favor of ending any of the current choice programs.

Townsend has pushed the MI program since she came on board in 2004. Pingyu Liu fo;ed for the gov. grant for a K-12 immersion program and Carl Ezran sent his kids to a private French immersion school instead of the public elementary schools.

The Escondido thing is a mess. SI was expanded last year to make room for the overflow from the north schools. However, this year, the report is that neighborhood kids are getting bumped, which is in violation of the rules governing choice programs.

Posted by Escondido History Lesson, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:31 am

Most years Escondido takes overflows from other schools since they are not at capacity with the kinders from the neighborhood. There have been years when the kinder classes have less than 15 neighborhood kids and it is the overflows that get the class size to 20. Every few years Escondido has a full bumper crop of neighborhood kinders and Escondido experiences outflows. This ebb and flow has been going on since before class size reduction.

Escondido's enrollment before SI arrived was so low and dropping that there were fears that the school might be closed in the future. It is easy to blame SI for the current situation. SI brought a stability and helped to balance the enrollment at Escondido.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:35 am

I have to say that even though I have other issues with Claude Ezran, the fact that this native Frenchman sent his kids to private French immersion elementary school seems like a pretty bad reason to discount him. Especially because he then sent his children to public school -- doesn't the International School go through 8th grade? I mean, I see some problematic things about him but I see not one reason to infer that he would suddenly leap into the fray with a threat of a French charter school or anything of the kind. I wish Grace Mah and her international school buddies had just kept their kids in private school instead of turning the entire district on its head and taking all the other much more universal district concerns off the table while they held the district hostage.

Posted by not because his kids went to FI, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2007 at 9:15 am

No, it wasn't because his kids went to a French Immersion. It is because he consistently supported MI in our public school, and because even after one year of, presumably, paying attention to the issue, repeated the same old thing about how an immersion program for k-5 was not different in its being limited to "a few" as Special Education, sports teams and ..well, I don't remember if he said sports teams or AP classes, but the point is that he clearly was attached to more immersion programs in our district.

Or, at the very least, couldn't sort out the differences between what he cited and another immersion program.

THAT is why I am sure that if another immersion program comes up, he will support it. How can he not? In fact, at this point, we are dependent only on the good will of other immersion proponents. We have nothing left to stand on. There isn't one single reason to deny another immersion program that wasn't overturned with the MI program.

So, frankly, I really want somebody in office who understood the issue this last time, and will work to put into place policy changes in Choice program and Donation program language which will at least give a dispassionate voice to saying "no" to the next request.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 21, 2007 at 9:23 am

"not because . . . " -- I don't disagree. I was responding to others' comments that because his children attended private school he therefore he couldn't understand the issues. I think he has problems understanding the issues too, but not because his children went to private school. As someone who has had to resort to private schools (at a cost of huge family sacrifice) to keep my children safe after a horrific public school experience in Palo Alto, I take umbrage at those on this thread who go on and on about how elitist and out of touch, blah blah blah people are who send their kids to private school. Believe me, I'd rather pay nothing for their education but in my children's case the cost of staying in their public school was even higher. I'm sure there are others who feel this way and I think it is presumptuous to assume an elitist motive on the part of any of the candidates simply based on on where their children go to school. And as Barb and Melissa have been very involved in the education community despite having childn in private school, I am thoroughly sick of hearing them bashed forbeing out of touch. They probably know moer about the ins and outs of this district than most of the people who are dissing them.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2007 at 12:33 pm


My issue with Ezran regarding the public/private school is not that he sent his kids to a private school. I think a private school was an appropriate choice for someone who wanted his kids to be bilingual.
It just gives me another reason to look at his experience. There's a whole class of public school with which he has no first-hand knowledge. This isn't true of any of the other candidates. Nor is it true of you. You had your kids in the public schools and it wasn't a good experience. That's first-hand experience.

For me, it's a question of how is a candidate going to make decisions and on what experience are those decisions based? Not because sums up the issue well, I think.

Escondido History Lesson,

Thanks for the heads up on the historical context. I think the overflow issues are about to intensify simply because so much housing is being built in south Palo Alto. Where do the Hyatt Rickey's kids go? Barron Park?

The board was out of its collective mind to approve MI and then not approve reopening Garland.

When does the JCC at San Antonio open, by the way? Two years?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Okay, follow-up to myself.

The JCC lease ends in 2010. It seems to have nine portables. I know, also, there are a couple of underused classrooms next to the Young Fives.

This really seems like the site that would be the easiest shift for the MI program--more than big enough for a single strand. In fact, they could try 1.5 strands, start big and shrink as kids drop out of the program and nobody transfers in. Maintenance and groundskeeping could be shared with PSF and Young Fives. And there's a nice grassy field fenced in the middle. So, too small and too close to Cubberly for a good neighborhood school site, but good for a commuter choice school.

And what else are they going to use it for? The preschool's already one of the biggest in the area. Young Fives could be expanded, but I don't think we need nine more Young Fives classes. Also, Young Fives classes could be located throughout Palo Alto. Why not have one, if there's room, at Barron Park and another in the north cluster?

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Based on last year's (2006-2007)numbers, Escondidio has the highest attendence in PAUSD elementary schools (514). There are no other schools with over 500 students. Of the 514 students, approximately 190 were SI students. In other words, if SI students were removed from Escondido there would be 324 students, placing it in the lower tier of school attendance (Barron Park and Briones would have fewer students. If the 190 SI students were to be evenly spread out among the 12 district elementaries, Escondido would have 340 students. That is approximately three strands, with 19 kids per class, K-5).

There is no way that someone can say, with a straight face, that Escondido has not been HEAVILY impacted by SI.

I don't know what the numbers are for this year...can someone please point out a link that provides these data? I am guessing that it will be even worse for Escondido, compared to last year.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:39 pm

More than 500 kids? Yikes.

So, why the hell did the board vote against plans to reopen an elementary again?

Posted by FYI, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:49 pm

FYI: Briones has 370 students this year, 3 full strands.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:50 pm

"So, why the hell did the board vote against plans to reopen an elementary again?"


Good question. However, I'm sure you understand that the BoE is in the real estate business.

From my point of view, if the BoE would STOP any further choice programs, then slowly unwind what they now have (put them in charters, or give vouchers...whatever), there would be a lot of support for future bond issues. Sucnh bonds could be used to take back the current sites that are being leased to other educational entities. Until that day arrives, it won't happen. Palo Alto's strength is its neighborhood schools. We are slowly losing them.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:52 pm


Can you provide a link to those data?

Posted by FYI, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:52 pm

FYI again: I would love to use the JCC site as a way to increase Young 5s AND give 4 year old "low income" kids a year of pre-school ..We could give "achievement gap" kids ( and yes, I know that not all of it is income based, some of it is internal culture) a chance to close that gap by entering kindergarten with a bit more language skills than they do now.

Posted by Immersion school, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:55 pm

So, my point was, let's start thinking of another bigger site that can tolerate 2 language immersion programs...and since we aren't going to think about a 3rd high school now, how about converting Cubberly into another elementary school, but make it an Immersion school for the SI and MI?

Posted by pa resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Doesn't sound cost neutral to me.

Posted by board observer, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:30 pm

this week's board meeting will discuss terminating the lease of Garland:

Web Link

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2007 at 9:48 pm

Very interesting Board Observer -- With the Sup behind their back, will the BOE do what (to my mind) they should have done months ago?

On the same note, can someone remind me, was the previous Sup against re-claiming Garland?

Posted by cynical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2007 at 12:52 am

"So, why the hell did the board vote against plans to reopen an elementary again?"
So they could time it to coincide with MI's growth??

Posted by Escondido History Lesson, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 22, 2007 at 8:16 am


Escondido has the largest site in the district at 8 acres, at that size, it should not be a three-strand school but four-strands with a population of 496 children. For comparison, look at Palo Verde which has one of the smallest sites, half the size of Escondido if not smaller, which has 365 children.

Contributing to the overflow situation at Escondido is class size reduction not SI. If there are 65 students in Kindergarten, there will only be three kinder classrooms of 20 each. The five students will be overflowed, whether SI is located at Escondido or not.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:12 am

Cynical: You asked why the board voted against reopening Garland. You can read the minutes about enrollment growth to see the logic (or lack thereof) that went into the decision. You'll need a lot of coffee and a large chunk of time to get through everything. It begins with the special meeting of January 16, 2007 (See 3/13/07 packet, Web Link Discussion starts at the bottom of p. 25, with Callan's recommendations on p. 26 and reprinted here:

Callan said that when it came down to making the recommendations, there were no easy answers. Her recommendations were:
1. That the District continue to review the status of enrollment growth every year in January to see to what extent actual enrollment meets forecasted enrollment and to adjust the plan for accommodating enrollment growth.

2. That at the elementary level, current sites be permanently expanded to accommodate school size maxima appropriate for the site as set by Board policy and that three additional schools be considered for eventual expansion to four strands - Ohlone, Nixon, and Fairmeadow. Attendance boundaries should be adjusted to take into account these capacities considering the ten variables and keeping the Los Altos Hills residents together.

3. That the Board revisit school size maxima set for JLS and Jordan middle schools to accommodate projected 2011 enrollment, knowing that the physical limitations of the Terman site prevent that school from expanding.

4. That the Board approve a High School Task Force as a Major Project to be undertaken in the 2007-08 school year to examine options for high school expansion, innovative small high schools, magnet programs, and projections for site needs and costs to accommodate enrollment growth.

5. That the AAAG reconvene to reconsider boundary adjustments for the twelve elementary schools bearing in mind peer streaming with a 40/60 split of JLS students assigned to Paly/Gunn and not dividing Los Altos Hills residents.

6. That, after Level One and Level Two expansion plans have been implemented, preparations be made to open Garland pending forecast of continued enrollment growth past 2012.

Callan said she recommended the District use its current facilities in the most adequate and fiscally responsible way, as there were concerns about future funding from the state. There was also concern about the list of unfunded needs and the District's ability to fund them.

At a special meeting on February 6, 2007 See packet Web Link there was a lengthy discussion beginning on p. 48 during which it is clear that Price and Mitchell supported reopening Garland.

Board unanimously approved recommendations 1, 4 and 5 above. Price and Mitchell voted no on Recommendation 2, but it carried 3-2 with some minor changes. The board agreed that recommendation 3 would be brought back after the 20-Year Facility Master Plan was presented in April. Recommendation 6 was dropped from consideration.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:53 am

Escondido was a neighborhood school, until 1995. It was small, cozy and most people knew, or came to know, the other parents. SI should never have formed in the first place, other than a charter or a private. The Esconcdido attendance boundrry should have explanded to include all of Southgate (plus the existing College Terrace and Evergreen neighborhoods). It wouldhave remained a neighborhhod school with more rational intradistric boundries. This would have had the effect of taking pressure off of Walter Hays.

Esconcdido was not politically powerful, like some of the other schools, so it got SI dumped on it (from Fairmeadow, where it was not wanted).

Before we start approving more bond issues, we should demand that our neighborhood school system go back to the pre-choice era. We should also demand that class size rise well above 20/class.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

I agree with John.

And now it looks like the current superintendent is further short circuiting the choice versus neighborhood schools discussion AGAIN, by moving the high school task force DIRECTLY to a discussion of which speciality (choice?) programs the district should grow in our high schools. Where is he presenting the options, costs, tradeoffs of a traditional 3rd high school? He's just using his instincts(?) to shut down the discussion of that option? He's ignoring the community will to have this discussion.

How can the Board expect to get a bond approved without a full plan on capacity? Do they expect to get approval for a huge bond now, and another one in 2-3 years? This is irresponsible. If they GET the bond now withuot regard to the secondary school needs, they risk harming the ability to raise funds in another round for the secondary schools. Its short sighted to go out for a bond request without a comprehensive, well understood, and community endorsed plan.

And that plan needs to protect neighborhood schools.

I for one will not vote to approve a bond if it means opening a state of the art campus (remodeled Garland, or remodeled Cubberley) to turn over to specialty school lottery winners. Apparently the respect for the value of equitable schools in our city is going completely out the window. I won't support it.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Cubberly is not a suitable site for a mega-immersion elementary. It's a high-school campus and that's its scale.

Greendell already houses a preschool and the Young Fives program. When the JCC leaves, there will be half a school building and, I think, a 5-room cubicle.

It makes economic sense to put the one-strand MI program there--and it's the one site I can think of where you wouldn't have it vying for space with neighborhood growth. Unlike Garland, Greendell is not a good site for a neighborhood school. It's at the edge of the south Cubberly parking lot.

As I said elsewhere, I think the district could use a couple more Young Fives classrooms--not achieving fours, that's what preschool's for and we have lots of preschools. I don't see why all Young Fives have to be at Greendell though. Heck, if we weren't trying to pull a full strand of MI at Ohlone, one could probably be placed there. Maybe during the mornings in the OKC building. Another could be placed at Barron Park.

And John, yep, the PAUSD is in the real-estate business. That's what's great about sticking MI at Greendell--the site's going to be vacant in a couple of year and it's not big enough for a full elementary if PSF and Young Fives aren't moved. It's also not causing traffic jams on residential streets.

That, in turns, leaves Garland open as a neighborhood elementary in a central location--or, given its proximity to Jordan, as a place for sixth graders as one parents suggested.

Minimal bumping, efficient use of space. (At that point, it also becomes possible to expand Ohlone to a fourth strand instead of trying to squeeze in 4.5 strands.) MIers get their program without shoving and the district maintains flexibility.

Seriously, what's not to like?

Oh, and that fat federal grant can be used to offset the cost of buying library books--it would make a small specialty elementary more doable.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 1:26 pm

By the way, guys, I think you need to write Skelly and let him know how you feel about the choice v. neighborhood school stuff. Educators love specialty program--more interesting to run--and so that's what Skelly's getting sold.

Educators aren't big finance people as a rule, so they need to have the dots connected on this.

When the election's over and I haven't heard good reasons to not slate MI for the JCC chunk of Greendell, I'll write to every board member and Skelly to recommend it. If you agree with do the same. If you don't, I'd love to hear why you don't support the idea.

I'm finding the back and forth about Escondido interesting. Why weren't more balanced boundaries drawn? I take it there was a certain pressure by families to remain in the Walter Hays draw--wasn't that around the time that Walter Hays was deemed one of the top schools in the state?

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2007 at 2:02 pm


Perhaps I am wrong, but I think Skelly and the BoE and the other powers that be read this blog. They may choose to ignore the storm clouds, but a good defeat of a bond issue or two at the poles will focus the senses. Money talks.

Your notion of putting MI at Greendell makes some sense. I have to say, though, that it is the CHOICE issue that is the problem, not MI, per se. As long as you, and others, hang onto your favorite choice programs, there is no reason that some other choice interest group cannot demand equal opportunity. That is why I support neighborhood schools, exclusively. The choice parents should form charter schools, or go private.

Your notions about Escondido and families that want to send their kids to Walter Hays is accurate. I think a lot of it is perception, since the teachers at Escondido are as good as the ones at Walter Hays. However, the real estate lobbly has convinced the Southgate folks that Walter Hays is superior. It is completely rational and logical to incorporate Southgate with College Terrace and Evergree to form a neighborhood school - becasue Escondido IS the natural neighborhood school for those neighborhoods. Dah?

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 22, 2007 at 2:39 pm

I find the back and forth about Escondido interesting, too, especially the inaccurate claims by Escondido History Lesson. There was never any fear of closing Escondido, so don't make SI out to be its savior. True, Escondido's neighborhood enrollment has always been significantly lower than other schools in the district, so I agree that SI does help the OTHER elementary schools by being located at Escondido. I'm district-centric, so I don't have a problem with Escondido doing its part in helping the district in this way.

About your claim that SI "helped to balance the enrollment at Escondido", keep in mind that there's a solid line dividing the SI and non-SI classrooms. SI doesn't help Escondido's ebb and flow – it helps OTHER schools' ebb and flow.

Escondido History Lesson: which years were neighborhood kindergarteners turned away from Escondido? I've been around for a long time, and I'm not aware of any until this year. That's not to say it hasn't happen, but please don't say it has unless you can back it up.

"If there are 65 students in Kindergarten, there will only be three kinder classrooms of 20 each." That's not true. For example, two years ago there were 4 K classrooms.

John, you asked about this year's Escondido numbers. The district recently approved an SI expansion to two full strands, so there will eventually be 240 SI students. They added yet another portable last year. The rest of the SI expansion space is "taken" in a sense from the neighborhood students. There's a neighborhood cap, and this year a significant number of neighborhood students were turned away, kindergarteners included. What's worse, the current second grade (which started with 4 classrooms) is now capped at 50 students. That's two and a HALF classes. Every year they will have to jury-rig a mixed class (this year it's grades 1-2; next year - who knows?) and I guess the teachers will draw straws for the lucky mixed-class winner. Parents are not happy, but most don't understand why it is the way it is.

So here we have the largest campus, the smallest number of neighborhood students, and still we have to turn some away. Something's not right.

My position is somewhere between yours and Escondido History Lesson's. SI serves a need for the rest of the district, and for a long time there was plenty of space at Escondido without harming the neighborhood students. The expansion ruined that peaceful balance. A lottery program that offers an enhanced education to a select few should *never* compete for the same resources as neighborhood children. The MI study and even the District Policy & Procedures state the same. SI wasn't/isn't the problem; it's the recent expansion that screws things up. What were the district leaders thinking when they approved this? Were they not aware of the increased enrollment trends?

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2007 at 3:45 pm

yet another parent,

You express the frustration, among the non-SI parents and other neighbors, at Escondido, very well. A boutique program, like SI, is sqeezing out, or about to sqeeze out, or increasing overcrowding (or all of the above) for the neighborhood kids. I have always felt that this is the logical outcome, when a boutique program is allowed into a neighborhood school. There is no logical end to the boutiques, once they have been approved in principle. I don't think it is crying 'Chicken Little' to say that the boutique choice programs WILL spell the end to neighborhood schools.

The private schools have been taking the pressure off of the public schools for many years. The boutiques should follow the same path.

Give us back our neighborhood schools!

Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2007 at 4:40 pm

To the Escondido participants -- thanks for including your experiences in this discussion. It's very interesting. I had always heard of SI as 'saving' Escondido and that the rationale was financial. It educates so many Stanford affiliated students, and Stanford gives PAUSD a big chunk of change toward our budget (the number $10M sticks in my head, but I'm not completely certain, or sure of where to confirm or correct that info), so I understood why we wanted to keep Stanford happy that I willingly believed that story. Now I'm not sure what to think, except to know that under no circumstances should a neighborhood kid be overflowed to make room for a lottery winner. That just breeds ill will.

OP -- I have opined often about the travesty of not expanding Y5's. I like your idea of using the kids' club locations. They're empty (or intermittently used for music) on most campuses until kinder dismissal. What a waste of space when so many kids could use the Y5 expereince. I have to chuckle, though, because I've heard that the Y5 powers-that-be shake their head at this proposal, because then, if the program were in another location, 'it just wouldn't be the same'. I think, OP, you've essentially said the same thing about Ohlone! As far as Y5's goes, I don't think it has to be the same. Keep the parent participation program down at Cubberly. Have programs in the North, South and West that are drop-off programs. Lots of parents find the parent participation aspect to be an unrealistic burden, one that should have minimum impact on getting the young 5 kids an opportunity to grow. Heck, why not do an Ohlone version, a Direct Instruction version, and a plain old pausd version?

Regarding the achievement gap preschool opportunity -- there is something at Barron Park, I think. A 4s program. Can anyone describe that program?

Finally, regarding the 'scope and scale' of Cubberley. It was designed as a high school. Big deal. It houses all sorts of programs now, including, I think some preschool programs and an elementary school program. The district is in serious trouble regarding overcrowding. Some program is going to have to suck it up and move. Why not Ohlone? It's a school that prides itself on alternative learning, meeting the kids where they are, planting lemon seeds and making lemonade. If any school were going to be successful in an 'alternative' (or less than ideal) environment, why not that one? And there is room to expand. Let Ohlone go through eighth grade there. Or twelth grade. The people who want that program seem to want more of it, not less. There would be, I think, room for Ohlone MI as well as Ohlone English for as many years as parents want. There is plenty of parking. Lots of room for a farm. It seems like an easy solution to me. Then the campus on Amarillo can go back to being a neighborhood school, helping out all of the schools on the south side.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 5:36 pm


None of the choice programs are going to become charter programs. Charter law requires that at least half of the staff and half of the parents at a public elementary school must agree to it becoming a charter.

It's not going to happen--the board doesn't want it, the schools don't want it. And I suspect that you don't really want that law to be changed--would you like it if the board, say, just decided one day to turn your school into a charter?


We may need a third high school--no one's going to relocate Ohlone there. A neighborhood school wouldn't be handling any more children than Ohlone does--and Ohlone's draw is more flexible.

I'm well-acquainted with Cubberly. The site doesn't meet the requirements of PAUSD elementary schools. I mean, you think it's okay for kids to cross a parking lot to play on a football field? And be surrounded by adults. The private schools there are small and have very small outdoor spaces. There's no location within Cubberly that's appropriate for 350 children.

Young Fives is a one-year program--not the same as a six-year school. I'm not suggesting removing the two Young Fives classes from Greendell--it's pretty tightly connected to the preschool there--same administrator, but I see no reason that all Young Fives classes have to be run by the same person. I think a Young Fives class run by the elementary school where it's located wouldn't be that big a stretch for the schools.

And, sure, you could run it in accordance with a school's approach.

And it would be *more* convenient for parents with older kids. Also, in some of those on-the-edge cases, you could move kids over with not a lot of hassle.

Back to SI,

The expansion of SI to two strands occurred because the overcrowding of the north cluster was severe that year--I think Addison had something like 60 extra kinders it somehow had to manage. The overcrowding was also severe at Duveneck.

Soooo, the board created a bubble class at Addison and added an SI strand at Escondido. However, that second strand gave preference to kids from the north cluster. Given that sibling preference removes most slots, yes, doing that did essentially disenfranchise kids in the Escondido area from the lottery program at the school.

Now, while it's obvious that I favor choice programs more than some of you, it doesn't mean that I don't think that some rectification's in order.

So, how about taking a page from the charter law? No choice program can be placed at an existing elementary without the consent of at least half the staff and parents.

If a school's half empty and in danger of closing, then I think parents would go for it. Nancy has said that she'd be delighted to have the language programs if it meant they could re-open Pinewood.

It would also mean choice programs would have to start offering something a little more value-added. I mean, why the heck aren't the neighborhood strands of Escondido getting some FLES? I know they made some early stabs at it, but they need to try harder.

I think we'd have better choice programs if they had to work with the community and give everybody else a reason to want them. There'd also be less of a problem with Balkanization, which strikes me as already becoming a problem with this district.

Okay, any more opinions on Greendell as home for MI? It just strikes me as one of the more workable long-term solutions. If MI were placed there, they'd get their own school (they could even play with Chinese education), which means the board could focus on opening a 13th school that served the whole district's best interests.

And if we amended the choice rules, we wouldn't have to deal with another school-as-hostage scenario.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Never Picked

I love your idea of moving Ohlone program and farm to Cubberly. Yes, it may be needed for a high school, but it could be a great place for Ohlone and I am sure that Susan Charles and her great thinking machine could think of many ways of benefitting from such a campus. I have heard many innovative ideas, but this is a new one to me.

To all those discussing SI and Escondido, no one has mentioned the fact that the SI web page is linked to a French Immersion group of parents waiting to bring French to PAUSD. I think that it is safe to say that since it has been there for sometime that the nucleus of parents involved are real and not in any way hypothetical.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2007 at 6:08 pm


I'm not too sure that charters are out of the question. However, if they are, then PAUSD should just say "no" to various choice programs. Make them go private (some will). I don't think you understand the level of discontent among the non-choice parents. It is only getting worse. As more and more kids get bumped, there will be a real fight. Even now, I doubt that there is enough support to pass a bond issue, if it requires a super-majority. We are fast heading to a situation where even a simple majority will be out of the question.

I would like to return to the days when a super majority vote is taken for granted. The only way to get there is to go back to exclusively neighborhood schools.

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2007 at 6:12 pm

A point of information re. Escondio and neighborhood enrollment: Stanford is planning a large (not sure how large) development of new, single family homes for grad students and their families between Stanford Av and Escondido Village -- homes whose children will be within the Escondido boundary. They're due to start building in the next year, I gather -- so we're looking at more pressure on the neighborhood numbers soon.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm


The charter law is very clear on this--it requires a majority vote from both the administrators and the parents.

I'm aware of the discontent, which is why I think the choice rules need to be amended so that you don't get these antagonistic situations. I don't think choice programs should be instituted when there's no room and if a school is already operating on the would-be choice program's site, then I don't think a choice program should be put in place unless the school staff and the parents at the school agree.

Look, if these rules were in place then what would have happened with MI? I don't think any school would have taken the program. However, the board could say, hey, there will be room at Greendell in two years or we'll see if we can get consent from the Garland community if we reopen it.

MI would probably accept Greendell and a lot of the fury at not being heard wouldn't be happening.

Fact is, there isn't one person running for school board who's going to vote to close the existing choice programs (they've already said that.)and both Hoover and Ohlone can pick up slack in the way schools with defined draw areas can't--it's a lot easier for all involved when a family wants their kid to go to something besides the neighborhood school.

I think, though, there are things that can and should be done to restore a balance to the district. One is to amend the choice rules--or, in the case of Escondido, enforce some of them.

Some of what's getting posted here seems to be based on a sort of notion of revenge or justice. I'm interested in balance--what works best for the largest number? Thus, my arguments for Greendell as the MI site in 2010--which would leave the district the possibility of opening a genuine neighborhood school in an overcrowded area or allow for an expansion at Jordan.

I've no love for PACE's tactics--and I understand the feeling that they and all the lottery programs they rode in on ought to be wiped out. But I don't think that's a solution--I think it might be a sort of win for people who resent the choice programs, but I think it's a losing strategy for the district.

So, I'm interested in solutions where the largest number of people get what they want while stepping on the fewest toes.

Thus, a strand or even strand and a half of MI goes to Greendell, which can't become a full neighborhood school unless it boots out Preschool Family (which has political clout) and Young Fives. Plus, it's a lousy neighborhood school site (not safe to walk to or bike to) and a good commuter site (near two major thoroughfares, ample parking.

Ohlone and Hoover do their thing. Ohlone expands a half strand so families have a better chance getting in.

Escondido's principal gets his act together and makes sure neighborhood strands get some benefit to their school SI program.
Also, if SI stays two strands, I think there needs to be some neighborhood preference at least some years, instead of anti-neighborhood preference.

Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2007 at 8:16 pm

OP -- I think you are finally beginning to get a hint of an inkling about the resentment toward choice programs, and I'm glad and relieved. This is the most even-handed post I've seen from you, and I appreciate it very much. (Of course, there may have been others that I've missed; sometimes I try to do other things.) And you're right that no board member is going to eliminate choice programs; the truth is, I'm not sure I want them to. But I want the choice programs to do more than pay lip-service to how different they are; I want parents at those schools really knowing (not just repeating what their principals tell them) how they are different and cutting edge. In one of the other strands you indicated that we would just have to disagree unless we could find someone who had been to neighborhood school then transferred to Ohlone -- a tough person to find as the policy, I'm told, is that PAUSD families can't transfer into Ohlone after a certain grade (maybe for third, maybe fourth) because they 'can't figure it out'. Not so different from MI, huh? But finding a family that transferred out of Ohlone and into a neighborhood school -- why, not quite a dime a dozen, but easy enough to find. Sniff around, a bit. At the very least, I want to choice programs to do no harm; so open, public lotteries, delineated waitlists, easy transfers, not displacing neighborhood kids, and actually presenting a different approach than what is found in neighborhood schools (but not necessarily additional curriculum not available to others -- such as a foreign language).

Regarding Cubberey for Ohlone: I wouldn't want kids to cross that back parking lot to get to the football field, either. But just because it's a parking lot now doesn't mean it has to stay a parking lot. Come on, OhlonePar, start thinking out of the box a little bit here!

And if you get your expansion -- you get 80 kids per grade, and you do a full on 'Ohlone All the Way' expansion, and you've got 720 kids housed there through eighth grade, 1040 if you go all the way through high school. Add a classroom or two of Young 5's, and you've filled that site.

I'm surprised you're not jumping at this opportunity. I know people at Ohlone who would love to have this chance. The idea came to me while having lunch with one of them, and that parent was all over it. How about all of that cross-pollination you love to talk about, but now happening all the way through high school. And years of (actual) project-based learning. It has enough potential to make me excited, and I think we all know by now how I feel about choice schools! (Of course, I am imagining something genuinely different than what is currently occuring at our choice programs.)

Regarding MI at Greendell: why not. It makes more sense to me than expanding Y5's to those classrooms (and they should not, under any circumstances, go unused). It's too onerous to ask parents to drive across town to get their kids to Y5 right after dropping an older sibling off at a North-side school. And god forbid there should ever be a disaster where a parent has to try to get to both kids. Let's get Young 5's expanded to neighborhood schools -- the only 'choice' program that would always get my unequivocal support for both implementation and expansion.

Posted by Soccer, Softball, Baseball, mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Excuse me, but the Cubb fields are a huge asset to this community, and a very scarce commodity relative to the number of users in the community who needs those fields. (I assume also an income source for the school district.)

Leave the Cubberley fields OUT of the equation if you are thinking about a 'farm'. It would be an absolute injustice to trade playing fields for all of the community for a farm for a small corner of the community.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:08 pm


It would be hard to not be aware of the resentment and post as long as I have in the forum.

Families can transfer into Ohlone through the fourth grade. I know a couple of people who did it in third as well as a few who did it in first. So, yes, the transfers do work that way. I don't know that they post on this board. I also know families that are unhappy with their neighborhood schools who wish they'd applied to Ohlone.

A lot of it boils down to, for the parents, how competitive an environment do you want for your kids and how early? Frankly, one of the reasons I have no problems with Hoover is that it's a good spot for parents who feel their kids need to have a certain kind of competitive edge as early as possible. With the neighborhood schools, it's kind of hit and miss, some are, some aren't. I'm in Duveneck's district and I know the school does an excellent job of turning out well-prepared students, I think there's a price I don't want to pay for it. And I don't think the school would change for me--many people move to the area because they want a high-achieving school and all that goes with it. I've said before that I think families who want an Ohlone-style school are a large minority, but they are a minority.

I agree that the choice programs shouldn't tax other schools--I feel though that the argument that Ohlone does so because it exists and has a school site to be a little extreme.

As for the Cubberly idea--I could see that a K-12 might be the thing for some Ohlone parents. Personally, that seems like a kind of overwhelming environment for young kids. I like smaller schools. I like calm, but that really is just me.

So far, no big objections to MI at Greendell. Wonder if anyone from the MI crowd will weigh in?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:23 pm


I don't think Ohlone K-12 at Ohlone is actually going to happen--it's a big expensive idea without a lot of community support. Well, okay, it's just an idea a parent's throwing around today and another parent likes. If it gets serious, you've a few years to form an opposition.

And FWIW, the Ohlone Farm is one acre--that's official, it actually looks like less to me--it's quite a bit bigger in the collective imagination than it is in reality. Two miniature goats, two elderly sheep, 16 chickens, one duck, a greenhouse and a school garden. Oh, and a native plants pond. Nothing at all like what's at Hidden Villa. It really does function as the heart of the school, though. I think it's because it was built and is maintained entirely by the Ohlone community. The Harvest Festival is a big fundraiser. The Everything shop and donations also fund it. Labor and lots of it is supplied by the parents. The land belongs to the district, but what's on it belongs to the community. I don't know that people always understand it--it's sort of like the ultimate gonzo PTA project.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:24 pm

I mean Ohlone K-12 at Cubberly, of course.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 23, 2007 at 6:02 am

I know a family with 2 kids, one of whom transferred into Ohlone in 5th grade. It is not a rigid rule.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2007 at 8:50 am

Ohlone - that's right, and what I've often said as well - the "FARM" is an effort, a movement, much more than plot of land. The FARM and the meager inventory of what's on it, and its EFFORT can be moved ~anywhere~.

There is nothing particular or sacred about the address where it sits that defines it as FARM.

Ohlone campus is one of the largest physical campuses we have, we should be moving the Ohlone program (and farm), and using that physical campus to solve our North/South enrollment growth problem.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2007 at 2:23 pm


The kids at Ohlone are just as much a part of the enrollment as any other kids. They are the kids in the neighborhood--or neighborhoods--I mean, isn't the argument by some that it's really a neighborhood school serving its neighborhood?

I mean, where do you think Ohlone kids live? Yes, anyone can apply, but the same residency rules apply and propinquity does play some part. Most of the Ohlone families I know are west of El Camino.

I have no idea why you think 350 kids in the district should be bumped for another 350 students? Sorry, the majority of enrollment growth hasn't been happening in the Ohlone draw area. It's happening all over, though largely to the south and west.

And why is that you think it's somehow more "fair" that a neighborhood instead of a choice school should be given the larger site after the choice school has been there for decades? At least, with a choice school you don't have to live in the "right" neighborhood to get in.

Ohlone as a neighborhood school site won't do a damn thing to solve overenrollment problems in the north--because the policy is not to have kids cross Oregon to go to grade school. This way, you get people in the triangle who are willing to make the effort to get their kid to a school.

The Farm is work--and lots of it over the years--building the barn, putting down roots, literally. So, no, it's not simply something that can be picked up--it's not a damn portable. It exists because generations of parents make it exist. Who do you think mucks out the stalls?

It's irritating, frankly, to hear grousing about the Farm by people who seem to have no idea with what's involved in keeping it going.

Am I supposed to apologize for Ohlone actually doing something with a mudpatch in its back corner? Why? Because other schools didn't feel like doing it? And don't give me that stuff about how there's no room--when the Farm started there was room for something at every school in the district.

So remind me again, the value of the Ohlone being a large neighborhood school instead of a large choice school would be what again?

Oh, yeah, a lack of uniqueness. None of that doing anything unusual with that back mudpatch.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2007 at 2:46 pm


First let me say that I have always admired your intelligence and your defense of Ohlone. You and I don't agree on the choice issue, and I don't usually use intellectual arguments to defend my positions (well, sometimes, but ususally not). I think is is largely an emotional, gut level issue, rather theories about education philosophies. In this post, though, you are getting pissed. I admire you for taking that jump...I doubt that it was easy for you.

You talk, passionately, about the Farm at Ohlone, and what it means to you. May I only suggest that you come to understand that it was also an emotional issue when SI took over Escondido, and destroyed the community gardern? Can you understand that we felt invaded? We were once a small, but tight, neighborhood school, and we welcomed the Stanford graduate student kids (lots of diversity). No more. We are now just some kind of overcrowded institutional thing. This is the side of 'choice' that you have, until now, discussed in intellectual terms. I feel a bit closer to you now.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2007 at 11:00 pm


Thank you for your comments. I do try to keep cool in the forums, but, yes, I hit a limit on that one.

Not only do I have empathy for you guys at Escondido; it makes me worry about Ohlone. We're not a neighborhood school, but we are very much a community school. And, like you, we're getting a program that was nothing we requested that also threatens to blow up our campus into some "overcrowded institutional thing" as you put it.

So, yes, if I were EscondidoPar instead of OhlonePar, you'd have been getting rants about the loss of that garden. It's funny and awful that Escondido lost its garden even as there's an increased awareness of the importance of school gardens and understanding where our food comes from. Not to mention that the kids will eat the damnedest vegetables if they picked them.

From my perch over here, I hear conflicting views on Escondido. It seems clear that the school doesn't work as a whole and the attempts to do so have been pretty thin. Last year's opening of an SI strand that gave priority to kids outside the neighborhood sounds like it robbed Peter to pay Paul.

It's not clear to me that these combined schools work. I've never suggested that MI be placed at another neighborhood school, with the exception of Pinewood, where the district has said there are never going to be enough neighborhood kids to reopen it.

Thus, my suggestion that MI take over half of Greendell when the JCC vacates in 2010. I think it's a better solution than opening another half 'n half school at Garland.

I think the choice rules need revising. I said in another post that I think it should be like charters--the current staff and parents of a school should have voting rights on it. I think that would actually improve the choice programs.

The hostile takeover approach sucks.

Posted by Parent of 2 PAUSD students, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:52 am

Personal thoughts:

Re the choice programs: Various kids tend to thrive better under a variety of teaching/learning environments, and I have always been grateful to PAUSD for at least offering a couple of alternatives to its more "mainstream" schools (which I must say are already exceptional here in Palo Alto compared to other parts of the peninsula, like my former shall-remain-nameless hometown.)

Ohlone K-12 - what a wonderful sadly-never-to-be-realized dream, I think. Ohlone school was not really a convenient location for my children to attend, but knowing my own children's personal learning styles and issues, Ohlone was the best thing that ever happened to them (for them at least), and the upshot was that they loved going to school and actually hated vacations - that is: while they attended Ohlone.

With one kid now at Gunn and the other still at JLS (private middle schools might possibly have had appeal, but, frankly, we cannot afford them), I still hear grousing from my kids about how they wish the Ohlone program could have continued though the post-5th grades - the Connections program at JLS has been somewhat better than nothing, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Less-personal thoughts:

Is the commentary in this topic (originally about School Board candidates) perhaps getting a bit off-track? I'd love to read more views about the candidates...

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Parent of 2,

Thanks for speaking up. It's nice to hear from someone who has had experience with both Ohlone and a neighborhood school.

I think one thing that has helped the district overall is that some of Ohlone's techniques have been moved into some of the neighborhood schools. The lower grades seem less regimented than they were even five years ago. Ohlone serves as a test case for the district.

One thing that's not really brought up about constructivist, project-based learning schools is that they are *hard* to run. I was told that by someone who's done it and worked in a variety of other elite schools. All that "freedom" in the classroom takes a ton of preplanning and management. Without a firm, underlying structure, they can fall apart.

It sounds like Connections--just from reading here--has been getting better, but it's taken a while to find its sealegs. GMS, for those with girls and cash, sounds amazing. Their projects include creating a small business and putting on a presentation for real venture capitalists for funding. I mean, talk about project-based learning with a wow factor.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2007 at 4:50 pm

GMS has turned back into a great school because they now carefully choose their students. The team process works well when you can build a team - several years ago they were a lot less discriminating and it was less than successful...One big advantage of private schools is they can turn away inappropriate (for them) students.

You can be a big supporter of our district and not have a child in PAUSD. One of the longest term PiE (formerly Pafe) members has not had a child in the district for 4-5 years, yet still is one of the most dependable, valued PiE members.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 8:06 pm

PA mom,

It's only in the last year that GMS has been able to be selective. The improvement came first. And, yeah, I've heard there was some real floundering. Like I say, these programs are a challenge to run--educationally, you're trying, I think, to walk the fine line between freedom and control. A more traditionally controlled environment is more clearcut--and there's a longer history to it.

But your overall point is dead-on--if you can turn away students, it makes being "successful" a lot easier. I mean, I think we've all seen or been in the classrooms where one troubled student kind of turns the class upside-down. And in some classes it's going to be a lot more than one.

It does make public v. private school comparisons off-kilter. Different missions.

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