Town Square

Post a New Topic

Highlights & reactions to MI school board meeting?

Original post made by Ohlone parent on Jan 9, 2007

I wasn't able to attend the meeting on the Mandarin immersion proposal tonight and would love to hear about it. What was the tone of the public input and do more people seem inclined to support the recommendation to start the program up at Ohlone or oppose it? Did the school board members say anything, or did they just listen to the testimony?

Comments (92)

Posted by Kate, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 9, 2007 at 11:16 pm

The tone was civil, actually, on both sides of the discussion. I left just a few minutes ago. Before the public comment started, each board member took about 15 minutes to share their initial thoughts on the recommendations.Dana, Barb, Mandy and Gail all said they would not support the recommendation to implement MI in the Fall. Interesting reasons they gave, from timing, to location, to cost. It will be fascinating to see what happens next.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2007 at 11:49 pm

After the board put forth their thoughts, I'd say the mood of crowd--somewhat more green than red, though plenty of both--just sort of leveled off. The pro-MI crowd was pretty subdued, clearly disappointed and clearly feeling that they'd lost. The anti-MI crowd seemed surprised and relieved. Many of the points they'd planned to make were made by the board.

Let's see, Dana Tom said MI should have a lower priority than FLES. Also that there were limited resources for numerous goals--the district was trying to do too much--he called PAUSD "a stressed-out district." He also pointed out that there was no place for MI to expand after three years--unless it cut into Ohlone's other enrollment.

Molly, one of the student reps, is an SI graduate and sang the praises of immersion, though she didn't address the language-for-all issue, but, hey, she's a kid.

Barb Mitchell felt there were too many big issues that couldn't be solved by Jan. 30. She was concerned about the MI location and a five-year projection that predicted 400 more elementary students coming into the district. She was wary of anything "tying our hands" in terms of moving students, types of schools opening, etc.

She was also concerned by the program recommending 50 percent of the students being native Mandarin speakers. She felt it would create a program that did not "look like our district."

Mandy Lowell was effusive about MI, but said it was a good idea that was too much for the district right now.

Gail Price said it didn't serve enough students. She was also concerned about the private funding of the study. She also mentioned the earlier agreement not to develop new programs.

Camilla Townsend was strongly in favor of MI and basically sort of effused about global something-or-other.

From my biased perspective, it felt like the pro-MI types were sort of romantics, while the green shirts were kind of nuts-and-bolts practical.

Posted by equal opportunist, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 10, 2007 at 1:30 am


Good summation, but admittedly biased.

I heard one of those nuts and boltsters say that one reason MI was a bad idea was because the start-up costs would require extra fundraising and that that would potentially reduce donations to PIE. How do you feel about doing away with the farm so that more Ohlone families can have more money in their pockets to donate to PIE? Oh yeah, that's right, Ohlone had the largest number of families contributing to PIE last year of all schools in the district.

I think families from choice programs should be more supportive of others' choices, not my choice is okay but your's is not, lest we be overtaken by the nuts and bolts people who want their neighborhood school back.

Posted by Parent of Young Child, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 10, 2007 at 2:19 am

"Dana, Barb, Mandy and Gail all said they would not support the recommendation to implement MI in the Fall." --how disappointing.

Posted by Ana, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 7:38 am

I am sad to hear that the board will probably not support the MI program. How can we have alternative programs such as the SI, Hoover and Ohlone, and not be able to support the MI??? Those other programs only benefits also a hand full of children, right? So, why not the MI? I am extremely disappointed with the board! And with parents who want their children in other special programs, but are not supporting a new program! :-(

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 10, 2007 at 7:46 am

I know there is a way to get this meeting online at some time here soon so that anyone who wants to hear the reasoning of the Board members who are leaning against putting in MI right now can listen to it.

If someone else doesn't find it first, I will try to do it when I come back this afternoon.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 9:55 am

Maybe I misunderstood the messages of the various Board members, but it seemed to me that they were saying the timetable is just too tight with too many other variables (like whether or where to open a new school site, etc.) not addresed if they implement it for next fall. They also seemed to say that we ought to work on meeting the strategic goals and priorities that were established by the survey etc. *during this cycle*. But the thing that made me happiest was that they seemed to say that when planning for the next cycle (coming up next year) they should include plans for language instruction, including MI. So I actually thought it was a good compromise that allows for thoughtful site planning, implementation, fund allocation etc. I didn't see it as a defeat of MI, but only a defeat of the "hurry, hurry" approach to implementing it. The Board members seemed to me to say that they thought the problems were all solvable, just not on the tight timetable.

Did I get that completely wrong? If I am right, I would urge MI supporters to continue to work on getting it implemented in the next cycle. It sounds like that would get much more community support and unify us rather than dividing us.

Posted by Supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:15 am

Natasha, the only one I heard break it down primarily to an issue of timing was Barb.

The rest, I think, had more issues than timing. (fit to strategy, resource constraints, location, diversity, need to focus on basic general education, etc.)

My honest opinion is that a District Strategic Planning process should occur first, probably led by the new superintendent who should be a very successful and well established school district leader who will lend some very valuable leadership on strategy and process.

followed by a WL strategy that fits the strategic plan, followed by a mandarin program that fits the WL strategy. That would create an airtight, undeniable fit to the district.

It would probably be helpful if the Board also undertook an improvement in the Choice guidelines to better define the criteria, not just the 'report' that needs to be put together for undertaking of new choice programs.

If I were attempting to design the best MI program I could, with the best chance of success, I would probably wait for the laying of the groundwork first.

Another cart before the horse approach is bound to be similarly frustrating, time consuming, and disappointing for everyone.

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:24 am


"How can we have alternative programs such as the SI, Hoover and Ohlone, and not be able to support the MI???"

Your questions exactly reflects the 'slippery slope' scenario that anti-choice folks were warning about when SI went into effect. It is not fair. You are correct. However, the way to solve it is to abandon the various choice programs, and back to neighborhood schools. We should also abandon the 20 kids/class thing. It is not necessary, and it is very expensive.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

Thank you, natasha. I tried to post the same thing (but somehow lost the post). You said it better anyway.

So we work on MI in the broader context of the jobs that need to be done to maintain and improve our district. So it's more work than supporters initially envisioned. Don't give up just because it's going to take a more prolonged effort!

Now that we have this forum, how can we use it to help in moving forward, getting done what needs to get done for the district (like restoring PE and music programs and getting hot water at Ohlone!), hashing out problems, and getting foreign language for all of our students and MI (on a more realistic timetable)?

If I missed something , please someone correct me -- but it sounded like the Board isn't saying no, they're just saying we need to work within the context of the big picture.

Posted by Ana, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

How many of you have taken Spanish or any other language classes in your life time, and CANNOT communicate at all in the language? I don't believe language instruction is a good compromise. The SI program really works, and I believe that that would be the same for the MI program, because immersion programs DO work.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:40 am

First, unlike MI, Ohlone and Hoover serve large, not small numbers of students.

Second, the farm, as I understand it, is mostly supported by the Thurs. market and lots of volunteer work.

Third, I took 10 weeks of immersion French at the age of 19. And, guess what? I have an accent, but I read French and I can communicate in it. Early immersion is great for total fluency and developing the ear. However, language classes bolstered by time spent in the appropriate country will *also* give spoken fluency.

Early immersion's great, but it's not the only way to learn a language.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 11:01 am

I myself learned 2 languages, one by immersion (8th grade spent in a French school) and one by language classes. I go back and forth with which language I am better in, depending on how much I use them nowadays. I have studied a couple of others too. I opposed the timetable proposed by the MI folks, but would really support putting MI in in the context of a world language strategy. I don't even care if we put it in before a FLES or other program is in place. I just thought it shouldn't jump the line and become a major project when we already had a clearly defined priority list. So I do hope that people will keep advocating for it and not get discouraged.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2007 at 11:23 am


I agree with you that immersion programs do work. But there are many examples of students who learned languages later than the elementary school years who became quite proficient. I'm one of those examples. I started taking French in the PA school system in 7th grade, continued in high school and college, took intensive courses over the summer at Foothill College, then studied abroad in France for 10 months. I was quite comfortable with the language by then.

For me, the greatest aspect of learning a language and spending time in another country was the fact that I stopped being a very provincial American and really started to understood there are different social/political, etc., perspectives in the world.

Back to the kids - If FLES could be incorporated into the school system at the elementary level, I believe this would go a long way in helping kids develop an appreciation for and understanding of world cultures. If taught early enough, this would just become second nature to them or part of who they are. And I think this would just be fantastic. That's why I strongly support early language instruction for every child in the district.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2007 at 11:47 am

Sounds like possible bias against Asian languages.

We have Spanish and French - decidedly European.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 12:05 pm

I readily admit I feel that learning Mandarin would be too overwhelming *for me.* I think it is great to expand your horizons and that it would be wonderful to offer this to our students, though I myself do not have the time it would require to learn a language that is so different from the ones I already know.

What you call a "possible bias" seems to stem from the anecdotes posted above that discuss personal experience with immersion and agreement that it works great even when introduced later.

I don't know, I was just trying to encourage the MI supporters to push on with their quest and see if it could get put in as part of the next strategic plan, not in any way expressing that Romance languages were better, more desireable, etc. Sorry if it came across that way.

Posted by another PA resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 10, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Dear PA Resident,
We have SI, with Spanish being an obvious choice given the California demographic. There is no French MI so you're obviously trolling - back under the bridge with you.

Posted by Blog Reader, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Ahhh But isn't there a French Immersion group waiting in the wings? I read somewhere that according to the Escondido web site, one is set up and set to start work once the MI situation is off the ground.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 10, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Blog Reader, I heard the same thing about French Immersion. In terms of the foreign language offerings in this district in middle and/or high school, however, we have Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin.

Posted by teresag, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 10, 2007 at 3:00 pm

The Escondido Website doesn't have anything about French immersion. However the SIPAPA site (the Spanish Immersion Parents' Group) site does have a link to the Palo Alto French Education group. You can find it at Web Link. I want to squash the rumor that somehow Escondido has something to do with French immersion -

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

I think French immersion was proposed way back at the time Spanish immersion went through. It predates the push for Mandarin immersion.

So, let me see, I have a bias against Asian languages because I studied French? How does that work? Is it something about learning irregular verbs that does it?

I do think there are particular issues regarding Mandarin that make it a challenging second language--it's a tonal language, which is difficult for those who speak non-tonal languages. (For that matter it's an issue in China itself, which can't its own citizens to all speak Mandarin.) The use of ideograms is also a difficulty--languages that use alphabets are much cheaper to use.

Mandarin is a rich and evocative language--but it's not a practical universal second language, so I don't see that it's urgent that it be learned by English speakers. It seems like this year's hype.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 10, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Learning one western/romance/germanic language makes learning others significantly easier because of similarities in syntax, grammar, and even words and word roots. The same can be said of asian languages (at least the major ones I'm familiar with). But asian languages are very different than romance/germanic languages. The syntax is completely different. They may be tonal, etc. There is some rational to learning a foreign language from each sector of the globe as a foundation for learning all other languages. Learning a language that has a very different syntax than one's own at an early age really is an advantage over trying later -- it's a lot harder than picking up another western/romance/germanic language later in life if your native language is western/romance/germanic. And if you are going to choose one asian language, mandarin or japanese are probably good first choices for all kinds of reasons.

I, too, hope the MI people will take the important lessons from this discussion, take a rest, then continue in the context of what needs to be done for the district, with MI in the picture. This can be a hard step that takes us to a much more positive place, I really don't see where we are as a total "defeat" -- frankly, adding a new program like MI to a school district is hard and should be hard. (I've always hated that phrase "snatching victory from the jaws of defeat" because real life usually means prying open the jaws of defeat with the jaws of life.) The meeting was probably disappointing for MI supporters who wanted MI next fall, but I hope no one packs up and quits so easily.

I admit I don't have the entire big picture either -- when/where will be the next move in having (or pushing for?) a meeting to deal with strategy? As everyone knows by now, I do feel it is important to implement FLES before MI. And there are other priorities before FLES. Getting the best result will mean being specific and planning. What's next??

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2007 at 5:48 pm


I know what you're saying about western v. Asian languages. But my having learned French doesn't make me inherently anti-Asian languages. I also studied Ancient Greek, which gave me a clue as to how brutal highly inflected languages can be to learn. (and, no, I don't think I can put together a single sentence in Ancient Greek. In that sense, the Chinese languages would be *much* easier.)

Sure learning a language from each branch may be ideal--but do we actually need the ideal? Our kids have other things to learn. So it becomes a question of priorities, as I think we agree. And I think the board was trying to hold out some less comprehensive, but workable options.

Posted by mary L., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I feel the board made a responsible decision. New programs are costly and have to be well planned out. I'm not for or against MI, but I think if it does eventually go through, there needs to be a long term plan for space and money. I know Dana and Mandy fairly well and they've always put a lot of thought into education, even before they were on the board. I'm happy that they're serving our kids well.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 10, 2007 at 9:57 pm

I don't think I said anything about you being anti-asian language. If it was somehow implied in my post, I apologize.

I think your question comes down to how important is language in the scheme of things. I wasn't trying to put you down, I was trying to sway your opinion on the relative importance of language. I think it's pretty important; I think a lot of other people feel the same way.

Now, I happen to think math, science, English, history, physical education and music are more important, but I think there's still room for something as important as foreign language. (And hey, if we combine the learning of those things in two languages, we get a two-fer. Hmmm....)

We do live in a global village. Being able to communicate in a different language is a pretty powerful thing. Even if your only concern is having an employee pool for national security and diplomacy, the earlier our citizens have some facility with foreign language, the easier it is later on. As to the ancient Greek v Chinese, I have studied quite a few languages, and I don't know how the material I was given fits in the history of the world, but I have been able to draw on other language knowledge to read (admittedly with only superficial understanding) ancient Greek passages without actually studying Greek. Chinese syntax (among other things) is so vastly different than western language syntax, I could not do the same, it's not really an issue of "difficulty".

Learning an asian language at a young age isn't such a hard thing, and it opens up immense possibilities later in life that just aren't nearly so easy without this early experience. It's just an issue of internalizing something very, very different at a time when it's relatively easy to do because it's extraordinary useful. There may be developmental and hardwiring issues around language acquisition and the brain, too. Having that extra wiring is probably a good thing. I have a relative whose dementia took away the ability to speak in native tongue, who could still communicate in an acquired language.

I'm not suggesting that's an advantage in choosing asian v western, but if a native western-language-speaker has any predisposition to spending any time in that part of the world or for any other reason needs to know how to speak an asian language, learning one early on is a huge advantage because the language families are so different and the ability to internalize such a different language is so vastly better early on. You may not have any reason to spend time in asia, but you have to admit that a large segment of our community does, and thus if language instruction is important, some kind of asian language instruction is important.

I'm not holding that out as the only reason to learn language, there are many, many reasons. I can go to virtually any corner of the globe and communicate and feel at ease in a way that I never could if I knew English only, even in places where I don't speak the language fluently, having some facility makes a huge difference (not just for enjoyment, but education, socialization, safety, etc.) Knowing foreign language opens up employment opportunities in our increasingly competitive global economy. Hey, having that background from k-12 leaves all the more time for working on the scientific dissertation down the line (or do they still require candidates to read journals in foreign languages? Frankly, I'm seeing far more important scientific and medical research these days that isn't being translated into English, it wouldn't be a bad idea to go back to that requirement if it's gone.)

For most of my adult life, I'd say my knowledge of foreign language has been considerably more important than my facility with, say, differential equations (which, btw, I am not knocking, I'm pointing out how important language is in life!)

I also feel the board made a responsible decision. I hope this energizes those of us in the community who value our first class school system, and value the importance of language instruction in it, so that we do our maintenance, housekeeping, and additions in a responsible and ambitious way.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2007 at 8:29 am

How about establishing a MI Charter School and just take it out of PAUSD altogether? With the opposition from the board, why fight it? Just take the kids out of the school district.

Posted by Max, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:13 am

Mandarin is probably the second most important language in the world now. Anyone working in Silicon Valley can see that. There is no doubt that learning a language is natural for children less than 10 years old, and exponentially more difficult after that. Once established, I think the demand from within the district from Mandarin-speaking and non-Mandarin speaking families would be very high. It would be unfortunate if this type of opportunity does not exist for the children in the district.

It's clear that the board doesn't have the political will to address the issues. First, they are unwilling address the misconception that each neighborhood has the ultimate say in the use of its 'own' school. The district has physical assets that should be used to benefit the children of the entire district. Having each neighborhood school held hostage by vocal parents handcuffs the district too much. Clearly, location for the MI program is an issue, but not an insurmountable one. Restricting enrollment is more of a problem, in my opinion. All district tax payers should have equal access.

Some have expressed concerns that the MI program will attrack more students to the district. Palo Alto has always been an attractive place to live because of the reputation of the schools, so I can't see how this differs from the past unless there is a concern that more Asians will move here. I believe this is the real concern of many of the opponents; fear of a more competitive school system based on the usual stereotypes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this type of bias exists even in Palo Alto.

Posted by Ah, there's the rub, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:13 am

No, the better thing is to put the charter school IN PAUSD, and draw in students from other districts - something the law allows.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:43 am

No, the better thing is for us to hash out a strategic plan that brings together both the "opponents" of MI (many of whom said that they weren't opposed to MI, only opposed to putting the cart before the horse), and proponents of MI, so that everyone is using their energies to improve the district -- so that we accomplish the basic priorities (like restoring physical education), finally get some foreign language instruction for all elementary students (FLES), and constructively plan for MI -- rather than fighting. I see the above proposals as not learning the lessons from this and creating more of the same fights we just wasted time and energy on.

This is what I was afraid of -- people were so set on pushing MI in this singular way that all anyone remembers as the dust settles from Tuesday is that there was opposition, instead of remembering that the opposition was mostly to HOW things were being pushed (without taking enough account of the big picture), not fundamentally TO MI for our district.

So some people didn't get what they wanted right now (including me). Time to brush off past bruises, roll up our sleeves, and work together to get what needs to be done, done.

Jeez, this reminds me of getting my child to pick up toys if it doesn't get done BEFORE turning on the t.v. or going out to play.

Posted by Give peace a chance?, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:49 am

Sorry, AJ, given the views aired in TownSquare, and by the emails flying around, I don't think you speak for a majority of the opposition who oppose MI. Do you represent PAEE?

I have seen more lip-service than sincere support for creating FLES or a World Language Task Force. I've only heard a few MI-supporters say they would contribute to that, no opponents. I haven't seen you volunteer either, although you claim quite passionately to be supportive for languages for all and MI.

Sorry, gotta walk the talk.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:59 am

If you don't understand the problem with creating a magnet for enrollment growth (optional enrollment growth) then you don't understand the financials of basic aid district.

The enrollment growth problem is purely a financial problem.

The growth trajectory is different with and without a Mandarin Immersion program. Families that will move here just because of the Mandarin education will not other wise come.

This would be the same for any other 'speciality' program. The fact that we already have some that create this magnet effect, and exacerbate our enrollment growth problem, (Hoover is a great example) - is not a good reason for doing it again.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

And the 'greatness' of our district is not judged on enrollment growht. We are not a private company or a corporation who's life blood survival - creation of stakehold value - is dependent on growth. The greatness of our district is measured on many metrics, growth is not one of them.

Finally, the threats of the charter school should be recognized as

a. more self centered thinking from a special interest group that is not satisfied with the same excellently strong general education that the rest of us get in PAUSD, they want more, they want it their way, and they want it now.

b. a more infeasible program than already proposed. The bar for PROOF skyrockets when the small proponent group wants to attract parents away from an excellent PAUSD education into a small start up program. Proof on such things as the success rate of kinders that sign up, the proof that qualified teachers will be retained, and will be high quality, the proof that the cost structure realistic, proof that attrition is 'no big deal', proof that students of all backgrounds thrive equally, etc. Pointing to SI is no longer going to be adequate. Its an entirely different proposition when parents are being asked to choose BETWEEN PAUSD and MI, versus being given a choice for MI WITHIN PAUSD - so they'll have their sales and PR work cut out for them as well.

And the 'proof' that the program is completely free of district overhead will absolutely be born out in a charter school, because they'll get standard per pupil cost ONLY, and they'll have to create their OWN staff, their OWN principal, create their own curriculum, manage their own program. The costs will be, what they will be. No more "lender of last resort" PAUSD. Guaranteed cost neutral to PAUSD! (Which is fabulous - exactly what we require.)

(Anybody know the PIE rules for a charter school? I assume no more PIE, but who knows for sure?)

And finally, they'll be required to create a BOARD and operate that board publicly, transparently, abide by the same open meeting laws and financial disclosure laws that public schools are required to operate under. So if proponents felt a little insulted by being required to disclose their donors before, they'll be compelled by law to make that disclosure PLUS more - a real serious dose of full public disclosure as a charter school.

So I say: charter school = great idea = not happening. Yes, they will threaten it, No they will not go there. If they go there, it will be more painful for them, then it will be for us.

Those parents have a more of a chance to get MI by participating in the strategic planning process, participating in the world language discussion, and carving out a justification for MI within those contexts.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Here's a link for starting how to start a Charter school in California.

Web Link

Let's study the process and then setup a meeting outside of the PAUSD process.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2007 at 1:43 pm


Actually, I'm all for foreign languages in the schools--the earlier, the better. And while I agree immersion is the ideal way to learn a language, it's not the only way. Given the district's limitations and priorities, we don't *have* to have Mandarin Immersion right now. (And, of course, if it's that important, then it needs to available to more than a small set of students.)

I think summertime immersion courses balanced with more traditional second-language instruction during the school year would give our children, if not fluency, the basis for fluency later on. I'd like to start the process before middle school though. Why we start teaching second languages after the optimum age for it, I have no idea.


Mandarin's important this year. In my time, it was *Japanese*, China's hot right now, but there are longterm issues that it needs to confront. India's the other third-world up-and-comer--and its language of commerce is English. There are valid arguments for learning any number of languages, but I haven't heard one that makes me think immersion Mandarin for a small number of children in the district is more important than enough room for kindergarteners.

And, yes, neighborhoods do have a say over their schools--it's called voting. I really think PACE has overlooked this and created a lot of resentment. The board knows this.

Posted by Look at the Ed Code on Charter Schools, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2007 at 2:03 pm

The above link from Anonymous is biased toward 'helpful information if you want to start a charter school' but is a little light on details. For a more detailed unbiased look at the requirements for starting a charter school, you should probably go to California Ed code.

This is from the California Ed code on Charter schools. If the demographic requirements within PAUSD's Choice policy was too ambiguous - perhaps this will help clarify the requirements for Charter Schools.

(Charter school plan will state:)

(G) The means by which the school will achieve a racial and ethnic
balance among its pupils that is reflective of the general
population residing within the territorial jurisdiction of the school
district to which the charter petition is submitted.

With regard to PROOF of STUDENT outcomes...
(A) The entity that granted the charter determines that the
academic performance of the charter school is at least equal to the
academic performance of the public schools that the charter school
pupils would otherwise have been required to attend, as well as the
academic performance of the schools in the school district in which
the charter school is located, taking into account the composition of
the pupil population that is served at the charter school.
(B) The determination made pursuant to this paragraph shall be
based upon all of the following:
(i) Documented and clear and convincing data.
(ii) Pupil achievement data from assessments, including, but not
limited to, the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program
established by Article 4 (commencing with Section 60640) for
demographically similar pupil populations in the comparison schools.

Also, I doubt you can populate a charter school via Language Proficiency testing at any grade level.

The MI program proposed in latest feasibility study would not meet these demographic requirements nor would not like retain these demographics over time. These are the same issues that would need to be solved for an MI program whether it resides within the traditional PAUSD system, or as a charter school.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 11, 2007 at 2:04 pm

I am 100% in agreement with you. I think your suggestion -- of traditional second-language instruction during the school year and immersion summer courses -- is a fantastic idea (also one that could be implemented sooner and probably with less controversy than ANY plan that requires new physical facilities).

Give Peace a Chance?
I can't really answer your charges because all you have posted are sour grapes -- you've baselessly attacked me and a lot of other people who I know will put energy into the strategic planning process. How much will probably depend on how well meetings are advertised and offered up for discussion in advance. It's my understanding that some of the most vocal anti-MI group tried to move toward that kind of effort a year ago. I want to be a part of the process, because I want to be sure FLES at a minimum stays on the table. I am also very interested in the fate of physical education and music in the lower grades, which I consider a bigger priority.

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 11, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I wrote yesterday to the Board and volunteered, if they will have me, to be a "helper" on any Task Force they wish to create, assuming they want a community-staff partnership on this, which develops the plan for how we complete our Strategic Planning Cycle now, and which questions the Strategic Planning Cycle should answer.

I can tell you that if they want me, a priority of mine would be to make sure that Foreign Languages in our District is one of the issues we address in our Strategic Planning Cycle, as it relates to our priorities, our vision, our strategies and our goals.

You have not heard me say I will work to start foreign language in our elementary schools because I do not have enough information to know if it has risen high enough in our District priorities to put resources ( mine included) into.

But, I AM committed to helping set up, if the Board wants this, the process we use in our next Strategic Planning community-District partnership as we have done in the past, by which I hope we would gather the facts related to the goals we have set in our district, present them to the community, and then gather community input which help determine the goals the District should devote resources to over the next 3 years.

This isn't working on foreign language per se in our schools, but it is laying the foundation so that any new foreign language programs our District brings in will more likely be fashioned so that they have a great deal of support.

I did make one caveat..I can't start until March.


Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Mercury News reporting on this issue:

Web Link

Tactics opponents used, as quoted from article:

"In the contentious discussion leading to a public hearing Tuesday, opponents threatened to boycott fundraising efforts, vote against board members, oppose future tax measures and even try to rescind the parcel tax passed in 2005. Several accused the district of catering to an ``affluent, vocal minority.''"

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm

Is it a tactic? Or is community input to the board a legitimate form of participation in their local government.

If the community sent the message to the board that they would withhold financial support, is that a tactic, or a right in a democratic society?

Its no more a 'tactic' than funding a biased feasibility study, and then pointing to that study as airtight proof that the program is feasible.

Or the 'tactic' of threatening to start a charter school if you don't get your way.

Was that article in the Mercury presented as an OPINION PIECE or NEWS piece? Because the insertion of loaded words like "Tactic" and "accused" make is sound suspiciously like a thinly veiled opinion piece by a so-called reporter who has no intention of an unbiased reporting job. Sounds like she was more interested in disturbing the peace and creating drama.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2007 at 5:32 pm

What an odd article--it makes it sound like the school board gave its view after people spoke when actually the gave their views before opening it up to the public. It's misleading.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 11, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Yes, I'm rather disappointed. If she was going to cite the Feasibility Study, I wish she had at least mentioned the fact that the community was very divided on the thoroughness of the research. Also that many people were ok with MI, just not on this fast-track timeline. Oh, and a mention that language was dead last in the district's priority list, which still comprises the workng orders of the Board (not trustees) until the next cycle.

Too bad. I think it was not an accurate portrayal of the issues or of what happened, but that's life. Maybe MI proponents feel that's *exactly* the wawy it went down. Then again, maybe the next article will be "MI bounces back from oblivion" in a year or 2.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Max says, "Mandarin is probably the second most important language in the world now. Anyone working in Silicon Valley can see that."

I worked for computer and software companies in the valley for 25 years, and I do not see the business need for Mandarin. As OhlonePar points out, Japanese was once the hot language. When I was at a company that did a lot of business in Japan, none of the people who conducted that business was required to speak Japanese.

It's interesting to note the composition of many companies today. Acer, for example, is a Taiwanese company. The president is an Italian. The president of Acer America (headquartered in San Jose) is Austrian and the VP of Marketing is Dutch. They all speak English.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2007 at 8:45 am

I agree with Pat. My company does a great deal of business with various Asian companies. They are very multi-cultural and the common language is English. There is a push in Asia to teach English and within a few years it will be impossible for someone there, regardless of how brilliant they are in their field, to get employment in a company that does global business to get a job without being able to speak English. Therefore the need for us to speak their languages will diminish. We can't stop it. English is the language of the 21st century worldwide and it will become the second language for all. They all have the advantage of knowing what their second language should be. We have the disadvantage of knowing that there is no sensible choice for a second language.

Posted by parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 12, 2007 at 9:36 am

I have worked with global companies for 20 years and no senior executives saw any value in learning mandarin if they did not already speak it.
There is a local company in which some the employees speak Cantonese and others Mandarin so they have to conduct their meetings in English to understand each other.
In 5 years the population of India will be greater than that of China.India will be the leading economy in Asia and will conduct business in English.

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 12, 2007 at 9:59 am

I agree that trying to choose a foreign language, assuming our district decides that foreign language in elementary school is now a priority for everyone, based on future economic need is a morass.

I hope that we develop criteria for choosing languages. Perhaps economics would be one criteria, and we could make a best guess on many factors, which would mean, in our global market, many languages of value. But I think there are many other criteria that should come into account as well. Being multilingual has many benefits that has nothing to do with economics for most of us, and everything to do with how we think, given that language shapes our ability to think, how we see the world and our place in it,and how we develop in our native language.

I, honestly, hardly care which foreign language(s) our schools end up choosing to teach the kids when the time comes. No matter what we choose, there are going to be a lot of people left in our highly multicultural city who still want to send their kids, like I do for Spanish and will for French, to private schools for our belief in the benefit to our own kids in our own heritage. But, with consistent criteria, maybe we can all simply accept which language(s) we teach and move on. I would support Mandarin, for example, if that is still a language that meets whatever criteria we choose. Maybe the criteria will be by our population and numbers of people in the world who speak it, maybe it will be by which language(s) provide the best

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 12, 2007 at 10:11 am

Clarify = I said "how we develop in our native language" above, and I mean in English.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 12, 2007 at 10:46 am

I think your post about about the Strategic Planning community-District partnership is a blueprint for getting things done. Thank you. I will write the board and volunteer in the same way, if they want such community partnerships.

Posted by Voice reporter, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 12, 2007 at 1:32 pm

If you're interested in Mandarin Immersion, check out the story covering Tuesday's school board meeting from The Paly Voice. Web Link

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 12, 2007 at 2:04 pm

I read the Paly Voice. WELL DONE! Nicely summarized, balanced, factual, respectful to all points of view. No loaded language, no leading insinuations. Very nicely done. Good job!

I am so impressed with the quality of high school students around here. I was never so poised or articulate ( still am not!) as the two HS Board reps, or as the reporting quality evident in this article. I wasn't as brave as the high school students who came to speak at the Board meeting the other day, either. I am barely brave enough now!


Posted by Ana, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 12, 2007 at 4:38 pm

""...opponents threatened to boycott fundraising efforts, vote against board members, oppose future tax measures and even try to rescind the parcel tax passed in 2005. Several accused the district of catering to an ``affluent, vocal minority.''"

Wow... is that true? I am new to this fight, but is anything for real in this quote from the Mercury News? People are threatening bc the MI program? Why??? Don't we have other programs for specific groups, such as the Young Fives and SI? And, what is this about the "affluent, vocal minority"? How sad!

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 12, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Kudos to the Paly student who wrote such an informative and balanced article which was so much more accurate and informative than the one in the Mercury News!

Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 13, 2007 at 8:30 am

Ana: like you said, you are new to this discussion. I recommend you not draw conclusions from one article ( probably true in all issues) and instead read through all the hundreds of posts of the various threads..or at least go to the websites of the various parties and read up on the facts and context.



Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2007 at 12:19 pm


As a supporter of MI, I for my part might wish that the SJ Merc would give the news a spin favorable to this project, but that would be a disservice to all. The article gives an even-handed, accurate (though it did get board titles wrong) portrayal.

Unfortunately, in the course of this process we heard more than one attack on an "affluent, vocal minority," and that thinking has been part of the debate all along.

Yes, how sad!

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 14, 2007 at 7:12 pm

As someone who wants to see Palo Alto get MI, I didn't think the SJ Merc article was accurate at all, and I think it will sadly end up being misused in the future to support anyone who is against MI for other reasons to say that there was a huge opposition this time. Many of those opposed to MI on this go-around would not have been opposed if it had been moved through as part of a larger strategic plan that took into account more urgent priorities.

Palo Altans did just vote themselves a large parcel tax that promised to pay for some of those priorities, and people have been understandably upset that the promised remediations to our district haven't happened yet. Some people felt that staff time and resources were focused on the MI issue when they needed to be focused on more fundamental district-wide issues at this time, but I personally never witnessed the kind of threatening discourse described in the SJ Merc article. However, I suppose someone who had an interest in portraying the debate in the most adversarial way possible might be able to sift through the discourse for the most volatile comments and write about it that way. My view of the debate was of a lot of very concerned, caring, and intelligent people who had a disagreement about how to do what is best for the district and the kids in it. I did not see it as some kind of blanket rejection of Mandarin or MI in Palo Alto ever, as the article leads to believe.

Many "opponents" felt that, since Palo Alto schools currently have no language instruction at all for elementary school students (since you are new, you might be surprised to know that), that some language instruction should be available to elementary students district-wide before another immersion program is added. Two of the board members brought up this issue, yet it was not mentioned in the SJ Merc article at all. There were also significant problems in finding facilities for another separate program, as the neighborhood schools are already overcrowded and Palo Alto is currently going through a huge reassessment of its school boundaries. You wouldn't glean that from the Merc article either. I felt the Paly Voice article was a lot more balanced and informative (and just as well-written) -- written by a local high school student.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

What about the superintendent's first recommendation that a FLES implementation plan be developed?

Do you support that, AJ, OhlonePar, Pauline, and natasha?

The third recommendation is a blueprint for introducing FLES, via the one small bullet in the Ohlone PROS column:

o Site has an interest in finding ways to share immersion program curriculum knowledge to integrate some FLES program structures within the school

At least Ohlone's principal has the vision and guts.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2007 at 9:39 pm

I'm all for FLES. As I said elsewhere--or maybe it was a post that got eaten before posted, I suspect there'd be less resentment of SI at Escondido if a FLES program had been instituted in the non-SI strands.

Posted by wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:39 pm


Do you think your statement would be true at Ohlone, if a strand of SI were implemented at Ohlone and FLES was instituted in the non-SI strands as Susan Charles proposed would happen with MI? Didn't seem like many Ohlone families were cool with this proposal regarding MI at Ohlone?

Posted by Bill Buster, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:14 am

"Unfortunately, in the course of this process we heard more than one attack on an "affluent, vocal minority," and that thinking has been part of the debate all along."

Put the race card back in the deck, please, and keep it there.

At the two board meetings I attended where MI was addressed, the debate and comments were impassioned yet civil. I was rather proud to see it.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:36 am


My views about FLES are well-known, I think it is a priority for a good school district like Palo Alto.

I was not aware of that "Ohlone PROS" point. I do not think that giving students at Ohlone Mandarin instruction after adding MI to the campus is a blueprint for FLES, it comes across more as a bribe to the Ohlone community to take MI. That may not be the case, but it would come across that way. FLES should be offered to all students in the district, not just one school.

All students in the district should have access to some foreign language instruction before we consider adding another immersion program. That's very different than giving one school some instruction because of a desire by some to add an immersion program there. Cart before the horse again. It's the same problem that resulted in much of the opposition to MI -- making an important educational opportunity available to just a few when everyone else has nothing. That's not a "blueprint" that's "discrimination."

First we should add foreign language instruction for all elementary students, then consider another immersion program -- and both considered within the broader needs of the district. (I hope MI advocates will take a longer-term approach and try to keep MI on the table so that it is a possibility in the strategic plan.)

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2007 at 1:04 am


You mentioned discrimination. (Bill, can your read between the lines? At least the Merc was willing to call it like it sees it.)

It would be discrimination if all the schools clamored for FLES, and only one got it.

AJ, Pauline, and natasha,

Have you asked your principal, PTA, or site council to consider FLES?

I doubt it.

At this point, it appears that the Ohlone principal alone, "gets it", and seems willing to work it into the school's community. I don't see it as a bribe, AJ. Again, it would be a bribe if MI FLES were underhandedly offered when not intending to spread the wealth to the rest of the community. Ohlone currently has the most extensive after school foreign language offerings: Japanese, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and German.

OhlonePar, do you think Susan is visionary?

Posted by you said it, I didn't, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2007 at 1:15 am


Are you not playing with a full deck?

Posted by Is it discrimination or freedom of choice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2007 at 10:41 am

Hey A.J.,

Would you also argue that it's discriminatory to the rest of the elementary school children in the district because Fairmeadow has a dedicated space for a science lab? Should we force that school to do away with the lab and science specialist until every other elementary school in the district has these too?! Fair is fair. Why should some have this while others don't?

Please try to distinguish this type of discrimination from MI?

Thanks in advance.

And Bill, I will agree that the last two board meetings were more civil, as the MI opponents had found a PC argument to glomb onto by then, but I'm sure the Merc reporter was there from the beginning and heard the "raw" sentiments that were expressed in prior meetings! If you haven't been there through the entire process, please do not comment on the observations of those who have been.

Posted by Andrea, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 15, 2007 at 11:32 am

I think, before we implement any new choice programs, the district should to work so that every school has a "dedicated" science space and science specialist. That was the whole point of my opposition to MI being inserted as a high priority project when some basics are still left to be completed.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm

It's hard to answer a bunch of rhetorical questions, but I'll do my best to address the issues you brought up.

I do not know the situation across the district with science labs, but if any of the elementary schools do not have science labs AND it is affecting their ability to teach science from the curriculum, then it should be an urgent priority to get those schools science labs because science is a part of the core curriculum. I think some of the schools near the Junior Museum actually have access to better science facilities than our school (which also has a science lab), even if they don't have a science lab in the school. But I do not know if any of our schools are having trouble delivering the curriculum in science education for lack of lab space -- anyone? If so, I would think providing that would be an urgent priority for district resources WELL above adding language instruction. If any of the schools is seriously hampered because of substandard facilities, that should also be an urgent priority above adding language instruction. I think that is an example of the type of priority that opponents of MI want addressed in a strategic plan so that our finite resources go to the best and most effective use across the district. (That's such an important statement, I'm going to repeat it.)

I think bringing all of our science instructional facilities up to par (if any are deficient and hampering instruction) is an example of the type of priority that opponents of MI want addressed in a strategic plan so that our finite resources go to the best and most effective use across the district. It doesn't mean they don't ever want MI, it means we need to address everything as part of a big picture.

You are confusing having a lab with teaching science. Every school in this district teaches science as part of the core curriculum. I had not heard that any of our schools was unable to teach the core curriculum. It would be discriminatory to set aside a significant amount of district resources to add a state-of-the-art science lab to one school without plans to make such a lab available in the other schools (just as it would be discriminatory to offer science instruction to one school and none to the others, or public-supported language instruction at one school when others have none at all). So no, I would not support that, either.

I hope the last poster is not representative of the broader MI supporters, as no one will ever be able to get anything significant like this accomplished for our district with that kind of "I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it so now I'm just going to give up and be mean to everyone to boot." Getting MI is a significant project. Given the issues, this was not a completely unexpected setback, setbacks like this are normal given what supporters want to accomplish. Are supporters going to wallow in anger and bitterness, or learn a few lessons and regroup to do it right?

Nico seems to be willing to put the hard work into this and stay with it. She also seems to have the positive vision and energy to keep it on the table despite a short-term defeat. I hope there will be others with her.

I know interest in our neighborhood school is high for language instruction. We do not have the extensive private after-school offerings that Ohlone has, but we are one of the less-affluent schools and the tuition is pretty high for our population. We do have privately offered Spanish, Mandarin, and French. (I would be going for Mandarin, but can't afford it right now.)

I am in favor of adding FLES district-wide as soon as is reasonably possible (given the priorities in a common sense order), then adding immersion summer programs. I think this would be the most economical way to get the most language instruction for our entire district the soonest, but I'm sure there are better ideas still. I think we should continue to consider the problem of how to fit MI in the district as we add those assets, and if MI still looks like a distinct asset to the district, we would be more naturally positioned to add it.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:13 pm

My apologies, when I was addressing the "last poster" I was referring to "Is it discrimination or freedom of choice" not Andrea (with whom I am in 100% agreement).

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 4:19 pm

I think the proposed MI strand was a poor fit for Ohlone. It's a difficult language for English speakers and, as far as I know, no student-directed curriculum exists to teach it. Spanish, being easier for English speakers, would probably be an easier fit.

HOWEVER, Ohlone has a large waitlist and a large number of applicants. I think Ohlone's own program should be expanded before an immersion program is placed there. I think it was Dana Tom who noted that after three years, an immersion program would cut into Ohlone's own strands.

I think a lot of us felt like Ohlone was being used as a sort of last resort for the MI program since we are the choice program with room on campus. However, it really didn't make a lot of sense educationally.

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2007 at 4:31 pm


If you have enough room on campus, it sounds like you are eligible for MI. At Escondido, the rationale for dumping SI on us was that we "had room". Actually, we were full, and that was before 20 kids/class. What the BoE meant was that we had land.

SI literally invaded Escondido. It took over the main classrooms, and kicked out many of the regualr students to portables. SI lived in its own educational universe, although I think they were allowed to mix at recess. Therefore, the only question for Ohlone is: Do you have the land? If so, two separate schools (de facto) can be developed on the same plot of land. Forget about your connections (student-led) model. MI probably doesn't want that model, anyway.

Do you have the land?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Bill reads minority and thinks race (so someone who filters all conversations through the lens of race is called what again???) Bill, minority is also a group small in numbers (less than 50% to be exact), that does not represent the majority - its a number word, not a racial statement.

You are darn right in saying that there has been an attack on the affluent(money flush) vocal(loud and relentless) minority(small special interest group, not the majority) that has been the driving force on pushing MI through the district.

And they deserved it.

The small special interest group that thinks that because they've paid for it, and whined loudly about it for 5 years, they now deserve to be given half of a PAUSD school for their specialty program which holds absolutely no value for the majority of the district.

They missed an adjective though... Arrogant.

To "Is it discrimination or Fredom of Choice": Fairmeadow's science lab and teacher are paid for through their allotment of PIE dollars. Using this method, you should be able to move forward just as easily with an MI program in your school (or a science lab). All you have to do is convince your site principal and the Site Council that their expenditure of that site's PIE dollars should be spent on a language academy to benefit one of the strands in their school, instead of classroom aids, reading specialists, science teachers, that benefit all the students at that school.

You're right, its a matter of choice. So good luck with that...

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 5:40 pm


I think Susan Charles is a shrewd politician. I assume she's aware of the problems at Escondido and figured out that if she said yes to MI at least she had a chance of controlling what happened. I suspect she also knew that MI wasn't all that likely at that point--I mean, it's a real mismatch.


Ohlone has seven acres and room for three cubicles. We have room for half a strand of MI, not enough for a full strand. We also have a
kinder waitlist that's basically long enough for two strands. So we have room only if we ignore the families that have been trying to get into Ohlone. And the projected growth in the Palo Verde area.

I'm curious, would you feel differently about SI if Spanish FLES were available in the rest of the school--that at least your kids were getting some advantage to sharing space with a choice program?

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2007 at 7:24 pm


No, FLES sa a reward for a choice program that dominates my neighborhood school is not acceptable to me. However, a FLES program across all neighborhood schools might be a good thing. So would any number of other programs (science, math, physical education, music, art, English, etc.). If the district thinks something is important for all the schools in the district, it should make the case.

Pure choice programs should go to the charter school model. Either that or private schools. Neighborhood schools are a real jewel in Palo Alto. They need to be protected.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Naturally, I have a bias, but I don't think the two choice schools--Hoover and Ohlone have damaged the neighborhood schools. Charter schools, from what I've read, aren't a good option for the PAUSD because of it being a basic-aid district.

It does sound like the SI program raises some issues at Escondido--unlike the stand-alone choice schools, it affects the running of a particular neighborhood school. The only issues being raised regarding Ohlone and Hoover is that the nearby neighborhood school is overcrowded. I think, though, that this is a district/demographics problem.

I pretty much agree with you about FLES--being exposed to a second language at a young age is terrific. On the other hand, I'd never want my child at a Hoover and I'm sure plenty of Hoover parents would hate having their kid at Ohlone. (As for those who enter both lotteries--well, apparently some people think "There's a lottery, it must be good." Sigh . . .

Anyway, neither Ohlone nor Hoover is needed or desired district-wide. But, yes, I think FLES for all.

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2007 at 8:19 pm


I don't understand why different educational approaches cannot be accomodated in each neighborhood school. If a school has three strands, one could be direct instruction, one student led and one intermediate (for example). All of this would be according to parent interest, and as expressed to the school principal. The principal should have the flexibility to make real decisions.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 8:59 pm


If project-based learning were available at all schools, no you wouldn't need an Ohlone. I'm not convinced though that the two educational approaches should comprise two-thirds of the strands available. I think you'd just be pushing down the choice issue to the school level--i.e. what if it's not one-third who want each option at a given school?

As I've said before, the current choice programs were created when the district was under, not overenrolled. Since they're successful and popular, I don't see compelling reasons to remove them--though it sounds like SI is hard on Escondido as a whole. However, with both space and money being issues, now is not the time to introduce more choice programs, but to support the neighborhood schools and make the educational opportunities a little equitable. Especially, since, just as a sheer numbers game, the choice program lotteries will have worse odds.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 9:23 pm

I don't think parents should be able to enter the lotteries for both Ohlone and Hoover - someone wrote earlier that this is done, though it sounds extremely odd to me, and this practice then inflates the number of people supposedly interested in choice programs.

Also, it is clearly "not accurate" that parents support both these educational philosophies, since I understand they are dramatically different (diametrically opposed??), so the lotteries are truly just a game...the district is not working with accurate numbers. The same thing goes with parents keeping their kids on more than one wait list (for a closer neighborhood school). It would be better if people didn't feel like they had to play these games. I'm just looking for accuracy, accurate numbers and expressions of interest so the district can make proper plans and decisions.

Posted by op too, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm


You seem to speak from a position of superior knowledge, but I can tell you that 100% of the families at Ohlone are not there purely because of the philosophy, but primarily because Ohlone is their neighborhood school. Some families find the philosophy is acceptable in exchange for guaranteeing a spot in a school close to home. Didn't you yourself allude to something like this regarding security from the possibility of being overflowed out of Duveneck?

I don't think you're looking hard enough when you say that Ohlone hasn't damaged neighborhood schools, although you do admit bias. There's an entire post on how the families near Ohlone are getting the worst deal in the district.

If Ohlone were a neighborhood school, we wouldn't have as much crowding in the North cluster, nor at PV and the opening of a thirteenth school wouldn't seem as pressing. As it stands now reopening Garland really is the only alternative that "fairly" alleviates overcrowding in the North, even though it is more expensive and obviously not favored because of this.

Not including the families that are in close proximity to Ohlone, Ohlone draws a substantial amount of families from the South and West clusters, areas where there is currently space and room for expansion.

Whether these families are opting into Ohlone or merely opting out of their neighborhood schools we have no way of knowing. There is a feeling that district policy (on choice) allows families to transfer out of neighborhood school causing an economic imbalance. Actually, I'd love to see the demographics of the dual lottery families as it might help with some of these issues raised in the AAAG discussions.

Right now, there's not a need for families to come North, but because of Ohlone, they are doing just that, making the situation worse not better.

Posted by op too, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 15, 2007 at 11:29 pm


I do agree with you that allowing families to be on both waiting lists inflates the numbers.

There have been several spots available in my child's class at Ohlone for the past three years. If there was truly a longstanding waitlist, that has been in existance for years, than at least one of these spots would have been occupied, but they all remained vacant.
This seems to prove that once families get settled into another school they are satisfied and more reluctant to switch.

I've heard this same thing about SI. Most of the families who express an interest in remaining on the waitlist eventually get offered a spot but most of them decline because their children have settled into their neighborhood schools.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Op too,

Where did I say I knew what every Ohlone parent thought? I simply said I hadn't met an Ohlone parent who wasn't there for the philosophy (or, an aversion to the high pressure situation at schools like Walter Hays)? Do you really think that the majority of Ohlone parents are there because it's convenient?

Your post seems to be internally inconsistent. If families are there because they want to be close to home why are what you say are a substantial number coming from west Palo Alto?

How would Ohlone being a neighborhood school alleviate crowding in north Palo Alto schools when the district, as a policy, doesn't have elementary school boundaries cross Oregon? As a choice school, Ohlone does more to alleviate crowding in north PA schools than it would as a neighborhood school.

As I've pointed out before, I was unaware of the severe overcrowding when I entered the Ohlone lottery. I was also in the PV district at the time.

The real issue is a change in demographics that has pushed the district to its threshhold. That's not the fault of this school or that school. If anything, turning Hoover and Ohlone into choice schools probably kept more schools open after Prop 13 cut school funding and PAUSD closed several other schools (Cubberly, Greeendell, Ventura, Garland, Terman, the one replaced by Seale Park).

As for the waitlist--I think it's fairly legitimate. It's sustantially smaller than the number of lottery applicants in a given year. And once a child's established in a school, of course it's harder to move him or her. That doesn't mean the original desire to get into Ohlone wasn't genuine.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2007 at 12:07 am


Susan Charles actively discourages parents from applying to both Hoover and Ohlone. I've been told that it's a way to make sure you don't get in, but that may be wishful thinking.

Ive heard a couple of rationales for the apply-to-both school. 1)you're in one PA's less-high=performing school boundary. Hoover and Ohlone have higher API scores, ergo they must something going for them. (rolls eyes). 2)There's a lottery! There must be something good.

I haven't met anyone who's applied to both, but I tend to know families that have been in PA for a while and know the schools are very different and that the neighborhood schools are strong.

Posted by op too, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 16, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Since when did the word "many" translate to "the majority". What I wrote was that philosophy was not the sole or perhaps even most important factor for some families who chose Ohlone. The location was a factor for SOME.

While the district may have a preference not to have children cross Oregon, it is clearly a distinct possibility as shown in the AAAG discussions regarding Garland's borders and the possibility of moving Ohlone to the Garland site, hence the Garland/Ohlone notation in the AAAG documents.

I'm not saying that Ohlone "caused" the overcrowding. A growth in school-aged population caused that situation. What you mention about Ohlone and Hoover in the past is great, but we're dealing with the situation as it stands today. While I'm all in favor of choice, I do see the concern of families that prefer that their children attend neighborhood schools or at least one that is in the same part of town.

As for the waitlist for Kindergarten, I too believe it exists. My point is that it may not be accurate beyond that because while families may have a genuine interest in the program, they often find that they are satisfied with what they get, even if it wasn't their first choice and make the decision to stick with what they have. I therefore, do not believe that a Kindergarten lottery should be the determining factor in whether a choice program is expanded.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2007 at 4:21 pm

I'm not sure it's all that mysterious why parents would apply to both Ohlone and Hoover. The sign up is pretty well in advance of the school year. They may feel they do not know which is the best educational approach for their child. Based on actual classroom stays, we ended up at a preschool with a very different environment than I would have chosen given my child's personality. These parents may be applying to both, figuring they need more time to make a choice or will make a choice given what is available to them when the time comes. If they don't apply now, they can't decide later.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2007 at 4:22 pm

P.S. We did not apply to any lottery schools.

Posted by palo altan, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2007 at 4:37 pm

From this discussion: Web Link
Susan Charles has stated publicly that this is exactly what she does -- she vetos lottery applicants who do not fit her criteria. That, at least, is not a rumor.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, 1 hour ago

I guess Ohlone wouldn't have been a good fit for MI. I'm starting to be even more impressed by the board's decision and learning a great deal about existing Choice programs and how they work.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 16, 2007 at 5:54 pm

You're right, palo altan, Ohlone was not a good fit for MI, not just philosophically but, literally, physically:

First, you would need four classrooms dedicated to MI in year three of a pilot that starts with two K/1 classrooms, and Ohlone has room for only three modular classrooms. I don't know what Dr. Callan had in mind for year three. The options I can think of include phasing out Ohlone classrooms in favor of MI classrooms so that ultimately you end up with two stands Ohlone MI and two strands Ohlone Classic, letting attrition take its toll in the MI program and not replacing those children until a permanent home is found, or squeezing in a temporary portable somewhere. I don't see any of those options as being optimal.

Second, in her recommendations, Dr. Callan suggested that the MI pilot be evaluated after three years to determine whether to continue or cancel the program. It is not reasonable to think we could wait until the end of the trial period before thinking about where to move a group of 80 students. Unless Ohlone and MI were permanently merged as I described above, continuing with MI would likely mean reopening Garland.

Early termination of PAUSD's lease to Stratford school at the Garland site requires three years' notice with a penalty. Garland needs, according to the board packet for tonight's meeting, (Web Link) $1.6 to $7.2 million of renovation work to be done beforehand.

This would entail calling in the Garland lease now, solely to be sure we have adequate space for MI in three years. This does not make MI a cost-neutral program.

I've expressed these concerns on this forum and in a letter to Camille Townsend, since she appears to be the only board member who still supports starting MI next August. I feel like this was a poorly thought out plan, and gave false hope to MI proponents.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Op too,

You claimed that Ohlone damaged the neighborhood schools. I mentioned the historical data because I think that the evidence isn't clear that this is the case. The extreme overcrowding happened well after the advent of the choice programs. I could come up with about 10 other factors on which to blame the overcrowding problems.

The historical cycles matter because the board has to think longterm. If the current enrollment is a demographic bump then portables make more sense than reopening Garland. If it's solid overall long-term growth, then new schools are needed. Palo Alto miscalculated before. I doubt it wants to do so again.

Any expansion starts in kindegarten--presumably a K/1 class would be added and the strand expanded as that class ages. The bulk of children enter a school in kindegarten, so, clearly, the K lottery does matter in determining demand.

I understand exploring the various choice programs, but having done so I can't see not having a preference when it comes to Hoover or Ohlone.

Posted by observer, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 16, 2007 at 11:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by REAL Ohlone Parent, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 17, 2007 at 2:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2007 at 3:49 pm


Camille won't be swayed by logic (not worth trying), but the rest of the board could still be swayed back by illogic of the 'flat world' argument,

the illogic of reducing the approval of the MI program to a matter no more complex than simply approving one kinder and one first grade class in the fall, with no more than 44K in expense for the three year test, totally scott free to the district, with no strings sattached,

And by loud threats of 'charter school' which the MI supporters are shameless resorting back to (again) in order to push their way through.

You might consider sending your points to all the board members to reinforce your support for the positions they took on 1/9.

MI opponents should not underestimate the pressure the board is facing on this topic right now. They should stay vigilant in showing support of the positions stated by the board members on 1/9.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2007 at 9:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anon, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm


I certainly wouldn't vote for you as my choice Ohlone spokesperson, if I had a say in it. I think that's the message the other Ohlone parent is trying to convey.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 19, 2007 at 12:15 am


My moniker came about because I was responding as an Ohlone parent to the latest twist in the MI debate. I think it was and is only fair to make any agenda I had (and why) clear.

And you do have a say. All you have to do is disagree and make it clear why. Or, heck, ignore me entirely and just post your own comments. You don't want me as an Ohlone spokesperson. Cool, I don't want to be a spokesperson and have never had any intention of representing anyone's views but my own.

Seriously, be your own spokesperson for what you think Ohlone is or ought to be.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2007 at 10:38 am

"Put the race card back in the deck, please, and keep it there. At the two board meetings I attended where MI was addressed, the debate and comments were impassioned yet civil."

Interesting that you bring racism up. I assume you are referring to the attacks on a "affluent, vocal minority." That was a direct quote from one MI opponent at a public meeting. Civil? No, much worse, as you imply.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2007 at 10:48 am

Bill reads minority and thinks race (so someone who filters all conversations through the lens of race is called what again???)

Bill, minority is a group small in numbers (less than 50% to be exact), that does not represent the majority - its a number word, not a racial statement.

Posted by get a grip, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2007 at 4:58 pm

It's confirmed he/she is not only a whiner, but a liar too! You know who, you're just too much. I guess only one viewpoint's allowed on these forums. Why would anyone bother to post their own view because if you didn't agree with it, you would whine to the Weekly and have it deleted! Grow up!

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Touring the Southern California “Ivies:” Pomona and Cal Tech
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 5 comments | 2,919 views

Chai Brisket
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 2,089 views

Couples: Parallel Play or Interactive Play?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,238 views

Sometimes "I'm Sorry" Doesn't Cut It
By Cheryl Bac | 7 comments | 1,183 views

SJSU Center for Steinbeck Studies to Honor Author Khaled Hosseini on Weds Sept 10
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 734 views