Town Square

Mah's Appointment to the Board

Original post made by OhlonePar on Mar 29, 2007

I see Grace Mah got appointed 5-1. Now to me the question is why? Was she that much better versed in the county's school issues than the other candidates? Is the board in love with charters? Maybe.
Her experience as an educator? There isn't any. Her support in the community? Limited.

So it's not clear. However, one thing struck me in the article--Mah was said to have reached out to the superintendents.

So, we have Mary Callahan leaving PAUSD under a cloud, but a big MI supporter. She's avoiding a thorough investigation and she probably needs a new job.

I suspect, though, she still has clout with other supervisors. It would be convenient for her to have someone on the county board who's in her debt.

It's unlikely Grace Mah will push for an investigation of behind-doors maneuvering in the PAUSD. I suspect the county board likes it that way. Investigations are unpleasant things for bureaucracies.

Okay, so what's deal here? Because it sure seems like one.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 4:16 pm

I am opposed to MI in PAUSD, and I am glad that Grace was appointed to the County Board of Education.

For one, she gets to sit in the other chair, and actuall walk the walk of caring for the achievment gap, issues of equity, teacher quality, funding, and the impacts of charter schools both in low performing and high performing districts.

She also gets to wear the hat of a representative of PAUSD instead of an adversary of PAUSD

Finally, the time she spends on county issues - which I presume will be at least as much time as the PAUSD BOE spends on PAUSD issues, which looks to me to be at least full time job [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 4:46 pm


I agree that there's some value in the appointment, but I'd love to know what's going on here.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Another thought, if Mah is on the board, isn't there a conflict of interest if she pursues a charter?

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Grace would only have a conflict of interest if the charter school petition was denied by PAUSD and appealed to the County. She has said she would recuse herself from the vote if it came before the SCCOE Board.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:13 pm


She'd obviously have to recuse herself, but with a lot of public offices you have to avoid even the appearance of conflict. I mean, the appearance here is odd, to say the least.

Posted by Compromise, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 29, 2007 at 10:20 pm

County Boards are a tight group of people. If the vote came before them, I think Grace Mah's recusing herself would not be enough to resolve a conflict of interest. Her presence on the Board means that entire Board voting on the issue presents a conflict. What does the state law say in this regards?

I am beginning to think it's a good thing that Grace Mah is on the board. She will come face to face with the big picture in a way that no one in Palo Alto has seemed able to bring about. Since she has energy to be an activist, this could ultimately be a very good thing for Palo Alto. Who knows, it may be the end of the conflict and the beginning of a better, more diplomatic Grace Mah.

Posted by Grace, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 30, 2007 at 12:37 am

Thanks, AJ, that's the nicest thing you've said about me.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 12:45 am

Grace Mah's appointment has already had a positive effect (either on her or the media coverage of her or both):

In today's Weekly she is quoted as saying:
"A major challenge right now is English language learners and the difficulties they have, and tied with that is closing the achievement gap in general."

Just the day before, in the Town Square, someone clearly on the opposite side wrote:
"Some really poignant concerns have been expressed by EL advocates and those concerned with closing the achievement gap."

Just the acknowledgement of the concerns expressed by others is a refreshing change. Whether sincere or not (and I believe the statement was sincere) it bodes well for future compromise. Looking for more positive developments in weeks to come!

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2007 at 1:12 am

Actually, I have said "nicer" things about you (as an individual) in private. I have also said things you probably wouldn't consider so nice, but only in relationship to public discourse, not to be "mean". I really have no issue with you as a person, I don't think you are a bad person, and I don't think I have said "mean" things (certainly not intentionally -- if I have unintentionally said anything that was just mean, I outright apologize for it here).

I have made statements strongly opposing some of the things you have pushed for in our school district that I believe, in good faith, are bad for our district. I have made strong, challenging statements and what I hoped were constructive criticisms. I have also made numerous statements supporting your (ostensible) core goals. To me, it's really not about you, it's about the district and the kids.

You are a public person, especially now; you will face a lot harsher words and criticism from a wider audience. You can't take it personally, especially from someone like me who is not criticizing you as an individual, I basically agree with you on many core issues but often disagree with your handling of them. My agreeing or disagreeing with you on issues or your handling of them in public has nothing to do with saying "nice" things about you personally.

I was really very encouraged by your statements quoted in the Weekly. That was sincere (but not intended as "nice" or "not nice"). Good luck (this time meant personally and to be nice).

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2007 at 8:28 am

Grace, since we see you are here now, can you please finally answer the question why you are targeting PAUSD for a charter?

It hard for folks to understand, when we know that you know very well that PAUSD will be (and is already being) harmed by this, when you could easily go to a close neighborhing school district that would actually be improved by your charter? Even that would welcome it and probably help you, instead of fighting you?

Location can't be the issue, there are many neighborhing communities that are within spitting distance.

We really just would like to understand - why PAUSD?

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:07 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.]

I wonder if instead of recusing herself from a county charter petition decision (should one come down the road) she should actually recuse herself from the MI Choice/Charter efforts all together, because it seems those efforts entirely conflict with her role and responsibility as a County Board member who should be protecting and improving (not damaging and lessening) education for all.

Its just an interesting twist of fate that she now is in a position at the board table and should be considering what's in the best interest of the district and all 11,000 PAUSD kids. Not just the 5%, and not just the special interest issue, which she was representing under MI.

I think her entire involvement now in PACE's efforts for the choice OR the charter are quite possibly a conflict of interest with her role as SCCBOE.

Posted by Tired of the yammering, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:16 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Nico, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:21 am

I can't answer for Grace, but I will address your question about "why not go someplace else with the charter" for myself. I live in Palo Alto, this is my community. I pay taxes here, my friends are here, my favorite toy stores and restaurants are here. I am one of your neighbors. I think that a Mandarin Immersion program (of any flavor, choice or charter) would be a great thing for Palo Alto. I like Mountain View, but Palo Alto is my home.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:25 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:32 am

I don't know the character of Grace, because I don't know Grace. I only see the actions of Grace in public and the impact of her actions on PAUSD.

That is what most residents and voters see - her actions and the outcomes. I am aware of several people, like Nico and Daunna who regularly come to her defense, to say how unfair it is for people to diss Grace because if we really knew her we'd know she was a kind and thoughful person.

But maybe that's some food for thought for Grace. Actions speak louder than words. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 9:42 am

Nico, do you ever shop at Costco, or get a meal at Fresh Choice, or go to a ball game at Stanford, or go to a movie at the Century Theaters?

You realize of course you are talking about creating a commuter school so your friends and neighbors are irrelevent during the school day.

And, your friends and neighbors that would choose to be in the school with you can go with you to wherever the charter is located.

Your tax dollars will move with you if you go to a charter school, no matter where that school is located.

The boundaries of the city of Palo Alto aren't relevent to the location of a charter. We're not asking you to locate a charter in Sacramento. We're asking why you wouldn't be willing to locate a charter on the other side of San Antonio road.

What is the relevence of your favorite shops to the location of your school, when we are talking differences of a few miles (not 10 miles, not 20 miles, not a 100 miles).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Please provide more - what is the downside for you to locating in Mt. View? How are you harmed in your ability to live, work, shop and associate with your friends in Palo Alto by locating the charter elsewhere? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2007 at 10:34 am


I'm with you. It really is a protected bubble here--seeing the scale of what faces the public schools outside the district should result in a wiser, long-term perspective.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 10:36 am

Nico - your answer was intriguing.

If I understand the basic arguments for the value and purpose of the MI program is the 'flat world' future - the need to recognize that our traditional USA centric country boundaries are no longer aequate mode of thinking/learning/living to exsit and succeed in the new world order - that we must learn these important world languages to exist and function and thrive in the 21st century. So its about breaking down geographic, cultural, language barriers for our kids futures.

I think its so ironic that you've constructed some invisible walls around Palo Alto, and apparently have apprehension, distaste, or fear for moving outside those Palo Alto boundary walls. Something invisible that is "I like Palo Alto - this is my home" is the defining explanation for why you need to put the charter here, not 2 miles from here, not 5 minutes from here, but just right here and only right here.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Not only will you have a commuter school like a PAUSD choice program (with ~some~ palo altans) but you'll be there with kids from all over the county - and in fact theoretically from all over the state. Yes, you can have kids who ride in with their parents as commuters from Sacramento, San Francisco, East San Jose, East Palo Alto, Oakland, Fremont, really literally anywhere.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I think probably you are more global than this - do you perhaps have any other reasons for targeting Palo Alto, to the exclusion of any other options, that would be a little more logical given your clear committment global awareness?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 10:47 am

Grace has been quoted publicly as stating that the charter would hurt Palo Alto. To ask her then to justify or explain why she would then do that is not character assassination.

Everyone needs to separate the person from the actions, criticism of the person from criticism the actions. The Weekly has done a bang up job of deleting anything that even remotely smacks of criticism of the person. Criticizing the actions does not amount to criticizing the person.

Often times criticism of actions, when taken objectively by an opponent with emotion and ego left out of it, is an opportunity for building bridges and solving problems.

Posted by Nico, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2007 at 10:52 am

I think there is a fundamental disconnect in the way you and I think about MI and Palo Alto. I think that MI in PAUSD (choice or charter) would be an incredible ASSET to Palo Alto and to PAUSD. It would be a great opportunity for our kids and our community. It is not a hardship. I think that there is a lot of debate happening right now, but I really think that 5 years from now when/if there is MI in Palo Alto this "rancor" will be forgotten and Palo Alto will be happy that it has another option for its children.

You reminded me why I haven't been on townsquare much for the last few months. You made some pretty big assumptions about my motivations behind supporting MI, then based on that call me a hypocrite. I try hard not to be hypocritical, and I also try to be polite.

Posted by Tired of the yammering, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 30, 2007 at 10:55 am

Observer, the character assassination I've seen in these forums is not just directed at Grace Mah but at people who express opinions that are contrary to someone else. I'd like everyone to stop the nasty attacks on each other and each other's ideas. If Palo Altans are as intelligent as they think they are, they ought to be able to find more polite ways of arguing. I don't object to arguing, but I do object to the ugly way people express themselves. It's possible to refudiate others' arguments without personalizing things or disparaging others.

I think Grace Mah is a good person and I think everyone who posts here thinks they're a good person. I think I'm a good person. But I don't think we all act like good persons.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 11:02 am

Nico, MI may be an asset to PAUSD some day, but a charter is a different story. Do you disagree that PAUSD children will take a financial hit if a charter comes in?

Posted by Tired of the yammering, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 30, 2007 at 11:02 am

Nico, I think you've succeeded in being polite. Whether I agree with you or not, I often find your viewpoint novel or interesting. I wish more posters, regardless of their opinions, would engage in dialog in a style similar to yours.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 11:16 am

Parent may have been trying to force the issue, with some emotional frustration in his/her note, but it's understandable given what is at stake.

I hope you will consider what has been said, especially by Observer above. The questions weren't about "supporting MI", they were about why do the boundaries of Palo Alto, with all the attendant problems, have to be an essential aspect of supporting MI? Especially given the timetable desired by PACE? Especially since starting in Mtn View now could make it easier rather than harder to start something in Palo Alto in the future, since a big segment of opposition has to do with timing anyway. If you truly want MI, it's a legitimate question.

There is a thread you can find on just the issue of whether a Mtn View charter might be a better, more positive, more productive option, and probably a more welcome one with more opportunities for a bigger, better, more flexible program. It is a legitimate question, especially since it seems that everyone could be happy: Why are the exact boundaries of Palo Alto the sticking point? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Talk to some people in the SI program in Mountain View -- I promise it will be positive and eye opening. It may change your mind, there is a huge swell of world languages support in Mtn View, and they do have a better landscape of resources at the moment. And you may find that a successful charter in Mountain View and ending of the debate in Palo Alto eventually brings back a lot of community support FOR MI (which is the goal, isn't it?)

Posted by clarification, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 30, 2007 at 11:31 am

Grace lives in Palo Alto, not Los Altos Hills.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Nico, OK, first my apology to you - I'll try to deflame this, because it is insulting to be accused of hypocrisy and is non-productive to the learning that might occur if we can discuss this.

So maybe I can just say this, I think the argument about needing the charter within Palo Alto boundaries becase of an affinity for being a Palo Altan sort of doesn't really fit well logically or intellectually with the concept of the charter schools. Charter schools by definition are completely devoid of geographic boundaries (other than California state lines). Charters sort of intentionally redefine the concept of managing the school system based on city border lines.

Nor does it seem to jive with the intellectual arguments that many MI supporters have used for support of language education in general, and particurly Mandarin as an important language -which touted the critical importance of thinking globally - breaking down the old notions of geographic, political boundaries, flat world, global economy - expanding horizons if you will.

Are the MI folks really focusing narrowly on Charter in Palo Alto, and set specifically and only on Palo Alto and if so, why?

What are the disadvantages to them if they chose (for example) Mt. View. Would there be advantages to Mt. View for the charter?

Has the thought crossed their minds that clinging to Palo Alto city border lines for this charter is damaging the rest of the PAUSD kids financially for no real necessary reason. Is it defensible somehow in your mind?

Can you elaborate on the "Why Palo Alto" question?

Posted by Thinking Ahead, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 30, 2007 at 1:11 pm

"Why are the exact boundaries of Palo Alto the sticking point?"

It's true that charters are open to students w/o regard to residency; however, once there are more students than spaces available, residence takes on importance. In the early years of an MI charter students would probably come from various communities but as the program develops and proves itself, a lottery is inevitable. If you are a Palo Alto pregnant mom who wants MI for your child, and the charter program is in Mt. View or anywhere but Palo Alto, your child's chances to get in are slim.

What's the logic to going to another town with a charter school petition? Don't assume another district, such as Mt. View, would welcome a charter school petition from outsiders any more than PAUSD would welcome a petition from Mt. View, EPA or fill-in-the-blank community.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 30, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Well, except for the fact that Mountain View is trying to boost enrollment and Palo Alto is short of speace and predicts massive over-enrollement already. And charter schools are typically used in districts where the school population is shrinking, no?

Posted by anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 30, 2007 at 1:27 pm

It does feel like we are short of "speace" alteast the peace part, these days!

Posted by Thinking Ahead, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 30, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Natasha, Los Altos was shrinking when they decided to close Bullis--and got a charter as a result. Campbell is shrinking and wants to close a school but doesn't want a Bullis situation. I don't think you can count on other districts welcoming a charter school.

Obviously, some districts are more adventurous than others and are willing to sponsor charters. But when the district want to maintain full control, they don't greet charters cheerfully.

Posted by Par, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 2:10 pm

I think it might be more about the quality of the results in that target district - the more relevent question is probably are you raising the level of all boats by bringing in the charter, or are you lower it?

In Palo Alto, the charter might benefit, but the level for the rest of teh PAUSD kids will be lowered - because their funding will be reduced.

A lower performing district might be brought up a notch.

It also has to do with basic aid vs revenue limit. The charter laws are penalizing financial to basic aid districts versus revenue limit. Revenue limit districts aren't hurt by non-resident enrollees, while basic aid districts are.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2007 at 3:48 pm


MV had to close a school a couple of years because of shrinking enrollment.

Because they're a general revenue district, they get more money if they bring in students. A charter's a good deal for them.

Yes, residency *can* be used to establish priority. It doesn't have to be, however. I think a 460-pupil school is going to have some room. Particularly since it's not a de facto replacement of a closed school (i.e. Bullis).

MV has been very supportive of its SI program, expanding it to meet demand. They don't have our space issues.

A lot of this has been gone through before. Have you looked at those threads?

Posted by Not so Fast, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 30, 2007 at 3:58 pm

If the Charter school is opened in MV instead of PA, it will receive half the revenue per pupil.
PA is deeeeeeep pockets. If I were Charter I would choose PA.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Actually, the charter would receive the same per student whether in Mt. View or Palo Alto. They don't get the roughly $11,000 that PAUSD spends per student, they get a little more then $5000, the same as a Revenue District school.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Here's the link to the charter school in Mountain View thread. Many of these points have already been covered:

Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Not so Fast,

As Threads points out, charters get a set amount per pupil. One difficulty with a PA charter is that the district can charge market rent for any out-of-district pupils. It only has to provide space for district pupils if there are 80 or more.

PAUSD pockets aren't that deep because there's a set amount of revenue that is spread among the students--no matter how many students there are. It's deep pockets when enrollment is low, less so when enrollment is high--as it is now.

One thing to consider is what you want out of MI. In PA because of the basic-aid situation, the pressure will *always* be for the program to be small, whether it's a charter or a choice program. I think it's highly unlikely you'll ever get a dedicated school site, which may or may not be an issue.

In MV, there's incentive to grow and room to do it.

Posted by hows that, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Just thinking.. this may have been discussed before -
so the school has $11,000 per pupil but gives out $5000 in case of charter. So the PAUSD is richer by $6000 per pupil leaving for Charter?
So the bigger the charter the better for pausd?

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2007 at 6:58 pm

hows that,
Your question isn't clear, can you restate it? Where are your numbers coming from?

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2007 at 7:17 pm

how's that
Don't forget Palo Alto is a public/private partnership -- a lot of funds spent per student come from PiE, not the state.

Posted by RM, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2007 at 11:49 am

Hi Nico,
I am wondering about something you said in this thread and that I have heard repeated multiple times by MI proponents. That is that MI is good for the PAUSD community. How is that? I understand fully how MI can be good for the small number of children admitted and their families. I cannot at all figure out how it helps anyone else in the community if it dislodges neighborhood kids, is ethnically less diverse and pulls money and time from other district priorities.

Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2007 at 12:48 pm


I am sure Nico will give you her answer, but here is mine. A bit longish--sorry for that.

At the base of this whole discussion is a difference in philosophical outlook on our world.

To some, the vision of a single uniform education for all children is a key. They tend to believe that this is the only way we will have a chance to make a society where everyone is educated in the same -- hopefully "right" -- way, and this will lead to a more perfect society. This vision has long socialist and Utopian roots, and sees any fragmentation of education as a grave danger. In the US it has to be perforce tempered by US widely held beliefs in competition and the right to homeschooling, but such tempering is not true for many European countries like Germany, where it is widely accepted that the state can dictate children education and the family has little say in that. The importance of the "neighborhood" aspect in this uniform schooling is less common, and is more typical of Palo Alto and similar "yuppie" places, where boomer's nostalgia plays a significant role.

To others, education is a stepping stone for the *individual* and the more perfect society will come through each individual being well educated, BUT NOT NECESSARILY IDENTICALLY. This is a vision that acknowledges the rights of individuals to get the education they want -- as long as it includes basic civics and academics -- rather than what is the prevailing societal wisdom of the "right" education. This vision believes that increased perfection will come through competition among diversity of ideas, rather than from diversity of races or skin colors, or from discovering the "right" system and forcing it on everyone.

Choice programs are an important element in providing satisfaction to the needs of children and families in Palo Alto, needs that often cannot be satisfied by a single uniform program. Existence of Hoover and Ohlone are the reason that Palo Alto did not have major "education wars" in the 70's and 80's, and the only "war" was about facilities, which was more economic than educational. In the 90's an educational war exploded again, as the curriculum in the MS was being diluted and MS did not provide for choice. Once MS choice (Direct Instruction, Child Centered) was installed the war subsided, as those dissatisfied with the mainstream felt they had a choice.

Language is slightly different, but in the recent decade or so it acquired prominence due to massive immigration on one hand, and globalization on the other. It may be that FLES is indeed in our cards, yet uniform FLES will still suffer from lack of individualization-- should it be Spanish? Mandarin? French? So I suspect that some amount of choice will be needed there in any case to prevent yet another "war."

Providing some amount of such choice early will go a long way towards maximizing the satisfaction and minimizing educational unrest in Palo Alto... unless you believe that you have the perfect education that WILL satisfy everyone. If you do, I have a bridge to sell you.

Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2007 at 1:52 pm

I'd better correct the "yuppie" in my post above to "affluent." Yuppie is incorrect in that context.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2007 at 3:18 pm

All those points are fine, but resources are finite and the more resources people want for the fewer people, the bigger the arguments.

It is legitimate for parents to feel that one school getting a subject offering that they are denied, languages, is a "perk" for the few people who have access to it, especially in a landscape of limited resources and overenrollment.

MI proponents don't agree; they should pursue the charter, it is their right.

Posted by SI parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 31, 2007 at 3:30 pm

I think Wolf has made some significant points about people's somewhat differing attitudes toward education, and I would agree that in the US there's a sense of nonidentical education is acceptable, even desirable, as long as civics and academic basics are included. We see many more choices and paths to becoming an educated person within the high schools. It exists to a smaller extent in the elementaries, and I think that's why we hear parents being vocal about the need to teach the WHOLE child, whatever that means to individual parents or teachers. A lot of our education system is modeled after the assembly line notion, and that can really chafe.

What can an immersion program bring to the community? For one thing, choice.

For another, cultural awareness and enrichment. For example, at Escondido, SI and the PTA worked together and decided to do a Cinco de Mayo celebration in the evening. A bilingual performance would be put on, Mexican food was brought in, and the event was advertised across Palo Alto. Mostly Escondido families came, but families from the broader community came also. Free (except food). Another examle was an SI mother who danced professionally and gave free Ballet Folkorico lessons to Escondido kids at lunchtime.

Benefit to parents. Immersion parents work harder to reach out to each other across their linguistic and cultural divide, bit-by-bit bringing more parents into the mainstream education fold. The more parents who feel they belong and the more familiar they become with the Palo Alto way of doing things, the better for their kids's education even after elementary school. The better their kids do, the better for our entire community.

Cultural validation is another benefit for non-immersion Hispanic kids due to heightened attention to their language and culture, which tends not to be highly valued. When a Spanish-speaking mom like the folklorico instructor is "Somebody" at school, even though her English is very weak, it's a real boost to both immersion and non-immersion Hispanic kids.

The Escondido and Jordan libraries have books in Spanish that are available to anyone who knows enough Spanish to use them. It growth of SI led the public libraries to build their Spanish language collections, available to kids all over Palo Alto.

At Escondio, SI kids go on a weeklong fieldtrip to Mexico in 5th grade. That led to thinking about what kind of special adventure fieldtrip kids in the English program might find equally stimulating, so indirectly, that became a benefit of SI to other kids in the school community.

Another benefit of immersion to the community has been heightened interest in immersion education. When SI started, it was greeted with suspicion. As it came to prove itself, people became more interested in it as a viable method of meaningful language learning. Someday, when immersion kids finish their educations and come back to home, the community will benefit in new ways from bilingual service professionals--doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc.--who can talk directly to the adults and children they serve in the community. MI can benefit the community in similar ways.

Also, heightened interest in FLES. The quest for MI has brought about a new WL task force.

If MI were at Ohlone, it would have been a FLES testing ground, possibly setting the stage for FL across the district.

Someday, with more immersion and strong FLES programs in our schools, all of our kids will not think it's "special" to know another language. It will be a normal part of being educated. Attitudes will shift so that future generations will see communication as a two-way endeavor, not just the obligation of others to learn English if they want to talk to us. It will be as normal to ask "what language do you speak?" as "what sport do you play?"

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2007 at 12:39 am

SI Parent,

I would hate to see the linguistic confusion you envision as a future here. One of the reasons India is doing so well is that with its 17 official languages, everyone knows that there's a common language that belongs to no one and, thus, to everyone. In India's case, it's English. A shared language is a form of unity--I wouldn't knock it.

Which doesn't mean American English shouldn't continue to absorb and change with the changing of our population. Our common language should reflect us and I think it will.

It's nice Escondido celebrated Cinco de Mayo, but you can find Hispanic culture all over the place here. If you're willing to go into less-affluent areas and take a few chances. I don't say this as either for or against SI, just that connecting to different cultures doesn't take a special education, it takes willingness.

I might add that for some reason, I seem to be understanding more Spanish lately. I've never studied it, but I've had to communicate a lot with Spanish speakers lately and some sort of ambient absorption is happening. I would have thought I was totally incapable of picking up a language at my advanced age.

Posted by SI parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 1, 2007 at 7:12 am

Linguistic confusion? Did it seem I was advocating abandonment of English? Hardly! Learning to speak another language (pick one, whatever is offered) won't eradicate English. English will remain our common language, and our kids can each acquire another language. Learning a second language only strengthens first language skills.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 1, 2007 at 11:04 am

Maybe PACE has not read about this study from Rice University where parents of immigrants fear their kids will face a deadend if they are not fluent in English.

Web Link

Posted by SI parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 1, 2007 at 11:21 am


According to Kenji Hakuta, respected Stanford bilingual ed researcher, the success of bilingual education (dual immersion or traditional) depends on the quality of the educational program. There are good programs, there are bad programs. Just like good schools, bad schools. When kids grow up in poor neighborhoods, they're less likely to attend quality schools or experience quality bilingual education.

Immersion education is counter-intuitive and takes parent education about actual results to persuade parents that it can work. SI suffered from this natural fear in its early years, and MI is likely to have a similar early experience.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2007 at 1:27 pm

SI parent,

The scenario you presented made it sound as if people, instead of just speaking in English, would have to figure out which languages they shared. I think there's a cultural unity that occurs if everyone knows that there's a particular language that we're all expected to speak.

As it happens, most people with college educations have studed a second language at some point, but we Americans don't tend to really learn those languages. Now, immersion at a young age is more efficient, but I've known people who lost an early language. Why? Because it's not used. It really is use it or lose it.

As I've mentioned, I did immersion at the college level. The key advantage it offered is that it forced us all to communicate in the language. People learn languages without informal instruction all the time when they *have* to communicate in it. It becomes more active and less passive. A lot like music--you don't learn to play the flute by listening to James Galway, you do it by playing the flute. In the case of my fellow students, the ones who went to France for some time afterwards came back fairly fluent in French. Those who didn't use the language, lost it.

Immersion is highly effective, though I think more important than immersion is early exposure of some sort to a second language--the ability to mimic sounds comes more easily to kids.

Immersion works, but keep in mind that over the millenia, most people learned second and third languages by other means--usually no formal means. Immersion isn't the end-all/be-all of language instruction.

Regarding fluency in English. At one of the board meetings, there was a high-school student who'd been in the U.S. since the age of three and had been in Chinese language programs all her life so that she would be bilingual. She spoke with a noticeable Chinese accent. I'm sure she understands and writes English well, but she's going to be seen as "foreign" because of the accent. And, yes, I think her bilingualism will help her in some ways, but the not sounding "American" will hinder her in others.

Posted by Compromise on Rice and Dal the poor man's food, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2007 at 3:17 pm

I am a first generation immigrant from India. I am very eager to have my kids learn Mandarin. I am fluent in 3 languages and so-so in 2 others. Thanks to a natural immersion environment I grew up in. It was an environment where even food was not abundant. I ABSOLUTELY do not fear my children will miss out on English, not in Palo Alto for sure.

There goes your Rice University study/research. Ha!

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 1, 2007 at 10:42 pm

I would have loved to see Nico answer the very well-written question of why this school HAS to be in Palo Alto and only Palo Alto, given all the problems.

It seems to me that if the reason is that PACE wants to provide an asset to Palo Alto, then an essential aspect of that is whether people in Palo Alto want it. If the majority of the community don't want it, it's not an asset to the community.

If that's not the primary motive, but instead it's to give a minority of kids who want immersion education the opportunity to have this different education, then the exact borders of Palo Alto should be irrelevant. They should be trying to find the best way to provide this education to every child who wants it -- which in nearly every way seems to be more optimal in Mtn View.

Nico, I hope you are searching your heart for what your motives and goals are. You said something on another thread about how you felt people just wanted you to crawl under a rock, preferably in Mountain View. You need to separate your own emotion and ego from this -- the opposition to the plan in PA was never about you personally, it's all about resources and timing. If you announced tomorrow that you'd come up with a plan to get MI, in a way that didn't cross the main concerns of the opposition, you would find pretty instant support for you and MI among people you think just want you to crawl under a rock now. The reason people keep telling you to look at MV, is that it seems to be the only solution so far that might work that way.

Mountain View seems like a far better plan than anything anyone has come up with for Palo Alto. And allows for a school that could expand for all interested families for the foreseeable future. (You have complained that this forum is so harsh, yet in the weeks it has been proposed, no one has made -- for lack of any reasonable explanation of why PA borders are so essential to MI -- the obvious charges of elitism and snobbery that could have sparked another long round of name calling. I do not for a minute believe that is your motivation, but please give some indication of considering all options so that it does not become the next round of debate!)

Mountain View has always had a more diverse Chinese population -- kids who would benefit from a dual immersion program who would never be able to come to Palo Alto for one, given the restrictions. But a program in Mountain View which, like the MV-SI program, would expand to take all interested families (even teach night courses in the language to parents), would be immensely valuable to the community. The boom did not create the pressures on the MV schools that it did on PA and LA schools; MV schools need increased enrollment and there is no reason in the foreseeable near or distant future that a charter school would be overenrolled to exclude students from other communities. That is the advantage of a MV program, the ability to expand as necessary. This will ultimately result in a healthier school, too. The SI program in MV, unlike the one in PA, has the capacity to expand much more and takes all comers, including kids from PA who did not get into SI here.

Posted by Nick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Wolf and SI parent,

Thank you for your postings yesterday. They were very informative and helpful.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2007 at 1:06 am

Compromise on rice,

Your individual preferences do no invalidate the Rice study. Of course, there are some ESL parents who want immersion for their kids. That doesn't mean ones who do not do not exist.

One concern you might have though--the kids who do best in immersion programs come from backgrounds where the native language skills are high. It sounds (and reads)like your kids are already in an ESL environment. Spoken English isn't the problem, but from what I'm gleaning, written English is. If your own written skills in English aren't strong, you're going to have to look for ways to compensate for the lack of practice your kids won't get in writing English.