Town Square

FYI - Mandarin Immersion back on the School Board Agenda

Original post made by Simon Firth on Apr 28, 2007

For those not totally exhausted by the Mandarin Immersion (MI) debate, you might be interested to know that the Palo Alto Board of Education is having a special session this coming Tuesday evening devoted to a new timeline for installing an MI choice program in the district next year. (Web Link)

The Superintendent's recommendation is that the BOE adopt this timetable – i.e. that the BOE now reverse itself and approve MI as a choice program, this time starting in the fall of 2008 instead of 2007. The BOE is due to vote on the matter on May 27th.

The BOE called for this new timeline because they understood it was the declared intention of the principal advocates for MI to file an application for a MI charter school if the BOE did not reverse itself and approve a choice MI program.

Many BOE members fear that a charter school would be more damaging to the district than their adopting an MI choice program of their own, even if it was something they had publicly voted against before. Others, notably members of Palo Altans for Equity in Education, ( have argued the opposite – that a charter would in fact be less damaging to the district.

Whatever the case, it is worth noting that the BOE has not yet received (please correct me if I'm wrong) an application for a charter program. They therefore as yet don't have a program proposal before them that threatens any harm to the district. Indeed, I'm not aware of any public evidence that a charter application is anything more than a threat at this moment. If anyone knows any different, perhaps they can share that information.

Given that no immediate charter threat appears to exist, I have written to the BOE to ask that they withhold a vote to approve the new timeline until it does. If you agree with that request (or, indeed, if not), please tell them. Tuesday is your best chance to make your case directly to the board.

A couple of thoughts/questions:

1) The new timeline contains a reference to: "Summer 2007 -- School staff participates in educational travel opportunities to China." Does anyone know if these expenses were in the budget before? If not, what do they mean? Who, for instance, gets to go? Who pays?

2) Dana Tom said he would not vote in favor of an MI choice program unless it could be guaranteed that MI advocates would end their threat of a charter. Can anyone suggest who could give him, and the rest of the BOE, that guarantee? On what authority could they do it? What sort of organization is PACE, for example? Does it has elected officers who can be held to an agreement?

3) In January 07 the school administration suggested it could put together an MI program that would start in the fall of 07. After January, they said, it was too late. That would suggest that, if pressed, the district could wait until Jan of 08 to get a green light for a MI choice program and still have it ready for Fall 08. And that in turn would suggest that the BOE can wait until the end of this year to see if a charter application comes before it and then judge whether it would prefer to accept that charter (assuming it is a good proposal) as it must or whether it wishes to offer a choice program instead. Is there a reason to move faster?

My preference is to wait as long as possible – not only to see whether the threat that prompted the new timeline actually materializes, but also to allow some important other things to happen in the meantime. The most significant of these is the hiring of a new superintendent. This person will have to live with the outcome of the MI debate – and reunite a district that has been bitterly divided over this issue. I would much prefer that person to play a role in deciding this debate's outcome rather than have to accept it as a fait accompli upon taking the job. Delaying a decision would also mean we could get further down the road of deciding issues such future boundaries, facilities priorities and the language needs of all students before we have to factor MI into the mix – after all it was a concern that these all needed to be addressed before we embarked on a new boutique immersion program that was the origin of much opposition to MI (mine included) in the first place.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2007 at 7:55 am


I was under the impression that the board wanted to forestall the charter application itself. The feeling was, if I'm not mistaken, that waiting until the application is filed will take us so far down that road that MI choice is no longer an option.

Posted by dott31, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 29, 2007 at 8:56 am

One would expect that at this point the present superintendent would be something of a lame duck; would that she were! (How is that "investigation going? Is it still going on?) Of course, the girlish enthusiasm of the chairman of the board, whom we all observed armtwisting at MI's previous losing vote, is tenacious. Oh, for a few more Gails, i.e., a few more voices of reason! Now it appears that anyone who wants anything simply has to whisper two words, "charter school".

Posted by Another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2007 at 8:57 am

Parent is correct.

Posted by MV parent, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 29, 2007 at 9:58 am

I joined the Mandarin charter yahoo group because I was interested in a charter school in MV. There has been no activity at all since I joined a month ago. This makes me think that there is no real effort to start a charter school and that it is just a threat to force the school board to start a choice program.

Posted by Tired, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2007 at 1:28 pm

OH NO.... Not again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Please ............. spare me..............

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2007 at 4:25 am


I did not want to post this until things had been decided about Cubberly for sure, to avoid any arguments over whether this really was a low-cost solution and affecting the Cubberly decision positively or negatively, but the vote is tomorrow. So... IF...

IF Cubberly is being reopened anyway to make a third high school, couldn't we put an MI choice program there, without all the costs and problems of putting one at Ohlone or taking over a now-closed elementary site? In other words, IF Cubberly is being reopened to keep the size of the high-schools to 1300-1400 students each, the Cubberly site would still have room for the full MI program, wouldn't it?

Cubberly has enough parking, and is situated where people could drive there. There are already preschool programs at that location, so we know young children can safely be accomodated where older students are also attending. (This would require some attention to be properly implemented for safety, but we know it could be done.)

And what about this? What if MI started in the portables at Cubberly for a few years -- it was going to start in portables anyway for a few years at Ohlone, so living with portables for a few years shouldn't be objectionable -- and they agree to do fundraising to put a permanent building there in the future? Then they really would be bringing a facility to the district, and that argument is null, in fact would be an unequivocal boon to the district!! (The choice guidelines should IMO then be rewritten making this -- bringing a new facility if the district is overcrowded or perhaps regardless -- a requirement for any new choice program in the future!) That settles the biggest argument over money.

PLUS...the Cubberly site is pretty centrally located. An MI choice program there could offer after-school public Mandarin language programs to other elementary students until FLES could be implemented across the district -- district-wide implementation of FLES could be a contingency of the MI program's future, too, ensuring that MI people have some ownership in the assertion that their program won't hurt implementation of FLES. (And the timetable could be as loose as necessary so it's not an unreasonable requirement.)

Cubberly is so centrally located, students from some of the other elementary schools could walk or bike for after school language programs -- and there would be space to offer Mandarin classes for adults in the evenings! Possibly also: a compromise to offer Mandarin summer immersion to students from other campuses who opt for FLES at their campuses, with teachers agreeing to work year-round -- this could actually be an opportunity for the teachers to get a larger salary by working year-round and an enticement for good teachers to stay. So we get BOTH MI AND FLES WITH SUMMER IMMERSION! Without nearly as much extra expense the previous plans would have entailed. The MI FLES-summer immersion implementation could pave the way for other languages to do the same at other summer-vacant school sites, if there is future interest.

Okay, and here's the COMPROMISE part that I hope will soothe the opposition. Make the FUTURE of the MI program CONTINGENT on their raising the funds to open a new permanent building. Give them enough time to make this a realistic accomplishment. (Let me repeat: Give them enough time to make this a realistic accomplishment! Unlike a program at Ohlone, there isn't the need to have some new facility in three years or fold the program, it could take much longer if necessary. The program could survive in portables for many years -- this was proposed by MI advocates anyway, the expectation that maybe the program would be permanently in portables -- but at the end of the rainbow is a permanent building.) MI participants then get an ownership of the program, in the same way that they would have gotten by working for a charter. And frankly, it won't be any more work than starting and running a charter -- a charter is a HUGE amount of work, which is why they are so rarely started in good districts -- private fundraising is probaby easier for Palo Alto parents to get rolling, anyway. They get their full program, on their timetable, and still put in some of the community-oriented effort that a charter would have entailed, so they truly do bring something new to Palo Alto at the same time! (Again, then we should make the bringing of a necessary facility a requirement of any new choice program in an overcrowded district, or regardless if people wish. That way, people know what to expect and do up front so these arguments like we have had over MI will be avoided.)

They also agree, as I think they are already with the program being voted on tomorrow, to cover any unexpected expenses in implementation so it is cost neutral to the district.

And...Students who are already in the district NOW would get priority in a lottery for as long as there are overcrowding problems in the rest of the district, thus diminishing the argument that people would move here for the program and nullify any lessening of overcrowding from the program (or worse create further overcrowding).

I would feel sad that there wouldn't be a regional MI program through a MV charter, it seemed like such a great idea that would benefit kids regionally, but I'm with MV parent, I don't think the MI proponents are putting any effort into that. But it certainly doesn't preclude a charter being opened in MV by others, which would have the same benefits to MV as previously enumerated.

Whew! I couldn't sleep until I got this out. It seems like a great idea to my sleepy brain, I hope it seems the same in the morning.

How about it? Does this seem like something everyone could work toward?

Posted by do the best for your kids..don't worry about PAUSD, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2007 at 10:15 am

2) Dana Tom said he would not vote in favor of an MI choice program unless it could be guaranteed that MI advocates would end their threat of a charter. Can anyone suggest who could give him, and the rest of the BOE, that guarantee? On what authority could they do it? What sort of organization is PACE, for example? Does it has elected officers who can be held to an agreement?

There can be no "guarantee". Anyone can open up a charter school program. Even if PACE did say they wouldn't do it it doesn't stop someone else from opening one up. All that PAUSD can do is make it less desirable to do so.
The Superintendent's method of making it less desirable is to create a choice program for any special interest group that proposes a charter program. (Not sure how well this approach will scale.)

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2007 at 10:29 am

Cubberley is so heavily utilized, it would take a fight to get it back for PAUSD, whatever the use (high school, MI, whatever).

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

Cubberly is heavily used, and it is a shame to lose community space. However, it is community space because it's an unused school site. There is no fight over it, PAUSD owns it, just as they do the Terman Site which used to also be a community center and library. The tennis courts behind Terman were half converted to bastetball courts and the remaining ones kind of ruined because of it, even though the property was technically owned by the city I think. Anyway, PAUSD can do whatever it wants with its property, if it needs to put a high school back into service just as it had to put Terman MS back into service. The point is, if it has to be opened as a HS anyway, it would have space for MI.

Many of Cubberly's present uses, such as evening adult school, could continue even if it were a high school. Most impacted would be people who use the gym during the day, but even evening auditorium use could continue by the community.

Posted by parent of young child, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 30, 2007 at 11:20 am

I'm glad to hear MI is up for consideration again. ...I am less keen about the charter school option.

The "level" of much of the online discussion about the topic left me feeling a little sour towards Palo Alto, the first time around. I hope we do a better job this time.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2007 at 12:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

PA Online Staff: Please explain why you removed all of the last post? I read it a while ago, and saw nothing wrong with it. Please explain.

Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2007 at 3:04 pm

I completely agree with Simon Firth. If a petition is received in June, there is still plenty of time to consider all options for 2008. I don't think the BoE/PAUSD should be forced to make decisions without all the facts in hand. The only reason choice would be off the table, is if Mah decides to pursue a charter anyway, which, as far as I can tell, maybe the best option anyway.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2007 at 3:48 pm

pa mom,

No, actually there wouldn't be any time to consider options for 2008.

Once a charter application is submitted, the die is cast: no option for choice and PAUSD would have to respond to the charter application within a short time frame (90 days? don't quite recall). At that point, no one is going to go back to reconsider the choice option.

So the board really has to make up its mind quickly whether it prefers choice to charter. If it prefers choice, it has to seal a deal with the MI people quickly.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Palo Alto Online Staff: I have no desire to argue with your decision to remove the post, I just want to understand. I didn't write it, but could have easily done so ( with a slightly less edge to it), and want to know how to make sure I don't get deleted.

Can you please explain?

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm

The tone of threads on MI in the Town Square Forum have been consistently and distressingly negative. Supporters seem to have given up on engaging in discussion here, which is unfortunate because they may be on the point of achieving the goal of having a Choice MI program piloted in the district.

The public needs to hear why Choice MI is good for PAUSD beyond costing the district less than the charter school would. I wish everyone with concerns about the program could have a chance to review the oral comments presented at the January meeting when the last vote was taken. I believe most who did would favor giving MI a try.

In my opinion, the MI program as outlined at the board meetings in January offers exciting possibilities for bringing Palo Alto energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm to a project that very few communities in this country could carry off, and at far less cost than other districts are willing to put towards such efforts. Bring the energy of MI backers into the mainstream of PAUSD instead of cordoning it off in a charter school. There's so much we all have to learn from each other.

Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Parent -- I think the time frame is 60 days once the application is in. That's why it makes sense for the BOE to get clued in to the consequences and alternatives now. But it's still my guess that the BOE could, if it wanted, wait until the end of the year to see if a charter application appears and then, if it prefers, offer the charter applicants a choice program with a 2008 start instead.

I guess the BOE's fear is that if they wait for a charter application, then PACE will be so invested in getting a charter that a charter is all they will accept and then the BOE will have to let it through whatever.

The only people who know whether they would truly prefer a choice program to a charter are PACE and (so far as I know) they are not telling anyone. And even if they are, who knows if they will change their collective minds down the line.

So what to do? I think the BOE should call PACE's bluff.

That's because I'm not convinced that a charter would be that much worse for the district – the district is going to be spending time and money administrating any MI program either way. Either way, it's a drain on their resources that they really could do without. I also think that a really exciting school could come out of a charter application – since it would be freed from having to teach the exact same curriculum as the other district elementary schools. And I have serious questions about how MI choice would work in an Ohlone-style instructional environment. Changing something as fundamental as the program's instructional style at such a late stage, apparently for political expediency rather than any clear pedagogical purpose, does not, I fear, bode well for the program's educational merit.

I'd also like to see the BOE wait until they get a charter application because I'd like the district to make a choice based on two real alternatives, rather than one proposal and a hypothetical.

But if insisting on seeing a real second alternative means that the applicants will then only be happy with the charter, then the BOE's hand is forced. To decide now though is, in effect, to decide while blind and trying to mind-read PACE. I think the BOE should refuse to do that. How did we get here?

Parent, you say if the BOE prefers choice it needs to "seal a deal with the MI people quickly." One worry I have is how the BOE can seal such a deal. Does it just rely on someone's word. If so, who's word counts?

Even if the BOE feels they know everyone behind PACE well and can trust people who at the same time have been happy to hit the BOE with every hard ball available to get what they want, what's to stop a break-away group (or the people with whom a 'deal' has been done, for that matter) shouting 'charter' any time they don't like how a decision on MI choice comes down? And as a result do the boosters behind a PAUSD MI choice program just always get their way now on anything and everything? How is that going to help get MI backers into the mainstream of PAUSD, as Jerry Underdal hopes above.

Worse, do other groups (parents who want a music and art school, or a gifted and talented program, or a another immersion language?) need to just mention that they are organizing a charter application for the BOE to cave in to their demands?

That's a terrible way to run a school system that is meant to fairly allocate resources to all. And as a post suggested above – it just isn't sustainable.

The BOE is put in this place by state law and by the willingness of PACE to exploit it. It would be good to get the law changed so that small, successful basic aid districts don't get have control over their destinies taken out of their hands by measures intended to fix broken districts. In the meantime, what should the BOE do? Or perhaps the better question is what should PACE do?

The BOE majority and most opponents to starting a new choice program right now were never anti-mandarin, nor even anti-immersion. They felt, quite rationally and honorably, that this was not the time for this program, whatever its merits.

Charter law puts the ball, clearly, in PACE's court. But is there really nothing the BOE can offer PACE and its supporters (like summer immersion and a guarantee that Mandarin would be a language taught in FLES) that would persuade them from forcing the BOE to take steps that the Board believes, quite honorably, are not in the best interests all students in the district.

And is there nothing PACE can say to the wider community to build bridges back from the island on which it has placed itself? How can it make the BOE and the rest of the stake holders in the community feel something other than blackmailed? I agree with Jerry – we desperately need to hear why Choice MI is good for PAUSD beyond being the least bad of two unattractive options.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Am I the only one whose jaw dropped upon reading "Summer 2007 -- School staff participates in educational travel opportunities to China."? How much is that going to cost us and why is this necessary? When MI was first proposed, we heard about all the successful MI programs in San Francisco and other cities. Those programs were used as selling points for MI in Palo Alto. So why does anyone from PAUSD need to go to China?

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm

I think you are right, a choice program at Ohlone with a three year life unless they find a facility is a recipe for trouble in our overcrowded district. It promises an ongoing battle with little hope of a resolution, and not the best program options for an immersion program.

You speak eloquently in all your posts. The problem is that I don't think your desire for bridges is shared by the PACE people. The problem I think -- and I have worried that this would happen all along -- is that the way PACE has handled things has turned so many people in our community against MI (rather than just the particular proposal), that if a workable solution came up, the opposing sides would be too entrenched in battle to work on it or be open to even hearing it from someone in the other "camp". Opposition to the specific proposal turned into opposition to MI itself because of poor community relations.

It's clear from many PACE parent posts that they don't think FLES and summer immersion are good enough. (Forgetting what the rest of parents in Palo Alto would prefer, but, heaven forbid we should be concerned about that...) I wish there were room to discuss whether other types of proven immersion programs, like one-way immersion (which I think is the majority of immersion programs out there), would work and might be implemented in a way to circumvent the facilities problem.

At this point, I do think if Cubberly is going to open anyway, everyone should consider that as a solution. Yes, the PACE people have managed community relations so badly, many people don't want to give them the choice program because it would seem as if now it's just acquiescing to threats. And while many of us think a Mtn View charter would be an exciting win-win option, the PACE people have bristled at the suggestion. I had hoped maybe Grace Mah's position on the county board could have improved PACE's consideration of that, as I doubt others on the pro-charter board would find snubbing their back yards for a rigid adherence to Palo Alto for a County charter defensible.

But I started this whole business believing an MI program would in principle be a good thing in this area. I think a lot of people feel that way. If we focus on that, and forget the personalities, it seems to me that if there are more workable (cheaper) possibilities for a choice program -- such as at Cubberly if it is going to be converted back to a high school anyway, as I wrote above -- we should consider them. I would be very interested in your feedback on that.

Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2007 at 9:54 pm

I guess the thing that I find most troubling is the sequence of this whole thing and the precedent that might be set. I think nobody has really acted in good faith or acted honestly (because of innocent ommission or sneaky politics, your guess)or nicely. Accusations rule the day, people read into each comment what they want to read etc.

The first time I heard MI brought up to the Bd of Ed years ago, I heard about "bringing my culture to my children". It sounded odd to me that that would be the responsibility of a public school, but I honestly haven't heard that in quite ahile, so I don't know if it's still the root of some reasons why MI. But I still keep thinking that if I were to immigrate to say, France, I could very well point out to my local public school that English is the language of politics and business and could I please have an English immersion choice program for my kids and those of my friends so they can be a part of the global future. I would feel rather wrong doing that and I'm not sure the local school board would appreciate my efforts to enlighten them.

MI may be an intersting programatic choice, I don't know. But the Bd of Ed should have been clear from the get-go that even taking anonymous money didn't guarantee a program was going to be implemented. If I'd been a donor, I'd be pretty teed off. Studies, more studies, arguments, counter arguments and ugliness on all three sides (pro-MI, pro quo, Bd of Ed) has finally been whittled down to "OK, we don't like your decision, so we're now threatening you with a charter." Even though I appreciate many of the Pro MI posts, a threat is a threat and that's what we have here.

So, what have we learned? Not much, unfortunately. If you want a specialized program here's the process:
1) Ask
2) Get told "no"
3) Wait
4) Ask again
5) Get told "no" again
6) Threaten charter
7) Talk about it yet again, divert attention from more pressing things
8) Back the PAUSD into a corner where they have to give you what you wanted in the first place.
9) Win.

I don't like that process.

Posted by Ping, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2007 at 10:30 pm

I think MI may be good for your children, but not everybody. Please think about Music, Science, Math, Social moral, too. Our schools need such kind of improvement. In Palo Alto there is a very good after chinese school. My most of friends children go there and they are happy.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2007 at 10:55 pm

My preference would be to make everyone sit down, understand the budget process, look at everything, try to ascertain priorities and get as many of them as feasibly possible this way.

Ping, you make some great points, I wish we could make decisions like these through district priorities and strategic planning. When you really get the big picture, a lot more is possible than when you have to hedge your bets because you just don't know...

Posted by Lotto, a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2007 at 2:11 am

I understand it differently -
1) Ask
2) Get told "no"
3) Wait
4) Ask again
5) Get told "no" again
6) Threaten charter
7) Talk about it yet again, divert attention from more pressing things
8) PAUSD visits China, fun paid for vacation at tax payer's expense.
9) PAUSD more confused - looks even more silly.
10) PAUSD even more confused and after much thought and deliberation converts Cubberly into a Casino.

I don't like that process.
Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 4 hours ago

Posted by curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2007 at 7:56 am

Lotto - It was late, I wasn't thinking clearly - I'm glad you fixed the list!

Posted by Bemused, a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2007 at 8:05 am

Who's threatening whom?

Why accuse PACE of threatening a charter school? The time for threats is before BOE decision-making, not after. BOE made its decision against MI, so MI advocates turned to their fallback plan for a charter. Fact, not threat.

The confusion now is BOE keeps revisiting their decision and threatening to do a choice program after all. Of course PACE would be interested. A choice program would take the sails out of PACE's charter application.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2007 at 9:06 am

Regarding Cubberly - PAUSD only owns half, the city owns the other half.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2007 at 9:10 am

The term "threat" came from Grace Mah's public statements interpreting the charter as tremendously expensive, painful for everyone, possibly involving expensive litigation, etc. (I forget the exact words, but you could look up for yourself why the word "threat" was used by reading the early public statements in the Weekly and PADN. There are online archives.) It's troubling that the only fallback plan they can think of is even more adversarial and (by their own statements) hurtful to Palo Alto than the first. Hence the term "threat". There do seem to be better options.

I think the effect of the charged vocabulary is a shame, because many of us believe a charter could be better than a choice program for all involved.

However, if PACE indeed is interested in a County charter, there is no reason that it has to be on this side of San Antonio road versus the other, especially since Grace Mah has said in print that she is thinking of skipping PAUSD and taking a charter application directly to the county. A charter would make more financial sense in a revenue limit, under-enrolled district like Mountain View, our closest neighbor. I think proponents would also find a more open, enthusiastic environment among parents in Mtn View, frankly.

Yet oddly, pro-MI people have attacked those who suggested that online. It's inconsistent with the desire to create the best MI program possible that they would put such constraints on it. The Board should really question PACE thoroughly about this issue. "The small group of people pushing this proposal live in Palo Alto" is not a sufficient reason to cause such pain to Palo Alto given that we are Basic Aid district and overenrolled, especially if the program is a COUNTY charter and located close by anyway. (For some parts of PaloAlto, many Mtn View locations are closer and more accessible than half of Palo Alto, including the Ohlone site, anyway.)

That said -- clearly, I still believe a charter through Mtn View Whisman is the best option and should be explored -- I don't understand the comment about converting "Cubberly into a Casino". Cubberly is already used by many different organizations, including schools for young kids. If it reverts to a high school intended to stay at 1300-1400 high school students, it is still a facility that could accomodate 2000 -- a choice program of 480 could not only fit on the campus, but given the way Cubberly is already divided up with existing preschool programs, etc., the logistics would be fairly straightforward. This is IMO a much more workable option than the Ohlone suggestion, and allows the program to follow the educational philosophy that works best rather than trying an untried mishmash of immersion education and the Ohlone way.

In fact, if Cubberly were put back into service at the high school, I would hope the district would consider expanding the existing Young 5's program at the adjacent Greendell site, with a second strand open for referrals from teachers at the start of the school year (children who, regardless of their birthdays, are too "young" to be in regular kindergarten).

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2007 at 9:15 am

Palo Alto mom,
Can you provide more details about the Cubberly/PA city ownership split? I know there were some land swaps when PAUSD put Terman back into commission. But the Cubberly site has vast expanses of fields and apparently undeveloped land, it would be helpful to know who owns what and how that might affect reverting Cubberly back to a HS.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2007 at 9:43 am

I believe that the Cubberly land is now owned by the City of Palo Alto, the Cubberly buildings are owned by PAUSD, the buildings in turn are leased by PAUSD. I am not sure if the entire set of buildings is leased to the City, which in turn subleases to various tenants such as Foothills College and the myriad smaller tenants, or if PAUSD has multiple leases. I think it is just one lease to the City, which manages the land it owns and the building complex.

Teh District does have an option to re-open the school for District purposes, and there would need to be some negotiation around use of the fields and adjacent land with the City if that were to occur. Obviously, the other tenants would have to find space elsewhere, there likely is some fiscal impact on the City of Palo Alto's revenues should those leased spaces revert to school distict usage.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2007 at 9:59 am

Thanks, Paul. So as far as the possibility of an MI program on the Cubberly site, probably where there are already portables or the possibility of portables, that's all PAUSD property. Is that correct?

I guess I'm unclear as to whether this is like Stanford property -- one entity owns the buildings, another the land under them -- or if PAUSD owns the property on which the buildings stand, and the buildings, but PA owns the land expanses around them.

Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

I don't know about the ownerships, but PAUSD says they take in $6 mil. in revenue from the city for the leased space. I spend a lot of time at Cubberley and it seems to me that there is enough space for both a high school and a community activity center without using the field areas. The existing buildings have a very low density on the site. Some of the larger gyms and performance spaces could still be shared.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2007 at 10:38 am

Bemused: Why is the word "threat" being bandied about? Because the Bd of Ed made a decision. Period. End of story. Move on. But wait, another "issue" came up after that decision and that was a "Charter School" as an alternative to a PAUSD MI Choice Program. According to various news sources, this issue demanded immediate attention from the Board of Ed, lots of lawyer time examining the implications of a Charter School and putting aside a myriad of other Board priorities to address it NOW.

I feel that the Bd of Ed made some mid-stream change of horses to address the Charter "issue". If they weren't worried about it doing damage to PAUSD in some way, they would have just said, "Fine, go ahead" and saved a bunch of legal fees, staff time and Board agenda time as well. Clearly, they felt "threatened". Otherwise why would this topic keep showing up when a decision was reached and enrollment issues, student stress, facility bonds, out-dated technology and other stated Board Priorities haven't been addressed sufficiently?

I don't think they just had a change of heart one morning and said, "We goofed, let's go back and revisit that MI program..."

PS: I think the Casino line was kinda cute.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2007 at 10:54 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by XYZ, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm

But that's exactly what happened. The board did just realize they goofed. They woke up and thought, We are not meeting the educational needs of our constituents. So now they are working toward that goal.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Someone asked me for this on another recent MI thread, I'm afraid I don't remember the heading of that thread anymore.

This is a quote from the Palo Alto Daily News: Web Link

"Mah said a big decision the parents have yet to make is whether they will try to form a countywide charter school, or one limited to the Palo Alto school district. If they petition the county to create a charter school, they could bypass the school board, which last month rejected a proposal last month for a pilot Mandarin immersion program.

Mah said the parents "are getting the feeling the district wouldn't authorize it ... going straight to the county saves us some of that energy."

Of the two options, parent Pauline Navarro, who opposed the immersion program, said she hopes the group chooses "whichever one that hurts the district financially the least." "

This is a public statement in February that PACE was considering a countywide charter (which implies locating the school anywhere in the county -- there really is no significance to the boundaries of Palo Alto with a countywide charter). The Board should also ask detailed questions about what efforts have been done to explore this option, what are the ramifications of each to the district and the program, and which would hurt the district less financially.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Oh, here it is (same article):

"But Mah said the early plans call for renting space NOT LOCATED IN A DISTRICT BUILDING [emphasis mine]. She said the school would receive some state funding and a group of parents from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Cupertino is exploring private sources of funding."

If she was serious about this, then she has been exploring ways to get the program in a less hurtful way to the district. I hope she will make her plans public tonight.

Posted by jSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2007 at 10:12 pm

A few comments and questions (out of the many in my head):

-So, if the District's proposal calls for the advertisement of 2 teaching positions in the November 2007 - February 2008 timeframe, who the heck is going to be enjoying the "Summer 2007 educational travel opportunities to China"? More importantly, who's going to benefit, and who's paying for these "opportunities"?

-Am I wrong in my calculations that having the pilot MI program at Ohlone would effectively DECREASE the number of Ohlone English-only classrooms? Ohlone already has to turn away many interested students/families every year through the lottery. . . If I understand the superintendent's proposal correctly, Ohlone would go from the current 3.5 strand of English to 3 English/1 MI (i.e., 10 fewer kids per grade level for English-only). If I recall correctly, the poll data collected by PACE of MI-interested families from PAUSD indicates that there is little-to-no overlap of families interested in both Ohlone and MI, so this wouldn't simply be a "transfer" of existing Ohlone demand.

-I do applaud the Ohlone staff's willingness to support the pilot during the original proposal and discussion. Perhaps if we all, on every side of the issue, could find ways to be part of the solution and not increase the problem, we could move on. (Sorry, I'm growing tired of what seems to be the new national past-time of adversity.)

In theory, I support choice programs. I am very fearful, however, of the precedent the Board may be setting should they now approve a choice MI pilot after having already defeated it.

Posted by annoyed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2007 at 10:43 pm

XYZ: No, they are worried about how much a charter would cost the district. It's all about the money. This has nothing to do with meeting the needs of constituents, MI is NOT a NEED.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2007 at 11:09 pm

I wish I could move on. Tonight there was talk of 600 kids on the Ohlone school site. Ohlone, by the way, is on a residential street and has almost no parking. Susan Charles may be fine with tons of kids, but at 350, the school's already pretty overwhelming for younger children.

I've been surprised by how widespread the dismay at Ohlone is. There's a strong sense of community there and an equally strong sense that it's going to be hard to incorporate a group of parents that's there for reasons that have nothing to do with the Ohlone Way--as in, they'd vastly prefer Hoover.

A.J., Of course there are all sorts of alternatives, but PACE hasn't been about negotiation. They want what they want and at any cost. I think Grace Mah doesn't really register the objections and Nico wants to believe that we're all going to be happy campers at the end.

Listening to people today, I became aware how much that wasn't the case. It's a lose-lose situation at this point.

At the board meeting tonight, Dana Tom made reference to a letter guaranteeing no charter petition if choice went through--but there were only nine signatures. Aren't there about 20 PACE members? What kind of guarantee is that?

Posted by Talk to an Attorney, a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2007 at 6:28 am

It is so silly to ask for "Guaranteeing no Charter Petition".
Dana Tom needs to talk to a lawyer and find out first-hand how silly an idea it is. It is beginning to make him look silly.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 7:07 am

Well, I don't think anybody actually believes there is anything contractually binding on anyone's side, either the Board's side, or the "proponents'" side. I think the intent is more of trusting each other to stick to their promises, and crafting the promises to be as inclusive as possible.

Posted by Idea???, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 8:22 am

If we are going to have MI after the initial pilot year, what about having it at Greendell.

The JCC will be moving out which will automatically make more space. It is a destination campus already which will mean that traffic concerns won't change. The young 5s are there and can share the campus which means that maybe we could increase the size of that program also so that those who are not ready for kindergarten (teachers' choice not parents) can be in a true "school setting" which will help in the preparation of developing kindergarten readiness.

Posted by Optimist, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Can someone explain why a charter is a bad thing? I'm genuinely puzzled.

Many of us find PAUSD to be pretty inflexible. Many of us think PAUSD takes too much credit for high test scores - which are just average for districts with our demographics. The PIE benchmark study showed our four year college matriculation rate (72%) is 15% to 20% below comparable districts nationwide.

In a perfect world our schools would offer more flexibility and more directed instruction. Our schools would balance skill development and creativity.

So what's wrong with launching several charters? What's wrong with creating some affordable alternatives? And why wouldn't an alternative program want the curriculum flexibility of a charter?

Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm

XYZ: "Exactly What Happened" is NOT that the board realized they made a mistake. In fact Dana and Mandy both reafirmed last night in no uncertain terms that they originally made a well considered, fair, and well researched decision that was what they believed to be in the best interest of ALL students (not just the best interest of a few), and that protected the scarce resources of the district. They admitted that they are literally being forced to change their votes, and they waved an outragous letter from 9 key MI proponents who have been leading the charter school threat, to prove it.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

By the way - I wonder how many petition signatures (what % of the school) the Ohlone school can gather in about 10 days to show how they feel about it. How DO they feel about it? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by JFP, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 1:34 pm

I think this whole fiasco is going to encourage more charter schools. There's a lot of thing I would like to change about the Palo Alto schools, and I am sure I am not alone.

Posted by Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Optimist: A charter school is a bad thing because like a choice program its 'fabulous' for the handful of kids that get in, and sucks the life out of the district for the rest of the kids that either can't or don't get in.

Its not ~fair~

In districts that can't deliver adequate education to their kids, the charters are meant to intentionally pull the resources away from incompetent management, into smaller self-managed organizations to overcome poor opportunities provided by failing districts.

Is someone suggesting that PAUSD is a failing district? That is it justifiable to rob disproportionate resources from ALL the district kids to benefit a handful (many of which won't even be PAUSD residents?)

That's what's wrong with a charter in a district that is not failing and which has limited resources.

That is the exact same thing that is wrong with specialty choice programs in resource constrained districts. Is serves a few and diverts resources from the whole, and ties the hands of the decision makers to make improvements that benefit most.

If you're willing to disband PAUSD thinking its such a big failure of a school district, and you'd rather take your chances with any variety of individuals who think they can better the collective efforts of the PAUSD community, and you don't hold any value in equity in education for all PAUSD students, then I guess you would not see the 'what wrong' in setting PAUSD up as a collection of random experimental charter schools.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Optimist, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2007 at 2:38 pm


I appreciate the response.

I think we agree that fairness is a valuable goal, but we disagree about what's fair. Are you arguing that fairness means everyone gets the same take-it-or-leave-it scoop of vanilla ice cream?

I don't understand what you mean by "sucks the life out of the district." If the district can't honor the enthusiasms kids bring to school - for math, science, music, theater, sports, languages, etc - it's the district sucking the life out of our kids.

PAUSD is one of the least resource constrained districts in the State if per-pupil spending means anything. I would be surprised if the "collection of random experimental charter schools" ended up with materially different test scores from PAUSD, unless district demographics change. And we might find more steadfast support for a district that tries to meet the individual needs of every kid.

Posted by Sillaw_E_Retlaw, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 3:00 pm

I also don't understand the fear of charter schools, except for the potential legal fees. "Realist" makes the statement "sucks the life out of the district for the rest of the kids that either can't or don't get in," but I don't understand why this is the case. PAUSD spends roughly $11K per student but at most it has to shell out the basic aid amount to the charter school, or roughly $5K. Plus it avoids the future space crisis if it has fewer incoming students. So it seems that the remaining kids in PAUSD pocket $6K per charter student plus the cost of opening new facilities. What a charter school does pull out of PAUSD are parents who are committed to their children's education and are willing to pay more and put more time into their schooling.

I also don't understand the fairness issue. Not everyone gets on the football team or the band? As long as you had a chance to try out or apply for the charter school, the fact that it might not be able to accept all applicants isn't a lack of fairness.

Posted by Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 5:32 pm

The PIE Benchmark study showed that PAUSD was far out in front in the offering of choice and alternative programming relative to its benchmark peers, despite be last in funding per pupil And PAUSD is far more reliant on donation streams than its benchmark peers.

PAUSD is hardly sucking the life out of our kids - it continues to expand options - including the increase of Mandarin up Level 1 through Four plus AP Mandarin at community request, plus summer school Mandarin Immersion.

Meeting the individual needs of every kid is exactly the type of "optomistic" and unrealistic expectations that have brought us to this juncture.

Retlaw - the legal fees are apparently significant. And charter are required to accept out of district student and basic aid districts only get reimbursed for 70% of the amount they are required to spend. Additionally, they've found that (Ask Mandy about this) that charter associations (hired 'for profit' litigation machines) basically step in to claim not only the standard per pupil amounts, but all the way to the entire amount of per pupil spend - for all students in the charter. Additionally, the fabulous PAUSD staff and board is apparently convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the drain on staff resources in the charter start up and ongoing monitoring is excessively draining.

Retlaw: I would say that the fact that not everyone who wants to get in the band or the football team is not fair. Its customary, and there are reasons that are used to justify it, but its not fair. Fortunately those are enrichment activities. I think the fairness equation becomes much more critical when you are talking about level and quality of basic academic programming. This is a public school system. I am not a big proponent of 'two wrongs make a right' sort of logic.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 6:26 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] This doesn't strike you as odd, or somehow at least RETRO, that our public elementary education system is now considered something that should be "differentiated" into different schools for different lottery winners? Harkening back to the days of some getting an education while others don't. Thought we were way past that.

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 6:50 pm

Resident, the fact is that the Ohlone MI program solution is severely less than what the MI folks ultimately want. They will not be happy with virtually one strand (one class of 20 per grade level) for very long - its only the shortest of short term situation as they gear up. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The BOE and Susan Charles are not driving this program as this letter makes crystal clear.

Posted by Sillaw_E_Retlaw, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Last time I looked, a student has to apply to matriculate into a charter school, no? It isn't a lottery like a choice program. If there are more applicants than space, some students are not going to be admitted.
As long as the admissions requirements are known and the school consistently applies those requirements, this is as fair as you can expect.

It's not uncommon to apply to 15 or more K-8 private schools and be wait listed on half of them. This isn't PAUSD anymore. Your child can be "counseled" out as well. You may not view this as fair either.

Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Sillaw -- my understanding is that all charter schools absolutely have to run a lottery if they are over-subscribed. Even charters directed at gifted and talented students have to (rather absurdly) admit whomever wins their lotteries. Whether that's a fair way to dole out educational opportunities is another matter.

Posted by Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Retlaw - no, that is incorrect. A charter school is required by law to admit all comers subject to space. If space is not available, they are required to admit by random lottery. coincidentally, they are also not really constrained by space. They can grow as large as they wish, and the school district host is required by law to continue to serve their expansion by providing facilities, even if no school district facilities exist, and rental of facilities is required which cuts in to the funding of the rest of the district children.

A charter school is not a private school. Its a public school and ALL California students have a right to attend any Charter school in the state. There are no district boundaries to charter schools other than the fact that the chartering district must pay for all those kids (with only partial reimbursement from the state).

Charters must also serve special needs kids and English Language Learners, by law. They can not turn any kids away based on entrance criteria.

Your child can not be counseled out of PAUSD. That is absolutely not true. PAUSD by law is required to serve all students, of all abilities. They may try to counsel you out, and if you 'buy in' that's your mistake. You can just as easily report them to the state board of education or the district attorney and get them to provide the services they wish to "counsel you out" for.

I have a good friend who has special needs children - she tells me people specifically come in to PAUSD to get these services.

What exactly are you talking about? Examples? Specifics please.

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Last year Bullis Charter School in Los Altos ran a lottery.

Posted by Sillaw_E_Reflaw, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2007 at 9:28 pm

You are correct. The Charter law was changed to require a lottery if there are more applicants than space.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 6:59 am

Not sure what you guys are trying to say. Are you trying to say being counseled out of one program into one that is better suited is the same as drawing, or not drawing, the winning number for a public education?

Are you saying that being "counseled out" is a bad thing? Do you really think that teachers, principals and counselors are just trying to get kids out when they "counsel out", or are they actually trying to get gets IN to where they might get the most help?

From experience,..lots..they are trying to do the latter. I have seen too many kids truly hurt by parents taking a suspicious and contrary view of the counseling, and refusing help. But, that digresses.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 9:50 am

Question: Where were all the pro-MI people at the board meeting? Everyone who spoke (about 10 people?), were opposed.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 10:12 am

According to Prop 39, section 6 PAUSD is NOT required to rent facilities for a charter. How the law deals with currently facities owned but leased to others I don't know.

(1) The school district may charge the charter school a pro rata share (based on the ratio of space allocated by the school district to the charter school divided by the total space of the district) of those school district facilities costs which the school district pays for with unrestricted general fund revenues. The charter school shall not be otherwise charged for use of the facilities. No school district shall be required to use unrestricted general fund revenues to rent, buy, or lease facilities for charter school students.

We are not required to re

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:32 am

They are not required to rent facilities using their unrestricted general funds. Does that paragraph prevent PAUSD from using other sources of funds for renting facilities for a charter?

If the district is at capacity, and the district is required to provide space, where then do the facilities come from? Thin air?

As a basic aid district this is exactly why a charter is harmful, because the protected funding sources are mostly not applicable to the basic aid district. They can probably tap in to the local property tax funds to get this done.

Unrestricted General funds are apparently not a big issue in PAUSD - Matranga said PAUSD doesn't use their unrestricted general funds on facilities anyway so PAUSD wouldn't qualify for the reimbursement mentioned in this section. That was in a board packet in Feb when the staff presented a charter impact review.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Could someone please help me by explaining what legal obligation the BOE has to fund or support a charter school? I apologize if this has been covered before, but it seems to be the crux of the matter. Why on earth is a proposed charter school a done deal, and why would BOE have to pay for it if it were?

Does this mean that if I sent in a proposal (to whomever, entailing whatever...) for a charter school for Albanian immersion for my children, it's a done deal? I had absolutely no idea that this district was boutique education on demand, for whatever type of program, just as long as someone asks for a charter school?

Please, can someone explain this to me? I thought when the Board voted down MI, that meant THEY DID NOT SUPPORT MI. Is this some sort of code or something? No means yes, especially if a special interest group threatens and makes non-legally binding promises?