Comments/reactions from MI meeting?
Original post made
by Tyler Hanley, digital editor of Palo Alto Online,
on May 31, 2007
Please share your comments and reactions to Thursday night's "town hall" meeting at Ohlone School on the Mandarin Immersion proposal--to be decided next Tuesday by the school board.
Posted by terry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 5:53 am
I will answer your questions.
You wrote: You have said a lot of things, but you still have not answered my question about the BoE/community efforts to set priorities for the district being disrupted about MI.
The community priority process took place. Proponents of language immersion were, like all other members of the district, welcome to participate. A set of district/community priorities were established. MI was not on the list.
a) The MI folks have not disrupted district priorities. The BoE choose to take $60,000 in donations and do a feasibility study. The BoE then felt it important or interesting enough to meet more than just several times on the topic.
You wrote: The disruption of these priorities is a concern to many people in the PAUSD community (myself included). The BoE gave MI choice an extra hearing in a study funded by proponents. Then, it opted to pass on it. So, twice, the process did not choose MI choice. BoE members have gone on record saying that reconsideration of MI choice is in response to the concern of the charter.
a) And the BoE rightly should consider concerns of a charter. Charter law is permissive. Any interested person may bring a charter petition.
You wrote: I will not speculate how you feel about this in a post. I am now asking again, do you think this disruption of district/community priorities using the charter is an acceptable method for a group to get what it wants? Is this a good precedent for the BoE to weigh its decisions based on the threat (however realistic yet not submitted) of a charter program?
a) I encourage you to read charter law. Charters were established for the primary purpose of competing with district schools to keep them in check.
b) I think charters can be harmful to district's who want to maintain control - especially in a district like Palo Alto where space is sparse.
c) The charter petition is not a threat, but rather a means for negotiating with a district. Anyone can do this.
d) As for precedent, I think the circumstances in this case are unique. The BoE took $60,000 and did a feasability study which said the district could do an MI choice while working on strategic plan goals. So MIers know choice is possible. The BoE knows that MI choice is possible in the district. The BoE is also faced with a group who has worked tirelessly on this program for years. They have a leader, Grace Mah, who serves as a Santa Clara county school board member. The Santa Clara School Board favors charters. Mah met with the superintendent and the charter association in San Francisco. Charter law permits schools that compete with district schools.
Given all these facts, I'd say the circumstances here are unusual. I also think Mah has worked in good faith with the district. She has kept the BoE informed of all her steps that she has taken.
Someone else could choose to not to meet with the district, not donate money for a feasibility study, not wait until the feasibility says the program is doable before throwing a charter petition at the district and then ask for what they want. That, in my opinion, would be a threat.
In this case MIers in good faith went through the local system. They worked in good faith with the district. When the district failed them, they in good faith looked to charter law.
Also there is a principal, Susan Charles, who said she would be happy with MI choice at her school, but not a charter. The MI folks are once again working with the district. They have agreed in their letter signed by 9 to abdicate their rights as granted by charter law in exchange for a choice program even though they know their children may not be able to attend.
Thus, as for precedent, this sets a great example for how people who seek choice programs in the future ought to first work with districts before seeking a charter petition. The flippant comments parents who say they want a charter in French or Polish, do not follow the MI model.
And I think the BoE has probably learned their lesson in taking donations from parents and then allowing a feasibility study that comes out positively in favor of a program.
You wrote: If another group presents a realistic yet not submitted charter program, would you recommend the board also agree to set up a choice program for it? Where do you draw the line? By "you", I mean you, terry. What is your advice for the BoE in trying to say no in the future to these requests? All the arguments you stated above and you believe to be persuasive in support for MI would be valid for AI, BI, CI, DI, EI and so on. What is your argument for preventing the alphabet of charters?
a) Charter law is permissive. That is charter law. I encourage you to study it.
b) The only way to change charter law is to advocate that the legislators in Sacramento change it. I agree that charters will detract from district control. In Palo Alto where space is sparse, a charter would pose a nuisance.
c) BoEs can always say no. They have that choice no matter how much they try to spin the blame on MIers. What if you or someone else feels strongly about an arts program that the BoE turns down? And then you or that person begins working on a charter for an art school. The board would probably try to mobilize the public and spin the same blame on you for bringing a charter.
The BoE knew they could spin the public into attacking MI to divert attention from the real issue that they have a fiduciary duty, as someone mentioned earlier, to keep the district from losing money.
You wrote: I do not believe the BoE is merely making a decision between MI choice and MI immersion -- and which causes the least stress for the districts resources at the moment. I believe the BoE is establishing a precedent for how to get what you want by leveraging the charter rules. It is unclear what the long term ramifications of this will be. I strongly urge the BoE to not open up this Pandora's box.
a) Please see my comments above.
You wrote: So, will you, terry, be in favor of an alphabet of immersion programs if they have the same level of charter potential and dedicated people behind them? If not, what is the reason you would recommend the BoE give for saying no to the others after saying yes to MI? Do you think this future is a good thing for our community?
a) If there is in earnest a group of parents who want another immersion program in another language, I would favor they go to the BoE first, donate their money and wait for a positive result from a feasibility study just as MIers did.
b) Yes, I believe this is a good thing for our community.
You wrote: I am interested in your thoughts on this matter. Our BoE has more at stake here than just a single program. Precedents last a long time.
a) Please see my comment above.