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on Sep 11, 2007
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I am very surprised to see Mandy Lowell's name as supporter of Camille.
That's too bad. Camille Townsend has to go. If she wins, there will definitely be a lot of hard feelings left in the district, as she was at the helm during the Management Team revolt, and the MI fiasco.
Her demeanor, and unwillingness to negotiate, mightily contributed to both of the above.
There are better possibilities.
Dana Tom is someone that I have had problems with, but he can grow. Barb Mitchell, ditto. They're not up for re-election this time, in any case.
So far, I like Ezran, and maybe Klausner. The latter needs more diligence. One more (not Townsend) + those two, and we have a chance to have a competent BOE.
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This election will be MI. There will be those who will do anything to prevent Camille from winning because they do not want MI favored board members. It will be interesting to see how the other candidates come out on the MI issue, because they will have to have a position. From the websites I have been able to look at, no one seems to be mentioning MI per se, but they will have to speak up on this.
Wynn has a number of anti-MI people as endorsers. Is that an indication that he will try to kill MI?
Pundit, not likely. My read on Wynn is that he's looking forward to moving on, with or without MI. Too bad. I'd rather have someone who routinely questions the direction we're headed, making corrections along the way.
Parent has it right - MI will play a role in this election, whether the candidates are ready to take the issue on or not. They will be forced to take a stand.
but what has wynn promised these anti-MIers? why would all of them sign up under him, unless he was willing to promote their agenda of canceling MI before it starts next fall, or killing it after the 3-year pilot? they've pretty clearly stated their objectives and views.
What's Gail Price's stance on MI? She's one of Wynn Hausser's supporters. What they seem to have in common is a desire to put MI behind them. Make a decision - right or wrong - and move on.
Gail Price is more than one of Wynn Hausser's supporters, she is co-chairing his campaign. Putting aside the question of whether it is appropriate for a sitting Board member to co-chair an election campaign, this probably means she believes he will be anti-MI. On the other hand, it is not clear that Mr. Hausser would follow Gail's lead, whatever that is, once she helped him get elected.
Is there really any Board candidate, aside from Pingyu (maybe but he's compeltely silent so who knows what his position is), who is going to go out on a limb to revisit MI? I doubt it. I suspect the most they will do is disagree with expanding it to Garland in 3 years.
Where are the candidates' statements guaranteeing a tough stand on accountability and transparency for all programs?
Generally my policy is to stay out of these discussions because there is too much flaming, lack of civil discourse and respect from anonymous posters in these forums for my taste (you can find a link to the article on civility I authored for the Weekly in 1999 on my web site). I do appreciate the value of open forums and apologize to those of you who do keep it civil and are willing to be identified.
I am preparing a series of issue statements that will appear on my web site by the end of the weekend. But here is my position on the MI debate:
I think it is time to move beyond "pro" and "anti." We've already been distracted too long by this issue to the detriment of other priorities. The decision on MI has been made and, at this point, I do not support revisiting it. We need to focus on implementation and evaluation.
At the same time, I do believe there were serious flaws in the decision-making process on MI. Here are the questions I will ask when faced with similar programmatic decisions:
1. Where does the program fit within our strategic goals and priorities? We can do almost anything, but we can't do everything. The purpose of a strategic plan is to provide a framework for deciding what we will and won't do. If a program doesn't fit our strategic priorities, it needs to be set aside, or else the strategic priorities need to be revised.
2. Is there an existing district-wide policy in place under which the program fits? If not, the policy discussion and decision should come before the programmatic one.
3. How does the program compare with existing or competing programs? How great is the need or demand? What are the cost, space and curriculum implications? Are there particular funding opportunities or other factors that should be taken into account?
You may disagree with me on individual issues. But you will always know how I will approach a decision, what it is and why I made it. And I expect, and am willing, to be held accountable for the decisions I make.
If you wish to engage me further on this and other issues, I encourage you to attend one of the many forums to be held in the next two months. I have a calendar on my web site, as well as more information on me and my campaign. See www.wynnhausser.com.
Thanks for listening and for your interest in the School Board race.
Wynn, Kudos to you for braving the forum! I visited your website earlier and look forward to meeting and learning more about you. There is one question that I'd like to ask here.
Your decision-making process is encouraging (although I'd like to see a reference as to whether the program violates any District policies). Will you apply this process to existing programs and their expansions, too? In particular, are you prepared to hold MI to these decision-making standards 3 years from now, when the pilot program is due for review?
One more thought
Wynn, your line about taking into consideration whether there are particular funding opportunities disturbs me. It implies that a program can ensure its "permanence" by heavily funding itself from outside sources. This has the potential for allowing programs to exist that don't fit with District goals, priorities, or policy.
Adding to yap's questions:
Wynn, you said: "If a program doesn't fit our strategic priorities, it needs to be set aside, or else the strategic priorities need to be revised."
Isn't this exactly what Camille and Barb did when they voted in MI? The program did not fit the strategic plan, so they revised their view of distict strategy to include MI without waiting to put it into official new policy in the next cycle. Why is what you are promising different from their approach?
The strategic plan is something tangible that the public uses in determining whether, for example, to fund another bond measure. They do that by deciding if they agree with the plan's stated priorities. Last time around, the priorities were listed in the order of importance given to them by the community at large, not just the BoE. It is written every 5 years and is due for revision this year. Do you think that the strategic plan could or should appropriately be rewritten mid-cycle to include items that were not high priorities?
Ditto to YAP on the funding opportunities comment. That too seems to be exactly what happened with MI. I'm curious how you distinguish it.
If a program "violates district policies" then it shouldn't be implemented.
Yes, I would use the same criteria to evaluate existing programs.
Funding should be one consideration, not the only one or the primary one. But if two programs are compared side by side and one has a steady stream of federal, state, or foundation funding and the other one doesn't, that should be considered.
Revising one's view and revising the plan are two different things. Revising the strategic plan is a big deal and shouldn't be done willy-nilly. But if something happens that significantly changes the environment, a plan could be revised to accommodate it with appropriate public input. A strategic plan should be a map, not a straight jacket. But it is an important statement about our priorities. I don't really think we disagree here.
Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. I will be offline for the next couple of days so will not be able to respond further until then.
Wynn, I suspect that the donation question is related to recent history. In one case a pool (which was on a lower priority than other facility needs) and in another a feasibility study for a program ( which was on no priority list) were funded by private donations...causing a "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" philosophy to take over, and resulting in the idea that money can "jump the line" in our District's priorities.
I like what you are saying about already established programs/facilities. Maybe you can think about how you believe when you are talking about donations coming into programs/facilities that are not yet established, and are before all aspects are
1)officially approved as "next in line",
2)completely decided, down to the smallest detail, down to the entire "who, when, how, with what materials".
Many of us believe that accepting any money before these 2 steps are completed amounts to (unintended) influence peddling..like accepting a grant from a publishing company, and then "choosing" that company's books for use in our District. They may actually have the best book(s), but because of the money coming in, we would never know if there was money influencing a decision, even subconsciously out of gratitude.
Board Members have every ability to influence policy in this area.
Thank you for your courage for coming on here, and I am grateful to see that the discourse is civil.
I like your comments. However, I am not sure if donations for a feasability study for a new program and donations for something like a pool, or lights, or any piece of equipment are the same thing.
A feasability study towards an innovative new program which may or may not be divisive is not a means to an end in itself. This cannot be justified as anything other than starting something which may or may not come to fruition.
A piece of equipment, which granted may only be used by swimmers, football fans, or other users, is a legitimate use of funds collected for that purpose. It can be argued that this is just updating existing facilities, or bringing an existing program up to date with state of the art equipment.
If something like a new science building or computer lab were the results of this type of monetary donation, I don't think it would be given any type of discussion time as the general thought would be that we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. However, some of the other uses could and should be questioned.
Thank you, Wynn, for clarifying your views. I admire your boldness.
My funding comment was related to the substantial MI grant but it holds true for any program - with the distinctions that Parent makes. If a program doesn't meet the litmus test for supporting District strategies, priorities and policy, there should not be a loophole where Board approves it anyhow because of the money that would disappear with the program. Bringing in external funding to secure a program's existence has the potential for hijacking the District's priorities.
To the top two posters:
Thanks for reading through my post. You have patience.
I may be dim, or perhaps just an idealist, but I don't agree with the distinctions of Parent. For me, the philosophy of appropriate donations is what I am looking at, not the end result. I want a consistent philosophy throughout.
If a new pool at, ( just making it up) Terman is number three on a list of priorities of pools, then somebody comes in and gives enough money to build the pool, so it gets bumped to number one, I call it not right. It automatically usurps resources in time and building oversight into a lower priority issue, and delays the other issues. It also automatically shortcircuits the long-term thinking that would normally go into such a decision, with long-term unintended consequences swept under the rug, such as costs for a pool that we might not have picked if we were starting fresh. In other words, there are unintended consequences driven by private resources. If the NUMBER one priority pool is decided upon, down to which drain we will use and which contractor..THEN directed donations are clear and simple, like the lights at Gunn. They did it right, there.
As for feasibility studies- the moment anybody who gives money for a feasibility study for a program and the District takes it, there is an implicit agreement that if the feasibility study says something it is feasible, we will do it..back it up a bit, and there is also an implicit agreement that the District will do all it can to MAKE it turn out feasible, in order to not create horrible feelings about the wasted donation. Same logic as any gift..there is an implicit give and take in the gifting process which we should not create in the future. Taking money, then not having the expected outcome, only results in horrific feelings of betrayal..taking money and having the expected outcome results only in horrific feelings of mistrust.
I believe that no donations should be made for anything specific until completely neutral information has been evaluated and decided upon.
In a new program, for example, if the District independently decides that the next step is..hmmm..let's say an evaluation of establishing a music intensive elementary school..and the Board agrees it is next on the priority list, and the District then evaluates if it is "feasible" within our guidelines..the Board is free to agree or not, and vote. If the vote is "yes, let's start one", the decision is made where and how down to the smallest detail including which books to buy...THEN directed money can come in to support the program. Anytime before then is horribly muddy, as we have witnessed. Especially anonymous ones which could very easily have come from a company which makes and sells instruments, music, and curricula to schools. Such a donation AFTER all decisions are made, including which company we will use for music etc, is completely fine and ethical.
Donated anytime before the final detail is in place, especially anonymously, is wrought with ethical danger, and I expect our area to be better than this.
Pingyu Liu's URL should be www.Dr-Liu.org. Please correct it.
Dr. Liu's site has some interesting information. He would like to make physics, moral education and physical fitness the cornerstones of our school district.
Also, the following excerpt from his iste:
The U.S.-China Language Engagement Act sets out to increase Chinese cultural studies and language acquisition for school-aged students of the United States through grants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs). The grants, given on a competitive basis, will carry out innovative model programs for Chinese language and cultural studies in elementary and secondary schools.'
I will use my experience with grant writing, grant applications, and grant approval to help PAUSD win the first grant provided by Susan Davis' bill. With the help of a federal grant, Palo Alto's Chinese education program will grow faster, stronger, and be more affordable.
I'm already in contact with Susan Davis's office.
Well, there you have it. The MI program under him will grow faster and stronger and be more affordable.
While he seems charmingly idealistic and sincere, it is not clear that Dr. Liu has a grasp on teh complexities that go into running the PAUSD. Facilities? Strategic plan based on community priorities? Not clear he gets that. But who knows . . . Maybe he will improve his site to explore these issues as well.
To close the loop on the funding and decision-making discussion above, I have a few comments.
I do separate studies and data collection from other directed donations. I don't think research should be funded by donations at all. It undercuts the credibility of the study no matter the outcome. I believe this contributed to the furor over MI. I put the blame on the district, not those offering the money.
On the directed donations topic, the Gunn lights is an interesting example because I believe that project was begun in response to a donation that came with the restriction that the money could only be used for lights at Paly (please correct me if I am wrong). This caused Gunn families to say "what about us?" It took a bit of convincing to get certain board members to agree there should be some equity and the same criteria be used for Gunn as was used to approve the Paly project. I'm not sure that lights at either campus would have been the top facilities priority. But the result is that both campuses ended up with improved facilities through private donations. And that is a good thing.
At the same time, I agree with much of what Interested says about having a clear step-by-step process to make sure we aren't auctioning off priorities to the highest bidder, but are choosing projects and programs based on established long-term planning, priorities, policies and procedures. The place I would differ is that sometimes the scale of a project is determined by the amount of money that can be raised. So I'm not sure it is wise to plan down to the tiniest detail before moving forward.
Also, as a board member, I don't want to be involved at a granular level. Just to beat the lights example to death and take it to the extreme, I would want to approve the project as a whole with some broad guidance and parameters. I would want to make sure of the effect on the surrounding neighborhood, encourage the most environmentally sound and cost effective approach, etc. But I don't want to approve the wattage or brand of bulbs.
Overall, I think there is agreement here. This has been a useful discussion for me, and I will be thinking more about this issue. I appreciate the level and thoughtfulness of the discourse and may be brave enough to venture out here again...
I just rated the candidates here:
Some of them earned 5 stars and other not. To me if a candidate doesn't even have a basic website then they are not in tune with Palo Alto.
Dear 'board watcher',
Thank you for looking at my webpage.
I want to emphasize that my approach would speed up the general foreign language program stated in the Strategic Plan.
Look. I introduce federal grant to support Chinese language education in PAUSD, which naturally saves Districs money to better support the general foreign language program.
I think that we should put MI issue behind us now. Look forward! MI is only a choice program with two classes. Let me tell you something else you may not know. Based on my experience and knowledge in federal grant application-approval process, the fact of existance of the two classes of MI program in PAUSD would make the final approval of my application fo PAUSD much easier !
MI is not a monster. It's cute. You should love it.
I love your emphasis on physics and physical education (strong mind, strong body). I don't agree with you about making another choice program, no matter what it is for, including MI.
I wll keep watching. Even though I disagree with you about MI, you have captured my interest. I may, indeed, vote for you.
Thank you for coming forward.
A couple of questions: If MI is required to be cost-neutral, why is a grant even an issue? Sounds to me like no one expects it to be cost neutral.
MI will start as two classes, but what happens the following year and the year after that? Do you favor overcrowding Ohlone? Do you have an idea where the program should be moved?
Last, a poster "chinese education" said that PACE actually wanted to develop an MI program that was based on Chinese education. Another MI proponent said that s/he did not support that goal.
What do you want?
Wynn: I like what you have to say, and agree with your assessment of the job of the Board, not to go "granular".
The Board could, however, ask that whoever is deciding all the "grains" of a project make all the decisions before accepting donations, so that there isn't an influence of which grain to choose..to carry it to the extreme end.
Speaking of extreme ends, I think the grain analogy is DONE :)
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, I greatly appreciate your willingness to think out loud on this forum.
I'm seconding Turning's comment. I appreciate Wynn's willingness to engage, particularly since he's admitted he's not all that comfortable in these sort of forums. He also really seems to be paying attention to the different sides of an issue and then working towards a decision. That's what I want to see. That he's doing it publicly before the election shows a willingness to stand up and be counted--which matters given that there are so many controversial issues coming up.
I appreciate Pingyu coming forth as well. I don't think I agree with him except on the subject of phys. ed, but I appreciate his willingness to take a clear stand and give people a chance to know what they're voting for or against.
Thank you for stating out the slogan 'strong mind, strong body'. It has been my belief of ultimate goal of education.
I feel that somebody may want to spend more time to revisit MI issue. My position is
I don't want to waste taxpayers money on a 'done deal'.
I want to work very hard to get a federal grant to pick up the cost of Chinese education after 2008. The 2 MI classes are very important supporting evidence that PAUSD is ready to implement a Chinese education program funded by the federal grant. From my experience I clearly know that federal grants will not go to schools which have no evidence to show their readiness.
I think my reply to John may have answered most of your questions. A federal grant for Chinese education will pick up all Chinese education cost after 2008, if the 2 MI classes show good promise.
As far as PACE's Chinese education approach, I have no idea. I don't belong to PACE.
I want you to believe that whenever you let me introduce a federal language education program, it has very clear guidlines for all the details. No one can change it. We all know that: 'Don't mess up with federal money.'
Thanks for getting back to me. However, you didn't answer a big part of my question: where does MI go when it expands past two classrooms and the three portables that can fit at Ohlone?
I don't think there's going to be a government grant that covers a new school site, so MI is going to have to go somewhere?
Does it push out Ohlone's own program?
Create a megaschool at Ohlone?
Do you want to re-open Garland and take over one strand? Two?
I ask you this because I think given your agenda you are unlikely to want to close the program in three years if there's no obvious space for it.
I think, frankly, that applying for and counting on federal grants isn't really a way to establish public-school policy. I know that's how science is done, but I think it's a little iffy for public schools. If nothing else, programs are ongoing--a change of administrations and that grant money disappears after a few years.
Okay, I admit it, I'm much more up on the schools the city council, but I just looked at the city council Web sites and, frankly, they all sound kind of the same. Is there anyone for fiscal irresponsibility? Or anti-green? I mean, even the pro-growthish sounding ones claim to be big on conservation . . .
I kind of like Nadim because he takes a NO stand on the ABAG numbers and on switching more retail to residential.
I also liked Yeh's energy and commitment to public service. But maybe it's just a great Web site. Still, what if we did vote in someone young enough to have a clear recollection of all-nighters?
Plus, he's a local kid. I'm assuming he has greater ambitions than city council, but if he's talented, I've no objection to him getting a start here.
I tend to not vote for people in real estate unless I know they're not bringing their investment agenda to the table.
So, looking for info., opinions, etc. in order to make some semi-informed decisions here. Right now, my council votes are up for grabs.
Why not vote for someone who is a realtor?
Dan Dykwel is also President of PTA Council, and is the co-sponsor of the Black and White Ball - the latter donating thousands to charity every year.
Dan has also volunteered time on important Council-appointed ad hoc subcommittees.
He knows how to bring people together; I've watched him do it many times.
We need someone with his wisdom, intelligence, knowledge of issues, and sense of fair play.
He's one of the most outstanding candidates I've seen in a while, and certainly among the top one or two candidates this time out.
There's a conflict-of-issue with Realtors--i.e. the city council makes decisions on development and growth. I'm not dead set against it, but wary. For example, I knew one town council member in Danville who was an RE agent, but didn't sell new houses because of a potential conflict-of-interest.
So with Dykwel, how is this issue addressed?
Pingyu, you say: "The 2 MI classes are very important supporting evidence that PAUSD is ready to implement a Chinese education program funded by the federal grant." No, if you were watching, you would know that the 2 MI classes are very important supporting evidence of the MI crowd's blackmailing the district with a charter threat. That's what the majority of the Board said at the time they voted to implement it.
So I would like to echo OhlonePar's question about placment of the MI program. In your mind, will its existence justify its trumping a neighborhood school at Garland?
In addition, grant money is not a stream, it is a pond, which can be emptied and not replenished by the grantor from year to year. Besides which, the MI program is allegedly cost-neutral. So I'm interested in why you are focusing on that program as the recipient of the funds you want to obtain, instead of a language for all program.
Dear 'Board watcher' and OhlonePar,
Thank you for talking to me which is essential for a democratic system.
As I have repeated in several interviews, MI is not my campaign issue. I'm looking forward. It seems that some people want to only go around one issue all the time. This is really a waste of resources.
Let me explain how an RFP of a federal grant is generated. (RFP stands for Request for Proposal.) Before an RFP is issued, a group of top scientists/specialists made comprehensive research and presented a research report to a federal agency, stating the important issues in the agencie's scope the country or world was facing. The federal agency, then, made selection from the report to announce an RFP. The RFP of a new federal grant represents the most important and urgent issue in the field.
Now an RFP of a federal grant of Chinese Language Education is going out. Should we all learn some thing from the fact? We all should let Palo Altan kids take advantage of a federal grant. They will have better chance to win at starting point of their lives in the most important direction the federal grant implies.
I like to lead the road to get the new federal grant. Usually, a PhD title in a proposal submitting team is important for grant approval.
The grant will pick up all the cost of Chinese education. No more MI issue in Palo Alto anymore.
Hope we all can relax for the weekend.
Dear Mr. Pingyu Liu:
I believe that you miss the point. I don't think anyone is wanting to go back and "revisit" the MI thing, and I don't think it is about "if all the costs are covered, no more MI problem". I suppose if there were enough money that all the kids who wanted MI could get in, and if there were a site which did not displace any neighborhood kids anywhere,ie where there is no neighborhood, and if all the rest of the kids in the district had full access if they wanted it to quality foreign language instruction in their neighborhood elementary school, maybe in that sense money would matter to ease concerns in the short term. But, I don't think that will ever be the case.
I think that people are saying that they need to know if a candidate believes it is good to have more and bigger Immersion programs and other Choice programs, or not. A Board member votes for the vision, for the direction we take as a District.
And, if someone is for more and bigger "choice" programs, s/he will vote for that vision. Perhaps without concern for how this direction can't co-exist with the desire for those to have a the "choice" of a unified, neighborhood elementary school system.
If I understand you correctly, it seems you are completely for having more and bigger Immersion programs, maybe even more and bigger other Choice programs. It also seems that you are confident, if I am understanding correctly, that you would like to grow the currently approved MI program, and are not concerned about exactly how that will happen and the effects on the overall picture on the District, which is what the person asking about "what happens in 3 years" is getting at. There are only so many scenarios available in 3 years, ..the program grows into another space, turning a space into an MI space and not letting it be used for another priority, ..the MI program dies ( extremely unlikely)..the MI program stays small at Ohlone ( extremely unlikely), ...the MI program grows at Ohlone, displacing Ohlone wannabes. In other words, we now have another "choice" program which removes choices from other kids.
There are people who really like this scenario, which will lead us to the San Francisco approach, where every elementary school child is "divided up" into various schools across the city on a number of variables, including parental choice, lottery, etc, and each kid gets the education s/he "wins". Each family then has to decide if they are going to live with the roll of the die, or move out, or put their kid in a private school. If they decide to stay, they have to figure out how to get the kid across town every day, or not, etc.
Some people, obviously, think this is the way public elementary school education should go. SF is voting with their feet..with ever decreasing student population by the year. Maybe that would be a good thing here, i don't know, to make our District less attractive. Beside that, there are clearly benefits for those who get into the program they want and can manage to handle the commute etc. And those that like this way, will vote for you, I presume.
Some people think that we shouldn't continue down this road and keep creating more specialized lottery programs, which de facto dismantles the Unified concept in elementary school education. Obviously, if this a priority for them, they will vote accordingly.
Not saying either is bad or good, though of course I have my druthers and probably didn't hide them well in this writing, though I tried to be even handed. But, I am very happy that there is someone who is going to be clearly FOR the SF type vision, and then we will know how many people vote for it.
So, thank you for giving PA that opportunity.
Thank you for your post and saying it well. My question wasn't answered by Mr. Liu and I think that's an answer in itself.
But I think we know where he stands and can vote accordingly. I think I've got a sense of Wynn Hauser and Camille Townsend. Some notions of the other three candidates, but it would be great if they came forward here. If not, I'll see 'em at the coffee klatsch.
Still befuddled over the city council.
What are we supposed to make of a candidate (Pingyu Liu) who says, "MI is not a monster. It's cute. You should love it."?
MI was, and still is, a major issue for Palo Alto. But there are other big questions that I'd like to see the candidates address. So far I'm underwhelmed by what I see and hear from the candidates.
For lots of good comments on what we should be looking for in Council candidates, see Diana Diamond's blog: A call for candor from the city council candidates Web Link
She says, "I have some overall questions I would love to ask the candidates, such as can they understand a city budget and work through the numbers? Are they willing to make decisions based on finances, rather than on who comes to council meetings pleading for pet projects? And finally, will the candidates be simply a rubber stamp for city hall staff or can they exercise some leadership?"
I'd like the candidates to put their promises in writing and be ACCOUNTABLE for them, so that any resident can challenge them when they forget why they were elected.
My firat thought when I read the "MI is not a monster. It's cute. You should love it" was to add:
Or else. (creepy Twilight Zone music comes up in the background)
But I assume that was not the intended tone. I think we're supposed to think of it in more of Pokemon-ish way.
While MI's a big concern to me because it's slated for Ohlone, I think it's not the top priority for the district: overcrowding and bond issues are.
Well, actually effective leadership and transparency are the biggest issues as far as the election goes.
And I am sick and tired of having a BoE that's creating future problems instead of proactively solving them. MI should have been tabled until there really was space. We can't get rid of the issue simply because it's tied in so tightly to the facilities issue.
I think another fair question to ask all the BoE candidates since the last board meeting is their view on the need for a third high school and possibly a fourth middle school. If someone comes up with innovative ideas, such as using Cubberly for a 7 through 12 school, it will be worth hearing.
OhlonePar: You may be right about Pokemon, but do we want Pokemon on the school board?
I agree that "effective leadership and transparency are the biggest issues" for both the school board and the council.
OhlonePar, my first reacion on reading "MI is not a monster. It's cute. You should love it" was to think, there goes someone that really has no idea of the harm that the MI debate has caused this school community.
A bit sad that the person that made it happens to be running for the PAUSD board.
Well, I think that lack of overall awareness of what the effects on the district were (and will be) and why people are angry is pretty typical of the MI crowd.
The perspective is just so narrow. I think it's why the whole thing alienated some people who actually wanted MI.
I actually think running for school board is fine. I think maybe it's time to see what MI support actually looks like. If both Townsend and Liu are defeated (particularly Townsend), I think it will be pretty clear that MI has been a noisy minority and the incoming board needs to start looking at ways to limit the damage. If Liu's elected, we're looking at, as Paying Attenion notes, the balkanized SF model.
My biggest concern is not with those in the school community, but the chunk of people who don't have kids in the system--particularly younger voters. Townsend has the incumbent thing working in her favor. Liu has a long way to go--he doesn't seem to be active in the schools or local politics.
We don't have a Liu equivalent on the anti-MI side. It would have been interested to see someone whose platform included reversing the MI decision.
Well, I heard from a couple of Wynn Hausser's supporters early on that they supported him because they believed he would be willing to revisit the MI decision. His recent posts, however, suggest otherwise.
My biggest fear, frankly, is that Camille Townsend will take a victory, if she wins by default (people don't necessarily believe there are 6 viable candidates for the three positions), as some sort of pro-MI mandate or a mandate to continue with business in general as usual.
Time will tell.
I don't think the reverse of supporting more and bigger immersion (or any other enriched academic program for a limited few) is to try to reverse the MI thing. That has been voted on and is here to stay, at least until the next level needs to be discussed ( in 3 years).
I think the reverse is someone who wants to work toward equal access for all qualified students ( versus limited lottery access) to all academic programs ( versus some get a curriculum that others don't in elementary school) in elementary school, middle school and high school. That is not to say equal outcome, which is silly, but equal opportunity, including equal competitive opportunity for such things as AP classes. It is silly to have one high school have an AP class that another doesn't, for example.
Best I can see for those who support the Unified School District concept (versus the fragmented, every school has a different curriculum) so far are Melissa Baten Caswell, Wynn Hauser and Barbara Krausner.
We'll see what comes up over the next 6 weeks or so and see if this is true.
Gosh, Paying, is that really such an important principle that you'd choose candidates on it? One high school offering some different AP's than another? Or whether every second grader kid can get foreign language?
That's mouse nuts to me, to be honest. We've got bigger fish to fry, like budget management, where and how to handle growth, achievement gaps closing, and did I say budget management already?
We need nuts and bolts oriented decision makers, not idea people.
so, to take the foreign language for more elementary school kids topic.
are you willing to increase the size of SI so that their waiting list is significantly reduced? increase the size of MI after the pilot, if it's successful? make immersion education more equitably offered across the district?
of are you only looking at FLES as a solution to give world languages to all elementary school kids?
and what about those who don't want world language in elementary school, preferring to spend classroom hours on more math or science?
when does world language become mandatory for elementary school, and thus equal access for all required?
Anonymous, I'm guessing world language will become mandatory for elementary school, and this equal access for all required, when the other community priorities that were carefully compiled after community polls have been met, or when the community makes it one of the top priorities. *Which it did ont do yet* and therefore MI should not have been on the radar at all at this point. Bygones will be bygones, but I want candidates I can trust to sitck with community priorities (or be honest enough to say now, at this point, that they think if they are elected that alone will give them some knowledge greater than the average Palo Altan about what is good for this district -- e.g., Camille)and who I believe will make the most of the money they already get without holding out one hand for more while funding non-priority items with the other.
Yeah, yeah, I know, MI is cost-neutral. Tell that to Pingyu, who seems to think that it will cost some sum that a federal grant would nicely cover. Or to anyone who looked closely at the costst that were not calculated or mentioned in the feasibility study.
Transparency. Honesty. Integrity. Humility. Which candidate has all of these at heart?
I think MI should be revisited--and the implementation scrutinized.
However, I don't think it's the number one priority. It should be revisited as part of how it does or does not fit the district's critical issues and strategic plan.
Unfortunately, it can't be totally tabled because it will be an issue in three years and, no doubt, waste a bunch of time AGAIN. Ohlone will run out of room before the three-year pilot program is finished.
Could things be more idiotic?
The best suggestion I've heard is to dump it at Greendell where it can share space with Young Fives. Greendell's a bad site for a neighborhood elementary and the JCC's leaving. Maybe it could be sort of a branch of Fairmeadow or Hoover, which are both fairly nearby.
I'm glad to see that Hauser, Baten Caswell and Klausner seem to be running decent campaigns--signs up, clear Web sites, local endorsements.
And people do read the Forum here--I've been surprised by the number of people I've met who mention reading it. It's sort of like the quiet widespread resentment of MI at Ohlone.
Okay, I just went buzzing through Camille Townsend's Web site and except for a page about global education, [she] seems to make no mention of Mandarin (doesn't do it there, either).
Our dear Ms. Townsend doesn't seem to want to take any credit for the MI program--even her endorsement from Grace Mah is buried deep in the list.
C'mon Camille, stand up and be counted.
Grace Mah sent out an informational notice about the school coffees to the Palo Alto/Menlo Park Parents' Club e-mail list, which is at least 1400 strong. In it she explained the calendar for school coffes and added::
"The next set of school board members (3 seats, 6 candidates - one incumbent) will be working with the new superintendent. Important plans for enrollment growth at elementary and secondary levels will be high on the facilities planning, along with bonds being proposed (possibly for Jun 2008). World language for elementary school is also under consideration (you probably know where I stand on that), along with the strategic planning process."
"Last if, if you want my opinion on candidates I've endorsed (or not), please email me directly (don't hit Reply), grmah2001 @yahoo.com
Santa Clara County School Board Trustee
Hoover Elementary School Parent
PAMP Member for 9 years"
Is it really approprate to drum up support for your candidates in a forum that expressly forbids political endorsement, especially when you sign yourself as she did, as a public official?
Re: Ms. Mah's politickin'..yuk, especially as a County Board of Education Trustee who will be working with (over) whoever is elected.
Tsk-tsk. Politics as usual..Which state am I in?
And to whomever it was who thought I was saying I was going to pick my votes based on whoever would give "AP equally at all schools". Not sure if you are purposely trying to obfuscate, or if I didn't make it clear.
Please read it again. I am talking about the guiding principles that will determine which solutions to problems the Board member votes for or against.
My point is I will vote for the candidate whose philosophy is that whatever decisions we make, we make with the same basic values about the use of public education dollars. One of the values I hold dearly is that all children have equal access to academic opportunity in this district. So, in dealing with the solutions for such issues as enrollment growth, there is a clear guiding principle that we don't decide to deal with the problem by establishing a lottery so that only half the kids in the district get into our schools, and tell the others "too bad", for example. ( To take it to the extreme, just to make the point.) We don't have a few kids get language in elementary school, and the rest none, and nothing for anybody in 6th grade! We don't offer 30 APs at one High school, and none at the other.
I will also base it on the one(s) who support a Strategic Planning process in concert with the community so that the community supports the plan with their tax dollars ( no bonds until we know what to trust!), with measurable and attainable long and short term goals from which we do not deviate with out due process.
These are just a couple of the principles..ethics if you will..that I want our Board members to say they do or do not agree with, and I will vote for the ones who agree with me, then trust that they are doing the best they can to live up to these principles in their votes.
Hope that cleared it up for ya'.
Just to clarify further for Terry who said "we need a nuts and bolts person, not idea people".. the nuts and bolts you use to build a house are useless if the "idea" of the house is poor and falls down in a year.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
So at the moment, judging from tone and content of posts, it looks like the front-running candidates are Melissa and Barbara, with Claude and Wynn coming in as third choice, possibly competing with Camille. I guess the real question, and one that voters can resolve for themselves by spending time watching the candidates in action, is whether Claude misspoke or was misquoted and is actually in favor of accountability, transparency etc. (or whether he is as oblivious to public consensus as his quotes make him seem) and whether Wynn Hausser is just talking the talk or whether he really would stand up for what he says, and whether Camille is the less bad choice of the three or whether people are mad enough to vote her off in favor of an unknown quantity.
Watch the candidates and how they interact with each other and the public in the debates. Does one dominate the platform, taking up an unfair share of the time? Does one routinely change the subject or fail to answer the question asked? Does any of them have concrete ideas on how to get where they say they want the district to go?These will be indications of how much substance is behind the candidates, the extent to which they will be able to work in a team, etc.
I look forward to seeing more in the coming weeks.
natasha: "My biggest fear, frankly, is that Camille Townsend will take a victory, if she wins by default (people don't necessarily believe there are 6 viable candidates for the three positions), as some sort of pro-MI mandate or a mandate to continue with business in general as usual."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Townsend is endorsed by colleagues because that's the name of the game for elected consensual bodies - you have to play the endorsement game if you want to work well with someone who hhas a better than 50-50 chance of being elected, unless their policies are so diametrically opposed to yours as to put you at rick for re-election yourself.
Townsend would be far less influential if she does get re-elected. Why? Because she has earned a reputation as an ineffective leader. Those who served under her gavel this year are not ignorant of the flip-flopping she engaged in, or her flippant attitude toward those who didn't agree with her.
Also, there will be two new board members who are well aware of Townsend's failures in leadership. So, she will either stay in the background and/or play ball, or she will be marginalized.
In the years I've been watching Palo Alto politics, I have yet to see anyone metamorphize 180º from stated positions in their respective campaigns, as Townsend has. there's something about the increment of power that a BOE election win bestows that did something to change Townsend. It was quite surprising, and very disappoiinting.
All that said, I'm liking Klausnner and Baten-Caswell at this point, but any of this group of four would serve well.
Amid all the biased opinions about the candidates themselves, I'm interested in your opinion about the elements of the election and campaign.
For instance, looking at Wynn and Barbara and Camille and Claude and Melissa's endorsement lists, you see quite a disparity.
Camille and Claude have the broad scope with the wider list of community members and big political names. Barbara has Joe Simitian, Mr. Palo Alto, but no other big names. Lots of teachers and parents. Melissa has a ton of north Palo Alto "blue bloods". Wynn has lots of Barron Park community members. Pingyu doesn't have any listed.
Do endorsements matter to you? How much do they matter to you? Do you look for your friends on the list or for people with name recognition?
Endorsements can mean a lot in small muncipal elections.
When *politicians* endorse, the endorsement is mostly POLITICAL. This isn't to say that personal and political endorsements don't cross over; rather , it's to say that politicians of all stripes (the better ones) know that they can't get anything done without collaboration, or successful movement toward the middle.
If a sitting candidate doesn't endorse a candidate that both resonates (mostly) with the sitting candidates general positions, AND the candidate stands a good chance of being elected, the "politic" thing to do is endorse.
Again, political endorsements usually contain some compenent of personal resonance, but I've seen local politicians (here, and elsewhere) who mostly don't resonate on a personal level (even to the point of borderline personal dislike) still endorse a candidate who has a good chance to win, and mostly resonates with the sitting politician's best known positions.
One sees personal endorsements more often from those who are not in elected political positions (with the big caveat being that there are those in community who want to see certain things happen on the political front, so they endorse those who they think will effectively address issues that are inmportant to them.
That said, non-politician endorsements often contain a strong component of personal "attraction" to the candidate. This has been shown to be true in many studies of the electorate.
As far as helping one get elected, it's a big help to see someone's name attacjed to a candidate, because most voters don't take time to study issues in depth. They know a few general things about sitting politicians, or a certain group (e.g. the Sierra Club, teachers, unions, pro-business groups, etc), and generally transfer those qualities to the candidate who is endorsed.
There are definitely "cliques" within the Palo Alto electorate. There's the "old money" group; the "long-standing citizen" group (often there's crossover there); there's the "efficiency in government" groups; unions, etc. etc.
I tend to do quite a bit of thinking about candidates, including how one or another might work well (or not) with the group they will be elected to serve with. That takes more time than most want to give.
In all, I think there's no doubt that endorsements help, especially in municipal elections that involve candidates that are serving on political bodies that are essentially - by design - leaderless, like our City Council and BOE.
one cannot stand out in too many different ways in this kind of election, because one can easily find oneself isolated from the rather plain vanilla answers and positions that are taken - as a necessary part of getting elected, and honoring the *group* of individuals that have endorsed any one candidate.
For instance, if candidate "x" is endorsed by 5 sitting City Council members, yuo're going to hear that candidate pretty much spout what you've been hearing at City Council meetings. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it just is.
It's really too bad that we can't get the local public media channel to a higher profile in times like this, because then we would see additional dynamics take place.
In municipal elections, turnout is rather low, and most people are not deeply aware of issues, so they vote largely on who is endorsing, name recognition (thus, the proliferation of yard signs), and buzzwords.
There is also an element of good grassroots campaigning that works in a candidate's favor. Getting out and getting seen, especially if one has a compelling physical presence, or is charismatic, is a big help.
I look at endorsements when I don't know much about the candidates. At that point, I'm looking for high name recognition--someone I know enough about.
For this election, I'd note who had Gail Price's support among the nonincumbents because I want someone who has similar views.
Zero endorsements tends to read to me like a fringe candidate--not a serious bid.
I don't pay a lot of attention to newspaper endorsements, but I read the coverage and the reasoning behind the endorsements to see whether I agree with it.
Endorsements by people I know and respect make me take a harder look at the candidates, but do not definitively make up my mind. I have watched and heard great things about Melissa from a number of people long before the campaign started. That made me take a closer look and I have liked what I have seen. I personally talked to Camille Townsend about some very troublesome things that were going on with the district and she promised to explore those problems and never followed up -- in fact, even though she already knew the superintendent had handled things in a probably illegal and certainly less than professional way in the situation I brought to Camille's attention, she was the one Board member among the current bunch who was coziest with Mary Frances, from what I observed, and of course that too makes a difference to me -- actually, a far greater one than her stance on MI. I have had interactions with Wynn and his wife both at Barron Park and around issues there, and those experiences necessarily affect the way I see him as a candidate because I felt they bore directly on what I am looking for in a candidate.
For the other candidates, the ones I have not personally interacted with or heard much about from people I know, I am looking at their websites and listening to their messages as well as watching them in public. I couldn't care less how many "name" people they got to endorse them, and in fact I think many people have all sorts of self-interested reasons for endorsing a candidate beyond just feeling they are the best person for the job. Even if people I know endorse or oppose them, ultimately some issues weigh more in my equation than in others'.
How are others deciding?
Get harmony back!
Seven years ago, my wife and I moved to Palo Alto, largely attracted by the excellent Palo Alto school system. Since moving to Palo Alto, we've appreciated the quality education our daughter and son have received. Here I would like to say "thank you" to all PAUSD's teachers, staff, and current board members.
Since last year, I've noticed that the Mandarin Immersion (MI) program has became more and more of an issue. Although the board voted to adopt MI, the issue was handled in a way that led to many unwanted consequences, such as many unhappy parents, a divided community, and an overworked school board.
Let me say up front that MI would not benefit any of my children. It's having a scientist's conscience that has driven me to want to serve my community. I have used my research approach to study the MI issue. First, I put the MI issue into the category of "foreign language education for K-12." Second, I searched for all related historic and current information I could find in that category. Let me briefly present my research results here.
1. On January 5, 2006, President Bush launched the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI). Chinese is listed as a "critical need" foreign language. NSLI provides $24 million to help critical need languages education in K-12 through FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) grants.
2. On May 19, 2006, the Department of Education's OELA published a notice inviting applications for new FLAP grants.
3. In fall 2006, many school districts received FLAP awards:
Saint Paul Public School District was awarded a FLAP grant of about $680,000 for the Chinese Articulation Project.
Michigan's Lansing School District received an $801,556 three-year grant. The grant will fund the expansion of a program in Mandarin Chinese.
These facts show that MI supports the national strategic interest. While PAUSD's school board was fighting over the MI issue, other school districts in the nation were rapidly advancing in Mandarin Chinese education with the help of federal grants. My observation is that the board did not properly handle the MI issue. This mistake cost us dearly. It cost time, resources, and harmony in our community. This was partially due to board members not having solid experience with handling federal grants. This lack of relevant experience limited their vision to have only a local (rather than global) perspective. A board with members having diverse backgrounds and experiences could have prevented this kind of mistake. An independent scientist would be a good choice for the board.
I was invited to be an NIH grant review panelist. I know that federal grants not only provide financial assistance but also support strategic directions and critical needs of the nation. I want to contribute my experience to PAUSD.
Let's look forward. The nation is giving PAUSD another chance!
Recently, California Congresswoman Susan Davis introduced legislationthe U.S.-China Language Engagement Actwhich provides $20M for 2008, and $25M for fiscal years from 2009 to 2012 for K-12's Chinese language education. PAUSD cannot afford to lose this new chance to win a federal grant for its Mandarin Chinese education. My experience in handling federal grants will help tremendously for PAUSD to win in the next round of FLAP grants. Winning a grant would save PAUSD a lot of time and resources. There would be no more fighting over the MI issue.
In 2008, we will start two MI pilot classes. I suggest that the admission policy should include two clauses. First, applications from non-Mandarin speaking families should be accepted with priority. This is designed to guarantee a fair and general access to Chinese language education. Second, students from Mandarin speaking families should constitute at least 30% of the total enrollment. This will make the "immersion" environment more realistic and challenging.
I believe that with all these done, we'd have harmony back in the community!
I respectfully disagree. We may be able to have harmony if such foreign language goals delivery systems become part of what our District wants to do, as determined through our strategic planning process and Board elections.
The problem is that it wasn't anywhere on our horizon, then it jumped the line of all other priorities and goals.
There can not be harmony with such a beginning.
There can not be harmony when there is fear that such things will happen again.
There can not be harmony when the people who pay for a school district realize they have no control over how the dollars will be spent. It is taxation w/o representation, a fundamental belief of many of us.
I do not intend any of this to be disrespectful. And nothing is meant to be personal at all. I admire your coming onto this forum to explain your thinking. I just hope you can understand that the type of thinking you are using to justify this particular program could be applied to many different programs, and it would still completely bypass some fundamental principles that many of us hold dear. No matter what the program, if it comes to pass in our District in this way, it will generate the same amount of divisiveness. We do not like losing our voices..our vote..the process of our democracy.
Thank you 'Respectfully Disagree',
We all agree there is unwanted 'divisiveness' problem. I want to solve the problem. I think you want to solve the problem, too. I proposed my solution to the problem. You think my solution will not work. Then I want to listen to your solution.
I hope brainstorm may lead us to a solution we all like.
The first step toward solving a 'divisiveness problem' is to have a firm grasp and understanding of what led to that state. Human nature dictates that 'winners' don't find outcomes nearly as divisive as 'losers'. Therefore, making a genuine and thorough effort to understand the positions of those who did not support the outcome is a mandatory first step.
Your solution, if I'm interpreting it correctly, is that since you and others consider MI to be a wonderful program for the lucky few, those who were opposed should come around and start being more harmonious.
You've done some cursory homework on the merits of MI. Please research it further: look deeper into the school districts that support MI. You will find that they don't have the overcrowding issues that we're experiencing within PAUSD. Some of them are struggling with declining enrollment and offer MI as a method of increasing attendance.
In PAUSD's MI Feasibility Study you'll find a warning about harmony and divisiveness. "On displacement of neighborhood children: All of the programs visited had in common a location where there was sufficient room that neighborhood children were not displaced. [
] Because of the challenge created by having to ensure that programs within a school come together as parts of a whole rather than seeing themselves in competition for scarce resources, program representatives advised uniformly to avoid displacing neighborhood children as much as possible."
There is also a section titled "Unintended Consequences" where it advises that: "District and site program staff would work together to address any unintended consequences. Two areas that would be monitored closely are 1) Assurance that there is a parity of classroom experience for MCIP students and other students across the district. 2) Attendance at neighborhood schools is not adversely affected by the addition of another choice program in PAUSD."
We can split hairs about Ohlone not being a neighborhood school, but there is little doubt that Ohlone's attendance will be adversely affected. I'll be watching the Board and District office with interest to see how closely they monitor the 'adverse affects' at Escondido, where for the first time neighborhood students are being bumped as a direct result of Spanish Immersion's increase from 1.5 strands to 2. If you read the PAUSD Policy, you'll find that this is in violation of District Policy which states that "Students transferring from outside the attendance area shall not displace a student who currently resides in the attendance area of a school." Can we trust the BOE and district personnel to take corrective action? How they handle this SI expansion will predict how MI's 'unintended consequences' will be managed in the future.
Please talk with those who were opposed to MI and listen. View the June 5 BOE Meeting and listen carefully to Gail Price's reasons for opposing MI. I think her reasoning style will appeal to your scientific nature.
You're asking for alternative solutions to the divisiveness. Here's one: put MI on hold until the crowding issues are solved and parents can be reassured that their children will not be bumped from their neighborhood school by a lottery program that offers additional instruction not available to all. Will this lead to perfect harmony? Not entirely. Like now, it all depends on who you ask.
Sigh, it's the same-old, same-old. Yet one more MI proponent who's so taken by the wonderfulness of MI that they really don't even hear the objections or understand them.
Mr. Liu has lived here seven years--in other words, post dot-com boom, something which had dramatic effects on Palo Alto. Unfortunately, I think his long-term perspective on the city and its schools is hindered by this. It's why he doesn't see, I think, that MI's not a cute little monster--it's something that gets right in the craw of what a lot of residents see as the overall PAUSD goal--equity in education, a strategic plan. If you've only been here a few years, you're not going to feel the same frustration over school facilities or take in how precarious the bond-passing issue is.
I think Mr. Liu wants harmony, but I don't get the feeling he understands why his views help create dissonance.