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Boundary Decisions no longer Relevant

Original post made by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2006

Why is PAUSD spending any time or effort on school boundaries? Someone must have forgotten to inform the community and the BOARD and the Attendance Area Review Group (AARG) that PAUSD is no longer operating on the Neighborhood School concept. Boundaries are not relevant for a District of Choice programs.

When the Board approves the next CHOICE program in February (and they are WELL on their way down this path), we will have four choice programs in our elementary schools (Hoover, Ohlone, Spanish Immersion and Mandarin Immersion), that will encompass 1220 students out of 4852. That’s 26% of our elementary students in Choice programs. That also means that another 1220 are being sent to school sites other than the closest site in their neighborhood.

So that’s 2440 students going to something other than neighborhood schools. Including inter-district transfers (about 29 this year), 51% of the students in this district will NOT be attending “neighborhood” schools. (2469/4852 = 51%)

So WHY in the WORLD are we wasting any time on BOUNDARIES? Shouldn’t the district come right out and say – The majority of this district is based on CHOICE programs. First we populate Choice programs, and then we place students at the next nearest school. Why play this game that we actually are operating a Neighborhood School community?

And in that case, then what’s our STRATEGY for operating a District of Choice programs:

Here are some questions we should be able to answer:
1) How do we decide which Choice programs are going to exist – is it first come first serve to start up new ones? Or is there to be a rationale related to community priorities? Is there a community input system for new programs? (Note – the only real criteria stated in our Choice Policy Guidelines today are around cost neutrality.)
2) How do we staff a Choice Program District? Shouldn’t we be hiring a stable of Program Directors, experts in that area? Why are there still ‘site principles’ and what are they in charge of?
3) How do we fund Choice Programs – some will cost a lot more than others, right? You’d expect Industrial Arts, Science, Technology programs to cost more than 3-R’s programs.
4) Do we care anymore about equitable cost per pupil? If so, how do we enforce that?
5) Do we care anymore about PIE? Is our Staffing Policy relevant? Don’t we need to let CHOICE programs hire their own instructional staff?
6) Are PTA funding models relevant anymore? Why do PTA’s carry the load for supplemental funding – aren’t they now secondary to the CHOICE program operations?
7) What are the criteria and reporting requirements for the ongoing operations of a particular Choice program? When do you shut them down? When are they not delivering?
8) What are our processes and rules for customizing curriculums and materials for custom Choice programs?
9) Are there different admissions processes for different programs? Are they all ‘lottery’ or do some allow for ‘qualifying’ for admission?
10) Does a district of commuter children need a system of school bussing? Why not?
11) Do we run a ‘traditional’ program anymore, or is the entire operation a matter of ‘choice’ programs? Perhaps we have a choice program called ‘Traditional’?

The BOARD is SADLY falling down on the job in terms of setting STRATEGY for this district. They’re walking with us, like Hansel and Gretel, quietly down a lovely tree lined path, without us (the Community, the Staff, or even the BOARD themselves), really understanding where we’re going or how it’s going to work. What’s going to be there when we get there?

Who’s in charge here anyway?

Comments (49)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2006 at 5:33 pm

As a point of reference, if you look at the addresses of the students attending Ohlone, you will find that a huge number live in the immediate vicinity of Ohlone and although their official neighborhood school is Palo Verde the parents have elected to choose the choice program Ohlone offers. The exact same can be said about Hoover studentsand the Fairmeadow area,and it is interesting to note that since Hoover moved from Barron Park, the number of students from that area has markedly decreased in number. It follows that many families have chosen these programs not for their educational programs, but because they are the neighborhood school and their children are able to walk or bike to school and make friends with children in their own neighborhoods which simplifies playdates, etc. The same may not be said for Spanish Immersion as they do not take up a complete campus. So, to get back to overcrowding in the elementary schools, there is more than one way to go about it in certain neighborhoods where you can choose your nearest school regardless of choice and if that fails you still have the possibility of getting into your official neighborhood school which is only slightly further away. Savvy families those that buy their homes close to Ohlone and Hoover.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Just to be perfectly clear on the 'huge number' of students that live in the neighborhoods of Ohlone and and Hoover, the 11th Day enrollment figures from this year say

Hoover: 333/364 students are interdistrict transfers in to Hoover, I guess that leaves 31 that would have been there anyway..

Ohlone: 378/421 students are interdistrict transfers in to Ohlone, leaving 43 that would have been there anyay.

By they way, Hoover program is so severe in its approach, I hardly believe that parents are choosing it just so their kids can walk to school. Hoover is primarily a commuter school - and by the way, in case there is found to be a need to free up spots in South Palo Alto for the influx of new housing coming up, I presume that means Hoover will be a prime opportunity in the AARG discussions, for being easily relocated to help preserve neighborhood attendance for as many kids as possible who actually DO care about the neighborhood school concept. After all, Hoover is already mostly mobile - for the families that are just there to be in the neighborhood - they would be able to stay when it converts to a neighborhood school - so it works out perfectly for everyone!

But back to your point - if it WERE true that folks were choosing Hoover and Ohlone mostly to stay in neighborhood schools - then why the heck are we running the Choice programs? I find that hard to believe - but if that's the case then Hoover and Ohlone folks won't have any issues with abolishing the Choice program concept... So again, works out for everyone.

If you are one of these families who's only attending Hoover/Ohlone for location, please send cards and letters to the Board and AARG so this can be made clear. All this time, they're thinking you were actually in the program because you preferred the alternative approaches.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 10:01 am


There is a difference between interdistrict transfers and intradistrict transfers. Interdistrict means coming from another district, e.g. Menlo Park, Mountain View, etc. and often these are children of PAUSD employees. Intradistrict means transfers within the district for various reasons, overcrowding being one of the reasons.

As a breakdown of the 11th day enrollment figures for Hoover and Ohlone, the following might be useful information.

Hoover total 333 ( 3 from Addison, 30 from Barron Park, 56 from Briones, 15 from Duveneck, 40 from El Carmelo, 12 from Escondido, 79 from Fairmeadow, 10 from Hays, 18 from Nixon, 70 from Palo Verde (and remember Hoover used to be located in Barron Park).

Ohlone total 378 ( 26 from Addison, 23 from Barron Park, 20 from Briones, 39 from Duveneck, 48 from El Carmelo, 16 from Escondido,47 from Fairmeadow, 32 from Hays, 7 from Nixon, 120 from Palo Verde).

Spanish Immersion total 132 (19 from Addison, 17 from Barron Park, 10 from Briones, 11 from Duveneck, 10 from El Carmelo, 16 from Fairmeadow, 12 from Hays, 24 from Nixon, 13 from Palo Verde and presumably the balance from Escondido).

From this information it can be seen that although the majority of the students do commute somewhat, the nearer they live to the choice schools the boundary in which each choice school is located makes up the biggest group. If you look at the actual addresses and locate them on a map, it can be seen very easily that the majority of students are actually walking/ biking distance from the campus.

Furthermore, if you take Palo Verde which is one of the smallest sites and has one of the fewest numbers of students, it can be seen that if all the Ohlone, Hoover and Spanish Immersion students who live within the Palo Verde boundary, then this would actually be one of the largest school populations in the elementary schools in the district.

So in actual fact, the placement of Ohlone and Hoover in their present locations is an important criteria in looking at the overcrowding of our neighborhood schools.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 10:32 am

Sorry, I mixed up my 'ter' and 'tra' in my previous comments, but my numbers hold - which you also detailed out in your message. (Available in the Board packet 9/26 on the PAUSD website.)

Those are numbers of students that attend Hoover, Ohlone that are transferred from other Palo Alto schools. Simply to show that Hoover and Ohlone are primarily not 'neighborhood' schools if neighborhood schools are defined by the school boundary lines.

Everything is within biking distance in Palo Alto, isn't it? I went to Gunn, and I lived in Midtown. I rode my bike. That's a heck of a nasty daily bike ride for a 16 year old girl with a backpack, a hairdo, and an intense desire to avoid sweating in her school clothes. Doable, but pretty darn aggravating.

You seem to be agreeing that drawing school boundaries are irrelevent because based on the map of Palo Alto - anyone can go to almost any school they want? (In all honesty, I'm not sure I'm getting your point.)

What do you mean "Ohlone and Hoover in their present locations is an important criteria in looking at the overcrowding of neighborhood schools?" What does that mean? That you think they MUST stay where they are now? Why? They are "Choice" commuter schools anyway.

Or do you agree that they can and should be movable to accomodate neighborhood schools as needed?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 11:26 am

It is beginning to look like we are talking about the same thing.

Firstly, when I talk about walk/biking distances I am talking about k - 5 which is very different from high school. Many elementary children ride bikes (or trailers on their parents bikes) or walk short distances to school. 1 mile may be the cut off point for a Kindergartner, but a 5th grader on their own may be able to ride further. However, my point is that these choice schools do have many children living close enough that this could be called their neighborhood school and treat it as such. If you drive along Louis past Amarillo about 8.00 a.m. you will see it in effect.

Of course I can't speak for each neighborhood or all parents, but deciding on a choice school is definitely an alternative to being overflowed to the other side of town. Now this is not necessarily the best way of making the decision, but I know it is happening. I have heard of Hoover parents making the decision without knowing exactly what the program included and afterwards assuming that all Palo Alto schools were the same (read the thread on teaching technology in our schools and the person requesting advice on schools in this Forum). Also, parents of incoming kinders are often given advice from their neighbors on how wonderful Ohlone (or Hoover) are and decide on that verbatim.

So my point abour Ohlone and Hoover in their present locations is an important criteria in looking at the overcrowding of neighborhood schools is just showing that if either of them were to move somewhere else (and this is purely "if", then the numbers of children from say Palo Verde (where many of them live at present) who wish to enter Palo Verde, could escalate to numbers where getting into Palo Verde would be pure luck.

At present the school boundaries are drawn in such a way that there are many problems. Not only do we have overcrowding of elementary schools in the North where elementary students are being overflowed to Barron Park, but peer streaming through elementary, middle and high schools is available in some schools but not in others. Granted that when three middle schools are divided into two high schools problems are going to arise, but if the choice programs all went to the same middle school and then high school, this problem could be alleviated.

Consequently, how should the boundaries issue be solved. It is a very complex issue and many factors come into the pot. However, with the present overcrowding, the new housing coming into play starting fairly soon and the demographics of elderly people moving out and younger people moving into Palo Alto primarily for the schools (all anecdotally) then the opening of another elementary, middle and high schools would be a better option.

Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 12, 2006 at 11:42 am

Parent and Bystander -- I think you are agreeing but getting hooked up on language.

Parent says (about enrollment numbers showing a higher percentage of children attending Hoover and Ohlone from elementary catchment areas that physically border Ohlone and Hoover):

"Those are numbers of students that attend Hoover, Ohlone that are transferred from other Palo Alto schools. Simply to show that Hoover and Ohlone are primarily not 'neighborhood' schools if neighborhood schools are defined by the school boundary lines."

Sure they aren't if you define it that way, but that's not the point. The point is that if you look at where the children attending Hoover and Ohlone come from, a huge number come from streets that WOULD most likely be within the defined boundary for Hoover and Ohlone IF they had their own boundary area (which, of course, they don't). What’s remarkable, then, is the extent to which they ARE neighborhood schools in everything but name.

It seems right to conclude, then, that Hoover and Ohlone have a significant population of parents choosing to send their children to the nearest school (i.e. supporting neighborhood over choice). I suppose some people could have moved to live closer to Hoover or Ohlone after getting a place, although I’d be curious to know how often that happens. And, if it does, it would suggest again how much people value being close to their school. Certainly, since entry is a lottery to these schools, it would make no sense to move to be closer just to try and get in before you had a place.

So the question seems to be, when redrawing boundaries, is it right to view Ohlone and Hoover as purely commuter schools? Bystander’s evidence suggests not. That suggests that parents really value the neighborhood model, which I think is Parent’s point.

Seems to me like you are on the same side—wanting the district to decide how much value it places on the neighborhood versus the choice models. You both seem to favor the neighborhood model. Is that right?

I agree with Parent that it would be logical for the school district to work out which it favors before the MI decision is made and before the boundaries are redrawn. The questions about strategy that Parent raised seem fundamental to me and it is disturbing if no-one can give us an answer.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 12:48 pm

I see what you're saying... That perhaps a large number of Hoover and Ohlone parents are choosing those schools for location rather than for the Program. (Honestly, never thought of this possiblity.) So in essence they are in theory sort of already operating as defacto neighborhood schools, so relocating the choice programs wouldn't necessarily move students out of the area in any real way?

That's an interesting theory - I'd be surprised... But its definitely something worth understanding. Is the AARG looking in to this? There should be a study or something of the choice program participants. If most of them say they'd stay put, even if the Choice program were relocated then we'd have to ask - why are we running choice programs at all if what matters most is neighborhood location?

If most say they'd move with the program - then we have flexibility to free up a whole school's worth of space in the Charleston Corridor.

I agree, it comes back to understanding the Choice vs Neighborhood strategy for the district. Hope the board is listening.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 2:37 pm

I have met a parent who stated that they applied for Direct Instruction at Terman because they are out of the boundaries for the school but like the idea of a "smaller" middle school. The goal was to get their child into Terman, not into a particular program. They set up a carpool with other parents with the same goal.

Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 12, 2006 at 4:31 pm

As a former PTA President at Ohlone, I am convinced that many (though admittedly not all) of the parents who choose Ohlone do so because its developmental and educational philosophy agrees with their own values. Not for everyone the lack of homework, mixed aged classrooms, active farm time, project-based learning, lack of letter grades and deep level of parental involvement in the school!

Ohlone is a unique program in Palo Alto, and a lot of us send children there because we embrace its philosophy, not because it's close to us. In fact, when my eldest began there I lived in the Duveneck neighborhood; by the time my youngest left for JLS I lived in Fairmeadow's attendance area. Didn't matter--I still sent my kids to Ohlone.

So, not all parents attend choice program schools because of school proximity--I believe, in fact, that at Ohlone, most attend because of the open education approach.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 12, 2006 at 6:57 pm

I agree with the person who started this thread, Parent. I think the fundamental decision is in which direction we want our District to go. Continue with more Lottery Alternative programs, or draw the line and keep our current and any new schools neighborhood.

I am looking at several Maps of where students live who attend each school and something called Table 3 of the Fall 2005 K-5 Students by School of Enrollment and Attendance Area of Residence, all done by Lapkoff and Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc. This is the company which does the Demographics work for us in the District.I am sorry I can't find a link for you to look at it also, but your site representative on the Boundaries Committee, ( called AARG, I think, Attendance Area Review Group or something) can provide you with an inches thick amount of papers to study, and these are some of them.

Anyway, the point is that if you get the maps which show where the students live,the "dots" for Ohlone kids or Hoover kids are literally spread all over town and out of town. The numbers are clearly provided as well in the table. These take some "teasing out", since neither Ohlone nor Hoover are considered neighborhood schools, therefore aren't evaluated for how many kids are "neighborhood" kids who attend.

If we add up all the kids who go to Ohlone from the 3 closest schools who are on the same side of Oregon, (Palo Verde, El Carmelo, Fairmeadow, they add up to about 225. If we assume that the map is fairly accurate with the "dot" placement, then it seems that roughly 1/2 the kids from these schools live on the "Ohlone side" of their neighborhood schools. If we then assume that we remove about 10 kids from this number as living within a block of their neighborhood school, and let the rest of them be called "Ohlone neighborhood kids", then this leaves us with about 100 "neighborhood kids" out of a school of about 400. Which means about 25% of Ohlone's population is "neighborhood".

This number is true for Spanish Immersion, because this program is tracked, and on the same sheet is clearly stated as "19%" being neighborhood kids. If you go through the same process with Hoover, it looks about the same as well.

So, I think it is safe to say that about 1/4 of the kids at a lottery choice program end up being neighborhood kids. Which 3/4, or 75% are being driven in. Which also means that all the neighborhood kids who WOULD have gone to their neighborhood school if it weren't a lottery choice program are commuting elsewhere. So if we end up with 25% of our elementary kids in a lottery choice program, which would be the case if we have 240 kids in Mandarin Immersion, that means 35 or 40% (my best guess) of the elementary school kid population is being driven to schools. How many of these are being forced to do so because of a choice program that ISN'T their choice, or because they couldn't get in?

Now, let me say clearly that I drive 2 of my kids to Juana and back everyday, and it is a 15 minute drive each way on a good day. This started out as an overflow from my home school, but I have chosen to stay cuz I love it. But, that is my choice.

I don't want anyone forced into driving their kids to a school that isn't their neighborhood school, so I am completely opposed to any new choice programs starting. I am especially opposed even more because they are lottery based, which means that public dollars and resources are funding programs that are not available to everyone in the District who is eligible for them. It is just pure luck if you get in or not. This is not about money. I would still be opposed even if anyone could prove to me, against all intuition, that the programs cost exactly the same as the rest of the district's education models, for the reasons of diminishing neighborhood schools and creating what is essentially a private school in a public school district.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 8:20 pm


I am completely on your side and do not want anyone to have to drive their children to school, particularly if they have to pass another en route. I am just puzzled about your definition of neighborhood school. To me, a neighborhood school would be the school that is closest. You could possibly say that the school which is closest without having to cross a major artery or railroad track. You could possibly say something slightly different. But the difficulty is that our schools are not evenly postioned throughout the district. Addison and Walter Hays are very close even though they are traditional schools. Ohlone is very close to Palo Verde and Hoover is very close to Fairmeadow. This means that many families could consider either their neighborhood school if you look just at the proximity of these schools to each other in these three cases. Moving a choice school would definitely impact the closest traditional school. I have seen the dots map which you mention and although many students do not live within a block of their school, particularly the choice schools, they do live in close proximity to this choice school rather than their official neighborhood school, even though this also may be close enough to walk/bike to.

The only schools in the district which are not having overcrowding problems are Briones and Barron Park. These two schools are also very close together and they are taking the overflow from all over the district. This is not the ideal situation from any point of view and returning either of these schools to a choice program will not help the overall situation. Re-opening the elementary school on California Avenue which is now Stratford School would be a possible solution. There could be other options. The important thing to remember is that this is a complex issue and no matter what decision is ultimately made, someone isn't going to like it.

Posted by A different point of view
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2006 at 9:05 pm

I know that this will never happen, but I would like to see all the elementary schools become neighborhood schools and eliminate all the choice programs.

I think that our neighborhood schools would be stronger communities if they were attended by the children who lived nearby and did not have students siphoned off to attend the lottery-based choice schools. I understand that the choice schools have their own communities, but those communities are created from a group that comes from its own niche rather than from the variety of families who live in a neighborhood. I am also opposed to the attitude of superiority that is sometimes exuded by parents whose children attend the choice schools. It is divisive and not productive to have parents sneer at neighborhood schools as being second rate.

I think that our district should focus on strengthening the experience for *all* our students, not just the ones who happen to be lucky enough to be awarded a spot in a choice program. For every one child who is admitted to a choice program, how many more are not? I do not believe, particularly where this Mandarin Immersion program is concerned, that this will be a program that is revenue-neutral to the district (if it were, why has so much time, money, and effort been raised to lobby it to the district?). I think that the money designated to our schools should be divided equally among them so that every child in our district has the same opportunity.

I am against commuter schools, which is precisely what the majority of the students in the choice programs are doing. If we didn't have such problems with traffic, there wouldn't have been nearly as much need to have the Charleston Arastradero corridor reworked to help the traffic problems.

But I know that there would be a huge outcry against closing the precious choice programs by those who attend them so the district won't ever do it. I would hope, though, that the district will not continue this trend and expand into yet another choice program for Mandarin Immersion.

Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2006 at 10:19 pm

Lets take a look at what would happen if there were no Choice schools:

Having the choice schools help the overcrowding that are in the North Palo Alto schools; there are 170 kids attending choice programs from North Palo Alto. Since all the North Palo Alto school sites are well into the mid-400 students, if these kids didn't go to a choice school, they would have been overflowed to another campus in South Palo Alto.

The number of Palo Verde/Fairmeadow/El Carmelo kids that attending choice schools is 294 - enough to fill one of the school sites (ie. Hoover or Ohlone, but not both).

Briones/Barron Park send 129 kids to Choice schools; given the current population of Briones/Barron Park, they could probably absorb this number of students.

In terms of "extra traffic", I think the effect of choice schools mostly the effect of the Briones/Barron Park traffic, as the overflow from the North Palo Alto schools to South Palo Alto would cause traffic anyway.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 12, 2006 at 11:46 pm

Choice schools serve an important role of "pressure relief valves" for families that feel very strongly about the pedagogy needed for their children. While neigborhood schools provide good fit for most, some parents feel their children need more structure. Rather than bicker with the teachers and the principal, the district will often help the kid to transfer to Hoover. Similarly, if neighborhood school is too confining, the district may offer to move the kid to Ohlone. Consequently, these school play an important role in the ability of PAUSD to meet the need of all kids, and in keeping the community satisfied.

Further, some of the comments above imply the belief that the choice schools are in some way "better", and that some kids are "lucky" to get into them. Choice schools are not designed to be better -- they are designed to be *different*. Not everyone in Palo Alto wants or needs Spanish Immersion for their children -- otherwise we would make it mandatory everywhere. Not everone wants or needs structure and letter grades in primary grades -- they could be easily implemented district-wide if it was so. Let us recognize the diverse needs of families and children, rather than try to force everyone into the same mold. It is this philosophical diversity that makes Palo Alto into a great school district, not some petty envy that someone's child gets Spanish while your child does not. Your child can walk to school instead, while his cannot. You choice. Your decision.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 9:48 am

About Bystander's comments. I agree, it is puzzling how we have come up with the "neighborhood" boundaries. I have spoken with a couple folks on the Attendance Area Review Group and listened at Board meetings, and I just know it is fraught with many different variables. One of them is that we try not to have elementary kids cross "major" streets whenever possible, which results in kids living closer to one school but having another school as their "neighborhood one". So, I just tried my best to use what are existing boundaries to guide my assumptions. About your comment that many of the "dots" live close to the choice school. Yes, I tried to make assumptions that concsidered that, which is why I assumed that about 1/2 of the kids of the OTHER neighborhood schools could conceivably be within "neighborhood" distance of the choice schools because they lived on the "choice school side" of their neighborhood school. It is tough because, since Ohlone and Hoover don't HAVE neighborhood school boundaries to look at to determine how many kids are "neighborhood", we just have to make assumptions. I can't actually count the dots on the "same side", but just looking at them looks like it is about half.

I hate coming to conclusions based on assumptions, but sometimes it is the best we have. As my father always told me, be careful when you "assume", because "assume" makes an "a--" out of "u" and "me".

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 9:51 am

To Wolf: Say what you want, it is a free country, but I have to take exception to you assuming that the comments against Lottery Choice programs stem from "petty envy". That would be equivalent to my assumption that pro-more lottery program folks are "greedy" or "selfish" or something. I prefer to assume that intentions are good and that we are discussing an issue, not motives.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 9:57 am

To Wolf again: As for your assumption that if someone's kid can't get into Spanish or Ohlone or Hoover but, oh well, they get to walk to school, you are missing the point. The point is that if we are using public funds for a program, in my opinion it should be available to ALL the public who wants it, not a few lucky ones. I think that is what the point is on that. So, why start another program which excludes some of the bill-payers who want their kid in it? Why not make sure everyone who wants the ones we have can actually get in?

Furthermore, you assume that if a kid doesn't get in, s/he can just walk to school. For many folks that isn't true, because they have been OVERFLOWED to another school they have to drive to anyway, because the school closest to them is full with a lottery program, or full from overflow from another school. I have to say, if that had happened to me, I would be frustrated to have bought a home in Palo Alto close to a school, only to find my kid can't go there.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 10:11 am

To Curious about how the overflow would exist whether or not there were choice programs. Yes, I agree. But I think that we can't assume that the only solution is to overflow to other neighborhood schools or create more lottery programs.

In 2005 Briones and Barron Park had about 275 kids, but this year Briones has about ...crud..I have to go on memory so somebody with an actual number on a paper correct me if I am wrong, but I want to say I just heard in a meeting that Juana has 330 and is pretty much at max capacity as a result. We put up a portable in our play yard to house the extra class we had to accomodate. I don't know what is happening at Barron. I only know that we are a rapidly growing district and that, in my own opinion, this isn't a matter of changing boundaries around, it is a matter for radical thinking. We are expecting ANOTHER 600-1500 students by 2010, over 250 of them in South Palo Alto from the new building going on. Where the heck are they going to go? This is why the AARG ( gosh, I love this name) is working so hard. Who knows what they will come up with? The field is wide open.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 13, 2006 at 10:43 am

Any program will have limits to its enrollment due to logistical constraints, choice or not. Neighbborhood schools overflow is just another manifestation of that. While the district must be encouraged to match its offerings to the demand as much as it can, there are obvious limits to that. This, however, should not be an argument to eliminate all differentials and programs. Perfect equity implies we should have all people living in a single point, all schooling provided by a single school, and have a single teacher per grade so -- heaven forbid -- someone's child will not be assigned a better teacher than his neighbor.

Having said that, trying to match supply with demand is an important goal, and trying to adjust school boundaries is exactly such an effort. Few years back PAUSD offered "child centered" choice program both at Jordan and at JLS. After there was not enough demand at Jordan, it is now offered only at JLS. Direct instruction was offered at both middle schools in the 6th grade and, since there was enough demand, Terman now also offers a complete 6-8 strand of DI. All are examples of PAUSD trying to match supply and demand.

Is everything perfect? Clearly not. But neither is everything broken, inequitable, and thoughtless. To someone that believes that school proximity is the dominant issue and everything else looks unimportant; this is not necessarily what the rest of Palo Altans believe.

Palo Alto tries to give every child what he or she needs, rather than provide each exactly identical education. This implies choices. And this is an important part of what makes us a great school district.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2006 at 11:05 am

And here's a thought. If they approve another choice program the argument 'for' is basically; 1. we have precendent to do so, we already have them going so we should be able to do another one. 2. It will be cost neutral (so no skin off anyone's nose), 3.) they are creative ways to meet diverse needs 4.) Subject X (Mandarin in terms of the next one up for decision) is a valid subject for kids to know in the 21st century (globally and economically strategic, etc.)

So, if those are the arguments, then get in line because there should very much be several more choice programs lining up for implementation. Science Academy, Math Academy, Music Academy, other languages, Technology, Arts, etc. And then you could argue WHICH one of these is BEST? So what's the plan for the next one and the next one and the next one to come on board? If no more, why not? Why does Mandarin qualify to be the LAST ONE, no matter what...?

And folks say, well that won't happen. Why not? Why wouldn't a big technology company that hurts for qualified scientists say 'well fund the start up of a technology academy school in PAUSD? Its not that far fetched, apparently all it takes is a motivated parent who knows how to raise funds, (you too can buy a private school program in PAUSD!)

My point being that there is a strategy decision here, that the BOARD needs to make - and it ties up the boundary discussion in intricate terms.

The boundary discussion we're having today is totally temporary, totally theoretical until we know the strategy and plan for the future of Choice program model (not just MI).

Doesn't anyone else sense this is a circular discussion?

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 11:06 am

Hi Wolf. Believe it or not, I agree with most of your last post. However, I don't believe most of us who oppose sliding further into the lottery choice model for the district are saying that everything is broken, inequitable and thoughtless. I read the post by the person who wants to throw out all choice programs, but I haven't ever heard that from anyone and I am pretty involved in the opposition, so I am chalking that up to simply another person's opinion.

Many of us are saying that we don't want to simply keep going down a path just because we have begun it, or because the squeaky wheel gets the grease. There are a lot of unintended consequences that need to be considered, and just as throwing out all choice programs would be an extreme, so would sliding evermore into an all lottery school system would be extreme. I, personally, want us to stop the slide now, find out what the MAJORITY want, and PLAN our future from there, through our Strategic Planning process ( which just got delayed a year because our Board and Staff are too busy to do it on schedule this year. We are a District that has done multiple, professionally performed, surveys, so I don't think it is asking too much.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2006 at 11:16 am

Hi Parent. I agree with you. That is the point I am trying to make, but you did so with vivid detail.

It is definitely NOT farfetched to think we can go down this path as you describe. There is already precedent in the rest of the nation of local big factories not being able to find folks well enough educated to work for them, so they fund a program in a school in order to get employable graduates. I am sorry, I can't think of where I just read that a few months ago, but it already exists.

I don't think the concept is wrong, I just want us to make a decision on where we are going. We have been moving for several years into more of a "one for all, all for one" model of thinking in our District, ( through the development of PiE), and I want us to decide if we are going to continue down THAT path, or down creating more limited access schools, where not all kids who qualify get in, within publically funded education.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2006 at 11:31 am

Just to let all interested parties know that the next meeting of the AAAG (Attendance Area Advisory Group) is being held next Monday, l6th October at 6.00 - 8.00 p.m. in the Boardroom at 25 Churchill. These meetings are open to the public and there is a public Forum where any member of the public can have 3 minutes to put forward their point of view. The minutes of all previous meetings are all on the web page under AAAG. The paperwork that is given to all representatives and alternatives is available to all who attend also, and usually many stay on officially or unofficially afterwards to discuss the subject amongst themselves.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2006 at 12:03 pm

In regards to the expense of adding another choice program----Does anyone know if the Mandarin Immersion program received the grant funding they applied for that was to help defray costs?

Posted by Also Curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2006 at 12:58 pm

I've heard it was declined. I wonder if the Editor of the Weekly (Jay) would do some investigative reporting on this for us?

I wonder why all the big silence from Board and Staff on this? How long have they known?

Posted by wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 13, 2006 at 2:07 pm

To the parent who wrote that "the argument 'for' is basically;
1. we have precendent to do so, we already have them going so we should be able to do another one.
2. It will be cost neutral [...],
3.) they are creative ways to meet diverse needs
4.) Subject X ([e.g.]Mandarin [...]) is a valid subject for kids to know in the 21st century "

Only items (3) and (4) are possibly valid arguments, while (1) and (2) are only implementation considerations, along with many others like logistics. It is the role of the BOE to deliberate and balance whether the arguments are strong enough, in context of additional considerations like fracturing the coherency of our educational program, or community interest.

Community interests is also why the BOE makes each and every choice program to jump through many hoops before it even considers the program seriously. Clearly we cannot affort to make or dissolve new programs every other year. Broad and sustained community interest is also the reason why the danger of fracturing our educational system in PA is much smaller than some claim -- MI has been going at it for years, showing strong and consistent support. Any program that shows this scale of support needs to be seriously considered.

And a comment with regard to the claim that we ought to do what the majority wants. I *strongly* disagree. This is not a majority/minority issue. An educational system ought to maximize the educational benefits to *every* child, and having one system that "the majority wants" is not the way to achieve it. The system should provide to the majority what the majority needs (and presumably wants :-) while poviding to various minorities what *they* need and want; as long as it is not counter to what is acceptable to society or against its direct interests.

Please stop looking at it as a zero sum game, where your neighbor's win is your loss. We should try to maximize the flexibility of the system to provide what each family needs, as long as we do not damage the main educational objectives.

Posted by Local
a resident of Nixon School
on Oct 14, 2006 at 12:11 am

I would not want our children to go to any other school in the district other than our local school. We want to live in a neighborhood, have the kids ride bikes to school and have them easily move around the community. If parents want their children to go to CHOICE type programs, then they should enroll them in private schools and not expect the Palo Alto community to subsidize all of the programs of choice. The global economy continues to evolve and the language of "choice" this year may be out of vogue in the years to come. Let's focus on providing our children with the fundamental skills of reading, writing and arithmetic at the highest possible level appropriate for each child. By challenging the children in their neighborhood schools and providing a strong community there, we will be providing our kids with a strong academic foundation and a sense of community. These will be the tools that can help them in the years to come.

What happened to the GATE program in Palo Alto schools? Is this a program of "CHOICE" that is now out of vogue as we chase after the current hot language choices? Let's refocus on what's of long-term value to the children and not be swayed by what a minority of parents want.

thank you for providing this forum.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm

To Wolf : I don't think that opposing further lottery choice programs is seeing the issue as a zero sum game.

I grew up with the belief that my rights end when they interfere with yours, and yours end when they interfere with mine. I extend the same to my needs end when they interfere with yours and vice versa. The gray space of that overlap is where we are disagreeing. I completely agree that bilingualism is an asset for any kid who is capable of it. I am trilingual, and have already spent a great deal of time and money trying to bring at least one other language to my kids who can manage it, so I am committed to the idea. If all of our other community ( AKA bill payers) priorities were met, I would support going after our lowest priority, ( 11th out of 11 on our Bregman Survey for Elementary school priorities), which is foreign language in elementary schools, AS LONG AS IT WAS FOR EVERY TAXPAYER, not just a few lottery winners.

I would even gracefully hush up if about this MI program as it is proposed if even a simple majority of the town supported it.

This is not about a choice for a few with no loss for everyone else. It is about letting some folks make choices that take away the choices of others.

It is a fact that any resources, time or money, spent on this lowest priority are resources taken away from our higher priorities. It is also a fact that any school for a lottery choice program WILL displace local kids from that school, and therefore force families, AGAINST THEIR CHOICE, into driving their kids to another neighborhood school, with all that means in terms of time, costs, and lack of neighborhood school friendships and community. It is also a fact that, so far, we have lottery choice programs where not everyone who wants in, gets in, on pure lottery luck.

So, why are we talking about creating another program with the same issues?

So, why are we even talking about this? Why aren't the proponents trying to devise a way to get what they want in a way that doesn't create more of the same problems. Onet that doesn't hurt anyone else? For example, if I were wanting to do this, and I believed that it was for the good of the future business opportunities for my kids, I would be wondering how to get this through so that everyone is happy. Maybe I would ask the businesses who supposedly are going to desperately need Americans who can speak Mandarin in 20 years to work for them to provide a site where such a program could exist. Then the building wouldn't be taking away neighborhood kid space, and the folks who believe this would put their money where their mouths are. Since one of the functions of public education is to provide citizens capable of working in our nation, I would even wonder if there would be a way to keep public dollars in it. Maybe open the discussion to petitioning the District to let the school recieve the up to the same number of dollars per student that they attract that the rest of the district gets, as long as the school is also following the standards set by the District for a PAUSD education. That way we don't keep sliding down the path of commuter lottery schools, we lower our District risks, we don't spend District time away from our own community priorities, the businesses take that on, and we even attach a caveat that the school MUST accept every kindergartener who applies, so that we eliminate most of the "private school with public funds" issue.

We could even extend that thinking to our current "Choice" programs so that everyone who wants to choose it actually get it, and at the same time think of a way that everyone who prefers their neighborhood school actually gets to go.

Call it pie in the sky, but I am just thinking aloud. I think that our "can-do" attitude can be used for the best here, and not for stuff that is going to hurt families in the future who don't even know what is coming down the pike.

I am sure there would be a lot to work through, but at least trying to keep everyone happy would be better than trying to force something through that runs over the needs and desires of so many.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2006 at 1:16 pm


What you describe is essentially a charter school. Which brings up yet another issue.

You arguments against MI seem reasonable, and are exactly the type of arguments that the board and the top admin are struggling with for the last 3-4 years with regard to MI. They may or may not reach your conclusion, but reasonable minds can differ.

Two points I'd like to bring up.

(a) If the MI is rejected on logistical grounds, then we cannot ignore the financial support offer of the MI support group. The rejection should be justified with that support already accounted for.

(b) If the MI is rejected on programmatic grounds (i.e. PAUSD shouldn't be in the business of providing second language only to a fraction of elementary kids), then SI could (ought to?) be dismantled too on the same grounds.

And two observations on those points:

- Rejection on programmatic grounds does not necessarily apply to Hoover or Ohlone, since those schools provide the same academic content as neighborhood schools, and since they provide only a different pedagogy to teach that same content.

- Any rejection of choice programs increases the "risk" of a charter school. I think it is clear that the state recognizes the need for differentiated type of schools, and that recognition is embedded in the charter school laws. This is in contrast to the stand some posters here took, pitching for uniform neighborhood schools for all. Since strong support groups like MI have shown sustained interest and financial capability, the board must always balance the risk that a push-back can become the last straw and cause them to attempt a charter school. I hope everyone understands that the money for such school will come from PAUSD and not from some businesses.

These are the type of considerations that the board must juggle when it makes decisions that affect proposals and programs with strong and sustained support in the community. Not an easy task.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 14, 2006 at 1:34 pm

I understand the Charter School argument 100%, and if enough support exists to develop one, then so be it. It would need much more support than I personally believe exists, but if it is so, then it is so. I haven't changed my mind on the basis of this argument. For me, that would be giving in to a form of fear from extortion or blackmail. "Give me this, or I will force you to give me more". Sorry, I don't think that way. It makes me want to fight harder.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2006 at 2:55 pm


Please don't call it extortion or blackmail. From these groups' point of view, they request what they think they children need, and what they believe the state already recognizes as their "divers needs." In fact, the state does recognize such needs, and that why the legislature approved the charter concept.

If we chose to use these words, they can as easily apply to the fact that the mainstream in Palo Alto attempts to blackmail a minority into giving up on their legitimate rights, and assumes that this minority has not enough savvy to assert its rights via the charter path.

As you see, this cuts both ways. Let's stay out of such loaded words.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 14, 2006 at 3:14 pm

I didn't say that anyone was extorting or blackmailing or even coercing. I am not accusing anyone of any "loaded words". I am saying that I have heard that argument from people who fear that if we don't acquiesce the proponents might go for a charter school, which would cost so much more etc, and therefore we shouldn't fight it. I feel coerced, extorted, blackmailed, whatever word you want to give it, when this is said, and I don't take kindly to it. Repeat, I did not say any proponents have "threatened" this. People can ask for whatever they want for their kids, it is their right, even duty. But one argument that doesn't work on me is, "give me this, or I will ask for more". That is my point. Doesn't work for me. Does the opposite.

Again, if the proponents can get enough support for a charter school, so be it. It takes a lot more real support than they have so far, in my opinion. And if I am wrong, then so be it, they get what they want under our laws.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 14, 2006 at 3:31 pm

Wolf, by the way, in reference to your sentence

"If we chose to use these words, they can as easily apply to the fact that the mainstream in Palo Alto attempts to blackmail a minority into giving up on their legitimate rights..."

I have tried hard, and can't see how anyone is trying to blackmail the folks who want MI, and I certainly do NOT see MI as a "right", any more than any other school concept such as a Math/Science Magnet or French Immersion ( 2 of my favorites)or an Art/Music Choice are "rights". They are "desires". If we want to start defining "rights" so loosely in education, we would be in truly a huge mess.

You are talking to someone who believes that my "rights" end when they interfere with yours, and vice versa. I don't expect the taxpayers to pick up the bill on the special desires I have for my kids. I pay for their piano lessons, I pay for sending them to Spanish lessons, I pay for their sports, I pay the tutor for educational support in writing, I pay for their educational summer camps...I don't expect a publically funded institution to pay for everything I want for my kids. My desires for my kids do not translate into "rights" for my kids. They are my wishes for them.

Anyway, I am done with this thread, I am sure everyone is sick of hearing from me, especially now that we are getting into fundamental philosophies of life. I mean, really, who cares?

So, you get the last word, Wolf. By the way, for what it is worth, I am surprised we are disagreeing so much on this issue, and listening to you has made me really think, because I agree with so much I have read from you on other threads. We actually think alike in a lot of ways. I hope we meet one day, it would be fun to yak with you.

Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2006 at 8:59 pm

Parent, Pauline, and Local - I totally agree with your comments. Certainly one central point is, if you want MI for your kids, guess what, that's fine - you already have private school options out there locally for that - go and apply. There are numerous private schools in our region. It appears Choice Programs do impact students in this district. Palo Alto is full of families and very family-oriented compared to somce cities. I believe it is unfortunate that young kids are now sometimes sent across town to schools away from their homes. I have experience elsewhere commuting to take my kids to elementary school, and I don't recommend it. Neighborhood schools are the way to go, and we are fortunate to have this arrangement in place since we have so many school sites (if the district would stick to neighborhood schools), particularly in Palo Alto which is composed of so many charming, varied neighborhoods around elementary schools.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 15, 2006 at 10:34 am

In response to another Paly Parent, I would like to echo the sentiments.

One of the disadvantages of sending your child to a choice school across town, or even being overflowed to a cross town school or the choice of going private, is that your child is then in the unfortunate position of not knowing the neighbourhood children. In our immediate neighbourhood, there are several families whose children are schooled elsewhere. They do try to get to know the children who all know each other from Palo Verde, but it is very hard for them to break the outsider mould. I wouldn't call it being ostracised, but they certainly appear "different" to our children and try as we might as parents, they do not get treated as equals because the children have no common ground. I have no idea if this happens in other neighbourhoods, but it does happen here and although all these other schooled children have lots of friends from their own schools, it is not the same as knowing all the local kids.

Posted by Curious enough to read the Ed Code
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2006 at 1:40 pm

I think there are some very significant hoops that a Charter School would require - it would be quite a leap for interested parents who might like the idea of sending their kids to a PAUSD run language program, to choose to go as far as to "Secede from the Union" and basically start and run their own school "district", including administration, financial, hiring,and student performance reporting, and all.

Also I noticed in Ed code 47605 charter school would be required to "show the means by which it will achieve racial and ethnic balance among its pupils that is reflective of the general population residing within jurisdiction of the district to which charter petition is submitted." So I'm rather thinking this program would not be likely to meet that bar given chinese popluation in Palo Alto about 14%. (In other words, in a class strand of 40 kids, that would be about 6 chinese ethnic background, and 34 other ethnicity.) I haven't seen any data yet on the demand for this program, but I'm guessing its not ethnically balanced to that large extent (not racism folks, just a statement of what the California ed code says, and the demand population for this program.)

Having said that, this is all a great line of thought for consideration, and I think the PAUSD Board should education the public in a public meeting as to the risk and rewards (and probablity of success) of the Charter School options.

I think the 'risk' of charter school is an idle threat by those who are not winning this argument on merits of the education program, who have be declined for grant, and who now wish to make the opposition go away through scare tactics.

Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2006 at 8:57 pm

you think this MI discussion is divisive, look at our neighbors for how divisive a charter school can be.

Posted by Stay informed
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2006 at 6:00 am

Charter Schools, What's Working, What's Not, and What's Next?

10/19/06 at 10:00 am
Santa Clara County Office of Education
1290 Ridder Park Drive (at Brokaw)
San Jose, CA 95131

This public hearing on charter schools will be held by the Senate Select Committee on California's Master Plan for Education, chaired by State Senator Joe Simitian.

To RSVP or for more information, please call Senator Simitian's district office at (650) 688-6384 or email with "Charter School Hearing" in the subject line.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2006 at 6:51 am


State Senator Joe Simitian presents an overview
of the problems plaguing the financing of Calif’s
K–12 schools. Prof Michael Kirst will discuss
findings of a recent school finance study & the
possibilities of organizing a political coalition
that would support finance reform based upon
adequacy, efficiency, & charters.

Wed Oct 18, Cubberley Aud, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Location: Stanford School of Education:
Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2006 at 9:22 pm

Since they closed the "Will Adminstrators help support Neighborhood Schools?" thread, I will post here.

'Get a life' and 'Wolf', seem to miss the point.. Wolf says it 'premature' to think strategically about the implications of Choice vs Neighborhood schools. But the time for strategic thinking is ahead of the curve, not after you've already rounded the curve and are headed down the cliff. The Board and the Employees of the district (including Principals, Superintendent, District Staff of all departments), should be pretty interested and engaged in defining some strategy around important changes and trends that effect this district. The essense of improved communication and trust is being on the same page in terms of goals, direction, policy, process. I don't know how you get there without a dialog.

(By the way, the district has moved a LOT more in the direction of Choice programs versus neighborhood schools in recent years. They approved expansion of SI into middleschool last year, they approved expansion of the SI elementary program for added enrollment this year, and they have moved aggressively forward on MI with a request for $750K in Grant funding. The have significantly more district children in alterntave programs than just the 4 elementary programs. And the number of students displaced by choice programs brings the total numbers effected by choice up to about 40%-50% of the district. I don't think its premature, I think its on the doorstep of being too late.

The momentum on Alternative programs is forward, I think the time is now for the expectations and appropriate management decision making. Not wait until we're full speed ahead, wondering why nothing is working and trying to extricate ourselves from confusion and anger. (Or is it too late for that?)

What's the big objection to defining the district's strategy on choice vs Neighborhood schools? Why WOULDN't the Board and the Administrators want to ask and answer questions of stategy and goals? What's the harm in defining the forward looking strategy? How can they be expected to do their jobs without knowing? Unless they ~like~ it this way.. no communication, everthing run by secret agenda, close door sessions, no pesky public expectations to bind them, and no one bothering to step up to the plate and set the direction in the open. I don't understand why Wolf would object to an honest discussion of future strategy on choice programs. Better to get one's own agenda satisfied behind closed doors?

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2006 at 11:36 pm

Dear "Parent",

The district already has a clear strategy. I posted the link before, and here it is again: Web Link

It clearly says there (answer to QA2):

'The Board of Education approved the choice policy
to support appropriate development of school choice
programs in the District. Specifically, the policy
“supports alternative programs that are educationally
sound and consistent with the PAUSD mission of
addressing diverse educational needs of children.”'

Which part of this is unclear to you? I can understand that you disagree with it. I can't understand why you keep writing that there is no strategy. Instead, maybe you should write "there is no strategy that I like."

Further, the claim that 40-50% are affected by choice is simply an obfuscation and fear mongering. Choice programs enrollment-wise are less than 3 out of 12 elementary schools and will stay this way for the foreseeable future, with or without MI. As to "affected"... well, I'd say 100% are affected. Some some for the better, like those Duveneck neighborhood kids that actually find a place in Duveneck, since other kids from their neighborhood chose to go to Ohlone instead. Some for the worse, like when an Ohlone kid needs to travel another 400 yards to Palo Verde. Is this such a terrible price to pay for a bit of educational variety and choice?

The district and the board have been rather deliberative on this. If four years of deliberations seem insufficient to you, I wonder what will be sufficient. Other than getting your way, of course.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2006 at 12:22 am

The questions not answered are listed as the first post in this thread. That's the part that is unclear to me. If you can answer these questions, (or I should say if the BOARD has officially set forth the answers to these questions), please send the information/link on where these questions have been answered.

The 40-50% is just a simple fact (with some room for difference in definitions provided for in the range). No obfuscation or fear mongering necessary. Its just what can be found in the 11th day enrollment data. And any person reading this is free to look this up by looking at the board packet 9/26 on or by attending the AARG meetings.

The Ohlone kids will not be walking 400 yards to school when the AARG moves them to Barron. (for example) Or will they quit the program to remain in the Neighborhood? Good question. Can we ask?

I don't know if its a terrible price to pay - I guess that's why I'd like the BOARD to ask the community if they want to stay a district of Neighborhood Schools or switch to a district of Choice programs. And what's wrong with switching?

The existing policy does not state what will become of this district, only states a list of questions that would be asked in a feasibility study. Almost completely void of strategy or policy (other than what you stated above, and that they must be cost neutral and equivalent in cost to average cost per pupil of the rest of the district). I guess your use of the words 'price to pay' are very relevent - what is the price to pay for choice?

So, if they have been deliberative, I would just like to read their findings somewhere. Please send a link.

Not sure why this conversation is so offensive to you. Why shouldn't the community members ask how this district is going to organize itself. My 'way' is information and clarity. Sorry if that is troubling for you.

Posted by what don't you understand?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2006 at 11:58 am

1) How do we decide which Choice programs are going to exist – is it first come first serve to start up new ones?

** The board policy says to start a program, go thru the process. Sure, first come first serve. Can you predict the future? It does not say the first coming will get served, but at least it will be evaluated first, and voted on first.

Or is there to be a rationale related to community priorities? Is there a community input system for new programs?

** The process includes community interest. The process was determined before the latest "strategy planning of the day" method. The board's job is to include priorities in the discussion and vote.

(Note – the only real criteria stated in our Choice Policy Guidelines today are around cost neutrality.)

** And what's wrong with that?

2) How do we staff a Choice Program District? Shouldn’t we be hiring a stable of Program Directors, experts in that area? Why are there still ‘site principles’ and what are they in charge of?

** No, we shouldn't be hiring a stable of program directors. Why? Hoover, Ohlone, and SI don't have one. Other school districts with choice programs don't.

** Site principAls are educated professionals to handle any elementary school, regardless of education philosophy. Have you talked to Dr. Susanne Scott, Susan Howard, or Gary Prehn about their abilities to manage their schools?

3) How do we fund Choice Programs – some will cost a lot more than others, right? You’d expect Industrial Arts, Science, Technology programs to cost more than 3-R’s programs.

** The funding for choice programs will not cost a lot more than others - WRONG. As you mention, by definition, choice programs must be cost neutral. I don't expect IA, science, and tech programs to cost more than 3R programs. Why do you? It's not clear that those programs would be approved as you pose them, if they cost more than others.

4) Do we care anymore about equitable cost per pupil? If so, how do we enforce that?s

** Yes, the process calls for equitable cost per pupil. We enforce it by looking at the budgets, which is part of the feasibility study. Why don't you trust people to follow the process?

5) Do we care anymore about PIE? Is our Staffing Policy relevant? Don’t we need to let CHOICE programs hire their own instructional staff?

** Read the policy. We all care about PiE. No, choice programs do not hire their own instructional staff. They hire California credentialed personnel, paid the same as all other teachers, and have their own professional development appropriate to their school's philosophy. Do you look beyond your nose?

6) Are PTA funding models relevant anymore? Why do PTA’s carry the load for supplemental funding – aren’t they now secondary to the CHOICE program operations?

** PTAs fund their individual schools, whether they are choice or not. Do you know about PTA funding? Why would they be secondary to choice program operations? What do you mean by this?

7) What are the criteria and reporting requirements for the ongoing operations of a particular Choice program? When do you shut them down? When are they not delivering?

** Those are valid questions which may be addressed, but are certainly not required to start a program. Since we haven't had to look at shutting any down, it hasn't been a problem to figure out how to do it. I would guess that the definition of success would need to be measured and may include test scores, parent satisfaction, costs (insure there are no cost overruns), community opposition (hard to measure), etc.

8) What are our processes and rules for customizing curriculums and materials for custom Choice programs?

All choice programs teach the same standard Palo Alto (California education code) curriculum. There's different methods of teaching, but the curriculum is the same. The materials are adjusted for the method of teaching. No major customization or special expensive stuff. Most everything is out-of-the-box (we're not the first to do these programs), or low-cost variations of what we have.

9) Are there different admissions processes for different programs? Are they all ‘lottery’ or do some allow for ‘qualifying’ for admission?

The lottery will be the same for all programs.

10) Does a district of commuter children need a system of school bussing? Why not?

If this district is full of commuter children, that means most of the neighborhood schools have commuter children. What's your point?

11) Do we run a ‘traditional’ program anymore, or is the entire operation a matter of ‘choice’ programs? Perhaps we have a choice program called ‘Traditional’?

General education programs thrive in our neighborhood schools. What's your point?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2006 at 2:43 pm

Your answers illustrate perfectly, the perfect lack of vision that this district will suffer from as it moves to an Alternative/Choice program model.

In a district of Choice programs, there would be many different choice programs, and a variety of programs with different models, and different operating requirements.

How does the community decide which choice programs its going to run? Well, according to you, you say first come first serve - sort of like the person who lines up in front of the record store the night before gets the best seats to a concert (ie: luck and gamesmanship.) And then, the only real criteria from there is that it would have to be cost neutral (and of course that the kids must be able to pass the star tests at the end of the year). So using this 'process for deciding' we could end up with another few language programs, a soccer school, a fishing school, and an astronomy school.

So what's the RATIONAL process that this district is going to use to decide which choice programs its going to run?

And you see, you're answering the rest of the questions from the myopic perspective of our existing 'neighborhood school' bias - our EXISTING policies. But in a district of choice programs, ~equity~ and ~lottery based admissions~ are no longer necessarily viable. A program that requires a science lab, or a technology lab has a different set of needs and requirements than a traditional 3-Rs program. That is, if you want them to be successful. Same with staffing policy. Why would you strap the ability of the program directors to hire the right kinds of staff, and not all types of expertise will come at the same price.

"Most everything out of the box" - you see that again is myopic and narrow thinking. You mean for ~the current~ program on the table everything is out of the box (we'll see about that shortly), but the next one to come along? and the next one? Why should everything be 'out of the box' if we're embracing alternative programs? If everything must be out of the box we should be happy with mainstream programs.

Even in our beloved language immersion programs, lottery based admissions only works for kinder admissions. AFter kindergarten year, language proficiency testing is required. So technically, based on today's policy - that program does not adhere to policy as soon as kids are tested for admission. (But without backfill, they couldn't maintain class sizes, so I guess they don't fly under current policies?)

So, Equity in every way shape and form isn't necessarily the formula for success in a choice program model. Otherwise, you strap choice programs with the limitations we have in our policies today, they will struggle. And we want them to be successful if we're doing them, right? (I mean we're PAUSD right? So I presume we want to do them right.)

So you ARE correct in saying we already have all these policies based around equity across the district - so we have policies that don't fit a strategy of Alternative/Choice program models.

That's why we have to have the board tell us the strategy, and then create the right policies for that strategy.

Once last illustration - even today with MI, they got outside funding for the feasibility study (within policy), took 20% of Norm Masuda's time on the study, replaced his classroom time with temp teachers, with the incremental costs funded by PACE. But they say the extra funds that PACE gave the district to replace Masuda, actually were paying for MASUDA, but not the TEMPS. So the incremental funding did not pay for the incremental costs. The existing funding paid for the incremental cost, and the incremental funding paid for the existing costs. Sound baffling? Because its a shell game, to get around the PIE policies that say private funds can't pay for direct instructional staff. See MI is already bumping up against (and bypassing) existing district policies that strap choice programs from meeting their special needs.

Now tell me that the district is set up to optimize choice programs. Its not. Its set up to optimize neighborhood schools.

Strategy and Policy discussion needed now.

Posted by anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2006 at 3:25 pm

It's unfortunate that much of the opposition to MI looks at this as all or nothing. Black or white.

Think in color, perhaps?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2006 at 10:26 am

Well, I didn't know we were talking about MI. I thought we were talking about successful strategies for moving this district to a choice program model.

But on the subject of MI, I'm not sure what you mean by 'think in color'. Do you mean by asking the board and the community to think outside the box, to explore options and broader possibilities?

Interesting suggestion.

I've heard requests asking the board to explore comprehensive world language strategies for elementary schools.

I've also heard requests to have the board consider several different methods for language education.

And I've heard requests to have the board consider language education options that are inclusive to all children in the community.

Can you be more specific about what you mean by 'thinking in color"?

It would faboulous to think we can do one very specialized program and then do a whole bunch of other options as well. But given scarce resources, streteched and reduced district staff, and competing priorities, I think in a public school district it's more realistic to understand you have limited resources, and must look for the programs that have the biggest student impact, on the highest priority issues, for each dollar invested.

Funny, but this again comes back to a strategy decision about being a choice district, versus being a neighborhood school district. A choice district would have quite specialized programs, with smaller student reach, with very specialized methods and funding models for each. A Neighborhood School district would operate equitable schools, equivalent in resources, benefits and would have to reach all students in the district.

So the type of programs for something like language instruction, would be completely different depending on whether you have goal of equal neighborhood schools or goals of specialty choice programs.

In a district of choice - They'd develop specialty programs one at a time, with focused goals/methods, not intended to reach across the entire district, but limited to about 1 school in scope. Perhaps some extension into upper grades. You'd expect about 12-13 speciality schools, each one with different focus, emphasis. Maybe more, because some 1-2 strand programs might share a campus.

In a district of neighborhood schools - they'd look at programs or subject areas and ask how to roll out the subject across the district to reach all students (like they did with Music instruction), and they'd design around that.

It comes back to a question of strategy. Design follows strategy.

So what is the color question? I'm not following.

Posted by gobsmacked??
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2006 at 11:01 am

This discussion is going round in circles. It seems to me that we are not talking about equal public education but private schools for special interest groups. In and around Palo Alto we have many private schools with different emphasis e.g. religious schools, foreign language schools, montessori schools, challenger schools, stratford schools, single sex schools, etc. etc. People who choose to send their children to these schools pay for what they get and that is their option. At present, although we are supposed to get free education in the public schools, this is a misnomer hence all the fund raising and begging, let alone all the charges in middle and high schools for various classes, etc. I am not mentioning this as a complaint, just a statement of fact to prove that there are many parents in Palo Alto willing to pay substantial amounts for the education of their child. This is not to take into account all the volunteer hours that many parents put in their child's education, both at school and their after school activities. I believe it was a group of parents that were able to find funding from somewhere to get the possibility of MI off the ground in the first pace.

Consequently, if this is the case and there are many parents who are willing to fund choice programs for their children, shouldn't they be looking at the various private programs around and finding one that suits their needs, rather than trying to obtain a choice program in their particular niche focus.

This would help in more ways than one. We could then return to a neighborhood school focus with more spaces for those children whose families prioritize a traditional neighborhood school without the lotteries and overflows currently abounding. There would be no need to reopen schools and realtors could advertise homes in a certain school boundary feeling confident that their new arrivals would be able to get in. We would cut down the commuting of children to distant schools apart from those who were so adamant about their child getting a certain type of education that they were willing to drive them there.

Would this make everyone happy? I am not so sure about that, but it would certainly take away some of the complaints we are having at present.

Posted by Really Curious
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Oct 25, 2006 at 3:59 pm

Does anyone know who is paying for the Mandarin Immersion feasibility study and the initial program start up costs? Not a trick question, I just am really curious.

Posted by Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Re question from Curious; I wonder why no response, people don't know, or people don't care?

Its interesting in a time of hightened public concern about special interest politics, accountability for public entities, and political funding reforms that the Palo Alto community hasn't made even a tiny little connection with special interests attempting to push through a private program into our public school district, using $ as the driving force, and no one even knows exactly who this special interest is or where this money is coming from.

Even the newspapers don't seem to care.

Surely it's not the case here, but just for the sake of argument, what if some extremist group decided to try the same thing, showered district with all the money it needed to do their program (couched it in palatable terms, of course), cozied up to the district staff for the feasibiliy study and the program design and implementation, found them their teachers and their books (even helped them write the curriculum).. Everyone is happy and off they go.. No one even bothering to ask who just bought in to a slice of PAUSD.

(Can it happen?) Spooky.

Luckily we have a trustworthy District Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent we can count on to protect our best interests.

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