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Lost faith in MI choice and charter

Original post made by Angie Lee, Walter Hays School, on May 2, 2007

I just wanted my son to learn Mandarin. Immersion sounded a great way to do that. So I started looking at the proposed Madarin Immersion program. But the process to bring this program up to speed by PACE is unsettling to me. After feeling the tension this has caused the parents and the BoE, I don't think I would trust either a Mandarin Choice school or a Mandarin Charter school.

Comments (26)

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Posted by Parent of a prek
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 8:12 pm

I sympathize. I would have liked my children to benefit from a second language education as well. With this demonstration though, I can't help but wonder: if they treat an entire community this way, and they thumb their noses at people of influence, how will they treat the regular mom, with little means, and little resources. I'm sure I would be a nothing. I'd frankly be afraid to subject my children to their whim. I have no idea what this program would look like, what they would require, what they would demand, and who would be in charge??

What would be my recourse if I was mistreated or disgruntled? Certainly I wouldn't have the ability to appeal to the board. It's an unsavory prospect.

My child will be in kindergarten in 2008. I'll stick with PAUSD neighborhood schools, no matter how this plays out.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 2, 2007 at 8:47 pm

I've only recently started reading about the Mandarin immersion program. I've read the articles in the newspapers, I've read the letter from opponents, and heard what school board members have said but I'm still puzzled. If there are parents to support the program, why are others so adamantly against it?

Would this be happening if it were a French/Italian/German etc. immersion program? What's the underlying issue here?

We have sports programs that only certain children are eligible for. Should parents of disabled children deny others the rights to these programs simply because their children cannot participate?

I'm open to hearing other thoughts, but from where I'm watching this (outside of PAUSD), I just don't get it.

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Posted by another parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Choose the heading "Palo Alto Schools & Kids" and go back to threads leading up to the earlier vote. You'll understand.

It's not about being against immersion education, it's about being against this program on this timetable.

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Posted by wondering
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Good point. I moved here because Palo Alto is known for its great schools. Would this new choice/charter have the same quality. Can I take that chance with a start up? I'm sure it might evolve into the same reputation that Palo Alto has but my kid might be already heading into middle school by then.

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Posted by Just Curious
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2007 at 11:19 am

Just curious...

Who will be 'in charge' at this school? And what is the escalation path for parents if they are not happy with the curriculum, the teachers, the homework policies, the in-class volunteers, the donation or parent volunteer policies, etc.

Certainly we aren't supposed to believe that the 9 will defer to the rule of authority as in rule of Principal Susan Charles or authority from 25 Churchill. They have clearly shown they are in charge and retain the absolute right of refusal to be goverened. Are these 9 the defacto 'board of education' for this new program?

What is their experience, their qualfications, their expertise in running a mandarin language school?

I'd like to know before I sign my five year old over to them.

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Posted by Haven\'t lost faith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 12:46 pm


I moved to PA for the schools, and I am also interested in the Mandarin program.

Like you, I sense the unsettling hostility from a small minority. Don't let them bully you into making a decision against your wishes.

If the program comes together, I'll enter my kids into the lottery and have a close look. Despite the hostility from some, the district would not intentionally torpedo the program.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Angie: Did you mean your post the way Havent lost faith interpreted? Do you feel "bullied", or do you feel something else?

If "bullied", no reason not to go for it if you want it..nobody is going to blame you for taking advantage of something that it is your right to take advantage of once it is up and going. This is the way democracy and law abiding citizens work. You can and should do what you think is best for you and your family. Many people who fought MI coming in right now, in this way, would love to have their kids have such an opportunity, and would/will try themselves for the opportunity if they could. It isn't about whether or not MI is a good idea for some kids. It was about many things, but not that.

If you were saying you don't want to be part of something that came in the way it has and has the kinds of consequences it has for other people now and in the future, well, that is different.

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Posted by Another Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 4:58 pm

I'm with you, Angie. I would like an MI program for my own family, but do not like what is being pushed on PAUSD.

A correction to the above: the opposition to this plan is widespread in Palo Alto, it's sad that "Haven't lost faith" is trying to portray it as otherwise. A very small number of people is pushing for this program as it is. That's the small "minority" here.

A larger number would like MI in a way that works better for the district (a good part of the opposition to the current proposal). Unfortunately, the small number of people are bullying everyone else for their own interests and unwilling to compromise, which has resulted in most of the controversy and widespread opposition to MI in our city. I don't want to go to the school under such a cloud, either.

Please make your voice hear to the Board. I think all of us who want an MI program are being ill-served by this very strident, small group pushing through this very poorly conceived, expensive plan.

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Posted by Angie
a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 3, 2007 at 5:26 pm

First, I don't feel it's ‘a small minority’, ‘a few’, or 'some' on either side of this issue. It may have started that way on both sides but now it is a town divided. Before the publicity on this, there would have been many people that just didn't care one way or the other because it didn't impact them. Now with all the media hype and town square battles, people have made a conscious decision on which way they believe is 'right'. It’s not a small minority of parents anymore.

Second, I'm not afraid (or feel bullied) by PAUSD or the opponents (disappointed yes, bullied, no). It's actually PACE and how they have handled this issue that makes me squeamish. Up until the charter threat, PACE was pushing hard for something they really believed in. Now they have stepped over the line. PAUSD is now stuck between a rock and a hard spot. Potential litigation costs coming down on PAUSD with a charter school; especially if the parents of the charter school is the same parents behind PACE.

I moved here because I know and ‘believe’ that PAUSD is a great school district. As I said above, I just wanted a mandarin immersion opportunity for my son. I didn't want to dismantle the school district to get it. It looks like a long battle between PACE and PAUSD whether it's charter or choice. I know I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I had put PAUSD in this situation.

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Posted by Patience
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2007 at 5:30 pm

I checked around on my street and found many people interested in MI as a Charter program.

So I can assure you that the folks on this forum are very vocal and it makes one believe that everyone is against MI. It is far from the truth. Most MI people are culturally very quiet, but when it comes to getting organized they are very quick.

The glaring example of this quiet and action oriented has be shown more times. Example: MI proponents collected their own funds for the study that PAUSD refuse to fund. It was no small amount. There are many more examples I will keep to myself since it ruffles feathers and causes un-necessary innuendos. So best is wait and watch.

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Posted by um . . .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 6:40 pm

I am interested to know why on other threads an MI opponent who says the program is mostly intresting to native Mandarin speakers, i.e. Chinese is labeled a racist and told that most of the people interested in Mandarin aren't native speakers or Chinese at all, but Patience feels comfortable saing that "Most MI people are culturally very quiet" -- huh? So which is it, mostly low-profile, non-vocal native speakers wanting their children educated in the mother tongue, or mostly white people who just want a broader second language education for their children? Also, to say that the proponents are culturally very quiet is pretty disingenuous if by that Patience means that they don't make waves.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Patience said "Example: MI proponents collected their own funds for the study that PAUSD refuse to fund. It was no small amount."

And there we are full circle, back to the beginning of how it all started to go "wrong". Having refused to fund it, the Board was saying it wasn't the right time and way, yet, to consider such a program.

The Board should not have taken funds for a feasibility study for a program that was not on anyone's horizon in this strategic cycle, and had not been already put in a top priority position in the context of a broad strategic plan.

THAT is how the elephant got his trunk in the room, and started on the really wrong nostril.

Decisions on what and when the district wants should be made BEFORE money is taken for anything. I hope our District has learned a valuable lesson.

Money should not drive decision making.

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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 12:27 am

Nearly all of the opponents to this MI proposal that I know -- and that's a lot of people -- are in principle not opposed to an MI program, in fact many are in favor. They are just opposed to what this small, strident group is doing to our district. If PACE had been more willing to work within the realities, this would be a completely different and more positive situation -- having to deal with a few curves is just life, it doesn't make them "flexible" and certainly doesn't amount to "compromise" which they seem to think it does in their letter. (They make such a big deal of this, one is left to wonder how they could possibly make a charter school reality.) The hubris they display in that letter is just breathtaking. If they want this to be positive, they should apologize to everyone for their negative tactics, for how much time and energy they have taken away from core priorities this year, and pledge to work in a positive way through the strategic planning process.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2007 at 10:38 am

I'm opposed to a Mandarin immersion program or a charter school created for the purpose of offering MI for two reasons: (1) The District's financial situation and (2) A charter school or a MI program with language proficiency barriers to admittance will intentionally cause the charter school or MI program to be racially segregated. What about the Hispanic child or newly arrived Russian child who speaks neither English or Mandarin proficiently, but would like to be included in the lottery for the Mandarin immersion charter school or program? Where does this group of kids fit into the equation? What about those students who speak Hebrew? Should the Jewish, Russian, Indian, etc. parents now approach the Board of Education and demand the same treatment in their language of choice? Palo Alto School District cannot afford to offer this kind of language education at this time. The Board is about to ask the community to pass yet another large bond in order to meet its current financial needs. The District already projected start up costs of approximately $135,000 for a Mandarin immersion program. What happens when all the other ethnic groups want the same offering in their native language? It’s time for the Board of Education to understand the future ramifications of the decision they are about to make. Stand by your earlier no vote and review a petition for a charter school if and when it is presented by Grace Mah. Until then, show some backbone.

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Posted by take a vote
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Since the school board is having difficulties with their original vote (and stand) on the MI issue why not try a quick vote through each school and/or PiE donors and ask their opinion. A simple question could be asked.

Would you, as a taxpayer, prefer the district to spend their time and finances on any type of language immersion program for a few or a language program that would impact all elementary children in the district?

I think that the answer is pretty obvious.

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Posted by Sherlock
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Sorry, this is not a public opinion poll. Public opinion is funneled thru to your elected representatives (the board), so a PiE and/or PTA poll is not pertinent to the discussion or the process.

Since MI will not be paid for by PiE, or any bond measure, or any parcel tax, the voters and residents will not have any of their money spent on MI. The district staff will monitor and watch for the program to be cost-neutral.

Some of you don't trust the district staff, but that's a different issue...

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:11 am

I wonder if the board thinks a PIE or a PTA opinion poll would not be pertinent. Where do you think the voters and tax payers come from? What do you think Board was elected to do - Represent nine people who find a threat tactic?

It would be uncomfortable for the board to actually receive the public opinion information, because it would show them just how out of touch they are with the reality of what this public wants them to do with these charter/choice threats. But it would hardly be irrelevent.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Sherlock- a choice program is part of the district, and is paid for with the same funds as the rest of the district. That means bonds and parcel taxes also. PiE operates in a way that every student, whether or not in a choice program, gets an equally divided share of "the pie" after all the funds are counted. So, yes, PiE funds help fund choice students as well as non-choice students, through the discretion of each school.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm

The argument that if Mandarin immersion is implemented we'll have an equally effective campaign for dual immersion programs in all the other heritage languages of our diverse population is wrong.

Look at the time, energy, and organizing skill it has taken for MI to get this far. I don't see that kind of effective demand behind any other language, much less many of them. This is not a criticism, just an observation.

Most people don't feel the impulse to place their children in a dual immersion program--there are other excellent educational programs for their children in our neighborhood schools.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 4:13 pm


I hope you are right, but I think you may be wrong.

I have seen a very well put together website from a French group (linked through the Escondido website} and I know that our jewish community are equally well organized. I have no knowledge per se that either of these groups would be interested in a charter school, but we have no way of knowing whether they are interested in a choice immersion program.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2007 at 11:24 am


MI will be paid for with a parcel tax, like everything else around here.

Given the charter threat and the board's reaction to it, what assurance is there that the board will trim or close the MU program if it's *not* cost-neutral?

There's a huge problem with checks and balances.


Sorry it's been so tough for you and other people who wanted a language opportunity, but not at any cost. PACE could have managed things very differently. It's really pretty poisonous.

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Posted by Sherlock
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 9, 2007 at 11:59 pm

Sorry, I was unclear.

The Mandarin portion of the MI program will not be paid by PiE or parcel taxes or district funding. The English portion of the MI program will be paid by PiE, parcel taxes, and district funding just like other English classrooms in the school district.

The PAUSD kids in the MI program are entitled to funding for PAUSD kids. The teacher, the classroom, textbooks, etc. are covered by PiE, parcel taxes, and district funding. The Mandarin materials, some of which will reduce the amount of English materials (don't need English and Mandarin versions of Dr. Seuss) will be paid by parent donations, fundraising, and grants. Not district funds.

The curriculum development for the Mandarin portion of the program will be paid by the parent donations, fundraising, and grants. No teacher salaries during the school day will be spent on curriculum development. That will be done on a one-time basis on a summer stipend basis.

And it's elementary, Watson!

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2007 at 12:36 am


And just how does that work? The teachers teaching Mandarin will be paid for by the district. An assistant principal will be paid for by the district to manage the insanely overcrowded school that's about to inflicted upon us. The extra portables--six instead of the three that would have happened in a normal expansion of Ohlone will be paid for by the district.

Oh, and this strikes me as a substantial expense, bringing on teachers to assist a year early so that they're trained in both Mandarin and project-based learning is definitely an expense.

Susan Charles has ideas on how she wants to implement all of this--they may be good in terms of theory, but the sort of training involved is not cost-neutral. Fluency in Mandarin is not part of the standard elementary school teacher's repetoire.

Which brings me back to the big issue of how are we going to guarantee cost-neutrality if the board has no spine?

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Posted by Sherlock
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 10, 2007 at 7:03 am


Since you are at Ohlone, why don't you ask Susan Charles all of your pointed questions, instead of venting here? She is the ultimate source, and you have more access to her than answers here. As you have been unsatisfied with the TownSquare responses, have you checked in with Susan directly?

From what I said, you got it right:

1. The bilingual English/Mandarin teachers will be paid by PAUSD, the same salary scale as any other English-speaking PAUSD teacher. There is no extra pay for being bilingual. SI teachers likewise are paid the same as general education teachers.

2. The assistant principal would be paid by PAUSD, as in the case of any other school which reaches such high enrollment. You may feel it's insane, but we don't have 22 elementary schools any more, so packing in more kids will require more administrative supervision. That's reasonable from the principal's viewpoint. I thought some assistant principals may work part time, being shared between two big schools, as the enrollments rise and we don't bear a full assistant principal's salary at one school while it's ramping up.

3. Yes, the extra portables would have ended up somewhere in the district, and if the district grew so big as to require 6 portables at Ohlone, then it will be cost neutral to MI. Note that 6 Ohlone portables are still not a done deal (you may think so, but it's only if the pilot is approved, Garland is not opened, other sites have been considered and rejected - lots to assume on your case). If the district made those 6 Ohlone portables regular Ohlone, would you charge Ohlone as being not cost neutral?

4. Reading the recommendation carefully, you'll see that the new teachers are proposed to be brought on 6 months early, not to be paid full salary (which would not be equitable spending of PiE, parcel tax, and district funds), but as substitutes or low cost teaching interns.

5. The bilingual Mandarin/English teachers do not need training in Mandarin, and they would get the same project-based learning training that any new Ohlone teacher gets. That professional development is managed by Susan. You could ask her for details.

I hope this clarifies your comments and questions. I really recommend you talk to Susan instead of berate me.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2007 at 11:46 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If there were no MI at Ohlone, there would be, at most, expansion of a half strand. Three portables instead of six, sixty children instead of 140 (Charles wants to add a special ed class in there). No need for an asst. principal in which case. The overcrowding situation could be more evenly distributing instead of creating a mega-campus.

By the way, the campus is only approved for the expansion of three portables. Squeezing in six is in violation of the site guidelines as is, of course, the number of pupils proposed. Given the situation, busing would be a huge help, but that's another big expense, so it's going to be a mob scene.

Training, even at a discount rate, is still training. It costs money, low-paid times five (I'm assuming Monica Lynch won't need the same training.) still adds up. Again, you wouldn't need that for a simple school expansion. Not cost-neutral.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Sherlock
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 10, 2007 at 10:19 pm


Your assumption that without MI, Ohlone would only expand half a strand is only an assumption. If the district enrollment grows, and there's space at Ohlone for more portables (after level 1 expansion with 15 more portables added to all the schools, most of the schools will be beyond the capacity guidelines), and those on the Ohlone wait list are clamoring for expanding the Ohlone program, who's to say that Ohlone would stop at half a strand?

It's possible that Ohlone will be pressured to grow one strand for many good reasons.

Change is hard to face, and without keeping an open mind to it, you'll end up getting side-swiped.

Did you talk to Susan Charles about your questions? Questions that I'm not in as good a position to answer as Susan.

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