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Gearing up for school board elections

Original post made on Jun 12, 2007

Palo Alto school board elections are months away, but PTA Board President Melissa Baten Caswell, former 2005 board candidate Claude Ezran, and GATE Math Specialist Barbara Klausner have said they want to run.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (29)

Posted by Jon S
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 12, 2007 at 11:05 pm

"Maybe we could do more marketing, do more promotion of lunches to attract more students," he [Ezran] said. "Free movies on the terrace -- something like that would attract students."

Mr Ezran's idea is appreciated, but it is not feasible to play movies outdoors due to the impracticality of doing such. There is no way that a TV/Projector could get an image outdoors without appearing washed out. The costs do not outweigh the benefits in this case, and would be seen by many in Palo Alto as a waste of district funds.

As part of Paly's student government, I proposed and helped carry out the idea of installing plasma screen TV that is now in the Paly student center. The TV will hopefully next year show "free" movies (i believe "charging" would bring a few lawsuits our way), which should attract students to the Center, but doubtfully will get them to purchase more food if they already want to go to T+C or have packed lunches.

Creativity must be balanced with practicality.

"On the achievement gap, 'If you want to [c]lose the gap, you need to raise standard of living of people who fall into the achievement gap,' Ezran said. 'It's a societal problem, and not just linked to schools.'"

Much easier said than done. Obviously it is a problem, but it is not the place of our district to create, or fix the socioeconomic status of its students, but solely to aid those who cannot afford lunches, books, prom tickets, etc.

I disagree that the achievement gap is directly restricted to a correlation with the standard of living. The standard of living does play a role, but like Mr Ezran said, and society does create a dillema when it imposes stereotypes upon certain races, and it discourages academic achievement. Look at all the inspirational movies about academic achievement against the odds such as Stand and Deliver. To defy the norm (Hispanic kids take Calculus) takes courage, and is definitely within reach, and was accomplished in the movie, which actually based on a true story.

And so I ask what if we took a student who's family is poor, who performs badly in school, and one day they win the lottery (ok its a hypothetical, but play along). If there was money now for him.her to buy his books, take all his necessary SATs, college application fees, books, housing, tuition, etc does that make him/her a better student? It sure gives him/her a better chance, but does the money factor influence how he/she performs academically? What if he/she is demoralized and told that his/her race are not supposed to strive for achievement, and despite the financial support, fails to perform? Wealthy parents do not necessarily guarantee success. What determines if a student succeeds is his/her own personal motivation, his/her will to do well despite the circumstances.

What about the student (and I have seen many) who have no financial trouble, but are disrespectful towards teachers, apathetic about learning and oblivious to the opportunity offered in our great school for a top notch education. Shame on them! The problem extends beyond the typical race and financial categories when it comes to academic performance, and that must be recognized as well.

Palo Alto citizens need more and better cases made to them for them for them to vote for any candidate. Best of luck to all those running!

Posted by voter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 13, 2007 at 8:43 am


I wouldn't place too much emphasis on "off the cuff" remarks turned into soundbites by a reporter. These aren't policy declarations and I doubt anyone will be making decisions based on this article.

Given the board's recent performance, it certainly would be amusing if the current "president" decided to run again!

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2007 at 10:27 am

A realistic solution for closing the achievment gap is to extend the 'young fives' programs to all students who need it, not as a luxury lottery program, benefiting a rare few based on savvy parent applications as it is is today, but rather the young fives should be a pre-K program for five year olds, and extend up into first and second grade level for students that have learning and attention challenges. With entrance based on teacher/parent conference to all who need it.

All our schools should be offering the 'young' lane classes as one of their 3 or 4 strands, mixed grade if necessary to accomodate all who need it. This wouldn't just be a program for the benefit of the 'young' lane students. Advanced lane students would benefit greatly as well, because the regular classroom teachers would be enabled to focus and pace the learning in their regular classrooms to the mid and advanced paced kids. Today, the advanced kids get the short end of the stick too, while the teachers are scrambling to seve the broadest of the spectrum of student needs.

Everyone will benefit and the kids who need the slower paced attention, who studies have shown are at the greatest risk for falling behind and into the achievement gap, will get the focused attention they need.

In the SIP reviews in 2006, every PAUSD principal stood up and said we were doing a good job of assessing and indentifying the achievement gap kids, but we weren't doing a good job of serving their needs and closing the gap. ALL the principals, at every level (from high school on down) said reaching the kids early, as early as pre-K, was the need that PAUSD was not addressing.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2007 at 11:11 am


I really like what you are saying. It is ideas like these that will get someone elected onto the school board. I think we are all fed up with empty comments like "closing the achievement gap" without sound ideas. I don't really mind if an idea fails initially, it is just that we need some innovative ideas to get us going. (Failure in the sense that we don't get a program implemented rather than it fails when it starts, I don't think we want any failures in regards to the success of programs as it is children's education at stake).

Any potential candidate must have ideas that they can explain that will benefit every child not just a few. We need no more luxuries, just the bread and butter basics improved.

FLES will obviously be very much the focus and I know that Ezran was keen on that before, but if he stands on lunches alone, then he needs to get his ideas straight before he makes comments which can be misquoted or misinterpreted into making little common sense. The lunch program has to be an alternative to packed lunches, not competing with T&C, and if a family chooses to used packed lunches then that should be OK. It is for those who buy the lunches that should be satisfied with what they get and a system whereby there is no wastage should be the type of improvements we are looking for.

Posted by Andrew L. Freedman
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2007 at 11:41 am

Hi Jon,

If you’re a "typical" student, you folks seem a lot smarter than the students during my Cubberly days in the early 70s. I enjoyed reading your post – insightful and inspiring.

I did go along with your scenario and let me add that from my experience, I would say that money is not a factor in academic achievement.

I was a partier in high school and managed to graduate with decent grades, despite my lack of effort. However, classes were a chore, to me.

When I was well into my 30s, I quit my government job and enrolled at Foothill Community College taking English 1A, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology and a reading and computer lab. 24 Units.

I had very little money - I pulled my retirement and used that to pay my rent, food and books.

I maxed out earning all A's. The difference was that I "enjoyed" learning. I absolutely loved classes, research, homework, midterms and finals.

Achievement came from within, as opposed to having tons of cash on hand. Cash won't make the difference but attitude certainly will.

Unfortunately, after a semester, I had to rejoin the working world in order to pay my rent, etc. But that short time at Foothill Community College was one of the best times of my life.


Posted by Claude Ezran
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:07 pm

As Groucho Marx once said: "Quote me as saying I was misquoted."

Regarding school lunches, I said that Chartwells, our supplier, could do more to promote their “product” and attract new “customers”. This is basic marketing. Just as an example, I suggested that they might offer free smoothies to new students who buy several lunches in a given week; somehow “free smoothies” was transformed into "free movies on the terrace”!

Regarding closing the achievement gap, that was a very important part of my campaign two years ago, and still will be this year. The point I was making, is that it is important to keep in mind that several factors are at play. When basic needs, such as access to health care, are not adequately met, that can have an impact on school performance. Granted, it is beyond what the District can influence; but that needs to be clearly understood. I read many articles that elaborate on that point, more than I could detail here.

Just to set the record straight, I received about 5,100 votes in 2005, not 3,000, almost half of what was needed to get elected.

Claude Ezran

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Claude, can you tell us what your position is on Mandarin Immersion?

I for one will not argue with you on your position, I would just like to understand where you stand. It will make a difference in my vote.

Thank You

Posted by Claude Ezran
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2007 at 8:54 pm

My position is that it is high time to reunite the entire school community. The issue of Mandarin Immersion has been way too divisive, and we all lose when there is so much infighting. There are many critical issues facing the district, issues that cannot wait such as: enrollment growth, facilities planning, closing the achievement gap, maintaining world class excellence, foreign languages (e.g. FLES and expansion to 6th grade). Prolonging the debate will only defocus us from working together on what is critical. I would like to see both former sides stop prolonging a destructive war, entirely forget which side they were on, and use their great energy and passion productively to help plan for our future. During the campaign I want to carry a message of civil discourse and unity.

Claude Ezran

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Claude, do you support MI in PAUSD? As a choice program or as a charter school?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2007 at 11:01 pm

Hi Claude,

You didn't really answer the question. Let me follow up with one: Do you think MI, if successful, should be expanded at Ohlone in three years even though it means expanding the school population to 600 pupils?

If you don't support this, what should be done with the program?

This *is* an issue that will come up and will be destructive to Ohlone if not handled well. The answer matters to me and will affect my vote.

Posted by pa mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2007 at 9:08 am

Hi Claude,

Do you support expanding choice program offerings or are you a neighborhood school advocate? What is your opinion about introducing new choice programs versus expanding the size of the current choice programs?

Also, what is your opinion about peer-streaming for those students in the "grey area?"


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 9:34 am


If enrollment growth is one of the priorities on your list, then why were you not at the Board meeting last night that specifically dealt with this issue.

What are your views on opening a 13th elementary school? Which school should be re-opened and how should it be used? Can we move any of the choice programs to enable neighborhood schools function as such? Can we allow disparity in size of secondary schools? Can you think outside the box in the solution to any of these questions?

The candidate who comes up with some solutions to these problems without making peace making pleasantries, will actually be the candidate who is listened to. We need some creative thinkers and creative out of the box solutions.

Possibilities range from putting all the choice programs k - 8 in one campus (e.g. Hoover and ms DI; Ohlone and ms Connections; all SI k - 8 at one site) moving neighborhood school campuses into neighborhood schools, making commuter schools at suitable commuter locations (Greendell, Fremont Hills) and leave the campus in residential areas to revert back to neighborhood schools. etc. etc.

Barb Mitchell had a handout last night which showed that the last time kindergarten enrollments were this size in Palo Alto was in 1978 and there were 22 elementary k - 6 schools then.

We must get some real answers, so I ask for yours.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 11:15 am

I think the idea of moving all the commuter programs to a suitable commuter site, and reverting all the neighborhood campuses back to neighborhood schools is an excellent idea.

The scout for sites should begin immediately. Any ideas?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 11:17 am


There are two ideas in your post from parent above.

Greendell and Fremont Hills

Posted by parents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Those are both neighborhood schools. People live in those neighborhoods too. If you open a school and hand it over to a choice program you are displacing neighborhood schools.

Im talking about non-neighborhood schools sites. For example, there is a nice private school located in a very nice former business/warehouse site on San Antonio. Can PA do that too?

What about some part of Mayfield Mall (is that PA?) or something like that. Can a choice program commuter schools be placed by the district outside PA boundaries? What about if PA leased some unused Mt. View school sites?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Fremont Hills is located in an area that doesn't have a large enough population for a full-fledged neighborhood elementary. It would actually be a good site for a combo neighborhood/choice program since basically all of the hills area is having to commute down to Nixon.

Greendell is a small site currengly being used by the Young Fives and PSF programs, I think you mean Garland?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 2:53 pm


Greendell is used by Young Fives and PSF, but the biggest user is the JCC which will be moving out in 2010.

Greendell is the best commuter school choice as it is on Middlefield not too far away from Charleston and San Antonio, and its location makes it dubious as a suitable neighborhood school as the area it is in has Hoover and Fairmeadow fairly close. Taking students out of Fairmeadow and putting them into Greendell would not make sense except for those in the very immediate vacinity.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Ah, okay.

It's still a small site--so any choice program there would be a small one, unless you bumped the preschool and Young Fives. Main problem I see is that Young Fives isn't meeting demand, so expanding it to more than two classrooms might be something desired.

It does make sense as a commuter site--lots of parking (though often full) and it's actively undesirable as a neighborhood site--who wants their kids walking through Cubberly.

How many classrooms does the JCC take? If there are six, a single strand MI seems like a possibility. When does the JCC move out?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Greendell is 5 acres in size. The JCC are there until Aug 2010. Presently there are 14 regular classrooms and 12 modulars. Some of the classrooms are used as offices. No idea how many classrooms are used by the JCC.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Let's see, two classes for Young Fives, then,I think, five classes and part of the MP room are used for classrooms by Preschool Family. PSF and Young Fives also use the main office suite. So the portables are all for the JCC--seven classrooms and portables. The elementary would also get the big green field in the middle, which isn't used much by anyone.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Greendell bigger than Hoover? Hoover needs to be converted to a neighborhood school to serve overcrowding in the south - which is soon to be compounded with the additional housing coming up.

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2007 at 10:28 am

Fremont hills is not a neighborhood school - its leased to Pinewood, a private school.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2007 at 10:44 am

Fremont Hills, like Garland, is leased by PAUSD to a private school and like Garland, the lease can be revoked. There is no difference between the fact that Stratford School leases property from PAUSD like Pinewood.

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2007 at 10:48 am

I should have said that Fremont Hills is not currently a neighborhood school, neither is Grendell or Garland.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:07 am

As soon as PAUSD takes them back, they are all located in neighborhoods where families reside. Therefore when they are opened as PAUSD schools, they will either be neighborhood schools, or they be neighborhood schools that are being diverted into use as choice school locations.

If you live in one of those neighborhoods, and you CANT go to that school because its not being made available to you because it houses choice programs, then you are being displaced. There are people today that live right across the street from Hoover. They are being displaced by the choice program there.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm

To be fair to Hoover, it is close to both Fairmeadow and El Carmelo, which don't have the major overcrowding problems of some of the other schools. I suspect, as well, that a large portion of Hoover's students live in the area. My guess, in fact, is that the recent bump in Fairmeadow's scores may be from kids whose parents were hoping to get them into Hoover, but ended up at Fairmeadow. The area also has gung-ho Challenger and eventually feeds into Gunn. So, if you wanted that kind of education for your child, you'd look to move into that area.

If the JCC lease is up 2010, that seems like an easy switch for the MI program as in the district would have to find a new tenant anyway and because it's already a shared space, though there are fences where needed, it's not as valuable as Garland and Fremont Hills.

And Garldand ought to be opened as a neighborhood school with, maybe, an intradistrict transfer made easy for the part of south Palo Alto that's close to the school, but on the far side of Oregon.

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2007 at 1:24 pm

It would be great if both Immersion programs moved to one spot, Grendell seems like it might work. It would free up space in the North part of PAUSD at Ohlone and Escondido and eliminate the "two schools on one campus" issues (which really doesn't work if you're the 2nd class non-SI kid at Escondido). There is also probably value to having multiple language programs at one site.

Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 21, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Palo alto mom,
The problem with moving SI out of Escondido is that it would free up too much space. The surrounding neighborhoods can't come close to filling an SI void. There was a small mention in the AAAG report that suggested moving SI elsewhere (Garland) and presumably increasing its capacity to accommodate all those who'd like to get in: turn it into a true choice rather than a poor-odds lottery. Then move a smaller MI program into its place at Escondido. That would free up neighborhood spots more in proportion to the need. And, it would allow Ohlone to open up more of its own seats and become a true choice, too.

If we're going to have an immersion program at Escondido, I rather like the Escondido-SI mix. They're a good fit for each other. So, no, I'm not personally advocating this SI-MI swap idea. Just tossing it out there as one that's been mentioned.

Posted by Jon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 11, 2007 at 11:19 pm

I understand fully that Mr Ezran's statements aren't policy declarations and that he wont be making decisions based on that article (which allegedly misquotes him), but usually candidates (or prospective ones) do present ideas that they possibly toy with and may use in their campaigns, and it is necessary to critique them for their plausibility/practicality. (see note to Mr Ezran below)

Mr Freedman
I am glad for your wonderful experience at Foothill and learning topics that you are passionate about. I myself may have that luxury as I head into my senior year, because finally I can choose courses that I want to possibly pursue in depth when I go to college. Thanks for the encouragement to show me and others that money is not necessarily the barrier and determinate for academic achievement.

Mr Ezran,
I apologize if I was mislead by the article that misquoted you saying "free movies" as opposed to "free smoothies". Your free smoothies idea is brilliant, and implementing it would be beneficial to all, provided the smoothies followed state/district's nutritional policies, which can possibly pose as a roadblock.

Regarding healthcare, it is understandable (but useful?) to mention it, and I question the level of impact. Possibly the most I can envision is educating parents on the necessities of having it? Correct me if I am wrong for I am no expert in this field.

I would offer that closing the achievement gap requires examining socio-economic factors but then going beyond that because there are better ways to pursue and achieve your noble goal.
Ok another hypothetical. Kids, get a whole bunch of them, rich, poor, middle class, White, Asian, Hispanic, Black, etc. and put them in a class. Assume that they have all the "basic needs" we all desire for them. Now, give them books, pencils, notepads, a teacher, coursework. Now, get them started, and along the way, ask them what is motivating them to learn. Some will say it's the teacher and his/her inspirational teaching, some will say it's the books because they are clearly laid out, others will say because they enjoy the topic, others wont give a rat’s ars. There must be a multilateral approach towards the issue of closing the achievement gap. We can fire and hire a few teachers to get the best ones (albeit costs), we can replace/upgrade the textbooks (again, costs), but what is the best way to deal with the students on the lowest end of the spectrum? How do we motivate the unmotivated? I personally believe that is one of the most serious factors in preventing the closure of our achievement gap. Unfortunately at times, STUDENTS DON’T CARE. Give them their million dollar facilities, their brand new books, their decent teachers. Motivating? No.

Last year I took some AP courses, along with a regular course. There is a stark contrast in the student's attitude. In AP, the discussions were lively, intellectually stimulating, and in whole a better experience while the regular science course had a teacher who was greeted with disrespectful, apathetic students one could say are undeserving of receiving such a fine education in this district. I believe that those students, given the right motivation and an attitude check, would have blended well with students in the AP class. Students in the regular course degraded my experience; some decided to walk around while the lecture was happening, some decided to watch as their lab partners did all the work, and to one point degraded to where the campus security was called in to remove a non-cooperative student. Yes, unbelievably in a Palo Alto District school. Like in my previous rant, giving students the motivation is the key to solving this dilemma. Should you, Mr. Ezran realize this and propose solutions that help solve this issue, you will stand a fair chance at winning and improving our district (on top of finding constituents who support your positions on mandarin immersion, school expansion, and all the other headaches).

I wish you best of luck in your election campaign.

~Sincerely to all mentioned,
Jon, Palo Alto High

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