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New Era for our Schools?

Original post made by Optimist, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 26, 2007

Are we at the dawn of a new era for our schools? The School Board is hearing staff testimony Tuesday on the costs of coordinating with charter schools. Wouldn't it be great if we could get not just one, but many charter schools?

Math, Art, Theater, Science, Engineering, Mandarin, Hindi, International Baccalaureate, Latino Culture, Global Development, Agriculture, Craft and Construction, Culinary Arts, Film and Video, Sports - just to name a few possibilities. Even better if all these programs could cross-pollinate ideas and exchange students around vibrant centers of excellence.

If we have a choice, let's discourage our school board from defensively approving a controversial, single elementary strand. Instead let's encourage them to open up the system and support our kids with a rich web of community-based charter schools.

Comments (16)

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Posted by jaded
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Wow, with all these charter schools, PAUSD will also save money! Since PAUSD only pays the minimum amount for all students who attend charter schools, they can use the money to improve the infrastructure at existing schools. I guess, parents of children attending charter schools will have to make up the shortfall though.

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Posted by any name you wish
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm

So does this mean that the parents who want art, math, global development et al program can first use money from anonymous sources for a feasibility study, then when PAUSD votes no for an immersion program, we can then threaten an expensive charter school ($400K? for start up?) and the board will back pedal on their decision? Just wondering. I'm also just wondering why the parents who want their kids in a Mandarin Immersion program don't go to a private school? Aren't there already Mandarin language schools in the bay area?

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 10:36 pm

Let's issue tuition vouchers. Each student who leaves PAUSD will directly save the district money, plus the additional facilities and infrastructure burden. That departing student would chose a school which would better suit that family's educational values. Instead of the endless bickering which paralyzes PAUSD from making any substantial changes, tuition vouchers would allow those who are not being well served to opt out of the status quo. Let self-interest determine how tuition funding should be allocated among competing schools.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Yes, turning PAUSD into a collection of individual school districts, each one specialized and customized, each with its own funding sources, staff, overhead board, policies, procedures, financial analysis, legal department, hiring, educational standards, is a wonderful idea - Because the charter school system has learned how to invent money.

And they've also discovered that the old fashioned notion of economies of scale is antiquated and out of date.

They have also entered the beautiful dreamlike state which leads them to believe a charter school outperforming poor education in a failing district, is just as likely to occur as a charter school outperforming excellent results in an excellent school system.

In fact for the sake of experimentation, lets go out and chop PAUSD into pieces and give it a try.

If you are a tax payer or a property owner in PAUSD you should view this as a threat to your very livelihood and please write immediately to the PAUSD Board of education and tell them you expect them to fight to keep PAUSD in tact.

You should also write to your California legislative representatives and tell them that you expect them to repair the Charter School laws to prevent vultures from waltzing in and destroying well performing school districts because they set their sites on public dollars - which the laws have left unprotected.

The people who are pushing a charter are doing so precisely because it scares you - and that's what they hope for. So that you will cave in and give them what they want. Common 2-bit terrorist tactics.

Don't be tricked. Let them go do a charter and see just how easy it is for them to match PAUSD results. Lets see how many half baked parent schemes THEY are willing to endure to make every single one of their customers delightfully enriched and happy. I give them all of about 2 weeks after their charter approval before their excellent adventure turns into an excellent nightmare.

PAUSD Board of Education. Please fight it.

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Parent, do curb the rhetoric if you can. I tend to agree with the thrust of your comments, both on the initial posting here and on the rumored MI charter proposal. Charters are a tough row to hoe, especially when the alternative is the good old PAUSD.

You also make a good point on whether the legislature anticipated that charters would be used to fund choice/enrichment in well-performing districts, not just alternatives in less well-performing districts. The wisdom of such a policy seems debatable to me.

But the strong words and name calling tend to polarize people and stifle discussion. I'm sure that's not what you intend.

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Posted by Disgusted and disappointed
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2007 at 12:11 am

I just came home from the board meeting. And can't sleep.I read the above comments and agree with most of them. I am against m.i. and a charter school here. And I would like the board to make a decision , stick to it and move on. They ask the staff who have already shown their biases and weaknesses with the Feas. Study! The charter school threat is just that. It would take a lot of work for the proponents to get it up and running. P. A. needs to stop working on this one issue and get back to all the others that have been neglected. There are many schools right now that teach Mandarin after school and on week ends, and this summer, more than that is the parents' responsibility. So, Ohlone students get a farm and now a language. Does not seem equitable to me. Please write to the Board and the papers. Maybe we should have another Hall Meeting.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2007 at 1:54 am

Oh, yeah, we get a language so we can have a crowded schoolground and a distracted, overworked staff and even worse traffic jams. And for what? So we can house some kids whose parents have zero interest in the Ohlone philosophy. Let alone community.

So we can get Mandarin? Did anyone ask us whether we want Mandarin? Frankly, since it's not immersion, I'd rather see my kid learn an easier language. One where there's a possibility of being able to read it.

Okay, back to the school board meetings.

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 28, 2007 at 10:01 am

I'd like to see an even deeper and more detailed analysis of how likely it would be that a Charter School could be ratified, and a cost-benefit analysis prepared by an unbiased, qualified financial analyst, which is not the Superintendent or her staff.

Why would PACE not just start a charter school in Mountain View, which has the space and ther esources and the interest? At this point, ramming it down Palo Alto's throats by way of blackmail starts to look pretty vengeful.

I would not want to be on the Board at this point. They have a tough job choosing between two negatives. Except Camille, who is delighted because she got what she wants irrespective of financial analysis (which she stated doesn't matter to her) -- damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

This is bad business. PACE is blowing it in the hugest way. People will be looking for ways to challenge their program on equity and other grounds long after it starts up. What a waste of precious resources.

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Posted by Disgusted and disappointed
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I understand your points and agree with you. I can't see m.i. using the Ohlone philosophy. But, where have the Ohlone parents been? Not at the board meetings. The Ohlone parents need to get involved before it is too late. It looks like m.i. is back at Ohlone's door. I don't think that immersion is necesary for young students, but I agree that parents should have a choice of languages. No other elementary schools have any languages. First we should focus on what is on the Strategic Plan, get a new superintendent, take a break, and then decide on languages. Great idea to go to the meetings!
Yes- I would also like the data analyzed by experts who are unbiased. It does make more sense that it be in an under-enrolled district such as Mountain View. And it has already been a waste of district resources. I guess not every one cares about that!

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 12:09 am

There have been Ohlone parents at the board meetings. Right after the Ohlone strategy was announced, I went to that board meeting and saw lots of Ohlone parents. Remember, the Ohlone thing was announced one day before the board meeting where it was discussed. We were then told the board was leaning against it 4-1.

One of the most active PAEE members, Becky Epstein, is an Ohlone parent whose spoken to the board several times.

Some Ohlone parents favor MI, of course. I've never met any, but a couple of people online have claimed they were from Ohlone and supported it.

I don't think it's sunk in--I mean no, means no, doesn't it?

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Posted by Neighborhood School Fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 9:28 am

The initial post confuses me. I don't think it would be great to turn a reasonably well-performing district into a cluster of cottage industries, encouraging overspecialization at the elementary school level. The early grades should be all about building a good foundation of basic skills and exposing all of our children to a broad range of experiences.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Its great if you're loaded with money and you want to create your own little kingdom with your own little bank roll for your own little kids. If you want to be a functioning member of a society who sees value in educating all kids, and leaving no kids behind, then you probably favor pooling resources and sending all kids to good, roughly equivalently good, schools to ensure all kids get the basics.

Even some people with big bank rolls see the value in excellent public schools. Realtors see it. Believe me, when the realtors in Palo Alto start seeing the PAUSD public school system erode (thanks to Grace, PACE, and their hired thugs (for-profit charter associations who are basically litigation machines), they'll feel it in their pocket books, and they'll start seeing the value real quick.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 3:34 pm


We'll all be a little less rich, but I can see worse things than having Palo Alto be more affordable for non-Google millionaires. I think the community has suffered from becoming more and more exclusively the province of the haves. I've known a lot of people who wanted to stay in PA and were forced out by housing prices.

Much, I think, of what makes Palo Alto such a nice place to live came from Palo Alto's community spirit--where people worked together to provide parks, libraries, local schools and programs. There were richer towns--i.e. Atherton--but it was the more middle-class Palo Alto that cared more about being a community.

I think the town lost something when it became not just a nice place to live, but a major status symbol. There was some of that before the dot-com boom, but that really kicked it over.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Ohlone Parent - I don't care about the property values either - I've lived here for 40 years, and I'm not going anywhere. All I'm saying is that when the school district starts taking a hit, we'll hear a bunch of people who DO care about property values start coming out of the woodwork.

And by the way, for those of you who have your ears perked up listenting for the '"R" argument, I'm not talking about 'there goes the neighborhood'. I'm talking about destruction of a valuable working school district, that offers alot of quality, choice and diversity, in favor of mini specialty schools, operated like a cluster of independent small businesses which (judging by the charter literature), have a hit or miss change of success.

I think the crowd that favors experimenting on PAUSD will receive a major dose of reality as soon as the business side of the equation kicks in. It doesn't make sense to deconstruct something that works for the community judging by almost all standards, in favor of something that works for a few, and makes the rest of it worse for everyone else.

It DOES however makes sense in communities where the schools aren't working and you can actually come in and make them better.

But you have to be operating on logic to see that side of the picture. You can operate on emotion and self interest and love the charter idea like crazy. I'm quite glad Grace will get to experience the Truth out there in the real world. Maybe she'll come around to just how good she might have had it in PAUSD before she destroyed it.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm


I agree with you. The long-term costs of this are high. So much of the district's success has been the result of longterm civic-mindedness--where you don't pursue a particular goal at any cost.

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Posted by Thinking ahead
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 31, 2007 at 9:21 am

"If we have a choice, let's discourage our school board from defensively approving a controversial, single elementary strand. Instead let's encourage them to open up the system and support our kids with a rich web of community-based charter schools."

Interesting idea, Optimist. But be careful what you wish for.

Charter schools can grow with demand, so they might siphon off PAUSD kids, a few at first, then more and more. If they want, they could take nonresidents but demand space in Palo Alto as they grow. If the charter schools are successful and become popular, they'll attract more and more PA residents, and pretty soon, PAUSD will have to close elementary schools due to lack of enrollment. Come to think of it, that would be good, because all those charters will need space.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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