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MI letter to school board

Original post made by Board Observer on May 2, 2007

Is anyone curious about the content of the letter that Dana Tom brought forth into the public domain at last night's PAUSD board meeting?

This is the letter that 9 MI supporters sent to the board to outline the explicit conditions for the MI Choice program support, that they will accept in exchange for agreeing to abstain from submitting a charter application (for now). In addition to a bullet point list, they also encourage the board to show 'good faith' by meeting their demands expediently.

It leaves no doubt about the tactics this group has used, to circumvent democratic process in this community, to undermine the Board's decision making authority, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Note to the Editor: This letter is easily as newsworthy as the Management Trust letter. Will you publish it? When?

[Letter will be posted soon.]

Comments (136)

Posted by Andrea, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2007 at 11:46 am

The Letter has made it crystal clear that PACE is in the driver's seat, that the BOE has lost all leverage, and that this district will be doing the bidding of MI proponents forever. Otherwise, out comes that charter school threat again. And copy cats will soon be presenting their special needs to the board--and getting what they want as well.
Someone at last night's board meeting addressed PACE, advising that the end does not justify the means. I think it fell on deaf ears all around.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by JFP, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 11:48 am

Any board member who gives in to this has lost my personal support. This whole process is a joke.


Posted by CPS, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2007 at 11:52 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm

With this dysfunctional board (Gail the exception) I won't vote in favor of another Bond or parcel tax (always have in the past), or donate a cent to PIE (think PIE was one of the best accomplishments in PAUSD in recent years), until my confidence in the BoE returns. Forget it - I'm withholding my support.

I would also recall a couple of BoE members in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. The saddest part of this whole debacle is the lessons it teaches our kids - Be the squeakiest wheel you can, use all the leverage you can, and maybe you will get your way too.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm

I would still like to hear from the Editor on whether that letter is going to be published or not? When? Where? Shall we copy and paste the letter here in its entirety?

Since Dana entered that into the public record, shared it amongst all board members, and discussed it in open session last night, including a statement that it is important enough to become a factor in their decision, it seems to me that its public record.

Should the public be given access to the letter in its entirety?

Editor? Why? Why Not?


Posted by Sadden, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 2, 2007 at 2:33 pm

"He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality... The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call Common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules."
--Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr

If PACE really believed in what they were doing was a worthy goal they would have continued on with the charter petition so as to get the curriculum they so desired. But seeing that they rather use force to achieve their goal does show a misguided idea of the democratic process and the ability to live among the majority. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Saddened, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 3:01 pm

PACE has from the beginning acted cooperatively, constructively, fairly, and with an eye to what is best for the whole district.

You may disagree with their assessements, but it's callow to call them names just because you disagree.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 3:21 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ask around in the district, of staff - see what they think of MI, as currently construed. They are mostly NOT in favor of it. Why weren't they polled? They weren't polled because their opinions don't count. After all, they're just the people who teach our kids.

With the exception of Gail price (who will soon term out), every single BOE member should be voted out.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
What a SAD day for PAUSD. This decision makes one wonder about the long-term worth of other key board decisions.

This is political expediency at its worst, and should be called, again, just exactly what it is - a serious lack of leadership.

Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell should be remembered for these votes; both most likely aspire to further political office here. Here's hoping they're both gone after their current term. Mandy Lowell has been wishy-washy in the extreme, on many issues. And saving the worst for last, Camille Townsend, well, words can't possibly begin to express [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 3:24 pm

btw, this action will SERIOUSLY hinder a VERY NECESSARY bond measure, upcoming. What are these people thinking, anyway? Vote them out!


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Dear Saddened - how is the divise nature of the implementation of MI "good for the whole district". Its a program which benefits few kids being forced on a district at an inappropriate time.


Posted by Tim, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Dear Sadden (and others),

"The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call Common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules."

Thomas Jefferson, no less! Why? Where does this slave holder, and justifier of the slave trade to boot, have a right to a moral high ground? In the privileged enclave of Palo Alto, where else! And then there are those who post their objections, on another thread, of Paly advertising scholarships which excludes whites! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Board Observer - If you have the letter can you please cut and paste it here? I've never heard of any restrictions on length on this board.

Thanks!


Posted by saddened, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 4:08 pm

Depose,

Well we don't know the opinion of district staff or teachers because we don't have a poll--in any case, it's the job of the board to make these decisions, not the teachers or staff, so I'm not sure why that makes a difference.

Dear PA Mom,

MI gives everyone a chance at the lottery and provides a springboard for FLES. Choice is a good thing.


Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 2, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Here is the letter, dated April 30, sent to Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom and referenced by Tom at the beginning of last night's meeting:

Web Link


Posted by Sadden, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 2, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Saddened,

No where in my posting did I call any one or group any name. I just expressed an opinion that if PACE truly felt what they wanted was worthy of their efforts they should continue with the charter path since they were already voted down. To send letters with demands and how to pass those demands onto the community in a positive way, that just shows PACE wants to take the easy way to achieve their goals rather than through the politically correct method which the majority can then accept. Even the part that was edited by the editors only alluded that our current society now has an attitude of want at all cost no matter the method used to achieve this want.

Tim, as for quoting Jefferson just because he owned slaves does not cheapen his ideas or contributions to our democratic system. He was not a perfect person as neither am I.


Posted by Angry Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 4:47 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This letter and the whole scenario should be brought to the attention of the public at large, certainly outside the Palo Alto area. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I suggest that we all do what we can to advance this story. Forward your thought to any of the local tv stations or other media outlets. Let's see if we can get some real media coverage to do some unbiased reporting and see if we can get some action here.


Posted by saddened, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 4:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Saddened - Keep trying to justify in your own mind why a lottery that benefits 5% of the district's kids (and no doubt a few others thrown in - remember those impacted areas that got a little help from SI?) means everyone benefits. Seriously.






Posted by disgusted and dejected, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 5:01 pm

After a year of having the BOE not listen to what most of P.A. wants, and after hearing that they will vote MI choice program in on 5/22 and after reading the letter sent to Mandy and Dana; there seems to be only one thing to do. RECALL. We can talk - but PACE is acting and moving ahead with it at Ohlone. Please will someone take this on?
Thanks.


Posted by Sadden, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 2, 2007 at 5:13 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As for working with people who do not support MI I would have been a supporter if the board would have voted in favor earlier. But to use the current methods to get MI passed by the board is not democratic but mere arm twisting. I would have been just as content with a charter school as that is a political method currently provided to PACE even if the district would take an initial hit in the beginning.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Just read the letter. Interesting. I see no assurances, at all, of "no charter application" once the Choice program is up and running. Seems there should be some "give" on the letter writers' parts to assure "no charter application" if A) Blah blah b) blah blah etc for a period of X years. With this as an end-letter, the Board has the Charter over their heads every time a decision has to be made concerning the MI Choice program.

Don't get me wrong. I can understand that if it is true that a lot of these guys believed that just because something was feasible it HAD to be voted in, and they gave money ( assuming they are the ones who did) to fund the feasibility study, (which they hold as a valid statement of affirmation of feasibility even though many don't), that they would feel horribly betrayed, angry and distrustful. Right or wrong, that is just a reality.

I just hope they can also understand that, right or wrong, there is an equal amount of feelings of betrayal and anger from others on the "opposite" side, and try to come to the middle a little in crafting a workable agreement. ie one that assures us that we won't be staring at the spirit of a Charter school every time the Board has to vote on something concerning the MI Choice program.

If the District staff are going to work on developing and implementing the program, then there should be assurances that their work will be respected as "sufficient" for some amount of time ( don't know the magic number of years)


Posted by Fire without an arrow !!!, a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2007 at 5:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2007 at 6:49 pm

Saddened - "MI gives everyone a chance at the lottery and provides a springboard for FLES. Choice is a good thing." Choice is not a good thing when it penalizes 10,000 kids at the expense of 500. I know you will say they are not being penalized - tell that to the parents who kids will not get in to Ohlone because there is less room, the kids at Ohlone who will be in a school where there are 2 schools on one campus (ask the non-SI kids at Escondido if they feel like it is one school), ask the kids who don't get into their neighborhood schools because we haven't addressed the boundary issues yet, the other 5000 elementary kids who do not get any language. And what if the MI supporters kids don't get into the program thru the lottery and they start a charter too?


Posted by Angry Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Editors

I understand that perhaps you do not like me saying that I feel angry.

What I do not understand is why Santa Clara County residents should not be made aware of what is happening since one of their Board members have openly signed a letter which has been made public.


Posted by another Palo Alto mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 7:25 pm

So the letter says that they will not go forward with a charter application if the BoE demonstrates its commitment to an MI program by putting into place at least some sort of MI for fall 2007. Were they not at the meeting when Principal Charles said the time to put one in place was January, and after that it just was not feaasible to put a program in place for 2007? Also, are they not aware that even a charter could not start until fall 2008? Add to that Barb Mitchell's comment that the board was "bully proof" (ha!) and Dana and Mandy's clear messaages that they were indeed being forced to put this into place,and, well, I think we all get the picture. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to let them file a charter petition, and work really, really hard with some local politicians to get the charter law changed asap, like in the next year. Playing political games seems to be the rage here, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. But let's face it, that's not going to happen. And neither, probably, will the community continue to support PiE and Bond measures. And then there's the little matter of the trust investigation and the superintendent search . . . things really do seem to be a mess.


Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2007 at 7:36 pm

To me perhaps the most significant part of the letter is this: the ten signatories ask the Board to acknowledge "Your understanding that your vote will likely adversely affect the charter school initiative (perhaps, you should ask for those parents to use their efforts to work on the choice program once again)."

That begs the question: who are "those parents"? And what "charter school initiative" is being referred to here? It sounds to me very much like there is still a charter initiative in play -- i.e. that a break-away group is still pursuing a charter proposal while the nine signatories would be happy with a choice program.

So does that mean we still have a pro-charter group that the ten signatories do not feel able to control? And instead they (the ten) are asking the BOE to reign them in? Yikes!

Isn't the implication, then, that the BOE is highly likely to receive an MI charter application anyway? In which case what good does a deal with the ten signatories do if the whole idea of going ahead with an MI choice program was to prevent an application for a charter?

Before the BOE votes, don't we need to know who "those parents" are and don't we need to know what their intentions are and whether a 'deal' can be made with them, too? Otherwise, isn't the deal being proposed by the ten letter signatories, whatever you think of the ethics/rightness of said deal, absolutely not going to produce the result (a guarantee that no charter will be sought) that the BOE so desperately wants?


Posted by PA parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Well sure we do Simon. I hope you've sent your letter the board asking them that question. I hope that the newspaper reporters who certainly must be making the rounds on interviewing these 9 signatories are asking that question.

In fact, I'd particularly like to hear Camille Townsends answer to that question since she's been instrumental in the entire Pro MI process from day one.

The letter is particularly an attempt by Grace Mah Santa Clara County BOE appointee, to extricate herself from the harmful charter tactic - because of her newfound political position. She hopes to be able to say she had nothing to do with it, when that fateful day arrives that the board finds themselves staring down a charter application. Damage Control effort.

Never mind that she herself let the cat out of the bag, I think she's now trying to push that cat back in the bag. No go.


Posted by Sadden, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 2, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Palo Alto editors,

There was nothing offensive or derogatory in my posting and therefore no reason for you to edit it and make the entire posting out of context. All I asked was to stop redirecting my opinion as a smear on a group of people. You sure have no problem letting others take my opinion and use it as a smear attack on me. All I asked is that people stop trying to use the ploy of redirecting an argument into a smear against someone so as to confuse the situation. Furthermore by not allowing me to point out the how loaded the letter PACE members sent to a couple of board members further points out that you as editors are more favorable to MI supporters than non MI supporters.

You need to better judge on what you allow and not allow on your postings.


Posted by RM, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2007 at 8:47 pm

PA Parent,
Don't expect the Weekly staff to present any unbiased reporting on this issue. In just reading the online report of last night's BOE meeting, the reporter stated that "MI opponents ramped up their retoric". The Weekly has done a very poor job of reporting on the whole MI controversy.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 8:53 pm

MI is more likely to derail than be a "springboard" for FLES. Doesn't anyone remember the same arguments with SI? Would someone like to start a petition to gage how much support there is in the community for doing FLES first in our public school district? (That means, providing some foreign language education to elementary students, plus possibly summer immersion, as the higher priority.)

MI proponents claim their program won't hurt FLES, and that parents in this district aren't interested in FLES anyway. These are the same people who keep calling their expensive plan cost neutral.

So, I wonder why more people didn't sign the letter. After all, they seemed to have a sight more signatures in the initial petitions and claim the core group is at least twice as large.

[Portion deleted from Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by taxpayer, a resident of Professorville
on May 2, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Has a careful study been done of the costs of MI, how it would be funded, and what the impact would be on other programs? I seem to recall reading in the paper a month or so ago that the "study" that had been done on this subject was incomplete (at best). If there is a meaningful study, it should be posted so that voters can consider the equities involved. My sense it that the program will benefit a small number of students at a cost that probably won't be trivial and there may be more important priorities. Is there a strategic plan that considers all of the needs of the district? My gut is with "Depose the BOE" and "Disgusted and Dejected" -- and I will vote that way absent further info -- but my more rational self says that the BOE ought to be making the FACTUAL background readily available to the public so that voters can make fully informed decisions. Post the studies, reports, budgets and strategic plans, folks. Some of us work and can't entertain ourselves coming to all of your meetings.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2007 at 9:13 pm

The feasibility study on MI was not detailed and did not include a spreadsheet or any accounting. All parties acknowledge that the current plan assumes the three portables the program will occupy at Ohlone are free, and that the cost of any additional space the program will need when it exceeds capacity for those portables after three years has not been factored into the plan. If it involves reopening a school site, it will mean costs exceeding $1.5million plus the loss of current rentals of the property.

PAEE did a spreadsheet analysis by an accountant comparing the costs of the choice and charter options, and explained all assumptions used in the analysis. It is posted on their website.


Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Last night Susan Charles started talking about needing an Assistant Principal as well for MI to work at Ohlone. Does anyone know if that is part of the plan now and, if so, from where the money for that (so far as I know, entirely new) position is coming?


Posted by Welcome wagon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Taxpayer, I had the same questions you did until recently but I have good news for you. It turns out the district did the only neutral study, and they concluded that immersion would be cost neutral. The study is available online somewhere. Have a look, I think it lays to rest all reasonable doubt. It seems like a well thought-out workable plan that would suit our community.

I am turned off by all this negative and angry rhetoric directed against the immersion program, which makes it seem like the opponents have a hidden agenda, though I don't know what that would be. I hope I am wrong.

I like the idea of having this program in our district, though my own kids are far too old to benefit. I hope that we can welcome this impending change and that the opponents can move on and contribute positively to the community.


Posted by Lynn, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 2, 2007 at 9:47 pm

My favorite statement in the letter to the Board of Education is, "The community looks to you for leadership, in word and deed."

As far as I can tell, the only BoE member for whom that's true is Gail Price, and she has stated plainly from the beginning that she will not vote for MI Choice.

The letter doesn't say how many members of the board must comply with the signatories' demands in order to make good on their pledge to forego pursuit of a charter school. But it's clear that this will not be a unanimous decision, and neither Dana Tom nor Mandy Lowell (the two BoE members to whom the letter was addressed) have authority over the board as a unit. Furthermore, the BoE cannot encumber the new members who take office in December of 2007 with the requirement that they wholeheartedly support MI.

I think the whole community would look askance if the BoE were to meet the demands of a small group of parents, citing the threat of a charter school as justification, when it refuses to meet the demands of its entire management team regarding the appointment of Scott Laurence and other concerns. Web Link

I simply don't buy the argument that the legal fees to oppose a charter school would be prohibitive. When the BoE needs to find money, it finds money. It put Joe DiSalvo on paid administrative leave exactly 21 days after passage of the renewal and increase of the district parcel tax, to the tune of $120K or so, not including his benefits for that year. More recently, it reinstated and filled a senior cabinet position that had been vacant for five years, at a cost to the district of, I don't know, $200K?

It's time for the BoE members to remember who they are elected to serve in this district, and why. As the PACE letter admonishes, "After all, in the end, this is about the children."


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Saddened, yes, the BOE makes decisions about what happens in the classroom. That's a darned shame, because the BOE is usually made up of NON-teachers. Most of those people have never taught. How would you like your profession's opolicy made by non-professionals? It's an absurd system. GO ask teachers what they think, overall, of the BOE, and watch them mostly roll their eyes. I've been there.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 11:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by another PA parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 2, 2007 at 11:09 pm

Oh what a tangle web we weave. How are we going to have a fair lottery system at the new Ohlone MI school. Those parents that paid for a rejected Feasibility study, worked tooth and nail for the last five years, struggled through the charter/choice threat and then they don't make the lottery cut for their kids. Oh my. Maybe we will just have to have the real lottery start up after the first year.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 11:24 pm

The Asian population is growing in Palo Alto; this is a wonderful thing, as it will increase our city's diversity.

What is happening with this MI vote, with BOE members carefully parsing their respective decisions, is a calculated move to pad their future political reputations and careers, and to impress a growing Asian population (largely in S. Palo Alto)

Once MI gets going, another crisis or ten will take its place. You can almost bet on that, especially in a city that appoints mostly political opportunists to a board that can hardly do any wrong in this magical demographic. (BOE mistakes here simply get "absorbed" by the superb general quality of teachers and students - - in another city, a more average city, this group would sink fast.

So, some years hence,, when this has all blown over, and MI is running smoothly (no thanks to this BOE - thank the teachers and students for that) these same BOE members will be shouting their past support for MI to the rooftops, as they take credit for encouraging cultural diversity (with a vote that came from weakness, instead of strength), and supporting Asian culture through MI. This group has probably calculated how many future votes this decision will bring, rather than doing things above board, with transparency. This is sadly ironic. If you think this is exaggeration, just watch Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom's next run for the BOE. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]




Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Depose,

Agree with "magical demographic," but there's no reason to take it further with "superb general quality of teachers and students." The real reason kids here do well on tests is that they come from, comparably, rich families. End of story.


Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 1:26 am

From above "I am turned off by all this negative and angry rhetoric directed against the immersion program, which makes it seem like the opponents have a hidden agenda, though I don't know what that would be."

NOT A HIDDEN AGENDA!!! Right out in the open! People have good reason to be angry. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] People have been making the same salient points for months and months! This is not opposition to immersion, it's opposition to attempts to ram it down the throats of the district, even though it is not a priority and we have huge problems right now because of overcrowding, and no one has bothered to explore alternative possibilities that would bring immersion yet be less hurtful to the district. It's about fairness and finances in an overcrowded district, and the fact that the program will NOT BE COST NEUTRAL.

Have you ever had to make an important point to someone else, and had them repeatedly ignore and dismiss it, and illogically cling to some opposite point? There's not a human being on earth that doesn't get angry in that situation. That's not exactly a hidden agenda!

If the group that wrote that letter had instead provided a legal contract guaranteeing that the members would personally underwrite any costs to the district beyond "cost neutral" -- and that would include any necessary buildings in three years or close down, rather than asking the district to foot the bill (since the cost of those buildings is not included in the "cost neutral" equation) -- you'd hear a lot less complaining. But then, we'd actually have to get someone to do a real accounting, because the feasibility study didn't include one, so we would have no actual costs to work from, would we?

The only neutral accounting has been done by PAEE -- the result was unanticipated and surprising to them, and all bases for the numbers were laid out in black and white. And why would you imply this accounting -- the only accounting anyone bothered to do, and done by a real professional accountant -- why would you consider it partial when the result was not what PAEE wanted but is instead ostensibly what PACE would have wanted, given that the option on the table then was charter (which the PAEE acccounting found to be considerably cheaper to the district)?

The paee web site is www.paee.us, could contact them through the site to get a copy of the accounting comparing charter vs. choice.

The most important difference is that we are stuck forever with the choice once it is started. A charter has to be renewed periodically. A charter petition is not a charter school, it involves a heck of a lot of work on an ongoing basis. I frankly don't think the PACE people want that, but if they do it, they will be far better citizens for it, and it's well worth the price.


Posted by another Palo Alto mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 6:05 am

The point was made above, but I'll make it again, explicitly: The letter says the MI proponents want MI, and they want it NOW, and implies that absent that result they will file a charter application. Now, what if the lottery is actually unbiased names-out-of-a-hat style, and these 9 by some mysterious chance don't get in. Or children of the others who have not signed the letter don't get in? Let's not be naive enough to think that anything less than MI *now*, with my child in the program, is going to satisfy. The letter does not give any assurances that hold water. And interestingly, it was addressed only to Dana and Mandy. Why not to the whole Board? This whole thing is disturbing and these does not appear to be any end in sight. I don't envy the BoE their position, but of course they got themselves here.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 9:11 am

Is there anything stopping the new board in December 2007 from revisiting this issue and deciding against it? Could that be the reason for the PACE demanding the program this September?


Posted by unbiased lottery?, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 9:27 am

Now, what if the lottery is actually unbiased names-out-of-a-hat style

Ahh, that's the problem. The Ohlone lottery isn't unbiased. Susan Charles vets the "winners" and discards them if they don't meet whatever criteria she choses. That's always been the case at Ohlone. This has been discussed on a number of threads on this forum (or just ask OhlonePar).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 9:34 am

Well, maybe we should all show up on Lottery day and watch who's names get pulled out of the hat.. I've heard in the past - how DARE WE accuse the district of an unfair lottery process, its completely transparent. We'll see soon enough.

But you know, what is further puzzling to me is WHERE are all the 800 names on the petition, the 50 or so names they put forth in a memo attachement to the 1/30th board packet, detailing the first year(s) student demand, the 20 or so names they "claim" are part of PACE? Where are they all relative to this demand letter?? They only had nine signatures? Are we to take this to mean the others are still going after charter?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I think its time we start getting some disclosure on the REAL numbers ad the intentions of the entire group.




Posted by unbiased lottery?, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 9:53 am

Not sure showing up would help. All it would do is identify who was pulled out of the hat and in what order. It is after this that Charles choses who actually "wins".

From a previous thread:

At last year's Ohlone Kindergarten information night Principal Charles flat out said that after she's randomly drawn each sheet, she reads them and then accepts or rejects them based on how she likes what people have written. So your child's name may well be drawn early enough to get a place but be rejected by the principal in favor of others whose parents said the 'right' thing.

Sounds completely arbitrary and, in this case, is likely to favor a certain set of individuals over others in the area.


Posted by another Palo Alto mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:11 am

I don't know about the lottery. I heard on various threads that the SI lottery, which is supposedly unbiased, gives preferences for siblings and children of Palo Alto teachers, etc. etc. etc. so that in fact there are only a couple of spaces for truly randomly drawn participants. How this fits with the language balance, etc., is not clear to me. And I believe that some people opposed starting MI until we had full ccountability and disclosure on the SI program, which doesn't seem to have happened. So now we will have a second immersion program without accountability and with the ability to give preferences for a variety of people, and never mind the representations to the community to the contrary. This is depressing, but not surprising. It would really be shocking if the children of the 9 remaining PACE members who are trying for an expedited MI program for fall 2007 did not get into the program. And by the way, what does 90%/10% mean? The letter says to start the program with those percentages, way off from the 30-60 and other numbers that were thrown around earlier -- before the vote against MI choice.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

Welcome Wagon,

Thank you for your calming words. I don't understand the depth of the passionate opposition to MI that comes up in many of the posts here. For the most fervent opponents, no evidence is acceptable if it suggests that trying MI would not be all that difficult or costly, and no motivation is honorable if it advances the choice MI program.

For the rest of us, it's time to look at making sure that the positive possibilities of this innovative program can be realized. Let's not lose sight of the fact that the proposal in January came from the administration with a recommendation to approve, and that the people who would actually do the work are eager to give it a try. The cost is minimal and the possible gains significant. Why many opponents of MI are eager to push against a resolution of the issue that takes a costlier and, to my mind, less beneficial MI charter off the table is beyond me.

Jerry Underdal


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:43 am

"For the most fervent opponents...No motivation is honorable if it advances the choice of MI"

Jerry are you suggesting the ends justify the means? Where is the honor you seem to think exists in the MI at all costs effort?

Would that be the honorable intention of providing a boutique language academy to a lucky 5% of the population while the rest of the elementary kids receive no language education?

Or would honorable be staking a claim on the not yet opened, but soon to be newly built Garland school, displacing 240 North Palo Neighborhood residents that would have otherwise attended that school?

Honorable would have been a compromise solution that delivered phased in language education, including mandarin, on a part time basis to all children, and the financial and organizational muscle behind PaCE to help make that a reality.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Linda, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2007 at 10:55 am

Jerry, you forgot to mention that it was voted against by the BoE 4-1. If you are going to list the details, list them all


Posted by truth in numbers, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:08 am

Does anybody know how many people were part of the Bullis Charter application effort?

Is this entire PAUSD school district seriously being put through all this MI debate and the community rancor, and the BOE and staff diversion of resources to this low priority (non-priority as far as I can tell), for years and years, all because NINE people want a special program?

("Open it and they will come" Yes but don't open it, and they will come anyway.)


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:54 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] PACE made its calculations, and wrote the letter. They had a plan, and the BOE had enough weakness to exploit. And these people call themselves 'leaders'? If that's the case, I want to know what a follower is.

Why isn't the Weekly reporting this angle?

And yes, why don't we have a REAL audit on numbers in favor of this program. Like I said before, until now I was neutral on MI, and saw both sides, but this last parry by the PACE group, and the BOE's buckling to a threat - for a program that would NOT be favored by staff, if staff was permitted to vote on it - is an insult to democratic process, and transparency.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:56 am

parent said...
"Agree with "magical demographic," but there's no reason to take it further with "superb general quality of teachers and students." The real reason kids here do well on tests is that they come from, comparably, rich families. End of story."

parent, compare this district with others that have similar demographics; it stands up pretty darn well; that's a control for teaching quality. btw, if you don't think it takes a talented teacher and site staff corp to teach talented kids, think again.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Depose,

I don't disagree that it takes a talented teacher to teach talented kids. I'm just saying that you cannot conclude that the teachers and kids are stellar just because they get stellar scores. It's obvious that rich districts produce stellar scores, whether the teachers are mediocre or good. (And let's face it, there are no geographic concentrations of intelligence among the kids, though there are geographic concentrations of wealth.)

I'd be interested to see a comparison of us with demographically similar districts.

In any case, the things that great teachers do are only tangential to standardized tests.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 3, 2007 at 2:29 pm

One poster seemed to be concerned about a "hidden agenda" of those opposed to Mandarin Immersion (MI). It would be more appropriate asking about the "hidden agenda" of the MI people.

From the beginning, they have never provided any valid reason why the Palo Alto tax payer should provide education in Mandarin to primarily ethnic Chinese residents. Their claim about "China Becoming a Superpower" and therefore the Palo Alto School System needed to start teaching the Chinese language and culture carried the same weight that having to learn German and Russian in the '60s and '70s—None!. All of those predictions (like Global Cooling) have come and gone. The MI people have really provided no other reason why public money should be spent teaching Chinese, a language which fewer than 2M (per the US Census) people speak here in America (and most of those are Cantonese).

From looking at the "Economic Super power" side of the argument, it turns out that the average per capita GDP of China is about $6,900 (per the CIA Factbook). About 50% of the Chinese population are farmers, with a per capita GDP of less than $600/year. Only about half of China speaks Mandarin, with another 100M speakers outside the homeland. English, on the other hand, as a primary and secondary language, claims about 2B speakers. While the Communist Chinese government has been pushing its language through various "outreach" programs, organizations like the UN have recently indicated that Chinese is one of the three languages in which UN documentation should NOT be provided to members (Russian and Arabic are the other two languages).

There is every evidence that China will be entering the Automobile manufacturing business within the next five years, and the airplane design/manufacture business within the next twenty years. There is no reason to believe that China plans to build manufacturing plants outside of China, when it has hundreds of millions of its citizens living on less than $2/day income to whom it has some obligation to increase their lot in life. The decline in the fortunes of the Silicon Valley can be linked (in part) to outsourcing to India and China. While the future is unknown, it's doubtful that can good Venture Capitalist will be looking to pay Americans $100/hour when they can pay Chinese employees $10/hour (or less). There is no reason not to believe that the deindustrialization of America will continue for years to come. How will Mandarin fit into this picture in twenty-thirty years?

And then there is the matter of the cultural melting pot model which has been at the core of the American education and political system for a very long time. We are seeing people saying to the PAUSD that "we have moved to the US and do not want to have our children educated in English. We will use secrecy, and every twist in the law—including the creation of a Charter School system which will have potentially destabilizing influence on the difficult to predict Basic Aid financing scheme of this District. As people who want our children educated in Mandarin—we don't really care about any thing else! It's difficult to believe that most people opposed to MI don't see this as an assault on the "melting pot" model of American socialization, and a threat to our linguistic roots that could easily Balkanize our country in the future. The pro-MI people have shown no interest in not Balkanizing our collective futures with their single-minded linguistic and cultural goals.

The FLAP Grant which was submitted to the US Department of Education indicated that the children would be educated in Mandarin language and culture in order to be "global citizens" (or words to that effect). This certainly doesn't send a signal to those of us who believe strongly in American values of a shared experience, a common language, and a belief in democratic institutions based on transparency and accountability. For the most part, the notion of a "global citizen" does not exist. Given the history of the 20th Century, with a few exceptions, the governance of the world has been under murderous dictators. China (and its culture) has never demonstrated any similarity to the American ideals just cited. Since the end of WWII, Mao Tse Tung and his co-rulers installed a most brutal Communist government in China, which has resulted in the deaths of over 65M people. In late February, Premier Wen Jiabao, the premier and China's No. 3 leader, said the country is "still far from advancing out of the primary stage of socialism. We must adhere to the party's basic guidelines of the primary stage of socialism for 100 years." So, what will the PAUSD be teaching these children in Mandarin about Chinese culture? Will this instruction be based on the culture of the current China?

There have been few names of people associated with PACE. A public records request for any/all petitions about MI/PACE resulted in a statement from the PAUSD that "no such documents exist". Apparently there was a petition at one time, but the PAUSD decided to throw it out, rather than to create a paper trail. Additionally, the Feasibility Study was paid for with secret donations. Repeated attempts to obtain the identities of those providing the money were not disclosed by the PAUSD. They claimed an exemption under the Public Records Act which allowed school districts to offer anonymity if it wants to. So, the PAUSD (meaning most likely the Superintendent) refused to identify the donors. When the issue emerged, the PACE people did not release the information. Clearly, PACE had something to hide. PACE did not seem to have much interest in American openness in its public institutions that most Palo Altans would like to see.

One name did appear on the PACE WEB-site which ended up being a woman who had adopted a Chinese child under an agreement with the Communist Chinese Government that the child would be educated in Mandarin. From articles about her and her daughter that can be found on the WEB, she was fulfilling her obligation to the Chinese government by educating her child in a private school in Mountain View. Clearly, having her child educated in a public school would free up $15,000 to $20,000 of her personal funds—shifting her contractual obligation to the Chinese government to the public to finance, rather than paying for this obligation herself, would be in her best financial interest. This issue of shifting the costs of private school to the public most assuredly be a driving motivation for most parents who are demanding the public educate their children in their native language.

Another issue turns out to be the PAUSD's indicating that it intends to involve the Communist Chinese government in the design and possibly the execution of the Mandarin Immersion program. The secret donations funded a trip to China for one of the PAUSD Administrators who interacted with employees of the Chinese Ministry of Education. No trip report was made public, so exactly what happened is not known. One of the teachers involved in MI has begun to take direction (nominally) from a group called "The Confucius Institute", which is also a sub-unit of the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goals of the Confucius Institute are to advance the occurrence of Mandarin outside of China. The funding levels of this Ministry of Education appendage are unknown. Why the PASUD needs to involve the Communist Chinese Government here in Palo Alto should be of great concern to all. Sadly, no one on the School Board has shown any interest in this matter.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

While the impact of a Charter School on the PASUD is unknown at this time, it's doubtful that it would fit into any of the plans of a "unified" school district that is as small as the PAUSD. Given some of the rules of Charter Schools about open admissions, the constraining aspects of a Basic Aid School District funding mechanism threatens to destabilize the already hard-to-understand funding mechanisms that are in place now. Anyone who claims that PACE has only operated with the best goals for the community is clearly misinformed, or purposefully attempting to misinform Palo Altans.

Charter Schools are pretty much unknowns to most people. What is clear, however, is that the Board of Education for a Charter School would not have to be elected. The governance is specified in the Charter. So, given the anti-American mentality demonstrated by the PACE people so far, it's difficult to believe that they would design governance into a MI charter that would provide much input from the public in general—which would still have to pay the bills, however.

It might be a little difficult to speak for all of those opposing MI, but certainly most of what appears in this short note has been written in public places and spaces over the past couple of years. The information about the secrecy is probably not fully appreciated because it has not been picked up by the local papers—even though all of them were informed a number of times.

So ..the question about "hidden agendas" clearly should be aimed at PACE, not those apposed to their [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] actions here in our fair city.

Wayne Martin
Palo Alto, CA


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Parent, I don't know the supporters of MI personally, but from listening to oral comments before the BOE I think it's safe to say that many of the supporters are non-Chinese parents who would like a chance for their children to become comfortable with the use of Mandarin in ordinary life, not just in a language class. Is that dishonorable? I've got to assume, too, that many of the people who originally proposed a choice MI program have seen their own children move beyond consideration for the program. If they are still active proponents, there's surely more than selfishness motivating them. For those whose children are eligible for the lottery to enter the program, they have no more assurance of their child getting in than you, should your child's name be submitted. Most native Mandarin speakers will not want to put their child into a program that doesn't develop English language skills as fast as possible. The MI Dual Immersion model calls for a third to a half of the class to be Mandarin language speakers, and in kindergarten 80-90% of instruction is to be in Mandarin. The ratio changes over time until by 5th grade it is 50-50%. You've got to have confidence in the model as a Mandarin (or Spanish) speaking parent that your child will be just fine in the end even though you may worry about your child's progress at the start. They will learn what they need to know. My point is that Mandarin-speaking parents who put their children in a Dual Immersion MI program are not selfish. They are providing a huge service to the educational program of the school. Their children are linguistic models for their classmates, and the interactions with their peers lay the base for a kind of cultural learning difficult to match outside of living abroad. Linda, you are right that the initial straw vote was 4-1 against. The first final vote was 3-2 against, the most recent vote was 4-1 in favor, and we'll find out in three weeks what the final outcome will be. Jerry Underdal


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Mr. Martin, Very well spoken. You are to be congratulated for a very clear and concise analysis of this situation, as well as bringing forward new information that our local press has heretofore not had access to, or has chosen not to bring forward.

The stunning lack of transparency in this process, and the BOE's (with one exception) buckling to PACE's overt threats to open a Charter program reveal a sdaly disappointing lack of leadership on our school board.

In addition to this fiasco, the BOE has also disappointed in other matters (again, at the risk of sounding too hagiographic, with only one member abstaining).

Staying with MI for the moment (and the purposes of this thread) our community has a RIGHT to know who funded the PACE effort. EVERY SINGLE DONOR should be revealed. if not, we should demand to know, including a "full disclosure" lawsuit, if necessary, naming BOE members who agreed to keep this information secret. (note: As it is, the Santa Clara County Board of Education is being investigated for Brown Act violation for its recent - and highly controversial - appointment of Grace Mah, the leading local proponent of MI).

Further, our taxpayers have RIGHT to know EXACTLY what connections to the Chinese Ministry of Education the MI program has, in addition to a FULL SUMMARY of any negotiations, or memorandums of agreement, or any other coopoerative efforts that have been suggested, or that have been put in place as a result of cooperation between senior officials within the PAUSD and the Chinese Ministry of Education, or any other official agency of the Chinese Communist Government.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Most of the opposition to this program is not that it is Mandarin - its that a choice program is being imposed on the district at a time when other much more pressing issues such as over enrollment, district-wide language instruction, etc. should be a priority. It is supported by our current superintendent who has maintained an administration without much transparency and is disliked and mistrusted by the principals etc. to such a degree that they are calling for her resignation. The time-line for MI is being driven by parents who (understandably) want their incoming Knder in 2008 to participate, not by the BOE who should be allowed to plan, then implement.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 3:32 pm

How can we be sure now that it was not the Chinese Government in any guise that funded the feasability study. Up until now it was assumed that the majority of the funds were donated by Palo Alto residents in the guise of PACE. Now, I am not so sure.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 3:53 pm

It's the Weekly's right to edit out what it considers to be characterizations that detract from accomplishing the goal of good back-and-forth communication. That said, it is especially disappointing to see words like "manipulative" (as applied to the PACE group's past and recent actions) and other adjectives removed from publication, _especially_ if they are used to make a logical end point, and not just for "spice".

Again, it's the Weekly's call, but one has to wonder about sanitizing recent threads in a way that forbids the full weight of a logically made argument to be brought to a weighty conclusion.

I have seen Weekly editors use these very same words in their own editorializing.

I won't lose sleep over these edits, but would only ask the weekly to more carefully parse the reasons for such edits, instead of trying to corral these arguments in a way that removes the full strength of a conclusion, by "disappearing" adjectives that are made to make a strong point, instead of merely adding "spice" or "insult" - there's a difference.


Posted by Ton ami, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Wayne,

Compadre, whoa, there, hold your horses.

Question for you: Why do you bring up the race of the people you believe will benefit? How does race bear on the issue at hand? It doesn't, huh. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You, my friend, rail against Chinese immigrants and try to drum up antagonism against them by claiming they don't want their children educated in English. Well, you clearly are unfamiliar with Chinese immigrants and immersion because both of these ideas are false. This kind of discourse does not belong in our community, and this [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] brings you out of step with the majority of anti-MI people. Drop race.

As to culture, you are confused about what culture is. Teaching Chinese culture does not mean praising the present political regime in China. Even within MI, the little red book will not be the text. Promise.

Indeed, one of the reasons why MI is a good idea is that China's economy is growing. There are many good reasons. But it doesn't matter if none of them cut if for you personally, amigo. The program is not compulsory so these objections are irrelevant.

You also complain about the lack of transparency, but PACE did not make the disclosure rules for the district, so you're barking up the wrong tree. Chase the district.

It's true that some of the parents who will eventually sign up for MI would have paid for Mandarin immersion in a private school if PAUSD had not started MI. So what? If PAUSD did not educate your child in math, you might have paid for it yourself.

Toward the end, you meandered into a worry that the communist (lions and tigers and bears, oh my) Chinese government might in some way (free consulting? free training? free materials? funding?) help PAUSD. What, exactly, are you worried about? Free is very cheap.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by go for it, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 5:22 pm

PACE has simply done what needed to be done to provide their children with MI. Since they couldn't get it in the district, they were going to go to the time, effort, money and risk to provide their own MI program. There should be absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Likewise, the board is trying to do what is best for the district. Again, there should be absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Yet, everyone is up in arms at both of these groups for "perceived" maneuvering and/or agendas!

You can't blame PACE for trying to do what is best for their kids and you can't blame the BoE for trying to minimize the impact of any educational reform.

It is neither BoE's nor PACE's fault that Charter Schools laws exist. They, and the district, are simply dealing with the consequences of those laws as best they can.

Please step back and see beyond the bully/threat/conspiracy/... based rhetoric.

As to the original subject of discussion, the board should come up with it's own letter and maybe both sides can eventually agree on the appropriate wording.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Ton ami, your point about Mr. Martin's assumption regarding the intentions of Chinese immigrants is well taken. This is the one part of Mr. Martin's opinion that walks a fine line. His statements about PACE members being "anti-American" also bears scrutiny.

But, his queries about participation of the Chinese government in funding the PACE effort (if it did) shuold be looked into. There's lots of "free" stuff out there, but it's not all good.

In all, I don't find his essay "racist"; not at all. It's somewhat disingenuous to put the entire thrust of his essay in the category of racist diatribe - it isn't.

Also, Mr. Martin makes a good critical case about the relative frenzy around the assumed necessity to learn Mandarin in order to be successful in the world. It _is_ important to learn other languages, but the idea that Mandarin will assume the position of a new lingua franca in the future is so far from any sense of reality as to question the depth of inquiry of anyone who proposes that idea.

If I were a betting person, I would bet on Spanish and Russian, in addition to a few other Western European languages having as much import to the future success of a student as learning Mandarin. Also, why aren't we pushing for Japanese, or Korean; those languages are easily as important as Chinese. Last, his questions about the PROCESS that has been taken to get MI approved are right on target. There are serious questions raised, especially about funding levels. To divert Mr. Martin's query about the latter to an accusation about racism is to beg the question.


Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 5:37 pm

go for it says..."You can't blame PACE for trying to do what is best for their kids and you can't blame the BoE for trying to minimize the impact of any educational reform."

So, you don't see anything wrong with the penalties that thhsi district would pay for havingn to deal with a Charter program, and how angling for such a program as a potential threat for PACE not getting what it wants is good for our community?

Have you asked teaching staff, en masse, what they think of instituting a program like this, at this time? Answer: no Has the BOE done that? Answer: no Why not?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Ton ami:

I've re-read Wayne Martin's post several times and didn't find any "racial obsessions." Nor do I see him "rail against Chinese immigrants and try to drum up antagonism against them by claiming they don't want their children educated in English."

I don't agree with Wayne when he says PACE has an anti-American mentality. I just think they are bound and determined to get what they want at any cost.


Posted by go for it, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Depose the BOE,

So, you don't see anything wrong with the penalties that thhsi district would pay for havingn to deal with a Charter program, and how angling for such a program as a potential threat for PACE not getting what it wants is good for our community?

This is the same as complaining that people don't pay their full property tax due to proposition 13. Yes, it damages the school district but people voted for it and haven't changed it.
You need to apply this criteria to Charter schools. It isn't PACE's fault in the same way it isn't fault of the person living in a mansion paying less property tax than the person next door in a one bedroom condo.

If you feel this is unfair and want to change it you need to change the law, not attack the people living in the mansions.


Have you asked teaching staff, en masse, what they think of instituting a program like this, at this time? Answer: no Has the BOE done that? Answer: no Why not?

But this isn't the point. The PAUSD is trying to get the best out of a bad situation so is PACE. That is why this is being revisited now.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 8:26 pm

As I have said somewhere before - if I can't get what I want for my children in PAUSD (and there are some things) then I go elsewhere at my own expense, either private school, or after school (weekend) programs which I pay for. I do not expect public schools to tailor fit my ideals, just be the very best they can. After that, it comes down to me, the parent, to provide what I feel is important for my children.

Full Stop.


Posted by go for it, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Ideally everyone would pay their fair share of property tax as well. Again, unfortunately, the laws in California allow people to pin the amount of property tax they pay.

So, yes, unfortunately the laws in California allow people to force the district provide the education that they want. Even if it means a lot of work on their side.

If you think the laws are unfair, you need to change the laws. You can't do that by attacking people that take advantage of these laws.


Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Thanks Wayne Martin for your illuminating analysis of the MI situation. I am uncomfortable with the Chinese government's human rights abuses - I can't believe people don't think about this more in general in this day and age! - and I have read that they do fund/support various initiatives in the U.S. (language/culture-oriented). I would like to know if any/all of the funds for the MI feasibility study came from the Chinese government.


Posted by ton ami, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Depose said "In all, I don't find his essay "racist"; not at all. It's somewhat disingenuous to put the entire thrust of his essay in the category of racist diatribe - it isn't."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



Posted by Depose the BOE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm

go for it says "If you think the laws are unfair, you need to change the laws. You can't do that by attacking people that take advantage of these laws."

There can be - and is - such a thing as a "community standard". What PACE has done is use the law to create a situation that will disadvantage others. I object to that. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I want someone to argue how they have NOT done what I'm claiming.

Also, you say that "PAUSD is trying to get the best out of a bad situation". Tell me, what actions by PACE precipitated, and then helped (in a big way) to bring that "situation" about? PACE and the BOE are complicit in an action that come as a result of an implied threat from PACE. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Further, that you claim teaching staff preferences for having MI are "not the point" (to paraphrase) shows exactly the state we've come to in this district, with our teachers and site administrators - the PROFESSIONALS WHO DO THE WORK OF EDUCATION - made to sit by while NON-PROFESSIONALS make decisions about resource use and curriculum. This is absurd in the extreme, and massively inefficient as well.


Posted by Listening, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Ton Ami - Free is actually very expensive as we are all learning. Would that the BOE was thinking a little more strategically and a little less reactively about raking in 'free stuff'.

The reason we all got to this point is because Dana and Mandy said 'what the heck we might get a 700K grant out of it - lets give the feasibility study a big ole happy thumbs up. No harm no foul by just investigating it -a little - for free...

How wrong they were.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Charges of racism don't help this discussion. The real issues are not the Mandarin language, nor immersion programs in general.

The eight reasons for opposing MI, as listed in a petition – which over 1,000 people signed -- are as follows:
1) It will only serve a small percentage of our student population and neglects those with special needs
2) It is not an equitable and responsible use of district resources
3) It is not part of the district's current Strategic Plan and it rated last in terms of priorities for elementary school education, as found in the Bregman Survey from Feb, 2006 (chart 7a)
4) $4 Million in budget cuts have not been restored, as promised in Measure A (refr. State of the District Report, dated 2/28/06, page 1)
5) If we have any foreign language instruction, all children should have access to it
6) It does not support the neighborhood school concept
7) It will cause more traffic congestion in our community
8) No further alternative/choice programs or charter schools should be considered by the Board until more specific criteria for such programs are established

PACE believes immersion is the only way to teach kids another language and that FLES is a not a viable option. Yet some Stanford education folks say students learn more efficiently when they're older, so languages can be taught more quickly. Last month, 60 French students from Gunn placed in the top 10 in the National French Exam, a test taken by over 80,000 students!

The tone of the letter sent to Tom and Lowell is offensive and hypocritical, e.g., "in the end, this is about the children." Whose children? The 500 who get into an immersion program? Certainly not for ALL the kids in the district and especially not for the neighborhood kids who won't be able to get into Ohlone.

It's hard to believe that any board member would react positively to such a letter. Dana Tom said, "Just because a program is feasible doesn't mean it should be approved." Yet he gave in to pressure from nine people. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] In the end, the board didn't have the courage to say, "No. This is not right for our district and for our kids."

This is hugely disappointing and embarrassing and harmful for the entire community.


Posted by go for it, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Depose the BOE,

There can be - and is - such a thing as a "community standard". What PACE has done is use the law to create a situation that will disadvantage others. I object to that.

I'm sure the family in the condo objects to the single guy next door in the mansion paying less than them in property tax. The law is unfair in both cases! And, in both cases, it disadvantages others.
I do object to both but I don't blame PACE for following the charter proposal - that's an option available to them. The way to fix both cases is to change the law.


Whether the threat is "legal" or not, is beside the point.

No, whether it is legal or not is entirely the point. If you can pay less property tax, legally, you do.
Again, blame the law and change it, not the people taking advantage of the law.


Further, that you claim teaching staff preferences for having MI are "not the point" (to paraphrase) shows exactly the state we've come to in this district, with our teachers and site administrators - the PROFESSIONALS WHO DO THE WORK OF EDUCATION - made to sit by while NON-PROFESSIONALS make decisions about resource use and curriculum. This is absurd in the extreme, and massively inefficient as well.

I agree totally with this. The whole of the MI process has been mis-managed and, at least from an outside perspective, the BoE appears dysfunctional.


Posted by Flap flap!, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 3, 2007 at 11:15 pm

Depose,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Your position is exaggerated and not really true to the facts. Their proposal was for a cost neutral program, so they would presumably say they did not disadvantage others.

As for "extortion" and "threat"--by which you really mean unfair pressure--that is in the eye of the beholder. PACE might say the same of the opposition, which threatened parcel taxes back in January. But they don't say that because it's not true. PACE pushed for what it believes is best for all, and the opposition does the same. No need to go ad hominem.

You seem to believe that educators should be making the calls on resources. Why? They have their preferences, idiosyncratic life experiences, and biases just as we all do. We hire teachers to teach. We elect board members to make decisions about resources. It would be a disaster to do it as you suggest.






Posted by Confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:52 pm

How big is the Ohlone waiting list? Why aren't those people upset by the fact that they're waiting to get into a program which is closed for lack of space or "elementary size" rules or whatever. Now the Board says it's ok to cram more kids on that campus, hire an assistant principal (and custodians and yard supervision), add portables etc (and this is cost neutral, how?). But they can't be Ohlone waiting list kids. No siree, they are a new crop of Ohlone students - MI/the Ohlone Way and they get all the new spots...

Did anyone ask the Amarillo residents how happy they will be with all that new traffic? Did anyone study that in the feasibility study?

And how did the AAAG get to decide placement to the degree that the Ohlone rep told Susan Charles that Ohlone was getting the program (you mean the one that was voted down in January?)and instead of getting MI crammed down her throat, she proposed that Ohlone "embrace" the MI program and got the Bd of Ed to promise that MI would be taught the Ohlone Way (sorry, run-on)? And why didn't the 9 offer a great big Thanks to Ms Charles on Tues night? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Will the farm be bi-lingual? Will the farm aide be required to speak Mandarin?

Lastly, I found the letter being dropped off to Mandy and Dana a hugely callous show of disrespect to the Bd of Ed president. Unless she helped them draft it and didn't need to see it again. But what about Barb and Gail?


Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 12:15 am

"I've got to assume, too, that many of the people who originally proposed a choice MI program have seen their own children move beyond consideration for the program."

Actually, that's an incorrect assumption. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Hence PACE's unwillingness to compromise in any way or wait until this year's strategic planning to work out a more reasonable program for the district. Several other PACE members have kids and younger siblings who will be too old only if they don't get the timeline they are demanding.

Only nine PACE members signed that letter -- one is left to wonder why the other 11 core members didn't sign, perhaps they have lost interest since the program slid another year and their kids are too old.

Applying for a charter school and implementing one are two different things. Given the way PACE has operated, and the byzantine rules for charter implementation in California, it's very likely that a charter school could take far longer to implement and therefore [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] is less likely to be implemented by the current members (if at all). It's probably more likely as a countywide charter worked on by a larger group, but then it's better off being in a different district which PACE members are rejecting.

For a county charter, the boundaries of Palo Alto are irrelevant -- but proponents seem to think having the program in Palo Alto is necessary at all costs, even if it means getting a program that far fewer people could participate in and compromising the program in other ways. This means Grace Mah has been misleading people from other cities, whom she invited to join her in the charter effort -- they seem to be complaining that absolutely nothing has been done. It certainly doesn't serve their interests to push for a PA-only choice or charter program.

From what I can see, PACE members don't really want to do what is necessary to implement a charter [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If they do submit an application and it goes to the county, good luck to them explaining why a countywide charter has to be located exclusively in Palo Alto. PACE members seem to value an MI program little enough that they wouldn't participate if it were located elsewhere. And the timelines do seem to be so important to them, one is left to wonder if the few remaining proponents would continue if the program start slid another few years.

The letter they sent demands a lot, offers little, and is not legally binding. I have lost all faith and trust in this board.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 9:46 am

Flap says... "You seem to believe that educators should be making the calls on resources. Why? They have their preferences, idiosyncratic life experiences, and biases just as we all do. We hire teachers to teach. We elect board members to make decisions about resources. It would be a disaster to do it as you suggest."

Flap, why not say the same for attorneys, physicians, engineers, and so on? Your statement illustrates an ignorance of the complexity and demands of teaching, and administering a school site. You cavalierly say "we hire teachers to teach", as if that happens 'automatically'. One coudl also say that "we hire physicians to heal people", and then go about electing a bunch of people who are interested in medicine, but have never spent a day in anatomy class, making decisions that profoundly effect what's done in clinic.

Can you tell me what good thing has come of this MI flap, Flap? Right now, we have private citizens who have to come up with $3k (minimum) just to run for the BOE. After that, they are required to raise more money, and campaign - all spouting homilies about "vision in education" and what they see as important to teach our kids, and "flap, flap, flap - blah, blah, blah".

The whole thing is a political charade that has NOTHING to do with excellence in education, annd everything about a self-serving myth that says "we taxpayers know best about teaching our kids". If that was really the case, American students would be able to mostly point to a map and tell us where Nigeria is. The fact is that most of them can't, while students in other nations continue to leave Americann students in the dust.

Most BOE members have NEVER spent even ONE day teaching in a classroom, or administering an educational site - yet there they are, every week, passing judgement on things that they know about only second hand, as parents - recipients of a service. In fact, there is nothing more demeaning to the teaching and site adminstrative staffs of America than BOE's, some of whom have forced teachers in mid-western districts to teach intelligent design alongside evolution.

Here, Palo Alto parents (thank god) mostly wouldn't accept that mid-western fate, so we argue abbout more "lofty" things like "MI", and how to raise money for this or that program without even ONCE surveying our teacher and site administrator staffs for deep input.

Where are the teachers and site administrators in all this? Doing their jobs, every day - doing end-runs around one politically-motivated administrative duty after another (local, state, and national); jumping through hoops to please the vagaries of conerned parents who have been led to believe that teachers should also have the task of socializing their kids; having to fight to keep salaries and benefits equal to inflation. It's a joke. And no wonder teachers are leaving the profession in droves (read the press).

The REAL issues in education, the ones that will MOST impact our future, are left aside in this political fiasco. Where is there SERIOUS talk about cooperative education programs on a large scale? How about going after REAL inter-district efficiencies (that would save MILLIONS)? What about a SERIOUS effort to engage teachers and site administrators, asking them what REALLY works in the classrom - or how newly proposed programs like MI might impact the overall quality of education delivered in the classroom?

No, the BOE won't do that, because it's too bogged down hearing about district education from job-hopping senior administrators and politically-appointed senior staff (all paid far beyond what the teaching workers are paid, and who are hired by "employment consultants" who don't even live here.

Anyone who has listened to BOE meetings for a while, as I have, and who has had close affiliations to education in the classroom, or who have taught, have to shake their heads in depressed amazement at the low level of decision making that comes from BOEs, and it's mostly deleterious effect on the classroom.

The POLITICAL intrigue around education is going to continue until we find a better way to administer public education. Even in this gifted community, we have squandered youthful passion by focusing on "educational quality" as exhibited by how many PAUSD graduates make it into the top ten nschools, or score high on SAT's, instead of how much "flow" can occuir in our learning environments. Almost NOTHING is done to work on this latter issue, the issue that makes students want to learn at high leveles without stress, and gives teachers the ability to have real impact in their working environments.

IN all this, I want to make clear that BOE members are well-meaning people. That said, the habit to elect one BOE after another, and continue on the mostly dysfunctional path we've been on for decades, has blinded most to the massive inefficiencies that arise from our present system of administering local education here, and elsewhere.

We'd better get a clue about this, because we are wasting valuable time needed to reform our public education system, instead of wasting time playing political football with the future of our kids - at the national and local level.

About MI: I could care less,one way or the other. What has troubled me about this whole process is the level of dysfunctioal intrigue and waste of community passion has gone into an argument that should not have happened in the first place. Right under the nose of our outgoing Superinitendent, the BOE let itself get drawn into a protracted discussion about something that is ENTIRELY outside the domain of its expertise.

Does anyone on the BOE teach? Have they EVER taught? Why then, was the BOE weighing in on the merits of a CURRICULAR matter? The whole thing is a massive tragedy, leaving behinf bad feelings and community dissention.

Maybe next time the BOE will think to poll its professional staff - and i don't meann by that the six-figure administrator(s)[portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

To the BOE:

ASK THE TEACHERS AND SITE ADMINISTRATORS WHAT THEY THINK! Try it; maybe you'll learn a thing or two in the furtherance of your administration, and end up with solutions that work best for our kids, instead of those who don't and won't spend one day teaching in the very program that has been at the heart of this current, tragic debate.






Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 9:53 am

So RWE, who do you think is going to/should stand for election for the Board this year. So far, I don't think we have any contenders and this time round it is going to be a beaut!


Posted by Tisk tisk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 10:55 am

Flap flap: The letter speaks for itself. You want to argue on vocabulary, the fact is they just sent a demand letter to the board, that is UNDENIABLE because its thankfully been posted online for all to see. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The first point in that letter [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] require that Mandy and Dana change their votes - complete with coaching on the tone with which they should announce their sudden change of support for the choice program in order to ensure that they appear to the community to be fully on board.

The whole letter sounds like it could have been written by the CSI Miami writers. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 11:15 am

Parent, I have no idea who will, or should, run for the BOE. If I had my way we would completely overhall its structure by insisting that at least 3 of the members of the BOE have significant experience in education.

Ideally, we would set up a system that has at least one PAUSD teacher and one PAUSD site administrator on the BOE for 4-year terms. Those individuals would receive a significiantly reduced teaching load, while maintaining their salaries and benefits.

After all this, what we're probably going to see is even more politically motivated candidates, from throughout the spectrum. Most of what they say and promise will never come to pass; more community passion and integrity will be wasted on the irrelevance of the many issues that the BOE brings up; and, we will continue to muddle through, as usual - driven mostly by the overachieving nature of the PAUSD demographic.

What concerns me most about the recent fiasco is what efect it will have on any future bonds. This BOE in particular has been wavering to and fro, seemingly with the wind, with nary a leaderly voice among them, save Gail Price.

There has simply been no "there" there - and altogether a very deflating experience for those of us who care about education, and could give a rat's hindquarter about this and most BOE's political machinations, and seeming penchant to make one stunning strategic error after another. "Hapless" is too kind a word.




Posted by Flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 11:32 am

RWE,

I think your ideas are out of step with what most voters want: accountability. It makes no sense to cede crucial decisions about our schools to teachers. We ask the BOE to do that and hold them accountable. We hire teachers to teach.

You raise the example of engineers, so think, please, about how their actions are circumscribed by our elected officials. We don't send tax money to a team of engineers and hope they'll spend it wisely.

I value the opinions of my kid's third grade teacher on BROAD issues of education, but not more than the opinions of the contractor who lives across the street. Classroom experience gives you a perspective but not a privileged one.

Take the case at hand. You think teachers should weigh in on MI. Why? What could that third grade teacher possibly have to add to the debate, except her own idiosyncratic view? I don't mean to dis her view, but it is just another view. The board has seen reams of educational research--what further knowledge will we get except the teachers' opinions? They are welcome to come to board meetings like the rest of us.

It's just silly to lay American-wide educational failures at the feet of the elected BOE system. It's fair to say that there is enough blame to go around, including for teachers and parents.

(The one related issue that should deeply trouble us, though it does not affect PA as far as I know, is No Child Left Behind. That is not the BOE, but the federal government forcing a god-awful, mind-numbing pedagogy onto the poor.)

You mention several issues that effect teachers with which I agree. We should pay them more. We should teach our children to respect their position in our society more. I also agree that the district should be working in close consultation with teachers regarding what works best in the classroom (to achieve educational "vision" set by the BOE). And with your desire to de-emphasize high scores and "top" schools.

I was curious about what you said about how much "flow" can occur in schools. Can you say more?

Last, I have to say that it is indeed the job of teachers to help socialize kids in their classrooms. Teachers do not teach robots but young human beings. The teachers must teach those human beings how to behave in a classroom setting; teachers are responsible for creating the environment in their classroom. Parents are right to expect it. Good teachers know this and don't shirk it.



Posted by Flap flap!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 11:39 am

Tisk,

The board asked for the letter. PACE once again followed the rules and is seeking to work with the district.

Tisking and calling your opponents "morally bankrupt" does not further the discussion or clarify why you object to a cooperative approach.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Flutter:

How are BOE members held accountable? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] What long term implications accrue to individual members from screwing up the way that this, or other BOE's have? Please present some examples.

Your example about engineers is flat wrong. Since when do we have diligence boards of private citizens without engineering experience telling engineers how to to their everyday jobs? Please, present some examples.

Your statements assume that teachers are not professional agents, but merely agents of information transmission. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
On the one hand, you say that it is a teacher's responsibility to socialize young children. Why should that be the case? If anything, parents in recent generations have been shirking THEIR responsibility to socialize their kids. If you think my notion is in error, please go interview a teacher that doesn't have a vested interest in your kid, or your potential future statements to her principle about how she is not "attentive enough" to your child. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
"Teaching students how to act in a classroom setting" - as you state teachers are supposed to do - is merely a _subset_ of the general sense of regard for other and self that parents have traditionally been responsible for, but have abdicated to the schools.

Spend some time in a middle or high school classroom; I suggest a one month stint

About "flow", here's a good general introduction.
Web Link)


Posted by didn't start the fire, a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Flap flap,

Terms like "morally bankrupt" aside. Yes, they followed the "letter" of the request but have you actually read it? The tone of the letter is hardly a "cooperative approach". More like throwing petrol on a fire.


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

Since somebody brought up No Child Left Behind Act again, i will again state that nowhere is it mandated that a District or State MUST comply with NCLB. It is only if they want the Fed money.

I can't remember which state, I think it was Utah, had districts in it which said, "Thanks, but no thanks, not worth the trouble", so dumped it.

NCLB doubled the Federal money spent on k-12 education. That should be a good thing. Test scores and College admissions from the worst schools have gone up. Good thing. Stated as interesting correlation only, many reasons can be given.


Posted by Tisk tisk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Cooperative approach... Again you are arguing on vocabulary. Most don't see a letter which says - "if you comply quickly and quietly with our list of demands below, you MIGHT avoid the following harmful effects at our hands" - a cooperative approach. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The letter also acknowledges that the Dana and Mandy will find this distressful and difficult - but suggests they put on a happy front to the public to 'show leadership' (ie: to disguise from the public what is REALLY going down.)

Most people see cooperation as a 'win win' effort. Both sides are better off in the end. Let's see what we have from this:

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

-A PAUSD MI Choice program customized to their liking, with all heavy lifting performed by PAUSD, including all the staff and facilities resources they could ever dream of.

-Avoidance of a very daunting, burdensome and costly charter start up effort for them personally.

-FREE language academy, avoidance of approx 90K for each K-5 child.

-Assurance (ie via the 'charter application threat retained in pocket) that the program will be rolled out to their full specifications. Very little Board oversight to be expected from here on out.

-Children who are VASTLY more enriched by PAUSD than 95% of the population.

PAUSD Community Wins:
-A program they did not want, they voted against, that does not help even a single child outside the small special interest group that is pushing it.

-A program that will suck staff and school resources in an unlimited way. That will cost this district money and space it does not have.

-Inability to regulate this program in any way shape or form. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

-No guarantees that PAUSD will not be facing a charter program at any time in the future.

-A neutered board of education. Probably a costly recall election with Camille and Barb at the top of the list.

-A community rancor for this program that will persist for years.

-Vicious backlash to PIE and other district donation funding streams by voters and tax payers who feel the board is incapable of managing the district, and who WILL fight to ensure that not a single dime of extra public donation source funding is forwarded for the benefit of this program.

An Ohlone program splintered and divided. Ohlone parents left fending for themsleves and competing [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] for resources.

Excuse me if I fail to see the 'cooperative approach'.[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 2:11 pm

RW,

"How are BOE members held accountable?" Why, elections of course. They lose their jobs if constituents are unhappy.

You say, "Your example about engineers is flat wrong," but you didn't follow the analogy carefully. Non-engineers tell the engineers, "we want a bridge from this hillock thither to yonder fen. build it." And the engineers construct. In education, we have a board telling teachers: "we want a program taught the Ohlone way, so teach." And the teachers teach.

"Your statements assume that teachers are not professional agents, but merely agents of information transmission." No.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The issue here is not classroom reality but classroom ideal. I know that some teachers complain that parents shirk their responsibility, and there are, no doubt, some parents who do, just as there are teachers who do. Socialization is a shared responsibility. All good teachers know this and do not shirk their responsibility. It is essential to good teaching. Parents are right to demand it. (Just as teachers are right to demand cooperation from parents in achieving this.)

And no, this is nothing new. Good teachers have always taken responsibility for their classroom environment.

I think that you have spent too much time listening to the complaints of teachers. You need to go out and watch a really good first grade teacher teach a class a couple months into the year. Watch how her kids work together. That is HER doing. No matter how the kids were socialized previously, when they got to her she could have molded a nightmare class or an ideal one.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Flutter, you really need to get out and ask around. Ask teachers about "good classes", and "bad classes" - the latter being one where some 15% of the kids are impossible, because their parents think they are the Second Coming. I know this because I have taught. IN the ideal situation, today, a teacher is lucky to only have 8-10% of a classroom populated by kids who disrupt, and that is barely manageable.

Losing an election? As if losing an election can even begin to hold a candle to years of dysfunction caused to 1000's of parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers through bad decision-making, and ill-timed political flip-flopping.

btw, there is a BIG difference between telling an engineer to "go build a bridge", for which s/he will normally receive adequate resources, and telling a teacher to adapt to already leaned-out physical and financial infrastructure to satiswfy the whims of parents who mostly _think_ they know more than teachers do about teaching, and child development, for that matter.

I have seen, first hand, the stunning lack of sensitivity to a careful rendering of what is happening in the classroom, by a significant minority of parents, especially if it's those parent's kids who are not performing to parantal satisfaction, or if they're hearing about their own kid's personal dysfunction. If things were so wonderful in the teaching profession, we wouldn't see teachers resigning in droves.

Education has been a political football at the local, state and national level for a long time - with teachers and site adminsitrators often considered a necessary evil in the process that involves their children's future, and where most of their children's time is spent in foprmative years.

Last, about socialization. It is a *parental* responsibility to socialize a child, period. By the time a kid gets to school, if s/he has no respect for rules, or limits, the parents have failed, not the teacher. teachers are picking up the pieces of bad parenting every day, and kids whoh are parented well suffer the consequences of the bad bahavior caused by a parental shirking of responsibility.

Enough of that: there are good and bad teachers. But, we are losing LOTS of good teachers because so many people think of teaching as a "secondary" occupation. Just as mothering has been thought of as an incidental occupation. We'd better start to think differently about these things, because the easy days of guaranteed future for American students -even students from places like Palo Alto - are fast waning. There are kids all over the world whho will be graduating from excellent universities, who have not been coddled into believing the world is their oyster.

Go look at how teachers are viewed in almost every other culture, and then ngo look at how teachers are viewed in America - including Palo Alto. That should tell you something.

Last, perhaps you should spend a few months in a classroom, without recourse to being able to leave if you burn out. I've been there, and most of what I've seen on this thread, and from those who think teachers have it made have _not_ been there - and it shows.

We have BOE's who insert themselves into every facet of teaching. We have Superintendents that glide from district to district every 3-5 years. We have 1000 districts in California. Not ANY TWO of those districts is talking about combining administrative effieiciencies and economies in a significant way. Why? In this time of fiscal constraint...why?

Instead we have politically elected administrative bodies, composed mostly of non-educators, and bowing to 6-figure executive figurehead, "leading" the way.

Look there first for owhat's wrong with American education. There are also some things that can be done to improve the teaching profession, but we'd better fix the "top" first.


Posted by flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 5:12 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You are right there are teachers who talk about "good classes" and "bad classes." These are the mediocre to poor teachers who are not skilled at classroom management. They blame the parents.

I'm sure you have met unsympathetic, know--it-all parents, and you have my sympathy. (This is a community of know-it-alls, so get used to it. Consider one alternative: parents who don't care at all about schooling. If you're a teacher, you're aware of those communities, too.) I'm also sure many parents have had incompetent teachers teaching their children.

Education will always be a political football; I don't know how you would prise it out of that realm, except if you were the decider.

"Last, about socialization. It is a *parental* responsibility to socialize a child, period." It is a problem when teachers think like this. As I said, it is a shared responsibility. If the teacher abdicates her share, it will make it very hard to teach.

You seem to think that children are fully formed by the time they get to school. They are not. They particularly need help in how to behave in a classroom environment. Unfortunately, parents are also picking up the pieces of bad teaching every day.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"Look there first for owhat's wrong with American education. There are also some things that can be done to improve the teaching profession, but we'd better fix the "top" first." Here I agree with you. Though I'd include principals in the "top."


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Flutter, I have worked with experts in classroom management. Even good teachers have HUGE problems today, assuming good classroom management skills. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Also, you seem to be saying that teachers should share responsiobility for socializing children. Since when? Why should teachers have to spend the MAJORITY of their time doing that?

Back to the BOE; there needs to be more solicitation - serious solicitation - of teaching and site administrator opinion. The latter are the experts in teaching and education, not BOE members, or even parents. The latter are mostly experts in the vagaries of their own children; that's all.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by someone of little importance it seems, a resident of Meadow Park
on May 4, 2007 at 8:22 pm

srry for not spending the time reading through all the past comments, and therefore i might of missed some arguments, or be repeating others.

the letter is quite rude and is quite close to blackmail,

if you don't do what we want we will make you suffer, or something of that sort

I personally believe that there is no point for a mandarin immersion program as it not only benefits a minority here, it excludes all other Chinese languages portraying it as close to the only one. and even though it is a major language that is still not acceptable. with that said it is a waste of money to incorporate this program due to the limited effects.

some might say that i'm racist, but seriously what argument is that? say i wanted a French immersion program or a German one? the main point is that we just don't have unlimited cash, with the support of one you must support another or else you are racist.

the Spanish immersion program is the exception, and even though i don't know a word of Spanish i believe that their program, excluding all it's technicalities, is in principal just, since theoretically people were speaking Spanish here before the English came, and Palo Alto is a Spanish name.

We all know the lottery is simply invalid so people don't get even chances, we don't get choice, we don't get chance, we get what others force upon us.

Here the MI supporters are attempting to force another unneeded venture upon us, as with the same cash we could speed up an essential pool at Gunn where the water is at times murkier than a pond. Or even perhaps to build actual buildings instead of portables.

My point being, there are many things that can use the cash before we should even venture to such luxuriates, and taxes aren't the best friend of every person, i'm sorry to say.

excuse my rambling, as i am an uneducated fool, with absolutely no idea what i am talking about, and i am some sort of racist in a evil conspiracy to bring down the mandarin language

Yours truly

The Incoherent fool


Posted by wishing for stronger leaders, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 8:53 pm

someone,
MI advocates have on other threads said things like, "Palo Alto has DEEEP pockets" and complained about their taxes in a way that indicates a belief that they should personally be getting more for what they are paying (and indicating they don't understand how the state takes the money and divvies it up). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Clearly, they also do not understand a strong sense of civic-mindedness in others. You can understand, I hope, that people who believe Palo Alto is awash in money, and who don't understand a general sense of public responsibility in others, would view the opposition to their demands in a very different light. Indeed, they have persistently responded by saying it couldn't be concerns about fiscal responsibility, limited resources, overcrowding, concerns about doing what is right for all children in the district, wanting to offer language opportunities to all children first before just a few, etc, driving opposition, but must be something else more sinister.

There are indeed many things that could use such cash in our district. We are going to be reassessing district priorities this year -- they would have had a chance to look for opportunities to fit their program in with all priorities. But that means they would have to wait, and the program wouldn't serve the individual needs of the few people pushing it -- and remember, they think the district is a deep pocket as it is.

They have plenty of opportunities to craft a very different school if they are truly interested in bringing MI to the area, but avoid any of them because they prioritize their own needs over even others in the area who want MI. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by flatter flatter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 9:02 pm

RWE, teachers who talk about being handed a "good" or "bad class" of kids need to step up. In every walk of life, you'll find people who blame others for their failures. Go find a good teacher; there you will find a "good class."

There is nothing new in teachers sharing responsibility for socializing children. Please find a mentor, and she will set you straight. Sure, the BOE should solicit input from teachers--but not on something like MI. That is a strategic decision the board needs to make.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 10:12 pm

flatter, take up my challenge to spend 2 months in a classroom (any grade), and then report back on what you learned. Seriously, your opinion is valid only insofar as you have the experience to back it up. your homily about "find a good teacher and you'll find a good class" doesn't represent classroom reality. Get out and ask around.

btw, if MI is a strategic decision, then it largely effects many variables that impact students and teachers in the classroom. Why then shouldn't we have site staff inputs largely impacting - or largely contributing to those opinions? PLease provide some sound reasoning, instead of guesses in the abstract


Posted by Flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 11:47 pm

RWE

You say that teachers know the truth, and non-teachers do not. It is an quirky but unsound assumption. You seem resistant to new knowledge. Go ask a good teacher and she will confirm what I've said. Seriously.

I've pointed out why it makes no sense for teachers to have a say in whether MI is approved. Yet, you keep insisting that they should. Instead of repeating this belief, suggest a reason why teachers' opinions have relevance.


Posted by wishing for stronger leaders, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I'm not sure why the Weekly deleted parts of my message above.

Grace Mah is now officially a public figure, her choice. I wasn't even criticizing her personally, I called the article in the Mercury about her recently a "puff piece."

From Dictionary.com, here are the first three definitions of "puff piece"
1) A newspaper article, book, public-relations film, etc., whose purpose is to praise or flatter.
2) An article or report in the media that is based on exaggerated praise to promote a person, entity, or event.
3) An approving or flattering article.

If that wasn't "an approving or flattering article" I don't know what is. Have you read it?

Secondly, I quoted the article as having called us "tax-wealthy Palo Alto" -- okay, I didn't want to endure having to read the article again, so the exact phrase may have been "tax-rich Palo Alto" -- again, a quote from a newspaper article, it did not deserve deleting.

Proponents of this MI choice plan have indicated in many ways and in the media that they think of our district as tax-wealthy, full of deep pockets, and not giving them their due for the taxes they pay. Their actions and accusations at opponents make a lot more sense in that light. I'm merely repeating what has been said in print. It did not deserve chopping up as if I had added any offensive language.


Posted by wishing for stronger leaders, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 12:30 pm

"They have plenty of opportunities to craft a very different school if they are truly interested in bringing MI to the area, but avoid any of them because they prioritize their own needs over even others in the area who want MI. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]"

Why was that last portion deleted? I suggested the pursuit of this MI choice plan was doing a disservice to the people from other communities who want an MI program, and whom Grace Mah publicly recruited. What is offensive about that? Through email lists, she publicly invited people from surrounding communities to join an effort to form a charter when having a list of names of people who would be interested in a countywide charter improved her clout with the PA board, but she hasn't seriously pursued that -- pursued it at all as far as I can see -- the current choice plan leaves those people out cold. A poster from Mountain View complained about exactly that. Again, what was offensive about that?

Bill, who do you have deleting portions of messages? This is censureship that changes reasonable arguments, not moderating.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 12:48 pm


Agreed. The censor is doing something very odd, and changing the meaning of posts. I think it is time to give him/her better guidelines.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 5, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Flutter, Teachers's opinions have relavance because they are the ones with the most intellectual capital - relative to normal citizens - on the small and large scale advantages/disadvantages of strategic (and many tactical) changes. btw, this notion has been proven over and over and over again by organizational psychologists and organizational knowledge experts.

Also, yuo misquoted me. I never said that teachers "know the truth"; I said and or implied that they know - as a group - more about how to efficiently teach kids than non-teachers do.
They're there every day, doing the work

I've suggested you volunteer for a few months in a classroom, without possibillity of pulling out should it become too much for you. You might even try this in what you label as a "good" class. Please do this, and get back to us about your experience. You can post it here in the online forum.


wishing, I think the edits come whenever a post ventures into anythingi that can be conctrued as a personal attack that's gratuitous. These are subjective calls, and there's no way to effectively and objectively argue with them. That's the way it goes. I've had what I think of as very innocuous statements striken from a thread, but what's a woman to do? It would be nice to hear a rationale or two about specific edits, to get a sense of what the editor thought as s/he elimiated a comment. It woudl help us all to better understand the informal rule base, and better conform, causing less disappointment.

Absent that, work on really clever ways to verbally bring down the hammer. It's fun, and helps keep the mind alert. :)


Posted by flutter, flutter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Well, now you're contradicting yourself in one post. You say you don't claim teachers know the truth, and yet you insist that the opinions of non-teachers are irrelevant.

I have seen good classes, and I suggest you check into them, thanks. Once you locate a good teacher, have a chat and see if she doesn't confirm what I've said. And just to clarify, by "good class" I don't mean a passive group of kids who have been bullied into silence.

You're starting to skate away from your original claims into the vague land of abstraction. Once upon a time, you said teachers should make the decision as to whether or not the district should start MI. You still haven't given any reason to think this suggestion makes any sense at all.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 5, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Flutter, if you haven't understood my arguments by now, might I suggest you review recent postings. :) I've been a teacher, you haven't. There you go.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2007 at 12:11 am

That letter is a real piece of work. Endless demands and in return for what? Maybe not going through the effort of a charter?

Again, the idea of parents who would make demands like that trying to mesh with Ohlone is just, well, weird. I mean, the teamwork/cooperative aspect of the school aren't just catch phrases. You really are expected to play ball. And that doesn't involve ignoring the needs of others.

Also, I see *nothing* that allows for any controls of the MI program. Dana's said if its not cost-neutral it's gone. But push comes to shove, PACE can just threaten another charter and we'll be stuck with an expensive program benefitting a few at a horrendously overcrowded school--I mean, 600 kids. 600! Yeah, it's more acreage than most, but it's a commuter school with no parking and six more modules is going to take a big bite out of the yard space.

I really was surprised to meet Ohlone parents whose kids are *learning* Mandarin who don't want the MI program at Ohlone. Largely, because the PACE crowd has shown no respect for the concerns of others or the social contract.

I suppose the real irony is that some PACErs claim that learning Mandarin will create some sort of global understanding and cooperation . Instead, they've created as big a rift as I've seen in PA in my more than 20 years here. Some diplomacy guys!

And, seriously, why on earth should I vote for bond issues if the board can't be trusted?


Posted by Better Schools, a resident of Community Center
on May 6, 2007 at 9:57 pm

OhlonePar,

What you said.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Absolutely! 100% agreed!

I am confused about one thing, though -- I thought the MI program was "cost neutral" assuming 3 portables are "free". Wouldn't 6 make it cost 2/3 of a million?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 6, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Folks, way up near the top of this discussion is a link to the actual 4-30-07 letter by MI
supporters to D.Tom and M.Lowell. It seems an amazing letter, and I think the Weekly should publish it for everyone to see. Not mention it onlyincidentally herein, What do you think ?





Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 7, 2007 at 8:38 am

Publish it, and ley everyone who reads it see what is implied in that letter. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours sitting at negotiation tables, I can conifdently say that the meaning of that letter is pretty clear. Why that letter hasn't been shown - and clearly stated by the four BOE members who voted to consider the letter - as a very hard line threat/intimidation, is beyond me.

It starts slow and soft, and then....wham!! Those who wrote that letter, and the threat implied should be put on page one. It's high time that the arguments and proposals of small, dedicated groups with an agenda that doesn't meet city or district benefit for the _whole_, be held up for full public inspection.

PACE had an idea, a laudable idea. This was not the time for that idea, but instead of ulling back and figuring out how to make something happen in a positive way, they have resorted to something that is very akin to threat and innuendo. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As stated prior, I originally had no preference either way for MI, but after watching this whole thing unfold, there's no way I would lsupport it with the current group at the helm. They, and the majority of this BOE have lost my confidence.

I eagerly await the new BOE elections, this time, and next time around. Frankly, we should do away with the BOE as currently structured. If we had had 2 of 5 BOE members as PAUSD sta (one teacher, one site administrator), with one other having to have proven experience in K-12 education, this program as currently construed would never have seen the light of day.


Posted by Stop the Bullies, a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2007 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by another anonymous pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 9:55 am

Another astounding part of the letter is the part that directs Mandy and Dana to show:

"Your individual support of the MI choice program. The community looks to you for leadership, in word and deed. You might feel that this is a tough decision, but announce it in positive language. After all, in the end, this is about the children."

So not only do they have to vote in MI in order to "stop the charter" process, but they have to -- what? Smile and embrace it as a wonderful idea they love, adore, support, admire, wish they had thought of, regret having voted down as misguided and narrow-minded? how much is enough enthusiasm? What would be a positive enough statement? If I were a Board member considering what was the right course, this letter would tempt me to vote against MI just because of its high-handedness. It concedes nothing and demands everything. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by One of Many Parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:09 am

On top of this, the letter says "this is about the children".

It is about a very small number of children (their children), not the rest of the children who will suffer. Those at Ohlone will suffer from a divided school (ask the English speaking kids at Escondido if they think it is one school or a divided school), the rest of the PAUSD kids will suffer from no FLES and the $$ it takes to fund the start up - $12,000 per classroom plus now we hear of a vice principal salary.

This is definitely not for the good of all of our kids.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:44 am

There is a lot of confusion here about the letter. Facts:

*The board asked PACE to write a letter. PACE did.

*The board asked PACE to promise to drop the charter if the board approves choice. PACE did.

Why be angry at PACE for writing the letter the board asked them to?

And One, you'll be glad to know that the startup costs won't come from the district, so the idea that this isn't good for all the kids goes out the window. You can rest easy that this is a cost-neutral program.


Posted by another anonymous pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:50 am

The Board did NOT ask PACE to write *this* letter. The Board asked PACE to give it assurances that PACE will not pursue a charter if the Board approves a choice MI program. If this is the best letter PACE would come up with (i.e., a lukewarm promise to hold off on filing a choice petition, combined with a very long list of items the BoE must do including not only voting it in and ensuring it will succeed but embracing it publicly with open arms and delight) well, that just speaks volumes.


Posted by pre, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 11:53 am

The Board may have asked PACE to document their position but the board did not define PACE position, nor did they chose their words for them.

Mi Proponents - take some personal responsibility for what you have created. You can make all the selfish maneuvers you wish, and then you will also enjoy the backlash and the consequence which in this case unfortunately may be no more than outraged community and negative public opinion of The Nine and the entire MI program for years to come.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 12:02 pm

It's a very reasonable, frank letter. Why does it seem so outrageous to you that PACE would ask the board to stick by any decision they make? No doubt you would like it if PACE gave up the charter, and then the board approved and later killed choice (through neglect, say, as the letter says). The letter, reasonably, asks for a firm commitment.


Posted by didn't start the fire, a resident of Community Center
on May 7, 2007 at 12:44 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The letter, reasonably, asks for a firm commitment.

This is all the letter needed to say - just one sentence would have been enough. However, that is not what it says!


Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Parent: I'm not sure I'd define as 'reasonable' a request that suggests that unless the BOE does something they honorably believe cannot be done without harm to the district (start a new choice program before other priorities have been met, etc.) then the requesting party will proceed in a manner that the board feels will do it even more harm (apply for a charter). It sure is frank, though! I'm with you there.

Asking for a commitment is fine by me. It's threatening harm in order to get that commitment that upsets me.

Sure, it's legal. But I worry that to have MI Choice be born of coercion, rather than mutual co-operation between BOE and the parents who want the program created, bodes very ill for the health of the program – or for any hope that this whole issue will be forgotten about anytime soon.

Here's another concern, though, with reference to your earlier point that we should all rest easy when it comes to the cost neutrality of MI Choice:

Like Gail Price, I'm not resting at all easy on the cost-neutral claims being made about MI Choice. Instead, like Ms. Price, I feel it has many hidden costs. I also worry about all the new (and, as yet, unanswered) expense issues raised by the latest version of the proposal (foreign travel, extra assistant principal at Ohlone etc.) that, unless resolved before a vote, could see MI Choice quickly ballooning into something truly cost-prohibitive.

In a sense, however, the cost-neutral issue is moot now. I fear the shift in the BOE's thinking -- from 'can we afford to try something new?' to 'which is the lesser of two evils?' -- provides room for rationalizing away the fig leaf of cost-neutrality that we used to have. What the BOE has said, in effect, is that all that matters to them now is that MI Choice cost less than a charter.

Of course, we have no idea what a charter would cost since we have no charter application, so it's all conjecture. That makes me worry how many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars the BOE will feel free to pour into the any-thing-but-charter black hole it has created for itself before it will be forced to declare that a charter would have been cheaper. The answer, rather frighteningly: it's impossible to say.

The impossibility of making any kind of financial calculation when you are choosing between a moving target (the ever-shifting MI Choice proposal) and a hypothetical (a possible but as yet non-existent charter application) is another reason why I'd humbly suggest to the BOE that their 'we-must-give-in-on-MI-choice-because-a-charter-would-be-so-much-worse' line of reasoning, rather than being the model of fiscal rectitude they seem to see it as, is instead deeply fiscally irresponsible.

Wouldn't the fiscally responsible thing to do here be to wait for a charter application rather than create a program that has no known ceiling of cost before it becomes worse than an imaginary potential alternative?


Posted by not neutral anymore, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2007 at 1:22 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Meadow Park
on May 7, 2007 at 1:40 pm

If you really want your voices to be heard, go to tomorrow night's (Tuesday) BoE meeting. It's the last meeting before the BoE makes their final decision on MI.


Posted by Parent, a resident of another community
on May 7, 2007 at 4:11 pm

Simon:

Looking back, the board shifted its support away from MI choice after many threats to do harm to the district (vote against the parcel tax) from those opposed to MI, so it's not obvious anyone except Gail sees this as harming the district. In any case, PACE does not see choice as harming the district--to the contrary. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

So, setting aside spin for a moment, I still see it as reasonable for pace to volunteer to accommodate the district by dropping the charter proposal.

I think if you look at this from the other side, you'd understand that seeing MI killed or delayed through coercion bodes ill for the district at large.

I simply don't agree that we have reason to worry about cost-neutrality. It has been studied by the district, and the experts said it will be neutral. Dana and Mandy have promised to adopt controls to ensure that it stays that way.

Sure, we could assume that lies, conspiracy, split allegiances, vested interest, incompetence, gross error, and slips of the pen have tainted the feasibility study, but when we get to the point of assuming these things of each other there really is no way to hold a conversation.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As for waiting for the charter application, I'm not sure why you'd like to do that. By that stage, it will be too late to choose, and charter it will be.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2007 at 8:19 pm

To "Saddened":

How on earth is threatening to apply for a charter school, then promising to abandon that to get MI, acting in good faith? That's not "acting cooperatively, constructively (and) fairly..." [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I'm afraid I think I'm as saddened, if not more, than you are, that the education of my children is going to suffer because a small group of people insist on pushing an agenda that would only offer services to a tiny percentage of the school population. MI isn't even set up to educate non-Mandarin speakers in Mandarin, as after kindergarten and first grade, it would only serve native Mandarin speakers. Why on earth would an immersion program be beneficial to students who are already native speakers? It wouldn't. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Parent, you said "As for waiting for the charter application, I'm not sure why you'd like to do that. By that stage, it will be too late to choose, and charter it will be."

Absolutely wrong. A charter application is a far cry from a charter school. The reason PACE hasn't submitted the charter application is that the application itself is a lot of work. Going from charter application to charter school is a lot more work still, a lot more work than anyone on PACE has done to this point. In fact, the 9 have put their eggs in one basket all along, they never did any work on the charter.

So, I'm with Simon -- wait for the charter application, there is still plenty of leeway between the application and an actual school. Running a charter is so much work, there is still plenty of room if the board decides once it has an application in hand to change course. Plus, at this point, there is no way the 9 could get their charter SCHOOL on the timetable they are trying to push the choice program -- since this has been all about individuals needs, it makes the charter less likely to happen as more of the few PACEr's left pushing this miss their individual deadlines and there are fewer (if any) left willing to do the work for the benefit of others. It's not like the board their changing their minds again down the line is going to make things any worse at this point.

On the other hand, if the board is determined to do this, I will continue to fight it unless they get a legally binding contract that members of PACE will underwrite any costs beyond "neutrality", that major costs (such as any facilities beyond the three portables at Ohlone) that make it not cost neutral are agreed to up front, and that the benefit of the doubt when there is a disagreement favors the district (and district gets legal fees if they have to enforce it). If PACEr's really believe their program is cost neutral, they shouldn't have any trouble signing.

I also think, for the foreseeable future, that there should be an agreed policy that lotteries will be random and not subject to review by anyone, even Susan Charles (in other words, Susan Charles should vet the applications BEFORE the lottery, thus guaranteeing a true lottery for the actual slots). AND we should put a policy in place that the only people eligible for the program while the district is so overcrowded are families who already live in Palo Alto as of now -- thus ensuring another important assumption of cost neutrality, that spaces would be opened up in other schools (rather than new families moving here because of the program and crowding more).


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 8:47 pm

I forgot the most important point. letting the charter go forward slips the timetable enough that PAUSD can do its strategic planning. We could probably figure out a way to implement a real language plan then, possibly MI in a much more supported and sustainable way.


Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Parent – I'm not sure what you said that needed cutting by the Weekly's censor, but to respond to some of what's left:

From what I recall of the January meeting where the BOE decided against MI Choice, threats to future bonds didn't figure in a single board member's rationale for voting the way they did. So I don't buy the 'coercion from both sides is responsible' line.

I'm glad PACE doesn't see itself as deliberately trying to harm the district. But I can't see how else to describe the action by the board majority last January except as voting against something they regarded as not in the district's best interests right now. And then everything those members likely to change their votes said recently about why they were thinking of so doing suggested it was to choose the lesser of two evils, not because they had changed their mind about whether Choice was right for the district now. So my impression is that a majority of the Board, along with many, many community members disagree with PACE's self-characterization.

As for cost-neutrality, I too hope that any new choice program will be cost neutral. I don't think you need to be a conspiracy theorist to critique the thoroughness of the feasibility study, though, nor to worry that the way the BOE is now posing MI Choice (as costing less than a charter program) means that it has a rationale for allowing MI Choice off the cost-neutrality hook when push comes to shove.

As for waiting for a charter application, I think it's the only responsible thing to do now, however much more likely it makes a charter.

For one thing, I'm not so sure that waiting for a charter application means a dead certainty that the board would a) get an application b) that it would be any good c) that the BOE couldn't find a legal way to turn it down if it really wanted.

But even if the BOE had to accept a charter in PAUSD, that wouldn't be the end of the world in my book. We'd at least know where we were in terms of who was in charge of the program and what the district's responsibilities were, financial and otherwise – things that could remain unclear for years if MI choice gets started under the circumstances in operation now.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2007 at 10:51 pm

"But I worry that to have MI Choice be born of coercion, rather than mutual co-operation between BOE and the parents who want the program created, bodes very ill for the health of the program – or for any hope that this whole issue will be forgotten about anytime soon."

Simon: I agree with you fully on this point, but I lean the opposite way for how to deal with it.

Look at the April 24 straw vote: 4-1 in favor of a proposal for which almost nothing positive was said by two board members who reversed themselves and voted for MI Choice.

If I recall correctly, priorities, cost and procedures were the reasons they gave for voting against the choice program in January, not disagreement with the feasibility report's conclusion that MI Choice was cost neutral or with the elegance of the Ohlone/MI proposal in allaying fear at neighborhood schools that they would have to swallow a program they did not seek or want because it would cause transportation and enrollment disruption.

Why, if they were going to vote in favor of the proposal, did members who switched their votes not acknowledge the positive aspects of the revised proposal, and stress that giving the district a full year to plan for MI at Ohlone would benefit the program and the district. That would give us all a sense that was was something good, after all, emerging from this political struggle.

If they cast votes in favor while making it appear that the district is a victim rather than a political entity caught between competing visions of how to make PAUSD a better place, they will contribute to the kind of unhappiness you foresee, Simon, which would be a terrible outcome for the district, no matter how well the program turns out.

You've commented in your posts that you see value in MI but would like to see it implemented in a charter school, regional perhaps to increase its viability and to relieve Palo Alto of the need to provide space. Here's where I lean the other way.

I am relieved that there is still a chance for a choice MI program in PAUSD, which I hope will preclude an MI charter school in the district. There are several school districts that have started MI dual immersion programs, but where else has it been connected to the open structure approach practiced at Ohlone? Nowhere, I'd guess. (Anyone want to research this?)

Will it work? Don't know, but I hope we'll have a chance to find out. It could have implications as a model beyond the boundaries of PAUSD.

A charter school is unlikely to take this course and would be largely isolated from direction and coordination with the district I don't doubt that it would do very well and be a very attractive educational option, but it wouldn't benefit the district.

This decision is not the end of this issue, regardless of how it goes. Think forward 10 years. What would be hardest for the community to overcome: a violation of cost neutrality should it occur, a failure of MI and Ohlone to blend as well as hoped, or a perception by Palo Alto parents who in good faith used the tools available to them to bring about change that they had been set up as scapegoats for years to come for all the district's difficulties--regardless of how well the program turned out?

It would be better to turn down the MI choice proposal and accept responsibility for whatever costs ensued than to vote 4-1 in favor of MI Choice while portraying it in the worst possile light. (The costs are no greater now than they were when the proposal was turned down in January, just better understood.)

Obviously, I hope this won't happen. The costs are too great--not just financial costs but the lost opportunity to craft something new and hopeful.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 3:21 am

A more even-handed article about our sqabbles in the Mercury, don't know why it wasn't posted: Web Link

One of the most effective discipline tools in our household is that if our kids demand or whine for something, they don't get it even if we intended to give it to them before they whined. Friends who give in to the whining and demands are still dealing years later with escalating whining and even physical hitting or kicking from their kids when their kids want something.

It may not seem the easiest thing in the short term to do the right thing, but it is definitely easier in the long term. Please do not set such a terrible precedent in our district. Even if board members leave, the rest of us will be left to regret their decision in the long run.


Posted by another anonymous pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 6:18 am

In that article (NOT written by the usual Sharon N.) the author states:

"Grace Mah, a leading Mandarin-immersion proponent who was recently appointed to the Santa Clara County Board of Education, said she'd be delighted if the board changes its mind. Some members of her group, however, would prefer to go for the charter."

Exactly why Dana and Mandy should not reverse themselves. Dana said earlier this year that he would not voe for MI choice unless he could get assurances that no charter application would follow. I haven't seen such assurances anywhere. What this district does NOT need is MI choice AND charter.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 7:38 am

To Jerry: You said

"Think forward 10 years".

Well, that is why so many people opposed this program in this way. We didn't want a district of different elementary schools, each with its own language program developed because some group got together a bunch of money, alloted by "lottery" to the lucky kids who get in.

We wanted to be able to have our district CHOOSE what kind of district we were going to build, instead of having this "competing vision" forced on us.

This will bring us one step closer to THAT model of education, with many different alternative schools within one small district where kids get the education they win.

Many of us would have chosen a different model, where all the kids get the same great curriculum which prepares them to be able to choose their lives and become expert in a language by the time theyare in 12th grade if they wish. This would mean a well thought out program for all kids.

We didn't have a chance to bring it to the community to choose what vision of the district it had.

I don't really blame PACE for this problem. I blame our Board for very poor policy and process management.

We now are going to have 2 immersion programs in the district. It will be virtually impossible to not turn into a district with multiple immersion programs.

The good thing about Ohlone is that, if anyone can integrate the MI kids and figure out how to bring a FLES model to the rest of the kids in the school with the cooperation of the MI kids/staff, it will be they. So that when the next language comes around, maybe we will have a more successful model than the SI program is for integrating into a school.

I also have to say that, given it is going to happen, I am very interested to see if it is possible to have an MI program that teaches in a style that is completely the opposite of the traditional style, and has such emphasis on community building, involvement and service. If it is successful, Ohlone will have done a great service to the community, and will have counteracted many of the cultural fears I have heard expressed.

My fear is that once MI "fills up" the 3 portables scheduled to be place at Ohlone, what next? Keep adding more kids to Ohlone and keep the program there? Not too sure the Ohlone folks are going to be very excited about 600 kids at the school.

Or, my trust level is very low right now..will it really be a way to insist on moving out to a bigger place, taking over half of a neighborhood school, and reverting back to what has been the traditionally preferred style of instruction?

Time will tell. I hope that we can all make the best of it, and at the very least take a deep breath and see what happens with it before there is any more emotion around this.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2007 at 8:47 am

Still not one word about requesting deep input from teaching staff, or site principals, about what this program will do to already lean resources. This alone goes a long way toward proving a point made earlier - i.e. that the BOE, with complicit help from some parents are so ingrained in thinking about public education as a political football (at many levels), that they can't see the forest for the trees.

Everyone (me included) is speculating about "what if", while the people who do the work of educating are compelled to maneuver around one newly introduced constraint after another (and here comes MI).

Here we have various individuals in the last few posts - not one of them a teacher, or administrator - wondering aloud how things will work out "if", or "if not" MI is adopted.

Once the BOE and they have done exhausted political lobbying, and dealt in various political machinations, teachers and site administrators will go about making yet another adaptation to a system that is so wanked out of shape (in terms of its ability to optimally deliver a comprehensive 21st century education).

The pure waste of community resources - in terms of dissention over ends and means, opportunity lost to spend energy on something that would actually improve education for the whole, and so on, is simply astounding.

All of the above is a legacy left to us by the absurd - given the obvious alternatives in both private and pubic sector - structure of the way this district is administered.

Is there no hope to change this antiquated structure, so that we can begin to put greater weight on inputs from those who know what it takes in the classroom, and what it takes from a site administrative point of view to make our local educational system hum? Or, do we go out these next few months listening to the same old homilies from candidates who promise to do this and that, while at the same time know NOTHING about educating kids, except for the end-point experiences they have had as a recipient of education services?

There is a better way, but you won't see the next (or this) BOE, or Senior PAUSD administration, and many parents suggesting a turn in new directions - they're having too much well-meaning fun enjoying the power that accompanies the ability to manipulate an organization.

Someone(s) have to deconstruct this mess, because there is nothing on the horizon but more political intrique and conflict. What a waste, all in service to an intractable org chart that everyone takes for granted. I always thought we were smarter than that. Maybe not...


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 8:58 am

RWE, I think your views on the need to put teachers in charge of the district and to eliminate the board (Superintendent too I believe) is completely naive, and frankly dangerous.

The fact is - its about money.

As long as there is money in education - and money to be had for those who know how to manipulate the systme, you are going to have vultures like we're seeing now, circling overhead, attacking this district to get at that money.

You better have a strong board/super level who know how to play and win the political game. Or else we're just dead meat.

(Which we don't have right now - which completely explains the mess that allowed vultures to come in an pick off our resources.)

The fact is, your product is education, so you hire experts at delivering education to design and implement and run the education delivery. But you must have expert business managers at the helm who know how to out maneuver the competition. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2007 at 9:34 am

Parent,

First, teachers and site administrators would _not_ be in charge fo the district. Rather, the structure of the BOE would change to permit one teacher and one site administrator to be assigned to the board. One of the three remaining members wouldl have to have had substantial experience in education. the other two positions would be elected.

Second, I don't see the PACE group as "vultures". PACE has done what the system reinforces, period. Why _shouldn't_ groups who want the "educational add-on of the day" be motivated to go after it in any way that they can, if that's what the system permits.

This statement does feed into your claim that it's "all about the money". Yes, the money is there, but rather than being about _that_ (the money), it's more about people wanting a better education for their kids, with the "money" (and manipulation of the polkitical structure necessary to get it) a means to that end.

The problem with this is that we have well-meaning individuals who have somehow been led to believe (not just in PA, but in districts all over America) that "they know best" when it comes to K-12 education. if that was so, why do we come up so short when it comes to comparing American K-12 education with the rest of the developed world? Please answer that question.

I don't want to get too far afield, into American education at large, but this is a HUGE problem, and one that we don't have very much time to fix.

Back to "the money". You might be surprised at how savvy educational professionals - other than career education bureaucrats - are about understanding the arcane system we know as American K-12 education. Why haven't we - or won't we - consider teaching and site administration experience on a BOE? What are we afraid of?

I highly question your assumption that the mix of teachers/administrators/parents would be any less effective than what we have now.

Third, Please help pme understand why we need a large central administration in every district (let's just stay with California for now). Also, please help me understand why not ONE district in California has moved to create _significant_ instructional OR operational efficiencies with any other district? Why isi that?

Please tell me why we have ann overlay of "County Boards of Education".

The fact is that American K-12 education - even in the "better" districts is outmoded, built on an arcane infrastructure that was meant for the days when people worked in factories.

Manay people here think "oh, well...PAUSD has a great reputation, so if I pay an additional $600K for a PA home, and send my kid to PAUSD, so that s/he gets onto a top flight university, everything will be fine". That USED to be the case, when every other country on earth was still recovering from the post WWII destruction for their social and economic infrastructure.

Palo Alto has - from an educational point of view - a "gifted demographic". in spite of this, we permit ourselves to become every-year victims to one piece of political intrigue around education after another. This DOES NOT happen in other countries, not anywhere near this level.

Everyone thinks that PAUSD is better, and rests on that laurel - forgetting that we could be SO MUCH BETTER if we just got out of the way of the people that do the teaching and site administering, and included those folks as primary agents in decision making, instead of end-agents that do the bidding of the latest educational manipulation du jour. What a waste.





Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 12:38 pm

RWE

I am interested in what you say, but I don't understand when you say that American education is outmoded, built on an arcane infrastructure that was meant for the days when people worked in factories. Please can you elaborate.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Parent,

Start with the management structure. It's decidedly top-down, and far from the model that many current public and private organizations have today.

There is little in the way of idea and initiative cross-fertilization among site administrators, teachers, and senior executives.

This isn't to say that all most organizations operating in the 21st century don't have reporting structures, or that they run by themselves - they don't. It's more to say that the administration of public education hasn't changed very much in the last half century.

Also, the administrative curriculum that senior administrators engage is decidedly weak compared to what executives in the private sector face. K-12 education in America is a kind of ghetto for automatic administrative promotion at the senior level, with very little accountability.

Add to this the fact that we include an elected BOE in the mix as a variable - a big variable, because senior executives within PAUSD (and other districts) work at the BOE's pleasure.

Comparing this with the board structure of many comtemporary piublic and private organizations, there is a clear structural flaw - with every district having a rotating BOE (elections every so many years), and careerist bureaucrats (said with respect) having to "get along" so that they can "move along" to their next "assignment" (every 5 or so years, hence).

Where this all falls down in comparison to more efficient structures is that every district sees itself as a discrete entity - in teaching AND operations. there is simply no incentive to look for extra-district ways to create _significant_ operational or teaching efficiencies. The whole system - nationally, and locally - simply continues on its merry way, at a snail's pace _because_ there is no real incentive to change the way things are.

The "ignorance is bliss" factor is very hard at work in this scenario, because unlike even 20 years ago, when many nations were catching up from the destruction visited on them in WWII, there are now many countries that surpass American K-12 educational quality, including education in districts as highly regarded as PAUSD. Our kids are going to pay a price for this, down the road, as the new "flattened" world permits trans-border mobility as never before. For instance, 1 in 3 new residents in Silicon Valley are from another country. One would think that meant something to educational administrators and BOE's, as they squabble over political means to political ends - it doesn't.

And why should K-12 educational bureaucracies change? Heck, BOE members simply fade into the background after they term out, or use their BOE experience to seek further political office. What penalties do you see out there for poor performance by a Superintendent? Virtually none. Most simply continue jumping from district to district, until they retire, regardless of performance. It's an "old boy" network, including the same old tired consulting firms that are hired ad nauseum to look in the same places for the same kinds of people to run districts that are virtually indistinguishable - in terms of operational and curricular policy - than they were 40 years ago.

What private corporation (or modern-day, forward-looking non-profit) would continue to look askance at opportunities to create extra-corporate efficiencies? American K-12 school systems almost _never_ do this. That's an opportunity constraint for our kids in tomorrow's world.

I'm _very_ pro public education. That said, we _must_ find ways to make educational districts far more transparent and inclusive, and at the same time less political.

Look at the MI fiasco. Teacher and site administrator inputs were all but unheard. Instead, we had a motivated group of well-meaning people who used a well-worn political process to try to have their way with PAUSD - our _kids_ learning environment, where teachers and site administrators work _every day_, face-to-face with those kids, educating them, and socializing them.

Teaching and administrative professionals are burdened today as never before, but their inputs are hardly ever taken with the same weight as senior executives, the BOE, or parents. Think about it. What modern corporation operates this way? Look at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, GE, and so on. These organization all have their problems, and they do have structured management, but the ADAPT. This is something that American education is NOT doing, including districts like PAUSD.

I've asked around of teachers and site administrators here, about MI. Most of them think it's currently a bad idea, for any number of reasons. Yet those voices were never heard in the debate.

Parents should always have a voice in public education, but that voice needs to be educated about the reality of classroom experience, in addition to what needs to be done to improve the quality of education. But, this closed loop system that never seems to change, that seems essentially void of anything new in terms of curricular structure.



Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2007 at 2:01 pm

The letter was signed by only 9 people. The letter did not define who PACE is so that it is clear whether this represents all of the people in PACE or just a fraction of them.

Frankly, if I had to have a promise from a bank, contractor, or other entity, a letter like this would mean I was assured of being taken for a ride. If I got a letter like this, and there was a lot on the line, I would insist on a real contract, with real liquidated damages if the other party didn't meet their obligation.

All anyone would have to do in the future is say, "I didn't sign the letter, and the board knew that PACE represented more than 9 families, so it should have known I and others could have applied for a charter."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by pa resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Actually at least two of the signers are married, don't know about the others. We are talking about 8 families at most - obviously there must be more members of PACE who are not signing and not buying into the idea of dropping a charter permanently. There is absolutely no guarantee that the charter threat won't pop up again when PACE members decide that PAUSD isn't running the choice program in the way they want it run. No guarantees this threat won't lie in wait for years to come.


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