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School board backs Mandarin immersion 4-1
Original post made
on Jun 6, 2007
In a historic vote Tuesday night the Palo Alto Board of Education voted 4-1 (board member Gail Price dissenting) to launch a controversial Mandarin immersion "choice" program within PAUSD as a way to head off a more expensive, time-consuming charter school.
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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2007 at 12:44 pm
I just got a call, so am reading this thread.
I am very, very sad to hear that, you, Grace, think I didn't make time to talk to you upon your invitation. Grace, many apologies that you didn't get any answer from me.
If you wrote me by e-mail and it wasn't obvious who it was from, either by subject line or by your name in the e-mail, I probably deleted it. I delete anything I don't know before even opening it.
If you called me, I am sorry, I never got a message. Maybe it was the connection. I know sometimes I think I am leaving a message and later it turns out that the call was dropped.
If you wrote through PAEE, I didn't receive any message through that site.
It is a real pity that we all couldn't have sat down together last fall. At the very least, it would have been nice to simply talk in private. I will say out loud that it never occured to me that I, or any of us, had any actual ability to effect any change in the outcome, except through raising awareness and talking to the Board. Taking it to a personal level, as if I, or any one else, had any power to change anything, simply didn't occur to me last fall. I never saw myself as having any decision making ability. I saw this whole thing as a decision point for our Board between 2 different visions for what the elementary school part of the District should look like, and how decisions should be made.
I will say that in April sometime, I think it was, a mutual friend tried to put me together with Nico for a little chat, which ended up happening at the meeting where you were selected to the County Board, but by then it was clear that the "train was rolling" and nothing short of a Board vote was going to make any difference. So, we decided to shake hands and keep moving. You may recall I tried to make a lighthearted moment which fell like a brick when I congratulated you at this meeting!
I hope that some good comes out of this, more than the obvious good to the kids in the program. I hope that we, including us as a community, our District and our future Boards, have learned how to prevent such a horrific disintegration in the future.
I suggest anyone with ideas on how to prevent this let their ideas be known to the Board. Perhaps through policy changes concerning "choice" programs to be clearer, or perhaps through implementing a "special" protocol for open and mediated discussion of contentious issues in public, or perhaps through changing how/when our district accepts donations so that there is not unintended pain caused, etc.
In the meantime, Grace, again I regret deeply that I never realized that my talking to you last fall might have had an effect on the process, the desires of PACE, or the outcome. If it had entered my mind, I would have contacted you, myself!
At this point, I offer you my congratulations, and my hopes that we can all get past the incredible amount of hurt and vitriol many of us have endured in this last year, and eventually heal this and get back to working together for the good of the whole district. Maybe we will even run into each other at a coffee shop and chat in a relaxed moment.
I will also copy and paste this to e-mail to your website, and if anyone reading this knows Grace's e-mail personally, I would appreciate you sending it on to her.
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Posted by Observer
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:04 am
You have clearly come late to this discussion. This was never about whether we should teach language in our schools or not. Many, many proponents of language instruction in PAUSD, even Mandarin (like myself), were opposed to this plan, because it requires a classroom for each grade of each strand, we are in a crisis for space, and because it offers language to a few while the rest of district kids have none at all.
Nico Janik admitted in this forum that PACE never considered any other fluency instruction models, they went with dual immersion because that's what SI is. Earlier in this thread above, Grace Mah mentions MV's visit to the Yew Cheung school in a positive light, despite the fact that her own group never seriously considered the approach. As someone pointed out in an earlier thread, the Yew Cheung approach teaches Mandarin FLUENCY with only 1.5 hours of Mandarin a day, the rest of the classes are taught in English.
If we brought this approach to Palo Alto, with guidance from a school that is in our backyard, we could be offering language FLUENCY instruction to all PAUSD kids without needing to add a separate school or choice program. Each neighborhood school could offer a longer day to those who wished to take language, a kind of after-school elective. And many of the same "cost neutral" justifications PACE used could apply here: we could use existing teachers at campuses who speak those languages fluently already, we're already paying their benefits and overhead, adding a few hours a week wouldn't be a significant added cost. And each campus would have the option of having whatever language or languageS that they wished. Those languages could change over time as needs changed, without all the trauma of trying to change a program like MI. Any given school could offer more than one language at the same time, giving kids the opportunity to develop multiple-language fluency by the end of elementary school.
And, we could offer the program from the get-go to kids of all grade, not just kinders. Plus, kids in the upper grades could be grouped by instructional needs, rather than requiring a separate teacher and room for every grade and every strand. Most importantly, the rooms would be existing classrooms and existing schools and there would be no disruptions or constraints on facilities as we work through the overcrowding issues.
This is a FLUENCY proposal, not a FLES proposal. It would offer, more cheaply than FLES by far, and possibly cost-neutral (if we're allowed to work our arguments to suit our purposes in the same way PACE has), and AVAILABLE TO ALL CHILDREN IN OUR DISTRICT. All of these people writing in supporting this coup think you are supporting language education in our district, and you have no idea what you are talking about. PACE has been so inflexible in pushing for what they want for a few kids, and have been unwilling to make any compromises at all, even for other proven fluency programs that would work better for our district.
And frankly, if we got a fluency instructional model like this going - adding significant educational capacity this way - it could apply to other types of instruction as any campus wished, music, math, etc., etc., as we got more experience with it. All without adding schools, taking space away from our neighborhood schools, causing crisis over adding more choice programs and hurting the neighborhood schools, and without adding significant cost. Or even technically changing the length of the official school day, it's kind of an end run around that problem. We could change and adapt to be the best we can in the future, rather than getting a cumbersome program that once here, is here for good.
I would like to know from Grace if she has a different perspective on what "FLES" means than other supporters who have posted here.
So far, they have talking about giving the other Ohlone kids Mandarin as if that is FLES, which is completely missing the point. Teaching Mandarin to the other kids at Ohlone and leaving everyone else in the district with no language instruction at all is not FLES, it's another slap in our faces. Are you committing to bringing FLES to the rest of the district, or are you just talking about Ohlone, which only narrowly serves your own purposes to co-exist on that campus? If you are willing to work for district-wide FLES, I will be rooting for you to redeem yourself. If you are talking about just Ohlone... How about trying to implement this above immersion model (simultaneously with your MI program, I realize there's no talking you into any alternatives) so that other kids in Palo Alto can have the same opportunity at fluency instruction for a fraction of the cost of FLES and a fraction of the disruption of the MI program? Actions speak louder than words, and given past tendencies I wouldn't fully believe you unless I saw you putting word to deed, but I would be willing to bury the hatchet over that.
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Posted by Lynn
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:58 am
The following is a letter I sent to all Board of Ed. members the day of the second vote on the MI program. I'm posting it here because I don't feel that some of my concerns have ever been addressed by the board, particularly the fact that I believe that the district is in the midst of a major governance crisis right now.
Although I believe that the outcome of the vote on Mandarin immersion tonight is a foregone conclusion, in one last-ditch effort to try to change your minds I give you this summary of my primary concerns about implementing this program a year from now. Although I certainly don't agree with all of you, I'd like to thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this.
A governance crisis is a big red flag for a district headed for financial trouble. Neither of these programs, MI or FLES, is going to benefit anyone if the district is financially strained and cutbacks have to be made to those as well as other programs and services to keep us financially viable. I don't think it's fair to expect Kevin Skelly to come into the midst of this crisis with a major new program committed to by the Board. Here's why I think we have a governance crisis in our district:
Senior management is tainted:
Entire middle management team distrusts Senior Cabinet. Yes, Callan and Matranga are retiring, but many people feel that Cook is as culpable as Callan in fostering the negative and bitter atmosphere that exists today.
After Cynthia Pino was terminated, Cook was promoted to her position, and Bowers appointed to Cook's in a secret meeting where no agenda was posted.
When Laurence was appointed, the initial agenda did not have his appointment on it. Three hours later, an updated agenda was emailed out, with a note that one item was added in closed session. I do not believe that this decision was made in three hours, but rather that the first agenda was sent out as a decoy to minimize the number of people who would even notice that an assistant superintendent appointment was about to be made.
The Cook and Bowers appointments caused uproar among middle management. The fact that no one cared about this is evidenced by the fact that a very similar, secretive process was used for the appointment of Laurence, almost two years after the Cook/Bowers flap.
Lozano and Smith law firm was sanctioned by a California Federal judge in 2005 for lying and obstruction of justice in a case involving a special education student, and ordered to conduct ethics training for all of its attorneys and shareholders. This is the firm that did nothing to ensure that the Brown Act was followed during the years of Callan's tenure. I can't help but wonder how many other legal matters have been swept under the carpet by the Lozano Smith/Callan alliance. I think we're about to find out when we get a new, more trustworthy superintendent and business manager.
Community distrusts the school board:
Too much flip flopping on this MI question
Apparently going to give in to a small determined group of individuals who are threatening the district to get their way.
Rewards people who take from the district, not those who give to the district.
STATE BUDGET-MAY REVISE
I have some real concerns about some of the areas of recommended cutbacks in order to account for the missing $364 million in the May Revise, and how they could affect our budget, and consequently how that might affect plans to start an MI Choice program and/or FLES.
Teachers & Classrooms:
At the May 22 BoE meeting, Jerry Matranga said, in his presentation about Charter schools, that you cannot assume that when 20 students leave the district for a Charter school, that you can save the cost of one teacher and classroom. He said that other districts with Charter schools that he talked to had not experienced the anticipated cost savings in terms of teaching staff.
But the corollary must also be true, which is that you don't necessarily save on a teacher and a classroom when 20 kids go to a Choice program. You do, however, incur the costs of an incremental, Mandarin speaking, BCLAD certified teacher for every 20 students, beyond the point where we already have those teachers in our district who want to teach in this program.
Either you save one FTE for every 20 kids going to a Charter school or you don't, but it would the same for a Choice program, and you haven't done due diligence on this question if you don't know the answer.
Other start up costs for staff:
The following list was taken from the timeline in the Feasibility Study. Every single one of these items involves staff time that I don't think is accounted for in the start up costs. In my experience at JLS, staff gets paid for everything, including attending Site Council meetings and running student clubs at lunch.
School staff participates in educational travel opportunities to China.
Review available Mandarin curriculum and purchase materials.
Provide extensive opportunities for principal and key staff to visit existing successful programs, including programs observed during the feasibility study project, to receive training in bilingual education, and to collaborate on implementation plans.
Establish Mandarin curriculum standards and program standards that are equivalent to English only standards. Establish assessment tools in Mandarin to monitor progress of students in the program.
Examine ways to allow a new teacher to become familiar with the Ohlone Way of teaching mixed grade classes and managing the English curriculum and with the collaborative environment of the school during the spring semester (through subbing, student teaching, interning, job sharing, etc.)
Hold information meetings for parents so that they can become familiar both with Ohlone School and with the plans for the Mandarin Immersion program.
I feel very strongly that the general public does not want MI, and would stand behind the district on future bond measures and other endeavors if a Charter school were imposed on the district, whereas if a Choice program is voted in by a majority of board members out of fear of the consequences of a Charter school, that people would feel that the district is out of touch and withdraw financial and other support.
One way to measure this is to ask Susan Bailey how many donations came in to PiE after January 30 of this year. I know a number of people who waited to give until after the board vote was taken, and now feel cheated with respect to their contributions.
Is the program sustainable by others besides Susan Charles and Grace? I worry that their skills are so unique and specialized that no one else could pull this off. Anything can happen to people that could impact their ability to do their jobs: health and family issues, moving out of the area, career aspirations, etc. It's unreliable and risky to put all our eggs in the Susan Charles/Grace Mah basket.
Several things Susan said at the last BoE meeting on May 22 give the impression that this program will be a sort of outlaw program in the district, and statements like the following make me very nervous:
Monica Lynch will go to China and "grab all the educational materials she can get her hands on."
We are "enamored" of this idea of Mandarin at Ohlone
After a couple years of MI we will start to "play" with the idea of expanding Mandarin instruction into the larger student body.
The worst thing that could happen to our district is not the formation of a Charter school, because that is likely to happen at some point anyway unless some legal loopholes are closed.
The worst thing that could happen is the collapse of community support, and you have the power to prevent that from happening, tonight.