We were duped on Measure A Schools & Kids, posted by Angry Taxpayer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2006 at 5:15 pm
Were we duped with Measure A? The board doesn't seem to get the connection. They asked for parcel tax increase of about $435 per parcel because the district was in dire straights. Risk of increasing class sizes, dire cuts to district staff, cut programs...
And maybe that was all true, so we gave them the money, its being used TOWARD those items, but NOT fully covering all those items. In fact district staff is still understaffed, never restored.
But somehow, miraculously they found a way to divert a good chunk of Marilyn Cook, Becky Cohn Vargas, Norm Masuda, Lapkoff and Gobel, AAAG committe time, Irv Rollins, for the last six months, plus several other teachers who went traveling around the country (even to China), checking out immersion programs this summer, not to mention all the BOARD time spent discussing Mandarin Immersion.
Mandarin Immersion wasn't even on the list when they told us they needed Measure A money - now they got ours and are spending it all TOWARD the measure A list. Measure A items are NOT fully restored yet, but the district somehow magically seems to have plenty of wiggle room in THEIR resource resevoir to go off on optional, non-priority items.
(Yes, PACE paid them $65K. And thats supposed to make it all ok to divert our SCARCE top resources to such a low priority project??? Like we can hire temps to replace our Assistant Superintendent's time, our Curriculum Director's time, and our top language Supervisor's time? Then maybe we should hire temps and drop these positions all together...)
Mandy in particular wants to defend the measure A spending so far, claiming that because they're spending all the measure A booty on measure A listed items they're in compliance. Sure, well goody goody goody. There are still items which were held up as critical reasons for measure A, left unrestored, which have myseriously switched priority with MI.
Mandy and the other board members need to understand this REAL QUICK that this is THE trust and RESPECT issue that is going to take this district down. The voters and tax payers of this district are NEVER going to believe another word they say if in the context of incredibibly tight space at elementary level, bordering precariously on need to open a 13th elementary, need for more middle school space, need for more high school space, they somehow magically find a way to shove aside neighborhood schools and community STATED priorities and find a cozy little spot for MI. They'll have an impossible time finding campaigners, and voters, willing to sign up for more bond funding, more parcel tax, etc. coming off the sting of this slap in the face.
They'll be lucky if most people even continue to donate to PIE knowing that private funding routes straight from donor to District Staff get money more directly to the programs donor's want to favor.
They've already gone TOO FAR sideways on this issue. They need to recover their senses (maybe some smelling salts or something) and snap out of it. The only good news here is that the biggest puppet supporters of MI (Camille and Dana) are going to be at the helm to take full responsibility of the huge mess they're about to create. That will be my only pleasure in watching it unfold.
Posted by Midtown Neighbor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2006 at 6:43 pm
I think Angry Taxpayer may remember what a hard fought battle Measure A was. It didn't pass the first time, then supporters had to start all over again. We made phone calls, canvassed neighborhoods and worked very hard to help our school district out of its fiscal crisis. Now, it just steams me too, that highly paid administrative staff time is being diverted from efforts to bring back programs for ALL our school children in order to create a special program for less than 5% of our school children. I wouldn't be opposed to MI if the school board got it's priorities straight and fixed what needs fixing first. There is limited staff time, limited resources, and nowhere to put this program, without displacing children. SI solved a problem with under enrollment at a school. This scenario does not exist today. Kids will most certainly be displaced to create this program.
How the board gets around this will be an interesting process to observe.
Oh, one last thing - At one of the AAAG meetings the district posed a question to AAAG members essentially asking what they thought of giving kids in the MI lottery who come from impacted schools priority admission. I was relieved that not one member of the AAAG thought this was acceptable, but I was very surprised the question was asked at all. Now I've heard this has already happened with SI. Talk about trusting the process.
I also have a real hard time understanding how PAUSD could allow PACE to fund this feasibility study. Wow.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2006 at 8:19 pm
If enough people felt the way "Angry Taxpayer" does, maybe they could start a referendum to repeal the parceltax. Seems like we don't need the money for those programs, since it's not going to fund them. MI is irrelevant to our own family one way or another, but I DO object to bait and switch.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 13, 2006 at 9:08 pm
There is an oversight committee for Measure A. In fact, it just submitted its first report, indicating that Measure A funds were spend as intended: Web Link .
The bait and switch, and duping, is actually what the "Angry Taxpayer" is practicing. S/he is unhappy with the MI progress, so s/he pretends that since the district spent some effort on investigating MI, this constitutes violation of Measure A term in some way. How? Ask him/her. I am sure that in his/her opinion, the war in Iraq violates Measure A terms too.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Dec 14, 2006 at 1:29 am
Wolf, I am starting to wonder if you purposefully "misunderstand" what people say just to see the cyber-reaction.
In any case, I understand Angry taxpayer's feelings. I feel absolutely comfortable with the oversight committee and the findings that all the money went in the spirit of Measure A.
However, the feeling of betrayal is still there.
I think it was disengenuous not to state in Measure A that 1/2 the funds would go for raises, mandated by union agreements, and that we needed that money so that we wouldn't have to let some staff go in order to comply with the raises for others..I don't know why it wasn't explained, but the result was shock when we went from the threat of teacher lay-offs without Measure A, to reading about raises for all. Don't get me wrong, I love my teachers and would happily pay them more. They work HARD for my kids. But it was extremely irritating since it wasn't explained in the proposal, and caused my trust to plummet.
And, the spirit of Measure A was clearly that we are in dire circumstances, struggling to restore much needed lost programs, we need the money to do it, beg, beg , beg..ok, vote it in..and the next thing we know there are big Board and Staff time resources being spent on MI, a program that was nowhere in sight. But what is the status of the programs we voted to pay for? We don't know, the Board and Staff are too preoccupied to work on them, or maybe they are working on them, but they are too busy to at least report on them.
One of the reasons they are too busy for this question, and for following through with such silly things that would normally guide a Board in its decisions such as the 3 year planning/strategic cycle is..well, you know.
So, yes, I understand the feeling of betrayal from the letter.
Posted by Angry Taxpayer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 10:50 am
My brother came to me and explained he was on hard times. He asked me for a $1000 loan for groceries, medicine and a few christmas presents for the kids. Although it was a hardship on my family, I willingly took him shopping and we indeed stocked up his pantry for groceries to cover his family through the winter, we bought their medications, and we bought a few books, puzzles, school supplies, and some educational software which he used for holiday presents for the kids. Clearly their needs were basic, and I was glad to support this, I did so willingly and with pleasure knowing it was for a good cause.
The next day I saw a delivery truck in their front yard. He called me in to see his new big screen TV.
He used my money for necessities, and he used his 'extra' money for luxuries. Fair is fair right? He used my money on everything he
TOLD ME he would.
This is the issue. Maybe Wolf's angry little single track mind can wrap around this. Wolf, you can pretend all you want that this isn't happening. We'll see what the voters and tax payers have to say about your support of MI when it comes time for the next hand out for facilities bonds to open up Garland to place MI. You must feel pretty confident about your PR spin machine.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 11:45 am
To Angry Taxpayer,
I think I now understand where you are coming from. If I thought the situation was as you described, I think I'd also feel a bit disappointed. Disappointed with him, but also with myself that I didn't check with my "brother" how hard are his "hard times."
But I see the situation as if the "brother" came to me and said that he will not be able to throw this year the big Christmas bash for the extended family that he used to do, and that he also will not be able to take his family on the month-long summer vacations in Europe that they value so much since its bonds them so well. I decided that these values are important for our extended family, and decided to chip in. But I see little "fairness" issue in his buying a new large screen TV -- his old set has been on the blink, and the kids were complaining long and loud...
PAUSD already spends much more than average on each kid, even without Measure A. Measure A money was from the beginning dedicated for a "nice to have" things. Class size reduction in grades 4-10 is a wonderful thing to have for teachers and students (and their parents!), but overall of very questionable academic benefit. Check the literature if you doubt me. Not to mention the fairness of attempting to control 100% of budget through much less than 10% of parcel tax -- isn't this what the feds are doing, and we bitterly complain about that?
In summary, I do understand now where you are coming from. I still strongly disagree with you.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm
Dear Angry Taxpayer,
I feel your pain and I like your analogy, but it fails to capture the present situation since the MI proposal hasn't cost the district any money and since language is not trivial entertainment. Change it this way: make the TV a car to get to work and let someone GIVE your brother the car. Still angry?
Posted by Tulley, a member of the El Carmelo School community, on Dec 14, 2006 at 12:46 pm
What if the brother doesn't have the means for the insurance, maintainence, gas, parking space, and all the other costs associated with this "cost neutral" gift? Is Angry Taxpayer expected to fund those also, just because he and his wife were short-sighted and didn't analyze carefully because they were so thrilled with the "idea" of the car? Does Andgry Taxpayer feel duped, and disinclined to open the checkbook again? You bet!
Posted by Tulley, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 1:31 pm
Right, the brother will pay the costs to run the car, until the next financial obstacle comes along--unexpected, unforseen major repairs, a traffic accident or two which raises the cost of insurance, another child added to the family and the brother now needs a minivan--now brother is looking for Angry Taxpayer to open the checkbook again...Sorry, not again!
Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 1:46 pm
The question is whether the community and tax payers that (narrowly) backed Measure A, on premises put forth at the time, are now willing to swallow your new premises (reduced class sizes are a luxury, of questionable educational value. And, We're within our rights to spin a new set of priorities, etc. so forth.)
As said previously, good luck to you in spinning that to the public. Good luck to you and the rest of the board members.
Wolf, this isn't an argument you and Angry Taxpayer need to agree on. The voters will eventually decide.
Posted by Tulley, a member of the El Carmelo School community, on Dec 14, 2006 at 7:43 pm
Bill, so we"ve come full circle, haven't we. Taxpayer had the "cost free" parameter thrown at her/him as the justification for the car. Brother will be fine? Says who? The genius who advised brother to accept that cost free gift? Hmmm. And when Taxpayer balks and questions the logic, brother and his genius advisor get a little testy, don't they?
Posted by Daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 14, 2006 at 11:28 pm
I voted for Measure A and I do not feel duped.
Sure, the board adopted priorities, but that doesn't mean that everything else stops (MI has been in the pipeline since spring of 1992) or that nothing else can be taken up (should the district ignore Los Altos' plan to secede from PAUSD?).
Most of the priorities were a Wish List, not a To Do List. The Wish List items depend on funding becoming available. (No $$ from Sacramento makes it hard to add permanent employees.)
As for administrators' time on MI, they would have spent that time on things like BITSA and were able to offload these tasks to employees on temporary assignments due to the donation from PACE. The district hires administrators to get the job done, and that includes delegating, coordinating, and overseeing progress. If we expected administrators to do everything themselves, we'd be in a real mess.
The PACE donation was publicly made and accepted. It made it possible to (a) use Measure A funds as promised and (b) complete the feasibility study for a proposal that had been in the works for a long time. With such high parent involvement, PAUSD is under more scrutiny than 99.9% of school districts in the country. I don't like all of the choices that the district makes in it allocation of resources (who does?), but I don't accuse our administrators of financial duplicity—nor do the school board, the Measure A oversight committee, or auditors.
It's perfectly reasonable to ask the district how it is using Measure A funding. However, to accuse the district of fraud because of opposition to a controversial educational program only makes lively fodder in the press. As a kill-MI tactic, it may have the unintended consequence of killing the next bond measure. No one has been duped.
No funds have been diverted from Measure A. Measure A promises are being fulfilled. MI work is nearing completion thanks to donated funds. Voters should be pleased that both Measure A and the MI study could be accomplished.
Posted by Tulley, a member of the El Carmelo School community, on Dec 15, 2006 at 11:28 am
It's an interesting strategy that Duanna, Wolf and others employ. When the opposing views to MI cut too close to the truth, out come the dismissive cries of "red herring", the accusations of "racism" and the sidestepping on answering any questions related to the risks, challenges, and funding sources related to MI. Duanna has now relegated the district priorities to a Wish List, while elevating MI to the To Do List. Would closing the achievement gap be on the Wish List or To Do list? Where would you place "Unfunded Priorities"? How about the issue of retirement reserves? And our obsolete and substandard school bus fleet? What about school site vandalism and security--wish list? These are a few of the discussions which the BOE tackled in the past few months. I haven't heard any resolution, so I guess they are all "wish list" items and MI is the most pressing matter on the To Do list.
Posted by Daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 1:20 pm
When I read the priorities, I see they fall into two categories: those that require no further funding (To Do List) and those that are tied to the availability of new money (Wish List). With new money, items on the Wish List move to the To Do List.
Please don't accuse me of anything, and I won't accuse you of anything!
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 2:24 pm
When I look at the materials available online that were presented in board minutes from the time of Measure A, and other FAQ materials regarding Measure A Campaign, I didn't see or hear the district telling the public: "Here is a "WISH LIST" - Will you help?"
Rather, I heard some pretty dire predictions about negative impact on the quality of education if we didn't help.
The measure A campaign was not ambiguous about the priorities of the district.
Community expectations about what mattered were clearly set at that time - there was no discussion about MI, even though it had been discussed (and already voted down once) in several years past. IF MI was "IN THE WORKS" during Measure A, I think it is even more dishonest that the board and district staff considered this a priority in the back room, but left this completely out of the measure A discussion. I wonder if they thought even way back then, that the voters would reject the parcel tax if they thought the district was diverting resources to such a low priority item???
And I do agree, as was said originally, technically there is no violiation of Measure A spending, and probably no audit violations on the uses of the measure A funds. However, there IS a huge issue of trust with regard to how the district is prioritizing its remaining resources just months ~after~ receiving Measure A funds.
It appears to be very easy to switch to a new priority list the day after you get what you want from the voters.
You are absolutely right - it has huge implications for the ability of the school district to raise future funds - potentially very damaging. And that's exactly why it needs to be brought up. Apparently this isn't even crossing the Board members' minds. The Board needs to take this into consideration. Its not trivial.
Perception is in the eye of the beholder. What matters is not what the district is spending the Measure A money on, its what they are doing with their resources overall the day after Measure A. Are they spending time and money wisely and to the best benefit of the community? Or are they squandering and failing to use what they have with care and logic? The board is granted important responsibility as the keepers of the crown jewels of Palo Alto - our schools. How are they doing? Are their decisions based on Stated Goals and Strategic Priorities? Community Priorities? Sound decision making, top community needs, quality education and valued principals (equity, fairness, quality education for all)?
Public perception is what counts. I guess the Board is going to be feeling pretty lucky and pretty confident on the vast benefits for the ENTIRE district if they approve MI.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 3:16 pm
Parent -- can you (or someone else) articulate the ways in which MI is not 'free' to the district? Its having no apparent cost to the district is a big part of the argument that MI's supporters make. And I think it’s a powerful one.
If MI truly costs nothing, then is it really in competition for Measure A funds? And while we can still be trying to restore the things Measure A was supposed to restore, is that a reason to stop an enrichment program if it’s basically a freebie that some people would clearly like to be a part of?
I understand (and share) your concerns about trust, priorities and rational decision making on the part of the BOE, and I think there are plenty of other good reasons to oppose MI as it is currently being proposed (for which see the MI thread about 'luck' schools). I also think there's room for compromise on both sides (see the 'compromise' thread).
But I think a lot of people are currently willing to let MI through as is because--even though they'd not want the opportunity for their own children--they see it as having no real cost to them or to the district. Would they be right?
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 4:00 pm
After reading the feasibilty study, I think it is right to say that it has no cost to the district. At maximum capacity these 240 students will either be in a classroom in PAUSD being taught in Mandarin or in a classroom in PAUSD being taught in English. If the English teacher and the Mandarin speaker have the same salary, the class costs the same.
Posted by Elem Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 4:08 pm
While I can see that the argument that teaching 40 kindergartners in 2 MI classrooms costs the same as 2 kindergarten classrooms taught the traditional way costs no more, I think we have to be careful here.
Generally speaking, kindergartners do not come in nice tidy bunches of 20. Not all our kindergarten classrooms at present are at full capacity of 20 children in each. If there is 1 space in 20 classrooms across the district, then an additional classroom teaching anything costs more money. So remember, that class of 20 MI students could be spread everywhere (since they supposedly come from everywhere) and cost nothing.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 5:32 pm
I am sorry Elem Parent, I am not sure I follow you. Actually the choice programs have the most stable and predictable enrollment because they all have waiting lists. Their classes are full. So SI K always has 20 in their K classes, for example. Whereas in open enrollment you get situations like at Barron Park this year where they have 4 Kindergarten classes with 14 kids each in them. This is unavoidable for PAUSD because, as you say kids don't come in "20's." But I think your point is that the 14 kids in Barron Park Kindergarten this year are "more expensive" than the 20 kids in SI Kindergarten?
Posted by Elem Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 6:28 pm
I am not sure where you get your figures of Barron Park having 4 kindergarten classes with 14 kids in each (I think Barron Park is a 3 strand school), however supposing your scenario is correct, there are 6 spaces in 4 classes. This means that the 20 kids in one SI class could go into those 24 spaces easily and the extra classroom and teacher for SI is actually costing us money. Running kindergarten classes with that much space is not cost productive, so filling each space would be the most economical thing to do so that a classroom elsewhere could be closed.
Posted by daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 8:07 pm
Yes, BP is a 3-strand school--sort of--but by 11th day enrollment figures it has 4 kindergartens (14-14-14-15) and two 1st grades (20-20). There's probably a good reason the district chose to spread 57 kids among 4 classes. One guess is that the district needs to keep a few K-3 classes somewhere at less than 20 so that when new students enroll midyear, there is an opening. If every K classroom in the district were packed to 20, they'd have to start a new class for that one new student (eek!) or overfill one class and, as a consequence, give up class size reduction monies from the state for all K classrooms at that school.
And no, you couldn't spread a class of SI kids those vacant spots at BP because if the kids weren't in SI, they'd have registered for their neighborhood schools.
Also, to clarify, Barron Park fluctuates in number of strands. In grades 1,4 and 5 it is only 2 strands. In 2 and 3 it is 3 strands and in K it is 4 strands.
I think I understand your point now about balancing students to save money. I don't think it actually works that way though. For example, if you look at Barron Park and Briones, their Kindergarten class sizes are (14,14,14,15) and (17,16,19) These schools are actually pretty geographically close to each other so if PAUSD wanted to optimize it might be able to move the Barron Park-ers closest to Briones over or vice versa? (Again this is WAY easier said than done, what if one of the boundary kids has a sibling in the other school, what about the fact that all your neighbors would be at one school and you are at the other, etc.) But, theoretically, if the K classes were "optimized" by adding up the numbers and dividing by 20, you could get down from 7 K classes to 5.5 classes (well, probably do 6 classes of 18 or 19). So it appears that regardless of choice programs they defer to school boundaries over minimizing number of classes. The only "optimizing" aspect is in perhaps deciding which campus to overflow students to in the case of the boundary producing more students than a school can handle. Which is happening in the North PA schools.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Dec 15, 2006 at 8:16 pm
It is so frustrating to watch this discussion gear up again about cost.We were ALL waiting for the feasibility study to give us some data to hold onto so we could put this part of the discussion to rest, but all we got were assurances.
We wouldn't be having to do this if PACE had gotten its money's worth and gotten a feasibility study that critically examined all the issues, issues such as the very question Elem parent brought up.
I will never forget trying to talk to Dr. Cook about the Grant proposal, and her airily declaring that "hiring a Mandarin teacher to teach a kindergarten class is no different from hiring an English speaking teacher to teach a regular class, so having a Mandarin Immersion program is cost neutral". This after she stated that developing new programs was what she loved to do, and that they are the simplest thing to do, you just hire the teachers, and how much she loved having people come from all over to admire the programs she began. ( No conflict there in decision making about what is best for the District!)
She hadn't done the financial analysis yet. But, she refused to let us invite the District Financial Analyst to a meeting with Jamie Maltz, also a financial analyst, so Jamie could present to him and to Dr. Cook a computer financial model she had worked up to give to the District to use in their study. Dr. Cook said that the district already had all that programming, but we found no evidence of this in the feasibility study.
And yet, the Grant application was full of "necessities" that we were asking the Feds to pay for that didn't show up in the Feasibility study.
This doesn't exactly render us confident in any of the financial results.
After the holidays watch for the Rebuttal to the Feasibility Study to hit www.paee.us
On the other hand, in some ways even if the program were 1/2 as expensive as the rest of the District, I would still be opposed to it because of the inequity in educational curricula and the kids who are displaced from it.
Actually, too bad it ISN'T cheaper. We could just convert the whole district to immersion, or half of every campus even for the ones who don't want it ( then they could take lessons from the teachers in more of a FLES mode), and there would be no more problems. No more displacement, no more inequity.
Oh well, Happy Holidays everyone, whichever ones you do. May you have as good of a week off as i hope to have.
Posted by Elem parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:56 pm
Actually, Daunna, there is probably no room in their neighborhood schools. It doesn't really matter though as this is just a hyperthetical scenario. The reality though is that yes we do have to have some classes below capacity in case there are new attendees moving into the district The principle is the thing that matters though. A class of choice does cost more than a neighborhood class, even though we don't want to have every seat in the District filled. The majority of kindergarten classes are not as small as 14. That does seem particularly small to me. Most classes at other schools seem to be at capacity and often if someone leaves the district, a student from an overflowed school is offered the place and quite often takes it, which probably has something to do with why BP and Briones are presently so small.
Posted by On the mark, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2006 at 7:37 am
Wolf, you've got it.
There's a very small and vocal coalition who is against MI from the start, and they can't take it that this is feasible and that the MI proponents have worked hard to follow all the steps to encourage its implementation. They have disregarded all the effort put forth by the proponents and the district staff, using all sorts of misinformation and misrepresentation of the data that's been found. They discount the findings and research that were thorough and professionally done.
Jamie may be a great analyst, but the district has many good ones, too. The opposition's major criticism of the grant is flawed because they insist that the grant's risks and financials are based on MI requirements. And they incessantly don't listen when told that the grant was asking for much more than necessities.
Hello! The necessities and requirments for MI are in the feasibility study. Mouse nuts.
The grant asked for more because it covered K-12, and lots of extras that would be nice to have, but not required.
Hello - can you hear us yet?
Not if you insist on stuffing your ears with cotton, and sing out of tune (loudly).
Posted by Daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2006 at 10:39 am
Pauline, I like your idea: "We could just convert the whole district to immersion, or half of every campus."
I'd go for the hybrid model: half FLES, half immersion. Many parents in the district have said they would like to do SI if it were at their neighborhood school, either because they really value the neighborhood concept or because they did not want to drive across town. Doing half & half would bring choice within the neighborhood, thus abating the neighborhood vs. choice wars. It would better prepare all kids for the global world of the 21st century, while allowing parents to opt for the program that is right for their kids and family.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 16, 2006 at 11:45 am
In *principle* one could imagine the whole district go into immersion -- this is what we would have done were we Belgium or Switzerland. And in such case the cost of schooling should not change in any meaningful way.
However we are not. And therein lies the rub. Can we have all of Palo Alto agree on which language, if we cannot agree on much simpler issues? Spanish? Mandarin? French? German? If we force one language people will scream if they don't like the choice for their own kid, and they will be right -- it is their kid and not the district's. If we have it per school, then we effectively give up on the neighborhood school concept, since parents will demand -- justifiably -- to be able to move their kids based on language. Does anyone thinks this will fly here?
As to FLES, I see it more doable district-wide, but as was already observed it has its own list of issues. Since it will be add-on, it needs to replace something, or add minutes. One will impact content learning (which may impact out STAR scores), since one cannot really learn much academic content beyond language in 25-50 minutes of FL class. The other means re-opening our labor contracts, hiring more teachers, impacting after-school activities, etc., which will be somewhat costly and highly contentious. And we will still probably need to decide on a single language of choice, although it will be easier since it is only for at most one daily period.
But even with FLES, one also sees equity/choice problems. On another forum (Possible Compromise ...) AJ reasonably argues for allowing some to opt-out of FLES if they prefer other stuff like computer animation, etc. This strays even further from the neighborhood model since not all such electives at elementary level will be available at every school, and I am sure people will bring up yet again the issue of perceived equity -- "how dare you to offer someone *anything* which my kid can't take!!!"
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 20, 2006 at 10:26 pm
Angry Taxpayer: In spite of all the dickering over your analogy, I think it's perfect!
Bill says the "MI proposal hasn't cost the district any money . . ." Time is money and others have pointed out how much of so many people's time has been spent on MI -- which is not on any priority list!
Daunna says, "The PACE donation was publicly made . . . " Not quite. We still don't know who donated the money to PACE. I've asked everyone I can think of and haven't been able to get an answer. Do the board members even know the names of the donors? Are they all Palo Alto residents? Did the donated funds pay the salaries and benefits of all those in the district who spent time on the feasibility study, staff report and recommendations that will be presented on Jan 9th?
Tulley, you are absolutely on target when you say, "When the opposing views to MI cut too close to the truth, out come the dismissive cries of 'red herring', . . ."
'On the mark" suggests that the "very small" coalition (at least 500 people!) opposing MI must have cotton stuffed in their ears and claims they are guilty of "misinformation and misrepresentation." Not the most professional way to characterize those who disagree with you, but certainly a way to preclude reasoned debate.
But back to Measure A. Yes, Angry, I also feel duped.
Posted by 897, 898, 899, 9000!, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2006 at 9:51 am
I found Wolf's letters most helpful in crystallizing the issue. His/Her comments really say it very clearly. I will paraphrase:
1. Although PACE sponsored, participated and provided majority input to the report it should be treated as dogma - trust PACE they're impartial
2. Although calls to schools in the area that already have MI noted that it was very difficult to hire & retain mandarin teachers, PACE chose to ignore this in the report and only reported any research in the study that backed up their desired outcome. PACE knows better than schools already running these programs.
3. The BoE requested money from PACE and therefore PACE should get what it paid for. (And well call it a donation if anyone questions it nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
4. PACE doesn't really care how equitable or fair MI is. PACE just wants to have it at any cost and to hell with anyone else in the district that questions them.
Posted by Mountains out of molehills, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2006 at 5:08 pm
Those of you duped by the MI opposition are easily manipulated to compare
1. a $68K one-time donation
2. start up cost of $11K per class (for each new class to set up with materials and curriculum)
3. and the ongoing yearly cost of $1.5K for a teacher stipend
to the ~$2M PiE funding this year and the $9M parcel taxes collected this year.
Heck, the district just spent
a. $180K for three school busses,
b. $550K for technology for next year,
c. $274K for the lights at Gunn,
d. Paly's pool, etc. etc. etc.
The district receives donations, state funding, and other financial means to manage its $130M budget.
This MI program is mouse nuts, get some perspective. Don't be duped by vindictive cheapskates who don't appreciate that money that goes to MI is ADDITIONAL to PiE and parcel tax contributions. MI donors are not forgoing PiE and parcel tax funding to the district which are critical to our schools being the best that they can be for everyone.
I hope it's just the few narrow-minded tightwads who are making such a big financial deal out of this cost neutral program.
Posted by please provide substance, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2006 at 9:18 am
OK, Mountains out of molehills, how can they be "tightwads" if this is a "cost neutral" program? So, either the program will cost money in which case they could be "tightwads" even though any additional money should be approved appropriately when balanced against any other PAUSD costs. Isn't this the correct thing to do?
Or the program is "cost neutral" so there is no money involved here so how are they now "tightwads"?
Seems the "ad hominem attacks ftw" approach is all the argument there is here.
(Oh, and you might like to read the whole discussion before posting).
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2006 at 12:43 am
To answer Simon's question (and Nico's tunnel vision response) regarding WHY this program is NOT cost neutral, please look at what the feasibility study did not cover.
For example, how much does it cost PAUSD today for Spanish Immersions's specialized Spanish assessment? How much did it cost to buy that assessment? How much time did the district overhead department (Assessment) spend in analyzing the tools, reporting the results?
(By the way, how much did the SI parents pay for this? Zero? Then SI is not cost neutral, is it?)
And MI's sole justification is that it will teach kids to be Mandarin proficient - so we're not just about STAR testing; we're going to test them in Mandarin proficiency, right? Why didn't the feasibility study say even a single word about this? How much will this cost? Will we buy it or will be create it? Will it need customization to test PAUSD standards by grade level? And who will pay?
And how much time will be spent in the Personnel department on recruiting and hiring? And how much time will be spent in the Finance department on reporting 'cost neutrality' position of MI? (Watch - MI supporters are getting ready to say "But SI doesn't have to do this, why should we?" Boo hoo. Get ready for the new reality guys - take a look at the Choice guidelines - the feasibility study seemed to fail to do this in its entirety...). And how much time will be spent in Ed Services on curriculum issues? Maybe someone should ask for an impact analysis from the district overhead departments before we get all happy about this cost free idea.
If you were there at the 12/12 Board meeting, you heard Becky Cohn Vargas admit (in response to Dana Tom's questioning) that there ARE overhead costs for start up that they failed to articulate: start up would use up more time of Marilyn Cook, more Becky Cohn Vargas, more Norm Masuda, etc... And none of this was in the feasibility study... Why??? Great Question! One can only guess. (Maybe you'd need adhominem arguments (personal attacks) to explain it...)
And the feasibility study lists (I don't know about 8-10) sources of 'help' for this start up undertaking... Are these FREE or are there some costs to these sources? They list everything from hiring/training help to curriculum development to materials, from San Francisco to China... Do you THINK - even a minute of coordination, management, decision making, will be required to orchestrate this grant effort? Or do we leave this up to 21 year old teachers, new hires fresh out of the dorms to develop the world class PAUSD MI program? Oh yes I forgot, 1/100th of Norm Masuda's time ($1200/year) plus the non-Mandarin speaking principal will take care of everything. They HAVE offered up about 1/100th of Norm Masuda's time - but only for evaluating teachers - so No, No Mandarin speaking program management coordination required according to the JOKE that is the feasibility study.
And principals? I think they already have full time jobs running their schools? Are they saying one of our principals actually has free time for a massive start up program? Maybe we can get Gary Prehn, who couldn't even offer up one single challenge for start up or ongoing - is Gary offering up Escondido or is he lobbying behind the scenes to make sure Escondido isn't the target for MI interim? And why would that be? Is there even one single challenge for the principal? Would it be disruptive to the fabric of that school community? Would it be too complex, too time consuming? A money sucking hole? I'd like to know if Gary Prehn is offering Escondido for this new start up venture? And if not, why not? And why nothing of the challenges in the feasibility study?
Is anyone out there even reading this stuff? I'm amazed that even Nico is able to keep a straight face as she reads and quotes this feasibility study.
Nico and Wolf are the first to point to the feasibility study to "prove" the program is good. Which is such an amazing twist of logic: "I paid fair and square for my xxx, and so xxx's are good."
The "feasibility study" (I hope folks will start putting that term in quotes) is nothing more than a high school cheer for Pace’s MI proposal. It is so grossly one sided, not even an attempt to discuss realistic issues, not even an attempt to recognize the challenges, it is grotesque in its one sided transparency.
It's sickening that the feasibility study came back so dishonest in its omissions. The only thing the feasibility study proves is that the "Management Trust and Respect" issue is alive and kicking, and didn't just stop at MFC. If there is only one thing we might hope for the New Year is that Dana and Gail are expediting the Management investigation, and putting MC at the top of the list. This feasibility study was DANGEROUS in its profound incompetence. It could have been so powerful if it would have even attempted to articulate the real issues, and then countered. It didn't even try. And someone (PACE?) paid them for this (Pace didn't pay for Marilyn's time - the Palo Alto TAX PAYERS’ paid for Marilyn's time on this! Pathetic. If I were PACE (or a Palo Tax payer, which I am) I'd be pretty disgusted. And I am. Totally.
Posted by Moutains out of molehills, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2006 at 12:01 pm
Happy Hannaka to you, too! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Poor Parent, take some Pepto Bismol for your ailment and perhaps some anger management classes for your New Years resolution.
Plenty of people have read the feasibility study, and only a few are complaining as loudly as you on-line, and undoubtedly to the board and staff. I'm sure if you had a civil discussion with the board and staff about these questions, you'd get more information than was presented in the feasibility study. You could even draw the same conclusions as the feasibility study.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Posted by here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2006 at 12:53 pm
Mountains, I can't speak for any other aspect of the feasibility study, which struck me as pretty mediocre for a report that cost the MI folks the amount they were charged -- it didn't serve them well because it stated conclusions without substantiating them significantly in many cases (note, sometimes there was data to support assertions). Marilyn Cook used to be the head of personnel and she was utterly unqualified for that job and really blew it on some parent-district interactions I personally know of. Now she is in this position, and I don't see her product as any more thoughtful than it was in her previous position. People in professional positions getting paid a hefty salary to be professionals need to put out a professional product. and Mountains, this has nothing to do with my religious, cultural, intellectual, philosophical, emotional or visceral dislike of Mandarin Immersion. It has to do with expecting a professional quality product from people who were paid a professional amount to produce it. Why accept shoddy work and ask questions later? I can't understand why MI and nnon-MI people can't agree on wanting a thorough product, other than the big rush to institute an MI program. Haste makes waste.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2006 at 1:25 pm
Mole: I am not Lisa. But I am a good friend of Lisa's. Again, just like Wolf and Bill, you seem to think there is only one intelligent, critical thinking, reading, person in Palo Alto paying attention to the ridiculous drivel coming out of 25 Churchill.
Since they had six months, and you seem to think they could do better - why didn't they? The public has the right to a full and fair report - why did they waste our time and the board's time with an OpEd piece? The nonsense they typed out on a piece of paper, - which I'm sure was written the day the PACE original proposal was submitted, gives the public no reasoned information about what the program will or won't do to our district. What a monumental waste of time and resource. If they have more, they need to publish it on line, immediately. Otherwise, as far as the public is concerned - they have provided not one single scrap of value.
The public should not have to go one person at a time to each board and staff member to get the full story. (Ridiculous to suggest such a thing - they apparently have nothing better to do? Perhaps Ed Services has TOO MANY people, rather than short staffed???) Instead of wasting our time posting nonsense links, how about if you post a link to the full feasibility study. I dare you.
Try again. When you get my name right, I'll let you know. (I'll give you a hint - you won't guess because you don't know my name. There are hundreds of us out here who are of like mind.) Like it matters... and you seem to be so inclined to give your name - Mole.
By the way, there will be no peace on the coordinates of planet earth that fall within the borders of PAUSD until the board grows some backbone (or some other body parts) and shuts this ridiculous waste of time down. And when they finally do, and put us all out of this misery - I hope it comes with a heavy dose of discipline for Marilyn Cook, Becky Cohn Vargas, Norm Masuda, Gary Prehn, Irv Rollins and the whole rollicking gang, for wasting their time and the public's time while apparently spending plenty of time for the last six months at the mall, or getting their nails done, or sewing doilies, or whatever the heck they were doing instead of gathering some valid information for the feasibility study.
Mole - you sound suspiciously like Wolf/Bill/Camille. And next time you feel like being anti-Semitic, you might want to curb that instinct of yours. Its ugly. That sort of small mindedness is not going to serve you very well in your re-election campaign.
Posted by CP, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Dec 27, 2006 at 2:16 pm
Guess what, Mountains? Lisa doesn't even participate in this forum. Know how I know that? Because I asked her, and she had never even heard of it, and she was shocked that people were assuming that some of the aliases used on this and other threads belonged to her.
I've noticed that MI supporters on this and other threads have tried to paint those of us opposed to MI with the same broad brush: That we are all as strident and verbally aggressive as "Parent" and also, um, Jewish. This is certainly getting ugly.
I hope the school board members are paying attention to this forum to get an idea of the extent to which this issue threatens to tear our community apart, and that they will exhibit unprecedented ingenuity in coming up with a solution that will be unifying and healing. I'm not holding my breath, though.
Becky Cohn-Vargas attended one of the four tours and workshops at CAIS. Like the other participants from Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and the Philippines, Becky was researching Mandarin immersion from THE local expert, essentially the grandmother (or great grandmother) of most Mandarin immersion programs in the nation.
Posted by By the Numbers, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2006 at 2:00 pm
Well, CP, at least you are willing to observe that some of your allies against MI are 'strident and verbally aggressive as "Parent"'.
If you take a tally, there's more opponents who have been strident than supporters. And all told, luckily, the total number of excessive ranting is just a handful of people in our big town of participative community members.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2006 at 2:11 pm
WHile CP and others may want to characterize opposition as "strident", another possibility is that they feel very frustrated that proponents, all the way up to the top of the food chain, do not address the specific objections, challenges and risks they have posed, not with much of anything in the way of specifics anyway, only vague platitudes. For an example, one needs only to look as far as the "feasibility study". Remember that the opponents to MI have a stake in this district and it's children also. Hopefully they will show up in person at the next board meetiing at which MI is discussed so that you can see for yourself that it's not just a handful of people which you so easily dismiss.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2006 at 3:37 pm
Another parent supporting MI, thank you for the perfect example of what I was trying to say. Your comment smugly dismisses the possibility that there could possibly be ANY negative aspect whatsoever to MI , right? Once again, no attempt to address the real issues.
Posted by another parent supporting MI, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Dec 28, 2006 at 3:42 pm
Andrea, I'm not being smug. I'm sure there's some negative aspects, you and others have brought a number of objections out. But can you substantiate those objections? I'm just commenting that balancing paee as a recent website against MI in Palo Alto, is 1000's of websites about the successes, research, benefits, and best practices for MI to work all over the country, state, county, and neighbors.
Keep digging for the dirt, if it's out there, you'll find it. Good luck, sincerely.
NABE (National Association for Bilingual Education) Conference
"One Nation: Many Languages, Many Cultures in a Changing World"
Please join us in San Jose, California for our 36th Annual Conference!
February 7-10, 2007
NABE’s First Asian Pacific American Pre-Conference Institute
The NABE Pre-Conference Institute will focus great attention on the current language needs of Asian Pacific Americans. The gap between the demand for language teaching and its availability in the United States is growing rapidly as an increasingly large number of people are requiring bilingual and heritage or foreign language education. The Institute will discuss how to address this disparity by developing successful student enrichment and teacher development programs. Challenges and solutions will be presented by several experienced panelists. In addition, the Institute will confront social needs by encouraging a variety of avenues to community involvement. The NABE APA Pre-Conference Institute will benefit not only those who have existing programs but for everyone who may be starting or considering a program and also for those in the also benefit your communities.
For those of you interested in the conference, there's a number of Mandarin-specific talks:
Starting and Maintaining a Successful Immersion Program for All Students: Nuts and Bolts for Program Design and Implementation
Scheduled Time: Thu, Feb 8 - 8:30am - 10:30am Building/Room: McEnery Convention Center / Meeting Room B-2
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: Starting and Maintaining a Successful Immersion Program for All Students: Nuts and Bolts for Program Design and Implementation
Session Organizer: Mary Jew (Cuptertino USD)
Presenter: Winnie Jiang (CUSD, Meyerholz School)
Presenter: Chia Ching Lin (CUSD, Meyerholz School)
This is a presentation for Board Members/administrators, teachers, parents who are interesting in starting or expanding an immersion program in grades K-12. The presentation will provide the key elements in program design, curriculum and the development of assessment. Strategies used in staff development and curriculum development such as Backward Design and Guided Language Acquisition Development will be shared. Presenters will share the success of the Cupertino Union School District Mandarin/English Two-Way Immersion Program in grades K-8. Students will shared their success and parents will share their perspectives.
Getting a Mandarin Immersion Program Started – Three Case Studies
Scheduled Time: Wed, Feb 7 - 10:30am - 11:30am Building/Room: McEnery Convention Center / Meeting Room B-2
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: Getting a Mandarin Immersion Program Started – Three Case Studies
Session Organizer: Yingming Gu (Advocates for Chinese Education)
Presenter: Yalan King (Advocates for Chinese Education)
Presenter: Carol Lei (Advocates for Chinese Education)
Professional Development for Chinese Teachers: Collaboration between Confucius Institute, Hanban, and SFUSD
Scheduled Time: Wed, Feb 7 - 11:30am - 12:30pm Building/Room: McEnery Convention Center / Meeting Room B-2
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: Professional Development for Chinese Teachers: Collaboration between Confucius Institute, Hanban, and SFUSD
Session Organizer: Christy Lao (SFSU)
Presenter: Amien Lau (San Francisco Unified School District)
Presenter: Shen Yang (Chinese Consulate)
Current Status of Cantonese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Bilingual Programs: Successes and Challenges
Scheduled Time: Wed, Feb 7 - 2:00pm - 4:00pm Building/Room: McEnery Convention Center / Meeting Room B-4
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: Current Status of Cantonese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Bilingual Programs: Successes and Challenges
Session Organizer: Luis Burgos (San Francisco USD)
Presenter: Margaret Dyer (San Francisco USD)
Presenter: Anita K Lau (San Francisco Unifed School District)
Presenter: Mary Richards (San Francisco USD)
Presenter: Staff from Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program (San Francisco Unified School District)
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2006 at 4:31 pm
Grace, this conference would seem to be putting the cart before the horse for this district. This school district still has not (officially) placed foreign language at or near the top of the priorities list, nor was it part of the strategic plan, nor was it specifically called for by the principals at the SIPE meetings, and it wasn't highlighted as a glaring deficiency of our district in the recent benchmark study by PiE. So I'd rather see some work done on the basics, but thanks anyway.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2006 at 5:11 pm
This conference is a great resource for foreign language education of all flavors (immersion, FLES, FLEX, etc.). For those of you who want a chance to dig for the good, bad, and ugly, here's a dynamite *local* spot. This conference rotates around the country and hasn't been in Calif for the last 5 years, at least.
I've attended the CABE (Calif Association for Bilingual Education) conferences for the last 3 years and have found them to be a goldmine of information, references, and educators who know their stuff.
Remember the proposed world languages task force, from the 12/12 board packet:
Implementation of a World Language task force to assess current language offerings in PAUSD, research what language offerings are available in other leading school districts throughout the world, and work collaboratively with PAUSD educators to develop a World Language Strategy for PAUSD for consideration by the Board of Education. This entails the restoration of a 0.4 FTE TOSA. ($40,000).
Status: To be funded
Source of Funding: 2006-07 District Block Grant
$40,000 in 2006-07
$40,000 in 2007-08
If you're really interested in contributing to the world language strategy, this conference is a fabulous place to get immersed in foreign language education.
Posted by Old Fogey Daniel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2007 at 8:45 am
I have been contributing my Measure A property tax assessment voluntarily because I am a senior who believed that this district needed the money in order to help all the schools. My children attended PA schools and now I have grandchildren in district schools as well. I have been on campuses and have seen the PiE and PTA fundraising, as well as witnessed the state of the facilities with my own eyes. I did not hesitate for a minute to vote yes on Measure A and, since I am a senior and my assessment is on a voluntary basis, I readily said yes to the addition to my property taxes. Do not make the mistake here of thinking that I am a wealthy Palo Alto retiree. I am not, so this assessment does indeed have an effect on my lifestyle, but I was willing to accept that.
I feel just as duped as I would if my kids and grandkids had come to me as told me that they desperately needed my financial help and then, after I gave them money, turned around and bought a boat. If this district has the money to start a new choice program, then they really did not need my extra property taxes like they said when they urged me to vote for Measure A.
Ms Mah, I won't be attending the conference on Feb 5 which you advertised on this thread. It may be fun for you, but I will be busy arranging for my property tax assessment to revert to pre-measure A status. If I can swing it, I will put my extra assessments into an account for my grandkid's college fund. It may buy them a few books, or help with other expenses. That may not be generous and fair to all the other kids in the district, but now that I think of it, that seems to be same the self-serving approach that the MI folks will be taking in order to make their program work. I'm sorry that it has come to this in our school district. And I am disappointed that our school board seems to have been convinced to go out and "buy a boat".
Posted by Another fogey, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2007 at 10:23 am
Nice to see a fellow senior identified on this list. Like you, I've volunteered to pay the parcel tax because I think my community benefits from good schools. Unlike you, I already put money to my children and grandchildren's savings account on a regular basis, so my parcel tax is an added burden on my limited income. I'm also not rich.
But I think the school system has done the city well over my 50 years living here. I remember the contention when Hoover was moved, and Ohlone started. The current brouhaha is worse than when SI started, but not as bad as the PTA/PiE debates.
When you've been around as long as I have, you see these cycles. But I still trust the school district, the board, and the vocal community to do the right thing.
I guess I don't feel "duped" since I've seen it all before. And I'll continue to pay taxes to support the kids.
Posted by PO'd Tax Payer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2007 at 3:18 pm
Original Fogey got it just right - it's clearly every man for himself. You better get yours first, the board isn't looking out for you, the community is powerless to make them, and the district staff is laughing their heads off right now.
So I think Fogey#1 is doing the right thing
I'm not a senior citizen, but I'm going to go out of my way to make sure every senior citizen I can reach gets this message.
Posted by POd Tax Payer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2007 at 4:34 pm
Exactly what Pace is doing. I'm all for it. Don't worry, PAUSD has to educate my kids no matter what. At least I wont be throwing hard earned my money at them, to fritter away frivolously. (I'll save it for afterschool programs that teach them what they need to know.)
Or maybe PACE will pick up the difference - afterall they said it was going to be cost neutral right? So the board must be taking in to account all the angry taxpayers that don't support this ludicrous scheme.
When the board is forced to make some real decisions, then maybe they'll come to their senses about what it means to be a public school district and what it means to set some priorities and stick to them.
Trust, once destroyed, is destroyed. The only thing that will make this better is an all new board that shows they understand the concept of being a basic aid district and serving the public best interest in a PUBLIC school system.
They are so arrogant! Yes, cutting of my nose to spite my face... Actually I call it exercising the only voice I have as a citizen and a tax payer, to fight a pure injustice.
Yes, someone has definitely gone mad. Go to 25 Churchill and witness them for yourself as they sit around the Board table this coming Tuesday night, with Camille Townsend as Ringmaster.
Posted by Not Amused, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Jan 7, 2007 at 7:38 pm
I find these threats to opt out of parcel tax payments by Palo Alto seniors who don’t get their way somewhat amusing. I thought the purpose of the option not to pay the tax was premised on the theory that limited income seniors needed to be protected. I never realized that seniors were entitled to a special form of political protest. There is a great deal of protestation out there given that over 50% of senior households opt out the parcel tax. Now I know why my neighbor with the late model BMW has been opting out of his parcel taxes every year. It wasn’t the pressing need for gas money; it was a protest against the PAUSD.
Posted by POd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2007 at 7:55 pm
You don't need to be amused. You just need to know that about 50% of the seniors opt not to opt out now, because they feel the school district is important and needs their resources. They may feel differently when they figure the disctrict is flush with money, and spending their space, their district staff and their time and frivolous private programs for 5% groups of the population.
Because they care, they might try to expect more from their elected fidicuaries that are supposed to be watching out for the greatest good.
And opting out is their perogative, by law.
And the rest of us non-seniors will just wait for the next capital improvement bond, or the renewal request for Measure A, which we can vote down to send our message.
And meanwhile, PIE? Yes I'll go buy mine at Marie Callendars. Thank you.
Posted by Jon Foster, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2007 at 10:58 am
I do not follow the postings on Palo Alto Online, but just learned of this thread and wanted to respond to it. I am the parent of two children in the Palo Alto school district and served, on a volunteer basis, as a co-chair of the Measure A parcel tax campaign in 2005. As a result, I have a very good knowledge of what the school district did – and did not – promise when it proposed Measure A. I have also paid careful attention to how the district has spent the parcel tax revenues.
I think it is important to clarify a number of points. First of all, most of the funds from Measure A were not intended to roll back cuts that had been made previously. In fact, 76% of Measure A funds were needed simply to avoid additional cuts. Had Measure A not been passed, the district would have needed to lay off over 100 teachers, resulting in increased class sizes and a reduction on elective course for every middle and high school student.
The remaining 24% of Measure A fund were to be used to roll back some of the cuts that were made starting in 2003. The word “some” is important here because it was known from the beginning that Measure A would only provide enough revenue to restore about one-third of the items that had been cut (a bit over $2M out of the total $6.5M that had been cut). To undo more of the cuts, a higher tax would have been required and the community voted down a higher tax in 2004.
It is important, therefore, to recognize that the district did not say the parcel tax funds would be used to undo all of the $6.5M in cuts, nor did the district say that that its first priority in the years ahead would be undoing whatever cuts were not undone by Measure A. In fact, I think most people would agree that some of the cuts should never be undone because the items cut were things the district really didn’t need or where the district found a more efficient way to accomplish the same objective.
Now let me discuss what happened in the first full academic year after the parcel tax was passed. An independent auditor was hired to review the expenditure of the parcel tax funds. The auditor determined the funds were, in fact, spent exactly as the school district said they would be spent when the parcel tax was placed on the ballot in 2005.
Thus, I ask everyone in the community to avoid saying the parcel tax funds are not being used as promised because that simply is not true. And don’t say the parcel tax funds weren’t needed unless you really believe we should have allowed drastic cutbacks to occur and should not have been able to restore some of what was cut between 2003 and 2005.
Inflamed rhetoric on these points does not serve the interest of anyone who truly cares about our schools and it certainly does not serve the interest of children in our community. All it will do is convince some senior citizens to opt out of paying the parcel tax, which will reduce the revenue available to educate our children. And it may even convince enough people to vote against any future parcel tax that we won’t be able to pass one when the current tax expires. If that happens, then we’ll face the same devastating cuts that we avoided in 2005 – and maybe worse. My guess is that most people realize this, so I assume that at least some of the people with negative posts on Measure A in this thread simply opposed the Measure A from the outset (even if they claim otherwise) and would be delighted to see the community fail to pass another parcel tax when the current one expires. So let’s make sure we aren’t duped by these folks.
Let me add that I realize that this issue has arisen in the context of the debate over Mandarin Immersion (MI). I have spoken to leaders on both side of the issue and am confident none of them believe we should repeal Measure A or want to encourage anyone to opt of the parcel tax or vote no on a future parcel tax. So when you hear someone saying one of those things, the odds are good that that person was simply an opponent of the parcel tax all along.
For those of you who are interested, the Measure A campaign’s Frequently Asked Questions document is still available on line (see www.campaignforexcellence.org/faq.htm). It clearly explains the use of the parcel tax proceeds and should help allay any concerns that the district has not met its commitments with respect to use of parcel tax proceeds.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2007 at 12:17 pm
Thank you for the data and clarifications. Please do not confuse those who attacked MI with actual data. It really makes them feel bad. The damage to both future of fund raising in PAUSD, as well as to the future of elementary language in PAUSD, has already been done. If anyone truly think FLES has a chance now that MI was killed, I have a bridge to sell.
Posted by Jamie, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2007 at 3:33 pm
I was tempted not to respond, because I think you are right, this is a dangerous conversation for PAUSD. But since you seem to arguing the wrong question, I think it would be worth while to clarify.
First you should understand that the people that are maddest right now are people that supported measure A, not only with their vote, but with direct help on the campaign.
No one claims PAUSD is misusing the funds they are receiving from Measure A. There is ample audit backup that will show that Measure A funds were used on exactly what they said they said they would be, in the Measure A fine print. (I'm willing to believe that as truth, even though I haven't looked at an audit report myself, but I'm willing to concede that as undisputed fact.)
What people are mad about is that the district ASKED for Measure A under false pretenses IF they suddenly have bandwidth to undertake a non-priority, non-essential, major project like Mandarin Immersion.
The stage for the need for Measure A was CLEARLY and UNAMBIGOUSLY set under two major premises set forth by the campaign:
1. The district had already made 6.5M in cuts. They gave us a specific list of those cuts. The district was already cut to the bone. Measure A would next cut in to the classroom.
Yes, we were led to believe that those cut items were important items that were already impacting our education. If those cuts were not important items then they weren't really defense for measure A, right? They were rather much needed FAT TRIMMING. But no, they were held up as the district's hardship so far. This was a representation of a district in financial distress.
2. District staff was already cut to the bone. They had no more bandwidth. They had already taken severe cuts, and could be cut no further without impact to important programs, services AND EVEN SAFETY.
Please see the "PAUSD MEASURE A - DID YOU KNOW?" document:
which states at the very top of the document (the background statements explaining WHY THE DISTRICT NEEDED MEASURE A):
"BUDGET CUTS ARE IMPACTING OUR EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM. Due to current economic conditions, falling commercial property tax revenue growth in Palo Alto, and growing enrollment, our District has been forced to cut $6.5 million over the past two years (2003-04 and 2004-05). Funding levels continue to drop and the District projects a $2.6 million deficit next year (2005-06). In order to maintain the quality education our schools provide we are actively seeking solutions to avoid further cuts and preserve academic performance in our schools.
ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN CUT TO A MINIMUM. The District has reduced administration and non-teaching staff to the minimum levels required to ensure student safety and provide basic educational services. We have cut administration by 13 percent and classified staff by 7 percent. In an attempt to keep cuts as far from the classroom as possible, only 2 percent of the teaching staff has been cut. However, there is no more administration to cut and no untapped sources of funding. Future cuts will directly impact classroom instruction – meaning significant teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and reductions in valued education programs. "
So the day that the MI Feasibility study came to the table, the board should have said;
-How does this fit with our unrestored cut priorities (It doesn't)
-Is it consistent with the premise we fed the community during Measure A? (No.)
-Do we have STAFF bandwidth for this? (No, they did not. Or Did they????)
They somehow found some bandwidth in district staff for a new, low priority project. Hence the community feeling duped.
It’s also important to point out that the "Unrestored Cuts - High Priority" list has continued to be pointed to by the Superintendent and Staff in discussions of budget tradeoffs. Even to THIS DAY. In fact the AAAG packet published just last night (1/12) for the 1/16 Board meeting, has a specific reference to unrestored, high priority cuts that must be considered (P17). The list they provide in the AAAG packet is the very same list of cuts referred to in the Measure A campaign.
This is not random instigation by a few No on Measure A disturbers. This is a relevant, widespread community expectation that we have important, high priority cuts that require ongoing consideration.
I voted YES on Measure A.
I agree that this conversation should end now for the well being of the district - and the way to end it is for the board to recognize (as they apparently have) that MI does not fit on the priority list, is not in alignment with the story they told us on the state of the district during Measure A, and is not an appropriate use of scarce staff bandwidth.
Furthermore, no one has said all 6.5M must be restored before anything new can proceed. But every single new major project MUST be judged by the board in the context of the premise of Measure A. Priorities need to be clearly articulated. Measure A has created a bar for justification of new program spending that the BOARD must recognize.
Wolf is also correct in saying that a FLES program should be required to meet the same bar.
I sincerely hope that you will not choose to summarily dismiss this argument as a bunch of sour grapes Measure A losers who don't know what they're talking about. This is actually VERY well understood by a vast majority of the community. I hope that you will soon grasp this as well.
I hope that as a co-chair on Measure A, you understand that premise for WHY you needed Measure A was just as much a 'promise' to the community as a spreadsheet showing WHAT you would use the money for.
Wolf is also correct in saying that a FLES program should be required to meet the same bar.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2007 at 4:11 pm
I have always supported various bond issues and parcel taxes for our public schools, even though I don't agree with some of the decisions of the BoE. I especially don't like the ongoing attack on our neighborhood schools. It looks like the Board has gotten the message. This was a tipping point for me. With a cohort of aging property owners in Palo Alto, PAUSD could take a real hit, unless it takes a realistic approach. This is not the time for flights of fancy.
It's a shame that we have come to this point. Choice parents are activist parents. They should AGGRESIVELY pursue charter schools, or form private schools. If such an approach were to be taken, I would be fully supportive of our public school bond/parcel taxes in the future. In the meantime, the BoE needs to hold the line.