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A NIMBY speaks to Mandarin Immersion

Original post made by NIMBY on Jan 20, 2007

I find it interesting that Karen Karpen and Glenn Krasner had a letter to the Editor published in the Town Talk yesterday about how disappointed they were about the Board being poised to reject Mandarin Immersion.

They wrote from Tripoli Court in Los Altos Hills, a street whose school is Nixon. Nixon stood no chance, whatsoever, of becoming the site for MI, now or anytime in the future. Expedient of them to be disappointed, isn't it?

How can anyone interpret the history of MI in the way these two do? Plummeting funds in the District when the moratorium on new programs was instituted is suddenly "shabby treatment" of MI. Creating a choice program policy BEFORE instituting a new choice program is suddenly seen as throwing hurdles before MI, not PLANNING. And, how did these two conclude that the Board required MI proponents to fund the feasibility study? I remember a certain person waving a check in the air to the Board and promising more where that came from.

Asserting for the umpteenth time the high success of the SI program, given that it is a FACT that there are children coming out of it who STILL are not biliterate and bilingual in Spanish, is manipulative. And lends credence to the opponents' claim that we need to set criteria for deciding which languages we teach.

If not, we end up with 2 poorly documented immersion programs being used as clubs to beat the District into accepting another one, instead of just one poorly documented immersion program.

It is laughable that these 2 actually think we shouldn't plan for the "logistics" of program placement before instituting one, as if it is perfectly natural to plunk 240 students into a new program in the district without planning for how, when, and in what context to do this. At least it is consistent with their dismay at the Board for creating a policy for new choice programs several years ago before instituting one.

The piece de resistance is the urging of proponents to start a charter school. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.] At the very least, it smells fishy.

Comments (44)

Posted by More Crocodile Tears, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 20, 2007 at 8:32 am

Yes, I read it with the same thoughts.

You forgot one..the "hope that the proponents will seed a charter school so that the children of PAUSD can have the opportunity offered by the program".

At least a charter school would be required to grant entrance to ALL who want it, and be required to match the demographics for diversity of the District it is a part of.

Better than just a few lottery winners drawn from a small demographic...who, if the 'lottery' is run in the same way as the rest of the lottery programs in the district, would be preferentially drawn from the "overcrowded" Nixon one of those already? Anybody know?

Posted by Parent too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:08 am

THANK YOU Nimby and More Croc Tears!!!

I noticed that the proponents of MI wasted no time with the charter school threat. It was all over this forum immediately following the 1/9 meeting, and then it appeared in print in Grace and Nico's editorial. And here again. I'm glad someone else is noticing it for what it is [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.]

But even so, I'm thinking an immersion language academy developed and run by the Palo Alto Unified School district is quite a different proposition than an experimental charter school developed and run by ??? A few passionate (but unrealistic) parents?

Who's ready to give up an excellent standard PAUSD education for the unknown outcome of an unproven start up MI program?

And did anyone ever tell us what percentage of Cupertino MI kids in their program this year actually started as Kinders in that program? Until they do, I don't think I believe the promise that kids are starting as English only speakers with no Mandarin background, and leaving 5th grade bilingual, biliterate. I just don't see the proof. So how are they going to convince people to jump?

Sounds like another unrealistic idea from a very self focused few.

(But I assume Karpen and Krasner will be the first on the list for the grand experiment of it all. - damn the practical implications, putting their kinder's education where their mouths are. Or will they evenhave eligible kinder's to offer up for the experiment?)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

With all this debate still going on we should ask ourselves if not having MI is actually going to help the District. There is, I believe, an excellent private immersion school, the International School of the Peninsula, in Palo Alto offering MI and others. Since our schools are getting so over-populated, shouldn't we be encouraging our more wealthy residents to put their children into private schools to leave more room for the rest of us. Now that Edgewood Plaza seems to be getting a move on into their remodeling and adding HOUSING (admittedly down the line) it is only going to add to the over crowding of the schools in the North cluster and any child going elsewhere than PAUSD will help the situation.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 20, 2007 at 11:38 am

No, I don't think it is a fair or just attitude to encourage our "more wealthy" neighbors to stick their kids in private schools.

Remember, the "more wealthy" pay a much higher percentage of taxes in our economic system than anybody else. In other words, the "more wealthy" subsidize the "less wealthy" in PAUSD, and the "more wealthy" are the parents with the time and energy to devote to volunteering in our schools because they don't have 2 working parents.

Do you really want to drive that energy and money away? Imagine our school system without all those millions of dollars worth of volunteer time..without the wealthier tax base.

Think about how many Los Altos Hills residents would love to split off their tax base from PAUSD and LA school district in order to form an exclusive school for their own kids. This particular attitude is part of the reason why. Don't feed that attitude.

I think you should re-evaluate who you want to irritate. I think a lot of the "more wealthy" counterparts in our district are against any more immersion programs for the reasons stated by our Board. They became "more wealthy" because of sound, strategic planning and hard work, and so understand the basis for the Board's thinking. But, if we irritate them enough that we lose them to their own district, we will lose that voice of reason.

Trust me, I am part of of the "more wealthy" havens.

Better to keep all of us together to keep us all up.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2007 at 11:49 am

My post was meant to be read tongue in cheek, but also to encourage debate. Of course, it was not a serious point, much more a way of thinking that could be argued.

To be more serious, I think we have a problem with overcrowding in our schools. This is particularly crucial apart from the new housing being proposed in the south. Our older residents are moving out and families are moving in. We had 22 elementary schools at one time and now we have parks and housing developments where many of them should be. Garland is now a means of income rather than a school and it is now supposedly below standards for our school system. This is not a crisis yet, but we are coming to it.

We need to look ahead and come up with viable solutions. They may be bubble classes, they may be re-opening schools. They should not be increasing class size or over-flowing to the other side of town. Choice programs take away from the neighborhood school system. It is ridiculous that a resident can not get into a school a block away and has to go to another school, whether it be 1/2 mile away or the other side of town. We do not want to get into a worse situation than we are already having. Ohlone and Hoover are here to stay. However, if a local resident who wants to go there can't get in, that is a ridiculous situation.

Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2007 at 12:04 pm

How brave of Karen and Glenn to make a principled stand in this blinkered, nasty discussion!

Once again, we see MI opposition trot out personal attacks and straw man arguments against this proven program, endorsed by the district's experts.

Karen and Glenn have called it like it is: the community and the board have treated MI shabbily. Expediency has trumped educational excellence, and the lowest common denominator is beating out the visionary.

If the board proves to be short-sighted and turns down the well thought-out recommendation of our experts, I hope the MI supporters do manage to put together a charter school. It would make our community a much better place to educate our children.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 20, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Agreed. I remember somebody saying something about new programs such as MI attracting many more people to sign up for our district than might not otherwise. I didn't understand the point of that. What is wrong with attracting people to our district? The corollary would be to dumb down the district to drive people away, right?

However, now I understand the word "incremental". I know that the District is overwhelmed with about 250 MORE kindergarten registrations than they expected to have right now. I have to ask myself...why? Is it because of the hope for being picked for MI? And, if so, if we were to "approve" MI, how many of these kids would simply not show up, once not selected for MI, on the first day after we have gone to all the expense of putting in modulars and hiring teachers for them? Or, if the Board doesn't approve MI now, does that then give us some "stablity" to plan for? Or are these new registrants going to still simply not show up after we plan for them?

Does anyone know how this works? I, for one, am concerned. What can of worms has this opened?

I hope the Board says NO, not until after we plan well, and then asks the District to devise a way to contact everyone on the kindergarten list to see which ones still want to register for the rest of the kindergartens we have.

I would hate for us to spend all those millions of dollars preparing for all those 250 extra kindergarteners ( hmmm..20 kids per classroom, assume 50 don't show, so at least 10 kindergarten modulars, at $250,000 EACH, and a new teacher, at least $80,000 each..times 10, is ...3.3 million dollars..or are we forced to go to the am-pm model so we don't have to add all those extra classrooms. Or do we go to 24 kids per kindergarten and lose the federal funding at $20,0000 per kindergarten classroom, or about 40 X 20K for ..8 million?)

Does anybody know how this works?

I am getting angrier every day at the effect a few people have had on the good of the whole district.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 20, 2007 at 12:21 pm

PA Parent-

Oh, I see..the only principled stand is the one FOR MI..

The short-sighted solution is to PLAN.

And, of course, we all know the only "nasty" people are the opponents. Definitely not the blackmailing-threatening proponents from schools that would not be affected in any way, and who can afford to get their kids foreign language if they don't get it in the public school.

Nice framing.

It will be interesting watching the charter proponents figure out how to live within the Charter regulations for meeting the demographics of our District, ( put in the Charter guidelines to prevent the rich and white from pulling out and creating a charter school in a mixed economic and race district), and being open and available to everyone who wants it..( this means no screening of applicants). Those are the first two regulations that come to mind that would be tough to overcome.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 20, 2007 at 3:04 pm

I guess it's pretty clear from the way MI supporters are behaving now that this was only about getting their kids MI, not creating this asset for the district. I'm pretty disappointed, as I had hoped to see people regroup and try to accomplish it as part of the bigger picture in the district as should have happened in the first place.

As to the charter school issue, I heard from a friend in Los Altos that Bullis Charter School (a program I think is wonderful) originally tried to get into PAUSD and there is some bitterness about their rejection. Does anyone have any further details?

Posted by Kat, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2007 at 3:29 pm

In response to your question "What is wrong with attracting people to our district? The corollary would be to dumb down the district to drive people away, right?" I would have to say that what is wrong is a very broken funding model for public schools in this state. Palo Alto Unified is one of about 60 districts out of 1000 in California that are "basic aid" districts, which means that our per pupil funding comes only from our property and parcel tax revenues and privately raised dollars (through PiE). The more students, the less money we have to spend on each one.

It's a real paradox. We want our schools to be the best they can be for our children, but if good schools attract a lot of new students to the district, we have less money to spend on all the things that make our schools good.

I can tell you that the district has really beefed up the requirements for proving residency in Palo Alto before a new student can be registered. You can't just register in advance in anticipation of, say, a Mandarin Immersion program without actually living here.

There are always no-shows on Day 1 of school, but those would be students who left Palo Alto or went to private school. Also, students move in and out of our schools on an ongoing basis. It's not a static situation. The district has to plan for all of these contingencies.

I had not heard that Kindergarten registrations were so high. Are you sure about that? If that's true, it exceeds even the highest forecast by the district's demographers for all K-5 students. Where did you get that information?

Posted by Carol, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm

There will be more students overall than would have been projected, because the City Council has been enthusiastically responding to any and all projects for more housing for some time. There's no way to say what age group will be most impacted until the housing is built and occupied, but the approvals are final, with one exception.

A Council majority recently approved a huge project over staff objections, and in disregard of zoning and the comprehensive plan.

All new housing has the potential to add enrollment, even housing for seniors, if its residents are moving out of housing suitable for families.

There's no advantage to being optimistic in projections, because the schools must provide for these children when they arrive. With MI or without, there's no school that won't be overcrowded, soon, as students are shifted from one school to the next.

I think it's really unfortunate that this didn't become an issue before the MI proposal proceeded so far.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2007 at 8:37 pm


I'm assuming we're seeing the pro-MI crowd at the worst right now. After Callan's recommendation, I think they were pretty shocked by the 4-1 against views expressed by the BofE. So there's a lot of bitterness and, it seems to me, a real unwillingness to consider whether there's any validity to the objections to MI.

But maybe as time goes on (if the BoE votes as indicated at the 1/9 meeting), maybe some of the pro-MI crowd will see that halfsteps, such as summer immersion programs, will give them some of what they want for their children without creating this destructive us. v. them dynamic.

Right now, it feels like it became more about winning for some of the MI crowd than it did about reaching a working consensus on teaching Mandarin.

It's my perception that most of the pro-MI crowd were not experienced community activists. I felt like they became so focused on the goal that they didn't think about the community at large--whether it was good for Palo Alto as a whole or whether they were convincing people that this was so. The energy and focus they had was great. It would be great to see it channeled with a little more awareness.

Posted by Erik Krasner-Karpen, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 20, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Hello, I'm Erik Krasner-Karpen, the son of the authors of the letter. I'm apparently one of a few people here who aren't afraid to identify themselves. I'm sixteen, a junior at Paly, a nine-year alumnus of the Spanish Immersion program.

You're all right that my parents don't have any incoming kindergarteners. I don't how you can think that means that they don't wish the best for our district's incoming kindergarteners. My parents don't hate children, honest.

They do, in fact, have two boys in PAUSD, me and my brother Justin so to argue that they don't have the district's best interests at heart is, well, kind of absurd.

Justin and I both went through the Spanish Immersion program. Justin's a seventh grader, so he's still in it, as a matter of fact. We lived in Barron Park and later Los Altos Hills, yet we commuted to Escondido and Jordan every day, just to learn Spanish at school. So no, I wouldn't say geographic "expediency" has anything to do with my parents' opinion here, NIMBY.

"Asserting for the umpteenth time the high success of the SI program, given that it is a FACT that there are children coming out of it who STILL are not biliterate and bilingual in Spanish, is manipulative," you say, Mr. or Mrs. NIMBY? Well, let me tell you, I am biliterate and bilingual in Spanish as a direct result of the Spanish Immersion program. I got 5s on the Spanish Lang and Lit APs, freshman and sophomore year. Over the summer I read Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad in the original Spanish. Have you, sir or ma'am, read Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad in the original Spanish? Because let me tell you, it is not easy to read Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad in the original Spanish. I chalk that one up to the fine education Spanish Immersion gave me.

Back to the kids who "STILL are not biliterate and bilingual in Spanish". First of all, I don't know who these kids are. Almost all the SI graduates that I know entered high school in 3rd- and 4th-year Spanish classes and can speak and write Spanish better than most American high-school Spanish students (test scores corroborate).

Anyway, about these hypothetical kids who "STILL are not biliterate and bilingual in Spanish". Isn't it kind of a "you can lead a horse to water" situation? Why blame the system if kids have failed to learn? There are graduates of PAUSD math classes who still can't do triple integrals. There are graduates of PAUSD PE classes who still can't run 10Ks (I'm guilty). Why should graduates of PAUSD Spanish Immersion be held to a standard of total fluency when graduates of regular PAUSD language classes aren't held to that standard? The program's a success by any measure except this arbitrary one you've chosen for it.

Anyway, the thing to remember about Mandarin Immersion: it doesn't affect your kid. It's cost-neutral. No, really, it is. Think about it. Do the teachers magically get paid more? Do books and materials magically cost more? Obviously not. It's cost-neutral. There's an initial cost in the tens of thousands, but our budget's in the millions. What if your kid loses the lottery to get in? Guess what? He or she is no better or worse off than if the program had never existed. What if kids register for the district just to get into Mandarin Immersion? They can't. Their parents would have to move into Palo Alto which, for the sake of Palo Alto's future, we should really be encouraging. Let me reiterate: IT DOESN'T AFFECT YOUR KID.

Some would say that, as a world-class school district, it's PAUSD's responsibility to maintain the status quo. Bull pucky. It's PAUSD's responsibility to use its resources to keep innovating, to stay on the cutting edge of educational practice. An innovation like Mandarin Immersion, supported by a feasibility study and by the empirical example of Spanish Immersion should be a no-brainer. The only reason to avoid it is, well, NIMBYism.

PS: why do you go by NIMBY? You do know it's a pejorative...

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 10:47 am

Erik, I'm impressed with your letter and even more impressed that you are in agreement with your parents; I certainly rarely was at 16!

I personally think there are many ways to create cutting edge programs in our district that are innovative and serve many more children. For example, a world class science education for every child, I think, would go a lot further in creating children prepared for the 21st century. I don't think PAUSD has that right now.
Furthermore, our district is stressed financially and enrollment is increasing. PAUSD may not be able to afford the millions opening a 13th school would cost. But, if MI starts, the district must decide to open a 13th school to house it (once it leaves its temporary location). In order to get that 13th school, the district must decide now to open it. MI creates constraints on how the district spends its money that other types of programs would not - back to science.
There are many complicating issues that come into play here and I think the BoE got it right.
BTW, I was able to become fluent in another language by taking classes in Jr. High, High School and college. Immersion is great, but it isn't the only way to learn another language. Other countries start English as a second language very early in the educational process. I've worked with people from all over the world who came to this country speaking English quite well. What I would love to see in this district is a language program that starts early that concomitantly teaches children about other cultures, so EVERY graduate of PAUSD has an appreciation and understanding of other cultures at a very early age. This to me would be cutting edge. I also believe a public school system, paid for by all taxpayers, has a duty to graduate as many children as possible with the benefits of a stellar education, and any program developed should be with this in mind. You see, I'm not thinking so much about the children who were lucky and got into SI, or would get into MI, but the 95% of the children who don't get any languages right now. I want those other children, with the limited resources that PAUSD has, to benefit from new innovative programs as well.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 12:39 pm

PA Parent,

You yourself admit that the other 95% of the elementary students will get a sufficient foreign language education in middle school and high school. MI doesn't take away from them.

Why are you begrudging the district for starting a small pilot which DOES NO HARM to the other chilren? And can be

In fact, Ohlone has a WORLD LANGUAGE PLAN to pilot MI and then in the second and third year of the MI pilot, start Mandarin FLES for all of Ohlone in a reproducible fashion. This is really a brilliant idea!

Stay with me here. For brevity, I'll call the bilingual teachers in MI "Mandarin teachers", and the regular education teachers "English teachers".

In MI, Mandarin teachers gradually teach less Mandarin in the higher grades, and the older kids get more instruction in English. Why not have the Mandarin teachers swap English teachers from the regular education part of the school to give those kids some FLES?

By getting content-based MI curriculum established, other FLES programs can be planned out to be more than just conjugations, heros, and holidays.

I'd like to see SI look into establishing a Spanish FLES program for all of Escondido. They have strong curriculum and teachers, and it'd be great.

Open your minds to the possibilities, don't close your eyes because you're looking in a narrow tunnel.

As Patty Fisher said in her Mercury News column,

Web Link

Looks like PAUSD is heading for mediocrity.

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 12:49 pm


I agree that your letter expresses your views very well. The problem is that you avoid certain issues.

When you were at Escondido you were probably not aware of how our neighborhood school was stomped on by SI. Why should you? You guys (SI) took over the main campus and chased the neighborhood kids out to portables. Maybe you didn't know that many neighborhood parents put a lot of effort into Escondido to make it a better school, only to see our efforts destroyed by the influx of a 'choice'. BTW, Escondido was FULL in every classroom, with 25-30 kids per classroom, when you guys invaded. You could probably care less about the increased traffic, too. You got what you wanted, so why should you care?

Now you want to force another campus to go through this stuff. Erik, which campus do you have in mind? This is where the rubber meets the road, Erik. When you have young kids, and you live near your nighborhood school, and expect them to go there, will you say, "I don't care, I will just drive my kids to another school each day, because parochial intests should not matter? Everybody needs to sacrifice for the interests of 'choice'."

It is easy, Erik, until you actually need to sacrifice. More to the point, why should I agree to pay my parcel tax, if my neighborhood school is sacrfied to the 'choice' gods? I am one year away from being eligible to make that choice.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Sorry, I got so excited by this that I jumped a few steps and skipped some words. Take two:

PA Parent,

You yourself admit that the other 95% of the elementary students will get a sufficient foreign language education in middle school, high school, and college. MI doesn't take anything away from those students.

Why are you begrudging the district for starting a small pilot which DOES NO HARM to the other chilren? And can be the stepping stone for FLES for all elementary school students.

Naysayers harp on "SI happened and then nothing". But they don't know about the two FLES programs which were started at Addison and Duveneck and then abandoned after two years.

MI has brought such attention to world languages to the district administration and board, that there's a world language task force scheduled and funded for two years, a recommendation to create a FLES implementation plan, and strong community members who will make it happen.

In fact, Ohlone has a WORLD LANGUAGE PLAN to pilot MI and then in the second and third year of the MI pilot, start Mandarin FLES for all of Ohlone in a reproducible fashion. This is really a brilliant idea!

Stay with me here. For brevity, I'll call the bilingual teachers in MI "Mandarin teachers", and the regular education teachers "English teachers". In the typical scenario, the Mandarin teachers will teach both Mandarin and Enligh in the MI program, and the English teachers will teach in the regular education program.

According to standard immersion practice, MI's Mandarin teachers gradually teach less Mandarin in the higher grades, and the older kids get more instruction in English. All from the bilingual Mandarin teachers.

Why not have the MI Mandarin teachers swap with the general education English teachers from the regular education part of the school, and have that cross-teaching across both programs? The Mandarin teachers would teach some FLES to the general education kids, and the English teachers would teach regular English content to the MI kids. Eureka!

By getting content-based MI curriculum established, other FLES programs can be planned out to be more than just conjugations, heros, and holidays.

I'd like to see SI look into establishing a Spanish FLES program for all of Escondido. They have strong curriculum and teachers, and it'd be great.

Open your minds to the possibilities, don't close your eyes because you're looking in a narrow tunnel.

As Patty Fisher said in her Mercury News column,

Web Link

Looks like PAUSD is heading for mediocrity.

Posted by Andrea, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I guess that an opinion column is just that: someone's opinion. But Ms Fisher reduces the opposition to MI down to one issue and clearly has no understanding of the basic aid status of this district or it's ramifications, and certainly she has no grasp of the financial and facilities issues which stress this district. So she called the opposition opinions "hogwash". Also, even without choice programs, I would like Ms Fischer to know that there are lots of students and parents and BOE members working very hard guarantee that this district will not slide into mediocrity. Therefore perhaps it's anonymous and Ms Fisher who are "looking in a narrow tunnel".

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm


See, the superintendent's recommendations have learned from SI mistakes, or at least work to improve some of the challenges that existed with SI:

1. MI kids would go into the modulars at Ohlone, which are scheduled for installation, with or without MI.

2. Ohlone is not a neighborhood school, so no neighborhood kids will be displace. Al, how many kids were overflowed out of Escondido because of the influx of MI?

3. Ohlone is a very inclusive school. MI would adhere to the Ohlone Way, which is very cooperative and not divicive. Don't throw your mud in our pond.

4. There's some existing Ohlone families interested in being in the MI program. By three years, we'll all be interested to see how the enrollment and waiting lists work our. Who knows, maybe Ohlone will see a shift from all applicants wanting "English" Ohlone, to a 50/50 split in interest in English and Mandarin Ohlone. Wouldn't that be neat?

I'm sorry you feel your neighborhood school was sacrificed. I've heard a bunch more people feel the neighborhood school was strengthened. You're entitled to your opinion, and to opt out on the parcel tax. It's unfortunate that you're taking out your spite on the next generation, years after your kids were "hurt" by the system.

Did you stop contributing the PTA and PiE for the last 12 years, after SI started at Escondido?

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 1:47 pm


No kids were overflowed while my kids were still there. Of course, we got "overflowed" with portables and traffic. Escondido is now past its allowed limit (waiver granted by BoE). There is talk that other close-by neighborhoods will be directed to Escondido - on top of the hybrid that already exists there. I see quite a few new kids in College Terrace... where will they go?

You say that everything will be hunky dory at Ohlone. ya suppose that maybe those MI parents are not into the 'Ohlone way'? Most of the kids in MI will be Asian, and most Asians don't like sloppy educational standards (mud in the pond)- that's why so many of them like to send their kids to Hoover (direct instruction - 'back-to-basics').

You're right that Ohlone is not a neighborhood school. Your reasoning, however, is circular: How could a formerly neighborhood school still be a neighborhood school, once it is made into a 'choice' school? Neighbors who would otherwise be attending the Ohlone school, are now overflowed to other schools. I say get rid of 'choice' at Ohlone, and give it back to the neighbors. Same for Hoover.

For all those parents who want 'choice', either form a charter school, or open a private school. Kehillah Jewish high School is an excellent example of what can be achieved. The International School and Bullis Charter School are two more examples.

BTW, my threat to withdraw from the parcel tax is, unfortunately, the only power I have to make my point. If enough other seniors in PA are fed up with 'choice' programs, we will be heard. Too bad, but that's on you, not me. If neighborhood schools are protected (and restored), I think you will see a lot more willingness to tax ourselves.

Posted by My Opinion, too!, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:05 pm


It's not that your opinion isn't valid, and that you can't state it. It's just that a number of people, including big-thinkers, have the opinion that the opposition is wrong. Red herrings are spontaneously spawning, and most of the arguments ARE hogwash.

And today's Palo Alto Daily editorial is also along the opinion that MI is a good idea, and to let the pilot program proceed:

Web Link

It'll be interesting to see what the Palo Alto Weekly editorial says. So far, two for.

And these opinions are based on a broader perspective than those of the opposition who are stirring around in their tea cups. Patty Fisher has been around the Palo Alto block. Many of the excuses and dissenting reasons are an exact copy of 13 years ago.

Sorry, Andrea, Palo Alto isn't that deep. We're NOT new in the educational/financial balancing act. It's the same old story, and as Mary Frances Callan stated, there's no perfect time.

The earlier immersion story ended up with a successful SI program. I'm hoping that this age-old story ends up positive again.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:30 pm

My Opinion, you say the earlier immersion story ended with a successful SI program.

I say, successful for who? Sure, some of the English only speaking kids who began in kindergarten became bilingual in Spanish, including the ones who spoke at the Board meeting and the one writing on this forum. Isn't that nice that the rest of the taxpayers paid for this small, elite group of hand-picked students (including a way higher than average percentage of PAUSD employee children in the "random" lottery) to become bilingual? I rejoiced when the student Board member told of us of all the employment oportunities she has had because we taxpayers have paid for her bilingual skills. And it makes my heart sing that Erik can read the aforementioned book in the original Spanish.

The shameful truth is that many of the original Spanish only speakers who began in kindergarten were not given the English language skills they needed and a number of them were so far behind by the time they reached middle school, they had to be put in remedial English language classes (at taxpayer expense).

Why has there not been a complete financial and educational audit of SI to track every student who left and why and any incremental costs involved? Hey, I think we'd all love our children to be bilingual but we don't want to pay for a few kids every year to become bilingual.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:31 pm


Your comments about overflow and traffic are more symptomatic of increased enrollment than SI. Escondido's capacity was increased due to more kids in the north cluster. The boundaries are being redrawn because we closed schools in the wrong area, and now have to live the past's mistakes.

Neighborhood schools are getting more crowded now because we _used to_ run our schools with bigger class sizes. And the district used to have 22 elementary schools, all with bigger class sizes.

If you really care about those new kids in College Terrace, tell their parents to attend the Area Attendance school board meeting on Feb 6. Get educated on the 12 or 13 school scenarios and the financial tradeoffs.

As for your projection of your biases on Asian parents not liking the Ohlone Way, that's on the brink of racist.

There's plenty of Asian parents who like the Ohlone Way. There's lot's of Asians who apply to Ohlone. There's a higher accuracy in your remark about Hoover if you substitute "immigrant" instead of "Asian". But YOU chose the words you use, not me. There's a lot of non-Asians who like Ohlone, and would want to take MI there. There's lots of Asians who do not want to be in MI. There's lots of Asians who do not go to Hoover.

What's your point?

Your anti-choice opinion is loud and clear. You can lead the charge to close Ohlone, Hoover, SI, and Young 5's. Feel free to march your one-person parade around the school district offices to get that done.

If you support private schools, do you support vouchers for those who cannot pay for it? These are tax-payers, too. Why should they pay extra for their kids' education, unless you give them the option to divert their taxes from public schools?

So, Al, did you stop giving to the PTA and PiE (and its different versions) 12 years ago?

Did you cut off your nose to spite your face?

Posted by Erik Krasner-Karpen, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Resident, how nice that you're impressed. Really, that's nice. You don't know how much it means to me. By the way, I only agree with my parents on this one because they happen to be right.

Should we give every child a world-class science education? Of course! Why not? You just go ahead and figure out how to improve the way science is taught to a few thousand elementary-school kids, and we'll do that. In the meantime, why not start educating a few kids in Chinese by a tried-and-true method on an experimental basis? It's not an either/or situation. Kids can learn both science and Mandarin.

About the thirteenth elementary school. You seem to have cause and effect mixed up. Mandarin Immersion won't in and of itself increase the number of kids in the district. If there will be a thirteenth school, it's because the student population has expanded to the point where it's necessary. MI really has nothing to do with it. The SI program's sharing space in Escondido, not as a "temporary location" but on a pretty permanent basis. A better way to put it would be: IF a thirteenth school were to open up, Mandarin Immersion COULD be moved there.

Al. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Three of the six portables in Escondido house Spanish Immersion classes right now. I myself spent three of my four years in Escondido in a portable. If anyone's being relegated, Al, it's Spanish Immersion.

But, you know? I don't see it that way. The portables are as nice as any place to have a class. Have you ever taken a class in a portable, Al? I have. There's nothing wrong with them, and they're actually larger than the permanent classrooms in Escondido. So I really don't see the oppression here.

Let's suppose a neighborhood school overcrowds to the point where parents on the very edge of that school's neighborhood have to drive their kids to the next school over. Didn't happen at Escondido, because the portables accommodated the size increase, but let's suppose it happens. Does it really matter that much? Palo Alto is not that big. Schools in Palo Alto are not that far apart.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Onlinen staff.]

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:59 pm


You are getting very PC angry. The 'racist' attack doesn't work like it used to, but it probably makes you feel good. Take a breath.

Several PA teachers have told me that Hoover (back-to-basics) is very popular with Asians. Frankly, if I was as selfish as you, I would have loved to have such a choice at Escondido, as long as I could be assured that my kids got into it. But I am not as selfish as you. I support neighborhood schools.

I was a pretty strong supporter of my neighborhood school. Yes, I contributed to most things (both $$ and time and effort). I have also voted for every bond issue and parcel tax increase. But circumstances change. The 'choice' monster has gone too far.

Now, Anonymous, if you are still breathing, I can assure you that the overflow of portables and traffic at Escondido was, largely, due to SI. How else can several isolated strands be dumped on a local school?

Vouchers? Why not? Educational scholarhsips seem like a good idea.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2007 at 3:01 pm


I never said I was impressed, I'm not. Probably a large percentage of students could read the original Spanish that you are so proud of if they'd been given the opportunities you and the other SI students were and are being given at taxpayer expense. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 3:51 pm


I used to hate it when my parents, and their peers, used to tell me, " are still wet behind the ears". I truly hated it! But, Erik, you are still wet behind the ears! Go ahead and hate me.

I don't remember your parents, either. Were they there at the beginning (like I was)?

Erik, let me just tell it to you straight: If neighborhood schools are not protected, the PA schools will no longer have financial support from the dinosaurs like me. That may not matter to you, or to your parents, but I will feel comfortable voting with my pocketbook. BTW, there are still a lot of so-called dinosaurs, like me, in PA.

Your parents should have fought to form a charter school, or a private school. I am not against choice, as long as it does not disrupt the neighborhood schools. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:09 pm


You are a brave and decent young man, coming to the defense of your parents and your education. I have no doubt your parents are proud of you. Please, go enjoy the gifts you got and use them well. Nobody is arguing that what you received wasn't a great thing, and I am sure we are happy for you.

But, please understand, what we want is for the high school students of 10 years from now to be able to be in your shoes,( and K-5 immersion is not the only way to get there) and say what you can't say...They will be able to say that every one of their friends had the same opportunity to get to the same place. I don't know if you did or did not choose to go down the more intense track in math in high school, but if you didn't, at least you had the same chance since kindergarten to choose this as your fellow students. Your fellow students did not have the same chance in foreign language.

At the time our district went this way, that seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Not as many people were interested in foreign language at a young age...and there was not much thought given to the effect on the rest of the district. It was all new and ready to be tested. Ok, we have tested it, and have learned. The discussion now for most of us is not about whether or not we did the right thing in starting SI then or whether or not it should continue. They are independent of each other.

By the way, NIMBY is reverse irony, related to supporters of MI who already got foreign language for their kids and have nothing to lose by supporting MI now, or who support MI knowing there is no cost to their own school or kids, for whatever reason.

Now, to the rest of you..

The rest of you, frame it any way you want..this is a problem of the two sides having a different vision for the District.

One side thinks that the way we have made decisions about our programs, and the programs we have implemented, are good. They like the way we have done business in the past. They want to keep making the same decisions in the same way.

This side clearly is very happy with the idea that our District should become a district of different specialty or language immersion programs at each site, with feasibility studies for the programs funded by private anonymous donors, and with the assumption being that all lottery choice programs are good.. and wants to force us further along that road by pushing for MI right now, OR ELSE.

This side is quite comfortable with the idea of starting MI right now, at Ohlone, knowing that in 3 years it will either have to move to a new site, which forces us to decide to open Garland right now and that half of those neighborhood kids won't go to Garland, or to make very painful decisions about Ohlone, such as forcing it to lessen the number of kids who can have access to Ohlone, which will displace Ohlone "wannabe" kids.

This side wants what it wants NOW, knowing that if it gets it, by name calling, negative framing, threatening or guilt ( you took our money, you owe us a program), then we will not only be stuck with MI now, we will not be able to stop the next immersion program from starting at yet another site.

This is the vision of this side. It is a valid vision, and one that has been embraced by some other districts, the idea of every school site and program being by semi-lottery and specialized. Of course, to say other districts have done this without saying that they have done this in a desperate attempt to attract students to their failing districts would be say the least.

Say all you want that " an MI program now doesn't take away from anybody else". This is false. It takes away the spots from the Ohlone wannabes who will STILL be denied entrance, even with more modulars. It takes resources away from the District, as it already has, that could be used for the good of the whole district's priorities, and it takes away from the future vision of this district by forcing us down a path we may not want.

The "other" side does not want us to be forced closer to this future for our District. It wants to change for the better the way we make decisions.It wants us to evaluate what has and has not worked in our district, measure where we are in meeting our goals, assess the reality of our District and its resources now, and assess what the community wants for its children. It wants us to make planned choices about our district, with an eye toward the consequences of our choices on the future.

We are betting that this community, if given a voice, does NOT want a district where each school becomes a specialty immersion program. We are betting that this community would prefer to assess which of our programs we need to continue improving, which are good as they are..and then choose which new one we should work on for EVERYBODY.

We believe that if foreign language has become that important, and risen to the top of our District's priorities, then we need to devise a way to bring it to all the kids in a given grade in our district, not a few lottery "winners". To make it all even worse, it is now coming out that the lottery winners in our current programs are not even from a true lottery, but a semi-lottery, weighted by location or by ability to write essays. This does not help the pro-lottery argument.

But, we want a plan first for what our goals are for foreign language instruction ( complete fluency by 6th grade, or enough so that those who choose to do so can be completely bilingual and biliterate by 12th????..all kids have access? or just 50%? or 5%??). Depending on the goals of the District for the kids, we choose the kind of foreign language program that we want to offer to ALL the kids in the District, or at least all the kids in any given grade. Perhaps we start working our way into the "rest of the world's" model, from South Korea to France to Israel to Russia to China to Japan..of foreign language instruction for all the kids beginning at..pick an age. Most countries start around 9 years old. And, somehow, with this model, kids who choose to become fluent in that language ( usually English) so as high school students or college students. The proof is in the number of foreign peoples who move here and draw on their education to rapidly become completely fluent in English. Or, in the number of Americans who move abroad and become rapidly become completely bilingual in their chosen country.

We can do this, slowly but surely, in a way that is consistent with our priorities, our funding, and our enrollment growth. If we plan it well, and given we have so many models to emulate, we could make this happen over a few years with no disruption to, without hamstringing our sites or enrollment options, and with no resentment from those who "didn't win" the lottery.

Like the proponents keep saying, we have been down here before, and we have heard all these arguments. And, frankly, that proves our point. The only difference is that now we have at least 300 resentful families with kids throughout the school district who are watching the "lottery winners" develop great foreign language skills....while they got nothing for the first 6 years of school...and wondering why our school district is even thinking of starting yet another immersion program with the same problems.

I have heard a lot of proponents say "oh, but if my child or if I hadn't gotten in, I would still have been happy for the ones who got in". Of course. We can be happy for the "winners", and wish them well..yet still wonder why our district is even thinking of creating even more "have nots" in a district committed to excellence for all. Don't forget, for every kid who got into SI, for example, anywhere from 3 to 9 did not, depending on the year.

If we had known our district was no longer desperate for resources and was looking for "what to do next", maybe we could have all worked together to come up with a complete foreign language plan by now, and be trying to put it into the context of all our priorities and pressing issues. We might even have been at the point of implementing foreign language for all who want it in summer school post 5th grade and in middle school..with classes that could handle these kids in middle school well on their way to planned.

I think we are wanting to stop how we, as a district, tend to just jump into major projects without regard to consequences or need.

We do not want to repeat this with every new program every year.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Anonymous - good try on the "racist" thing again. Look at the public files about "racial composition" of Ohlone and Hoover..hmm...I don't think we can simply say "immigrant". We can say "immigrant" when we are referring to immigrants from many countries, or at least more than a couple.We can say "immigrant" when referring to the wide variety of countries represented at Escondido and Juana Briones. We can not hide our heads in the sand and say "immigrant" generically when we speak of Hoover.

To state a fact is not racist. We have gotten so crazy with that kind of thinking that we hesitate to describe someone using their race as one of the descriptors. Soon, we won't even be able to say that Castilleja is full of..girls.

Good try though

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Erik - Try a good read: [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The minutes from the 1/9 and 1/16 PAUSD BoE meetings. Maybe you'll understand better my concern related to having to open Garland prematurely if MI is instituted.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Hey, Al,

Just calling it like I see it.

As it turns out, most PALO ALTANS don't like sloppy educational standards. Are you calling Ohlone sloppy? Have you stopped beating your wife?

Have you looked at the numbers?

Most Asians have not shown interest in MI, just as most Hispanics have not entered the SI lottery.

Just because many Asians like Hoover, the opposite is not necessarily true: that most Asians don't like Ohlone (your implied insult to Ohlone having sloppy educational standards). Clearly you need some stronger math and logical thinking classes.

Looking at the numbers, most Palo Altans like neighborhood schools. Most Asians like neighborhood schools. And I'm reluctant to project on immersion supporters (SI and MI) but feel that most of them support neighborhood schools, too. But since you project, I'll project.

Neighborhood schools can peacefully exist with choice schools (even though YOU hate choice schools, there's not a ground swell to close them - sorry).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The choice "monster" has only expanded SI by half of a strand after 11 years. MI is only proposed as a four-classroom pilot after 3 years of evaluation. Ohlone will expand half a strand due to enrollment growth, regardless of MI or not.

I'm sorry you're scared of monsters, but really, they aren't that scary, and in fact are quite friendly. Or do you fear choice programs that much?

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 6:34 pm


[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The MI program will have a majority of Asian students (those who speak Mandarin, in order to meet the 50% requirment). Those parents would prefer MI within a structured educational environment (not sloppy stuff, like at Ohlone). If you don't believe me, just ask them (the cohert of potential Mandarin native speakers). I don't have any studies at hand, but neither do you. I am just applying common sense, within this community.

I say "sloppy" about Ohlone, because a couple of my neighbors sent their kids there, then withdrew them because, according to them, it was "too loose, too sloppy".

Posted by Karen Karpen and Glenn Krasner, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 7:28 pm

To those of you who chose to malign our integrity and reputation, please do so in your own name, rather than hiding behind the cowardice of anonymity.

To those of you who have chosen to attack a 16 year old kid, please reflect upon your behavior and consider whether that is an appropriate thing for an adult to do.

To the rest of you, please do not believe that the rantings of a couple of bitter people have anything to do with the reality of the Spanish Immersion experience at Escondido. The Spanish Immersion / Escondido partnership has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, with adults working side-by-side for the betterment of all children at the school. We are confident that Mandarin Immersion would have a similarly positive experience at any of the wonderful Palo Alto elementary schools. The Feasibility Study has offered workable solutions to placement of the program, and there are others that would work as well. Any school would be lucky to have the fine people who have been working to start this program in their school community.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Your son is quite capable of expressing his strong opinions, enough so that even his posts contain some material deleted by PA Online staff. I think respect is a two way street. I know he's 16, and I'm going to have a couple teenagers at home soon, but if I had read my own children's posts containing the same tone as his, I would have asked them to change it before posting.

For example, instead of saying to me in a previous post, "You seem to have cause and effect mixed up," how about, "I don't understand your logic, please explain," I would have been happy to go into more detail. Just a thought.

Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Karen and Glenn,

You allowed your 16 year old son to attack some of us on this site, questioning our integrity and experience. We answered him directly (deservedly so), then you suddennly run to his defense. That's what some parents do... others allow their kids to learn their own lessons.

Your son said you were there. At the beginning? Really? I don't remember you. Your son said SI was in portables - certainly not when my kids got kicked out of the main campus, in order to make room for SI, which took over the main campus.

The simple fact is that SI got kicked out of Fairmeadow and dumped on Escondido. Esconcdido was already full (very full, by today's standards), but it had land, thus is was deemed appropriate to get loaded up with portables. There is no way that any rational adult could state that SI did not have a MAJOR effect on Escondido. I was there before, during and were not. You saw what you wanted to see.

The SI people were not bad people. But they were activists, and tended to dominate the school politics (with the help of the principal, who had a child in SI). Your views about how wonderful it was seems to deny how wonderful it was before the SI invasion.

Why don't you put your efforts and energy behind charter schools or private schools for choice programs. You would get my support if you did.

In the meantime, I will continue to support neighborhood schools.

BTW, my name is Al.

Posted by Old Fogie Daniel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2007 at 9:35 pm

anonymous: you can add me to Al's parade, making it a parade of two. But I'll take the Young Fives program off of the chopping block for now. Closing the Achievement Gap is a district priority, isn't it? And I heard the Principals in agreement at the SIP meeting that the single best way to begin closing that gap is school readiness (pre-kindergarten).

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Al's right about Ohlone and Hoover's demographics. Both are choice schools, both are in south Palo Alto. But Hoover's around 70 percent Asian and Ohlone's 15 percent. Of that 15 percent, surprisingly few are of Chinese descent compared to the PA school population. The Ohlone way is pretty counter to how things are taught and valued in China and Hong Kong--at least according to my Chinese friends. And, yes, Ohlone *is* less rigorous than Hoover or even Duveneck. For me, that was part of its appeal.

So let's quit pretending that zero-generation Chinese immigrants are dying to get their Mandarin-speaking kids into Ohlone--they're not.

While I don't agree with Al about getting rid of choice schools (obviously), I think it's short-sighted and arrogant just to dismiss his complaints as sour grapes. The district needs to serve *everybody* and find a balance. If that balance wasn't kept at Escondido, then the mistakes need to be faced and dealt with.

In that sense, Susan Charles was right in that any MI program had to be fully integrated at Ohlone. In some ways, the basic approach was right (as was having it at a choice school). In this case, the particulars were a bad fit--not enough room for a full program, no curriculum that can be used to teach Mandarin the Ohlone "way". It was an attempt at a crazy rush job. There was no world language "plan" at Ohlone. There was simply the acknowledgment that such a plan would be needed.

Big difference and I'd think more highly of MI proponents if they could admit that instituting MI was not going to be all wine and roses.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 22, 2007 at 7:21 am

Lest anybody think my earlier post was removed for deleterious speech,, I think it must have been removed because it apologized for accidentally placing 3 copies of the post..

They removed the 2 extra copies and then "portion removed" my apologies and a comment I had for anonymous..but I don't remember anything bad about the comment, no bad language, no name calling...

I don't keep copies of what I write, though I guess I should to understand the deletions.

Posted by pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2007 at 9:23 am

Karen and Glenn,

You should be proud of your articulate, intelligent son. It was informative to hear first-hand about the benefits of immersion. But it was disappointing to read the condescending and insulting responses to his post. The community is lucky to have your family among us.

The discussion about MI on this site has been consistently dragged to a low level. Instead of engaging with the issues, the people against Mandarin deliver these personal attacks or assail strawmen. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Your letter spoke eloquently, and put over your points very well. Best to ignore the rants here.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2007 at 10:08 am

I advocate looking at the big picture, the best interests of the district as a whole, rather than periodically setting up piecemeal Choice programs that benefit a very few youth.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 22, 2007 at 11:42 am

Yes, we are all so happy to hear from the few lucky kids about the great benefits they got from immersion.

We don't hear from the hundreds of kids who were denied this opportunity about all the benefits to them because..there are no benefits for them to discuss.

Ad nauseum - nobody denies the benefits of immersion.

Back to dragging the discussion to the "low level", since only the proponents have the "high moral standing".

We are denying that a public school's job is to educate a few to expert level on the basis of a lottery, while providing nothing to the rest.

We are denying that a public school's job is to educate a few lottery winners to expert, when many have insufficient support to succeed in higher priority goals.

We are denying many more aspects, but...

Ah, well. If you want another immersion program in the district, regardless of the big picture, you have already decided that these, and all the other, points are meaningless.

I recognize when there is a brick wall and when it is time to jump off.

Don't worry, I am not Humpty Dumpty

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2007 at 1:10 pm

pa parent,

Please look at your post again and try to see how someone who disagrees with you would view it. It's not persuasive. It does nothing to create any sort of consensus. It's just us v. them. And "them" is bad and "us" is good.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2007 at 1:44 pm

To those of you who chose to malign our integrity and reputation, please do so in your own name, rather than hiding behind the cowardice of anonymity.

Wow, posts to an anonymous forum are ...(wait for it)... anonymous!

Well, that was certainly a surprise, who'd have thought it?

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

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

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