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MI Charter School in MV best move?

Original post made by Language Lover on Mar 26, 2007

I'm wondering why PACE doesn't consider pushing for a charter school in Mountain View instead of Palo Alto? The advantages have been given on various other boards, so I will try to list them here:

1) Mountain View is currently facing declining enrollments; they even recently closed a school. They have space. Palo Alto is overenrolled and facing more enrollments with lots of new housing coming on line soon.

2) Mountain View, as expressed in a previous post, has a surplus of city funds. Palo Alto has a deficit.

3) Mountain View has a Spanish Immersion program which, unlike Palo Alto's choice program with limited enrollment, expands to take everyone who wants to be in the program, including students from Palo Alto. A Mandarin Immersion program could similarly take students from the MV district and Palo Alto.

4) A Mandarin Immersion program would attract new students and be a boon for the reputation of the Mountain View school district, which suffers some relative to Palo Alto and Los Altos schools (probably not deservedly as much as it does).

5) Palo Alto families interested in MI could go there for elementary, then continue in Palo Alto schools for middle and high school if they wished. By then, maybe Palo Alto would at least have summer immersion here, and a comprehensive language plan for all kids, including elementary kids who currently have no language instruction in neighborhood schools, through high school.

6) Because MV doesn't suffer the space, facilities, and monetary constraints of PA at the moment, an MI charter school in MV could start with grades beyond just K/1 -- it could start with prepared kids up to grade 2 or 3, meaning the kids of several of the interested PA PACE families who are now too old to start in K/1 would get the benefits of an MI program after all.

7) Mountain View schools are funded differently (I know nothing about this, I am remembering a discussion about charter schools and the different ways schools are funded in this area). From the previous post, it seemed that Mountain View was a better choice for a charter school than a basic aid district like Palo Alto because of the way the schools are funded.

8) Mountain View school district as a whole is probably a better fit right now with the mission of charter schools.

9) There is a lot of support in Mountain View for this kind of language instruction.

10) Palo Alto is facing space problems, and if PACE is right in their assertions about MI, this would free up some spaces in our elementary schools for now (though this is somewhat debatable -- are the people most likely to go now sending their kids to private schools?)

11) Mountain View is nearby.

12) Best of all, PACE gets the MI program it wants, without limitations -- even better than they would get here in PA -- no more controversy in Palo Alto, and we can direct our energy to strategic planning, and getting the kind of language program that offers the best language strategy for ALL of Palo Alto's children, and is more flexible for the future.

I would love to hear any comments, including from Mountain View Language Lovers.

Comments (34)

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:36 am

This has been suggested to the MI supporters and I believe their answer to that was "we live in Palo Alto".

All your information is great and if the MI supporters truly wanted to build a great immersion program, they would be pursuing your idea. I'd suggest writing to PACE with your thoughts. Web Link


Posted by MI or Bust!, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Could it be because if they threaten a charter school they may get a recount on the immersion program?

Could people please look at the publicly available documents from the Superintendent and her staff and comment? Forexample, apparently now Charter School is grotesquely expensive but MI is cost neutral. Hm. So how is it that MI has no start up costs at all, and is now less expensive than the minimum amount of funding Palo Alto would have to cough up?

Please, somebody, discuss what these documents mean and analyze the analysis (or lack thereof). The Board is IMMINENTLY going to have a discussion of which is better, which I don't understand since we already determined that MI was NOT going to happen. So shouldn't the disussion be limited, in any event, whether or not to have a charter school (assuming the charter school application is complete)?

This Board has completely lost its ability to think critically, as far as I can tell. I expect Gail Price will once again be the lone voice of sanity, with Camille gushing and extemporizing over how amazing it would be to have this program HERE, NOW. And community priorities and resources be damned.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.


Posted by jaded, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm

As noted, all the MI proponents are really after is a PAUSD sponsored choice program. They don't really appear want a charter school but are prepared to go to the expense of creating one to force PAUSD to offer a choice program instead. I'm sure they will go through with it if PAUSD turn them down (yet again), since they're going to get their immersion program at any cost.

On the other hand, I don't see how PAUSD can change their mind. If all you need to do to get your choice program approved is threaten to open a charter school then what's the point of the choice approval process?

And, yes, there doesn't appear to be any analysis on what the district could save per student if a Charter school was opened. (Web Link)

They had previously noted here: (Web Link)
When the district loses a student - to a charter or elsewhere - in theory it could save $6,000, said Gerald Matranga, associate superintendent. "But that assumes that all students come in neat little packets of 20," he said.

In the proposed charter school of 480, say 400 are in-district, then you'd save $2,400,000 per year. Why isn't this mentioned anywhere in the report?!

Yet another poor effort from the Superintendent and her staff.


Posted by more jaded than you, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Well, sheesh, Jaded, what's your problem? You want thoughtful analysis? From the Super and her staff, who brought us that stellar work, the Feasibility Study?

It's like you want the Board to make thoughtful, rational decisions. What are you thinking?


Posted by Elementary, My Dear Watson, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

If a charter school is opened in Mountain View, and it becomes full due to oversubscription, the charter school would give priority to Mountain View residents over other residents.

That's why these Palo Alto parents don't want to put the charter school in Mountain View.

You could ask them to leave more directly.


Posted by more jaded than you, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:18 pm

If the MI people want to have a charter school, why then, let's give them the opportunity to put in an application for one *and consider it at that time* -- instead of having them level these threats, with the help of our dear Super, and have the Board retrace its very painful steps from the first time around and consider a choice program. Remember district priorities? And yet, here we go again. The whole issue, and in fact the whole Board MO on this and the trust issue (and related issues), are getting tedious and oppressively short-sighted. What is the Board afraid of? That someone won't like them? sorry, too late to worry about that.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:32 pm

I don't think anyone is asking anyone to leave. I think there are real hopes that somehow we can come up with a solution that gives everybody at least most of what they want. It is such a pity this has become so black and white, all or none.

Maybe it is because there are opposing views on some basic issues around the form, function and goal of public education. If you don't agree on what the goal of public education is ( a platform to allow you to become an expert, versus graduating already an expert), the function of public education ( to provide all children the same opportunities or to provide different opportunities to different children) or the form of public education ( multiple specialty schools in a district versus one big school divided into neighborhood satellites, so to speak) then this becomes circular for each "side".

Maybe it is impossible to simultaneously have both types of thinking manifested in one district without tension, because one precludes the other. I just know that I keep seeing the same argument over and over and over again, with the same conclusions argued over and over and over again.


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:37 pm

According to the report comparing costs of charter versus MI at Ohlone to be discussed at tomorrows BoE meeting (available on the PAUSD site), implementing MI this year is no longer possible anyway. So, what's the rush? At this point, perhaps the BoE should wait until they see Pace's charter application, before any decision is made.


Posted by more jaded than you, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 6:18 pm

Thanks, pa mom. My point exactly. This should not even be on the agenda. It is giving the MI proponents a THIRD bite at the apple that has now dropped off the tree -- or so it seemed.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:25 pm

"If a charter school is opened in Mountain View, and it becomes full due to oversubscription, the charter school would give priority to Mountain View residents over other residents."

On the contrary, My Dear Watson, in Mountain View's Spanish Immersion program, they expand the program to take all comers. I have friends who send their kids to Mtn View SI, and they tell me they have families from Palo Alto who go there because they did not get in to SI in Palo Alto. MI in Mountain View could be run the same way.

As I said, Mountain View isn't facing the same enrollment, space, and money concerns that we are.


Posted by Elementary, My Dear Watson, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Mountain View's Castro Elementary is not a full school, so they can keep allowing more people from out of district attend.

The planned MI charter would be "so successful" as to fill up (to whatever capacity they decide to limit it to), and would be oversubscribed, requiring a lottery and a priority system. They are optimistic.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Wow, if Mountain View's Castro Elementary is not full, even though they have a regular (non-SI) program, and took everyone who wanted to enroll in SI, AND they closed another elementary school this year, they have a lot more capacity than I thought.

It's really inconceivable then that in the next several years, an MI program in MV would overfill. Those who want MI now could work to bring those benefits to MV, give the benefits to their own kids on their fast track time schedule, and give Palo Alto the breathing room to develop a language program alongside strategic planning and in the best way given Palo Alto's constraints. It will ultimately mean a stronger district when they return to it for MS and HS.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Oh, one more thing --

The concern of the school filling up. At Bullis Charter School, if you got in from another district, even if they were too full to take outsiders the next year, you got to finish your schooling there and your siblings got priority. At Oak, if you got in from another district and the school was full the next year, they say, Oops, too bad for you! Both schools are in Los Altos district, I don't know why the difference, but it seems to me that it means there is a choice, especially with a charter school.

So, no one from Palo Alto who got in now would be pushed out anyway, and it seems with the significant underenrollment in Mountain View, that wouldn't be a problem for a very long time.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Bullis is basically the replacement for the closed LAH elementary and that's affected its admissions criteria.

If PACE is serious about an MI charter, I think they'd consider Mountain View--however, the charter proposal really does seem to be more of a political sledge hammer to force an MI choice program through. It's a lot less work for the MI crowd and they don't have to run it.

To me, there's an "I'll show you!" emotional component as well.

But maybe the quieter french immersion crowd could try it out and lead the way.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2007 at 12:15 pm

PAEE has done a spread sheet cost comparison between choice vs. charter, and they have concluded -- in the impartial analysis -- that a charter would actually be cheaper than a choice program for the district, by quite a bit. (This is a group that opposed the specific MI proposal.)

Web Link

The above link also has links to the spread sheet itself at the bottom of the page.

PAEE (www.paee.us) also says on their home page that no charter application has yet been filed with PAUSD or the county, so that leaves open the possibility of considering Mountain View.

I am also beginning to think that a charter school would be better, whether in PA or MV, but obviously I think having one in MV would be better for everyone. I also think it would be more popular in MV and unlikely to have the kind of controversy that we've had here fore many of the above stated reasons.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 12:45 pm

And a (successful) charter has all the power it needs to expand to its heart content - there are no constraints on the size of a charter. The school district itself certainly has no power to prevent it. So fear of being turned away is a completely invalid argument.

Are there any real reasons why MI people would not want to put their charter in Mt. View?


Posted by jaded, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Thanks for the link, Language Lover (Web Link)

Now, why can't the Superintendent and her staff put together a document in a similar format that actually contains this data? It really does seem that the wrong people are doing these studies.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 12:54 pm

I believe the reason put forth on this or another thread was that they live here so they want their school to be here too.


Posted by Win, Win, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

I like the thinking outside the box here.

Are there any MV folks out there who are interested in starting an MI charter school?

The great thing here is that we have a chance to have an MI school in Palo Alto and Mountain View. No need to just have one. This would give the two schools a chance to share resources, plan activities together, etc.

Double the benefit! Go MI!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Win Win - I like the idea - they'd also get to enjoy the benefits of the charter school laws as they are designed - which are specifically for competition in the schools.

So when the palo alto charter school found it was too expensive to operate in Palo Alto (high cost of renting space), required too much fund raising and other resources from parents, found it too hard to compete for quality teachers against PAUSD, and against eachother!, found it too hard to compete with Hoover test scores with PAUSD, etc etc etc. Then the natural forces of competition would kick in and the families would go over to the ~other~ charter which would have the massive advantages of support of the district, probably get free site, and various other benefits (such as much lower legal hassles).

Love it. But I'm all for them doubling their start up costs, and their massive law suit engine (I heard lawyers cost money these days - but PACE is firing that up just to make sure they get their way. What a grand experiement - andw hat could be more fun than experimenting on little kids - right?

Or are you saying there are 1000 people on the PACE waiting list for MI PA? And Mandarin/English qualified teachers are just sitting around waiting for work.

I think someone needs to go back to business school. Because in the end - a charter school is a business more than a school. You can build it (just like you can build an automatic dog washer) - but you need customers. And then you have this pesky little issue that you actually need to serve your customers quality, or else your customers go away.

I think its really fabulously interesting that the MI charter folks think its the simplest thing in the world to run a K-6 school district, and they can just go out there and blow the doors off PAUSD... Because look around - there are SO MANY successful ones around here doing that. I mean, PAUSD quality educational results are a dime a dozen - everywhere you look are school district doing as well and even better than PAUSD.. Nothing could be simpler right?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I don't think you have to be in Mountain View to start a charter school there. And I don't think a charter *has* to give preference to a particular city. It can choose to do so.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I don't think the MI group thinks that starting a charter is easy, they think they won't need to because the BOE will give in to their threat...


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Hey, Win, Win,
You gave me a great idea -- is there any precedent for MV and PA having a shared language charter school on the border??? Realistically, the facility would have to be in MV because right now per facilities, land, and enrollment, we in PA are the poor cousin. But a lot of the energy in getting things rolling would obviously come from PA, and we could spend a lot of money and still save over going with a PA only charter or choice program.

Could we combine resources and start not just an MI charter school, but a MV/PA combined language immersion academy???

natasha,
I'm not sure I understand why it would be an essential part of the goal to put MI in Palo Alto just because the people starting it live here. They could get the same education, sooner, with one started in MV, and frankly, many parts of MV are closer to a lot of Palo Alto and the Hills than the Ohlone site in Palo Alto.

Plus, this doesn't preclude Palo Alto eventually getting MI, and they could still work for it, it would just allow everyone to get what they want NOW, and allow for a more realistic process in Palo Alto per timing. Turns it all back into something more cooperative and everyone can use their energy more constructively.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Language Lover -- I completely agree with you. I think it would be much better placed in Mountain View. I was just telling you what I had seen stated in previous posts. I agree 100% with everything you said in above post and would be delighted to see this go its way without being revisited as an MI proposal for Palo Alto, at least until Languages are established as a district priority. I like your thinking.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Thanks, Natasha, I appreciate your comment.

Hey, I wonder if Los Altos would be interested... PA and MV share a border with them, and they already have a charter school... although, I guess that adds an additional level of complexity...


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 4:33 pm

PACE has no interest in locating anywhere other than Palo Alto, even though many other options could be less expensive, serve a greater group of students and would not penalize the students of PAUSD. All these ideas are terrific - you just need to get the MI group to agree with them!


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I think there are people within PACE who would value the language program over whether or not it is in Palo Alto right now.

I wish I understood why the leadership of PACE, at least in public, has been so single-minded and inflexible, but the organization isn't just one person.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Language Lover - if you have contacts in the PACE group, you should let them know that I think there would be great support for a MI charter in a local, non-basic aid, not already over enrolled district. It would be wonderful if it was a World Language Charter - more than just Mandarin!


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 10:00 pm

From what I understand, some of the early involvment in Bullis came from MV parents who wanted a better option for their kids. So, yes, there are probably ways to find MV parents who want MI and would work for a charter near the MV/PA border.

PACE's inflexible stance has, of course, a great deal to do with the personalities involved. If someone's been taught to always move in a straight line, it's difficult to see the advantages of moving sideways.


Posted by Language Lover, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2007 at 11:44 pm

Augh!! I just found out the Board is revisiting the choice program.

What exactly do they think has changed? Do they think no one will notice, or that maybe PACE has been so diplomatic and flexible in the interim that the opposition has come around? (hah!) There are specific flaws in the study that were never addressed; PACE ignored them rather than answer their critics or deign to consider anything that didn't jive with what they wanted.

That's it. I am no longer interested in any immersion programs for this town. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2007 at 1:43 am

What's changed? The size of the anti-MI crowd just got bigger.




Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 28, 2007 at 10:05 am

The Board has to look at whether it is less bad for the district to put in a choice program or have a charter program visited upon it. I have no idea what is the right choice, though it was kind of looking like Charter was the way to go. PACE has extorted this position by saying either you give us MI or we start a charter school, here, now.

Way to look out for your own interest at any cost to the rest of the community.

Has the District actually been able to focus on anything other than this small, elite program for the past 4 months? Could we pleeeeeease just move on and solve the many other problems that face the district? Augh.


Posted by Live and Learn, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:30 pm

If someone wants to play this game really ugly, they could take a cue from LASD. Once the founding parents did all the work to start the charter school, the district reopened the public school in the hills. Now that's how ugly school politics can be...


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Live and Learn,

That has a certain twisted sick charm to it, but I think our board is a little more earnestly good than that.

The more I think about it, the more I think there's a lot of Mary Callahan at work.


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