Perspectives on Mandarin Immersion discussion? Schools & Kids, posted by Paly parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 8:21 am
I wasn't at the school board meeting, but understand the board voted 3-2 against the proposal, with Barb Mitchell changing her mind. Can people post their observations about the meeting and what led Mitchell to change?
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 8:40 am
I wasn't able to attend the meeting, but caught two snatches on TV, mainly when several board members were speaking, and my sense was that this subject was excessively dragged out, with some indecisiveness, finally I really had to go to bed and I still hadn't heard the vote. I missed the period when community members spoke, can anyone please comment on that?
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 9:14 am
It DID go on and on. There were something like 30+ proponents saying why it should be implemented and a few opponents said they had already explained why they opposed doing it NOW, one said he still wants the donor information which has not been forthcoming. Barb changed her mind because she felt it was cost neutral (the staff all said they would not spend much time getting it started -- apparently that would be Susan Charles' job, from what I understood them to say), would not affect neighborhood schools because it could be placed at Ohlone and that Susan Charles LOVED the idea of having it there (that was not my reading of Ms. Charles' circumspect responses, by which I definitely got the impression that she was going to make the best of having it there and insist on its being an Ohlone style program, but not that she had wanted it there in the first place -- but maybe I misread her), and all her concerns had gone away so she was voting it in because waiting a year was not necessary. Gail articulated briefly her numerous concerns with the project, and Mandy sustained a prolonged peppering of wuestions and pressure. What it seemed to come down to was that the three no voters thought we should implement an immersion program as part of an overall language strategy program and not have languages "jump the line" after the district spent all this time and money and got all this community input on community priorities, in which languages came in dead last. The big argument seemed to be that implementing it would help a few and not hurt anyone so it should be put in place immediately, and anyone who opposed it had sour grapes about everyone not getting languages.
Gail brought up the fact that 1000 people had signed an opposition petition and that she thought the recommendations did not present a balanced view of the opponents' concerns. Camille rebutted that many people had signed because they had a concern about neighborhood schools and that had been resolved by putting it at Ohlone.
Posted by MI Opposer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 9:58 am
I feel that Natasha gave a very fair account of the proceedings.
I felt that since most of the Board members had made up their minds before the meeting (although Mandy said that she made up her mind during the meeting), it was much too long and drawn out in the discussion. Most of the questions asked of the administrators should have been asked before the meeting and most of the discussion between Board Members should have been done beforehand. There was nothing new coming out of the community forum, with perhaps the update on the numbers in the opposition petition.
This meeting did go on much too long. I feel that if this is the way that this Board is going to operate under the leadership of Camille
then we are going to be in for a lot of very long meetings in the future.
Next week there will be a similarly long meeting about increasing enrollment, and I truly hope that it can be kept more businesslike with less waffle.
Since we are in an election year for school board, I would like to see some of the people who have put in so much work on both sides of the MI issue considering themselves as candidates. These people who so faithfully worked hard to get their points of view across, should be the type of people we would like to have as Board Members in the future. I respect their dedication and fervour and feel that they could and should be heard further, but in the forum of candidates for Board.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 10:16 am
I just read Alexandria Rocha's short article in the Weekly (online) about the meeting and I really disagree with her perspective.
"District staff members also pressed hard to get the board majority, with Ohlone Principal Susan Charles particularly expressing support for the program. She was backed by Superintendent Mary Frances Callan, curriculum director Marilyn Cook and Director of Elementary Education Becky Cohn-Vargas."
Boy I didn't think it went down like that at all. I thought Ms. Callan went on and on with why this was such a great program,then Ms. Coo, then Ms. Cohn-Vargas. Then Barb Mitchell asked some candid questions of Principal Charles, such as what were the drawbacks of having the program there.
"Charles noted there are two staff members at Ohlone, a “choice” school already, who could teach the MI program so no new staff would need to be hired." That is NOT what she said. What she said was that because they already speak Mandarin, no new staff would need to be hired *for a FLES program* to teach the non-MI kids about 30 minutes of Mandarin a week, so that the programs would meld. She said there woud be FLES at Ohlone if MI were there because she would not have part of the kids getting language and the rest not, because that is not the Ohlone way. She also adamantly stated that MI would not be a separate program, and that it WOULD be taught the Ohlone way. This is a far cry from her enthusiastically lobbying to have it implemented, supported by all the staff.
I opposed the rushed implementation of MI, though I thought including it in a plan in the next strategic cycle made sense of the community supported it. I find the reporting on last night's meeting annoying and irresponsible and hope that the follow-up article will be more accurate.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 10:31 am
Barb Mitchell and Camille Townsend will receive votes from me against them when their seats come up for re-election. Public servants must encourage appropriate process when considering new programs, initiatives, etc., and these two board members have failed in this area by voting in favor of MI before it could be included (or even considered) as part of a greater strategic plan for the district.
I encourage any who agree with me to cast their votes accordingly.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 11:09 am
Thanks for the real story, Natasha. You mention that someone asked about the source of donations that PACE provided for the MI feasibility study.
ALL of the donors, except for Hobee's are anonymous. Here's the detail:
Donations for Mandarin
Immersion Feasibility Study
January 10, 2006
Total Donations: $66,317.76
I can't believe that no one on the school board or in the administration was interested in finding out who these anonymous donors are.
I understand "public-private" partnerships. But there should be a distinction between accepting anonymous donations for approved school programs versus donations to promote new programs that are not on any priority list.
I deeply resent the notion that anyone with enough money has the power to buy programs in our public schools.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 11:26 am
I sent my previous e-mail too hastily. I meant to add that Susan Charles, in response to very candid questions from Barb Mitchell, was circumspect in the utmost and repeatedly said "It is up to the Board. It is a board decision. If the Board votes it in, we will do it." In light of the very recent and still ongoing trust investigation, I don't think it was realistic to ask an outspoken principal to speak candidly and publicly in an emotional meeting about her reservations about a program the Superintendent stuck in her campus. Oh, and then at the meeting, contrary to their representations at the previous meeting, suddenly it was not going to take Marilyn Cook or Becky Cohn-Vargas any time at all, *because Susan Charles would be responsible for implementing the details.*
I am glad the Board will let the new superintendent (and possibly new staff, depending on the results of the trust investigation) work on this program. To paraphrase Gail Price, it's nice that all that Staff love implementing these sorts of things and that they had such a great time researching this program, which is what they most love doing, but they have plenty of other work to do and should get back to doing it.
Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 11:50 am
I would like to thank the School Board for considering a Mandarin language immersion choice at the elementary school level. The Board looked at the matter carefully and thoughtfully. I agree with the Board's well-considered decision not to go ahead with this program at this time, and to focus on implementing other priorities. I feel our children's educations are in capable hands.
Posted by charter schools, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 12:11 pm
This no longer seems to be an issue for the board. PACE are now pursuing a charter school, which is what opponents have already been suggesting. So now everyone should be in agreement as to the future direction of this project.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 1:02 pm
Natasha, thanks for the summary. I also didn't pick up wild enthusiasm from Susan Charles--the only point I could think of was where she talked about how she could squeeze even more modular classrooms. It seemed to me she liked the idea of solving the problem--how to pull off something like this more than she was gung-ho for Mandarin Immersion, per se. Sounds like she's hit up the board more than once for other programs--like science. (And she's right, that would be a great use of the Farm.)
However, she also told the board that her job would be easier without MI and that if they were going to do it they had to vote it in NOW for 2007. Definitely willing, yes, wildly enthusiastic, no.
Oddly enough, I think the immersion/FLES idea would have worked with the SI program--simply because Spanish is that much easier.
And, of course, Ohlone would have to hire staff--the fourth strand would expand the school, ergo, another couple of teachers. Rocha seems to be confused about the difference between that and added costs exclusive to MI.
As for voting, I don't agree with Barb Mitchell, but I think she thought through the question. Camille Townsend, on the other hand, struck me as incredibly arrogant. Suddenly a petition of 1,000 names opposing MI didn't count because she decided that those people just didn't want MI at a neighborhood school. That's presumptuous to say the least, so Mitchell I think is doing her job, even if I don't agree with her on this. Townsend, on the other hand, will never get a vote from because of *how* she makes decisions.
Dana Tom's been better than I expected. He said some dopey things about the whole creationist evolution debate when he ran, but he's been pretty sensible and pragmatic on this one.
Posted by Daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 1:38 pm
As a longtime board watcher, I can tell you that when controversial topics come up, board meetings go on for hours & hours, and weeks & weeks--and this has nothing to do with who is the board president. It is the Palo Alto way. Camille followed the board's guideline for limiting public speakers to 2 minutes each when cards exceed 25, slicing more than a half-hour off the marathon.
Last night was the first time the board actually discussed the Ohlone recommendation--on Jan 9 they listened to the brief staff presentation of the recommendation, asked no questions, then launched into a "preview" of their opinions & concerns with hardly any talk on the recommendation itself, then heard from the public. Last night they had had time to reflect on the recommendation and come up with their own questions for staff. If the board had had no questions, it would have suggested they weren't thinking, weren't doing their job.
One thing I particularly liked about their discussion last night was that they talked across the table to each other. Usually the board does a series of monologues, sometimes to the point of pontification. I think if they had more dialog on difficult issues, it would be a better decision-making process.
Posted by my perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 1:41 pm
I'm one of the folks who couldn't make it to the meeting, but stayed up til after midnight to watch it. If I had to choose a camp, I'd be oppposed to MI, but I must say I'm not in favor of "us vs them" dialogues and bitterness. The pure and simple fact that you have to be fluent in either Mandarin or English to get into the lottery is the discrimination we constantly fight against in PAUSD. It appalls me that this blatant "language-ism" is even in the documents. Ugh.
Last night was dreadful for a number of reasons, but chiefly were the actions of Townsend. She badgered Lowell, ignored Price and when it was clear that the vote was not going her way, implored Tom with this sickly "Aren't there any more 'ayes'?, none?" It was outrageous behavior from a president and embarrasing for an audience. What courage for Tom to shake his head at her. The discussion went on ad nauseum because both Townsend and Mitchell kept thinking of new questions to ask the staff in order to change the minds of the 3 no votes. It felt like, "Oh no, we're going to get defeated here so let's just keep asking leading questions so our colleagues will see the wisdom of our thinking and change their votes". Kudos to Price, Lowell and Tom for sticking to their courageous decisions in the face of such obvious and desparate tactics.
Townsend also got the petition information wrong. People who signed the MI petition were the ones who felt that they had been duped and wanted to remove their support, not the people who signed the PAEE's petition. Townsend blithely ignored 1000 parents (voters) and dismisssed the petition without a thought, just to discredit Price. What a sham.
There are at least, and probably at most, three careful, thoughtful Board members. I hope they continue to see PAUSD through the intelligent lenses they were using last night to make good decisions for all of our children.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Jan 31, 2007 at 2:34 pm
Well, I hope that this doesn't keep being presented in black and white terms. I hope that, now that the pressure is off to do it this way, right now, we can step back, do our Strategic Planning and World Language task force, come up with a valid way to determine the community's priorities, and a way to determine which priorities we have and have not met, decide where foreign language fits into our priorities, and establish long and short term goals for achieving each of our priorities, with timelines for progress reports to the Board.
Within that context, maybe we can actually have an open-ended discussion about how MI could fit into our District.
Nobody kill me, please, but as I drove home last night, I realized that we heard something critical at the very last minute pertinent to both the enrollment growth AND the MI program.
I heard Ms Charles say that she thought she could fit 6 modulars on Ohlone.
Now, it would have been nice if we had known that back in December. We had been hearing that it is impossible to have a one strand MI school, and it is impossible to fit more than 3 modulars onto Ohlone.
Turns out one strand and 6 modulars might have worked. So, wouldn't it have been nice to at least talk about the possibility of giving everyone something to take home on this issue?
Don't shoot me. This isn't going to go over well with anyone probably, but just to illustrate my frustration with the entire process here being black/white, no way but this way, and immediately or never.
I had a thought on the way home that had we had the information about the modulars and the single strand, it might have provided a way out that would have solved a lot of people's problems, ( though still not the Ohlone wait list problem, as well as I know someone is going to say the questionable costs and the manner in which this whole thing started with private, anonymous donations and the fact that the entire program is jumping the line of priorities and the precedent the whole process starts etc...but bear with me).
But, wouldn't it have been nice,just as a hypothetical, if we had known this, and discussed the possibility of approving a single strand MI program, at Ohlone, with the promise of 6 modulars, and the guarantee of the Ohlone way, and the guarantee of not leaving Ohlone in the future, and not expanding beyond Ohlone?
Vote in whether or not it should be planned for a start in 2008, dependent on approval of this as fitting within the strategic planning process and world language guidelines we do this year?
In other words, aside from the issues I already mentioned that would have still been problematic, at least a starting point to talk about a way out.
Maybe add in to the mix a vote on a policy before hand about how future programs will be brought forth to the District ( my preference being a call for program proposals from the district to the community when the Board determines that the time is right for consideration of new programs).
Maybe include in the vote that no further lower priority programs will be called for until it is determined that the District is ready and able to accomodate a new program.
Perhaps frame a policy concerning private, and especially anonymous, donations to the District, and under what circumstances they may be accepted in the future.
In other words, learn from all of this, fix what we can, and move on.
Just thinking out loud.
Mind you, I haven't thought about this much, and I am running on 3 hours of sleep. So, it may be totally hogwash. But, I am just showing this to show my frustration with the entire framing and management of this, and the changing nature of the fixed parameters.
Ok, I am ready for the discussion. Be kind, I turned 50 yesterday!
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 2:53 pm
More detail on the donations for the feasibility study provided by PACE.
The money from Hobee's came from a fundraising night held at Hobee's Town and Country on 6/6/06. (Hobee's donates 20% of all food proceeds from group affiliates who dine at Hobee's.) The group was headed up by Nico Janik.
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jan 31, 2007 at 2:53 pm
I agree with Pauline - it has been a curious situation with wondering who the anonymous donors were who funded the "feasibility study."
I believe there should be a district policy regarding anonymous donations when there is a situation such as we just had where there was potentially something to gain from what the donations are funding. This is quite different from a donation of something concrete that benefits a school or the district, night lights for the football field, etc.
Posted by PA resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 2:54 pm
I thought Townsend's demeanor was unprofessional, especially for a board president. Her repeated attempts to "clarify" staff answers to the board's questions (even though they had already been answered)in order to get her colleagues to change their minds were embarrassing, she blew off 1000 signatures opposing MI, and even at one point said something like, "let's just all be happy." Huh? This was a serious discussion that required solid professionalism, which she sorely lacked. I'm sorry I voted for her. Won't be the case again, that's for sure. I didn't agree with Mitchell's changed position, but at least she was thoughtful and asked some good questions.
If you support the boards decision, might be nice to send a quick email of appreciation. They were under a tremendous amount of pressure last night.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm
I think as publicly elected officials, the BoE has an ethical (and possibly legal) obligation to make their discussions public. I think they based their decisions largely on the input from Callan, Charles, etc.
The problem with the six modulars at Ohlone is that you expand the school population from 350 to 540. Ohlone has, I think, about 15 parking spots in front and some others that are not always accessible along the side. It may be that Ohlone should be expanded, though I'd rather see it go the three instead of six modular route and pull from its own waitlist.
Hmmm, I suppose if the schools keep expanding that it's really time to ask about some buses or minivans.
Over on the Tinsley thread, a poster suggested that the MI proponents try to open an MI charter in EPA. That seems to me like it could address all sorts of problems. Seriously, I hope PACE considers it.
Posted by MI Opponent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 4:52 pm
Thanks for the clarification on the legal end. It just seemed a waste of time to me if they had already come in with their minds made up, maybe the sort of discussion I expected at the last meeting.
I am a little surprised with Pauline. I do agree that if we have to have MI, then Ohlone might be the right place. I do agree that since it is one of the larger campuses then we cannot expect it to have the luxury of staying the same size when all the other schools are bursting at the seams. It is a shame that some of the families moving into the Ohlone neighborhood, renting apartments near the school (Tanland and Bayshore) expecting to find that they can walk to what they expect to be their neighborhood school at Ohlone, are disappointed when they find that in fact their neighborhood school is Palo Verde, a much longer walk away. However, Pauline, please remember that choice programs are for a few not the whole and if we end up with too many choice programs, then the neighborhood schools will become the default schools of this area. I do respect your opinions and hope that as you think this through you will clarify exactly what you mean. I have nothing against MI in theory, if we had a district with falling enrollments and a more diverse eco-socio group of residents where a lottery would not be needed plus FLES already in place, then I would be quite happy with it. To me timing and the two other factors are major problems. Otherwise, the idea of opening a school where two different (or three or more )choice programs existed would work well. I just don't think it works well now.
Anecdotally, I have recently heard from Escondido parents about how the children in the playground don't mix that well. From language problems in the playground to playground clubs, the children know that they are separate identities and to them it feels like two schools in one.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 5:22 pm
Wow! Anonymous donations = anonymous government.
I'm neutral on MI, but find the donations listed below quite disturbing - not for their size, but their anonymity. My hope is that the BOE will set firm rules for financial transparency on issues like this, from this point forward. Frankly, it's embarrassing that any initiative that takes so much public time to process and do diligence on should be driven by anonymous donors, no matter how well-intended, and no matter the worth of the program. This is NOT what open government shuold be doing, or permitting.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 9:46 pm
Ohlone might be more physically right than other places, but despite Susan Charles' best efforts, MI and the Ohlone "way" strike me as a shotgun wedding.
I was glad to hear Mandy Lowell mention that Ohlone is already oversubscribed. I think it would be more equitable to expand the current (and popular) choice programs instead of adding yet another one. Until Ohlone can accept a larger share of its own applicants, I'm not sure one can say it really has room for another program with its own pool of applicants. (And, Nico aside, I don't see a lot of crossover there.)
As for anyone who moves into a PA apartment without doing basic research on their neighborhood school, well, no, I just don't have a lot of sympathy.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2007 at 11:20 pm
"Contrary to the other voter, I will be voting for Barb and Camille for their great international vision, and I will be voting against the remaining three."
Fair enough, but -- food for thought: is it not possible to encourage or even insist on following due process and still be possessed of "international vision"? My newly entrenched opposition towards Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Townsend has nothing to do with their desire to provide international language instruction to our students. In isolation, that's an admirable desire. But in the context of infinite wish lists set against very finite resources (the definition of public service, really, as well as economics) due process must be followed, and that cannot be done by supporting a new program simply because a special interest group waves money around. To be clear, "due process" would be (in my opinion): 1) identify the needs and wants of the community, 2) prioritize them, and 3) support the highest priority items as funding and other resources allow. MI has not been through that process... yet.
Had Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Townsend voted for MI after it had gone through that vetting process and made the cut, so to speak, they'd still have my support.
P.S. I find this quote from the Weekly story interesting:
"It's certainly clear the district doesn't have strict adherence or open mindedness to consider choice," said parent Grace Mah, who founded Palo Altans for Chinese Education (PACE) in 2002 and has pushed for Mandarin immersion since. "If it's not offered in the district, it's very easy to think of outside options."
Disregarding her rather bombastic first comment for the moment, isn't her final comment notably inconsistent with her arguments in favor of MI adoption in PAUSD to date?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:53 am
Hmmnm, how can Grace Mah say Mandarin Immersion wasn't considered? Note to Grace: it was considered and rejected. Where does it say that the PAUSD MUST push through a choice program because it falls within guidelines?
The implicit sense of entitlement--I swear it's as alienating as anything. Choice programs are privilege not a right. I feel very lucky that Ohlone's around and my family did well in the lottery, but I'm not *entitled* to it. Just grateful.
And willing to realize that my kid's school exists in a vaccuum or that there aren't other valid points of view.
Posted by MI Opponent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 8:44 am
Yes I agree that prospective renters should do their homework about schools first. My actual reason for mentioning it though is that these apartments are being rented by low income, possibly poorly educated and possibly with low English language skills and probably don't do their homework. The apartment managers don't want to loose a potential renter so they don't give out the information so they don't hear it from there. It is a disadvantage to many in this situation. I am not saying we can stop it or should stop it or even have any sympathy. I just say that it is happening. Anywhere else, who wouldn't expect their nearest public elementary school to be their neighborhood school after all?
PS I wonder how New York Times got to hear about this? Maybe someone else should get in touch to give them the other side of the story.
Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 9:14 am
I think instead of saying 'another perspective on MI' your post should have read: 'More of the same'
Lopsided reporting on MI, completely lacking any attempt to report on the actual issues and real reasons MI does not fit in Palo Alto, contrasted with alot of quotes, and a charter school threat from Grace Mah.
Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 9:21 am
Someone on the other thread (now closed) mentioned that four of Grace's siblings spoke at last week's meeting. Interesting, I didn't know that, not sure it much matters..
But what I think is even MORE interesting is that Camille Townsend's husband spoke on more than one occasion as a supporter of MI, in some previousl public meetings, without identifying himself. Should the spouses of board members be doing that? If they want to speak, they should have the right, but shouldn't they be required to identify themselves?
There may be no rules about this, but should there be?
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 10:25 am
From the NY Times article:
“I think there’s a number of people who are afraid of change,” said Ms. Mah... "And I think there’s a number of people who insist on equity, when in life, it just isn’t.”
Ms. Mah, with all due respect I'm not sure why you would take such pains to highlight an article which paints you in this light, ostensibly with your own words. My interpretation of your remarks is, "Life isn't fair or equitable anyway, so what the hell -- why not stack educational opportunity in this district in favor of a relative few (without due process), since we're asking and since we have money to grease the skids?"
I'm staunchly in favor of fair and equitable treatment, whether that's foolishly idealistic or not, so I'll pick Ghandi's wisdom over yours -- "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
Posted by Nervous Nelly and Granny, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 10:29 am
What a pity. My niece has her two boys in Portland immersion program and they are learning (aged 3 and 6) quickly. That Palo Alto doesn't leap at the chance to create viable language skills is amazing. Having lived in Europe where the Dutch speak English, German, French and Dutch effortlessly, where the Belgians speak Flemish, German, French and English, and the English begin French and German in the equivalent of elementary school, I find the provincial attitudes here awesome. We are living in a global community yet we don't have Spanish and English mandatory from Kindergarten on up and immersion programs as a matter of right. We have to rethink our priorities. Turn off TVs, get healthy foods into the schools, gym programs back in, and more school programs of art and music, cut back on computerization, strike down prop 13 and let's put educating our next generations back on track.
Posted by Another parent, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 10:30 am
I'd be interested in a discussion of the pros and cons of a MI charter school from the district's perspective. Perhaps this topic should be on a new thread. Although I was ambivalent about a district led MI program, ther seem to be be several potential advantages if a MI charter scholl were begun at a location that might ease the growth pressure at over enrolled schools.
Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 10:38 am
I apologize for the 3 copies of my prior Granny message and decided to write with my own name. Something amiss with the way the website responded telling me my verification code had not worked. But I am really aghast at the Board of Education. May be I should have gone to those meetings and spoken out. I hope the Board reconsiders its vote in light of the real needs for educational advancement necessary in our global world.
Posted by MI Opponent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 11:15 am
I am pleased that your grandkids are in their immersion program and doing very well. I am sure that it is a wonderful program, as the proposed one here would have been if it had been passed.
However, you have missed the point. Would you have felt the same about the program had your grandkids not been lucky enough to get in. If a program is available to all who want it, then that is a different thing altogether. Here we have a different situation altogether.
Here we have an SI program which is very successful. It is open to 40 kids a year, with siblings being given priority which with the ratio of non spanish speakers to english speakers, makes about 12 places available this year to everyone. For those lucky enough to get in the lottery, they will become fluent. For those unlucky enough, they will have to wait until 7th grade at the earliest and then choose a language as an elective, but have to choose between language, music, art, cooking, industrial tech, web page design, etc. etc. If every student wanted to choose language as this elective in 7th grade, I am not even sure it could be accommodated.
This is what we mean about the immersion programs being unfair. Yes, we do want language education in the elementary schools. But, we want it available for everyone and we want it available in such a way that we do not have to choose between a language and anything else. Yes in high school, choice is good, but at the elementary age we need as parents and children need, an opportunity for all disciplines like music, art and language to enable us to see where our children's talents lie.
There are many other reasons which I will let you read for yourself if you go through the many various threads on this forum.
Thank you for your interest in the subject and yes, we need big reforms here to continue to make this an excellent school district.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 11:15 am
Couple of comments:
(1) As others have noted, I find Grace Mah’s quotes in the press incredibly self-serving, e.g.,
- “The board's closed-mindedness to choice programs is unfortunate.”
- “I think there’s a number of people who are afraid of change. I think here’s a number of people who don’t believe in alternative education. And I think there’s a number of people who insist on equity, when in life, it just isn’t.”
Ms. Mah apparently understands that life isn’t fair, but doesn’t think it should apply to her.
(2) Regarding “international vision” and “global economy” and other platitudes that have been put forward as reasons that MI is essential, I have never seen one single CONCRETE example of how Mandarin will help a child get a better job or make a bigger difference in the world.
One letter-writer in the PA Weekly went so far as to say that "Palo Alto's average IQ will be lowered" without MI.
The best we can do for our kids is to teach them to think logically and recognize the dangers in such specious arguments. And give them the best education possible to prepare them for rewarding careers in this increasingly competitive world.
Our kids need math and science, plus an understanding of how our global economy works (history, geography, political science), whatever language(s) they speak. Apparently, there are many across the country who also see this need:
Posted by Granny saved herself a trip, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 11:58 am
Granny stated most of the arguments that the 30 or so pro MI supporters repeated ad nausium at the 1/30 board meeting (so she can be comfortable that her position was well aired, and she saved herself a trip.)
a. "MY kids have benefited HUGELY from language education. or I DID GREAT and I'VE been so lucky to have gotten this opportunity." (Regarless of the fact that they would have been offering this to only twenty out of about 1800 kids per grade each year - god bless the tiny sliver of kids that might get this fabulous opportunity.)
What about parents of professional atheletes who stand up and say MY KIDS benefited SO MUCH from their early athletic education - they're MILLIONAIRES now! Which is my proof that PAUSD should open an athletic training academy elementary school.
Extremely self absorbed. The pro MI side of the house would have done well to explain how PAUSD overall would have benefitted, (rather than having child after child or parent after parent parade in and say IT WAS GREAT FOR ME!) In fact they SHOULD have gotten into the faces of the Spanish Immersion community to ask them why they haven't attempted to spread any leverage of SI into the Escondido school. If there's any possibility of cost effective leverage from Immersion to FLES, we should be seeing that by now, after TWELVE YEARS of an ETABLISHED IMMERSION PROGRAM, from SI into Escondido.
b. "Multiple Language skill is SO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to sucess in the 21st century. We are SO BEHIND if we don't offer it." (Which should lead one to ask why we DON'T offer a CRITICAL SKILL it to anyone, but can trick ourselves into thinking its OK to offer a CRITICAL SKILL to a tiny few, while offering NOTHING of this CRITICAL SKILL to anyone else.) If its a critical skill, it must be offered to everyone. If its not, its optional. Which means its not a critical skill, its a nice to have.
c. You MUST teach Mandarin early. Masuda got up and said high schoolers were doing just great! Could it be that those wanted the extreme of perfect Mandarin fluency were pushing an extreme solution to Mandarin language education????
c. "Mandarin - world domination, you'll be sorry, etc. etc. etc." I'll take my chances.
Posted by shocked by the hypocrisy and anger here, a resident of another community, on Feb 1, 2007 at 12:00 pm
If so many parents here are upset by the innate selfishness that MI seems to represent to you (serving too few kids at the expense of others and disrupting neighborhood schools), then why aren't you leading the charge to get rid of Ohlone, Hoover and Escondido?
"They're established schools and it would be too complicated" is a lame excuse, at best. "Because my kid is there" is more like it. You people really *are* allergic to change, if it means you might not keep what you already have (at the expense of other Palo Alto residents).
Choice programs in your school district seem to be acceptable only if you're already in one and can be "grateful" for the opportunity. People who think Palo Alto families are liberal and open-minded would be well-served to read these entries in Town Square and get the real picture - they're more telling than any news article in any paper.
It looked like you would have been verbally lynched here if it weren't for the fact you have been an ardent anti-MI person from the beginning. The idea that additional classrooms might have resolved some issues and made MI more palatable... you were braver than you know to propose such an idea in this crowd (and as was obvious from the several times you said "don't shoot me" - and this is in a "room" with a bunch of your buddies). With "friends" like these...
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Feb 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm
I agree with whoever said "more of the same" on the NY Times article.
I am not surprised. Superficial "first glances" and snap judgements without depth, supported by painting us with racial overtones, what else is new? Dwelling on a small, unsavory underbelly to distract from the whole animal? We are surprised at this from the NYT?
I have to say that Kristina Peterson in the Palo Alto Daily News, over her last few articles, has been careful to delve into the complexities and details, which has been nice.
Maybe the good news is that because we ARE known as a highly diverse, international, progressive, tolerant, intelligent area that also houses Stanford University, those who read that NYT article will realize that something doesn't "fit" in with the reporting, and there must be more to the story. Thankfully the article quoted Ann Pianetta's eloquenct summary. Anyone who bothers to actually read to the end will at least have ONE of the classically liberal reasons for opposing this now.
Most people are smart enough to know that in any group of people, there are going to be a few percent who are "-ists" and "isms". Trust me, there are racists in SF and there are racists in Berkeley, too. In my opinion such fringes should just be ignored, not given the power of acknowledgement. There were a few on BOTH sides of this issue. Because we are so used to them, we hardly hear them. The difference is that none of us, nor Gail, nor the newspapers, have fed the insulting "isms" of a few of the proponents. I don't think it is useful or helpful. I still won't. All it does is increase the divide and the anger.
I heard Dana speak at the last meeting, and I cannot believe that they quoted him fully in this article. He was very clear that he had recieved a few regrettable comments, but was also very clear that the vast majority of comments had been respectful and valid. ( I am paraphrasing, not remembering his exact words). He was quite eloquent in stating all the excellent reasons why this was not a good idea for now, but I noticed the NYT article didn't really want to go into such pesky little details.
I feel sorry for Dana, it doesn't paint him in a good light. It makes him look like he takes the comments of a few and gives them far too much importance, and makes it look like he believes there are a bunch of racists in this town. I know he is too smart to believe that on the basis of a few people's comments. I hope that smart people who read this are going to ask themselves the question, "If opposition to this program was racist in nature, why did Dana Tom vote it down?" and realize there is a lot more to this story than was reported, and realize that the NYT didn't bother writing Dana's reasons down.
Welcome to the world of journalism, Dana.
Like I said, maybe the rest of the nation, assuming anybody cares, will stop and ask themselves WHY our Board voted this down right now, and end up learning something from a District that truly is "showing the way" in how to wholistically plan and implemente programs.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Feb 1, 2007 at 12:20 pm
Dear Shocked: You have tried to paint decent folks who opposed MI from coming into this district at this time as hypocrites etc many times because many of us don't support tearing down our current choice programs.
I recognize the tone and the phrases.
It simply shows you still, after all these months, do not understand the issues.
As for the "lynching" you speak of, your colors are showing. Decent folks don't lynch, they listen and discuss. That is why I am not being "lynched", I trust this crowd.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:20 pm
Not all choice programs are created equal. If we had declining enrollment and *space*, my feelings about MI would be very different.
Of *course* it makes a difference if a program's established. There are several hundred children who would have their education interrupted if we closed the choice schools. Closing a school of any sort is a very different proposition than opening a school. You're comparing oranges and avocados.
Now, what would *be* hypocritical is if I supported MI at Ohlone even though doing so would deprive families on the current Ohlone waiting list of the opportunity that my child enjoys. I have said repeatedly that an expansion at Ohlone should be an expansion of the Ohlone program because there's *already* a strong demand for it.
Why limit an already oversubscribed choice program for an even smaller choice program? Why are MI wannabes more important than Ohlone wannabes? Again, the sense of entitlement is mind-boggling.
Well, I know Shocked won't answer.
Townsend's husband not identifying himself as such is outrageous.
As for the NYT, "racism" in perfect Palo Alto plays better than overcrowded schools and basic-aid funding in the national media.
Posted by Anger leads to new energy, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:28 pm
I understand the MI supporters anger is well founded.
I also foresee this anger transform into more donations to PACE and less donations to PiE and other school programs. It is fairly well known that school districts scores sore due to chinese and indian students who are focused on education. Look around, examples are abound - Cupertino and Fremont have exceeded Palo Alto.
Also watch for PA having a charter school - which will end up having much better scores and super long waiting list.
I believe that the new "CHARTER SCHOOL" should include Mandarin and Hindi. This will get charter school much more support and funds.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:46 pm
I think you inadverdantly hit upon a big dividing lines. Some of us want our kids to be happy more than we want the highest API scores.
I think if you swapped "chinese" and "indian" for, say, "english" and "german" you'd realize that your comments come very close to being, er, racist. Good students come in all colors. And charter schools, by the way, are required to come in all colors.
And while it's nice of you to include Indians, most of the Indian-Americans I know don't speak Hindi--it's only one of India's 17 or so official languages. English is also one and is pretty much used as a universal second language. It's nobody's so it's everybody's.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:47 pm
From the updated Weekly article:
"Becki Cohn-Vargas, the district's director of elementary education who was assigned the project, said she has been spending about 20 percent of her time on Mandarin immersion. She is willing to continue, she said, but admitted other projects -- such as closing the achievement gap and reading and math initiatives -- would suffer.
Price said that alternative isn't acceptable.
'This does not support the efforts of this community in terms of the strategic plan,' she said."
Posted by yesToCharterSchools, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 1:54 pm
PACE will need more donations. In theory, Palo Alto will save around $6000 per-pupil per-year that attends the charter school. Web Link That money will need to be made up from somewhere - it'll either be the parents or PACE that will be paying.
Posted by Deb, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 2:14 pm
At this late stage, you're still confused about choice programs.
They are intended to provide an educational alternative to a minority of families, an alternative that most would not want. To ask, as you do "how PAUSD overall would have benefitted," misses the point. A choice program directly benefits only those who get in. Obviously, it benefits everyone who has a chance at getting in. (Think AP math.) It also gives the kids who attend a cosmopolitan worldview that will benefit the kids they mix with in middle and high school.
But there can be no answer to your question because it is based on your misunderstanding of choice programs.
You don't believe foreign language skills are "critically important," and there are many in PA who would agree with you. That is precisely why immersion would be a poor fit for the entire district. It would be unwise, as you suggest, to put every child into immersion. On the other hand, there are families who believe it to be critical. Thus, the beauty of a diverse educational district.
You blame the SI community for no FLES at Escondido. Again, your points are out of touch. First, the introduction of FLES is not the responsibility of SI. The non SI population is fluid and has a large component of ELL students from abroad, so it's not clear adding FLES in addition to the ELL load would be desirable. Second, if you checked into actual facts you'd find that SI families tried, from the first year, to bring after-school world language to the school.
Self-absorption (local PA dialect)--the belief that denying others a choice will automatically bring a benefit to you.
Posted by Daunna, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 2:25 pm
OhlonePar, Grace did not say MI wasn't considered. Voter quoted her as saying "...the district doesn't have strict adherence or open mindedness to consider choice."
Given the 5-year odyssey of Grace's efforts toward creating a choice program, she has encountered numerous pushbacks, delays, a moratorium, and a newly revised just-in-MI's-honor set of very strict and specific guidelines. No choice program has faced the rigorous standards or delays put in front of MI.
Nor has any choice program been required to meet illogical, impossible, or unfair standards, such as:
-- Disallowing a program because it serves "only a few" is a death knell to choice. Choice is, by definition, an alternative and innovative method of education that meets nontraditional needs. Alternatives appeal only to a subset of parents--i.e., "a few" not "most."
-- Disallowing a program that serves only a few--when the only way it can come into being is by fitting within limited existing facilities that are unused/underused--severely limits the possible size of a new choice program. One solution would be, in the future, to open Garland as an alternative school, which would be a significant way for the board to show that it does indeed value choice, as stated in the district policy manual.
-- Similarly, consider the logic of requiring an alternative program to fit within the next cycle of still TBD strategic goals. All schools will aim to satisfy present and future strategic goals, and the point of an alternative school is not to be a 3-year wonder that satisfies a particular goal. For instance, should we establish a choice school that exists just to close the achievement gap, and all kids who might be beneficiaries would attend that school? Absurd! Strategic goals are a distributed responsibility for all programs, traditional and alternative. The MI proposal was on the table (or off-and-on the table) for nearly 5 years during two 3-year strategic goal periods. All schools, alternative and traditional, are designed to last for many years through multiple goal-setting cycles. The choice policy guidelines are designed to determine whether an alternative program has educational merit with sticking power, not just short-term relevance.
Any school district faces an occasional crisis that forces the district into survival mode. But the district is not in survival mode. We are (or should be) in looking-forward mode, with various projects to improve education for various segments of our student population. When the district is not trying to survive by dipping into reserves or recovering from an earthquake that has flattened 25 Churchill, we can and should look forward. Adding a small new choice program that meets not only our students' need but also our country's needs would be forward-thinking.
Change is never convenient, and a district that does not think forward beyond the next year or so will lose its vibrancy. Choice is an important path to vibrancy. If choice is blocked because it has to meet impossible standards, then a logical conclusion is that choice is dead. Another logical conclusion is that the school board does not value choice. Still another logical conclusion is that the choice policy needs to be revisited and affirmed or stricken from the books. Striking it from the books would be more honest than lip service.
Grace adhered strictly to the policy, and she wishes the board had done likewise.
Posted by Granny saved herself a trip, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 2:48 pm
Dear Shocked. I am!
Did you hear Susan Charles' unbelievable comments at the board meeting. "if people don't get in to Stanford, do they say We should close down Stanford?"
Ohlone is part of a public school system, not a private school. How dare Susan Charles filter admission based on criteria of her liking, and how dare she compare Ohlone to a private school.
Susan Charles needs a good dose of getting down to earth at her farm.
The idea of 'choice' programs run on a lottery admission process is bad enough. Once you start running admission based on essay writing contests, parents that 'get' your philosophy, or parents with the right time and committment to volunteering, you are WAY WAY out of line.
I say, its time for Susan Charles' name to be added to the trust and respect investigation.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 3:06 pm
It's clear that foreign language immersion programs and Palo Alto are a poor mix. This is the problem that Charter Schools are designed to address. It's time to setup separate Immersion Charter schools and get over MI within PAUSD. Because of the lack of space in the SI school, it should probably be a Charter School as well so it can expand outside of its current location.
Posted by Jamie Maltz, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 3:36 pm
You said, "Any school district faces an occasional crisis that forces the district into survival mode. But the district is not in survival mode. We are (or should be) in looking-forward mode..."
I agree we should be in looking forward mode, but I believe the view ahead is not as rosy as some believe. Any one looking forward is probably spotting danger signs, not green lights.
In the board packet of January 30th item 6 (which almost no one stuck around for), Matranga said:
"Another development in Sacramento could have a significant impact on the PAUSD budget beginning in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Due to the escalating unfunded STRS liability, the rate school districts are charged on their certificated payrolls is likely to begin increasing substantially.
The Board of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is advocating a plan to eliminate the long-term pension deficit. The current estimate for the pension short fall is $20.3 billion over the next 50-60 years. Specifically, the plan would include increased contributions from certificated employees, the state, and school districts effective July 1, 2009.
School districts would see the current 8.25% rate increase by 0.5% a year until it reaches a cap at 13.5%. Officials project school districts could meet their obligation with an 11.9% rate.
An 8.75% rate would add over $350,000 in cost to the PAUSD budget in 2009-2010. In 2010-2011 the compounded increase at 9.25% would be over $750,000.
Added to the local unfunded retiree benefit liability (another defined benefit plan) of over $8.6 million for which PAUSD has no Board approved long range plan, PAUSD is facing some long term financial challenges that should be addressed in the near term."
The district must also consider the financial implications of escalating enrollment growth, and aging sites reaching maximum capacity, and several other issues.
I would respectfully disagree with your above characterization of PAUSD in flush cycle. I think we are on the verge of budgetary crisis of some proportion, and the board is absolutely right to be cautious at this time.
I will be thrilled to be proven wrong in 3-5 years.
Posted by Also Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm
As I understand it, a charter school might be able to make the district provide an entire school facility, thus forcing the reopening of Garland for charter MI. Does anyone know if this is correct? That sounds like a huge budget hit to me.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 5:08 pm
Duanna, Grace Mah, as you quote her, said OhlonePar "...the district doesn't have strict adherence or open mindedness to consider choice."
Note that Grace said "consider" not "approve", but "consider". Fact is, the district just spent several months considering MI, but decided not to go for it.
"Consider" does not mean "approve." Grace seems a bit confused here, perhaps, about the meaning of the word.
Just because a proposal fits the guidelines does not mean the board MUST approve it. You write as if the board were obligated to do so. It's not.
Ohlone, Hoover and SI are magnet programs and were approved when the district wanted to attract enrollment. (Magnet, get it?) I'm sure MI would also be a magnet program, but the district does not need to attract more student, it's running out of room for the ones it has.
So, yes, a choice/magnet program should benefit the entire district. A magnet program when enrollments are declining benefits the entire district. Adding a magnet program when there's overenrollment in a basic-aid program does not.
When there's underenrollment problem in PA, I see no reason not to consider MI as a magnet option. Or as was suggested elsewhere, to start an MI charter school in an adjacent district that would get money from increased enrollment, such as Ravenswood, Redwood City or Mountain View. I'm partial to Ravenswood just because the PAUSD takes in the Tinsley transfers, there's a chance of doing some enrollment balancing this way.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 5:17 pm
There's not an essay contest to get into Ohlone. It's simply part of the application process where you, as a parent, demonstrate you understand the school's principles. Not everybody wants or believes in the value of project-based learning. So, the essay's a way of avoiding a situation that frustrates parents and teachers.
The district has an obligation to provide an education to all the students in the district. That doesn't mean different programs and guidelines can't have requirements. Spanish Immersion Spanish speakers are required to be Spanish speakers. Kids who study Algebra II are required to have demonstrated proficiency in Algebra I.
Posted by Stuart, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 5:35 pm
Why not just put a charter school for MI at Ohlone? It sounds like Ohlone has the land. Put the MI student in modular units. However, let each school go its own way regarding teaching methods. It might be fun to watch! The Ohlone kids could go to the farm and 'experience' the plants, while the MI kids would pick up hoes and do the actual work (all in Mandarin, of course). At least the two cultures would be able to express their own approach to life on this planet (or at least in this town).
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 6:40 pm
"The "medium" forecast from Lapkoff and Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc., has the district growing by 335 elementary students, 220 middle schoolers and 400 high school students by 2011. The consultants note that their "medium" projections are really fairly high."
According to the neighborhood schools advocates, PAUSD should install trailers for all these new classrooms. Charter schools are not the cause of the need for more space. Look at the demographics.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 7:22 pm
Wow Stuart, how many stereotypes can you get wrong anyway? Ohlone students work on the farm (they were spreading wood chips this week.) and, as I understand it, farm labor is seen as peasant's work in Asian cultures such as China's, not education, per se.
But the real point is that Ohlone has a waiting list, why make it impossible for an in-demand program to grow on its own campus?
Posted by Also Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 7:35 pm
I didn't say a charter school would increase enrollment. My question concerns siting. What would happen if, say, an MI 3-strand charter school were approved? Would that not force the reopening of Garland? 4-strand?
Even a minimal 2-strand school raises new siting difficulties, doesn't it?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 7:43 pm
If they want to open a charter school, then why don't they raise the money to buy the land then build one. It seems that money is no object to them. Why should they take away the best premises PAUSD has for what will amount to their own private school (under the auspices of PAUSD)? Or maybe they could have Greendell or Ventura.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2007 at 9:09 pm
Yep, Stuart's a bit of a troll, though that doesn't mean he's responsible for who wrote what. This strikes me as more on the level of silliness.
So, let's see, does anyone really think the PAUSD will be forced to open a charter anywhere where there's full enrollment?
So it's not going to be Ohlone--I mean, granting a capacity waiver for a charter school? I don't think so.
Garland? It's between the most overcrowded sectors of the disctrict--nah, I'll bet the district will also want to keep that.
My guess would be Ventura. Juana Briones and Barron Park aren't overflowing (yet) In fact, Ventura's probably the only possibility, though I don't know what the district would have to pay to make it usable.
Still sounds like an MI charter would run into the big racial diversity issue--particularly if the district opposed it.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:06 am
Reads and Listens,
Mandy and Dana said they were dismayed by some comments they got. The NYT, the Merc, etc. picked up from that. Grace Mah has, at various points, indicated she felt there might be some underlying racism influencing opinion though, as far as I know, she was not explicit about it and never accused anyone.
Basically, the press reported the claims, but what I haven't seen is any reportage of actual racist comments. It's all allusions with no names attached and various efforts here to find secret racist subtexts. Well, okay, that weird pro-charter school rant about superior Chinese and Indian students came a bit close, but that seemed like a one-time thing.
The funny thing is that I think there are real cultural tensions at play here (cultural, not racial, the most blistering attacks on MI I've heard have been from first and second generation Asian-Americans), but those played almost no part in the arguments made against Mandarin Immersion. Remember, both Dana Tom and Mandy Lowell, who reported that they'd heard racist-tinged comments, voted *against* Mandarin Immersion because they felt it was a bad fit for PAUSD at this time.
Maybe just maybe, MI really *is* a bad idea for Palo Alto right now.
Or maybe some of you need to find out what it's like when your kid or your kid's friends can't get into the neighborhood kindegarten. You understand the overcrowding issue in a whole new way.
Posted by Dig deeper, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 6:32 am
Thanks, Pat! Delving deeper into the website you highlighted, some of those states include foreign language education initiatives and charter schools in their efforts to "tackle global competitiveness".
ARIZONA SCHOOLS CHIEF TOM HORNE DELIVERS STATE OF EDUCATION – EMPHASIZES NEED FOR PARTNERSHIP WITH LAWMAKERS TO SUPPORT THREE NEW INTITAIVES: PERSONALIZED LEARNING PLANS; LAPTOP PILOT PROGRAM; AND INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
Arizona Schools Chief Tom Horne today delivered his fourth annual “State of Education”. Horne will briefly review his three initiatives from last year and announce three new initiatives for this year. Each of the initiatives has a legislative component to them and Horne will be stressing the importance of partnership with the Legislature in order to ensure success.
“Each of the three new initiatives will advance excellence in Arizona education. We want to take steps to make sure that our students are prepared for the 21st century demands for college, or for the work force, both of which require much higher intellectual attainments,” Horne stated.
Horne’s three new initiatives: Personalized Learning Plans, that will give each student a roadmap from the seventh grade onward so that they know what to expect for college entrance or for the job market; Laptop Pilot Program, so teachers can better prepare students for the digital economy where every student has his or her own laptop; and International Schools, students will begin a language in kindergarten, and a second language in ninth grade, combined with international studies and exchange programs.
GRANTS AWARDED TO CHARTER SCHOOLS TO
IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNING
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) today announced that Minnesota Facility Improvement Grants (MFIG) totaling $8.5 million have been awarded to 19 charter schools around the state.
CHINESE LANGUAGE INITIATIVE
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's proposal to develop and provide school districts with a common curriculum, materials and classroom assessments to be used for a Mandarin Chinese program was adopted by the 2006 Legislature. The legislation also required the Minnesota Department of Education to make recommendations on related issues including teacher preparation programs, the need for an adequate supply of Mandarin Chinese teachers, expedited licensure for Mandarin Chinese teachers and the development of an adequate number of high-quality programs. A network of approximately 100 higher education representatives, educators, Chinese speaking people, business, Department of Education staff and other interested partners were brought together to accomplish the goals set forth by the governor and legislature. The work of the groups has been completed and includes a final report to the governor and legislature.
Posted by Disappointed Parent, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 6:48 am
I think it would be unfortunate if the activism and spirit of volunteerism for improving PAUSD from the pro-MI parents were directed outside of our school district before we recognize that we made a mistake in rejecting MI.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Feb 2, 2007 at 7:42 am
Dear Whoever deleted my post.
I very carefully wrote my post. I can not see why posting my opinion of Stuart's comments, with no bad language, no name calling, simply my opinion concerning why s/he posted it and wondering what else s/he posted that was similar, should have been deleted.
I suspect it infuriated Stuart, who was probably not kind in responding. If the reason you deleted mine was because it infuriated someone, please say so.
Otherwise, can whoever deleted my post please call me or write me (Alexandria Rocha and Jay Thorwaldson know how to get ahold of me) and give me specific reasons why you deleted my post.
It is embarrassing to have a post deleted with no explanation, as if I wrote a bad note, especially since I am not anonymous.
Thank you. I am completely baffled. It never occurred to me to keep a copy of what I wrote for my "defense".
Posted by a parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 7:48 am
Your concern for children who "can't get into the neighborhood kindergarten" is profoundly moving.
You are right to lecture those who do not have the deep wells of empathy you have. Knowing your sense of justice, I am sure you pulled your child from Ohlone as soon as you realized he or she had usurped a slot from those of us who live nearby. Or maybe you are working from within to shut down Ohlone. Thank you.
Posted by Laura, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 9:07 am
It is ridiculous to be discussing Mandarin Immersion when the district has other pressing needs - for example, deterorating schools, overcrowding and poor athletic fields, restrooms, pools, etc. If you have ever travelled to other parts of the country and seen school sites like I have it puts our wealthy district to shame. Our crumbling schools are an embarrassment in a wealthy town like Palo Alto.
Posted by reads the paper, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 9:22 am
Pat in your post you say that "Overall, the pro- and anti-MI camps operated a high level, focusing on the issues, as did the PAUSD board. I don't think either side would accuse the other of "pushing a racist line."
Did you read Pauline Navarro's letter to the Editor in the Daily on January 31? I would say she does that. Maybe she can clarify her intent here, since I assume she is the same as Pauline?
"Dear Editor: I am tired of seeing proponents of Mandarin immersion cry "racism" against anyone who opposes placing another immersion program right now in Palo Alto, even a Mandarin one."
"We are all tired of the big lie that is desperately trying to split this community into racial divides and dupe us into believing that opposition to another immersion program is racism."
I have never heard the pro-MI camp claim that "anybody who opposes MI is racist." I did hear some people (including board members) say that some (of the many) arguments are racist.
I would say Pauline's letter to the editor is an example of an anti-MI person using pretty inflammatory language about race.
I also find it particularly insensitive. If we have reached the level where even board members are mentioning "troubling emails" I can imagine the MI-supporters have heard some pretty bad things. Not necessarily from Pauline, but still I wish that she could try and see it from the other side (think about what Asians in our community may have heard or felt in this process) instead of flaming.
Posted by Valerie, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 9:22 am
My kids attended El Carmelo in the 70s. I attended a meeting in the El Carmelo multi-purpose room last year and was astounded to see that it hasn't been updated since my kids were there. I wondered what this district has been spending it's money on. My grandkids attend Farimeadow. Their MP room looks almost as bad. I was encouraged a year or so ago that they were going to update it. Turns out it was only a band-aid approach--new curtain for the stage, wheelchair access. Oh yes, they did paint over the mural which has been on the outside wall, dated 1978. I agree with Laura. Our sites are shameful. Let's not get sidetracked by the cachet of boutique programs. Let's tackle the basics.
Posted by CrystalBallGazer, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 9:24 am
So let me guess. 5 years from now, FLES will still not be implemented and perhaps another courageous soul will attempt to get a Mandarin Immersion program passed. As someone new to Palo Alto, it is remarkable to me how much opposition seemed to arise overnight for what on its face seems to be a public good. Yes, I know not everyone will get in, but guess what, some will and they will benefit greatly. So, instead, opponents rise up and achieve their happiness from denying this program to ALL. Strategic planning, anonymous donors, neighborhood schools (solved by moving to Ohlone) all become red herrings. Most importantly, I think the way the debate was handled will discourage innovative programs from being proposed. Living in Silicon Valley, this is the real disappointment. Given how much ink has been spilt on the topic, I wonder where the opponents will focus their energies next...making Palo Alto less hospitable to retail outlets perhaps.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 10:04 am
You have it sooo wrong. We would love to have FLES and many opponents have stated their willingness to be on the language task force. If there is no FLES in 5 years, it will be because another group has worked hard to prevent it (hopefully that won't be the case). Yes, Laura, k and others, we know are schools are grotty. It would be nice to have the money to knock them all down and start again. However, we can't.
And yes, I think all parents of school age children would like to be able to shop for them in Palo Alto, so saying that we don't want retail outlets in town is ridiculous. We do want to have retail, we don't want more housing that will bring more kids into our overcrowded schools unless we can get more schools open.
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 10:22 am
Since this was deleted, I'll re-post it:
Anger, would we even be having this discussion if MI was already there? Now crawl back under your bridge.
I'm assuming it was deleted since the PA Weekly staff didn't understand the reference to "trolling". Where do trolls live? Anger's post was obviously a troll attempt and I called it out for what it is.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 11:04 am
I don't want to turn this into yet another race thread, but I hope I can say that I agree that if the Board members got a few troubling e-mails that it is unacceptable.
To be fair, I have heard that they got troubling e-mails from BOTH sides which were unacceptable.
However, I also think that the reality is that there is a varying degree of racism across all cultures, races and areas. What troubles me is that to call it out from the small shadow of the noon day sun, when it is an extremely small part of that noon time world, makes it bigger than it is, and overshadows the issue, as demonstrated by the NYT. I think that it damages many good people in the process.
I think the mistake has been made bigger by calling out unspecific troubling communications on just one side. This has contributed to the divide, because it implies that one group of people is tainted, and the other group is pure. That is what I see as the root cause of the anger, now.
I had noticed that, until Pauline lost her cool, nobody was fighting back on the race charges publically, except Mandy Lowell who vehemently denied any racism on the opponents side back in September's meeting, I think it was. I also admired that I never read a letter in the paper or saw a quote from any of the proponents complaining about all the names they were being called. I thought that was smart of them, to stay off of it.
I think you all need to get back off of it, no offense. I just think that fighting it any more will do no good.
I hope the Board will address this issue in order to help you all heal, and either apologize for any unintended effect of overstating private and/or anonymous negative race comments, or equally call out and acknowledge the "other side's" equally hurtful public comments.
It may seem childish, to have to do this as if the Board are parents mediating the after effects of an extremely painful fight, but from where I sit, it looks necessary.
Pauline, I hope you don't take this badly. It seems you are a decent person who is simply deeply offended at being thought of as in the same camp as racists, which is a reasonable emotion, but if I were you, I would just accept that there were a couple racists on your side, even if you never saw them, and then also know that reasonable people saw the not so subtle racism in a few of the proponents as well.
So, all of you decent people, just let this drop and hope the Board carries on from here.
I think reasonable people of BOTH sides understand what happened here, and are embarrassed on BOTH sides by some of the things they have seen written or heard "in their name". I know I am.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 11:44 am
These remarks are naive about how racism works in America today.
We all heard--in public meetings, in letters to the editor, and in postings here--racial stereotypes of Chinese (pushy, rich), calls to limit access by Asians to choice programs, contorted arguments about why immersion was good if the "other" was Hispanic but not if the "other" was Asian, and warnings about an influx of Asians into Palo Alto.
On top of this, board members received racist email and phone calls.
The intent was to polarize the debate, drive a racial wedge into the community, and frighten non-Chinese. These arguments are geared to get people to believe that Chinese or Chinese-Americans already have more (money, academics), that they will gain an additional "edge," that they will pour into our community and overwhelm the white population, that they are to be feared in a way that "good" minorities (Hispanics) are not.
This is the way racism works today. This fed anger in the community, and Pauline and her crew made good use of it.
Yes, I'm sure the board and all of us heard heated remarks from both sides, but the racist line was taken only by some anti-MI people. For resident, ill-advised anger and racism are "equally hurtful," but at this stage in our history, most Americans know this to be nonsense. We understand there is something particularly hurtful and dangerous about racism.
No doubt only a small minority of the kill-MI camp is racist, but to try to rewrite what happened (never happened, it's cultural) is dishonest and dishonorable.
It is too late to take the high road: you're judged by the company you keep (and to whose defense you rise).
Posted by Another Parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 11:54 am
To those parents who were hoping for a MI program, I would like to call your attention to a possible alternative you may be interested in. My child’s school, Yew Chung International, is hosting an Open House next Saturday, Feb 10 at 10am.
Yew Chung offers a Mandarin Chinese and English bilingual program that runs from preschool to grade 5. The school has highly-qualified and experienced teachers and a great teacher to student ratio. Because it is a bilingual program, no previous knowledge of Mandarin is required to start at any grade so this is a great chance to expose your child to Mandarin early. Yes, it is a private school, but it is more affordable than many of the other options available nearby.
If you’re interested in learning more and in getting your child to start their Mandarin language education now, please come to our Open House on Saturday from 10am to 12pm. The school is located at 310 Easy St in Mountain View (near Hwys 85 and 101). Check out the school web site at Web Link. (There may not be information about the open house on the site yet).
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:06 pm
I can see by the response that you are right. It is better to let it drop.
I also agree that any racist comments are troubling. I wish racism, all -isms, were completely dead, but I think you are right, it isn't totally, and probably never will be. I still wish that we could ignore what little is left until it completely shrivels up and dies, but maybe I am wrong to believe that is possible. I deal with all the "isms" that come my way in my life that way, but maybe it isn't the right way to deal with it as a society.
Oh well, that is another thread, and lots of people have studied it.
That was my last commment on this subject. Thanks for the good advice. Introduce yourself to me, if you want, I would like to meet you.
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.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:27 pm
Dig Deeper: Perhaps the MI effort should be focused on improving language education support, funding, and mandarin language education programming and teacher availability ~at the state level~.
Why should PAUSD a small, basic aid district, expect to solve these large issues within the district, basically taking on the entire risk and complexity of starting this up? It looks like the references in the links above showing this happening at the state level elsewhere.
If its important in California, lets have the people of the state of California step up to the plate.
Posted by Pa Resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:36 pm
Parent - I think your comment that "Pauline and her crew made good use of it" was totally unnecessary to make your point. By the way, I'm against MI happening right now, and I'm not one of Pauline's "crew." For me, you managed to color your comments in such a way that, instead of giving me food for thought, I was totally turned off. Just my two cents.
Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:53 pm
I would like to see PAUSD focus on the achievement gap issues. Are there any initiatives underway in Palo Alto on this? (I assume there must be - its been a high priority item for 3-4 years) I'd like to hear more about what they're doing on this.
I also would like to find out more about the 20 year facilities plan that I hear Mr. Matranga is working on. I wonder if the schools will be going through renovations, expansions soon, what that will cost, and how the district will fund that.
I heard Mandy ask about 2 story modulars. While that sounds horrendous on first blush, it seems like it could make sense for some purposes (office space?). I wonder if that's being considered, and where.
I'd also like to hear the board talk about the pros and cons of charter school approach for language immersion programs. That might be a very cost effective way to go about it. It could be a way to cap the school district's financial and operational risk exposure, take them out of the loop in the R&D and implementation start up costs, and ongoing operational overhead and complexity. It would get PAUSD out of the business of micro managing the operational performance of those schools, because the school would end up with accountability directly to the state (as well as to PAUSD), (and of course to the parents of that school.) And of course they'd have the legal requirements of open meeting laws, diversity, random lottery process, and all that - so it would fall under state of California's charter school regulations, not PAUSD's sort of vague, loose policies, and the whim of the sitting board's interpretation of those loose policies.
I assume it would also take PIE out of the funding stream for charters schools? That would seem fair - people would donate to PIE or their own school PTA if they want $ to go to PAUSD, they would donate to the charter schools directly if they wanted $ to go to there.
And for those parents who feel strongly about language, they would have the opportunity, and the school would receive the standard cost per pupil and in some cases some space, so that might be a very equitable solution. A way for them to get what they want from the system.
I'm not convinced that it would be financially damaging to PAUSD - it sounds like it could possibly be financially advantagous for PAUSD.
I'd like to hear more about the pros and cons from experts!
I hope these will be items of public discussion, board discussion in the near future.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 2:28 pm
"Given your take on how racism in the US works today, I now understand the motivation behind the previous posts from MI proponents (and also the company you keep):"
Racist, every one of the posts you cite, and disturbing. Someone from MI responded to whoever posted them and asked them to stop at the time on one of these boards. So, it's not the company I keep.
The differences are three: the attacks on Jews were rejected by MI supporters at the time, MI did not stand to benefit, and these offensive ideas were never nurtured into an argument against MI opponents.
"I think your comment that "Pauline and her crew made good use of it" was totally unnecessary to make your point." I'm sorry this turns you off, but the point of my comment was exactly that the anti-MI camp stood to benefit and did nothing. Why didn't that group simply disavow the comments at the time? Instead, we actually got watered-down, pseudo-innocuous arguments that relied on the fear of Asians moving into PA, etc.
Posted by reads the paper, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 3:10 pm
I think that the anti-Jewish comments posted are awful and they should be condemned. There have been many troubling posts on townsquare, probably on both "sides" of this issue. I actually think that the anonymity here does not always bring out the best in us. That is not to say that I think there is anything acceptable about the anti-Jewish posts. They stink. They should have been edited by the mysterious monitor that occasionally clips things.
But, I think comparing an anonymous post on townsquare to a letter to the editor published in the paper (Pauline's letter is now both in the Daily and today's Weekly)is not a fair comparison.
Posted by Lorraine, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 3:47 pm
To the San Jose Mercury, the PA Weekly, and most of all, the PA Daily. Check out the web link provided above to the Palo Alto High School Newspaper's report on the school board meeting. My goodness, how is it that they managed to present a balanced report, with representative quotes from all sides of the issue, making the article a pretty fair representation of what happened at that meeting. On the other hand, the three local papers can't demonstrate that they even attended the meetings or that they have an understanding of the both sides of the issues, based on their reporting and editorials. And they're the ones to which we turn for information? I've been so naive all this time.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 4:37 pm
My child does live near Ohlone. Thanks to us, a spot at Palo Verde was opened. We've changed neighborhoods where the school's even more crowded and we're continuing to not take a space that's presumably going to someone who values the neighborhood school.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2007 at 11:52 pm
Reads the Paper:
Yes, I read Pauline Navarro's letter in the Weekly on 1/31. I guess you and I don't read the paper the same way, because what I read was a plea to stop any racist talk. I don't see anything inflammatory in it.
I don't think she's accusing the pro-MI camp of saying the opposition was racist. It's the newspaper reporters who have made it an issue! Prior to the Mercury and the NY Times articles, I don't recall discussions of race in these postings (though there have been so many postings, I could be wrong). But ever since the newspaper articles, racism has become a hot topic.
Some board members have indicated that they heard some comments they felt were racist, but very few.
You wrote, "I can imagine the MI-supporters have heard some pretty bad things." I bet the anti-MI folks also heard some pretty bad things. But most people involved have told me that the majority of the debate focused on issues, not on personal attacks, and I think we should remember that -- regardless of newspaper articles that try to convince readers otherwise.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2007 at 12:58 am
Ohlone hasn't been a neighborhood school in more than 30 years. It was never your kids' neighborhood school, unless they're well on their way to middle age.
Ohlone opened in 1976, during a time when a dozen schools were closed--including the one between Palo Verde and Ohlone (now Seale Park). If Ohlone had stayed a neighborhood school, I suspect either it or Palo Verde would have been shut.
I rather doubt you bought your house before 1976, so winging about your "neighborhood school" being Ohlone is convenient nonsense.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2007 at 1:28 am
I personally did not follow the whole MI controversy closely, and I don't have a strong opinion on any of the personalities and views involved in the debate.
What surprised me, and yes shocked me, is that a group of private persons with an agenda (whether they are anonymous or not) was allowed to fund the feasibility study for a program that they would like implemented by a public school district. Is that an accepted policy?
This really surprises and me and I find it disquieting. A public school district is there to support a global school population of unequal means and resources. Should such a public entity decide to implement programs on the basis of what group can afford to push and fund feasibity studies for those programs? I don't think this should be the case.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2007 at 3:44 pm
Took over? No, *you* want to take over a school that's been in place for 30 years. *You* want to toss several hundred children out of their school because you think Palo Verde isn't good enough for you from the sounds of it.
When Palo Alto suffers another large drop in school enrollment and starts closing schools, then that's the time to create magnet programs. This is when Hoover and Ohlone were started. I'd have no problems with an MI program that took over a school that was going to be closed.
However, we're facing expanding enrollment. This is not the time to add programs that would even further increase enrollment. However closing successful programs just so we can juggle kids into the *exact* same number of spots is nonsense.
The kids at Ohlone are entitled to go to school in Palo Alto. Closing Ohlone will not create more spaces for kids in Palo Alto, it would simply move a bunch around. Well, actually, a bunch would be at Ohlone since the school pulls from the neighborhood and the rest would come from outside as they were bumped from their overcrowded schools.
Oh, wait, that's what Ohlone's enrollment's like anyway . . . only it's by choice, not force.
Posted by Back to basics, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2007 at 4:54 pm
It is all down to what we call what. If we define neighborhood school as the school in our neighborhood, then we are definitely not talking about Ohlone to anyone. If we define neighborhood school the Palo Alto way, we are talking about a non-choice school. Maybe another definition would be regular school. If we start getting legalistic then we are bound to come up against brick walls. Maybe we should start calling a spade a spade. Palo Alto has choice schools and regular schools. Ohlone is not a regular school even if it is in your neighborhood. To get into Ohlone you need to enter a lottery and win. To get into a neighborhood school, it has to have space otherwise you could end up the other side of town. That means you end up in a regular school not anywhere near your neighborhood.
Difficult, eh? The trouble with Palo Alto is that you have to learn the lingo. Oh, wrong debate!!! No wonder it is difficult for newcomers, and we all thought we spoke English here.