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PA Weekly - Time to do some in depth reporting

Original post made by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 3, 2007

In all the goings on to do with MI this week, I hope you will realise that it is time to do some real in depth reporting and ask some of the questions that are being raised.

Is this debacle in our District due to just 9 people?

Can 9 people really hope to get a B o E to give them just what they want?

Are the B o E dealing with this situation in a weak willed way?

I am sure that there are plenty of other questions that need to be asked, but I do not want this edited out. Please tell us (your readership and the community) what is going on.

Comments (18)

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Posted by aspiring education reporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:41 am

Where are the rest of the MI supporters? PACE? Why no more signatures on the list?
Will the BOE work on a revised agreement to tighten this up before they agree to the choice program?
Will they require more signatures from more proponents?
Will they setting any performance parameters on the choice program?
Are they agreeing to all the 'demands'? Including 2007 partial start? If not, what happens?
What happens if the children of "The Nine" don't get in? Will they be subject to random lottery?
Will MI and Ohlone Lottery be separate? Will Susan Charles filter the lottery winners or will they be purely drawn from a hat?
Where will the MI program go after year three?
Will the program still be required to be cost neutral?
Where will the funds come from?
Will the program be required to cover the incremental costs of operating Ohlone as a supersized school (assistant principal, extra counseling staff, etc). Will the MI program be required to cover the cost of district staff in the start up phase?
Who will go on the trips? What will they learn? How much will they cost? Who will pay?
Will the BOE require an indeminification on that funding from The Nine?
What is the status of the Charter Petition from "The Others"
Is is legal to say to elected officials: "change your vote or else"?
Has the board contacted their legal counsel on this letter? Is there any statement from counsel?
What are the statement's from "The Nine"? How do they feel about their actions and the fallout from their actions? Happy?
Will the Board shut the choice program down at any time if a charter application comes through (what about after the choice program is started?)
Can the district afford both a charter and a choice program?
Does the rest of the board agree with Dana's contention that MI would have to be THE LAST choice program?
What is Camille's position on the letter?
What is Barb's position on the letter?
How will this letter effect Grace Mah's position as a Board Member for the County of Santa Clara Board of Education?
What are the comments from the SCCounty board members on this tactic?

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Posted by More questions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 12:04 pm

What are PAUSD hiring policies for hiring teachers from out of country? Are there any citizenship requirements for PAUSD teachers?

In the board meeting on 5/1 Becky Cohn Vargas let slip that the Chinese Government which hosted last years 'free trips' to China for a couple of PAUSD staff, are now regularly contacting PAUSD for potential placement of Chinese teachers in PAUSD positions.

Will PAUSD plan on hiring teachers from China? Even over and above teachers from local California and US schools? Is there expected to be a Mandarin 'teacher shortage' such that the hiring of teachers from other countries is going to happen?

What is the position of the teachers union on this possibility? Will they allow it? Will they atttempt to safeguard our teachers from this?

What is the position of staff on this potential practice?
What is the position of the BOE ont his potential practice?

Is there shortage of MI qualified teachers? And if so, what will they do to obtain teachers?

(WOW! Now, they will import labor to teach these classes, taking away potential positions from US/California citizens???!! That would be amazing.)

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Posted by And more questions
a resident of Escondido School
on May 3, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Since the Board of Education appears about to give them authority over BOE decisions, shouldn't the Weekly be asking who are Jocelyn Tseng, Shan Philips, Elaine Chien, Mark Joing, Nico Janik, Daunna Minnich, Grace Mah, Susan Fineberg, Nerissa Wong-VanHaren, and David Yen?

They are now public figures with considerable power. So what kind of people are they? Let's see some probing profiles.

Do they have young children who stand to benefit from an MI choice program? Do they all live in Palo Alto?

Did they contribute to PACE funds that paid for the 'feasibility study?'

Why do they think it's okay to hold a school district hostage to the demands of just ten people?

Do they have a history of directing public education projects?

Is it their usual modus operandi to use blackmail to get what they want? If not, why do they think it is okay to do it this once?

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Posted by Guess where the paralysis is ??????
a resident of Community Center
on May 3, 2007 at 1:13 pm

To Parent, aspiring education reporter, More questions, And more questions,

Whatever answers are provided to you, you will never be satisfied. So in order to get these questions answered, instead of blaming PA Weekly etc. etc., you need to get out of your chair and go and ask these questions at BOE meetings.

If still not satified then... start your own reporting service.

Like this comment
Posted by Tulley
a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Guess where the paralysis is: Have you ever actually listened when questions are asked at BOE meetings, both questions from public to the BOE or to distirct staff, as well as from BOE members to staff? Questions do not get answered at BOE meetings.
Example: A BOE member asked Conn-Vargas who paid for the China trip last summer and what were the costs to the district. Conn-Vargas never directly answered the question in specifics. This is typical of the responses one gets, whether BOE or audience members. Questions are either ignored or given non-answers. BOE members who ask the question usually just nod and move on to the next comment, leaving one to wonder if they are simply talking so that they will look like they are paying attention and not really interested in getting an answer to the question they asked. Hence, a lot of frustration for those of us who truly would appreciate honest, straightforward answers to questions. No, the BOE meetings are not a place for asking questions if you want answers.

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Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 4:31 pm

PA Weekly: print that letter.

Answer the fundamental question:
Did any of those anonymous funds for the feasibility study come from Grace Mah herself? (It would explain a lot.) What does Grace Mah stand to gain from this -- if she put in some of her own money for the feasibility study (the words that come to mind here are "boondoggle" and "quid pro quo"), and gets to save $100,000 in private school tuition for her younger child by pushing a program that hurts our district and the majority of kids in it, the public deserves to know this.

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Posted by GwVMN
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2007 at 5:19 pm


If BOE does not answer questions, sue them. But don't blame others. Not PA Weekly for sure. From the messages above somebody is really doing his/her best to get others to do their work.

If they are so curious let them do the leg work themselves. Stop blaming others.

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Posted by cynical observer
a resident of Stanford
on May 3, 2007 at 5:21 pm

I have been sort of following the MI debate and after reading the paper today, here is my take: a special interest group doesn't get what it wants, threatens a charter school, and then gets what it wants. hmmm... what will happen when the next special interest group wants something?

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Posted by SI
a resident of Ventura
on May 3, 2007 at 8:47 pm


Sue the BOE? get real.
The city needs good newspaper reporting. Unfortunately, we get superficial reports from PA weekly and Daily, and nothing from SJ or SF.

Special interests are all over PA, from city council to BOE, but are never exposed.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:09 pm

All of the above questions have been asked by many many people directly to each board member, through letters, calls and 3 minute public comment...... Virtual and literal silence. Silence. Yes, we got our butts off the couch and were sitting facing the board for three hours

No, I will not spend my money to sue the board. I will continue to put public pressure on them to do their jobs instead of sitting around like a bunch of deer in headlites, or worse a bunch of servants for PACE.

gw says "sue them" - clearly in the MI camp that says "money gets me my way"

And the Weekly is certainly free to ask (or not ask) these question if they wish -perhaps a news paper with a Palo Alto wide constituency who has made it their purpose to inform this community of issues of importance would be willing and interested in finding out the answers to even one or two of these questions.

As for the questions to the Nine - they can feel free to come out of their sequester and answer any of these questions at any time to avoid any more damage to this community than they are already responsible for.

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Posted by GwVMN
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2007 at 10:30 pm

PA Weekly is a private organization.
BTW how much do you pay them?

If you have asked the BOE these questions over and over again and have not gotten replies what do you think your next step should be?

There seems to be one person who can get things done by BOE. Grace Mah, maybe just maybe, she can be your mentor? She seems to know how to get the BOE to do what she wants, oh.. not just what she wants but BOE is going out of their way proactively to do what she wanted.

Now you know why county hired her. Results count.

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Posted by ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:31 pm

Oh, please. PACE used extortion and threats - read the leter from the 9. I don't want that to be how things get done. Mentor? No, thanks, I'll stick to honesty. County didn't hire her, they gave her a fill-in appointment. They're pro-charter - of course they wanted her.

I really hope you were kidding...

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2007 at 8:55 am

The Board of Education looks foolish and weak. By their actions on MI, they are teaching everyone how to circumvent them. Their refusal to stand by their decision on Mandarin Immersion clearly shows the community just how irrelevant they are. How can they expect the community to respect them if they flip flop on decisions based on threats by a few people. Shame on all of you, except Gail Price. I always knew you were weak, I just didn't know how weak until now. Thank Ms. Price for standing by your earlier analysis and decision.

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Posted by Rober
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 5, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Well stated kate,
i believe the adequate term =


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Posted by disgusted
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 5, 2007 at 7:43 pm

I guess some of our board members will soon be able to say, "I voted for it before I voted against it before I voted for it."

A similar phrase served John Kerry well in the last election, didn't it? Oh right, I forgot. He was ridiculed for that statement, even by fellow Democrats.

A similar fate awaits our flip-flopping elected officials. They deserve it.

Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2007 at 12:17 am


It is precisely the job of the local press to ask those questions. That's why the press has special protections under the Bill of Rights.
The Fourth Estate is supposed to be the government's watchdog.

There are a lot of unanswered questions here that ought to be answered.

Unlike China, we're not an official dictatorship.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 10:36 am

While you are at it, another pertinent question to ask is if the gang of 9 or gang of 10 (I am confused on that one) are planning to work on the farm at Ohlone as all families must agree to, or whether they are going to ask their own parents, the children's grandparents, to do this for them?

Like this comment
Posted by parent of prek
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Another question. Who are the anonymous donors for the $60K or more for feasibility study, and what is their interest in PAUSD? Are they palo alto residents? Do they children attending Palo Alto schools?

Are there any commercial enterprise interests such as Mandarin curriculum developers or text book publishers, education enterprises, language consultants, government agencies looking for teacher placements, any non-US government agencies, involved in the efforts to place MI in PAUSD? Why? what is their interest in PAUSD, and how will they benefit?

What are Grace Mah's ties to these funders? What are Mah's ties to the chinese government (which is promoting MI across America)?

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

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