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Lets Move On: Rectifying Sloppy Choice Policy

Original post made by Neighbrhood School Proponent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2007

Yes, I agree. Lets move on now. I believe the next order of business is to prevent the board from slinking away from the table and pretending the whole thing didn't happen.

The big issues with inequity and gross mismanagement of our choice programs is still on the table, and about to be exacerbated by another unfair and unreasonable choice program, unless some strict management practices can be instituted.

People need to start writing to the board to demand the following actions:

a. Revise choice lottery process: T
-Transparency; lottery conducted in public, with public meeting announcments.
-No discretionary pre-screening based on administrator's self decided 'criteria' - the lotteries must be true random lottery.
-No academic proficiency screening or ethnic bias pre-screening of lottery participants.
-specify who runs the lotteries and how.
-protect privacy but make the process visible to the community.

b. Require complete financial accountabilty yearly for all choice programs. Full accounting and reporting of total costs of Choice programs. To be submitted yearly in principals SIP reports.

c. Require complete demographic reporting on all choice programs. For language programs, include performance metrics sorted on home language spoken.

d. Require complete performance reporting on all choice programs, compared to PAUSD standards.

d. Require Desirability study prior to Feasibility study for future choice programs.

e. Require full disclosure of donors to choice programs, to studies.

f. Require that board members with personal connections to particular programs disclose their connections (Camille), desist from pushing those choice program agendas, and abstain from those choice votes.

e. clean up choice policy guidelines to ensure that time spent by staff is 'counted' as part of the cost neutral equation.

f. Define PAUSD 'capacity' for choice programs. At capacity, require choice program tradeoffs (new choice program proposal must 'beat out' existing choice programs based on community wide vote, or other democratic mechanism. Meaning new one comes in, existing one must go out.

g. clean up choice policy guidelines to specify how community support for new programs will be ascertained. Democratic means such as: public opinion surveys, petitions, votes, town hall meetings, etc; How will these methods be used? (or ignored) How will public opinion be considered and counted?

h. Formalize what the recourse will be for choice program failing to remain cost neutral, failing to perform academically, failing to meet their claims? State specifically what are the procedures for shutting down choice programs?

i. institute stricter accountability measure for ~all~ choice programs immediately. If the programs are as fabulous as they claim, there should be not a single bit of complaint in doing so.

j. how will choice programs participate in PIE? Will they have any special claims or preferential rights on PIE or other district resources provided to their shared site?

any other suggestions?

I am not in favor of parceling out PAUSD one classroom at a time to the highest bidders. I believe that excessive choice programming that supercedes the neighborhood school model, is damaging precedent for PAUSD, damaging to our neighborhood school model, and damaging to our property values.

I would like to see the board tighten up its formal choice policies because they have proven that a board without guidelines and with limited accountability, can not be trusted to adhere to simple common sense standards.

As far as I see it, last night's vote was conclusion of step 1a. There are many more steps this community can take to prevent further erosion of neighborhood schools. Who will stand up now?

Comments (9)

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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Great list. I'd like to add an item.

Require full disclosure of a complete breakdown of the number of students applying for and being accepted into each of the lottery programs, made publicly accessible in a place such as PAUSD's website or the lottery school's website.

Like this comment
Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:35 pm

I agree, you have quite a list of important points, now can we get anyone in a position of authority to pay attention?

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:41 pm

you should ask all the board candidates these questions, along with the current board.

if you don't, I will.

of board candidates, I'd even ask them how they would have done it otherwise, what lessons have they learned, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Too bad it is only 3 out of the 5 seats that are up election this year!

But at least Mandy Lowell, Gail Price and Camille Townsend will either leave the BOE or will face re-election. (I hope that Gail will be willing to serve another term.)

It seems that the only way we can fix this mess is to ask some hard questions of the candidates and make sure to get out and vote.

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Posted by tired of bickering
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2007 at 3:21 pm

While I still believe a new choice program is wrong for the district in a multitude of ways, I agree with the need for more transparency in the lottery process. I may be wrong about this, but I think [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] children both got into SI - a program that allegedly had only 5 openings for non-sibling kids.

There may be a need to eliminate or reduce the number of automatic sibling slots in all the programs, or give the new slots to students who represent a minority (as in the smaller group - not ethnicity) to attempt to preserve diversity in our choice programs. We should make an attempt to let our choice programs reflect the make-up of the district when ever possible - including reaching out to parent groups that may not consider the program otherwise.

Like this comment
Posted by nancy
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 7, 2007 at 6:56 am

When my kids were in the Bullis lottery, it was open to the public.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:35 pm


I agree with you that there needs to be more transparency and outreach. Hoover could use this--not because of their lottery. I've never heard it was anything but fair, but the outreach part. Our choice programs need to be within reasonable parameters of the district's demographics--within 20 percent, say--if the demographics are getting more and more skewed that needs to be addressed. Preferably in terms of creating a more diverse applicant pool.

Like this comment
Posted by questioning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2007 at 10:54 am

Can anyone clarify if a student can be placed into more than one lottery? For instance, can you apply for Ohlone and Hoover? Can you apply for both Hoover and immersion? Can you apply for both Ohlone and MI?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2007 at 3:50 pm

You can apply for multiple lotteries, however applying for Ohlone while applying to Hoover may get you thrown out of the Ohlone lottery (SI's okay.). Don't know how the Hoover end feels about this.

So, I'm not sure what's going to happen if you apply for Hoover and Ohlone MI, which sounds like it's going to be the preference of some families from what one surveyed showed--i.e. people who want language immersion want Hoover, not Ohlone, as a second choice.

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

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