MV Whisman trustees consider magnet model

Study session on long-term goals includes talk of charter school for at-risk students

As elementary school trustees talked this week about what they want the district to look like within the next decade, some said they could envision building separate magnet schools for students interested in music, arts or technical vocations, or creating a charter school for at-risk students.

The discussion come as Mountain View Whisman School District trustees prepare to pass a 10-year master facilities plan by February, and are mapping out special programs and resources they want on their campuses. Some of these programs may need special buildings or equipment, which would be incorporated into the master plan.

During their last meeting of the academic year on Tuesday, trustees agreed on some "easy guiding principles" for the district, such as maintaining "fiscal integrity," maximizing energy efficiency and engaging students in the classroom with existing tools and resources.

"We want principles to guide us," trustee Ed Bailey said as he led the study session.

As trustee Fiona Walter put it, the board is asking, "Where do we want to be in 10 years. What do we see ourselves needing."

Trustees said they will return in August to discuss larger programs, such as charter and magnet schools, and policies they may adopt for the district.

The board has been discussing the 10-year facilities plan all year, and had originally planned to pass a plan this month. A demographer talked to the board this spring about population trends in the district, and Bill Gould Design, the architectural firm that is helping the district with its master plan, estimated the district needed as much as $192 million in repairs and renovations.

Trustees began discussing a potential bond measure to pay for these renovations, and said they could put it on the ballot as early as November. But they decided to slow down the process as the district waits to see how much the state will cut from educational funding as it looks to balance its budget.

Administrators said that, depending on cuts, they may have to sponsor another parcel tax to help pay for educational programs. (Bond measures fund buildings and renovations, and parcel taxes pay for programs.) The district will pass a master plan by February, in time to sponsor a bond on the June 10, 2010 ballot for the gubernatorial primary.

On Tuesday night, Bailey, who is on the master facilities plan committee, said the trustees needed to consider "how much land we need to be successful" for school sites, infrastructure, buildings, classroom set up and programs when preparing to make the master plan.

"These guiding principles will give [Bill Gould as much help as we can," Bailey told trustees and administrators during the study session.

Trustees quickly agreed on 12 "easy guiding principles," many of which came from the Fresno School District. These include providing safe and secure campuses, engaging students, variety in classroom set up and providing early childhood education in the district.

"If we can agree on the easy principles, let's," Walter said. "But we can't forget about the hard ones."

With these under their belt, trustees started talking about programs and policies they may want to see in the district. They made a list of ideas to think about over the summer recess, including boundaries, magnet and charter schools, libraries and information centers on campuses, and special programs like dual immersion or performing arts centers. Trustees will pass this list on to Bill Gould Design so the architects will have it over the summer to refer back to while the board is in recess.

"There are still going to be some philosophical conversations we need to have," Bailey said.

Trustees said as they plan for their facilities, they need to discuss whether students will get to choose special programs and schools, or if they can only attend their neighborhood campuses. They said this is especially important considering that some schools in the district have substantially higher test scores than others, and they want to provide opportunities for all students without "discouraging people from attending their neighborhood schools," trustee Steve Olson said.

Trustees agreed to continue discussions about these potential policies and programs when they return from their recess in August.


Posted by whisman, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

It would be nice if we HAD a neighborhood school to choose whether or not to attend! Hopefully that goes into this ten year pan too:)

Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

".....Bailey, who is on the master facilities plan committee..."

Huh? The school board IS the committee. No parents, no teachers, no students, just trustees and district office staff. And the consultants.

Posted by Melissa Morrison, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Why not try running a montessori K-8 school, like the one run by Bowman International School?

Posted by Carolyn, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Music, arts and technical vocations? In K-8? Aren't these focused types of programs better left to high schools?

How about working to bring up test scores instead?

Posted by Ellen, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 18, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Agreed, Carolyn. Plus it also seems to serve as a way to cloud the fact that neighborhood schools will no longer be a first or even possible choice for some childrem. I know it's not for mine. So come up with a magnet model whereby parents all hop into their gas-guzzling cars every morning and afternoon and zig zag across town defeating the whole green and sustainability agenda the board and city council just love to drone on about.

Posted by a voter, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2009 at 4:57 pm

It isn't office staff that make the decisions. It is two of the top four administrators.

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