Whisman area neighbors want local school

District administration pushing for compromise

The stage is set for a battle between the Mountain View Whisman School District and a group of residents living in northeastern Mountain View who say it's high time the district reopen one of the area's two long-closed neighborhood schools.

At a recent board meeting, members of various neighborhood associations from the area implored the trustees and administration of the district to reopen Whisman School -- which has been shut since 2000 and which currently houses the German International School of Silicon Valley and the Yew Chung International School of Silicon Valley.

"I'm urging you to please consider reopening Whisman School in our neighborhood," Jessica Gandhi, president of the North Whisman Neighborhood Association.

"At this point we're all commuting to everywhere but in our own neighborhood," Tamara Wilson told the Voice. Wilson is the parent of a 3-year-old boy who would go to Whisman if it were open, but is instead slated to go to Huff School.

"We definitely, definitely need a neighborhood school," said Paula Weaver, who lives in the area. Her husband Bob, a representative for the Whisman Neighborhood Association, also spoke in favor of reopening Whisman School.

Despite pleas from community members like Gandhi, Wilson and the Weavers, Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, said his district is not planning to reopen Whisman. In fact, the board just approved a plan from the German school to install four new portable units on the Whisman School campus -- a signal that the German school and Yew Chung are there to stay for the foreseeable future.

However, Goldman said, his administration is exploring the possibility of reopening Slater as combination neighborhood school and expansion of the district's Dual Immersion program, which has children learning in both in both Spanish and English.

"We are not currently considering reopening Whisman School," Goldman said. "We think Slater is the best option for serving both the Slater and Whisman neighborhoods."

That would be fine, Bob Weaver told the Voice if the plan is to place the expanded Dual Immersion program on top of a traditional neighborhood school at the Slater site. But, Weaver continued, the way Goldman has presented his idea to the Whisman Neighborhood Association, it is not acceptable.

"Right now, there is absolutely no district desire to create a traditional neighborhood elementary school in our neighborhood," Weaver said, adding that Goldman's Dual Immersion plan is "not going to fly as a substitute for a traditional neighborhood program."

"The Dual Immersion plan as currently presented by the superintendent is a choice program," Weaver said -- meaning that parents can choose to send their kids there or somewhere else within the district.

While Goldman has said that residents of the Whisman area would get priority to attend the school, Weaver noted that there are some who would not want their children in the Dual Immersion program and would prefer a traditional program. Those parents would end up having to send their children to a school outside of the area, which is precisely what the residents want to avoid.

Wilson said that there are many young families with infants and toddlers living in her condominium complex, located right around the corner from the Whisman campus. She presumes that many of her neighbors would rather have their kids go to a nearby school rather than drive their children across town to another campus.

Goldman defended his plan to expand the Dual Immersion program on the Slater campus as the most practical option.

"Given the history of low enrollment in Whisman and Slater from those neighborhoods, the district needs to consider how it can ensure that if it builds a school there will be sufficient enrollment to justify the adjustments," Goldman said, adding that he doesn't believe there are enough students of the appropriate age living north of Central Expressway to justify adding a third traditional neighborhood school on top of the existing schools, Monta Loma and Theuerukauf.

"Having a Dual Immersion program would allow the school to attract students from other neighborhoods if there is insufficient enrollment from other neighborhoods," Goldman continued. "This is the best idea we have at this point in time to provide a neighborhood solution that simultaneously ensures that the school will be fully utilized."

Weaver countered Goldman's claim, saying that he is quite sure there are enough children currently in the Whisman area to justify a traditional neighborhood school. There are 611 students currently enrolled in a district elementary school living in the area, and he said that number is projected to jump by at least 100 in the next five years.

Goldman said that it's true there are enough students in the area to fill a school, but he is skeptical as to whether the parents of all of those students would be willing to pull their kids out of their current schools -- which include traditional schools, as well as the parent-participation school, Stevenson. "We need to have some level of certainty that we're not going to be building a bridge to nowhere," he said.

Weaver said he understands Goldman's logic. It would cost the district an estimated $20 million to get one of the neighborhood schools up and running again. But, he continued, he is sure that a stand-alone traditional neighborhood school would have sufficient demand to justify the district reopening either Whisman or Slater. For his part, Goldman has asked Weaver and the area neighborhood associations to show him that a school in the area would be filled.

"He has sort of put the onus on us -- he has asked us to prove it," Weaver said. "It is our intent to prove it."


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Posted by Schoolgirl
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

How can they prove it without actually reopening a school? Even if they take a survey, there's no guarantee that people will actually do what they said in the survey.

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Posted by ME
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm

We live in the Whisman neighborhood and don't really mind sending our daughter across town to Huff Elementary. For those of you who do not know, Huff is the highest-rated school in Mountain View and is consistently rated 9 or 10 out of 10. It has excellent teachers and facilities and (along with Bubb elementary across the street) are the only Mountain View elementary schools that are even close to being ranked on par with the exemplary elementary schools in Los Altos.

Although we would prefer being able to walk our daughter to school just down the street each day versus driving across town, we would never choose to trade that luxury in for a 5 or 6 out of 10-rated school with flagging enrollment which the district is being forced to keep open by watering down resources from the rest of the district's schools.

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Posted by Slaterer
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:16 pm

ME, your statement is not true. Stevenson PACT is rated a 10 on the great schools site and its scores, teachers and program are excellent. And the Castro Dual Immersion program is also a high-quality school. Both are certainly on par with Los Altos schools.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm

"Given the history of low enrollment in Whisman and Slater from those neighborhoods, the district needs to consider how it can ensure that if it builds a school there will be sufficient enrollment to justify the adjustments,"

This is not a strong argument for not opening a school when very, very few of Monta Loma's children attend Monta Loma school and yet there is still a school here, despite the neighborhood not personally ensuring the district of enrollment. The fact is that MV's population is increasing and we will need more classrooms in this city, wherever they are. The district should at least offer bus service for families who live far from their assigned school to ease their burden. This would also ease the traffic congestion around the school at pickup time.

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Posted by siding with Whisman parents
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm

@ME, what if kids in MV actually WENT to their neighborhood school instead of driving across town to Huff? I've been to every school in the district and the teachers and curriculum at the other elementary schools are just as good or better than the teachers my children had at Huff. Believe it or not, Huff has a few sub-par teachers and is lacking some of the wonderful programs and activities that other schools have (not talking about DI and PACT, just school wide and classroom activities). How are the rest of MVWSD schools going to raise their test scores if those parents and students, who could be helping to make their neighborhood school better, leave?

Good luck to the North Whisman parents who would like to reopen a neighborhood school in that quadrant of the city. It will be a battle dealing with Mr. Goldman, who has no problem coming up with a convincing justification for whatever he does or does not want to do. "History of low enrollment" at Whisman, what a joke, that school has been closed for at least 20 years, how could anyone know how many neighborhood kids would go there?! Of course you should have a neighborhood school! Keep up the good fight.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Whisman Parents - You are currently hauling your children farther than necessary (to Huff instead of Landels). What guarantee is there, that after Whisman is reopened, that you won't continue to do that?

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Funny. This is how Bullis Charter started. If the district is not careful in a a number of years they will have TWO such charter schools to try to deal with and vilify.

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Posted by Whisman neighbor
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:27 pm

How is it fair that the North Whisman neighborhood is divided into 3 schools, a third is slated to Landels, a third to Huff, and a third to Theuekauf? Why does one neighbor get to go to a high performing school while the other goes to the lowest performing school. We are in the same neighborhood! Dividing our neighborhood breakdowns our community. When our kids play at Whisman Park they don't know each other because we don't all have an option to go to the same school.

What if all 612 kids that go to public school in the Whisman neighborhood all went to the same neighborhood school? What would the API score be? There are even more kids I. Our neighborhood that go to private school. Maybe they would change their mind if they had a local school.

I don't think there is a guarantee that Whisman neighbors will pull their kids out of their existing school because relationships have been built, but there is certainly an attraction for new and existing families to go to a school within walking distance and is start of the art new building and technology. It also really depends what the time line is for this project. There are a lot of moving pieces. Like someone else suggest the new school could be built starting with a T-K and kinder class.

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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I believe Slater was still open when new buyers with kids moved into Whisman Station. Not enough of them enrolled their kids in Slater to keep it open. When Whisman School was closed, Slater was part of the separate Mountain View School District. In addition to the renovation costs to open a new school, the school costs about $500K per year to operate regardless of how many teachers and students move there from other schools. Why should Mr. Goldman and the Trustees gamble to open a school, only to have to close it again when the students might not materialize. "Build it and they will come" could have serious consequences for the rest of the District's educational program.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 5, 2014 at 6:38 am

@Whisman neighbor -

You do realize that putting your child in a school with high test scores doesn't automatically make your kid smarter. The test scores are largely due to demographics. You can't change your child's demographics by simply sending them to a different school. And, honestly, this is elementary school, not high-school or college.

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Posted by Make it a charter school
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

Make it a charter school, since financially and academically they are a lot better than public schools.

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Posted by Whisman supporter
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

Those in the Whisman quadrant currently attending Huff should know that this will change. The Superintendent is already talking about changing that zoning. So don't sit by idly thinking you are set with your great school. Before you know it you'll be rezoned to one of the other poorly performing schools the rest of us are zoned for. This is why it's so important for us to join together now to push for a refurbished school in the Whisman neighborhood.

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Posted by Food for thought
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm

It's funny how quickly people, and the press, forget that enrollment on the Whisman side of town drop because of Moffett Field closing and the military kids relocating. That finished off Whisman School. Slater School then could barely attract enough neighborhood kids to remain open, so it closed too. And even today, there are doubts that a re-opened school there could sustain itself off of neighborhood children alone.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm

There are TWO sets of comments on this same story!

See also: Web Link

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Posted by Daniel Tunkelang
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Daniel Tunkelang is a registered user.

At a Castro parents' meeting last night, Superintendent Goldman clearly stated that he has ruled out the possibility of relocating the Dual Immersion program from Castro to Slater. That was a huge relief to the packed room of parents, many of whom had read or heard about this article and were extremely concerned.

Goldman did express concern that Castro isn't fulfilling the needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged (and mostly Latino) students in the neighborhood. I don't know the statistics, but that's strikes me as a valid concern.

But I and others questions his proposed solution. Goldman said a few things, but primarily he wants to increase the number of students in the traditional (i.e., non-Dual Immersion) program at Castro.

Many of us expressed our skepticism -- in both English and Spanish -- that making the program bigger would automatically make it better. Indeed, we think that we should work on making it better *before* increasing its size.

We also made clear that, as parents of students in Castro and neighborhood residents, we expect to be involved in decisions that affect our school. Specifically, we don't expect to first hear about radical proposals that affect our children in the Mountain View Voice.

Hopefully last night's meeting is the beginning of a constructive conversation. I'll be curious to hear from anyone who attends the school board meeting tonight.

ps. Apologies if you read this twice. Since there are two comment threads, I'm posting in both of them.

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Goldman wants to improve the quality of education of the low socioeconomic immigrant population at Castro. Making it bigger means offering preschool as a leg up to this population. It means concentrating resources as opposed to having two programs competing for them. That's a noble cause, and a far cry from a "radical proposal" as you claim. I'm sure the Dual Immersion parents will survive just fine, as they always have, by ordering the Castro neighborhood community around, pretending to speak and advocate for them, and making demands of the superintendent who is in charge of educating all children, particularly the most vulnerable. At the end of the day, our children don't play with each other. You all go back to your nice homes in Old Mountain View and fancy jobs with big salaries. We go back to cleaning your homes, serving your food and taking care of your gardens.

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Posted by Daniel Tunkelang
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Daniel Tunkelang is a registered user.

There were a lot of Castro Latino parents who spoke at the meeting last night, Yes, most of them with kids in the Dual Immersion program, but a number of them with kids in of the traditional program. And they were unanimously opposed to moving the Dual Immersion program to Slater. So please don't you pretend to speak and advocate for all Castro Latino parents.

Let's all take a deep breath -- despite all the anger going around, all of us want to make Castro better. Especially for the kids who most need support. And last night's meeting made it clear that we are a community that spans race and socioeconomic class. So let's figure this out as a community.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Slater
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Robert is a registered user.

As a 34 year resident of the Whisman/Slater neighborhood I have seen both of our elementary schools closed and leased out. The attendance area for the Whisman School District was drawn to include the area containing the military from Moffett. At that time, if a district surpassed a trigger percentage of military enrollment, federal dollars kicked in. So with a very high percentage of military students leaving when Moffett closed, it's a no brainer that enrollment dropped at Whisman. That was over a decade ago and today, the vacuum left by the military has been filled with tech family's and then some. The District's argument is based on the assumption that nothing has changed since the Navy left, which would be patently bogus.

The lack of enrollment at Slater was partially do to the Navy leaving as the officers kids went to Slater and the enlisted kids went to Whisman, but that is not the whole story. Toward the end, Slater had a reputation of being the school where the district sent it's underperforming teachers, and parents quickly caught on and pulled their kids out. So both schools did have low neighborhood support, but for very different reasons.

Today, our neighborhood has been divided into three attendance areas plus the two district choice programs, DI and PACT. A number of our neighborhood parents have chosen DI or PACT because they would have to drive their kids somewhere anyway, so why not one of the two higher performing programs. For the district to assert that the neighborhood would not support a neighborhood school is disingenuous and does a great disservice to a chronically under served part of the community.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I'm a MVWSD Trustee - and always post by my own name (so I hope no others are using pseudonyms) These are my own views, and not a vote of the majority of the MVWSD Board! Public Policy is determined by a vote of a majority of the School Board - and not the Administration.
The Castro DI program is one of the jewels of the District - and it has taken many decades to get there, and much investment by parents, teachers, and principals. I'm sorry so much time (> 500 parent hours) had to be spent on this last week. The Huff A Residence area, near 101 only sends 45% of its MVWSD elementary attendees to Huff. Perhaps ME was not aware of that fact - from the numbers in the 2012-13 Demographics Report (take the appropriate Table 8 numbers and divide). But numbers are not feelings.
Thank you Castro parents for 'fixing' this MVWSD governance problem, for which I am fractionally responsible.

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