Mountain View Voice

News - January 31, 2014

Whisman area neighbors want local school

District administration pushing for compromise

by Nick Veronin

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 its 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."

Comments

Posted by Curious, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:37 am

"(Goldman) is skeptical as to whether the parents of all of those students would be willing to pull their kids out of their current schools"

Did the District consider a phased matriculation approach (i.e. reopen the school as TK-2/TK-3 and add another grade every year)? That would limit the number of uprooted students.


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 7:31 am

There is no report (written) of what the Administration considered. There has, unfortunately, been a Brown Act problem with how the Administration introduced this. A Board Committee meeting, without this DI @ Slater/Whisman on the public agenda, was predominantly devoted to an oral presentation of the Administration. It was also discussed (briefly and legally) with the full Board at the Jan 18th Board Retreat. Both open & public meetings.
I do not accept, and have never even seen, where this $20M dollar figure comes from. ??? The Needs & Conditions report on our sites documents how there are > 300 student capacity permanent "Class 1" (structural) classrooms on the MVWSD Whisman site. + large Multi Use Room + Library. At < $100,000 per classroom to totally refurbish the permanent campus - this could be a neighborhood school in 16 months.
The community consortium of German + Chinese + Hispanic + Neighborhood: promise a vision of an even more fantastic - truly world-class "International Community" school. I await their vision!


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:03 am

Mr. Nelson is an elected member (Nov. 2012) of the Mountain View Whisman School District Board. He is one of the five members. The Board sets district policy.
The opinions expressed (above and always) are Mr. Nelson's alone, and do not reflect a vote of the Trustees on public policy.

The C&N report referenced before is kindly and excellently provide by the MVWSD Administration, to the public, the Board, and it's committees, on the site www.mvwsd.org.
Web Link


Posted by Observer, a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

What I'd like to know as an Observer is just how much rent the district receives from providing the 10 acres of Cooper Park that they own? Also, how much rent do they get from that tiny preschool that occupies what few buildings are on that site? It's set up like most city schools, where there is a city park next to it. In this case that is 5 acres, but the school district owns about 10 acres, which is the bulk of the park. Since there is no school active there, that's quite a large park that the city gets.

Couldn't the district for example, rent that out to the German International School and then reopen Whisman school for that neighborhood, since there are more kids there now? That way both areas would have 1 school rented and 1 school open


Posted by Whisman supporter, a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

The Whisman area needs to show the board that we are committed to the re-opening of a neighborhood school in our area. To that end we have created an online petition that we encourage anyone who supports our goal of a neighborhood school in the Whisman area to please sign this petition: Web Link. Thank you!


Posted by Castro DI Parent, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Weaver should take a look at the high test scores of the Dual Immersion students at Castro. Their API out scores all other schools in the district AND they learn Spanish at the same time. The Whisman neighborhood would be just plain crazy to turn down this opportunity to have priority enrollment in a program with a waiting list. Do your homework Mr. Weaver!


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:35 am

"crazy" That's not really playing nicely, is it? :)


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:16 am

@Castro DI Parent from Old Mountain View (Landels neighborhood program Resident Area?)
Perhaps you could provide the link (or document) that explains the DI program "aggregated" data?

I have never seen that, even as a MVWSD Trustee. It is easy to get the "white" API scores (CST scores) or the entire school's Economically Disadvantaged or Hispanic disaggregated [sorry general public - but this is a highly technical subject!] scores. But that can 'lump together' the 'DI program' and 'neighborhood program'.

"the Dual Immersion students at Castro" includes Hispanic and White kids. 'Poor' and 'Rich' (just in income and $ wealth, not in culture). Wikipedia Web Link I do not presume to speak for either the Whisman neighborhood families, or the Hispanic DI families! Or the Board of MVWSD !!!!!


Posted by Current DI parent, a resident of Slater
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

I'm glad that we have Mr. Nelson as a school board member. Having at least one "outsider" opinion is a valuable protection against decisions rooted in group think.

Regarding the possible DI move, I have two kids currently in the DI program at Castro, and I live within two blocks of Slater school. Despite the convenience that a Slater DI location would provide, I am very concerned about losing the diversity and community that currently exists at Castro. Enrolling our kids in DI is not just about them learning Spanish, it is a chance for them to learn an appreciation for diversity and community. I fear the many families in the Castro neighborhood would decide against busing their kids to Slater, and, even if they did, the parents themselves may be less able to participate as classroom volunteers or in other community building activities.


Posted by Castro Latino Parent, a resident of Castro City
on Feb 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

The wealthier DI parent control Castro school. They dominate the PTA, control all the money, and have always had the ear of the principals past and present. If you're a Latino you're lucky if you get to volunteer to clean and cook at PTA events. You may call that diversity, but I say it's all about bragging rights that your kids go to school with poor immigrants while learning their language.


Posted by Ideas, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm

What about giving the parents who live near Slater or Whisman school a chance to participate in their school without traipsing across town to do so?

Whisman School is no the only possibility. At least it is being used as a home for a couple of (private) schools. Slater School is being used a Google day care. The traffic this brings to the neighborhood is considerable in the morning and around 5pm when the parents get off work and come to pick up. It has no benefit to the neighborhood. So the school buildings aren't in good enough shape to use as a school? That seems hard to believe. But they have basically already started a 2nd small elementary school at the rear of the property, used for district-wide special education. Couldn't they just expand that school and relocate the special ed program to space freed up when a regular elementary school opens here? They would get access to the outdoor areas at Slater school and portables are automatically up to code when they add some more of them.


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.


Posted by Castro Latino Parent, a resident of Castro City
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:50 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.


Posted by MVWSD parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm

To Castro Latino Parent: You wrote "The wealthier DI parent control Castro school. They dominate the PTA, control all the money, and have always had the ear of the principals past and present." Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but if other parents who share the same thoughts as you join the PTA board, then the DI parents won't be able to dominate, right? What is holding you back?


Posted by DI parent, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Not all DI parents are opposed to moving schools. As a DI parent from outside the Castro neighborhood, I think we should let the parents who live in that neighborhood decide what would serve there neighborhood the best. DI is a popular program and would survive the move. Perhaps the superintendent should meet with just those parents.


Posted by Daniel Tunkelang, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Daniel Tunkelang is a registered user.

I agree: it would be a great idea for the superintendent to meet with just the parents (DI and non-DI) who live in the neighborhood. That way no one is presuming to speak for someone else.


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