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Parents cry foul on enrollment

Original post made on Jan 16, 2009

It may be up to Lady Luck this year whether some incoming kindergarteners get into their neighborhood schools or special choice programs.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 16, 2009, 12:16 PM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Faent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I think the lottery is the way to go, I don't understand these upset parents. The camping out is a ridiculous solution. What if there are going to be more people camping out the night before than slots? You show up at 5 pm and there are already 25 PACT K parents there? Would you wish for a lottery? I agree with the district that the camping out is biased. If you are less fortunate and can't afford to camp out because you have to work?

And, if parents want to join PACT and do all the volunteer work, I am sure that the not so perfect neighborhood school would improve quite a bit as well with the same level of engagement.

I think what should be more on the mind of everybody: why are some schools not doing as well? How about creating a more level playing field so that all schools are doing well and enough spots in choice programs can be offered. Parents should be upset about that, and not the way it is being patched over right now.


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Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I think the issue these parents have has less to do with the fact that there will be a lottery and more to do with the fact that the lottery was announced in January which is late in the game if you are considering private school. I had to enroll my child for a private preschool in November!

Faent, I do agree that the difference in the levels schools are performing at is something that should be, but isn't being, addressed.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 16, 2009 at 3:33 pm

The issue is not the lottery per se. The issue is the total lack of timely information from the school district.

If all the schools in the MVW School District were performing as well as Bubb and Huff everything would be great but that is not the case. The children living on the northern side of the school district are not served as well as those living south of El Camino. To improve the underperforming neighborhood schools there are many many parents willing to volunteer for programs like PACT and CEL. However it is beginning to look as though this may not be an option to many of us.

The CEL program at Monta Loma has been dropped. In it's place a new and different "school wide" program is being proposed. Confusingly the new program is also called CEL.

The PACT program was moved from Slater to Castro (which is also home to DI) resulting is chronic overcrowding. Because of the overcrowding, scores at Castro (already the lowest performing school in the district) are dropping and teacher retention has become an issue.

Though the district is sitting on money thanks in part to the parcel tax, there are some like trustee Ellen Wheeler (from the well served Bubb neighborhood) who oppose spending any money to alleviate the overcrowding at Castro. Instead she would prefer to restrict the number of kinder accepted into programs PACT in 2009, and in so doing restrict parents ability to help improve the schools.

The obvious solution is to use the monies in the districts construction fund to move PACT (yet again) but this time to move it to a home where it can expand to accommodate the increased demand.

Wheeler uses the "state budget crisis" to justify doing nothing for the children in the overcrowded school. If the school district has the money an economic downturn - when construction costs are low - is precisely the time to act.

Wheeler who contributed to the problem by pushing so hard to close Slater (she also wanted to close Castro) now refuses to consider a solution. She prefers to reframe the debate about what to do about Castro's overcrowding into a fight for money between PACT and non-PACT. This is shameful.

The issue is not the lottery. Nor is the issue funding PACT versus not funding PACT. The issue is: Is the district going to do anything to alleviate the overcrowding at Castro caused by the decision to close Slater or is the district going to do nothing. Doing nothing will mean limiting the number of children allowed into the choice programs forcing parents in the underperforming school neighborhoods to consider private alternatives. If like Ellen Wheeler you live south of El Camino you have nothing to worry about. However if you live on the other side of town, the lack of information from the district at a time when private schools are accepting applications is maddening.



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Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Anna, have you actually seen the district budget? "sitting on money"? Every penny is spent!

Ms Wheeler has earned the wrath of the PACT lobby because she has the guts to stand up to them.


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Posted by George
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Ms Wheeler has the guts to stand up to anything that doesn't directly increase property values in the Bubb neighborhood. Isn't it time we dumped her?


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Posted by Helen
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I agree with Anna. My daughter will be entering kindergarden this fall and not knowing what is happening to CEL or PACT when private school applications are being accepted is very frustrating.


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Posted by John
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Eric, Why should parents who volunteer in their children's schools, who accepted being moved from Slater to Castro, who are willing to be uprooted again if it helps with the resulting overcrowding problem at Castro, who brought a wonderful educational program to our district be considered a "lobby"? Why does Ms Wheeler need to stand up to them?

All my children have grown up and flown the coop but I wish we had had PACT when they were in elementary school. It looks like all upside and no downside to me. The problem is Castro is overcrowded. Why make scapegoats out of the hardworking PACT parents?


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Posted by QM
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Know the history - Welcome new students to MVWSD ..
MV Voice 12-16-2005
-----
However, there are some parents who are not completely pleased with the new board policies, specifically those regarding how the district drew boundary lines to reassign Slater students.

Slater and PACT parent Diane Tom, one of the few to attend the Dec. 8 study session, expressed her concern about the potential overcrowding of Castro, which will experience the most growth under the new plan -- from 338 to 576 students. (That's about 20 students under capacity, with 20 students per classroom.)

"I hope we still value small schools," Tom said, addressing the board.

Under the new enrollment plan, some Slater students and parents may have to travel nearly three miles to get to Monta Loma, even though they live closer to Landels, said parent Robyn Rymer.

"What I'm worried about is that they're taking away any chance of parental access to the school," she said.

Rymer says this decision affects 30 Slater children in her immediate neighborhood who live in the area bordered by the Bayshore Freeway, Tyrella Avenue, Middlefield Road and the district's western boundary.


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Posted by Adam
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm

First Ellen Wheeler wants to close Castro.
Then she pushes to close Slater and transfer more students (including the PACT children) to Castro than any other school.
Then she decides that the military children from Moffett who got transferred to Bubb need to be pushed out and bussed to Monta Loma because some undefined "property rights" of the Bubb neighbors trump the rights of the Moffett kids to a decent education.
Then she wants to hire a private investigator to investigate all the kids in the district.
Now that the overcrowding at Castro is reaching crisis point she decides that nothing should be done because a solution may help those awful PACT kids whose parents dare help out at school.
Isn't it time we got rid of Ellen Wheeler?


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Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2009 at 1:13 am

If any of you PACT folks had actually been listening at the school closure hearings,you'd know that Wheeler did not want to close Castro.

Your sanctimonious "woe is us, the only parents who actually help at the schools" is insulting and makes you all look silly. The district has worked around and kowtowed to this small program too long.


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Posted by Gisah
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 17, 2009 at 10:18 am

Faent and Anna- you guys hit it on the mark. Parents are seeking the best schools possible for their kids. Do you think that PACT parents would be at Castro for any other reason than having that program there? Yes, it is overcrowded but there are other reasons why parents do not want their kids going there. It's the same reason they do not want to put their kids in any other failing school. We know why these schools are failing, it's because of the English language learners who struggle with learning English even though they may have been born here. Is this a racial issue? Yes. Is it a class issue? Yes. But mostly it is a structural issue that ties in economics, race, class, all the things that we need to deal with since we cannot segregate ourselves from our community.
We need to bring all the schools up to par with the one's that are excelling. As I have mentioned before, if PACT is such a good program, why isn't it available at all the schools for all the students?
I know it must be frustrating for parents who want the best education for their kids to have to shuffle them around because the school in their neighborhood just isn't good enough. Instead of trying to find fixes here and there with moving students, opening new schools, we need to fix the foundation. We need to look at the existing schools and make it so any one of them would be a good school to send our kids to.


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Posted by Spaten
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm

What if there were no PACT and no Ellen Wheeler.


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Posted by QM
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

How did we get here? Reminds me of a David Byrne Song...
---------------------------------------------------------
MV Voice :Publication Date: Friday, October 03, 2003

Town hall meeting
Straight talk from parents for MV-Whisman board members

By Julie O'Shea

After years of asking, Mountain View-Whisman School District parents finally got their chance Monday to square off with Superintendent Jim Negri in the first of three town hall-style meetings.

Parents have long since complained that the three minutes allotted to them during the public comment period of each school board meeting is not enough time to get their points across to district leaders.

What they wanted, parents said, was a forum to simply have a conversation with school officials. And that is exactly what happened Monday evening in the multiuse room at Theuerkauf School.

No questions were off limits. The only ground rules, laid down by Negri, were to treat others with respect and avoid dominating the conversation, which didn't seem to be such a problem for most of the 30 or so in attendance.

What seemed to be on everyone's radar screens Monday night was last week's heavily attended meeting at Castro Elementary, where parents showed up in droves to protest changes to the school's long-troubled dual immersion program.

"I am kind of astounded there are not Castro people here, " said Vicki Schultz, a district parent and school board watchdog. "Do you really feel those issues are resolved?" she asked Negri.

"No," the superintendent replied. "We are working with (Principal Carla Tarazi)" on the matter.

Others commented that they, too, were surprised by the lack of turn out from the Castro community.

But former school board trustee Juan Aranda pointed out that the majority of families who have children enrolled at Castro don't speak English. There was no Spanish translator at Monday night's town hall meeting.

Aranda suggested that the school district schedule a fourth town hall meeting before the end of the calendar year that would cater to the district's large Spanish-speaking community.

Also, Aranda added, the next time there is a meeting regarding Castro, the district should consider conducting it in Spanish and translating what's said into English.

"Think about it really hard," Aranda told Negri, school trustee Fran Kruss and board President Carol Fisher, who were also taking questions from the audience.

Added Michelle De La Ossa, who has children at Bubb Elementary and Graham Middle Schools: "We are basically servicing the minority instead of the majority."

More than 80 percent of the families with children at Castro aren't native English speakers. However, none of the five school board members speaks Spanish, Negri said.

"But if I can figure out a way to (conduct those meetings in Spanish), I'm for it," Negri said.

Another hot topic parents zeroed in on was the school district budget, which has been under a microscope since its adoption in June.

Annie Zacanti, who is home schooling her children, focused on the $36,000 allotted to the school's GATE program. She questioned why only $20,800 was going to classroom materials - the rest is going to district supervision travel and consulting services.

"How can we get more money to the kids," Zacanti asked.

Negri referred her to the GATE committee, which is responsible for overseeing the program.

The group requested that school officials post answers to these and other questions about middle school math programs, and the Spanish-to-English re-designation rate on the district Website. Negri said he'd also look into make these answers available in Spanish at each school.

The next scheduled town hall meeting will be held Oct. 6 at Landels Elementary from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

E-mail Julie O'Shea at joshea@mv-voice.com


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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Get rid of Ellen Wheeler? You all complain about the schools, but no one runs for school board. Wheeler is still there because because there was no one running against her. Two more board members are results of appointsment, which Wheeler no doubt approved. So basically the chickens have come home to roost. At least when I complain about this poor performing district I do so as one who has already put his kids in private school. Wake up concerned parents, you've all been sleeping at the wheel for way to long.


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