Posted by QM, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org