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on Dec 12, 2008
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PACT is open to everyone, not just white middle class students, and I should know, because that does not describe my family and our child attends PACT. You write:"Our neighborhood schools are bulging at the seams and they will continue to do so"; and then continue on that we should then solve the problem by increasing Teacher pay. How is that going to solve the problem? PACT didn't actually ask to be moved, by the way, but the dual immersion program refused to do so. Something has to be done!
I am saddened to see Gisah de Freitas (and the Voice) get things so wrong about the proposed school move. The problem being addressed here is the overcrowding of Castro school and the resultant threat to the safety and well-being of its students -- all of them. Moving 200 students -- any 200 students -- away from Castro alleviates the overcrowding that is currently straining its resources so badly and keeping its children from having enough time to do things like use the bathroom and eat lunch. Neither Dual Immersion nor the neighborhood students can be moved. Only one population of parents and students is willing to be uprooted (again). If the district has a different place to put PACT, let them, and let the Castro neighborhood students who have been bussed away return to their neighborhood school, freeing up space throughout the district.
The Voice should get its facts straight about the proposed renovation of Stevenson School. The money to pay for its renovation would come from a dedicated Construction/Renovation budget, not from teachers' salaries or any other fund. That's money that can only be used to construct or renovate schools. What better way to use it than to open a new elementary school campus and take some of the strain off the existing schools? In fact, why not open an even bigger campus, to draw more students away from the other schools?
I say move the superintendent, district office and staff into Castro or another school. Give them one or two classrooms at the most. Rent out the district office and generate funds.
From MV Voice Sep. 27, 2002 -- Know the facts --
Last year, students in the PACT (Parent, Child, Teacher) program at Slater School scored better, as a whole, than the average student in the Mountain View-Whisman School District on two standardized exams.
On the SAT9 -- the state's standardized test -- PACT students scored between the 78th and 82nd percentiles in all four testing areas: reading, math, language and spelling. In contrast, the district average ranged from the 58th to the 65th percentile in the four areas.
In addition, PACT students in second through fifth grade did better than the average district scores on the California standards exam.
PACT, a seven-year-old school, draws 30 percent of its students from the Slater neighborhood and the remainder from the rest of the district. Parents take part in a 10-hour parent education class and volunteer in the classrooms for two hours each week.
The program has a special component called Arts Focus that educates students in five different media and supplements academic instruction.
Originally begun with only two classes, PACT now enrolls 180 students in eight classes.
Slater Principal Nicki Smith said there are several reasons why PACT students are performing better than non-PACT students. "Some of it's demographics," she said, referring to the fact that education studies often link socioeconomic advantage to academic success. "The parents who have the flexibility to put in two hours of classroom participation (per week) are people who are more affluent."
But Smith pointed out that PACT students are diverse and the parent volunteer time also contributes significantly to the comparatively high test scores. With more adults in the classroom, students receive more one-on-one attention and teachers can be more flexible in their instruction.
"We're able to experiment and try some different kinds of programs," said Bonnie Malouf, a fifth-grade PACT teacher and former PACT parent. She added that choice programs such as PACT inherently indicate a higher level of parent involvement.
"When we make a choice, we are more invested in it," she said.
PACT parent Judy Levy said the program is successful also because of its philosophy, which is centered on educating the "whole child." For example, activities such as cooking and gardening teach the students math and science in addition to cooking and gardening.
She praised the program for helping students become comfortable with talking to adults, making presentations, and speaking for themselves.
Levy cautioned, however, that PACT is not for everybody, especially students who feel more comfortable in a traditional school environment.
The MVWSD also offers two others schools of choice, the Castro Language Academy at Castro School and Community-Enhanced Learning (CEL) at Monta Loma School.
I had mentioned that the PACT program is predominantly made up of the White middle class, if you are not in this group than you are in the minority.If anyone can prove me wrong and tell me there are more Latino or Black students than White students, I welcome them to. I am sure the program is "open to all" but then it has requirements that make it impossible for "all" to attend. This means one parent has to be dedicated to volunteering in the classroom and it means you have to understand enough English to fill out the appropriate paperwork to get into the program, to attend a training course and to provide additional skills and knowledge in the classroom. Oh, and lets not forgot the $200 donation as well.
As far as the budget goes, I'm sure that considering the cuts that will be taking place, decisions will have to be made about what needs to be cut. In looking at what needs to be done I am sure that money gets taken away from one program or budget (like the construction/renovation budget) and gets allocated to another program or budget. Both the Voice and I agree that constructing a new school at this time is not the right thing to do. As they mentioned, if you are spending $400,000 to run a PACT school(which DOESN'T come fro the construction/renovation budget), this money will be taking away from another area.
Someone asked how will increasing teacher pay help with the overcrowding? Obviously, it doesn't help up front with overcrowding. But it will make the teachers who work in overcrowded classrooms feel better about the challenges they face everyday. Higher pay will also bring in the teachers who will be dedicated to serving a diverse population.
As far as the comment about the "one group willing to be uprooted again", of course it is that same group because that group has the means to transport their kids to the schools where the program is located. They have the cars and the time to dedicate to their child's educational needs.
The point that I was trying to make is a simple yet profound one. If we are going to make Castro into the school that only serves the poor (mostly Latino) students in Mountain View, this will only set them back even more. When you have schools that excel, it is because all the students excel in the school. When you take away the population of students that are doing well what are you left with? You are left with the ones who are not doing so well, and they will have no role models to push them forward. You might say, well that's their problem. But what I say is that I live in this neighborhood that includes Whites,Latinos,Blacks and Asians and I want them all the have the same chance of getting a good education. I want PACT to stay at Castro and I want the money to go towards getting more families into the program who are representative of the area I live in. I DO NOT want my property tax money going towards the $400,000 that it will take to run a PACT school that is NOT representative of my community.
"If we are going to make Castro into the school that only serves the poor (mostly Latino) students in Mountain View, this will only set them back even more."
Shouldn't we also look at Huff, and ask why it is 70% white and asian?
You ask why is Huff 70% White and Asian? Let's see, could it possibly have something to do with the area being made up of single family homes rather than high density apartments? There's a reason why families who hold education in high esteem want to live in Saratoga, Cupertino and Palo Alto...because those areas have the best schools. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to live there. The families who paid good money to live in Mountain View and find their kids going to a "failing" school(according to NCLB), are wanting to have their own little Saratoga or Palo Alto in Mtn. View by using funds to start up their own school. Even in already exclusive areas like Los Altos, they find ways of starting up "charter schools" in hopes of further excluding whoever it is they do not want in their community. There is of course one way around this...to make all schools an excellent school. This means paying teachers in Mountain View or East Palo Alto as much as they pay teachers in Saratoga and Cupertino. It means having funds for all schools to have top of the line libraries and science equipment.Why do you think schools in Asia and parts of Europe out-perform our schools? It's not that they are any smarter than we are. Could it be that they put higher demands and use more tax dollars to fund all schools, not just those of the rich? I don't know about you all, but I want my whole country to be up there in the ranks with schools in Korea and Sweden, and not at the very bottom alongside some third-world country. It's a bit embarrassing if you ask me, and quite shameful.
It would be great to keep PACT on campus they have brought with them some great things but they have also brought something not good...too many students on one campus. Students barely get time in the library, there are huge lines at lunch so they don't have time to eat, and there isn't a room anymore for getting extra help.
I am sick of hearing PACT.
I am a bit fed up with pretending that everything is fabulous in this district. Castro school has always been neglected. An interest in the safety and well-being of students on the campus only came about after high profile PACT and DI power parents" forced the district so-called leadership to take notice. Now everyone is concerned that our campus is over crowded and children don't have enough space to play, eat, or recieve extra support for learning.
There is a lot of wasted space on campus. Invest the bucks on expanding and upgrading our buildings. Why doesn't the district so-called leadership think outside the box and offer morning and afternoon kindergarten programs? This move alone could increase classroom use for other needs by 3 whole classrooms. Where's your "laser-like" focus Mr. Ghysels? (As if I'm not sick of hearing that man spew his hocus pocus pseudo management theory. Stop playing to the power brokers only.
As I recall leadership and at one time the MV mayor and district board all had children in the PACT. What does that tell you. Sounds like conflict to me.
All of the students at Castro could do well if the parents were involved. We make so many ridiculous excuses for the underperforming students, and the excuses harm the underperforming students and society.
Palo Alto, Cupertino, et al., have great schools because of the parents. PACT works because of the parents. Our society worked when parents were actively involved in their children’s lives and held their children accountable. Parents of successful children make their children do their homework and behave. That is not happening at the underperforming schools.
I find Gisah’s comments racist. I’m tired of blaming the white race for all the ills of society. If the whites, and Asians are more successful it is because they work really, really hard and make many, many sacrifices to help their children succeed. It is not because they were lucky or rich or advantaged or...
Cupertino schools are over 80% Asian and no one ever states that those schools need to be more diverse in order for the students to succeed. Why, because it is the parents and not diversity that are the key to success.
It is not bad schools, bad teachers, lack of funding, lack of diversity, racism, etc that it the problem. It is lack of effort, lack of parenting, and lack of accountability that causes problems in our schools. Every district could be as successful as Palo Alto and Cupertino, and every program as successful as PACT if the parents would get involved in their children’s lives.
I fully support PACT and believe we should do whatever is necessary to help that program survive and thrive.
Support Success- I would love to hear your brilliant ideas on how to get a parent(s) involved when they have to work two and three jobs to pay their rent.
And don't tell me parents in Cupertino and Palo Alto have to worry about the same issues that poor parents have to worry about. Give me a break!
I agree that we have to get more parents involved. Why is success more prevalent in those areas? I mentioned it before, because parents move to those cities BECAUSE of the good schools. You don't think that those schools districts pay their teachers more to get the best they can? Give me another break!
I would love to get out there and throttle every single parent whose kid I see as having so much potential, yet they go home and the parent could care less if they get their homework done. The Asian culture is known to have a very high push towards success, and it starts at a very early age. There are also many studies that this push for success leads to some very sad issues of kids fearing failure and letting parents down. If there was a magic pill that I could give some of the parents that I see, I would pay out of my pocket to give it to them.
Again, if you have any brilliant ideas on how to get parents of underachieving (poor) kids more involved...let me know.
As I mentioned I too support PACT, but my issue is that it is not representative of this neighborhood and the majority of the school population at Castro. I would like for ALL of the kids there to have some of the creative and progressive learning methods that the more advantaged kids have. And I do not want to have to pay for those parents who want to exclude their kids by having their own school.
Parents who are out there just looking out for their own kids will never see eye to eye with those of us who care about the bigger picture. That means getting the poor up to speed with the rest of us who had/have an advantage. If that means I'm "racist" so be it, but I think you need to look up the definition of the word.
Support Success- Since you brought up racism, you should look up another term, it's called structural or institutional racism. It has it roots all over our country and history. Without giving you a history lesson, basically it means that if I'm lucky enough to go to public school in Saratoga (regardless if I'm White, Asian, or Mexican), I have a better chance of success than if I went to school in E. Palo Alto or South San Jose, or even Mountain View.
And just so you know, I'm not racist, and neither is my country. Because structural racism happens not only in "diverse" neighborhoods, it also happens in all white, poor neighborhoods across this great country. You see, it's not only a race thing, it's also a class thing.
And one more thing, parents who come to this country no matter where they're from, be it New Delhi, Hong Kong or Oaxaca, have one thing in common;they all want what's best for their children. So although we might chastise a parent for not knowing the "rules for success", we need to make sure they understand those rules, then we can work on enforcing them.
Gisah, when you say 'As far as the budget goes, I'm sure that considering the cuts that will be taking place, decisions will have to be made about what needs to be cut. In looking at what needs to be done I am sure that money gets taken away from one program or budget (like the construction/renovation budget) and gets allocated to another program or budget.' -- probably not; from what I understand, education code prohibits districts from using money from the buildings fund for anything else, so unless they completely revamp the state law, they can't use that money for anything but new buildings or building renovations. Stupid, yes, but that pretty much sums up the ed code.
Parent- Yes, I understand that the budget for building a new school can only come from the new building/renovations budget. What I want to know is where is the money coming to run the new school? Who's paying for the new teachers and administrators, and the day to day costs of running a school?
I'll never forget when one of the teachers at Castro told our volunteer group that she had no paper for her class. She didn't mean that they had just run out of paper...she meant that there was NO MONEY for paper in her classroom. We're not talking some third world country here, we're talking Mountain View, CA. The same Mountain View that houses some of the richest companies (Google) and has some of the smartest minds (Google again, Nasa/Ames research, etc).
Now, if they need $400,000 (as cited by the View) to run this "PACT" school...what are they taking away from the kids that stay behind at Castro? If it was paper one year, it will soon be books, chairs/desks, free breakfast/lunch, music/art class, etc., etc., etc.
Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
- Thomas Jefferson
That's an ironic quote for this thread given that Jefferson was a slave owner his entire life.
My son was in PACT for K-5th grade while it was housed at Slater, which was our neighborhood school. I worked three part-time jobs, and volunteered by using vacation time when I had it and by staying up past midnight many nights helping to develop programs and do non-classroom volunteering. When PACT moved to Castro my son had just started Middle School; I don't know how I could have managed getting him the 3.5 miles to and from Castro each day.
Life is full of challenges; we all love our children and want the best for them, and deciding how we manage our lives and our schedules is our choice. It sounds like you believe in classroom volunteering; I have had children in the District since the late 1970's and have always volunteered, even when working one, two or three jobs. So stereotyping PACT or other people is really not fair, nor is discussing people's income or circumstances - all of that is supposed to be private. I am not sure how you are privy to know people's economic circumstances, or whether they work outside the home.
I often worked graveyard or swing shift so that I could be with my children; do not decide that because someone has a car and is volunteering that they have it made. Are people making that assumption about you? If you have time to volunteer isn't that because you have made it a priority, just as PACT parents and many parents throughout MV schools have also done?
Suggesting that PACT students should go to private school and that they don't deserve taxpayer money is pretty scary to me - these are children attending school to learn and they are not the problem - the problem is the overcrowding because of the poor decisions of the school board and prior administration - we lost two schools east of Middlefield leaving many students without a neighborhood school and families having to figure out where to move and how to educate their schools in a district that blatantly did not care about the neighborhoods of Slater or of Whisman. You are experiencing overcrowding, but plese don't blame PACT for it, or for the fact that it is the targeted program to move.
Jane- Good for you that education is a priority. I wish we had more parents like you volunteering in other programs at the school that are DESPERATE for volunteers.
I'm honestly not concerned for the students in the PACT program or their parents because they will find a way to make things work out for them. I didn't discuss anyone's income or circumstance other than saying the the program is open to those who meet the requirements...and there a many people who cannot meet those requirements.
I think many people are getting defensive because they are looking out for their own kids and it's tough to say, I want a good school for my boys and girls and to heck with the rest of them. Well, what I am saying is that I want good schools for all the boys and girls, that means your kids as well as the kids who don't have a mom who puts education first. As you mentioned the kids who attend the schools to learn are not the problem, so why do we want to punish the ones who are not in PACT with mediocre educational programs that do not demand excellence? Why can't we have a PACT program for all the students at Castro?
My main concern is what the heck is this community going to do with the growing population of students who are struggling with the very basics. I'm looking at the future of my neighborhood and am seeing a whole lot of young people who do not have the skills necessary to get a good job. This to me is a much scarier picture than you not getting taxpayer money to open up your PACT school. And when you do get your school up and running, what are we going to do with the students who got left behind? Does anyone care about these kids? I see kids who are in the 8th and 9th grades reading at 1st. and 2nd grade levels. I guess you wouldn't see those kinds of things in the PACT program though.
As one teacher pointed out in this discussion, no one was concerned about the overcrowding at Castro until the PACT parents starting coming there. Yes, the board made many stupid decisions when they closed schools. And overcrowding is going to continue to be a problem as long as Mountain View continues to grow. it's up to the community to make sure we elect the right people for those positions. And it has not gone unnoticed to me at least that one of the newest members happens to be a Google employee, and your Slater school got closed down so they can give the building to Google. Don't tell me there's no conflict of interest going on there.
My issue is and will always be with the failing students and how we can get them up to speed. We've got some excellent charter schools starting up in San Jose and Palo Alto that address the needs of failing students. I want my tax dollars to go towards these types of schools. My suggestion is that everyone get their head out of the sand (that includes the parents (PACT AND the rest of them), the administrators and board members and start thinking about ways to make a better future for ALL of us.
Ned, Jefferson owned slaves, but so did the Africans. What few people realize is that Africa had slavery for thousands of years before the United States was even a country. There are some countries in Africa that still have slavery today. There were blacks in the United States who owned slaves, and some white people were slaves. Many Irish and other immigrants were indentured slaves. More whites were enslaved by Africans during the Barbary Wars than all of the African slaves brought to the United States. The slaves brought to America were already slaves in Africa. The Portuguese traded goods with the Africans for African slaves. Less than 5% of the African slaves were brought to the United States. Most slaves went to Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, etc.
The word slave comes from the Slavic people who were also enslaved. Every ethnic group/race has been both slave and master. It was the western world including the United States that were leaders in abolishing slavery.
Jefferson argued against slavery, but this country never would have gotten off the ground if the founding fathers had not compromised on this point.
When you said it is an ironic quote for this thread were you implying that the reason there is still a huge achievement gap between blacks and whites is because of the legacy of slavery? If so, then why is there a huge achievement gap between the whites and Latinos? The Latinos were never slaves in the United States.
The Asians who were banned from immigrating to the US, who helped build our railroads, who were and are migrant workers, whose second language is English, who were placed in internment camps, who were not allowed to vote, etc., are now doing better than all ethnic groups including the whites.
If you and Gisah are implying that the abuse of the past makes someone disadvantaged, then no one should be successful especially the Jews. The Jews were kicked out of their homeland, they were enslaved, they were subject to many pogroms, they have been abused everywhere they have lived, Hitler tried to exterminate them, they lived in ghettos, yet the Jews are probably the most successful ethnic group of all time. Why? How could people who were so beaten down and disadvantaged rise to the top time and time again? Parents and culture!!
The blind spot you and Gisah have is that so many “advantaged" people come from abject poverty and very "disadvantaged" backgrounds, yet they find a way to succeed. When the "disadvantaged" succeed, then many people assume they had an "advantaged" background. Many people cannot accept that it is hard work, persistence, perseverance, and never giving up that leads to success. It does not matter where you came from it matters where you are going. You must be willing to work hard and sacrifice to succeed. Excuses will not help you succeed nor will holding others back help you succeed. Instead of telling me all the reasons why someone cannot succeed tell me why they can and should succeed.
We should help those who help themselves by supporting PACT and programs like PACT. I applaud all parents who are involved in their children’s lives. They are truly making the world a better place.
Words of Wisdom- I guess success means different things to different people. My parents came to this country with very little education. I started school in the US not knowing English but made my way (without the help of my parents) to college. My father gave hard work just as much precedent as going to school (since he didn't have much of an education). Are you going to say he is not successful because he was able to own a home and give his family more than if they stayed in the Old Country?
The parents that I see are involved in their children's lives. Some of them even come during recess to make sure their kids have a snack or just to give them company. As I mentioned before, maybe they do not know the same "rules of success" that you or others may know, which might or might not include getting an education. My parents gave us all that we needed but they fell short when it came to helping out with homework, so we trudged along and we were able to get straight A's. Do you know what incentive I had when going to school? I looked up to the other kids in my class and school- the ones who seemed to have it all. I wanted to be just like them so I pushed myself because I didn't want to be left out. Now if we start segregating schools there's no way these other kids can have any push towards success. You see, when we did away with "separate but equal" we did it for a reason. Removing PACT from Castro will segregate the school even more. If there's anyone out there who is really interested in how bad the situation is, you should read Shame of the Nation, by Jonathan Kozol. And for those of us who battle with making things better for all, we've got a long road ahead of us.
Since we're talking about success now and since it is a relative term I will add what it means to me. Success to me is having the ability because I have an education and because I have the means, to be able to help those who do not have the means. This is in hopes that they too will help someone else down the road when they are able to. Maybe I am living in a bubble, but this is my vision of "making the world a better place". We've had a history of "helping those who can help themselves" and look where it's gotten us.
Thank you for being so passionate about all the students in the district, and volunteering each week. I hope that many others can see your example and rise to it.
I have talked to a lot of people about this (some PACT parents, as well as parents in other schools), and I have been reading all the comments on this blog. I would like to pass on a couple of points that I have not seen:
1) PACT did not ask to move. The District asked 1 program to move. It would have been awful to ask the other programs to move (the neighborhood program obviously cannot and the Dual Immersion program gets ½ of its community from the Castro neighborhood).
2) I certainly agree with you that teachers deserve much more money for everything they do. When the Board closed Slater, and got paid much more from Google than they budgeted, how much of that money went to teacher raises?
3) The $400,000 that the Voice talks about in keeping a school running is actually mostly money already spent every year – not additional money. For instance:
- The teachers that are already teaching will move with PACT (no new money);
- The salary of the 1/2 time Vice-Principal that Castro has (because they have 3 programs and nearly 700 students) will move with PACT so they will have a 1/2 time Principal (no new money);
- The tables and desks, etc. are being used by PACT (which came from Slater with them) and will go with PACT. (no new money);
- I assume there would be some money spent, ie: a Secretary,
3) The district will not be building a new building (as you have stated a couple of times). They will be retro-fitting an existing building and adding portables.
Lastly, I would just like to say that studies have shown that students do better academically (as well as socially) when they are in smaller schools. The District has voted to say that they want the schools to stay within about 500 students. Castro has nearly 700 (not including the preschool students), and the rest of the schools in the district are over 500.
This year, Bubb did not let in a few students from their neighborhood because the school was full.
A proposal to move PACT was not done to help PACT nor to segregate anyone. It was done to help the entire district breath.
Students cannot learn their best when they have not gotten a chance to run out their extra energy (because the playgrounds are crowded), when they have not had time and space to eat their lunch (because the lunchroom is too full), nor when they are stressed. Our district schools are not able to give the students these basic things, as their schools are full up.
I know that you are in one class at Castro and see some difficult challenges. Having the schools in this district, including Castro, crowded does not help these challenges. Moving one program will hopefully alleviate some of the stress on all our students in the district. I know my daughter would like a few less students on the playground at her school, and I am sure the students in the Castro class you volunteer in would like that too.
I say PACT and others should go the route of a charter school a la Bullis and become a real pain in the rear for this failed district and its promotion of under-achievement.
Words of Wisdom: I actuall agree with you. I was just pointing out that Jefferson owned slaves. Still, you should be careful about not walking into your own traps.