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December 16, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, December 16, 2005

Parents a no-show in Slater closure meeting Parents a no-show in Slater closure meeting (December 16, 2005)

By Molly Tanenbaum

Parents whose children will be forced to new campuses when Slater Elementary closes next year were expected to pack a Mountain View-Whisman School District meeting Dec. 8 to discuss the transition, but the often contentious audience was a no-show.

Board members, administrators and parents interpret these empty seats as a positive sign, compared with the packed meetings last spring when anxious parents fought hard against the closure.

The study session agenda included a first reading of new policies on district boundaries, transportation and enrollment. All six action items on the three issues passed unanimously, with trustee RoseMary Roquero absent. A second, and probably final, vote on the items was to take place Thursday, Dec. 15, after the Voice went to press.

"It was curious that not a whole lot of people were there, but I think it was also an indication of how well we communicated out the recommendations that whole week," said newly elected board president Gloria Higgins. An informal count tallied only three parents at the meeting.

Items discussed included a proposal to purchase one or two new buses at about $60,000 apiece in order to transport involuntarily transferred students free for a year. Enrollment priorities for transfer students from within and outside the district also were on the table.

In the days leading up to the study session, Superintendent Maurice Ghysels held meetings at Castro and Slater schools to communicate recommendations on school closure, in addition to meeting with parents who served on "transition team" subcommittees during the fall, and with Slater teachers about what will happen to them after their school closes. Teachers already have begun negotiations with the district regarding their future assignments.

"By the time we got to the board meeting, we reflected enough of the ideas and listened and hopefully people think we were being as conscientious and sensitive as possible," Ghysels said.

The district moved up the entire transition timeline to be able to make the decisions, particularly regarding enrollment, before winter break instead of by February.

Part of the motivation behind this faster-paced schedule is that Mountain View-Whisman has decided to push its open-enrollment period from June back to Feb. 1. Ghysels believes this change will help the district attract students, both to the special alternative programs like PACT and the dual-immersion program, and to the entire district.

PACT parent Baird Nuckolls has observed an attitude shift over the past few months: looking to the future instead of trying to change school closure decisions.

"A lot of us are trying very hard to move away from the distrust and miscommunications and anger that went on last year, and put that behind us," said Nuckolls, who served on one of the transition subcommittees this fall.

Castro parent and PTA co-president Theresa Munoz also observed dramatic changes from the way the subject of school closure was dealt with last spring.

"The feeling is that things are being handled well at the district. It really feels like a ship that's on course right now," said Munoz, who did not attend the study session, because she had already attended two other school transition meetings that week.

"The process is much improved," she added. "Everyone is talking about putting a positive spin on change."

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.

 

E-mail Molly Tanenbaum at [email protected]


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