Summer break? Castro School is working overtime


While the majority of campuses in the Mountain View Whisman School District have remained relatively quiet since classes let out for the summer, Castro Elementary has been bustling with activity.

It was a mix of fun and work July 14, as Craig Goldman, Mountain View Whisman's superintendent, walked around Castro, checking up on the progress of a variety of district programs. Children in city-operated summer camps played games on the blacktop, incoming kindergarteners prepared for their first year of school and teachers practiced a new instructional method with summer school students.

All of the programs operating out of Castro this summer, including the city-run Club Rec, benefit from the federally subsidized Seamless Summer Option, which allows the district to provide free breakfast and lunch to children.

"It is a real asset," Lauren Merriman, acting recreation supervisor for the city's Recreation Division, said of the Seamless Summer food program. "The lunches are nutritious, and, from what I hear, everybody loves them. It gives our program that extra something."

Because the city doesn't pay to use the space on Mountain View Whisman campuses, city recreation programs like Merriman's can be offered at a lower cost than privately operated summer camps. Paired with the free meals, it makes Club Rec a good value for parents at a time when money is tight, Merriman said.

There is one other advantage to being at Castro this summer, Merriman added: the sense of community. "It definitely feels like there is a lot of energy at the school. I think it helps our staff feel like they're not so isolated."

In the past, Club Rec has often had the entire campus to itself. Camp counselors didn't have to worry about sharing their space with other programs. But overall, Merriman said, with the energy and communal feel at Castro, she wouldn't be opposed to sharing space with the school district in future summers.

One of Club Rec's neighbors is Stretch to Kindergarten. The non-profit, tuition-free program offers kindergarten prep to low-income kids who haven't had the opportunity to attend preschool.

The accelerated course is intended to familiarize youngsters with the skills they will need to hit the ground running in kindergarten, and it also shows parents how to ensure their children are getting the most out of their elementary school education.

"Even though we are a short program, we have all the components that you would want from a full preschool," Stretch to Kindergarten founder Liz Simmons said. "We do the best we can to bridge that gap."

Stretch to Kindergarten, which is now in its third year, has 63 families enrolled and uses three kindergarten classrooms on the Castro campus.

While Simmons' program works to ensure that incoming kindergartners are ready to begin learning at grade level on the first day of school, the district is also working to make sure its kindergarten teachers are prepared to receive their students. At the back of the school, incoming kindergartners are being tested on English proficiency, so that the district will know where to place those students and teachers will have a better understanding of their needs.

"It's a fairly extensive process, but it's definitely well worth it," Goldman said, as he looked into one of the testing rooms. Two children sat at separate stations and went over a workbook with an instructor; parents waited outside for their children to finish their assessments. In all, the district is testing 600 kindergartners for the 2011-12 school year.

Classrooms toward the front of the school are occupied by several grade levels of students who have fallen behind in math. This year, the district is using the majority of a $1 million donation it received from Google to help these students catch up and try out a new instructional method with a group of teachers.

The method, known as Explicit Direct Instruction -- EDI for short -- involves a rigorous, yet streamlined, system for teaching. The method, developed by a Fowler, Calif. education company called Data Works, draws on 100 years of education research to ensure that students learn more and retain more in a shorter period of time, according to Cynthia Kampf, a consultant for Data Works.

One key to the EDI method is the use of whiteboards by students, said Kampf, who holds a doctorate in education. First they draw students into the lesson, as students are required to write their answer to a given problem on the whiteboard and hold it up above their head when finished. "Kids like to show when they have the right answer," Goldman said.

This method also quickly shows teachers which students had an incorrect answer. Instead of waiting to find who didn't understand an entire set of problems by correcting a slew of papers after class, the teacher can pull those students aside and immediately begin remedying the problem, while giving students with a stronger grasp on the material more problems to work out.

Goldman is particularly excited about the potential of the Data Works system, which he observed last year at the Sanger Unified School District near Fresno.


Like this comment
Posted by MV Mom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Great story about the promising programs running at Castro this summer. Perhaps this is a little off point, but this sentence perplexed me:

Because the city doesn't pay to use the space on Mountain View Whisman campuses, city recreation programs like Merriman's can be offered at a lower cost than privately operated summer camps.

The City jacked up the prices of its summer camps so much (approx 3x the price charged in prior years for non-financial aid students) that is is equal or higher to private options like the YMCA, Golden Eagle, etc. The price is so high that the City's camps are running at well under half the enrollment of prior years, and many kids are stuck fending for themselves at home instead of busy at camp. And college and high school kids who otherwise would have had summer jobs find themselves unemployed. Strange way for the City to try to drum up revenue. Increase the price by 25% or even 50%, but not 300%! And the school district lets the City run the camp for not quite sure I follow this rationale...

City staff and Council members--are you listening? I hope you make adjustments next summer!

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm

A good portion of students attending summer school are illegals or children of illegals showing up for more free food and daycare on the taxpayers dime. Summer school is no longer an option for kids of American citizens looking to excel.

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Posted by mom of 2
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I was going to say the same thing so I thank you for posting that. I am not sure she knew exactly of what she was saying by calling "affordable" We have put our kids in MV camps for years and now this year with the increasing being so high both kids got one camp each. They have been home all summer and miserable. Yes they can go play and yes we have time to work and play at home but they are not getting that since of community or the fun they get from the camps they have had in years past. I was very disappointed in the city when I saw how much they increased their fees. I understand they need to do what they can to keep the camps going but really increase it by three times as much per week. That is crazy.So when you say affordable. You need to think about that who your referring to. Because it certainly was not affordable for us.
In addition I think it is interesting when a kids recreation softball league uses a school campus for a three night meeting we are charged over $1000 but when the recreation department uses for camps there is no charge. So then what did my $220 fee go towards. I think both the city and the school district our playing games with our money to profit for themselves. At least I know when the softball league was charged the money went to the school which can be used for the children!!

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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Maybe the fees have increased so much because they are asking people who can pay to fund those who can't pay? As a legal citizen, I find myself increasing being taxed or fee-ed to death so that the low-income (mostly illegal) can live the American dream while I am just keeping my head above water.

It's one thing for people to work hard to get ahead, but it's another to rob those hard working citizens to pay for non-citizens. I'm not against illegals in our community. I'm just against having a city that wants me to support illegals by paying higher fee for services while they pay nothing to access the same services.

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Posted by Local Guy Mike
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2011 at 5:54 am

Nice to see that someone is reaching out to help the kids today, seems every is cutting services & taking away & here we have someone giving & trying to make a difference I give them huge KUDO'S!!
-----What have you done lately to help society?

Our students of today need a boost as our nation is behind- we could use 1000+ more of these program

Wish all of us could do a program like this & make the World a better place!

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Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

Have to agree with MV Mom. We were hugely disappointed at the enormous fee hike by the Rec Dept this year. I had said to my husband it must be because the school district has budget cuts, they must have increased their fees to the City which have been passed on... but if they're not being charged at all?? I feel swindled. And I could only afford one week of camp! :(

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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

Well someone has to pay for the fat pensions for school and city, police and fire administrators. And if you can't afford camp, it must be because you can't qualify for free or reduced programs that the illegals qualify for.

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Posted by Nick V
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jul 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Nick V is a registered user.

Thank you all for your point about the rising cost for city programs. It may turn into another story in the Voice.

Ms. Merriman did mention to me that prices are going up for camps. I did not include that as the story was meant to be an overview of everything going on at the school.

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Posted by anon
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

@Ned - How do you know these people are illegals? The camps consist of a very diverse group of kids who aren't just being babysat; the program is very structured. It's a shame that you would want to take something as wonderful as a summer program and try to manipulate it to fit your perverse politics. How sad..

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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