Dual Immersion to stay at Castro

Community says no to proposal to move program to Slater campus

The administration of the Mountain View Whisman School District is going back to the drawing board after residents in the Castro and Whisman neighborhoods expressed significant opposition to moving the Dual Immersion program from its current home at Castro School to the Slater School campus.

In meetings with various community groups over the past few weeks, Superintendent Craig Goldman shared his proposal to move the popular bilingual program -- which provides instruction to children in both Spanish and English -- from Castro to Slater. Goldman presented his idea as a possible solution to a number of issues, including overcrowding at Castro, and community demand for a neighborhood school in the northeast quadrant of Mountain View.

The proposal fell flat, however, as Castro parents expressed serious reservations about losing Dual Immersion, and residents in the areas surrounding Slater balked at the idea of bringing a choice program into the community -- instead of a traditional neighborhood school.

Bob Weaver, a representative for the Whisman Neighborhood Association, said that while he and others living near him would welcome reopening a traditional neighborhood school at either the Slater or Whisman campus, the community would not be satisfied with the proposal Goldman had been shopping around.

In a large public meeting at Castro Elementary School on Feb. 5, parents turned out in force to object to moving the Dual Immersion program. At the end of that meeting Goldman said that he would not continue to pursue the idea. "We heard loud and clear that this was not a valuable proposal," he said of the meeting.

"We're very encouraged that Superintendent Goldman listened to the community," said Randi Ross, a Castro parent with children in the Dual Immersion program. "I did not think it was the best idea for our community to move to Slater."

Goldman said he doesn't view the community response as a rejection. Rather, he said, it is all part of the process.

"The process worked here," Goldman said. "Having gone through the process, we have a much better sense of what the community is looking for."

'Intertwined programs'

According to Goldman, one of the most illuminating points to emerge from the community was a clear picture of the synergy between Castro's two programs.

In a conversation with the Voice, Sarah Livnat, who serves as co-chair of Castro's Dual Immersion Advisory Board, said that there were many reasons not to move the program -- and that most of those reasons overlap.

"It's all very intertwined," she said of the Dual Immersion program and its relationship with the school's traditional program. "To remove the program from the school would have caused a lot of issues."

Speaking in Spanish, with the help of a translator, two parents who live within walking distance of Castro said that they were happy that Goldman was withdrawing his proposal to move the Dual Immersion program.

Blandina Diaz, a mother of two children in Castro's traditional school program, said that while her children would not have been directly impacted if the immersion program moved, there would have been plenty of indirect impacts.

"We don't have leaders like they do," Diaz said, referring to the Dual Immersion program's most involved parents -- whose work at the school helps children in both the immersion and traditional programs.

The neighborhood immediately surrounding Castro is one of the city's lower income areas and many residents of the traditional school's attendance area are not native English speakers. However, the school's population is greatly diversified by students whose parents have elected to send their children to the Dual Immersion program.

Diaz said she was concerned that if the Dual Immersion program was moved, the school would lose its diversity and its base of upwardly mobile parents.

Another Castro neighborhood parent, Azucena Castanon, said she was worried about how she would get her two children -- both of whom are in the immersion program -- to Slater. "Transportation" was a concern, she said in Spanish. "It's very difficult to take the children (out of the neighborhood). Many of the parents (in the Castro neighborhood) don't drive."

David Kessens has two children in the Dual Immersion program and shares many of the same concerns voiced by Diaz and Castanon. However, transportation isn't one of them. In fact, Kessens said it would probably be easier to get his kids to Slater than it would be to get them to Castro -- and it would certainly be safer on the days when the kids ride their bikes.

Kessens said his primary concern was that the program would suffer if it were moved to Slater. "The Castro neighborhood is really the capital -- the headquarters -- of Latino culture in Mountain View," he said. And, in his view, it only makes sense that the program stays put.

Call for better governance

While parents and community members have thanked Goldman for withdrawing his proposal, Steve Nelson, one of the district's trustees, said he believes the superintendent should have come to the community sooner, in a clearer manner and with more options.

While Goldman said that he never had a set plan to move the Dual Immersion program -- insisting that it was just an "idea" that he was shopping around -- Nelson said he felt the superintendent was resolved to move the program and that he only backed down after significant community backlash.

"I think he was trying to rush this through," Nelson said, echoing one of his common critiques of the superintendent.

"People shouldn't feel like this is the plan and there is only one plan," Nelson said.

Kessens offered a similar assessment, saying he would have rather had the superintendent come to the Castro community with a number of different possible scenarios and work toward a consensus, "instead of just coming to the table with one idea."

"To his credit, he reversed his plan," Kassens said of the superintendent. However, in the interim, "a lot of parents were concerned."

Nelson did give credit to Goldman for listening to the community and backing down. Still, he believes things could have gone more smoothly.

"There were dozens of really unhappy people," Nelson said. "I think we could do our governmental job better than that."

What's next for Whisman, Slater?

Now that Goldman's proposal to move the Dual Immersion program has been scrapped, the question remains as to whether the residents of the Whisman and Slater neighborhoods will get their own school.

Weaver said he never believed that Goldman's idea to move the Dual Immersion program was anything more than a bit of brainstorming. "I'm sure that his approach, in hindsight, might have been a little better," Weaver said. "But you have to start somewhere."

He said he was happy that Goldman had come up with the idea to move the Dual Immersion program, even if he didn't like the specifics of the proposal. "It's a tip of the hat to us," Weaver said -- an acknowledgement that his neighborhood needs its own school. "He made an honest effort to get something going and it just wasn't going to happen."

Weaver said he and others in his community will be working with the district to come up with a few proposals for getting a neighborhood school reopened in northeastern Mountain View.

He said he hopes that the district will conduct a survey of the communities surrounding the Whisman and Slater campuses in order to gauge demand for a traditional neighborhood school. "We need concrete information," he said.


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Posted by MVWSD mom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Thank you to Ms. Diaz, Ms. Castanon, Mr. Kessens, and all the parents who came out in force to show their support for keeping DI at Castro.

Shame on the Voice for once again highlighting Mr. Nelson's opinion over that of the other school board members (who are they? do they have names? do they ever speak at meetings?) Your story states that there was an entire room of people who disagreed with Goldman, as did the trustees. It's wrong for the Voice to keep thrusting Mr. Nelson into the spotlight (as if he's a Bieber or Kardashian)

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Posted by Mv
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm

This is case where a good thing comes your way and you it over the head. DI parents are stupid their kids would have gotten a new building, playground etc.

The traditional Castro school would have less students per class.

Also DI is not specific to Castro area . Anyone in Mountain View can apply for it. So Goldman can move it anywhere. Also not sure why traditional student parents have any say on DI.

These are some real stupid parents both English speaking and Spanish speaking ones.

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Posted by @ Mr. Deporto
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Just remember, although we have Free Speech in our country... it is not required that you write every silly thing that pops into your head.

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Posted by WOW!
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm

We got some serious negativity going on.

Superintendent did such a great job offering an idea, and really listening to the Castro school community.

The Castro school community came out and showed everyone how committed each program is to the other.

I think this is success all around!

Mr. Nelson, you need to keep your negativity to a minimum. You need to see when things are actually a GOOD thing.. instead of using your obvious "bad news shades" on everything. We don't like it!

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

With the exception of one, the parents quoted here are all part of a very well organized group of Castro DI parents who just orchestrated and convinced the superintendent that they speak for the entire Castro community and in their best interests. Shame on them. This is the same mostly wealthy group that controls the PTA. They whipped up the parents of the mostly poor and Latino parents of the neighborhood program into protesting the proposed plan without telling them how a change could have actually benefited them. They just sold the neighborhood program down the river again by claiming to represent them. The DI parents end up getting what's best for their kids, but on the backs of the poor Latinos.

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Posted by MVWSD parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm

to Castro Latino Parent: I asked this question in another thread in response to a message you wrote in a similar vein, but never got an answer from you, so I'll ask it again here. If there really is such a group that controls the PTA, why don't you get together with other like-minded parents, go to the PTA meetings, and make your voices heard there? Vote with your presence! What is stopping you?

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Posted by Logic
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:19 pm

I agree with Castro Latino Parent. It seemed like even before the meeting on Wednesday at Castro school the decision for not to move has been made.

Now Goldman could have made that decision before the meeting because Whitman neighbor hood did not want a choice program but rather a regular school.

I personally thought every student would have benefited from the move particularly the neighborhood kids with ""Rocket Ship" program!

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Posted by Capt. America
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 14, 2014 at 6:38 am

What if a community of American's, some illegal living in Mexico wanted a situation like this it would definitely not take place. The bleeding hearts and church are behind this here in MV.

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm

MVWSD parent

The answer to your question is money (we don't have it), time (we're not housewives, we work for a living) and access (that has a lot to do with the first two and also that we have no Latinas to connect with among the people in the power structure that control everything, with the exception maybe of the assistant principal who was once my children's teacher). But we do know who gets all the principals and board members attention with lengthy meetings.

But something tells me you already knew the answer to the question.

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Posted by MVWSD parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I was not asking in jest, actually. I don't know how the PTA meetings are set up at Castro, but I know in some schools in the district they are in the evenings so that working parents can attend too (and yes, I understand it would be up to the PTA Powers-That-Be to set that up).

If you cannot attend the meetings, perhaps a letter writing campaign (even in Spanish) can contribute towards something?

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Posted by Hmmm...
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Castro Latino Parent - can you please explain your comment? "The DI parents end up getting what's best for their kids, but on the backs of the poor Latinos. "

I don't get it. Isn't it better NOT to move the DI program away from Castro for the "poor Latinos"?

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Posted by Joel Lachter
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 15, 2014 at 8:44 am

Hi Castro Latino Parent,

I guess I am a member of the group that controls the PTA.
As I see it, the Castro community has three large groups (although, of course, there are some families that don't quite fit into one of these) :

1) Latino families that live in the neighborhood whose children go to the neighborhood program.
2) Latino families that live in the neighborhood whose children go to DI
3) Families who live outside the neighborhood whose children go to DI
It is no secret that that list is reverse order from how the groups are represented on the PTA board and other forms of parent involvement. You are certainly correct that it was parents in group 3 who took the lead in organizing the response to the proposals that the superintendent was floating. However, the person primarily responsible for organizing put a lot of effort into making sure that voices from groups 1 and 2 were heard and to present information in an unbiased way. Every communication sent out to the Castro community before February 5 was reviewed by the superintendent to make sure that his suggestions were being represented fairly and accurately. The fact is that it is families in group 2 that would be most adversely affected by moving DI and it was those families whose voices came through in all the meetings. The vast majority of families living outside the neighborhood value the strong Latino presence at Castro and thus would like to stay. However, every group 3 parent I talked to said that they would be willing to move if they felt that staying at Castro would hurt the neighborhood program.

Which brings us to the question raised by "Hmmm…", does DI hurt the neighborhood program? It appears to me that everything the superintendent was proposing for the neighborhood program, expanded Pre-K, more computers, more intervention, longer school days, a longer school year and efforts to increase parent involvement are all still on the table. More than "on the table", I think the superintendent is committed to something along these lines, so I don't think the neighborhood program has lost anything there. The one area where I see that the neighborhood program might lose something by having DI stay is that, if DI left, the neighborhood program could have its own PTA and could develop its own leadership. There are people who believe that those roles would go unfilled if DI left. I don't believe that. But I also think that those roles could be filled by neighborhood parents even with DI there. While I can't officially speak for any of them, I firmly believe that the district, the school administration and the PTA board want to remove any barriers they can to participation by neighborhood parents.

I hope you will remain engaged. Tell me what I missed with respect to disadvantages to having the DI program at Castro and any suggestions you have for increasing the involvement of Latinos at Castro. You should give your input into the local control accountability plan. The district has a survey at Web Link and there is a meeting in the Graham library February 27th at 6:00 pm.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:21 am

@Parent (Waverly Park) The Wed. (5th) Castro meeting was not a Special Board Meeting. I do not know if any Trustee attended (I would have if the meeting was publicized better - or organizers asked us). Two Trustees heard this Goldman plan a second time, for about 2 hr. at the Board Facilities Committee. They did not raise a word in objection at that time when asked. (as I recollect from listening - I could not speak from the audience).
@Parent (Cuesta Park) The current PTA president at Castro is an extremely Spanish-fluent 'Anglo' (gringo, white ??) She does a fantastic bi-lingual meeting! The Castro PTA meetings seem to be regularly attended by More Parents than any other school's PTA! The emphasis - because this is a local democratic 'power to the people' type of American civic organization that de Tocqueville wrote about in his "Democracy in America". [I use the R. Heffner abridged English edition of 1954]
Mr. Nelson is an 'old gringo'
Although Mr. Nelson is a Trustee of the MVWSD, these opinions do not reflect a majority vote of the Board, and only reflect a very personal political opinion of Mr. Nelson.

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 16, 2014 at 6:56 am

@Mr. Nelson,

I'm not sure how many PTA meetings you've been to at Castro, but they are sparsely attended and mostly by DI parents. They are presented bilingually as a requirement set down by the principal.

BTW, I've been told the DI-controlled PTA pays for a lot of the translations of things at the school, even the school's website, not the school district. This enables them to control the message even more. Maybe you'd like to explain why that is and have it corrected?

Since you like to expose the ugly truth of how things really work, you might also want to investigate why at the start of each school year Latino parents are made to first stand in line, up to an hour, by the DI-run PTA and first asked/forced/pressured to "donate" money before they can receive their "free" district registration packets and "free" backpacks donated to the school by a charity. Don't believe me? Launch an investigation. Maybe, the current PTA president at Castro who, in your words, is an extremely Spanish-fluent 'Anglo', and BTW, also a DI parent, can explain why that is allowed? She should be ashamed. Is that your idea of a 'power to the people' type of American civic organization"? I find it humiliating and disgraceful.

@Mr. Lachter,

Thank you for the most honest statement to date. You should run for school board. Thank you for pointing out that the educated and more affluent person from Old Mountain View responsible for organizing the charge to stop DI from moving from Castro was the head of the PTA for DI! In my opinion, the neighborhood parents had very little input. You may also recall the entire premise of the meetings was to stop DI from being moved. I was at a one of those meetings. That biased the direction of things from the start. Poor, less educated Latino parents didn't stand a chance when they had to go up against educated and affluent parents with advanced analytical and argumentation skills. The DI parents played their emotions to the point where a few neighborhood parents, men, were convinced to unfairly attack the superintendent for not doing enough for their kids! They were set up brilliantly. This type of strategy is as old as the hills.


I prefer to listen to things straight from the people in charge of my children's education and not from DI parents with an biased agenda. If DI stays at Castro, the neighborhood kids lose out on space for preschool classes, smaller, more focused classes, space for intervention programs and must compete against the DI program and parents for the rest of the school's state-funded resources. From what I heard at the meeting with the superintendent, he was trying to better focus resources to improve the academic performance of the mostly poor Latino students at Castro and other schools in the district where many are struggling.

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Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 16, 2014 at 9:35 am

@Castro Latino Parent,
I've been reading your comments, and those of others, with great interest. I'm writing to ask if you'd be willing to meet with me to talk further. You could write me an email at my school district email address: to coordinate a meeting.
Thank you.
Sincerely, Ellen Wheeler, Trustee, Mountain View Whisman School District

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 16, 2014 at 9:37 am

In the last year - I only have 3 PTA meetings that I have gone to at Castro. Other than a DIA PTA subcommittee, these were dominated by Hispanic families, and had >30 people. As were the 3 other functions I went to at Castro.

Castro Latino Parent (Castro City)- it would be nice if you had a name. I'm not going to 'investigate' anything unless it is in writing to me, and it is not innuendo., or - unmonitored by MVWSD - Although we all make mistakes - I have not seen or heard anything to substantiate the claims you made above against the staff and volunteers at Castro.
Mr. Nelson - the usual disclaimers -

(before I was a Board member - I publicly implored the District to 'grandfather' all families of Castro and Bubb who were scheduled to be moved. Check the Voice archives for the demographic and family-friendly arguments I made at that time. Castro City is now assigned to Monta Loma C)

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:05 am

Thank you to both board members for responding and proving my point.

@Ms Wheeler,

I'm not looking for special and exclusive access to a board member. This is no doubt the usual route taken by DI Parents when they want to get their way. I don't want to come off like a hypocrite. I'm not the one to speak in the best interests of the poor Latino neighborhood parents either because my youngest child finishes at Castro this year. Instead, if you want to make yourself available equally to all parent why not come out to Castro School on a regular basis and ask to speak directly with the poor Latino parents in the neighborhood program? Present them both sides of the problem and the various options that exist for the district and for them. Don't let someone filter your message or their responses. Maybe even ask for an outside bilingual moderator. You should also make sure that the parents selected for the task force currently being created at Castro to improve student achievement truly and objectively represents the poor Latino neighborhood parents whose children are most at risk. You should also be sure it's not entirely composed of the usual suspects from the DI Program, if it isn't already. If it is, you will need to shut them out of the room and bolt the door and bar the windows. See this week's Castro newsletter for more information.

@Mr. Nelson,

If you're waiting for something "in writing" in terms of a formal complaint with an articulate argument from the poor Latino parents in the neighborhood program, many of whom are undocumented, I'm guessing that you'll be waiting a very long time. The only "innuendo" you've been exposed to is that coming from a handful of DI parents that have been spinning things their way, "in writing", for quite some time. I'm a little disappointed that I've got to point these things out to you, especially since you've been the only board member to date to aggressively attack the "business as usual" approach to the way this district and Castro school have been known to be run in the past.

Concerning my point about the DI dominated and PTA backed squeezing for money of many of these same poor Latino and undocumented neighborhood parents at the beginning of every school year, many of them "don't know what they don't know" and don't know what happens if they don't "donate" money. Do you?

In conclusion, I find it amusing that school district board members are lurking on these messages boards and soliciting input while at the same time the district superintendent's office is sending out surveys using Monkey Survey, the online survey service, to solicit opinions from district parents regarding how to improve student achievement. Just how many poor Latino neighborhood parents do you really believe have a readily available and functioning computer and internet access to read and participate in these online messages boards in English or have ever filled out a survey online at Monkey Survey? Since you both represent the entire Mountain View schools community, what have each of you done to ensure that the survey reaches the homes of all parents?

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Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

@Castro Latino Parent
Thank you for your public response. Maybe you don't know me, and don't know that I've been attending Castro events and meeting with Castro parents for over 10 years. I meet in public and I meet in private. I meet with DI parents, with neighborhood parents, and with anyone who asks to speak with me.
I read MV Voice stories, and other newspapers, and magazines, and books to continue to educate myself on issues. And, I meet with people, as I said above. Again, if you'd like to meet (as others do), please email me to set up a meeting. I'm not "lurking," I'm continually educating myself.

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Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

I also want to comment regarding the district survey that is going on. While it is available online, I also know that individuals who do not have computer access at home are also being asked for their opinions. I am our DELAC representative, and saw at the last DELAC meeting that survey questions were written in Spanish on big poster papers for the DELAC members to respond to. The DELAC members wrote their responses on those poster papers in Spanish after discussing them with their small group. Those responses will be translated into English and included with all the other survey answers. ELACs are being asked these questions at their meetings, too. And, the ELAC and DELAC representatives are using their own leadership skills to reach out to others at their schools to get opinions. (DELAC = District English Language Advisory Council and is comprised of ELAC representatives from our schools. ELAC = English Language Advisory Council, and is the committee at each of our schools comprised of parents of English Language Learners. ELAC and DELAC each meet monthly.)

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Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

@Castro Latino Parent
I'm meeting with a highly involved Latina parent from the Castro neighborhood tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:30 PM at the Starbucks at El Monte/El Camino Real. She says you're welcome to join us for the conversation, if you'd like.

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Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Just clarifying that my meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 19, with one other Castro neighborhood parent. ("Tomorrow" may have been confusing.)

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Posted by Castro Latino Parent
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

@Ms. Wheeler,

Thank you for your invitation. I work days and evenings and cannot make it. I do not speak English well either. I have of friend translate for me. Also, as I said earlier my youngest child has only 4 more months at Castro, so I am not the one who you should be speaking to. I am only commenting on what I have observed and what is largely fact in terms of who controls what at Castro. The newspaper article did not point that out, so that is why I am commenting.

I didn't know you were employed with the district for so long. You must be very familiar then with how poorly many poor Latino children have been doing for so long in the district. I have been told they are doing poorly at all schools. How will you address this problem? This is why I originally chose DI for my children. I wanted something better for my children and for them to learn to read and write in their own language. But this is also how I came to see who really controls Castro. I would of been willing to move with the program to Slater if it meant a better chance for the poor Latinos in the neighborhood English program. But others spoke for me. At the same time, I don't like to read another Latino parent say in this article that "We don't have leaders like they do". That is not true. That is part of the problem of having DI stay at Castro. We are viewed as having and accepting low expectations, capabilities and responsibilities as parents when compared to some non-Hispanic parents.

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Posted by To Goldman
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Next time or even now -- Web Link also available in Spanish. So you hear all voices not just vocal PTA

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Posted by fellow parent
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Castro Latino Parent, I've been following your posts. If what you wrote is true, in particular the part about Castro parents having to line up for up to an hour, being subjected to pressure to "donate", just to receive district materials, then the scene at Castro is really horrendous. I wonder though. You said the PTA is dominated by DI parents. How about the Castro ELAC? Where do they stand in all this?

I wish you would reconsider the suggestion by Ms. Wheeler and Mr. Nelson above about contacting the school board members directly. You said you don't want special access to them, but contacting your voter-elected representative is not special special treatment. It's well within your right, and that is how things work in this country. There is nothing nefarious about doing so.

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

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