PACT ready to strike out on its own | February 20, 2009 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - February 20, 2009

PACT ready to strike out on its own

by Casey Weiss

It will be bittersweet for the district's popular parent participation program when it says goodbye this spring to Castro Elementary School, where it has been located for the last three years.

With the student population in the Mountain View Whisman School District growing faster than expected, school officials decided there is no longer room for Parent, Child, Teacher (PACT) at Castro. In late August, the program will move to its own spruced-up campus adjacent to the district office. But teachers say it will be hard to leave Castro's cultural and economic diversity.

"We are very sad," said kindergarten teacher and PACT co-founder Bonnie Malouf. "We have made some good friends at Castro."

Malouf helped start PACT nearly 13 years ago with a group of parents who wanted a program "that was more progressive than mainstream," she said. In PACT, teachers adapt the curriculum to each individual child and use hands-on material to challenge students. Parents must volunteer a minimum of two hours a week, allowing students to work in smaller groups.

"It starts with the kids, not the curriculum," parent Andy Fenselau said. "It's not a teach-to-the-test mentality. You can get this by paying a lot of money or by parent participation."

On standardized tests last year, PACT students scored between Huff and Bubb students, the two highest performing schools in the district. PACT's scores were not officially recorded by the sate, but the school tabulated its own scores, and teachers say that as a group white students in the program exceeded state standards. Within the program, English language learners, low-income and Latino subgroups — three widely overlapping categories — posted scores similar to their counterparts elsewhere in the district, falling behind on English language arts.

The now-defunct Mountain View School District started PACT as a pilot program at Slater School in 1996. After Slater closed down in 2005, PACT moved to Castro, where it has been ever since. There are currently 200 students in the program and over 100 interested families with incoming kindergarteners.

The program's new site will have portables facing a quad. PACT parents said they will not hire a librarian and will pick up hot lunches to help reduce district costs.

Teachers and parents say Castro has become an integral part of PACT, and it will not be easy to leave. Nearly 25 percent of PACT students are Spanish speakers from the Castro neighborhood.

The program eventually formed a bridge committee to include Latino parents, and the committee sold tamales last year to help parents raise the suggested $200 donation from each family to enroll in the program. Working parents are able to volunteer on the weekends or in the evenings.

"PACT is all colors. We celebrate diversity," Bartlett said. "One of the misconceptions is we are only available for parents who don't work."

Despite the newfound connections between program and campus, administrators say the overcrowding — both within the program and at Castro generally — forced the district's hand.

"Do you think the district would be giving PACT its own site without any reason in this economy?" Malouf said.

In an informal bridge committee survey, 50 percent of the Latino families said they will move with PACT, 25 percent said they were unsure and the remainder said they would stay at Castro.

Many of these parents are concerned they will not have transportation to the new site, or that they will not receive free or reduced-price lunches or after-school care there. But district staff and PACT parents say they're working to make sure that all these programs are available on the new campus.

E-mail Casey Weiss at


Posted by sunny, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 20, 2009 at 6:37 am

I didn;t know that PACT had so many hispanic students. Or that they actually HAD to move. I always heard that they were snobs. Maybe there not so bad after all. I don't know, though. Sounds like they are kind of different. Maybe there just wierd Or maybe not. Id sort of like to see there program but Im sure they don't just let you walk in. Any ideas about that?

Posted by Bonnie Malouf, a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 20, 2009 at 8:11 am

Sunny - It's great that you are thinking of visiting PACT to find out for yourself what it's all about. PACT does, in fact, welcome visitors and we frequently have them. C Our official tours are over for the year, but check out the PACT website at Web Link and send an email through the "Contact" button or call Castro School to set up a time to visit. We'd be happy to show you around. Bonnie Malouf, PACT teacher

Posted by S., a resident of Castro City
on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:55 am

Bon Voyage, PACT!

Posted by Slater Mum, a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Ms. Malouf its sounds like your selling this program the pact not teaching.

Posted by Bonnie Malouf, a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 21, 2009 at 10:00 am

Believe me, Slater Mum, I do teach - a lot. The Voice reporter called me and asked me for an interview, so I gave her one. Also, my comment to sunny was simply an offer for clarification. We don't welcome visitors to persuade them - we wecome anyone who asks to see what we do .One of the greatest pleasures of my life is to get to know children and help them grow and learn about this big wonderful world of ours and about how they can fit into it and make it a better place. This pleasure is, of course, shared by all teachers.

Posted by Kender, a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

Sunny is a fake.

Posted by Frances, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Where does the 100 student figure come from? Is that the number of applicants for kindergarten for PACT for next year? Or the number of parents who went on tours?

Posted by Christine, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

We are from out of district and have applied to four parent-participation schools in different districts in the Bay Area for this coming year. I have to say that it seems that the Mountain View School District has far more "issues" relative to the others. I have already encounter so much bickering. Why is this? Frankly, it's got me worried that if we end up at PACT we will be dealing with this for the next decade. Why is there seemingly so little district support for a school whose program-type has been proven for many years and in many different districts to work so well relative to traditional public schools? The other three partent-participation schools we've applied to seem to have tremendous support from their respective districts. I'm not understanding why it appears to be different for PACT. Anyone?

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