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Parents fed up with school district's wait list

Original post made on Jul 14, 2011

More than 170 would-be elementary and middle school students have been placed on the Mountain View Whisman School District's waiting list for the 2011-12 school year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 14, 2011, 1:41 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Sean
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

This makes me so angry, I could scream.

There are physical limitations in the world. It is unfortunate, but true. PACT has limited space and resources, as does the district at large, we don't live in a perfect world. No one is entitled to those resources over anyone else in the district, that's why they do a lottery. PACT would have had to add at least 2 kindergardens to get to #45 on the wait list. The district is very up front about what it can and can't do, acting shocked or outraged over the loss of something that was never yours is disingenuous. Despite the fact that my kid didn't make it into Stevenson when he was up for it, I feel lucky that our district even offers this opportunity.

How could Stevenson make room for 'many on the list, if not all?' I would love to hear the plan, as would the people that have been trying to solve it for years, I would guess (follow up questions would have been great here). It takes an amazing lack of self awareness and an obscene sense of entitlement to make the statements these parents made in a newspaper, in my opinion.

Besides which, if these people wanted a better school, they should have bought/leased a house in a diffrent neighborhood, with a school that would satisfy them. Can't afford it? Me neither, life is unfair. It is completely classless for these parents to ask the people of the City of Mountain View to indemnify them for personal decisions they made and later regret.

And if you can't afford to send your kid to private school, it will be interesting to see how you can afford a new house in a neighborhood with better schools. Last time I checked, school quality is a prime factor in residential real estate values.

Posted by Parker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Obviously, Sean is a much better person and parent than these folks moaning and complaining.
He should run for the Mtn View city council. He seems to have a lot of good ideas.

Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Post removed. Please stick to the topic and refrain from racist comments.

Posted by mvmom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

One thing that could be improved is if the district assigned every kid on the waitlist a unique identifier and then posted on the district website the actual waitlists as well as progress made soo far in clearing the waitlists. That way parents could know what movement has happened so far without bugging the district or school staff.

My experience (in another district) was that in the late summer and early fall many people on a waitlist will turn down a spot because their kid is already set in another school.

Another tip for the district is to continue moving people off the waitlist the entire year (not just til October). For lottery choice programs, let families keep their kid on the waitlist for multiple years - at least for PACT. Dual immersion is limited to new kids only in kinder and 1st unless they are bilingual whick makes sense.

Transparency is what would help and could easily be accomplished via the web without identifying

Posted by Margaret from Willowgate
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I totally agree with Sean. And we love our neighborhood school.

Jupiterk - please don't turn everything into your pet topic.

Posted by @mvmom
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm

It is my understanding that the Board approved a year-long wait list a couple years ago. I know that friends of mine received a call in Feb to see if they wanted a spot. So, I believe that is happening.

They do close the waitlist just before the enrollment period for the next year. I can see that they do not want parents to keep their kid out of kindergarten hoping to wait until next year when they can get the school they want.

By the way, I would just like to say that none of the MVWSD schools are so bad that you need to move out of the city....Sunnyvale has one of those. Huge difference.

Posted by @ jupiterk
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I am sure there are blogs where all they do is complain about "illegals". Go to one of them, and leave us to discuss the actual story at hand.

Posted by Bubb Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Having bought my house well before having a kid, I feel lucky to have landed in Mtn. View.

I agree with Sean and could not have said it better. To complain that you only get a superior school (look at the CA state rankings/scores) and not the "best" school in the district is ludicrous. I wish I could afford to move to area with better public schools ... and meet the "optional" donation quota. Ask anyone in Los Altos, what they donate per student per year.

Keep up the good work Mt View Whisman School District!

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Wow. Amazing. My hat is off to Goldman for stepping out in front for this. In the past, the superintendent would hide behind the incompetence of Asst. Supes. Totter or Lairon or spin the topic to the Voice. This is refreshing. Goldman is the type of leader we have been waiting. Not all school news is great news. He's not afraid of telling it how it is. I appreciate the straight forwardness.

As for some parents, the situation unfortunately cannot be remedied so easily, but when the superintendent is willing to set the facts out in plain view, I think it just adds to his credibility.

Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Before you complain about the schools, consider that all the research shows that how well your child does in school depends much more on YOU the parent than the school. My two kids go to Theuerkauf and I am very happy with their academic progress.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Mountain View's PACT lottery sounds similar to Palo Alto Unified's OHLONE Elementary school.

It can be frustrating when you want to select a certain teaching style for your children but can't afford private tuition. It would be nice to expand the progressive approach based on community interest.

Posted by Stevenson Mom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I understand the anxiety over wanting a certain program for your child, I really do. We were in the same shoes a few years ago. However, we had back up plans. I wasn't counting solely on getting into PACT. We went so far as to put down a sizable (non-refundable) tuition deposit down at a private school while we were still waiting to hear back on the lottery. I don't think it is fair to the district to blame them for not accommodating everyone. There simply isn't the space on the Stevenson campus.

I do think the district could do a lot to improve the lottery though. PAUSD and Bullis both have lotteries right after the priority enrollment period ends. The lotteries are very transparent (and maybe even open to the public?), and more importantly they are done QUICKLY. I've found that getting info from the district as to status on the wait list is like pulling teeth.

Posted by What'sTheBigDeal???
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Does PACT really improve academic outcomes? Looking at the test scores, it does not appear (on the surface) that API scores improve. Delving into the demographics of the API scores, it appears Stevenson PACT has far fewer students with learning disabilities than the other MVW schools: about 5%. Combine that with the likewise relative dearth of Socioeconomically Disadvantaged (aka poor) students in the school, and one should expect higher scores. Castro, has thrice the rate of learning disabled and poor, as well as twice the rate of english learners, and the average scores show the result of this. However, look at how the white kids do at Castro (predominately parents who enrolled at Castro for the dual immersion, and likely highly involved in their kids' schooling), and they outperform the Stevenson white kids by a significant margin... in fact, last year they outperformed the same demographic group at EVERY Los Altos school as well. Especially in early education, it is ALL about parental involvement.

Posted by What'sTheBigDeal???
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Just to add to the data... the 'similar schools' score for Stevenson is 2/10... the lowest in the MVWSD.

And to answer an earlier question about the parent funding in LASD...
$1000 per child per year, plus another roughly $1400 annually on your property tax bill for various voter-approved parcel taxes and bonds. Consider the median home price in LASD, and I'd venture most recent LASD families are paying in excess of $20K per year for the privilege. Shhhh... don't tell them about the test scores at Castro!

Posted by Stevenson Mom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I am just guessing here, but I don't think test scores are the main reason parents want their kids to go to Stevenson. It's the different style of teaching that attracted us. Not the test scores at all. Kudos to Castro's DI program though!

Posted by What'sTheBigDeal???
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm

@Stevenson Mom...
I'm sure that's the case, but the article quotes one parent as saying they are leaving MV for a nearby city rather than attend Theuerkauf... which certainly has lower test scores than Stevenson, but is 75% Socioeconomically disadvantaged and has twice the rate of learning disabilities. The Stevenson website stresses diversity, but appears to be MUCH less diverse than the schools parents are applying for transfers from... e.g. Theuerkauf. Does a school with a highly diverse enrollment not teach kids the value of diversity? I'm sure there is more to PACT, so please point me to a good source of info :)

Posted by District Dad
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2011 at 7:14 am

I agree Castro Dual Immersion is by far the best when compared to PACT and the other schools. Our daughter went through it and did extremely well on top of learning Spanish fluently. That's right, fluently. They've got fantastic teachers, one even with a Ph.D who our daughter adored and whom made a lasting and positive impression. Just a thoroughly fantastic person and quality teacher. I couldn't believe it was a public school in the middle of a poor neighborhood. From what I hear, Los Altos just trains to the test and charges for it through taxes and shakedown donations.

Posted by Newbie
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

Can somebody explain the PACT program to me and how it works exactly? Thanks!

Posted by NonSense
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

I admire the work they do in the DI program, but I think it is mostly due to parental involvement and parental educational attainment. There is a DISTINCT difference in the educational outcomes of the Spanish Learners and English Learners in that program. As far as LASD?
I think the claims of teaching to the tests are just sour apples... Many of the things PACT claims as 'progressive' teaching are in place at at least one of the LASD schools (Springer)... significant parental involvement (My wife and I each spent 1 hr per week in the classroom and helped with field trips), lots of field trips, onsite learning garden, respect for one another and our differences, outside the classroom learning, etc.

As far as the shakedown? It may be uncomfortable, but at least the 'parent ask' is voluntary. Taxes are not. When you see such a high state tax bill each year, and know that your kids' school is getting none of that while the majority of schools across the state get your tax dollars, it makes you WANT to donate rather than lose the music, PE, library programs. I'm not saying quality education for all should not be funded from a diverse tax base, but it would be a difficult pill to swallow to see your kids' education suffer while your tax dollars were going elsewhere... just added incentive to step up financially for your own kids education.

Posted by NonSense
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 15, 2011 at 8:44 am

check out their website:

Posted by wise owl
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 15, 2011 at 9:35 am

i wonder what you are complaining about, my (4) kids are going to MOnta Loma and Crittenden and both schools are great. The teachers are very great so far and the staff and principal are extraordinary, they do their best to acomodate your kids and their needs.

The district do whatever they can, budget cuts are everywhere, despite that the school are doing great thanks also to Mr. Goldman to be a great leader (decision about no child left behind: thumbs up)

Nobody is ENTITLED to go to a "special"program. This is public and there are waiting list, it's life. I have also seen parents who waited way too long to register their kids, then this is no longer a district issue, but rather an organizational (or lack thereof) issue from the parents.

And oh yeah, I am tired of people bashing public school, parents can also volunteer (I did that in both school, 4 classes, despite having 2 jobs) then you will see better what's happening in the classrooms and that education is not ONLY numbers and stats...and also remember, kids need their parents support, so many parents rely entirely on the school and the teacher, but in order to be taught properly, kids must learn good manner at home. Teacher has to do their best with sometimes unruly students (and parents)

so before you criticize, the school system, the school, the teacher or whoever, think first if you as a parent you did your job.

Posted by Vince
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 15, 2011 at 10:13 am

If you use only test scores to judge any school, you are making a poorly informed choice. That is a very incomplete way to judge a school, especially elementary schools.

If you can't get your child into Stevenson, and you live in the neighborhood, Theuerkauf is a fine choice.

The best way for a parent to support a child's education is everything you do in the nonschool time, and I'm not just talking about educational activities. Nutrition, recreation, enough sleep, etc, all support a child's education. You don't need a PACT program to play a big role your child's education.

Posted by Kevin Klemm
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

If you have had the wonderful experience we have had and continue to have at Theuerkauf, you would never leave but take advantage of comparatively affordable housing, the district's best GATE program, the new computer lab with 33 iMacs, and the wonderful diversity of over 15 languages spoken without waiting in line for dual immersion. Also, we have many parents who come to the classroom and volunteer and participate and of course, their children usually connect better and do well as a direct or indirect result. I have found the teachers and staff to be organized and enthusiastic and the children to be delightful, humble and eager to smile and learn. What a school!

Posted by Lisa Whitfield
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

It's really sad that there is such gnashing of teeth over how to get out of going to Theuerkauf. Having had our two children there for the past four years (with one now at Crittenden--also a positive experience so far) I can attest that it is really a wonderful school. Theuerkauf has many caring teachers, great resources (including a state-of-the-art computer lab) and lots of nice, hard-working kids whose parents care just as much about their children's education as any other parent in the district. For our family, the diversity is a positive, not a negative. My children have excelled by going to this neighborhood school, not just in terms of academics but also in learning not to fear those who have different backgrounds from our own. We are very fortunate in Mountain View to really have NO BAD SCHOOLS. In this community, your children's experience comes down to what YOUR FAMILY makes it when you decide to invest your energies into your neighborhood school. I have nothing whatsoever against parents who are drawn TOWARD the PACT program because of the unique atmosphere it offers. It's just a shame that people feel they have to run AWAY from other perfectly good options that are right in their neighborhood.

Posted by Huff_Graham Mom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm

After years of appearing like the over-looked step-child of school districts in our area (when compared with the resources available to both the LASD and PAUSD)--I am very pleased with the way our school district is now managed-- more like a business than ever before. With a parcel tax the fraction of either Los Altos's or Palo Alto's and an Education Foundation thatraises considerably less dollars--we have one of the best run, fiscally lean and best staffed school districts around. I attribute much of this to Craig Goldman's leadership and dedication to our families and community's schools. We have great parent participation and an egalitarian attitude towards educating all of our children well(regardless of or in spite of the NCLB --depending on your viewpoint). In the past few years--our schools have been getting better and better- better educated/trained teachers, more programs offered, better math program-while I have heard and spoken with LASD educators who have had lay-offs and cuts in programs (did you know that even though LASD has a Parcel Tax >5X MV's--the school district still asks all the PTA's to pay for all office supplies in every school in the district?) What are they doing with their parcel tax? Who is managing their money and who is showing accoutability over there? I'm glad I don't have to deal with those questions as a parents since my kids are in MVWSD. The fact that we have waiting lists to get in MV schools is a testament to how great we are doing as a school district. Los Altos and Palo Alto can keep their schools to themselves--I for one--am glad my kids go to Mountain View schools!

Posted by Sheldon
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Poor babies. Send your kid to your local school and donate your time there. That is how "weak" school become stronger!

Landels Rocks!

Posted by sdf
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

API score is a very important indicator for how well school system works. I am convinced that a great school should have good API score.

Kids in PACT school have more fun in school in my opinion (relatively more field trips and art focus activities). PACT school Kids academic performance is pretty good (see API score for detail). PACT school help build stronger community because the school gets parents involved.

MVSD should build another PACT school, or expand it.

Posted by LASD parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Just a note to all the LASD bashers regarding parcel taxes, donations, etc. The Los Altos school district just does not have much in the way of taxes from businesses as Palo Alto or Mountain View. We have a small business district that isn't doing too well and real estate taxes haven't grown in the past few years. So I have to say the LASD is doing pretty well with its finances considering everything. Not that there isn't room for improvement!

Posted by mom of 3
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I was sad to read the comments made by the parents regarding their neighborhood school. I completely understand wanting the best for your child and I see many benefits of the PACT program as a choice program.

My children all attended Monta Loma and we found motivated and enthusiastic teachers, parents like ourselves who support the school and a caring, supportive community.

The same is true of Theuerkauf, Landels, Huff, Bubb, and Castro. Each school is unique and special, each with committed teachers and supportive parents. I would be happy to have my children at any of the schools in this district knowing that their success is a partnership of school, parent and child....(wait isn't that the basic philosophy of PACT?)

If you need to move, then move. If you feel you need to pay for a private education then you should. I am the last one to tell anybody what they should or should not do, especially when it concerns their children.

For my money, I love my neighborhood school, it is just the right fit and my kids feel a tremendous sense of pride and ownership to THEIR school.

If you are not satisfied with your neighborhood school, then maybe you can offer to help and participate in making it a better place for all the children.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

It would be interesting to see The Voice write a follow-up article or series on what the limitations are on extending the PACT program, either at Stevenson or another campus.

Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:42 am

The oil-the-squeaky wheel approach is hardly democratic. PACT = white flight from the socio-economic Hispanic underclass. DI at Castro as well. No one wants their little ones sitting next to kids whose parents have little appreciation for education.

Posted by NotQuiteNed
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I'm in LASD, but have a few friends that opted FOR DI, away from Bubb and Huff... so it's not all flight, it also attracts parents to the school (just check out the demographic breakdown of API scores for Castro... there are some VERY involved parents choosing to attend Castro).

@Huff Graham Mom
Check out the per student spending between LASD and MVWSD... almost exactly the same (including PTA, LAEF, and new parcel tax). LASD is not spending money any more or less efficiently than MVWSD, just funded from different sources such that it looks like it has more money coming in. Los Altos may have lots of valuable property, but I would venture a significant portion of that property has not been reassessed any time recently. Yes, shocker... Los Altos has lots of old people.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:34 am

"Posted by irony, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, 10 hours ago

Does anyone find it ironic that the Voice put the story of Jose Vargas pushing for amnesty/DREAM Act next to the story of parents who are fed up with wait lists because of too many students?"

How many of the PACT parents on the waiting list are all for illegal immigration (line jumping)? The same illegal immigration that drives down performance at our schools and consumes valuable financial resources.

Posted by kindermomma
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 21, 2011 at 4:37 am

Sean states it very well, no one is entitled to a choice program nor should a school be forced to expand beyond its current limitations just to accommodate every parent who wants their child to go there. What is a bigger shame is that there is a lot of hype about what the DI and PACT programs offer, what they are and are not and how they truly stack up against other schools in the district in the areas that truly count. The administration and teachers of those schools do a good job of "talking up" their schools and making nasty comparisons about other public school choices because they have to in order to keep the illusion that these schools are indeed "choice." People fall for these stories that if your child isn't in one of these schools he/she will not get a decent education in this city and that does a great disservice to everyone. Parents who haven't taken the time nor really know how to evaluate schools, or whom fall for these rosy stories, and their children are really the losers in the equation because even if they go to their local school they may never open themselves up to the experience being a good one since there is always the thought that since it isn't a choice school their child is being cheated out of a good education.

Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:20 am

Say what you want kindermomma, maybe not PACT, but DI IS a program of choice (hello, Spanish immersion? What part did you miss about that?) with test scores that out perform their subgroups even in Los Altos and Palo Alto! Oh, and BTW, our students are taking the standards test in English and are kids walk away being fluent in Spanish!

Since you live in the Crossing, AKA Los Altos School District, I also have to ask. How's that parcel tax treating ya Tiger Mom?

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