News

Trustee says 'millions' needed to boost Castro students

Nov. 6 meeting to gather community input on splitting school

In an effort to address poor student achievement among low-income and minority students, the Mountain View Whisman school board will host another discussion on Nov. 6 on whether to split Castro Elementary into two schools. The meeting will be held at Castro School in hopes of eliciting feedback from parents and community members in the Castro neighborhood.

The board decided to host the follow-up meeting after a lengthy discussion at the Oct. 23 board meeting on what needs to be done to improve academic achievement for the lowest-performing students at Castro. While the majority of trustees were in favor of the plan to split the school, some voiced concerns that PTA resources might heavily favor one of the two schools. Others said the district needs to do more than split the school in half -- it needs to put millions of dollars into program improvements.

The proposed split would separate the traditional school program at Castro into one school, and the Dual Immersion program into another. Dual Immersion is a bilingual "choice" program in which students receive instruction in both Spanish and English, with the goal of becoming proficient in both languages. As a choice program, it draws district students from outside Castro's attendance boundaries.

According to the Castro Restructuring Task Force, which explored ways to improve student achievement in both programs, students in the traditional program lag behind Dual Immersion students by a large margin in math as well as English and language arts. About 90 percent of the students in the traditional program are English-language learners who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The task force presented its findings to the school board on Oct. 9, and recommended that the district split the school's programs into two schools. The idea is that the teaching staff and the district could better address the needs of the two very different programs better if they are isolated.

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The Nov. 6 board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Castro School, 505 Escuela Ave. The Castro Restructuring Task Force and its recommendations will be the first discussion item, and Spanish translation will be provided.

Two board members were part of the task force, including board president Bill Lambert. At the Oct. 23 board meeting, Lambert said the creation of two schools could be seen as a "positive" challenge for the district to give Castro families two equally valued schools with very different programs.

But he cautioned that the district needs to create a situation where parents choose to send their kids to the DI program or the traditional program based on what's the right fit for the child, rather than choosing the school that's thought to be "better" than the other.

"What I don't want to see happen is one school ... having a reputation of providing better education or being more desirable than another school," Lambert said. "I think that's a challenge for the board (and) the administration."

Board member Ellen Wheeler, who was also part of the task force, said there was overwhelming support by parents to make a better academic environment for the students at Castro the ultimate goal of the restructure.

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"People were just fervent about that. I'm very happy to see that at the end of the process, this was something that is highlighted," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said Castro parents emphasized it was also important to keep the "community feeling" in the Castro neighborhood, and that whatever decision the district makes should not split the community in some way.

Board member Steve Nelson expressed concerns about how well the two Castro schools would pool together and share volunteer work and PTA leadership, which might end up lopsided in favor of one school. He said the relationship between Theuerkauf and Stevenson schools is a good example of how little can be shared by two schools on the same campus.

"If it ends up like Theuerkauf and Stevenson, I think it's a failure," Nelson said.

Board member Chris Chiang said he would support the recommendation to split the school if the district is willing to pour millions of dollars in the coming years into improving the traditional program. He said it's not enough to separate the schools and see what happens next.

"It's not just about separating the school structurally. The 'turn-around' model is about dollars. It's about all kinds of programs," Chiang said.

Until the district identifies and sets aside money to support the traditional program at Castro, Chiang said, he would not be comfortable splitting the school and just "hoping" the money is out there.

Teresa Coughlan, a traditional program kindergarten teacher at Castro, said she is optimistic and happy to hear the board discuss ways to improve Castro's traditional program.

"What you gave me today was a message of hope by focusing on the details on how are we going to fund this, how important it is and how Castro can be a catalyst for academic achievement in the district," Coughlan said.

DI parent David Kessens said he felt the task force was too constrained and only looked at four options, all of which revolved around real estate. Kessens said he was glad to see the board is shifting its focus towards improving the educational programs at Castro and committing "real" money to do it. If the district's goal is ultimately academic improvements, Kessens said, it's not building improvements that are going to make a big difference.

"In the end, it's actually the program that counts. It's the education they get," Kessens said. "The reality is that if you want to do something different, you need to allocate serious money."

Kessens said the district might need to re-think how it teaches the traditional program, which doesn't meet the needs of the primarily low-income and Hispanic students.

"Those kids are not traditional students, they are simply not. We have a traditional program and that is not what they need. They need a program that's actually focused on English learners," Kessens said. "That's what we don't offer today."

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Trustee says 'millions' needed to boost Castro students

Nov. 6 meeting to gather community input on splitting school

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Nov 3, 2014, 10:07 am

In an effort to address poor student achievement among low-income and minority students, the Mountain View Whisman school board will host another discussion on Nov. 6 on whether to split Castro Elementary into two schools. The meeting will be held at Castro School in hopes of eliciting feedback from parents and community members in the Castro neighborhood.

The board decided to host the follow-up meeting after a lengthy discussion at the Oct. 23 board meeting on what needs to be done to improve academic achievement for the lowest-performing students at Castro. While the majority of trustees were in favor of the plan to split the school, some voiced concerns that PTA resources might heavily favor one of the two schools. Others said the district needs to do more than split the school in half -- it needs to put millions of dollars into program improvements.

The proposed split would separate the traditional school program at Castro into one school, and the Dual Immersion program into another. Dual Immersion is a bilingual "choice" program in which students receive instruction in both Spanish and English, with the goal of becoming proficient in both languages. As a choice program, it draws district students from outside Castro's attendance boundaries.

According to the Castro Restructuring Task Force, which explored ways to improve student achievement in both programs, students in the traditional program lag behind Dual Immersion students by a large margin in math as well as English and language arts. About 90 percent of the students in the traditional program are English-language learners who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The task force presented its findings to the school board on Oct. 9, and recommended that the district split the school's programs into two schools. The idea is that the teaching staff and the district could better address the needs of the two very different programs better if they are isolated.

The Nov. 6 board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Castro School, 505 Escuela Ave. The Castro Restructuring Task Force and its recommendations will be the first discussion item, and Spanish translation will be provided.

Two board members were part of the task force, including board president Bill Lambert. At the Oct. 23 board meeting, Lambert said the creation of two schools could be seen as a "positive" challenge for the district to give Castro families two equally valued schools with very different programs.

But he cautioned that the district needs to create a situation where parents choose to send their kids to the DI program or the traditional program based on what's the right fit for the child, rather than choosing the school that's thought to be "better" than the other.

"What I don't want to see happen is one school ... having a reputation of providing better education or being more desirable than another school," Lambert said. "I think that's a challenge for the board (and) the administration."

Board member Ellen Wheeler, who was also part of the task force, said there was overwhelming support by parents to make a better academic environment for the students at Castro the ultimate goal of the restructure.

"People were just fervent about that. I'm very happy to see that at the end of the process, this was something that is highlighted," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said Castro parents emphasized it was also important to keep the "community feeling" in the Castro neighborhood, and that whatever decision the district makes should not split the community in some way.

Board member Steve Nelson expressed concerns about how well the two Castro schools would pool together and share volunteer work and PTA leadership, which might end up lopsided in favor of one school. He said the relationship between Theuerkauf and Stevenson schools is a good example of how little can be shared by two schools on the same campus.

"If it ends up like Theuerkauf and Stevenson, I think it's a failure," Nelson said.

Board member Chris Chiang said he would support the recommendation to split the school if the district is willing to pour millions of dollars in the coming years into improving the traditional program. He said it's not enough to separate the schools and see what happens next.

"It's not just about separating the school structurally. The 'turn-around' model is about dollars. It's about all kinds of programs," Chiang said.

Until the district identifies and sets aside money to support the traditional program at Castro, Chiang said, he would not be comfortable splitting the school and just "hoping" the money is out there.

Teresa Coughlan, a traditional program kindergarten teacher at Castro, said she is optimistic and happy to hear the board discuss ways to improve Castro's traditional program.

"What you gave me today was a message of hope by focusing on the details on how are we going to fund this, how important it is and how Castro can be a catalyst for academic achievement in the district," Coughlan said.

DI parent David Kessens said he felt the task force was too constrained and only looked at four options, all of which revolved around real estate. Kessens said he was glad to see the board is shifting its focus towards improving the educational programs at Castro and committing "real" money to do it. If the district's goal is ultimately academic improvements, Kessens said, it's not building improvements that are going to make a big difference.

"In the end, it's actually the program that counts. It's the education they get," Kessens said. "The reality is that if you want to do something different, you need to allocate serious money."

Kessens said the district might need to re-think how it teaches the traditional program, which doesn't meet the needs of the primarily low-income and Hispanic students.

"Those kids are not traditional students, they are simply not. We have a traditional program and that is not what they need. They need a program that's actually focused on English learners," Kessens said. "That's what we don't offer today."

Comments

taxpayer
Waverly Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm
taxpayer, Waverly Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm
10 people like this

I came to the US in February 1975 and was "throw" into a traditional school. I admit, the first several years were difficult as there were no ESL classes. Looking back, I think it was the best thing the school system could have done for me. Success is not only about school spending millions, but it's a concerted effort with the family to make learning English a priority.

I know a family whose CA borned 1st grader hardly speaks English even thought the child attended an all English speaking pre-school. As a district parent, I'm against spending millions on school programs with no accountability from families to make English a priority in their daily lives.


James Thurber
Old Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm
James Thurber, Old Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm
6 people like this

As a public school teacher who taught his first course in 1975 it's painfully obvious it isn't the teachers or the school - it's the local economy. Poor economies have low scoring schools. Wealthy economies enjoy the opposite.

It's all about money, not about teachers or teaching methods or the Common Core or No Child Left Behind. It's local economics. When a parent has to work two or three jobs just to put food on the table they simply don't have enough time to help raise the child and that includes school.

Sorry to be blunt but unless the community is will to help ALL the folks, not much will happen.


Mr. Nelson
Old Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm
Mr. Nelson, Old Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm
4 people like this

Excuse me, Mr. Nelson. You are comparing apples to bananas if you compare Stevenson with Theuerkauf. There was never a community between the two.

If you look at the relationship between PACT (now called Stevenson) and Castro, when PACT was located there, you can compare apples to apples. They ran as two separate schools, but there was a community of people helping the whole school as well. PACT brought the very successful Walk-a-thon and ran it the first year with lots of volunteer help from Castro. The following year, Castro parents help to lead it. After PACT's departure, they ran it on their own - again very successfully.

There was never a community built or intended to be built between these two schools. It was a clear case of one school moving in next door.

Having said that, a Stevenson mom did bring Shakespeare in and both schools were able to benefit. A Stevenson mom brought BAWSI girls to the school and girls from both schools were able to participate. In addition, Theuerkauf allowed Stevenson to use it's multi-use room for the annual play.

It is so important to look at the whole picture before you say things like that! (You should actually apologize to both schools for your baseless claim.)


another taxpayer
Waverly Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm
another taxpayer, Waverly Park
on Nov 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm
12 people like this

I agree with @taxpayer. I grew up in a poor, non-English speaking household with parents who held multiple jobs, yet my siblings & I all went on to earn multiple degrees and have successful careers. Were we smarter than the kids at Castro? No. Were my parents able to help us with our homework? No. We came home to an empty apartment, in a neighborhood where most people would lock their car doors if they drove through. Did we have various programs in school to help us? No. The only difference is that my parents instilled in us the importance of school and emphasized that that should be our first priority.

It seems that various districts have tried various programs aimed at the students and it's not helping. How about we tell the parents the truth - that their children's educational success or failure begins at home? Maybe the money should be spent educating & changing the parents' mindset.


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Nov 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Nov 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm
6 people like this

If I may speak in generalities as a former urban teacher and not specifically to any pending actions before the board.

You can have the worst schools and some will succeed, the question is how much failure are we willing to tolerate?

There was a time when it did not matter if everyone received a successful education, but many of those non-skilled jobs are now outsourced or automated.

The public taxpayer cost of a failed education system will grow exponentially.

We are now left with two options:
Let a large number of students fail, and later publicly subsidize that failure with even greater tax dollars in welfare, crime, and lower tax generation, or stop doing what doesn’t work, and turnaround our schools with proven programs and wraparound services designed to treat poverty as the complex disease it really is. There’s models around the nation and world, and yes many have costs.

A taxpayer should be delighted that some school systems in our nation no longer want to continue the status quo and spend money on the same thing if it’s not working, and rather commit to hard changes that will reap long-term dividends for both children and taxpayers.

Side note, the first state to provide costly universal preschool to poor children was the Republican legislature in Oklahoma Web Link

Christopher Chiang
Mountain View Whisman School Board Trustee
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Mountain View Whisman School District or the school board.


Mel
Blossom Valley
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:08 am
Mel, Blossom Valley
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:08 am
4 people like this

@Christopher Chiang

Comparing California to Oklahoma does not always work.

What is Oklahoma's position on gay marriage and providing services to illegal immigrants?


Sparty
Registered user
another community
on Nov 4, 2014 at 9:59 am
Sparty, another community
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2014 at 9:59 am
3 people like this

Go by Castro and take a look at all the kids that get picked up and dropped off by parents....

at least 4x as many as were picked up and dropped off at my elementary--which fed into one of the best schools in CA (and has been for 30+ years)

Working has nothing to do with it.


Susan
Castro City
on Nov 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm
Susan, Castro City
on Nov 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm
3 people like this

I have participated in several Castro programs through various community groups and am amazed at the vitality and interaction of the students. I also watch all the children who are walked to and from school with their mothers. Some of the parents have cars but I bet many don't.

That in itself limits the scope of interaction with the school and its associated programs. If the parents can not read and write they will not be able to help with homework. Computer? Again no help from many parents.

Adult Ed is clear over on Moffett Blvd...no car no school. If any adult classes were offered at Castro they would have to be at night since most parents work all day. Getting a tired adult to a school at night could be a deal-breaker to start with. The Dayworker Center already offers many classes...perhaps they could be involved in the solution for the parents. Children learn quickly as mentioned previously but if they go home and never get to speak English it slows down the learning process.

I grew up on the Mexican border and there were many non-English-speaking kids. I got to tutor many for several years during Reading since I was already ahead of the rest of the class. Not bragging, just saying. Mentorship is a powerful thing if it can be incorporated into a complete solution.


Hmm
Monta Loma
on Nov 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Hmm, Monta Loma
on Nov 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm
3 people like this

Send the Illegals packing and problem solved.


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