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County plans fresh look at Mandarin charter school in Menlo Park district

Original post made on Jan 8, 2015

Once again a crowd packed a hearing room to listen and speak about the Mandarin immersion charter school that has been proposed in the Menlo Park City School District. This time it was the San Mateo County Board of Education taking the testimony.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 8, 2015, 11:36 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by AME
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 8, 2015 at 12:31 pm

In a school district that has to fund music and art privately, it seems absurd to spend money on something that a few people deem necessary....let them fund it themselves as we do for music and art.....if there is money avaiable for this immersion program, lets apply it to the unfunded music and art programs....

Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

pearl is a registered user.

I'm confused. Isn't Claire Cunningham, the county board's attorney, also a proponent of the Mandarin Charter School? If so, wouldn't that be a conflict of interest? Someone correct me, if I'm wrong.

Posted by MPCSD Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm

CLAIRE Cunningham is San Mateo County Counsel (lawyer advising county board of education)

CAROL Cunnigham is lead petitioner for the proposed charter school. (AFAIK, no relation between the two).

BTW, to clarify, the proposal is to establish a Mandarin immersion CHARTER SCHOOL, not a Mandarin immersion PROGRAM.

Posted by AME
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 8, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for the correction: Charter School is the proper term....I guess I was thinking that an immersion program could well do the job, assuming it is desirable and necessary....

Posted by SP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Come on Barbara Wood. The portion of your article devoted to sharing Ms. Yen's vision and the portion of your article devoted to sharing the specific concerns of the opposition are totally off. How about stating that one woman cited here name being submitted on the petition, even though she ask that it not? How about citing that the 80 families who did sign were nowhere to be seen in the room? How about citing that the only allotment for reduced lunch was added AFTER the petition was submitted? The article is so skewed that it loses credibility. Please present what actually happened on both sides.

Posted by MP Mom of three
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 8, 2015 at 2:29 pm

This article does not summarize last night's meeting fairly. It lasted about 3h, and the few comments cited by Ms. Wood are not representative of the presentations and discussions, just anecdotal.
I attended the meeting last night along with a lot of community members. The 80 families are actually only a goal, which would be reached after strong marketing and community outreach according to Mr. Cunningham's speech (Carol's husband). They do not exist yet. Based on actual petition signatures (44 validated), they are unlikely to materialize.
What stroke me the most last night was that the petitioners are trying to present a Charter school project open to kids of all backgrounds, while only 2 or 3 parents speaking on their behalf last night were not Chinese. Pro-MMICS speakers actually demonstrated by their very presence the segregation that was discussed by the district and several other community members.

Posted by JKR
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm

I like Charter Schools. I like the idea of keeping government propaganda out of the class room. Like Common Core. I would however put a limitation that 50% of the students must be other than Chinese or of Chinese heritage. Ms. Yeh states that this school will help promote "global citizens...of all ethnicities" At least that's what she observed in the Oakland Mandarin Charter School. So let's insure that "all ethnicities" are represented. I say "Yes"

Posted by Andrew Becker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I think that the objections to the proposed charter school far outweigh the potential positives. First, Menlo Park is a high performing school district with an achievement gap that is closing. Therefore, there can be no argument made on purely educational grounds for any form of Charter School, without discussing the specifics of the type of school, within this district.

Second, recognizing that they cannot make an educational argument for a Charter School within the district, the founders are pressing forth with the argument that the school will provide more choices for parents and students. As I stated last night, "choice for whom". Based on the presentations, their own budgets, information provided by parents, the school district and even in responses to questions from the County School board, the following will be excluded from this Charter School (they will not have a choice to attend):

Tinsley Children (absence of transportation and a transportation budget;

The 11% of children with subsidized lunches (there is clearly insufficient budget for this and the founders stated that they hope to get money from the state or federal government to cover this through the school lunch program that they will join after founding---but funding is not guaranteed);

English language learners (unless they are primary Mandarin speakers) as their budget and staffing clearly cannot properly address these children's needs or those of their parents;

All children currently in first through eigth grades currently enrolled in the district (unless they are the 36 Mandarin speaking children in the district)

Children with special needs requiring IEPs and 504 plans that include physical therapy, psychologic therapy, ADD medications (in school), audio-ology and occupational therapy (services provided by the other district schools but clearly based on their budget will not be provided at the Charter School).

In short, this is a new "choice" for exceptionally few students, and may only be suitable for the Founder's children, assuming that they are not found to have any issues when they reach school age.

An absence of need and a choice for a few select students, sounds like a private school.

Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Isn't there a new MI program opening in Redwood City? Seems logical to me that if parents want their kids in an MI program, they should just enroll them in the one in Redwood City. Still free, still public. Redwood City and Menlo Park, while different elementary districts, are part of the same high school district and feed into the same high schools. Redwood City has a new MI program that can receive funding from other districts for accepting students. Menlo wants an MI program, but does not appear to have enough in-district students and would have to pay for any out of District students that it educates. As a County, allowing interested Menlo Park students to attend the Redwood City school makes a lot more financial sense than okaying a Charter.

Posted by MPCSD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2015 at 11:05 pm

I felt that the article was a little light on the details, so here are a few. We had many members of the MPCSD community in attendance and I would estimate that the crowd well exceeded 150. Also, one article correction, one parent captured the fact that there were 46 total speakers, clearly more were overwhelmingly opposed to the petition; AGAINST: 31 (5 teachers; 26 parents), and 15 speakers in support of MMICS. At least 5 MMICS founders spoke, at least 2 more believed to be founders spoke (confirmation on names 1/18/15 when the SMCOE public hearing notes are published). 2 speakers were grandmothers who I do not believe have grandchildren of eligible ages for the school, but this needs to be confirmed. 2 were MMICS attorneys, and I believe 2 parents identified themselves as meaningfully interested in the charter, but it was not clear if their children were eligible for fall. Where are these 80 in-district families who are meaningfully interested in attending in fall 2015? Why did MMICS not encourage these families to attend and support their newly proposed school? Where were the out of district families who are interested? The absence of families in support leads one to believe that MMICS has a petition that does not have 80 in district signatures, and the MPCSD's verification process was correct, there are only ~44 in district families still meaningfully interested. One speaker mentioned that in October 2014, in just 3 days, there were 580 signatures on a petition AGAINST the MMICS this petition AGAINST is up to over 1400 signatures! A show of hands during this speaker's comments confirmed that the majority of the crowd in attendance was overwhelmingly opposed to the MMICS petition.

Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Just curious - there are only 36 students in the MPCSD that speak Mandarin and only MP 44 students potentially interested in this program. So where does the 50 new students a year and a projected school of 450 kids come from?

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