School board considers potential K-8 models

Staff highlights dual language immersion, IB program at hour-long workshop

The Pleasanton school board started talking over possible kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) pathways to be implemented on the north side of the city during a workshop last week that sparked much dialogue and excitement from trustees.

The hour-long session on March 27 was deemed too short for the full overall discussion, so the board decided to continue the conversation by folding it into another workshop (set for April 10) on facilities planning and the district's most recent enrollment report -- topics that also address capacity issues in northern Pleasanton.

"I think that this is super exciting," trustee Jamie Yee Hintzke said during the workshop last week. "I mean, this is really the next direction our school district needs to go in."

The conversation about new educational programs comes as the board has been considering whether to open at least one new elementary school in the near future to address existing and projected overcrowding at schools on the north side of town.

No decision has been made about whether to build a new school, let alone the potential location or if it would be traditional K-5 or the district's only K-8 campus, but the board is looking at its options.

Staff briefly presented 10 different models for specialized learning that could be implemented as part of a potential new K-8 school: LEAD (literacy, enrichment, academics and digital arts), a dual language immersion program, project-based learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), International Baccalaureate (IB), Montessori, an international school, STEAM (STEM subjects plus arts), a visual and performing arts academy, and a Waldorf school.

Jenni Tyson, director of elementary education, said that a non-specialized K-8 campus is also an option. In her staff report, Tyson included research indicating that a K-8 model could lead to improved academic performance for students, particularly pointing to the advantages of having fewer "transition" years.

These specialized programs could be implemented as stand-alone or in conjunction with one another, according to staff. Some of these -- like a focus on STEM and project-based learning -- are already being used in classrooms throughout the district.

Staff chose, however, to spotlight two options: a possible Mandarin dual language immersion program and the IB program.

"In light of our desire to be global, in our preparation for students, and we say that we want our students to make a better world, we decided to highlight a couple that have global connections," said Odie Douglas, assistant superintendent of educational services.

A Mandarin dual immersion program might look similar to the Spanish immersion program already in place at Valley View Elementary, he said. Community members have expressed an interest in such a model, he said, and the option could meet the needs of Pleasanton's growing community.

The IB program -- which, according to its website aims to teach students in a global context, "independently of government and national systems" -- would also have an immersive component, as students in the program are required to learn another language.

Trustees overall expressed excitement about the ideas, though they did have questions regarding how prospective models would affect the existing district school structure and students' continuation into high school.

"I would think there might be some requirements and/or limitations on certain programs, with a certain type of facility -- space, layout of a certain school," board vice president Valerie Arkin said. "So I'm trying to figure out how do we mesh those things together."

Douglas replied that right now staff just wants board direction on the programs of most interest, and then they would be able to work on the logistical components, such as architectural design, staffing, enrollment and budget.

Hintzke suggested having the IB and dual language immersion programs operate tangentially, considering IB's foreign language proficiency requirement.

Board member Steve Maher asked if an entire school should be dual language immersion. Superintendent David Haglund replied that a whole-school immersion program can be difficult, unless the surrounding population lends itself to that.

He pointed to Valley View, where the principal is trying to expand and improve upon the Spanish immersion program there. Part of the problem, he said, is that the dual language immersion program at the elementary school isn't aligned with the same program that continues through Pleasanton Middle School and Foothill High School.

"At elementary school, when you're learning the language, you're learning the language at the same time that you're learning math and science," Haglund said. "And yet when they get to that high school level and even in some ways at the middle school level, you're really only getting the language component in your language class, or maybe an ELA class."

Even going outside for recess can pose immersion challenges at Valley View, he said. If a program were wholly immersive, students would be speaking Spanish (or Mandarin) outside too.

Three members of the public spoke during the public comments section, with Tonya Bass asking how a K-8 program would affect special education classes. Board president Mark Miller responded that while trustees could not specifically reply to her comment, that concern would certainly be addressed.

At the April 10 workshop, the board is set to continue the discussion on the K-8 models in the context of the updated demographics report and its student enrollment projections.

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4 people like this
Posted by Retired teacher
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Apr 3, 2018 at 10:24 am

Extremely disappointed to read the article about a possibility of K-8th school. I am a retired teacher who taught 40 years in a school district that had s K-7th program. Two of our children were in this program through the elementary and high school years. Unfortunately, we observed that the quality of education, social, and discipline issues went down with the program. We moved to Pleasanton 25 years ago to put our third child in a traditional middle school and high school. We could not believe the difference with the education, less disapline and social issues for the children. We hope the board reconsiders K-8 School in Pleasanton.

5 people like this
Posted by Union moritorium on new schools
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Have you ever noticed that the union teachers in Pleasanton, current or retired, seem to NEVER want new schools in Pleasanton regardless of combination or permutation of grades are intended for the new school? It doesn't matter what form the school is - high school, middle school, K-8, K-5, K-3, 3-5.

The teachers just don't want new schools. Period.

So sad.

4 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Retired teacher, I’m sorry your experience in K-8 was negative. Pleasanton, not long ago has K-6, 7-8, 9-12 schools until “caught I the Middle” was published. My experience is that, with proper programs, any school combinations can be excellent.

Union, the reason most educators and some board members don’t want a new school is pensions and future raises they feel are threatened by operating expenses.

4 people like this
Posted by Jimmy The Jet
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2018 at 7:38 am

Jimmy The Jet is a registered user.

"Union, the reason most educators and some board members don’t want a new school is pensions and future raises they feel are threatened by operating expenses."

Most teacher I talk to want a new school. They feel that some TK-5 schools are crowded. Almost 800 students is too much. Traffic is bad and playgrounds are crowded. That is a sweeping statement about teachers.

4 people like this
Posted by Union moritorium on new schools
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2018 at 8:22 am

Why does Pleasanton only have two comprehensive high schools? And why are the middle schools and elementary schools so overcrowded. If the teachers' union wanted new schools, Neal would have been built years ago. Instead it is a field full of weeds and scrub brush. Every time a new school has been proposed, there is the outcry from the union that the new school will cost too much in terms of "operating expenses." If an elementary level school is proposed, then the union co-opt parents to turn up to school board meetings as well opposing it saying the new school will take away funds from the existing elementary school that their little darlings attend currently.

I think that Kathleen is right, but there are issues of power and control with the local union wanting to control everything and they want every penny to go to them even if it means absolutely no innovation - no new schools, no new facilities anywhere, no instructional materials, no classroom supplies, no libraries, no charter schools, no magnet schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 4, 2018 at 9:02 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I will pull all my donations and support for future ballot measures of they fail to deliver on this new school.

Where is Matt to wage legal warfare on This?

Or better yet, who can direct me to a legal process to do the same he's doing to costco and the city here. We should use the PPIE funding to do so. Huge message by doing so.

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:03 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Jimmy and Union, I would not argue that teachers do want new schools, especially those in portables. I can qualify my statement to say leadership: union, DO, some Chamber members, and what information they tell the board about the budget and enrollment (which is consistently wrong).

I watched a grandchild recently squeeze a penny flat in a machine. I felt that was akin to what is being done to students. Squeeze the budget, squeeze programs, squeeze the kids onto campuses, squeeze the campuses with more portables.

I would add my donations to fight another bond. Past, current, and future students (our community) is being asked to pay for intentional neglect—allowed by the state and acted on by the administration about ten years back. They handed out big raises rather than care for our facilities.

1 person likes this
Posted by P Parent
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:12 am

am curious as to WHY some here oppose a K-8 school in Pleasanton. I’ve attended K-12 schools and I found them to be positive in the way of a greater sense of community in that the older kids had more connections with both caring adults and younger kids. Likewise, the younger ones have a clear line of sight to middle school which will make the adjustment that much smoother.

2 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 4, 2018 at 11:40 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

P Parent,
I think they work in smaller communities, how big was the school population you experienced?

When you have a community with multiple classes of grades per school and multiple schools the effect is lost.

Again, here, intent and motivation are more concerning. This is being proposed not because its the optimal solution, it's being proposed because its the union friendly solution. This terrorist organization needs to get out of all discussions. Needs of the students, followed by community, followed by employees, need to dictate what and how. Not union interests

3 people like this
Posted by Union moritorium on new schools
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2018 at 2:48 pm

The fact that students lose significant academic achievement because of the "Middle School Plunge" is a well known research finding - Web Link

It seems like 6-8 middle schools have been such a disaster than school districts across the nation have converted to a K-7 and 8-12 model or something similar like K-8 amd 9-12 model and eliminated middle schools completely.

Middle schools in Pleasanton are an extension of elementary school and do not prepare students for high schools. If middle schools were eliminated entirely, also the high school population could be spread out among Foothill, Amador and one or two re-deployed middle school sites.

10 people like this
Posted by Pipedreams from people who can't execute
a resident of Valley Trails
on Apr 9, 2018 at 9:23 am

All of this talk from Odie Douglas and Jenni Tyson is just the latest set of pipedreams from two people who like to hold meetings and never manage to deliver on anything. IB program? They can't even manage to deploy a reading intervention curriculum in special education. They just have "meetings" about it. We brought a new superintendent and assistant superintendent in specifically so we could move services out from under the hands of these two incompetents. Now we delay building a new school while they dream more dreams about stuff they have no clue how to implement? What a waste of time and taxpayer money.

A K-8 school may be a very good idea. Why? Hart and PMS have done a terrible job. Test scores drop every year our students are in those middle schools. And instead of addressing the poor instruction, they blame students, pile on homework and stress them out until they are so anxious they can't learn. And students who struggle with transitions (ADHD, learning disabilities) are scorned, derided and literally shoved in the cracks. Having one single caring teacher for the whole year could address those problems. Having a school that actually provides resource intervention instead of a homework lab could actually solve that. And building another school would address overcrowding and traffic.

But all these "special program" ideas are pipedreams from people who throw ideas like this out there to delay any real action and decision-making... because they don't actually know how to deliver. And they'll convince themselves that these decisions are critical for the "design" of the school and delay everything, when in reality it doesn't matter. We already see you deferring the money we approved to other places. Just build the school already!!

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