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PUSD Discovery Program Being Eliminated-W/O Any Discussion

Original post made by WG, Another Pleasanton neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2012

Can someone explain to me why the Discovery Program at Walnut Grove was just eliminated, yet parents just got a matter of fact letter saying it was ending?

Where were the school board meetings that discussed this? Or did those happen in those famous secret, behind closed door school board meetings that happen in Pleasanton that we all hear about?

Comments (37)

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Posted by Lisa
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 30, 2012 at 11:45 am

Dear WG,
Instead of accusing the school board of "secret, behind closed door school board meetings.." as you say, did you contact your school principal first? If so, what did he say? If not, why didn't you just call and ask? 426-4250


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Posted by what is it?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

What is this program? We don't have it at our school so I doubt it's a Pleasanton wide school program and therefore not a school board issue. Probably best to ask your principal as the previous poster suggested.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

You know as well as all parents do that principals can't suddenly eliminate programs without authority and direction from the school board and district administration. The principal has delivered the message from decisions of decision makers that are above him, at the district office.

There are two meetings later today AFTER the notice it was eliminated. That means it was a done deal without any consultation or notice to the community.

I'll bet that the school district administration made this decision weeks ago, but did not want to make it public after all of the negative publicity about the drug sniffing dogs and the elimination of the Barton reading program.

Parents have been left in the dark and I agree wholeheartedly with the following that was sent last night:

'1. There has not been any prior communication with Discovery parents that would indicate that a cancellation of the program is being discussed.
2. Discovery parents have not been involved in the decision making process.
3. The reasons or benefits of cancelling the program have not been communicated or explained.
4. There are no academic or educational reasons to cancel the program. The program has been successful for decades.
5. There are no benefits to the budget from cancelling the program. Cost per classroom is identical or at least similar for Discovery and traditional classes.

We believe that the Discovery Program is a very successful and valuable program and we do not accept that it be cancelled for no apparent reason or benefit.'


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Posted by what is it?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm

So please tell - what is it? And why don't all schools have it if it's so great?


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Posted by D.O. knows
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

The answer is affordable/low income housing unit children from the big apartment complex sketches on the front cover of the Pleasanton Weekly a couple of months ago will soon be built and need a school to go to.

About a 1000 affordable/low income apt units are about to be approved by the city across from the BART station in Hacienda Business Park and the children from the affordable/low income apt units will soon be sent to Walnut Grove, the mega-elementary school along with Donlon, the former middle school and now large elementary school. This means the Discovery program has to go. But no one in the mgmt of the school system will admit this is the real reason.

They know this neighborhood nearly recalled the entire school board in the mid 90s.

Walnut Grove neighbors were guaranteed Discovery would remain in place, with a very large elementary school, after the school system passed on buiding a school at Del Prado and sold it off to developers.

The school system passed on buying Carden West's leased property just a block away from where these apartment complexes will be built when Carden declared bankruptcy. It would be a perfect location in order to build a new elementary school in Hacienda Business Park. But they passed.

Soon Donlon and Walnut Grove will be a sea of portables from these apartment complexes.


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

about the Discovery program, an article:

Web Link

I was a parent at WG at one point, buy my child was in the regular program. It is a good program, but I did not like how the regular program at WG integrated some of the Discovery program ideas, like multi-age classrooms.

btw, Laursen is a WG parent, I wonder why she as board president, chose to keep this so quiet? Oh yeah, she knows WG is a loud community


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Chris Grant was also a WG parent


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm

and Laursen was in the PTA at WG, and if I recall correctly, she received a lot of support from the WG community when she ran for the board. Grant also received a lot of support.

So you got what you asked for. You cannot vote for your friends just because of your friendship. I did not vote for either of those two but remember getting the emails from the WG community asking me to support Grant, Laursen.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Several elected overlords tried to shove these changes through overnight before anyone literally woke up and smelled the coffee. Didn't mention it on the cut list and surely those pesky reporters won't find out. Just send the parents a little 'done deal' letter and they won't even pay any attention, especially right before spring break.

After all, you throw the frogs in a pot, turn up the stove's gas burners, and see how long it takes before the frogs notice the difference. Takes a while.

The frogs have noticed.

Extremely disappointed that Laursen and Grant would even attempt to pull this off.


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Posted by Pike Byson
a resident of Rosewood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Unbelievably deceitful. Where's the public hearing? Why are our kids at Walnut Grove discovery program being thrown under the bus? We need to know.


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Posted by what is it?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

OK, saw the link and see what it is. But why do you think this has anything to do with the school board - I just can't see that it's any of their business? If there is no cost impact, why would they get involved?


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Posted by What is this?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm

From the link someone provided it sounds like they do not think they can handle the larger class sizes in this setting and that is the main reason for ending this program.

The state of ca educational funding is pathetic. And the taxes being proposed are not really going to save schools unfortunately as the money is needed elsewhere.

As usual on a state and local level it seems a ca tradition to cut the most popular things to get people's attention.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

You might be right "What is it." Thank you for your insight. You may be absolutely correct.

Maybe the head superintendent Amadi and school board president Laursen and the financial superintendent Luc Caesars have formed a triumvirate (political body with all the power) and are indeed acting alone and haven't even notified or consulted with the remainder of the school board that they have decided by themselves to dismantle this program.

Maybe this program is being dissolved behind closed doors along with laptop immersion (after all no money in the Sycamore Tech Acct no more according to the Plstn Weekly) and ROP and the Dual Immersion Program and AVID and all the other programs discussed at the main district web page described along with the Discovery program at the main district web page Web Link


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Posted by what is it
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm

. . . or maybe the principal and teachers at WG decided it would no longer work with a 30-1 class size . . .


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm

The program started when there were 30 kids or more. In this old Pleasanton weekly article Rich Puppione and the School Board meeting to discuss enrollment (the so-called district wide declining enrollment that never came to be) and the Discovery program, he says there were 30 Web Link

Principals and teachers aren't authorized to end Dual immersion and Discovery without the district office directing them to pull the trigger. The patch says the discussions have been happening a long time. The quote is that it has been several years in the making which means the parents and public weren't even wasn't told.

Pathetic.


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Posted by what is it
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Interesting. If it's not class size (as the update on the other article seemed to indicate) then what is it? If the district is involved, I can see why parents are upset that there hasn't been public discussion. I honestly didn't think this was possible.


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Posted by what is it
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I hope you find some answers. CA seems to have an unpleasant tradition of cutting things that hurt to make people cough up $'s for the things they care less about (rather than cutting the things that people care less about!). There's probably a better explanation in this case though as it's a well regarded school and program.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Many school board meetings back to the time when Bill James (a good superintendent) was superintendent had the board approve or modify the Discovery Program. It goes back many years when class sizes were very high.

CSR was phased in over several years with first grade 1997-1998 (20 students), then second grade 1998-1999 (20 students), much later than the Discovery Program came into being.

It can't be class size because at least back in 1997, Discovery had an enrollment of 5 teachers with 160 students, meaning 32 students per teacher.

I'd say it has nothing to do with class size but maybe one of the posters above is correct. It is being canceled in order to re-align attendence boundaries and move the Hacienda Business Park low income housing neighborhoods about to be built near Hopyard Road into the Walnut Grove attendance area.






































































































































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Posted by member
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Mar 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I attended the meeting---here are the FACTS

1. School Baord had NOTHING to do with this decision---this has always been an alternative site program not a District run program.
2. District had NOTHING to do with this---staffing allocations are based on # of total enrollment regardless of programs.
3. Class size has NOTHING to do with this---this program has operated successfully for over 30 years...well before CSR...and well after...30-1 makes no difference other than it forces the administration to actually figure out how to balance the classrooms.
4. This came as a complete surprise to MOST if not ALL parents. No prior communication that this was even under consideration. Only after many complaints did the Principal even offer an evening meeting to discuss. A simple 2:00 "coffee" was first offered.
5. After many reasons were refuted by parents as to why it was being discontinued for much of the meeting, it was finally admitted that staff had decided it was no longer viable and they wanted to discontinue the program.
6. There is NO concrete plan moving forward as of this evening other than to say the children's best interest will be put first and we should trust they have the best intentions. They will get back to us when they have a plan.


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Posted by Why
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2012 at 12:09 am

"it was finally admitted that staff had decided it was no longer viable and they wanted to discontinue the program."

Why?


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2012 at 6:49 am

Maybe "member" did not think class size had anything to do with it, but here is what another person who attended the meeting had to say about it:

"All told, my take away is that this decision has been a few years in the making and is being driven primarily by two things: the creeping increase over the past three years in elementary class sizes from 20-to-1 at the lower grades to an expected 30-to-1 the coming two years and a loss of Discovery teachers, either from layoffs or regular attrition/retirements.

While the letter sent home by Vranesh understandably attempted to put a positive spin on the change (let's unify the school, etc.) the teachers there Friday afternoon were quite honest in saying that if they could maintain the integrity of the more than 30-year-old program with smaller class sizes they would continue it."

Web Link


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2012 at 6:54 am

One of my children attended a program similar to the WG Discovery one when my child was younger. The program was a parent participation, multi age program, and yes, class size is important. You cannot run that kind of program with a big class size.

I personally liked the regular program better, so my child only stayed in the discovery-type program for one year, but I know other parents whose kids do not do well in the regular schools and thrive in a discovery type of program.

Again the administration is showing poor judgment. Even if Discovery teachers do not have seniority, they should not be displaced by more senior teachers not familiar with the program! Unions again act in the best interest of union employees but at the expense of the students.

Unions must end. Either that, or they need to be reformed so seniority is no longer what decides which teachers go and which stay!


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

The funding comes from the District. The site will not be able to end this program without Board approval. Suggest that everyone email the Board here Web Link with complaints at email addresses listed here then turn up to their next meeting Monday April 23 at 7 PM which is a joint meeting with the School Board and the Pleasanton City Council at the City Council chambers at 200 Old Bernal and speak at the beginning of the meeting as well as Tuesday April 24 at 7 PM which is a School Board meeting at the school board office.


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2012 at 11:43 am

The letter from the principal is on the WG's website.

After reading it, to me it does not sound that bad. Of course, the discovery parents may feel otherwise. But even though they are getting rid of the multiage classes, they are allowing kids to loop with the teacher to the next grade level. I don't see how kids can perform academically in a crowded multiage class. imo, kids in the upper grade would fall behind and those in the lower grade would struggle to keep up. What worked when we had smaller class sizes will not with bigger classes.

It looks like the decision was driven by budget cuts (some discovery teachers will be displaced by more senior ones and class size will increase). But the main reason is the class size increase.

The district has refused to do the right thing and keep cuts away from the students. We still have car allowances, the PIO, etc, and yet we are cancelling Barton, the Discovery program, etc.

I hope we can replace Grant with a good board member in November, that way Laursen and Bowser will be in the minority and will no longer be able to approve bad proposals.

Unfortunately, the cancellation of the discovery program affects a small number of students, so unless the discovery parents convince other elementary parents to join their effort to lobby the district, I doubt the board will change the decision.

Discovery parents need to get together with the rest of the elementary parents and lobby to keep CSR. CSR is key to the discovery program but it is also beneficial in the regular schools.


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Posted by Facts
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 31, 2012 at 11:46 am

The School Board does not approve a programatic change.


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Posted by Parent from Both Sides
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

As a parent with experiences in both Discovery and Traditional classes, I believe it is time for Discovery to end in WG. I have been wondering about it for many years now, not knowing that plans were already brewing for it. 40 years ago, when two legendary WG teachers started Discovery, it was welcomed as revolutionary, innovative and progressive. It was lauded as a wonderful forward-thinking program with the aim of optimizing learning and collaboration.

40 years later, the traditional classrooms have caught up with the Discovery teaching strategies and ways. Any present credential and undergrad educational programs in our colleges and universities all teach the many Discovery themes as standard curriculum now.

Students in the traditional classrooms score as well as the ones ion Discovery. They are as happy as the ones in Discovery. Visit any traditional classroom in WG and you will not see any glaring differences in how students learn and how they are taught. Even traditional classrooms had multi-age classes (K/1 and 2/3 I think) a few years ago when student enrollment just made it that way.

It is time for WG to be unified, with no "us" and "them" and integrate everything that is great about both programs into one awesome Walnut Grove.






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Posted by Don
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 2, 2012 at 9:11 am

The principal has a son who goes to the Dual Immerison program. His child is in a school with in a school. So for the fact that he says he doesn't like that, than why is his child in a program like it?? Discovery is special to Walnut Grove and Pleasanton. They should try and work it out to keep this program just like the Dual Immerison program. They could do more to mix the two programs together. I feel bad for all the kids of Walnut Grove. It is not just the Discovery Kids who will be effected. The other kids could end up in an old Discovery type class without the approval from there parents. The principal is not a good fit for this school. He was placed here at last minute and it shows!


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Posted by JILL
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Apr 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

The School Board does not approve a programatic change, he made this choice with only a few teachers. These types of changes SHOULD go threw the school board and only after hearing from parents!


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Posted by Marcia
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Apr 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

The only writing above worth anything was from Parent from both sides. I, too, experienced both many years ago. I, too, believe Discovery is due to go. I don't know any details to its departure but I can tell you what I do know and that the few of you who continuously blog about the school board members, and not in kind ways, are pathetic. I know Chris Grant personally and you all should be so lucky as to have the common decency, character, caring personality (just to mention a few) as he does. Shame on you for your stupid comments. Why don't you go and do something constructive with your lives? I see a lot of garbage along the highways.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Web Link is a video that indicates that Discovery was founded 35 years ago with the principles to foster community, and educate children to become self-directed and autonomous individuals.

One of the best known teachers in this community is Christine Bourg who was one of the original teachers for the program.

Fostering community means involving the community (e.g., the Pleasanton residents, not out of town former board members and their relatives) in any decision involving this program. Fostering community does not mean unilaterally making a decision behind closed doors to shut down this program.


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Posted by Marcia
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Apr 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Chris B was one of the most political teachers I/we ever knew. There were many times parents and school staff wondered if she spent more time doing politics than teaching. Sad. She and a couple others polarized the school way back then to the point of concerned dysfunction. WG was not united because of her and a few other (Discovery) teacher(s)/parents. The teachers at WG at the time so remember that time. Fortunately, most parents and majority of the school staff rose above it enough to keep the kids focused and learning. Too bad we lost some really good teachers then. In hindsight, one can't help but wonder if it was directly related to Chris, Discovery and politics. I know. My child suffered academically so bad that serious concerns arose....the last day of school. WE kept expressing concerns but got nothing but praises for our child. Iowa basics told differently.


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Posted by WG
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Luckily in this nation there is this thing called the Bill of Rights and the Constitution so teachers and ex-teachers have freedom of speech, freedom to participate in the political process, freedom to vote, freedom of assembly, freedom to express their views, freedom to be an independent thinker and freedom to participate as an active citizen in this democracy in spite of the having to work through somewhat difficult situations under leadership where school boards have not been able to keep their promises.

Christine Bourg has set an excellent example to the students on being an active, engaged citizen of this community.


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Posted by Parent in Country Fair
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Apr 3, 2012 at 8:53 am

Wow! Now we are blaming our woes on specific teachers? Pretty cowardly to blame a teacher who hasn't been employed at the school for atleast 5 years for the demise of the program. Or are you blaming her for the current situation of education (economy, csr, teachers pink slipped)? You'd think if she had that much power she'd choose something else to meddle with that would gain so much more personally for her.

I've also heard people describe the same situation, leaving CA to another state and finding their elementary schools different or in more advanced. I don't think ALL of these people had the same teacher since they don't all come from the same grade or town.


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Posted by Member
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

Wow, this is sad. My children go to Walnut Grove and now I'm just sad that people are growing so angry. I understand there is disappointment. I'm just sad. Elementary school is new, fun and exciting. Doesn't it feel like our kids were "just born" and now they're in school? Soon they'll be at Harvest Park and there will be plenty of things to be angry about then I suppose. In the past 8 months, four of my friends have lost a parent due to the Baby Boomers aging and illnesses catching up with them. Their kids are now missing out on the wonderful grandparent-grandchild relationship. School is a place of happiness for them. They see their friends, learn from their teachers and feel proud to be a part of place they call "my school". I'm afraid this anger won't stay at the adult level and will spill out onto our children. Life is short. I wish we could work together, support our children through life's changes and spend more time with our loved ones.


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:04 am

"I've also heard people describe the same situation, leaving CA to another state and finding their elementary schools different or in more advanced"

True, but it depends on the individual. My friend just relocated and her child is above level now (in hew new state of Massachussets) when compared to other kids.

It really is up to the kids. The problem with some kids in California is that there is social promotion, and parents demand that their "not at grade level" student be promoted no matter what, and PUSD as well as other districts in the nation have made it very easy for some special ed kids to get promoted (and some even make the honor roll) without having mastered simple grade level concepts. It is not politically correct to even bring this up, but it is true.

I do not think teachers should be blamed on this one. This is something that comes from the administration (a school would not be able to make this decision alone)


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Posted by Parent and Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:06 am

And to the person defending Grant: are you serious? Have you watched your friend saying YES to everything even if it is not in the best interest of the students?

He may be a very nice friend to you, but he is imo very incompetent and should NOT be on the board.


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Posted by Bird Parent
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

I bet it has to do with the fact that the dsitrict is under the Program Improvement plan for next year.


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