Schools

LASD Trustees Change Course on NEC 10th Site Advisory Task Force

Fortunately the 10th site task force process will be more open and transparent...but
Written by lalahpolitico

Originally at the Jan. 22 trustee meeting,  the newly announced ad hoc NEC 10th Site Advisory Task Force was planned to be a “Superintendent’s committee.” That meant no public comment, no Brown Act rules, but as Superintendent Jeff Baier recommended that night, it would be open to the public to attend…”like a fishbowl.” The mission of the this new 10th Site Advisory Task Force is to gather data useful to the Trustees for deciding what kind of uses should occupy the 10th site: Bullis Charter School, a LASD neighborhood school, a LASD magnet school, or combo/other.

Changing Course on Public Comments

Jeff Baier, LASD Superintendent

Jeff Baier, LASD Superintendent

At that Jan. 22 meeting, Trustee Sangeeth Peruri could not recall how the 2015-16 Facilities Master Plan Committee (FMPC) had been structured? “Was it a superintendent’s committee, or was it a school board committee where public comments were allowed at the beginning of each meeting?” Baier was sure FMPC took no comments, so it was probably a superintendent’s committee. “Even if the FMPC had been a school board committee,” neither Jeff Baier or anyone else present could recall any public comments being made at the FMPC meetings.  Therefore an absence of public comments was not a detriment for this new 10th Site Advisory Task Force.

In subsequent weeks after Jan. 22, Lalahpolitico unearthed video showing FMPC took public comments.  Baier said at the March 12 trustee meeting that several members of the public had contacted LASD staff and trustees to correct LASD’s faulty recollection of the FMPC.  He went on to explain he had reconsidered… and now he was recommending that the new 10th Site Advisory Task Force be structured as a Brown Act compliant School Board Committee and accept public comments.

Bryan Johnson chosen by the incumbent LASD board

Bryan Johnson noticed that traffic and safety was not on the list of topics to research as had been discussed at prior meeting. Thanks Bryan for catching that!

After further discussion, the board voted on three amendments to the original plan for the 10th Site Advisory Task Force

  1. Make it a Brown Act school board committee, accepting public comments
  2. Add a ninth member — a non-parent residing within LASD… and within Los Altos or Los Altos Hills. (Jessica Speiser)
  3. Add an item (9) as a topic to research – consider traffic and safety of the 4 uses/scenarios (Bryan Johnson)

Reference: March 12, 2018 LASD report on 19th Site Advisory Task Force on agendaonline.net


New Online Engagement Software
about Uses for the NEC 10th Site

Superintendent Baier proposed using ThoughtExchange – a system used and endorsed by the Mountain View Whisman and Cupertino school districts – as an internet “discussion board” tool for engaging with the public about the 10th Site Advisory Task Force findings.

MV Whisman trustees used and recommend Thoughtexchange software. This school board used the tool to make a decision on a difficult attendance area redraw. Photo from a video of Mar. 15, 2018 meeting.

Shelly Hausman, Public Information Officer for MV Whisman, explained how the district used the ThoughtExchange service for its recent difficult boundary redraw…

Repeated in-person meetings about the topic kept attracting the same 150 families, while the ThoughtExchange tool let them reach 700 families. The “silent majority” was able to “weigh in, in  a way that is comfortable. Additionally, the conversation was richer because people could add their voice or comment on someone else’s, thus it is interactive and the main themes bubble to the top.”

As for recruitment of participants…”We advertised through direct email to parents and staff, by a link/landing page that is sent to the community members on Nextdoor.com and other neighborhood listservs, advertised in the newspaper and digital ads, and we have sent direct mail with the link to the exchange.”

We do get more participation from parents because we have a direct way to contact them and they are the ones most interested in school-related conversations. With that said, this is a great way for non-parents to participate and likely more comfortable for them than coming to a school meeting.”

Image: Excerpt from ThoughtExchange Website


Screen shot of Thought Exchange features from website. An adjunct to the 10th Site Advisory Task Force

The ThoughtExchange discussion is meant to persuade at least some people to “shift perspectives.” Like on nextdoor.com, one can star/like a comment. Source: screenshot thoughtexchange.com website


The Thoughtexchange contract with LASD for 1 year, costing $20,000 plus 3 grand for setup was unanimously approved by the board.

The “NEC 10th site uses”  proposed by the 10th Site Advisory Task Force is not the only topic the software will tackle this year. ” Major–  thought exchange topics — like the 10th site uses — can have an unlimited number of participants, but can occur only one at a time.  Thus, if that first “conversation” is over by the end of the school year, another major exchange could be launched.

Possible other major Thoughtexchanges:

  • Conversion from Junior High to Middle School
  • LCAP curriculum.

Possible other minor Thoughtexchanges:

  • Any internal staff engagement, up to 150 participants…
  • First & Second year teachers…what can we do to support them better

Lalahpolitico bottomline on
10th Site Advisory Task Force project

Los Altos Downtown Vision

Public comments now will be allowed. Hurrah!

Changing the NEC 10th Site Advisory Task Force plan to accept public comments is a very good thing. However, the group’s mission is tightly restricted – data collection, not analysis, or judgments – as Lalah discussed here. But that doesn’t mean public commenters have to confine their comments to those same restrictions.

Bringing in ThoughtExchange software is a very good thing.  However, Thoughtexchange staff, LASD staff and perhaps one or two board liasons will 1) frame the topics 2) moderate the conversations 3) interpret the “results.” As we all know from surveys and focus groups, one can ask leading questions, omit important questions, code answers to suit, etc. On the other hand, the software wants to show a “shift in perspective” during the “conversation.” Therefore, the conversations should display some divisions of opinion to start… or how else people can’t shift perspectives?

Lalahpolitico will remain hopeful that this upcoming ThoughtExchange exercise about NEC 10th site uses  proposed by the 10th Site Advisory Task Force will be more useful than Conteneo software was a couple of years ago for exploring school site ideas. I covered only the face-to-face part of the Conteneo engagement.  There was also an online part which I did not witness.  Here is the final LASD presentation on the total Conteneo effort.  During the March 12, 2018  meeting, Trustee Sangeeth Peruri asked Baier if Conteneo had been considered.  Baier replied that a face-to-fact effort was not needed.


Abe-Koga supports a NEC LASD neighborhood school

Mountain View Council person supports requiring LASD to use the NEC site for a neighborhood school

Newsflash: The City Council of Mountain View has appointed Margaret Abe-Koga and voted to send a letter saying that the committee should make recommendations. In other words, the MV Council does not think the 10th Site Advisory Task Force mission scope should be limited to just being data research gofers! Abe-Koga and Pat Showalter were the two MVcouncil persons who have been consistently pushing MV council to require the NEC site be used for a LASD neighborhood school in order to get the City of MV bennies.  So far the MV council majority has been unwilling to agree with those two members to reduce the “flexibility” of LASD.

 


Mark Your calendar Mar 27
Teacher Housing Event

Joe Simitian. Our representative on the the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

Teacher Housing Event. The popular County Supervisor Joe Simitian is coming to Almond School, Wednesday, March 27 from 4 pm to 6 pm.  Here is an overview of his recent talk about affordable housing Hug a NIMBY, sponsored by the Women’s Caucus and other organizations. Simitian has been proposing to build rental teacher housing on an acre of underutilitized County land near the Palo Alto courthouse in the California Street area.  It is expected to be open to all North County school districts.

Lalahpolitico: Is it still an open question if this is for k-12 public school teachers only, or does it include k-12 private school, community college…as some have asked?

 

About the author

lalahpolitico

Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.