One Step Forward, Two Classrooms Back

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Posted March 16, 2016 by The Argonaut in News

Parents say LAUSD is restricting the growth of its popular Mandarin language immersion program

By Gary Walker

Jennifer Pullen, at left holding the microphone, leads a rally in front of Broadway Elementary School on March 4 Photo by Clio Van Ert

Jennifer Pullen, at left holding the microphone, leads a rally in front of Broadway Elementary School on March 4
Photo by Clio Van Ert

Supporters of a Venice-based LAUSD program that teaches elementary-age students in both English and Mandarin Chinese have taken to the streets in protest, claiming the school district is standing in the way of its own initiative’s success.

At the start of the school year last fall, former LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines slashed the number of seats available for kids entering the Mandarin immersion program at Broadway Elementary School from 96 to 48.

Calling themselves Parents for Progressive Education, many parents whose children attend the Mandarin immersion program — which draws students not just from the neighborhood but from throughout the school district — are now pushing hard for those cuts to be reversed.

The parent group held a large sidewalk demonstration outside Broadway Elementary on March 4 and came out in force again on March 8 during a meeting of the LAUSD Board of Education.

The parents say restricting new kindergarten enrollment threatens the program’s sustainability and its ability to attract new families. Going into the March 8 meeting, 41 of the 48 kindergarten slots available this fall had already been claimed by siblings of current Mandarin immersion students, who receive enrollment preference if they meet English or Mandarin proficiency standards.

LAUSD officials say there just isn’t enough space at Broadway Elementary, which is also home to a smaller Spanish language immersion program and two classrooms of traditional-curriculum students.

Parents for Progressive Education President Jennifer Pullen, a Century City financial analyst whose daughter is a first-grader in the Mandarin immersion program, isn’t buying it.

“When you look at the amount of space [at Broadway], there’s enough room for all of the programs through 2017,” said Pullen. “When you look at the amount of funding that LAUSD has, we don’t believe that it’s a financial issue.”

LAUSD officials say the district is committed to seeing the Mandarin immersion program flourish, but finding space for it has been problematic as the popularity of the program has surged over the last several years.

Broadway Elementary has fewer than 30 classrooms but added four bungalows last year to accommodate increasing enrollment in the Mandarin immersion program. The bungalows were meant to be a temporary solution pending construction of new Mandarin immersion facilities at Mark Twain Middle School, but Cortines scrapped that $30-million plan in the face of intense community opposition.

Following the demonstrations by Parents for Progressive Education, LAUSD officials have decided to grant the Mandarin immersion program two additional kindergarten classrooms — but not at Broadway Elementary.

“After careful deliberation, the district is moving forward with two Mandarin immersion classes at Broadway Elementary School and two Mandarin immersion classes at Braddock Drive Elementary School” in Del Rey, LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King wrote in an email statement. “This is the most viable option in light of space limitations at Broadway Elementary School.”

Pullen and her group argue that the classrooms at Braddock Drive Elementary are essentially separate from the existing program at Broadway and could jeopardize the cohesive program that parents and  teachers have worked to build.

“There is space for the two additional classes at Broadway. I know at least two families who have left the program because of this,” Pullen said.

A small but vocal group of Mandarin immersion parents operating apart from Pullen’s group has consistently called on LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer, who represents Westside voters, to push other students out of Broadway Elementary and give the Mandarin immersion program exclusive run of the campus. Zimmer has repeatedly resisted.

Pullen said her advocacy isn’t about excluding others.

“We would not promote [the idea of] any other program losing their classrooms,” she said.

Zimmer said he sympathizes with Pullen’s group but noted that other special LAUSD programs have succeeded while operating on more than one campus.

“It’s very painful for a lot of parents, but other programs have thrived using this model,” he said.

Zimmer also took exception to claims that he does not want the Mandarin immersion program to succeed, noting that he supported an early effort to relocate the program to Marina Del Rey Middle School and was a driving force behind the Mark Twain Middle School plan.

“I don’t accept that [creating two classes at Braddock] is some signal that we don’t support the Mandarin language immersion program. That is simply not accurate,” he asserted.

How to accommodate increasing enrollment in the Mandarin immersion program has been the subject of controversy almost since the program began in 2007.

A large number of Latino parents whose children attended traditional LAUSD classes at Broadway Elementary held a series of protests after their children were relocated to Westminster Avenue Elementary School in 2014.

These demonstrations accused a small group of Mandarin immersion program parents of working to force neighborhood students out of Broadway Elementary so that the Mandarin immersion students — a majority of them residing outside of the local attendance boundary — could take over the campus.

Mandarin immersion parents who had vocally supported the relocation argued that enrollment of neighborhood students, many of them second- or third-generation Broadway Elementary students from Venice’s heavily minority Oakwood neighborhood, had been waning significantly.

Pullen hopes future dialogue will be less divisive.

“I’m a forever optimist. I want to focus on finding solutions,” she said. “All we’re really asking is for the district to be willing to sit down and help us make this program more sustainable.”

gary@argonautnews.com


17 Comments


  1.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    What Pullen wants is to have her cake and eat it too, plain, and simple. Jen, you want your group of parents to attend a brand new school while the local schools are neglected and shabby. Simply put, her gain would represent a mis-use of tax-payer bond money. What I’m talking about is the email blitz you are doing lately to Lausd officials. You are literally pretending that the work Stop Commuter School did never happened, on top of ignoring the fact that the letter from Cortines to your PPE group is the reason for the move to Braddcock. The parents in your program are being mislead by you. I encourage them, and others to learn more about what happened by going to Stop Commuter School. You can search this online. Read La School Reports articles about the mandarin immersion program in Venice. And do the same with the Argonaut Newspaper. I’m happy that Cortines, and King understand that children’s welfare comes first. Now Mark Twain Middle Schoolers will enjoy peace of mind knowing that there school is safe from the selfish endeavors of your Mandarin School program. Language immersion is an optional path, not a path that should be forced on families with your soft sell approach. The green space, and peace of mind is what we were fighting for most of all for Mark Twain. You can’t just make us forget what really happened. People have the history, and they will remember this. Fight on Lausd!




  2.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    And Cortines said in the Ppe letter to your group Pullen that he does not support the idea of elitism or segregation of any group of students. He is referring to your group Pullen. Do you think the latino and african community will forget this? Not a chance. I encourage the community to read the facts. And thanks for the amazing press you give the public to realize how misleading you are.




  3.  
    Venice Native Loves Flowers

    It sad that their needs to be a domestic push for more people to learn mandarin. That sounds like brainwashing to me. I think the push to make your children hyper competitive will damage them. As for spanish immersion, I think more parents find spanish more useful. That’s why grandview has stayed with it’s spanish program for over two decades. It has survived that long because it’s useful. You never here spanish immersion parents saying Mexico is the next economic powerhouse of the world. And the spanish immersion parents aren’t using Facebook founder as a role model. Spanish immersion parents always say that spanish is “useful”, and easy to learn. Mandarin is the hardest language to learn, and it’s not very useful. Just because our government/corporations do business with China, doesn’t mean Americans or the rest of the world will ever trust China. This does have to do with China. If Susan Wang didn’t try so hard to push that mandarin program on certain “favorites” then begin to push away “neighborhood” children the mandarin program wouldn’t exist at Broadway. Broadway would have been a good neighborhood school like Grandview or Beethoven. That domestic push for mandarin immersion hurt the community as a whole. The propaganda about having our eyes all on China isn’t going to work. I don’t support an immersion program that has it’s roots in communism.




  4.  
    Venice Native Loves Flowers

    The displacement of latino and african families which is part of gentrification is playing a huge part in The Oakwood area of Venice. I think what Cortines was getting at in one of his letters to Parents for progressive education, is about why is their so much focus on The Mandarin Program to grow so much, while side lining the other programs at Broadway. That is what he meant by elitism and segregation. Susan Wang just says because it’s popular. Ping pong can be popular if you put your effort into it. At Mark Twain their is a Magnet Program for language. Parents flock to that program in herds to make sure they get their kids a spot. The difference is it’s well balanced and nobody plays favorites there. The parents in the community are concerned about green space as well. It’s like what Cortines said to Bmi Parents group in that letter about having enough “space”. Susan Wang, or Jen Pullen I don’t think never really considered the community when she conceived the idea of having a feeder school, or a school that would be k-8. The traffic armageddon is still much alive today, but we are also fully aware of other implications that could occur if The Invasive School were allowed to be built there at Mark Twain in the future. The $30 million dollar sign was enough to make people aware of how unfair the whole Mandarin Plan really was.




  5.  
    Venice Native Loves Flowers

    Cortines said in his letter that space limitations clearly exist, and that residents student must be served first. And furthermore, he noted that that the Spanish Language immersion program has not expanded beyond two classrooms per grade level. And you want to talk about diversity for the world! You are clearly playing favorites with the mandarin immersion program by setting the spanish immersion on the sidelines! It clearly states in the letter what the mandarin immersion program needs to work on, and they totally ignore this. Cortines realized that children do need the space. Like Cortines said, their is not one place for french, not one place for spanish, and not one place for mandarin. Their should be multiple places.




  6.  
    Venice Native Loves Flowers

    The remarks about minority demographics are deeply rooted in elitism, bigotry and segregation. You cannot define a community based on scientific data. Rich, poor, young, old, and yes “minorities”, we all exist and we count. I am happy that Cortines supported our Stop Commuter School cause. He made people realize we matter too. Don’t try to over shadow us, or undermine our good intentions as community citizens. Jen Pullen, our “minorities” never will cease to exist. We will be here regardless of whether gentrification trys to push us out. You can’t get rid of us. This is our community too, and our roots, our cultures are to strong to destroy.




  7.  
    Venice Native

    The displacement of latino and african families which is part of gentrification is playing a huge part in The Oakwood area of Venice. I think what Cortines was getting at in one of his letters to Parents for progressive education, is about why is their so much focus on The Mandarin Program to grow so much, while side lining the other programs at Broadway. That is what he meant by elitism and segregation. Susan Wang just says because it’s popular. Ping pong can be popular if you put your effort into it. At Mark Twain their is a Magnet Program for language. Parents flock to that program in herds to make sure they get their kids a spot. The difference is it’s well balanced and nobody plays favorites there. The parents in the community are concerned about green space as well. It’s like what Cortines said to Bmi Parents group in that letter about having enough “space”. Susan Wang, or Jen Pullen I don’t think never really considered the community when she conceived the idea of having a feeder school, or a school that would be k-8. The traffic armageddon is still much alive today, but we are also fully aware of other implications that could occur if The Invasive School were allowed to be built there at Mark Twain in the future. The $30 million dollar sign was enough to make people aware of how unfair the whole Mandarin Plan really was. I thank Cortines for protecting the children in the community.




  8.  
    Venice Native

    The remarks about minority demographics are deeply rooted in elitism, bigotry and segregation. You cannot define a community based on scientific data. Rich, poor, young, old, and yes “minorities”, we all exist and we count. I am happy that Cortines supported our Stop Commuter School cause. He made people realize we matter too. Don’t try to over shadow us, or undermine our good intentions as community citizens. Jen Pullen, our “minorities” never will cease to exist. We will be here regardless of whether gentrification trys to push us out. You can’t get rid of us. This is our community too, and our roots, our cultures are to strong to destroy.




  9.  
    Venice Native

    It sad that their needs to be a domestic push for more people to learn mandarin. That sounds like brainwashing to me. I think the push to make your children hyper competitive will damage them. As for spanish immersion, I think more parents find spanish more useful. That’s why grandview has stayed with it’s spanish program for over two decades. It has survived that long because it’s useful. You never here spanish immersion parents saying Mexico is the next economic powerhouse of the world. And the spanish immersion parents aren’t using Facebook founder as a role model. Spanish immersion parents always say that spanish is “useful”, and easy to learn. Mandarin is the hardest language to learn, and it’s not very useful. Just because our government/corporations do business with China, doesn’t mean Americans or the rest of the world will ever trust China. This does have to do with China. If Susan Wang didn’t try so hard to push that mandarin program on certain “favorites” then begin to push away “neighborhood” children the mandarin program wouldn’t exist at Broadway. Broadway would have been a good neighborhood school like Grandview or Beethoven. That domestic push for mandarin immersion hurt the community as a whole. The propaganda about having our eyes all on China isn’t going to work. I don’t support an immersion program that has it’s roots in communism.




  10.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    I think what Pullen wants is to have her cake and eat it too, plain, and simple. Jen, you want your group of parents to attend a brand new school while the local schools are neglected and shabby. Simply put, her gain would represent a mis-use of tax-payer bond money. What I’m talking about is the email blitz you are doing lately to Lausd officials. You are literally pretending that the work Stop Commuter School did never happened, on top of ignoring the fact that the letter from Cortines to your PPE group is the reason for the move to Braddcock. The parents in your program are being mislead by you. I encourage them, and others to learn more about what happened by going to Stop Commuter School. You can search this online. Read La School Reports articles about the mandarin immersion program in Venice. And do the same with the Argonaut Newspaper. I’m happy that Cortines, and King understand that children’s welfare comes first. Now Mark Twain Middle Schoolers will enjoy peace of mind knowing that there school is safe from the selfish endeavors of your Mandarin School program. Language immersion is an optional path, not a path that should be forced on families with your soft sell approach. The green space, and peace of mind is what we were fighting for most of all for Mark Twain. You can’t just make us forget what really happened. People have the history, and they will remember this.




  11.  
    V.N.

    The mandarin school at Broadway is set up so that only whites and asians are let in. Yet, the neighborhood surrounding Broadway Elementary School is mostly latino, and a large african american population. Not only are they forcing local kids out of Broadway, the mandarin school doesn’t want the spanish program there either. They want to be separate from the spanish program. That is why they put so much effort into their Mandarin School program. They totally neglect the spanish program. It’s true, just look into it. Their version of local kids is white and asian affluent or “well-off” children taking up space and driving out latino and african american students. It should be noted that most latino and black parents aren’t interested in learning mandarin.




  12.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    If Cortines said in his letter to Parents for Progressive Education that he will not tolerate elitism or segregation of any one group of students then why is Jen Pullen trying to ignore this. It’s in his letter.




  13.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    Cortines’s letter to the Ppe parent group. Shows that he is very clear as to why he made that decision to begin with. Jen Pullen is pulling some real over the top stories and covering up the truth. Here is the letter: http://bmi-ppe.blogspot.com/2015/08/superintendent-cortines-letter-to-ppe.html




  14.  
    Venice Native

    The track record of the Confucius Institutes in the US and Canada is troubling. The Chinese govt is using this program for propaganda, even to the extent of seeking to stamp out US/Canadian dissent aimed at China.




  15.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    Even Susan Wang, Principal of Broadway Elementary admits that the mandarin program is mostly caucasian and asian. Read here to see: http://www.mandarininstitute.org/node/85 You are playing pet favorites with your mandarin program while ignoring the diverse communities of the westside. It’s historical record the games you played in the past, and we won’t tolerate it, and neither will Cortines! And click this, and continue reading our history of our battle over diversity in Venice: http://www.argonautnews.com/moving-schools-mandarin-program-ignites-fierce-community-debate/ Cortines’s letter is warning your group that he will not tolerate elitism or segregation of any one group. He is referring to your group in the letter. Cortines is professional in everything he does. And he is so professional that he went out of his way to answer back to Ppe and has given you the guidelines your group must follow. Make no mistake, this letter is for your group, and what he said was professional in all respects. Now you are trying to reverse what he has noted about your group. He is so professional, he even cut it down in size because it was the right thing to do. If you don’t follow the rules, you are a rule breaker. You want to encourage and expand innovation by breaking the rules. That is not very professional. I encourage the public to read more about Broadway’s Mandarin Immersion program’s history, not just the “press” Wang gives on the school site. Wang doesn’t divulge everything and trys to hide the truth about what is going on. That PPE letter was the decision Cortines made based on the truth. And to Pullen: We are here, and we too exist. Cortines’s cut down your mandarin program because you just can’t seem to co-exist.
    From Mandarin Institute article. Click it, site is on top of this reply right above: “Our program is designed so that students achieve academic proficiency in both English and Mandarin and become bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural. There are currently 2 kindergarten classes and the plan is to add an additional grade level each year until we have reached 6th grade. The ethnic backgrounds of the students in the immersion program are a majority of Caucasian and Asian, with some Latino and African American.”
    I was told by a board member from BMI Parents group Parents for Progressive Education that only a few latinos/african americans were in the mandarin program. This board member also told me he does not fully support the way the mandarin program is being run. Read also the article above in The Argonaut Newspaper about how The Mandarin Program pushed latino/african americans out. This article also explains what happened in 2014 to the latino/african american students at Broadway Elementary School: http://www.argonautnews.com/one-step-forward-two-classrooms-back/ I’m informing the public that Jen Pullen is pulling some terrible lies. Blaming Lausd and then downright threatening Lausd that if it fails it will be taken over by these charters and private operators is despicable.




  16.  
    Gabriel Martinez

    The reason why the principal at Broadway Elementary keeps telling the public that the mandarin school is diverse enough is because she doesn’t want to get into further trouble with the district. Ramon Cortines already stated that he will not tolerate elitism or segregation of any one group of students in the Mandarin Program at Broadway Elementary School in Venice California. It’s the letter above from bmi parents parents for progressive education. Check out the link above. Thanks.




  17.  
    Ron

    I feel like someone “trys” to be anonymous but fails here.





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