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A Civil Look At Civics

By Erin Glanville

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About this blog: While state and federal politics dominate the headlines, local issues have an enormous impact on our everyday lives. This blog will attempt to shine a light on topics of public interest and facilitate greater participation in the ...  (More)

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Love Thy Neighbor

Uploaded: Oct 10, 2013

I don't live in North Fair Oaks. My Menlo Park neighborhood is slated to attend Menlo Atherton High School and that has never been in jeopardy as the school board deals with the difficult task of figuring out how it will accommodate projected enrollment growth coming from Hillview, La Entrada and Ravenswood. But what is happening to our "neighbors" from the North Fair Oaks neighborhood is wrong, and as a member of this Menlo Park community, I have an obligation to speak out.

At last Monday's community meeting (10/7/13) held at Hillview, my heart went out to the concerned parents of the North Fair Oaks (NFO) neighborhood. Superintendent Lianides seemed to give the parents of Los Lomitas students assurances that their high school would not be redistricted away from Menlo Atherton (M-A), stating that the Board of Trustees had heard from the Los Lomitas parents "loud and clear" that they wanted to retain M-A as their school of choice. Unfortunately for the apprehensive parents of NFO, there were no similar reassurances. Maybe the anxiety-ridden letters and comments of NFOs parents haven't yet resonated quite as loudly or clearly.

Shouldn't we be consistent when applying values across neighborhoods and to all of our students? The Superintendent spoke admiringly of Ravenswood being a "community valuing choices" in terms of charter school attendance but that nevertheless wanted a single "home school". That same rationale is not being applied to NFO-- and it should be. Because the K-8 schools for NFO perform lower than the other elementary schools in the Sequoia district, a large percentage of families in that neighborhood send their children to private K-8 or North Star in order to have them well prepared for what Principal Zito describes as M-A's "top 40%". Rather than celebrating the fact that those families make a great financial sacrifice to ensure their children are well equipped to succeed at M-A, the board seems to be using that fact as a reason to redistrict them between Woodside and Sequoia. Like Ravenswood, many families within the NFO neighborhood—particularly those attending Garfield or Kennedy-- may choose an interdistrict transfer to Sequoia or Woodside. The fact that some families choose alternative high schools should not be used as a reason strip away the CHOICE to attend what has traditionally been that area's home school from the remainder of that neighborhood. Why is school choice good for one neighborhood, but not another? Why would it be important for one neighborhood to have a single home school, but not another?

Many residents have brought up concerns about what impact the increased enrollment would have on already difficult traffic congestion around our high schools. Ironically, NFO students who actually happen to live within biking and walking distance to M-A seem to be the ones who could soon face the challenge of commuting to a more distant school. If "Preparing Our Campuses For Increased Enrollment" is one of the major strategies for planning (as the District's slide from the Hillview meeting described), why would we INCREASE traffic congestion by forcing all NFO students to cross busy downtown traffic to Sequoia and Woodside? Why would we not have them attend, what has historically been, their neighborhood school that they could walk or bike to?

Initially, outreach from the district to the NFO community was incredibly poor—something the Trustees themselves acknowledged about a month ago as word, and outrage, spread among NFO residents. Communication to the community through the feeder schools did not reach NFO residents, leaving neighbors to rely on news reports and word of mouth information. To date, the only community meeting held in NFO was in Spanish. (A concerned resident at the Hillview meeting had to request that a community meeting be held in English.) To their great credit, the NFO's neighborhood has quickly mobilized. They have put together a petition with 250 resident signatures, initiated an online survey about school attendance patterns in order to supply the Trustees with more granular information, and attended various meetings to make their voices heard. Fortunately, the Trustees seem to be listening as they learn more about that neighborhood. The proof of how much they've listened will be in the upcoming boundary maps that the Trustees draw up.

Board of Trustees: these are my neighbors. These are the people I see at Safeway and at the Halloween Parade on Santa Cruz Avenue. Their older children are attending M-A now and their parents have volunteered for, donated to and been a part of the M-A community for decades. This is relatively small number of people who don't significantly impact the enrollment numbers at M-A, but who are receiving a message that they don't matter as much as the students at Hillview, Los Lomitas and Ravenswood. They do to me. They should to all of us.

Comments

Posted by Tony R, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

Great post Erin! I hope it works out for NFO.

If I understand this right, they are moving NFO kids to Sequoia and Woodside so they can accommodate increased enrollment from Ravenswood?


Posted by Erin Glanville, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hi Tony,

The growth will come partly from Ravenswood, as that neighborhood has requested to be kept together and have one "home school". But the growth is also coming from swelling enrollment at Hillview and Los Lomitas. What can I say?-- we live in a popular place.


Posted by Redmond Family, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

Please do not change our "Home School" choice! Thank you Erin for so eloquently raising and fostering our position in the North Fair Oaks Community. You rock!


Posted by Joyce V., a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:55 am

Thanks for your great blog, Erin. It is heart warming to see that you care about your neighbors (why am I not surprised?). We will need all the help we can get regarding this issue. Thank you to the NFO community for spreading the word, and letting their voices be heard. We may be a small community, but we cannot be ignored.


Posted by Connie H, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:12 am

Erin, bless you for taking the time to write this about such an important issue facing our neighborhood. We were looking forward to sending our 4th grader to M-A. It was one of the many attractive aspects of moving to North Fair Oaks several years ago. She has seen her neighbors (including her babysitters) attend M-A, and it's always been a part of our community. I'm grateful to feel the support of others in Menlo Park for keeping us in our home school. Thank you!


Posted by JF, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

Erin! NAILED IT!

Thank you for this wonderful post. I think it was eye opening for the Board when they were forced to realize that there are really a few communities with confusing labeling falling under the umbrella of NFO. There seemed to be a disconnect in understanding there was a Menlo Park North Fair Oaks and a Redwood City Fair Oaks, with some different demographics and school choice information. We were all alarmed when we found out that this was happening and we were angered at the district's response of "we did our best to notify everyone." Seeing as how most of my neighbors attend private school, this clearly showed that they had no idea what the climate of our NFO neighborhood really looked like. In addition, the number of high school kids that would be attending at any given time is pretty nominal.

I always feel like the step-child of Menlo Park. We seem to be usually overlooked and I can go on forever about the SFPUC and their complete disregard for the quality of life of our neighborhood and the damage and anxiety created by the Hetch Hetchy project.

I am extremely pleased by our small community's outreach. Glad to see someone else is noticing.


Posted by Aidan , a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Great piece, Erin! You hit the nail on the head.

What seems most outrageous to me is how the Board of Trustees have pitted this proposal as Ravenswood's gain at the expense North Fair Oaks. If they cannot come up with a redistricting option that can benefit ALL impacted neighborhoods then they shouldn't do it. As a NFO parent, I am not opposed to sending my children to a better school than M-A but until we see a proposal that improves the high school option for North Fair Oaks families we should continue to voice strong opposition.


Posted by Pat V, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Erin - great post! Thank you for speaking up and being inclusive, fostering a sense of community and fairness and being a good neighbor. This is a very important issue to our community and I appreciate your support!


Posted by Hugo Vliegen, a resident of ,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The Menlo Park NFO community has initiated earlier this week an online survey to better understand school attendance patterns. Already ~ 20% of the households have responded. This data will be made public as soon as possible and presented to the superintendent Lanides and the trustees in order to help them with their decision making process and community outreach. All NFO residents are invited to submit their responses. Please send an email to sp@vliegen.tv with a request to send a link to the online survey.


Posted by OneBDay, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Thank you Erin for a wonderfully thought out note. We should demand that all our children get a top education, not just the ones with the better address.

More interestingly, why doesn't the drop down menu for neighborhood or school community have the private schools? Or Garfield? The Menlo Park private schools educate a lot of the NFO children, and Garfield is their home school.

I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to more.


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