Superintendent Ken Ranella to retire in June

Ken Ranella, superintendent of the Menlo Park City School District, will retire effective June 30, he announced in an e-mail to the school community Wednesday night.

He said that following nine years as superintendent here, 20 years a superintendent in three districts, and 36 years as an educator in public schools, "it is my time to retire."

He said he would submit a resignation letter to the school board for action at its Jan. 11 meeting.

Below is the rest of his message:

"It has been a fulfilling professional journey for me, culminating in service to the students and communities of Menlo Park and Atherton for most of the last decade. Upon my appointment in 2002, the most poignant question was, What are the next steps for quality in the District? Hopefully that question has been addressed during my tenure as we accommodated a growing student enrollment, designed and built 21st Century facilities, developed the finances to weather a volatile California economy, employed outstanding professional educators and staff at all levels of the organization, initiated important educational programs, and maintained the support of the public and the extraordinary participation of parents. Most importantly, I strongly believe that I will leave a culture that is committed to ongoing continuous improvement of all aspects of the District.

"Yes, it is my time, time to consider other personal and professional pursuits, time to explore myself outside of my long-term professional role and most importantly unencumbered time to fully engage with Ginny, my wife and best friend for over thirty-five years.

"The Board of Education has been aware of my decision and has been preparing for the transition. Three superintendent-search consulting firms have been identified, and the Board will schedule January 18 for a Special Board Meeting to review proposals and interview and select one of these firms. The Board anticipates that the selected advisors will engage the staff and Community in identifying the professional attributes and qualities of leadership for the next superintendent. The Board will also keep the School Community apprised during the recruitment and selection process, which should conclude in early spring.

"As for me during the next six months, I intend to fully enjoy and appreciate each and every day of my remaining professional career as the Superintendent of an outstanding School District comprised of committed professional educators and staff members, supportive and active parents, capable members of the Board of Education, and students with unlimited potential."


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Congratulations to Mr. Ranella on his upcoming retirement. Thanks for years of service to education.

Given this opening, maybe this is an opportunity for both the MP City and Las Lomitas School Districts to share resources and potentially save money -- just a thought since both Districts always seem to be in need of more money.

Posted by Menlo Park Taxpayer and Educator, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

If Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Woodside, and Portola Valley elementary school districts would consolidate under one superintendent with one supporting staff, the taxpayer would save a bundle of money, freeing up funds for education without the relentless pursuit of parcel taxes, and still be able to retain its reputation for excellence.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm

"Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Woodside, and Portola Valley elementary school districts would consolidate"
Not a bad idea but I would add expanding the consolidated district to include a high school. That would go a long way to keeping local students at public high school rather than private and would give us the opportunity to have a high school on par with the elementary and middle schools in our area.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

As Bob suggest having a truly integrated K-12 school system would be both more efficient and more effective. It will only happen if there is a massive outcry from the taxpayers demanding that such a wise consolidation occur.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

We have 5 School Districts (each with a Board and a Superintendent) and 11 individual schools - lots of opportunities for increased efficiencies and better integration of the K-12 educational experience:

Las Lomitas Elementary School District
Las Lomitas Elementary (K-3rd)
La Entrada Middle (4th-8th)

Menlo Park City School District
Oak Knoll

Portola Valley Elementary District
Ormondale (K - 3rd)
Corte Madera (4th - 8th)

Sequoia Union High School District
Woodside High
Menlo-Atherton High

Woodside Elementary District
Woodside School

But do not underestimate the outrage and indignation of the current economic beneficiaries of this collection of entities if one starts talking about consolidation.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Mayor Cline said he thought MPCSD should absorb city schools in the Ravenswood school district. I can see how people react worried about that idea, but I see that as a much better opportunity to improve our city than with Las Lomitas. A single school district makes sense in Menlo Park's elementary and middle school. Las Lomitas is at the top of the state, why mess with it?

Posted by Patricia Watkins, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I support Mayor Cline's thought MPCSD should absorb city schools in the Ravenswood school district ... as it should be!

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 11:12 am

To Mr. Carpenter: You only listed 2 schools for Sequioa Union High School District. That is incorrect. Here is the list of the schools, from the district website:

District schools

Founded in 1895, the Sequoia Union High School District serves 8,200 students annually through its four distinguished, award-winning comprehensive high schools, model continuation high school, Middle College (a collaboration with Cañada College), and other specialized programs and services. Overseen by an elected Board of Trustees, the Sequoia district serves the communities of Atherton, Belmont, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, San Carlos and Woodside.

Comprehensive high schools
In 2009-10, all of the district's comprehensive high schools made Newsweek's list of top high schools and ranked in the top tier of the state's similar-school rankings. Read more.

Carlmont High School
1400 Alameda de las Pulgas
Belmont, CA 94002
(650) 595-0210

Menlo-Atherton High School
555 Middlefield Road
Atherton, CA 94027
(650) 322-5311

Sequoia High School
1201 Brewster Avenue
Redwood City, CA 94062
(650) 367-9780

Woodside High School
199 Churchill Avenue
Woodside, CA 94062
(650) 367-9750

Other schools and programs

Redwood High School
1968 Old County Road
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 369-1411

Frank Wells, Ed.D., Principal
(650) 369-1411, ext. 7334

Middle College
Cañada College
Bldg. 13, Room 106
4200 Farm Hill Blvd.
Redwood City, CA 94061
(650) 306-3120

Sequoia District Adult School
3247 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 306-8866

Lionel DeMaine, Chief Operations Officer
(650) 306-8866, ext. 7934

Charter high schools

There are four charter high schools that currently operate independently within Sequoia district boundaries:

475 Pope Street
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 329-2811
Web Link
Chartered by the Ravenswood City School District

1848 C Bay Road
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 325-1460

405 Main Street
Redwood City, CA 94062
(650) 293-1292
Chartered by the State of California

890 Broadway Street
Redwood City, CA 94062
(650) 556-1110

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 11:14 am

I only listed the two high schools from SUHSD which would fall into the Portola Valley, Woodside, Menlo Park, Atherton boundaries of the suggested consolidation.

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

Mr. Carpenter: You still need to acknowledge and list them, as there would be an impact on the Sequoia district if the 2 schools you mention were taken out. Sequoia has a huge network of adult ed, which many Atherton, MP, Woodside and Portola Valley families participate in. The charter schools cross town boundaries as well. Summit Prep has kids from our cities as well. So, it's not just the two high schools that would have to be considered.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Elizabeth - thank you for listing these other schools but they are irrelevant to my comments regarding local consolidation.

Feel free to put forward a different consolidation proposal of your own.

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Peter, they are hardly "irrelevant." You can't just pluck two schools out. There would be a significant impact on our communities abilities to use the adult schools, the charter schools and other services offered by Sequoia. Consolidation might be a great idea, but you can't just ignore the whole picture. I know that you don't like to be corrected or wrong on any issue, but in this case there is more to consider.

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Peter, in response to your comment that I should put forward a consolidation proposal of my own, I am not proposing a consolidation, you are. While it might be a good idea, I would need to research it more and not just randomly throw out ideas. I do suggest that if you pursue this you do consider all factors, including pros and cons. That's why I corrected your error in listing only 2 school in Sequoia. There are quite a few students at Summit Prep that live in Menlo Park and I know of 4 in Atherton. It is also a school to be considered.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I would hope that people would be vocal to their elected officials about cost saving opportunities and not use this thread as a place to criticize each other.

If you have a sensible suggestion, email city council members and/or school board members don't just write it here.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Elizabeth - my public service agenda is already quite full so I will leave it to others to develop further any proposal for educational consolidation.

One of my top public service priorities is advocating for county-wide consolidation of all fire and ambulance services - a daunting political challenge (and one on which I have posted extensively in other Town Forum threads).

Ultimately the taxpayers are going to have to force our elected officials to become both more efficient and more effective and consolidation of public services is the best single way to achieve those objectives. Unfortunately, not enough taxpayers are sufficiently outraged to push this issue but with rising structural deficits in most local agencies it will only be a matter of time before that happens.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Peter and Elizabeth
Taking both M-A and Woodside HS would not make sense. MA serves EPA and a large portion of unincorporated county and Redwood City. I do not see those districts being included in the suggested consolidated MP, Ath, PV Woodside. Woodside serves a fair portion of RC. Including Woodside would make sense or perhaps building a new HS more central to the suggested district. A new HS would be quite costly and finding the land would be quite difficult. Other problems to be considered is transportation and traffic - for Woodside the Alameda is one lane and that would be the likely route for many of the MP Ath students who now attend MA, Menlo School and Sacred Heart.
I believe a new district is very viable but will take much work and negotiation and funding over a number of years before it could be reality. Additionally there is the mater of making sure that one does not plunder the best teachers and faculty from the Sequoia district. Also removing MP Ath PV and Woodside from the Sequoia district will have an immense negative financial impact on the remaining Sequoia high schools. It will be a long contested battle to include a HS.
Perhaps the best bet would be to go forward with consolidating the elementary school districts now, and go for a HS at a later date after much study.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Bob - I agree entirely with your suggestion that the initial consolidation should be only for the elementary schools; that is a much better approach.

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 7:54 am


Very good points. And again, I am not recommending a consolidation at this time. I was simply correcting the omissions Peter made when he only listed 2 high schools in the Sequoia District. Their are many more, as well as charter schools that cross our boundaries, and adult ed programs. These would all need to be looked at.

Posted by Elizabeth M., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 8:02 am

Sorry about the grammatical error above. I meant "There," not "Their."

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

Calm down. Peter was only listing the high schools w/i the geographic area of a "new" district. He was not setting any policy. We all know that any consolidation would take serious time and study. We are speaking now of the big picture and not nitpicking each and every item which would be involved. Not everyone will be happy with a consolidation but a lot more are unhappy with the current situation.
By the way if the new district were to happen I doubt there would be need for charter schools on the elementary or HS levels. Also I suspect any discussions at HS level would include the need for adult ed.
Remember - it's just a pipe dream at this point in time.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2011 at 8:58 am

I hope that people don't write off the idea of consolidation as unrealistic. Given our economic climate and a slow climb to recovery, all options should be considered.

I respect and applaud quality education. However, it would be irresponsible of us to ignore ways to be more efficient is the use of our education dollars while maintaining or raising the education level.

These are not new ideas; they just haven't been given their due consideration. Most if not all, governments are shorts on funds and need to seriously consider sharing resources, unless, of course, some of you want to keep having your taxes raised and raised.

Sharing resources or consolidation doesn't need to start big; it can start small. It just needs to start.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I see no reason why the MP district should absorb schools in Woodside or PV. MP should absorb all of the schools in its own town first and then look outside. I see why folks in other cities see the reasoning, since MP acts as the big city and provides all the services to these estate towns. But we need to look after our own first.

Posted by henry fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Does any one have any ideas about HOW to get our elementary school districts to consolidate? There has been talk about this for years.

(One other benefit. Not only would the administritive and ancillary cost-savings be huge, but consolidation would free up space that could be used for classes.)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

In the 2009 session of the State Legislature, Assembly Bill 174 was enacted, allowing unification proposals supported by all affected local education agencies to be approved by the county committee on school district organization and sent to a local election without coming to the State Board of Education for additional approval. Certain other conditions apply to this local approval of unification proposals. (EC 35710)

1. Initiation of Proposals for Unification (EC 35700)

a. Petition signed by the owner(s) of uninhabited territory; or,

b. Petition signed by at least 25 percent of the registered voters in the inhabited territory proposed to be reorganized (if the territory proposed for reorganization is located within two or more school districts, the signatures of at least 25 percent of the registered voters from that territory in each school district are required); or,

c. Petition signed by a majority of the members of the governing boards of all affected districts; or,

d. Petition signed by at least 8 percent of registered voters who cast votes in the last gubernatorial election to reorganize a district with over 200,000 ADA into two or more districts.

2. Determination of Sufficiency and Transmittal of Petition Within 30 days of Receipt (EC 35704)

a. County superintendent must determine sufficiency of petition within 30 days.

b. A 25 percent or 8 percent petition must be verified by the county department of elections.

c. The county committee and the State Board of Education must be notified when a valid petition is received.

3. Public Hearings (EC 35705, 35705.5). A public hearing in each affected district must be held by the county committee within 60 days of receipt of a valid petition.

a. Notice of the public hearing shall be given at least ten days in advance of the hearing.

b. County committee may add to the petition any of the appropriate provisions specified in Education Code sections 35730 through 35738.

4. Notice to Local Agency Formation Commission (EC 35700.5). Before initiating proceedings to consider any reorganization plan, the county committee on school district organization shall provide written notice of the proposed action to the local agency formation commission for the affected area.

5. County Committee Study of the Unification (EC 35753). The county committee must determine the impact of the unification on the conditions listed in Education Code Section 35753.

6. Approval Process (EC 35706, 35707, 35752 through 35755)

a. Within 120 days of the first public hearing, the county committee must make a recommendation to approve or disapprove the petition.

b. The county committee may make a recommendation regarding the area of election.

c. The county committee transmits the petition, report, and recommendations to the State Board of Education.

d. The State Board of Education complies with the requirements of CEQA.

e. The State Board of Education holds required public hearings.

f. The State Board of Education approves or disapproves the petition.

g. If approval is given and an election is required, the county superintendent calls an election in an area determined by the State Board of Education.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm

A web link would suffice and would go a long way to showing folks that you trust us to be somewhat computer savvy.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Bob - the information which I provided was what was asked for and it is not available as a url but must be extracted from a larger file.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

If I remember correctly the Tinsley suit and consequent settlement came about because East Palo Alto was purposefully left out of the consolidations and district boundaries. I very much hope we are not going to open up a can of worms but not including the schools that Elizabeth
mentioned tough I' am sure Peter didn't mean anything of the sort. I understand the financial need to consolidate, but in consolidation there would be redistricting and reshuffling.That would have an impact in everything, from difficult school commutes to house prices. Perhaps the economy of scale suggested would be offset by a lowering of quality. I am happy with Las Lomitas and ,of course, biased too. But I prefer things as they are.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

For those interested in learning more about the district organization process, following is the link to the comprehensive California Dept of Education's District Organization "handbook."
"Reference for procedures and responsibilities for all parties involved in the school district organization process."
Web Link
Though of course it is a guideline with the following note -
The guidance in this handbook is not binding on local educational agencies or other entities. Except for statutes, regulations, and court decisions that are referenced herein, the handbook is exemplary, and compliance with it is not mandatory (see California Education Code Section 33308.5)."

Lots and lots of info with an abundance of detail on the process which Peter summarized in his above comment.

Posted by MPCSD parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

I have never in my life seen such a pompous, self-absorbed, & insensitive display as Ken Ranella's Hillview graduation speech last night. 25 minutes of stories about himself as the graduates and parents sat in the heat, waiting for the focus to return to the kids. Good riddance.

Posted by And also, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Ken showed everyone that he was not worth the ridiculous salary he's been earning with one of the worst speeches -- not just grad speeches -- I've ever heard in my life. Insensitive, self-centered, and totally obnoxious.

It is worth adding that he campaigned relentlessly to be chosen as speaker. The kids were told they had to vote for him. They refused. So the administration rigged the results and told the kids Ranella had won. Great way to show the kids democracy in action! So typical of the control-freakish nature of this district, and I am so glad this was my last kid in the MPCSD.

Just to head off any criticism -- I have volunteered for major roles in the district and the schools, investing at least 100 hours/year (and some years many more) in our kids. It was truly painful to see how they were shortchanged. I have heard moving, wonderful, memorable eighth grade speeches at Hillview graduations. Our kids deserved better than this pathetic blowhard.

Posted by And also ps, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm

If anyone knows the identity of the parent who loudly asked Ranella to wind it up (a request that was met with cheers) please thank him on behalf of most of the rest of us.

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