News - March 10, 2010

Everest and Sequoia district dance to a familiar tune

by Dave Boyce

Everest Public High School representatives have rejected a new offer of facilities from Sequoia Union High School District administrators.

The offer includes eight classrooms and an office for one year on the campus of Woodside High School. Everest expects to enroll 190 students for the 2010-11 school year, yielding a ratio of about 24 students per classroom.

Everest is echoing its 2009 response, when the district offered modular buildings on a residential lot in East Palo Alto. Everest claimed that offer was illegal and has sued. The case is ongoing.

This latest offer would move Everest, now in its first year, from an office building in Redwood City, where it has a two-year lease and an option to expand. After one year, the district would move the school to an interim site for two to three years pending construction of a permanent location.

The offer is "non-compliant" with the law in "a number of areas," said Diane Tavenner, chief executive of The Summit Institute, Everest's parent corporation, in a March 1 letter and 33-page highly technical legal analysis.

"It is our sincere hope that (the district) will once again consider all of this extensive feedback and incorporate it into a revised final offer on April 1, 2010, that will fully comply with the law," Ms. Tavenner said.

Among many complaints, Everest asserts that the district would move Everest away from a central location and transit hub, involve too many moves, treat Everest students unequally, and use improper space-allocation formulas — all charges that, if true, violate state law.

The district "respectfully disagree(s)" with Everest's analysis, Superintendent Patrick Gemma said in an e-mail. The district's offer is "legally compliant," he said. "In the weeks ahead, we will continue our efforts to engage Summit Institute and Everest leadership in dialogue as we help to plan for a successful year for Everest students in 2010-11."

Unequal treatment?

An examination of the offer and Everest attorney Paul Minney's analysis seems to show that Everest students could not use Woodside's art, music, shop and computer lab classrooms.

Physical education facilities might be shared, but under a formula other than the one required, Mr. Minney said. Everest would have to supply its own recreational equipment, as it would computers for its computer lab and books for its library.

While Woodside teachers can work in periodically empty classrooms, Everest teachers would probably not have that privilege, Mr. Minney noted.

The district's offer would allow Everest teachers use of the staff room.

The Almanac asked Sequoia district officials for further clarification and comment ahead of the April 1 deadline, but did not receive responses by press time.


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