Almanac

Schools - April 10, 2013

Terminate private school lease, superintendent recommends

by Renee Batti

Superintendent Maurice Ghysels recommended that the Menlo Park City School District governing board terminate a private school's lease on a district property two years before it's set to expire. The board was almost certain to endorse that recommendation at its April 9 meeting.

(Check AlmanacNews.com for updates. The meeting occurred after the Almanac's press time.)

The German-American International School's lease of the district's former O'Connor school site in Menlo Park expires in June 2016, but the lease agreement includes a clause that lets the district terminate the lease earlier, with advance notice. If the superintendent's recommendation is approved, the district would deliver that notice on April 10, requiring the private, bilingual-education school that has leased the site since 1991 to vacate the campus in June 2014.

GAIS officials and parents have pleaded with the district to give the school one more year at the site — until June 2015 — saying that, even though an intensive search for property was launched earlier, 15 months is not adequate time to find and prepare a new home. Without the additional year, the school may be forced to close, they say.

A district staff report says that terminating the lease and opening a fifth district school at the O'Connor site, at 275 Elliot Drive, would allow the district to reduce the number of students at each of its existing campuses and maintain the "appropriate level of student/teacher ratios."

The district has been struggling with a student enrollment increase that has surpassed the projections of demographic studies done over the last 10-plus years.

Current enrollment is 2,791, having increased by about 40 percent since 2000, according to Superintendent Ghysels. The staff report says that the latest study, completed last year, projects enrollment to rise to between 3,000 and 3,300 in the next decade.

The board has been discussing various options for using the O'Connor campus, including integrating the nearby Laurel School and a new school on the O'Connor site to create a single K-5 neighborhood school.

GAIS officials have pushed for the district to use available classroom space on the new Hillview Middle School campus, a sixth- through eighth-grade school, for fifth-grade classes through the 2014-15 school year, and allow the private school to remain on the O'Connor site until the end of that school year.

Comments

Posted by Diane, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Ghysels is the one whose job should be terminated. I don't trust this guy to make the right decision on anything based on his record.


Posted by gais supporter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I couldn't agree with you more! I couldn't tell who was shadier, Ghysels or the board members. It was so obvious at the board meeting that their decision was made before the meeting even started. What is the point of public input if it's completely disregarded?

Ghysels sent out a parent/community newsletter just minutes after the board meeting ended at midnight outlining the details of the decision. Tell me that wasn't written days in advance and someone was just waiting to hit the SEND button once the meeting was over!

Terminate him and the board members!


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