Almanac

Schools - June 5, 2013

Las Lomitas, Woodside High parents spar at forum

by Dave Boyce

There was both faint and full-throated praise for Woodside High School at the May 29 public forum at Woodside High, the last of six forums in May on ideas for addressing a projected 22 percent enrollment surge by the 2020-21 school year in the Sequoia Union High School District's four comprehensive high schools.

Las Lomitas Elementary School District parents, as in previous forums, emphasized their desire to retain the right to send their eighth-graders to Menlo-Atherton High School which, on a scale of 1,000, scores about 100 points higher than Woodside High in state academic performance evaluations. That right may disappear with the creation of new attendance rules the district will be considering in the months ahead.

Some Las Lomitas district neighborhoods are physically closer to Woodside High than to M-A, and some families are assigned to Woodside. But unlike East Palo Alto eighth-graders who are bused to Woodside and Carlmont High (in Belmont) and must participate in an open-enrollment lottery to attend their "neighborhood school" — M-A — the Woodside-assigned Las Lomitas families enjoy a policy by which they can skip the lottery and Woodside and go to the head of the line into M-A.

One option before the Sequoia school board is redrawing the 30-year-old boundary map. At the forums, the community has sounded off on the boundaries, as well as on preserving middle-school communities and open enrollment. The district will collate these comments and hold more forums before the board considers actions sometime in 2014, Sequoia Superintendent Jim Lianides said.

Expropriation?

There was an immediacy to complaints from Las Lomitas parents. "We invest in the community because of the schools our kids can go to," one woman told Mr. Lianides, adding that she is already looking at private schools and considering moving away.

"It's politically inappropriate to say, but (property value) does need to be taken seriously," another woman said. "This is a huge investment to live in this community. ... This is a significant shift that we're talking about. ... Many people may not want to say that, but a lot of people are thinking it."

One man complained of a $300,000 to $500,000 "expropriation" from his property values.

Woodside High parents, outnumbered in their own territory, defended their school.

"It makes me really sad that people who cannot go to M-A think that Woodside isn't a good school," said one woman. "I wish people had a little bit more of an open mind about the equality of schools."

Fearful parents should "take a moment of self-reflection to think about what's driving that fear," another woman said. Some students "from the lower-income places" are achieving at levels equal to students at M-A, she said.

"It's a nice school," said Nancy Krosse, a Woodside High foundation board member. "I get the feeling that we're the red-headed stepchild. I'm a nice person, and I spent a lot of money on my house," she said. Referring to a nearby Woodside mother, Ms. Krosse said she "is another billionaire! Come to my house and we'll have tea and we'll cry together."

That got a round of laughter on a night otherwise punctuated mostly by partisan applause for less ecumenical points of view.

The forums revealed priorities of keeping enrollment open and middle-school communities intact, with less concern for socioeconomic diversity and equalizing populations at the four schools, Mr. Lianides said. A new campus is out of the question, given the $200 million outlay if a site could even be found, he added.

"Any child attending (Woodside High) will get as strong and as high a quality of an education as you will get anywhere," he said. "Yes, this high school has challenges. They all have challenges. ... It shouldn't matter, at the end of the day, where you went to school."

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