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School funding: Bad news keeps getting worse

Original post made on Apr 21, 2011

Local elementary school districts have been bracing and adjusting for dramatic funding cuts for the next school year as the state wrestles with a $12 billion projected budgetary shortfall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 21, 2011, 8:02 AM

Comments (121)

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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 10:26 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Why are the school districts ignoring the big cost savings that could be achieved from consolidation?

How many school districts does Menlo Park or San Mateo County need?

If every parent wants their own school district then expect to pay a lot for overhead.


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Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Peter is right, but only partially right.

No cost cutting plan will be sufficient to stem exploding cost of pensions. It's math. Simple math. Until Jerry Brown and the state legislators adopt the recent (January) recommendations of the Little Hoover Commission the major wealth transfer from taxpayers to teachers and other public employees will continue, and the budgets of the state, school districts, cities, etc. will be balanced by cutting services and school programs.

One of the ironies of this situation...... if allowed to continue, eventually the education system will be so terrible no one will be know enough math to figure it out.

Government officials elected at the turn of this new century had so much financial support from the unions and the stock market was bubbling so high that they made promises that were simply unsustainable. But who cared? It's all guaranteed by the taxpayers.

Mr. Ranella will be retiring soon (June) to the tune of nearly $200,000 per year. Be prepared to continue receiving letters from his successor whining about how terrible it is that our kids are being robbed of a good education. And the police will tell us we'll all be robbed and raped. And the firemen will say they won't be able to get to our house when it's on fire. And who will be the thieves? The voters need to figure it out before they don't know how to count.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

I agree entirely with Moritz.

The only short term cost savings will be from a significant consolidation - like all elementary school districts in Menlo Park, Redwood City and, heaven forbid, East Palo Alto. Just imagine what could be accomplished in that large an area in terms of special classes etc.

Long term we must move to a defined contribution pension system for all public employees and eliminate tenure in any form. Pay well, pay fairly, reward performance and fire those who cannot measure up.


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Posted by Gia
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Perhaps Mr. Hartwig could do the Las Lomitas School District a favor and give up some of his overpriced Salary? Why does Las Lomitas need a Sup.for two schools? Las Lomitas should merge with Menlo Park Schools. The days of the easy life for Mr. Hartwig should be over...


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Pete,

It's not quite so simple to just say, "Gee, lets just consolidate all the districts." Due to the way the districts are set up now (by the State of California), some are Basic Aid, some not. Some in the county are, and some aren't. The state controls this and would require a great deal of expense and paperwork in Sacramento just to "evaluate" all of this. Other factors have created separate similar factors. It's not to say that, in some instances, it couldn't be looked at, but not just an overnight process--the state is very, very slow to take action like this.

You say "If every parent wants their own school district then expect to pay a lot for overhead." I don't see anywhere where any parents are saying that. Schools and districts are no longer filled with lots of "overhead" and extra administrators just wandering around. Are you aware of the resource sharing that now goes on between school districts?? There is a lot! Curriculum specialists already go to schools in different districts, as do librarians, music teachers, etc. When you say "Just imagine what could be accomplished in that large an area in terms of special classes etc." are you aware that that already exists and crosses district boundaries??

And you also say "heaven forbid, East Palo Alto." That's a pretty AWFUL comment and implication to parents and local school districts that help support that district. The Menlo Park School District has a program (Tinsley), and for years has brought in and included kids from East Palo Alto in its schools. I don't know of one parent opposed to any of the EPA kids. Are you aware of the number of kids in Atherton/Menlo Park that volunteer their time to helping other EPA kids in programs like EPATT???!!

The cuts being described in this article are up to 80%!! That's much more than just cutting a few administrators. And if you really take a look, the staffs are so very lean already. Teachers no longer have the aides they used to. Class sizes are becoming almost unmanageable. Specialists are stretched to the limit. This is not something that mere "consolidation" will fix.

In other posts you continue to dismiss education as almost an unnecessary expense. The point of this article is that education is continuing to be pushed to the back and cuts seem to be larger and endless. Could some consolidation possibly help? Perhaps, but as I've said above, a lot of that is already happening.

It's not just something for parents to be concerned about, as you seem to constantly imply, but one for all of us. These kids are our future and deserve good educations and educational experiences. If you choose to continually write on this forum about local education, then you need to realize that it's your issue as well. If you feel so strongly, then be part of the solution and get involved.


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Posted by True Fairness
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm

'Local Resident' highlights the Tinsley program and Atherton/Menlo volunteers in EPA. Truly, those are positives, and other esteemed residents have also highlighted such activities. However, is there anything that would be a more pure expression of fairness to EPA than to give them the same education as Atherton/Menlo kids?

It seems to work pretty well at the secondary level (Sequoia Union). Honestly, is it really that objectionable at the elementary level?


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:08 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Local resident states:"And you also say "heaven forbid, East Palo Alto." That's a pretty AWFUL comment "

How truly sad that you did not understand exactly what I was saying - I think it would be great to have all of these schools in one consolidated district BUT every time that is proposed the west Menlo Park parents are opposed - hence the heaven forbid - and they toss up arguments like yours of basic aid vs others rather than saying Let's Do It. My comment was AWFUL only because it speaks to that ugly truth rather than hiding it under a rock.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm

To: True Fairness,

You are right and it is not objectionable at at all the elementary level. That's why I am very offended at Pete's comment and implication. I don't know of any parents that would object. So many kids are included in joint programs now and many Atherton/Menlo Park families also support other programs and charter schools. As said, there some programs that already cross district boundaries.

Regardless of where they live, they are all children that deserve the best we can give them.




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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Local resident states:" Are you aware of the number of kids in Atherton/Menlo Park that volunteer their time to helping other EPA kids in programs like EPATT???!!"

Yes - and it reminds me of the separate but equal argument for segregated schools where people who were certainly prepared to help 'them' in 'their' schools but, heaven forbid, let's not have 'them' in 'our' schools.

Why not advocate for the same quality of education for all elementary school children by having them in the same schools?

As you say "Regardless of where they live, they are all children that deserve the best we can give them."

Helping 'them' in 'their' schools is not the answer.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Pete,

You are so very, very wrong. There is no "ugly truth." It's people like you that spread these kinds of vitriolic rumors. Having been very involved, there are no parents "tossing up arguments." Unfortunately, due to our State of California, things like Basic Aid are things that have to be dealt with. No one is using them in the manner you describe. You, unfortunately, really don't know what you are talking about. Many would love to see changes in our districts---all for the positive. And as you said, why don't you "Do it." It's your community, too. You seem to have all the answers. And as usual, as I read through your past threads, it's pointless debating with you, as you are never wrong--always the other person. Very sad on your part. Again, take your own advice and just do it if you feel so passionate about the subject.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Local resident - I ask you again - Why not advocate for the same quality of education for all elementary school children by having them in the same schools?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

No matter how "efficient" a school district may be, it still has a large administrative staff - Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources, Facilities, Curriculum, Business Manager, Finance, After School Programs, etc. Duplicate this staffing for each district and it's not only a lot of people, it's a ton of money.

It would be far more efficient to consolidate but it won't happen until a financial Armageddon... which may be sooner than anyone realizes.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

How is consolidation/unification accomplished?

Here is the process, and it says nothing about basic aid being a limitation:

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.
*******
Since, according to Local Resident, nobody is opposed then this should be an easy process. I won't hold my breath.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Pete,

I would appreciate it if you would not twist my words. I never said "help them in their schools." Again, you obviously are making statements without knowing very much about what efforts have and are being taken. And I definitely do not appreciate your demeaning my kids who spend a lot of time with EPA kids, interacting with them in a classroom setting and on the tennis courts. They see the EPA kids as just other kids, not on the segregated or prejudicial level that you obviously do. You should refrain from being so negatively judgmental about things you have no knowledge of. Believe it or not, there are good people in our community.

With your continued critical statements of everyone else and self-professed knowledge of all subjects, I can see why there is so much disrespect for you and your opinions. You could improve your image and credibility if you would take a minute to step back and actually listen to those who know a little more about some things than you do. To imply that parents are trying to promote "segregated" schools is very irresponsible of you.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Local resident - I ask you again - Why not advocate for the same quality of education for all elementary school children by having them in the same schools?

Or is that a bridge too far?


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Pete,

You ask: " Why not advocate for the same quality of education for all elementary school children by having them in the same schools?"

I DO!!!!!!!! PLEASE READ MY COMMENTS MORE CAREFULLY.

As I said, this is already being done to a great extent and no one that I know of is opposing even more of this type of education. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the subject a little more. And again, if you are so adamant, then get out there and be involved in the process. But please stop with the snide remarks ("I won't hold my breath." and "s that a bridge too far?")

Be part of the solution, not the problem.

And to Pogo, you have a couple of valid points. But in recent years many of these positions have been eliminated and some consolidated already across district boundaries. After school programs are being shared, as are many curriculum advisors, and even a business manager. Yes, more can be done but much of our local education system is already being run on bare bones.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

I am pleased that Local Resident has confirmed her support for the consolidation of all of our local elementary schools. That makes at least two of us; now we just need a few thousand more voters to join with us in an EC 35700 petition.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Appeasement using by providing special privileges to a handful of Tinsley students, some select after school activities, and even having kids "interacting" with kids from other districts is NOT a substitute for having your child spending 180 days in a quality classroom with a quality teacher getting a quality education. A few tennis matches at St. Joe's doesn't make up for that.

On the other hand, those activities probably ease a few consciences.

The point is that the current economics of our government are UNSUSTAINABLE. We are facing draconian cuts in services (and that includes teachers, fire fighters and police) and higher taxes. One obvious way out is achieving economies of scale through consolidation.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Pogo,

A few tennis matches at St. Joes???? What is this?? We are obviously talking about different programs. I'm talking about programs at Stanford University, in EPA and on MP courts and classrooms. And, no, no activities easing a few consciences. And no, not just a "handful" of kids from other districts--more than you know. And just take a look at MA High School.

Yes, current economics are difficult and getting worse. And as I said, some consolidation already exists and more is necessary. It's just not as easy as Pete seems to think. His solution of mocking and criticizing actually hurts any positive progress.

You also seem passionate about this, so suggest you get involved too!! Pete's outlined the easy steps above, so perhaps you want to take the lead. (But do check to see what's already being done--which is a lot)


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Pete,

Again, don't twist words. "I am pleased that Local Resident has confirmed her support for the consolidation of all of our local elementary schools."

I said I support some consolidation and looking at positive alternatives. "All" local districts just might not be feasible.

You've described this "easy" process. Can't wait for you to start it. (Do check on what has been done already and steps currently being taken--you will be surprised!)


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"And just take a look at MA High School." - A perfect example of consolidating beyond comfortable economic and ethnic boundaries.

Now let's do exactly the same at the elementary school level.

PS - I went to elementary school in the Deep South during the depths of segregation so I know all the code words and all the self serving justifications for why it would be soooo very hard to change the system.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Local Resident -

I appreciate the courteous and measured discussion. Let's not read too much into our comments... I think we are all in violent agreement.

I have DIRECT and relatively recent experience with several of our local school boards, with district consolidation, neighborhood districting, local charter schools, the county school district and even the state board of education in Sacramento. With remarkably few exceptions, I found these people to be uniquely focused on preservation of the status quo.

It was incredibly frustrating and I honestly have no appetite to interact with them again. Sorry.

I don't think anyone, Mr. Carpenter included, believes that consolidation will be "easy." As I said, it can only happen if the financial situation becomes untenable... which it may.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Pete,
Again, enough with the snide remarks. I have not given you any "code words.". And I never said it would be "sooooo" hard. You seem to just like demeaning others, which is a sad depiction of your character.

And P.S. - I also grew up in the deep South.

Positive change and progress can be made, but it's more difficult when people throw up pompous attitudes. Fortunately we do live in a community with people who really care actively try to improve it. Again if you can see through the forest maybe you could actually help instead of just criticizing.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Pogo,

Then we must know each other if you are involved as you say.

Unfortunately Pete has no desire to really see change. His enjoyment comes from sitting at his computer and attacking others.

Sorry that your experience in Sacramento was frustrating, but that's what I was trying to explain to Pete earlier---it's not an easy slam dunk process to implement change with our State of California. Many are trying, contrary to what Pete thinks. The trick is not to give up.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 7:08 am

Local Resident - reread all of my postings. While they seem to have gotten under your skin none of them accused YOU of anything. I cannot be responsible for your highly personal reactions to comments which I made that were not directed at you.

The only question asked of YOU was "Why not advocate for the same quality of education for all elementary school children by having them in the same schools?"

To which you respond "I DO"!!!!!!

But then you quickly decided that maybe you didn't - "I said I support some consolidation and looking at positive alternatives. "All" local districts just might not be feasible."

Such ambivalence is part of the problem.

And why attack me personally, particularly since you don't seem to have done your homework on my background? I have had lots of community involvement in education including over 10 years with all the Stanford programs in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park and five years as the Chair of Board of The United States International University in Kenya.

Doth the lady protest too much?

Oh, and it is Peter not Pete.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2011 at 9:13 am

Pete,

Once again I have to ask you not to twist words. There is no ambivalence and no problem. You indicated that I said we should consolidate "all" districts, which I never did. I continue to say that these huge budget cutbacks in education need to be addressed and that some consolidation may help.

And no, you're not "under my skin." and no "protesting too much" I am more concerned with the subject of the article, which is about kids and education.

As for "homework" on your background, this article is not about Pete Carpenter. Ask about Pete Carpenter at any local coffee shop and you'll learn all you need to know. It is an insecure person that feels the need to constantly use forums to tout what they believe are all of their accomplishments. It's the ones that actually get out and do something without constantly asking for a pat on the back.

Thank you to Renee for bringing this issue to light. Hopefully we can get people who really care to join in efforts to curb these budget cuts.

Oh, and it is he not she.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 9:15 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Definition of the phrase "heaven forbid":
Used to suggest that others oppose the reasonable thing being mentioned.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

To Peter Carpenter

What? "" Definition of the phrase "heaven forbid":""

You seem to be far off the topic here. This is not a forum for you to belittle others.

The budget cuts being described are tragic. I agree with Local Resident and somewhat with Pogo. I for one plan to be actively involved with this issue as soon as soon starts up again next week. And thank you to Local Resident for highlighting what is being done now.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Mom - I was criticized for my use of the phrase 'heaven forbid' as being AWFUL. I simply provided a definition to answer that criticism.

The topic remains budget cuts and the only two specific suggestions that have been made are mine regarding a wide area consolidation of elementary school districts in order to provide all the students involved with the same quality education and to reduce costs, and E. Moritz's suggestion that "No cost cutting plan will be sufficient to stem exploding cost of pensions. It's math. Simple math. Until Jerry Brown and the state legislators adopt the recent (January) recommendations of the Little Hoover Commission the major wealth transfer from taxpayers to teachers and other public employees will continue, and the budgets of the state, school districts, cities, etc. will be balanced by cutting services and school programs."

What other specific ideas do you or others have Mom?


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

consolidated districts are *not* prima facie more efficient or more effective. This issue has been debated around the country. As pointed out in Local Resident's initial post, many of the gains have been realized through shared services.

"delivering the same quality of education" (goal) differs from having everyone in the same schools or even the same districts (means). Agreement on the goal which is quite strong across all communities is not the same as agreement on the means.

unfortunately, Sequoia District may not be the shining example of why well-working elementary districts should be abandoned whether measured by community engagement, graduation effectiveness, economic efficiency or benchmarks from neighboring high schools.

Finally, local engagement is not to be lightly discarded as a luxury - it drives quality schools which fuels property values and thus school funding.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Observer - Very helpful comments.

Why not share ALL administrative functions including Superintendents?


If we agree on the goal of delivering equal education to all children how do we then begin to define the alternative means for achieving that goal?

What value do multiple school boards provide and at what cost?


How can we assess local engagement and is it confined to a particular geographical area or is it driven by other factors such an economic status, parent's level of education or ethnicity?


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Some other useful comments from an expert:
"Consolidation of small school districts will allow the combined district to share services and improve the quality of academic programs for all students. The economic situation in Michigan is forcing school districts to consider multiple approaches to more efficient use of their funds. The rising cost of fuel, food and health services, as well as student support services such as special education teachers, school psychologists, counselors and nurses, make it very difficult for small districts to afford.

These districts have an obligation to provide essential services and quality academic programs to their students. Consolidation of small school districts will allow for an enhanced educational opportunity for students while making the combined districts more fiscally efficient.

Reducing the per-pupil cost of education while improving the quality of teaching and learning is better for the districts and the students. The purpose of small districts' consolidation is to strengthen and bolster them with more efficient use of limited education funds while offering their students better educational opportunities that would prepare them effectively for post-secondary education and the workplaces of the future.

District consolidation could make these small school districts more financially efficient when additional state aid to education is not likely under the present state budget deficit."

Sharif Shakrani is a professor of education at Michigan State University.

****************
And here is some research on optimal district size:
"Research has defined an optimal size for schools and
districts where both economic efficiency and improved
student outcomes are achieved. The optimal
size for schools ranges between 400 and 600 students,
while optimal size for districts is about 6,000
students. When student numbers exceed optimal
size, substantial increases in per pupil costs occur."

www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2006-02-PP-consolidation-cp.pdf

*************
Interestingly, the average size of all California school districts is 6000 students.
****************
And in order to provide balance in my postings here is an excellent report that argues against the value of consolidation, but primarily at much larger district sizes:
Based on their research, Howley, Johnson and Petrie recommend that policymakers approach school consolidation cautiously and make decisions about it on a case-by-case basis, and not through sweeping state policy changes. They added that deconsolidating larger schools and districts is much more likely to achieve the goal of improving student achievement and making school operations more efficient. Deconsolidation would particularly benefit many impoverished schools and districts, where students and teachers would gain from more individual attention, according to the report.

To read Howley, Johnson and Petrie's full report, go to:
Web Link.
*********************


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

To Peter Carpenter

As one of the minorities that you alluded to in your comments to Local Resident, I also find your statement "AWFUL." It is also very disturbing and frankly has no place here. It's not even worthy of acknowledgment. As said by another, truly sad.

Next, Sharif Shakrani is a teacher in another state, not an "expert." And further, if you read his comments about sharing of resources, and if you read comments posted here, you will find that a great deal of this is already being done, even without consolidation.

And finally, you say that you are the ONLY one who has offered solutions. I don't see that at all. I see others making suggestions and actually doing.

You ask about my ideas. As I said, I am active in the area of education for our kids. It's really not worth even going into any specifics, as all you would do is attack and criticize. Suffice it to say, I am working with others who truly care and on concrete ideas with doable action plans.

Remember, in order to be taken seriously and your ideas listened to, you need to earn the respect of others. It's not accomplished by dismissing putting others down in order to try to make yourself feel more valuable. Right now your ideas hold no credibility, and I speak for many when I say that. We are a community and should be working together on the issue of education and budget cuts.

It's time to get busy and not just sit behind a typewriter.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Mom - read all my posts - You criticize me without any knowledge of what I have done.I have been deeply involved both for over a decade with the Haas Center at Stanford and a the Chairman of the Board of the United States International University in Kenya.

As for SPECIFIC suggestions - please list those made above by anyone other than myself and Moritz.

Sharif Shakrani is a Professor of Education at Michigan State University and, given his research, is certainly an expert. Why do you feel otherwise?

The fact that there is a Tinsley Settlement validates my concern that some people are opposed to an all inclusive school system. If anyone feels offended by that fact that is their problem, not mine.

Who specifically have I "dismissed" or"put down"? Does disagreeing with someone's opinion mean I am dismissing them?


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.



Sharif Shakrani
Professor
Education Policy Center at Michigan State University

Sharif Shakrani is a professor of measurement and quantitative methods. His research interests include analysis of the effects of national and state accountability systems on student achievement; use of research in setting educational policy; impact of national efforts to enhance student's participation and achievements in mathematics, science, and technology education; and alignment of standards, assessment, and pedagogy.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm

There seems to be a philosophical question that's seems present with government funded services -- schools, fire and police departments, etc. -- these days: how much are you willing to pay for the service? It doesn't matter where it's public safety or schools or something else, there will always be people who try and justify more funding to ensure the cause.

Given our current economic conditions and foreseeable future, it seems reasonable to look for ways to deliver the same or better level of service more effectively and more efficiently.

As mentioned in this thread, as with fire and police, there are always overheads with each agency which costs money regardless the size of the district, department or agency. Bigger isn't always better, but often combining forces is more efficient.

Recent events have shown that fire and police have done this, maybe it's time for schools to explore this option instead of just saying it won't work. I haven't heard of or read where schools in our area have even considered this possibility.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Research cited above shows that optimal district size is 6000 students and the average district size in California is also 6000 students.

Menlo Park School District has 2500 students and Las Lomitas has 1200 students.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm

interesting article

full link is Web Link

they cite a study on page 20, footnote 50 (1) giving the optimal size of districts to be 2000-4000 students. Menlo Park at 2500 students in 2009 is in that sweet spot. Web Link

Las Lomitas at 1330 would boost Menlo Park near that upper bound -- the growth forecast in both districts would send it above.


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Posted by Menlo Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Consolidation is the answer: One school district with one superintendent and admin staff! Wouldn't it be nice: No more calls for parcel taxes, which are burdening our local taxpapers?
Presently MPCSD has 4 schools, Las Lomitas has 2 schools, Portola Valley has 2 schools, with 1 school for Woodside = 9 schools. Consolitated, that is still a small school district. Compare that to the much larger, but excellent, Palo Alto Unified School District.
Thousands of $$ could be saved without endless requests for voter-approved parcel taxes, and at the same time programs could be added with money saved by having one superintendent and one administrative staff.
Why do we need 4 principals for just 9 schools, each earning lucrative salaries? Wouldn't it be better to put that money toward the children?
The time is perfect for change, with the MPCSD super retiring, and the Woodside super leaving for another job.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Consolidation is the answer ... to the wrong question.

from the study Peter provided

"it seems self-evident that reducing the number of schools and districts will reduce administrative costs. Yet as the next section demonstrates, research offers remarkably little support for that position.

Reforming and improving educational opportunities is a somewhat distant second
motivation for consolidation, based on the assumption that offering a greater variety of
courses equates with expanding opportunities for students. However, this once widely
held belief, made especially popular by Harvard president James Conant, is also
contradicted by the evidence."

it makes a further important point "The influence of school and district consolidations on the vitality and well-being of communities may be the most dramatic result, if the one least often discussed by politicians or education leaders." EPA leaders have cited this issue pointedly following the closure of Ravenswood high school.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

As noted above:
"The optimal size for schools ranges between 400 and 600 students,

while optimal size for districts is about 6,000

students. When student numbers exceed optimal

size, substantial increases in per pupil costs occur."

www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2006-02-PP-consolidation-cp.pdf


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a really great resource on the budget crisis issue:

Responding to the Economic Crisis
Considerations for School Administrators

School districts face a daunting combination of increased costs and decreased revenues. This situation prompted Education Northwest's
Governing Board to ask our staff to identify research- or expert-based resources, tools, and advice to help administrators cut budgets, increase revenues, and prioritize spending. Education Northwest is a private, non-profit organization that has provided training, technical assistance, research, and evaluation for more than 40 years.
Since we began this project, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 has redoubled the need of school
administrators and other education decision makers to find timely and reliable advice on resource use. Therefore, this document
specifically addresses considerations for using ARRA funds as well as providing practical tools to help you navigate difficult budgetary
issues and to invest scarce resources wisely.
Our findings suggest that districts are increasing revenues, reducing costs, and/or narrowing school functions to achieve a balance.

educationnorthwest.org/webfm_send/335


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Another option for school districts is to do nothing. Things could continue to go as they have in the past and present.

For all you nay-sayers to consolidation, please offer alternative options that reduces costs and optimizes efficiency while not reducing standards.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Peter, please read that footnote more closely.

the 6000 figure is from a Deloitte/Reason study (Web Link page 6) which quotes Syracuse study at 6000 then summarizes Deloitte research in Vermont that pegs 3500 as the optimal number. They underscore that the 3500 is purely from a cost perspective, better academic outcomes appear to come from smaller and more decentralized settings.

Finally the study concludes that shared services are the superior solution (Pages 9-19)


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Observer - excellent citation. It appears that there are two factors - district size and superior financial management. 3500 is the sweet spot if the district is extremely wage managed. Now we need to look at metrics for good management.


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Posted by choice is freedom
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

If I were moving to the area, had no school aged children, and wanted to minimize the premium I was to pay in order to be in an excellent school district (with whatever metric you like), I would not likely look in Palo Alto, or Menlo Park. I would consider buying something where the tax load (both property and parcel) was lower.
If on the other hand, if I had school-aged children, or wanted to have the value benefit of being in a desirable school district, I would pay the premium to buy there. The same would be true for renting properties.
Consolidating the schools may or may not save money, it may improve the education experience for some, but cause other's to suffer. Ultimately it would decrease the variety of choices we have.

Services provided by teachers, administrators and staff at a school are very different from the services provided by the fire department, or even the police, both of which are "as needed" services rather than ongoing services, day after day, year after year.
That being said, Mr. Carpenter, put forth the petition- find out if Selby Lane wants to join Las Lomitas or Menlo Park, and vice versa. The democratic process is there for a reason. Some parents might actually like knowing that there is a principal at every school, and that the school boards are responding to their community's needs, aspirations, and limitations.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Choice makes some excellent points, and also reminds me that school 'services', while ongoing, benefit only those households who utilize those services.

With about 4000 students in the two MP school districts and assuming an average of two elementary school children per family that would mean that about 2000 families use these services. As of 2009 there were about 7000 families in Menlo Park. So 5000 families who do not utilize these services are subsidizing the 2000 who do - a subsidy which I suspect is far in excess of any alleged property value impact from the quality of the schools.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

To Observer,

Thanks for your comments and research. Very good info. given in a succinct manner.

A comment on the Selby Lane issue raised. Actually they are the ones that do not want to join either MPSD or Las Lomitas. They get more money now than if they consolidated.

And while not all MP households have children in our schools, we still need to remember that as a community we need to all pitch in. It can't be said enough that these kids are our future. I assume that we want well-educated children to become productive, positive contributors to our society.


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Posted by Concerned about ANOTHER tax increase
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Why didn't Ken Renall take a page from Tim Hanretty:

"Although the cutbacks will hurt, Mr. Hanretty said that the Portola Valley district's challenges "aren't as great as some of our neighboring districts." That's because in the last few years, "we saw the future," and took significant measures to keep the district on solid financial ground.

"During the dotcom days, we established a good reserve," he said, adding that the reserve now represents about 16 percent of the budget. If the tax extensions aren't approved, the district will spend from its reserves in the next fiscal year, he said.

"We put that money away when times were good as a rainy-day fund. And it's raining."


Seems Menlo Park Schools just kept spending and spending, instead of preparing for reality.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

It sounds like there is more agreement with consolidation than disagreement.

This is an issue about government efficiency with our tax dollars. It isn't about one particular school that may get a little more or less money because they switch between basic aid and revenue limit funding.

I suspect that if you took a vote, that Menlo Park residents might say "we're fine with the status quo" and that is excellent until they receive the next tax hike, parcel tax request or warning that class size is increasing. It's inevitable.

Whether their are a lot of duplicated services or a little, there shouldn't be ANY duplicated services today. At one time, small businesses used to have a receptionist, office manager, HR manager and accountant. It is not unusual to have a single person serve all four of these roles. That's efficiency and it saves money (provided, of course, that the work load is appropriate).

And so it is with school districts. There is simply no need to have a $200,000 a year superintendent for adjacent districts that each have 1, 2 or 3 schools. It is quite evident that a single superintendent can easily handle a district with 10 or 12 schools. The savings alone from eliminating superintendents approaches a million dollars... and I haven't even started with $125,000 business managers, HR managers, or accountants. Those funds can support quite a few classrooms!

Like I said, you can keep the status quo... but sooner or later the inability to provide services will demand change.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Pogo,
you're mixing your metaphors in your small business example. the analogy isn't 1 person doing multiple activities, it is have one receptionist serve multiple businesses (which may work or be clumsy) or forcing the merger of several businesses (which may not make them as effective at serving their customers)

The case for consolidation may be a far more controversial one: consolidation into K-12 unified districts rather than union districts spanning multiple cities at K-8 and 9-12.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 7:27 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

K-12 consolidation was discussed on any earlier thread:

Web Link

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 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

Laurel

Encinal

Oak Knoll

Hillview

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.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

Observer, thanks for your continued comments. Well-thought out and appreciated.

Peter, you have some omissions.

Sequoia Union High School District:

Woodside High
Menlo-Atherton High
Carlmont High
Redwood High
Summit Prep High
Everest Public High
EPA Academy
EPA Phoenix Academy
Middle College
Sequoia Adult School

And, Peter, why do you always need to include incendiary comments? (""But do not underestimate the outrage and indignation of the current economic beneficiaries of this collection of entities if one starts talking about consolidation."") Your case would be much more well-received if you left this type of comment out. It's why you are not taken seriously. Focusing on the positive would better and just perhaps bring the community together.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 9:24 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Your response to my comments proves my point - "But do not underestimate the outrage and indignation of the current economic beneficiaries of this collection of entities if one starts talking about consolidation."

Parents and other taxpayers view this crisis very differently. The other taxpayers are demanding greater fiscal accountability and the parents, understandably, want to preserve their status quo (they call it focussing on the positive)

A question for Mom - why don't you consider labeling my comments as AWFUl and incendiary as inappropriate? I don't label your comments.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

Observer -

Apologies for the mixed metaphor. I'm a repeat offender and plead guilty.

My point remains - we need to be more efficient. Having four or five superintendents, business managers, accountants, clerks, curriculum advisors, facility managers, etc. for these one, two and three school districts is absurd.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

Mom-
Thanks for posting the corrections to Pete's list. Regardless of one's feelings on this subject, accurate information is important.

One observation for Pogo, several of the positions you described are currently shared across district lines now. Not to say it's the final solution, but some consolidation does already exist.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

My list was, consistent with the thread on which it was originally posted, geographically constrained and also included a number of schools that were erroneously listed by Mom as missing from my list such as Woodside High and Menlo-Atherton High.

Accurate information IS important, particularly when wrongly correcting someone else.

Now would anyone like to deal with the financial crisis that our local schools are facing or is that too incendiary a subject?


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Posted by School Dad
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I should start out by using the old saying that I am a a long time reader and first time caller/writer. Have read the Almanac for years but did not know of this comment section.

As an interested and concerned parent about California and specifically local education, here is my two cents.

@ Observer, Local Resident, Pogo, Mom - Your dialogue and discussions are valid educational. Change is needed, but on what scale has to be evaluated. As some have said, I do know that there is currently some sharing of management and resources. That could possibly make some consolidation an easier process. My guess and fear is that it will be much harder and more difficult on the state level than on the local level, and this comes from some dealings with the state of California. I believe there is a meeting on the topic of the proposed budget cuts in the next two weeks. It is to include a group of both educators and parents. I will find out and report back.
@Pete Carpenter - I am assuming that you are an adult, but your remarks seems to be those that my eight year old would make. 'I don't label your comments.'If anyone feels offended by that fact that is their problem, not mine.'Doth the lady protest too much?'The 'heaven forbid' remark was indeed inappropriate and I can see how it was taken as an 'awful' comment, meant to imply something that has no place in today' society. If you are an adult then reexaming your remarks is in order. If you are a child, then your mom and dad should be monitoring your usage of this site.

I will write back when I find the date and time of the budget meeting. Let us hope that we can find positive outcomes for our children and their education.




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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

School Dad - Thank you for your advice.

Now would anyone like to deal with the financial crisis that our local schools are facing or is that too incendiary a subject?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

School Dad -

I'm not sure we have to consider consolidation at the state level. Unless elected officials mandated that all school districts be defined by county lines, I'm not sure how that would work.

On the other hand, we live in an area with several incredibly small school districts. Saving a few thousand dollars by sharing a resource or two is fine, but I think consolidation can save close to $2 million. That's a lot of money that can go toward EDUCATION, not ADMINISTRATION.

It would appear to be in everyone's interest (except redundant employees who have a vested interest in making sure this doesn't happen) for our community consider a more economic model for administration of their school districts.

I appreciate your engagement and look forward to hearing from you in the future.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Now that we've tossed jabs and information, anybody care to offer another option to sharing services or consolidation. If one objective is to make government agencies more efficient, I'm open to other options.

If schools are running low on money, I can see 3 options --

1 - do more with less
2 - raise taxes
3 - find ways t pool resources and work together


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm

To School Dad,
Thank you for your comments and info. Look forward to hearing back from you.

To Bob,
You are right. It appears that #3 is being looked at, as described by School Dad. I am also aware of a parent task force that is meeting with one of the district local school boards next week to talk about the budget shortfalls and potential solutions.

To pete,
Response to Bob and School Dad's comments should answer your question.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I am still eagerly waiting for some specific proposals as to how the local elementary school districts can achieve any significant financial savings (the subject of this thread).

I proposed consolidation and that seems to have been determined by other posters to be politically incorrect.

Moritz proposed pension reform and that fell on deaf ears.

So what is to be done?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Poor, poor Peter,

From what I read, School Dad indicates that there is an upcoming meeting on the subject (and he said he'll get back to everyone with the date), Local Resident indicates there is a task force meeting with one school district next week. No where does anyone say that consolidation is "politically incorrect," but to the contrary many say on some level it should be looked at. And Moritz' proposal doesn't seem to have "fallen on deaf ears." I see others here actually talking about action. Not every "proposal" has to be posted here. If you feel that you have all the answers, then get out there and take action yourself, with your friends. Unfortunately, for you, not many on this thread seem to want to work with you and have explained why.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 6:58 am

Thanks Mom for the recap on all that has been accomplished.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2011 at 8:56 am

Well a good place to start might be examining benefits paid to school district board members. For example - do our local districts pay health insurance benefits to board members as many districts do? If so, why?
BTW I assume some of you commentors are 65 or older, do you request the senior exemption from paying the special school parcel or bond issue taxes as is your right?


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

Yes, Pete, the wheels are in motion and action and dialogue are beginning, always a good thing. Thanks to people like Observer, Moritz, Mom, School Dad and Pogo ideas and suggestions can now move from a very small group of posters and readers on this thread to our community that can help make positive change a reality.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

Local Resident - yes, dialogue is always useful to get things moving even if you don't agree with everything that others say. And an agent provocateur is often helpful to get otherwise complacent people involved.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

Moritz you sit on West Bay Sanitary District board and Carpenter you sit on the MP Fire District board and you are both former execs at fairly large businesses and you both seem to be on the side of consolidation for our schools. Moritz you are also against large pensions. Do you also believe that sanitary districts and fire districts should be consolidated for cost and operations efficiencies? Are you both so vigorous with complaints about costs to taxpayers at your own agencies?


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

Pete,

I, for one, have never been "complacent," especially in the area of education. And in fact, with the exception of maybe one here, no one else seems "complacent."

Let's hope that the self-proclaimed "agent provocateur" gets the help he obviously so desperately needs.

Time to move on from here, as the one dominate "agent provocateur" continues to feel the need to control all comments and ideas...sad. The idea of a town forum should be an exchange thoughts.

"Agent Provocateur" is a term my kids would use for cartoon characters, so looks like School Dad's assessment of 'adult or child' is right on.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

Local Resident:

seems as if Peter hit a nerve. Your repeatedly calling him "Pete" after he has told you his name is Peter makes you look petty and small. In my eyes, your repeatedly calling him this has diminished any possible good your ideas you posted here may have had. It's too bad as it sounds as though are involved in doing some good things, but your demeanor in this forum doesn't reflect well on that work.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:11 am

Menlo Voter:

I have to side with Local Resident on this one. If you read through these posting, you will see that Mr. Carpenter is rude, demeaning, throws out implications of racist motives by other ("heaven forbid") and dismissive of any ideas that don't coincide with his own. I don't believe that he's hit a "nerve" with anyone, but if you take a minute to go down to our local Starbucks and ask about him, you will get the comments I've just written (and more). I was warned that it would be useless to post anything here, with PC in control. Local Resident's "demeanor" is much more respected than that of a bully.

And, aren't you one of the fire department cohorts of PC? Or maybe your and PC are actually one in the same. Hard to tell.

As Local Resident said, "time to leave this forum." It should be a place for sharing of ideas, not one of validating one "agent provocateur's" ego.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

Mom,

You calling Peter Carpenter a bully.......That is one of the funniest statements I have ever heard about him.

Since you choose to not identify yourself none of us know if you are a male or female, mother or father, police officer etc. that says alot about you, just like you calling Peter, Pete does.


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Posted by Michael
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

Michael,

Thanks! I have never called Peter "Pete" however. (I checked my posts to make sure)

It's pretty well-known that Peter is a supporter of yours. There is speculation that Menlo Voter and Peter are one in the same.

For your record, I am a mom and female and live in Lindenwood. No, not a police officer. Work in the business industry in Silicon Valley.

If you take the time to read through this entire thread, you will see why the comments before. Unfortunately the person discussed has never earned respect from most others.

Again, this thread has been exhausted. Time to take the good ideas that were posted here by Local Resident, School Dad, Moritz, Pogo and most of all Observer, and move to action.

Have a nice Easter, Mr. Stogner and good luck with your upcoming election.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

Woops! My name on the above post is listed as Michael. It was from me and I was responding to Michael.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:52 am

I know both Mr. Carpenter and Menlo Voter and I assure you they are very different people.

For people frequenting this forum, it is not terribly difficult to identify an author using multiple pseudonyms by their writing style.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

Pogo,

I haven't read enough of the posts by the two (MV and PC) to identify their writing styles, but downtown at Starbucks on Santa Cruz this was a topic this morning. There was a fairly large group and several made the comment that they are one in the same. Same agendas, i.e., fire department.

I was also advised that this forum is controlled by one person and it is useless to even try to convey ideas. You did have some of value, as did Local Resident and Observer.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

Mom,
Thank for your comments, these threads are very important to the residents of San Mateo County, if you look around the county you will see that there are very few places for the residents to make public comment. The San Mateo Daily journal used to have a community forum on their website. They took it down before this election.
Its difficult to stay on topic, and we all have to learn how to use this forum. I will say this there are very few people who read this blog, and even less who write on it.

It is the best we have right now, lets see if we can improve it, tell your friends about it.

As far as Peter Carpenter being a supporter of mine this is true, we are not personal friends like other candidates have endorsing them. We share similar ideas about open government.
Also easy to answer the question about posting under different names...just contact the Almanac.....they can tell you if that was true.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Thank you for the information. As for calling the Almanac, it's really not that important and worth the effort.

Yes, these threads should be important, which is why I made an effort. Unfortunately, one person (PC) has an answer to everything and everyone. It's very much a "my way or now" approach that he uses. Others are ridiculed for their ideas and comments.

I have discussed forum this with friends and they are the ones who said because of this one person, it's really not of any value. Unfortunate. Someone, somewhere, said that a separate blog might be more appropriate for him. I would agree.

I do not know much about you and your candidacy but will do some research. I try to approach things with an open mind but you do start with one strike, that being your relationship with PC.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Mr. Stogner,

My apologies once again. I was addressing you but put your name in the "name" section. Sometimes hard to multi-task with kids eating lunch here at the same table


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Mom:

I assure you Peter Carpenter and I are not one in the same. If you look at past postings you will see that I have disagreed with Peter in the past. I may agree with him on some issues, but ceratinly not all. While I agree he can sometimes be annoying, I don't believe he does so intentionally, it's just his personality. I'm guessing, of course, as I've never met the man. As POGO said, he has met me and Peter and vouches for us not being one in the same. Perhaps POGO can shed some light on Peter. As I said, I don't think he is intentionally rude. In this case, I think Local was obviously being intentionally rude, petty and small. If he really thinks Peter is rude, why lower himself to that level? It says more about Local than it does about Peter. You know what they say about wrestling with pigs......


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

This was from me, not Mr. Stogner. I was sending to him. The error was mine as I was feeding kids and typing at the same time. Sincere apologies

To Mr. Stogner,

Thank you for the information. As for calling the Almanac, it's really not that important and worth the effort.

Yes, these threads should be important, which is why I made an effort. Unfortunately, one person (PC) has an answer to everything and everyone. It's very much a "my way or now" approach that he uses. Others are ridiculed for their ideas and comments.

I have discussed forum this with friends and they are the ones who said because of this one person, it's really not of any value. Unfortunate. Someone, somewhere, said that a separate blog might be more appropriate for him. I would agree.

I do not know much about you and your candidacy but will do some research. I try to approach things with an open mind but you do start with one strike, that being your relationship with PC.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Bob asks:"fire districts should be consolidated for cost and operations efficiencies? Are you both so vigorous with complaints about costs to taxpayers at your own agencies?"

YES on consolidation. The Fire District has long been an outspoken leader for county wide consolidation of fire and emergency services and went on record on this issue in its Resolution 1181 -7 in December 2007. Since then we have continued to speak out on this issue and to encourage other agencies to join with us on this effort.


Yes on cost control. Your Fire Board has not raised firefighters' salaries since 2008 and has resisted a union demand for an 11% slary increase.

These are both issues that require the careful attention of any responsible elected board/council of a public agency. Change in public agencies comes very slowly and the current economic crisis does not provide sufficient time for deliberative change IF an agency did not start this process years ago. Hence my concern that our school district are, given the highly probable decline in State aid, already late to the game.

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Mom - rest assured that I never post anonymously and I only post in my own name. I consider anonymous posting, particularly using multiple anonymous names, as a cowardly approach to dialogue. You might not like what I say but you certainly know who I am and I stand accountable for what I post - even if it makes some people uncomfortable and they respond by personal attacks. Such is the price of being outspoken.

As for you making Mr. Stogner guilty by association that is awful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Menlo Voter,

Thanks for your clarification. What I relayed was something several mentioned at Starbucks this morning. As for Local Resident, I have to disagree with you. If you read through this thread, the intentionally rude, petty and small comments came from PC. It seems to be a pattern for him and while you say it's just his personality, it has no place with every poster who disagrees with him. I feel for Local Resident as he brought some good ideas to the table, only to be continually shot down and have his words twisted around.

I do believe now that this thread is exhausted, as has been said before.

And Peter, yes it's probably "awful" but how I feel, based upon your conduct here. I can see why I was told this morning that posting here is a huge waste of time.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

It should be apparent to the most casual observer that Mr. Carpenter needs no help from me or anyone else to explain his views!

Although we are little more than acquaintances, I know both Mr. Carpenter and Menlo Voter and have great respect and admiration for both. While we don't agree on all issues, I think the three of us have some common objectives - transparent, honest government (with NO exceptions), sound fiscal policies, and fair, sustainable compensation for our public employees. That's actually a lot.

In my very humble opinion, Mr. Carpenter is honest and transparent and isn't the least bit concerned if you accept or reject his comments. He is willing to state his opinion unabashedly and even sign his name to it - something few of us are willing to do. I think he is philosophically a "purist" - as am I - meaning that we are not willing to overlook inconsistent conduct from our elected officials such as criticizing adversaries but condoning similar conduct from allies. We see far too much of that.

I once mentioned to Mr. Carpenter that it can unproductive to respond to every single comment but he has yet to accept my suggestion!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

POGO states:"I once mentioned to Mr. Carpenter that it can unproductive to respond to every single comment but he has yet to accept my suggestion!"

You were giving great advice and I should have taken it - lesson learned.

Thanks,

Peter


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Mom,

"Thank you for the information. As for calling the Almanac, it's really not that important and worth the effort." Really, you have accused Peter of something and are not willing to verify.

The reason I recommended this was it would solve that question that you brought up, from the people at Starbucks...It would prove that they are wrong. It is the easiest, least difficult, least costly way to prove that statement false. With that statement proven false it would give you a better basis to judge those people you mentioned.

Stay engaged in this you are making a difference. We are all learning how to use this media.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Mr. Stogner,

Let's be clear. I did not accuse, but simply relayed what I had heard. If you read Menlo Voter and Pogo's responses, that's good enough for me. If other want to pursue, then that's up to them.

My judgments are not based upon what others have said but more on what this one person has said to me and to some others here.

I do plan to stay engaged, but this is obviously not the forum. It seems to be the forum of one person, and if you agree then you are allowed to continue to comment. If not, then prepare to be ridiculed and belittled. Again sad, but there are other places to productively enact true change.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Mom:

I fail to see how one person's behavior or disagreement makes posting here a "waste of time." Disagreement is a part of dialogue. If everyone comes here and has a "kumbaya" moment, THEN I would ask what's the point? Besides, if you don't like what Peter has to say or how he says it, you can always ignore him. Don't stop being involved in the dialogue with others you don't find "objectionable." From my experience there are valuable ideas passed around here. There's a lot of garbage too, most of it coming from some very specific posters that rarely offer anything of value,they just attack. Even so, I continue to post and to read as I often learn something.

By the way, if you think resistance to consolidation doesn't have a racist component from some, then you are sadly mistaken. I've had conversations with people about this subject and you can always tell what the problem is when the code words start to come out. I'm not saying that is the case here with you or Local, but it is certainly a part of the resistance to consolidation.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Menlo Voter,

No where will you see that I am opposed or resistant to consolidation of school districts. Please read through my comments on this thread. I do believe that at some degree it is warranted.

I believe that the feeling that you and PC were the same might come from your common usage of phrases such as: code words.

Posting does become a waste of time when one person choses to appoint himself the final word in all discussions. It is further difficult just to post an opinion when you know that every single time that person will make sure you are criticized and belittled. You are right, it seems that he just comes here to attack. Sure, one can ignore, but it becomes difficult when your every word is challenged, attacked and put down. There is disagreement and then there is mean-spirited behavior. This is obviously why there is so little "new blood" on this forum.

Yes, some things were learned about our budget shortfall here, specifically from posters like Observer, Legal Resident, Moritz and Pogo. Those are the ideas and comments I will take away.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm

per POGO - no comment


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Menlo Voter,

This proves my point:


"Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 8 minutes ago

per POGO - no comment"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm

per POGO - no comment"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Mom:

no where in my post did I suggest that you were resistant to consolidation. Please read my post again. My point was two fold: if you don't like the manner in which a certain poster posts, you are free to ignore him or her in favor of those that don't post in that manner. Don't dismiss the value of this forum becasue you don't like the opinions or manner of certain posters. secondly, if you don't think there are those that use code words and ARE resistant to consolidation based on racial prejudices, you are mistaken.


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Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Based upon the "per Pogo" remarks, you can see why I've given up on any productive dialogue on budget cutbacks, our children and their education.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Mark Patinkin: R.I.'s leaders need to face the music about money

01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sometimes a company in grave crisis turns for rescue to a new CEO who knows his job will be harsh and simple:

Slash.

And leave.

The assignment is to right a sinking ship with ruthless steps that will anger employees, unions and divisions, but to care more about the bottom line than being popular. That's what happened when General Motors got an interim CEO to dig it out of bankruptcy a few years ago. He shut factories, dealerships and entire lines like Pontiac; he laid off thousands and began the process of curtailing pension promises; then got out of town.

I'm thinking about this as I consider those who won key executive posts in Rhode Island last November — Governor Chafee, Providence's Mayor Taveras and mayors of other cities here.

They deserve the glory of victory, but six months later, it's the morning after, and between budget deficits and unfunded pensions, the economic reality is so grim as to likely make those who lost feel relieved. They aren't the ones in the hot seat.

For those who did win, this message is for you.

It's too late to play the game of past politicians who cared more about votes than balancing budgets. The crises are too severe. We've run out of time to defer the hard decisions to another administration, or generation. Your job is akin to those CEOs brought in to be unpopular – to do what has to be done, knowing it could mean a brief reign. Your goal cannot be reelection, but instead, to save your realms from disaster. To do your jobs right, gentlemen, it may well mean you will be one-term public servants.

Do you have the stomach for it?

The decisions are simple — government has to cut back expenditures to live within its means. But it's also complicated because there's no way around cutbacks in the area of greatest costs: compensation and retirement promises to public employees. Yes, there are capital expenses that can be curtailed, operations that can be made more efficient, but you can't balance the budget without going after personnel and entitlement costs.

I don't envy you. It's both a legal and moral challenge. Tens of thousands of workers have paid into pensions, and were guaranteed every dime.

That's why most efforts so far have been easier steps, like reducing retirement packages to new employees. There are other moves to push the pension pay-out age to 65 and cut back on absurd cost-of-living increases that double pensions every 12 years or so.

But those alone won't do it. There are thousands out there promised pensions equal to 80 percent of their highest salary years — packages double and triple what most in the private sector dream about.

One can say many public employees — especially those doing risky jobs like cops and firemen — deserve such pensions. Even I think they do. But sadly, we are past the point of talking about "deserve." We're in the realm of "afford."

We can't anymore.

So what do you do about it?

Well, for starters, public employees need to pay more into retirement funds. That may sound onerous, but it's mathematically unavoidable.

And that's not enough.

Let's be brutally honest here: There will be a need for givebacks — or clawbacks — of retirement package promises already made.

Even saying that in a newspaper will likely bring crowds with torches outside my office, so I can only imagine what will happen when you who won office last November attempt the same thing legislatively.

But look at the numbers. Our state treasurer has said we need to find $7 billion or more to make current pension funds whole. There is no way to do that with gestures that save a few million here and there.

Some say states should go bankrupt as a legal means for dialing back current retirement promises. Others, like the governor of Wisconsin, have pushed through legislation to allow executives to make cutbacks unilaterally, without being stopped by collective bargaining.

Many vehemently disagree. They say it would breach an ethical obligation to promises made. They may even be right.

But it doesn't matter. It's a math problem. Either we balance the budgets and pensions funds, or they collapse and the workers lose anyway.

So that's the job. The only way for Mr. Chafee, Mr. Taveras and others to do it is to know you could be a one-term governor, or mayor. But to fail will leave you with a legacy as the leader who didn't act as the clock struck midnight, and history will hold you accountable.

Good luck.

We're counting on you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by College Student
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Wow! Talk about off topic! Rhode Island?

The answer is: per Pogo no comment.

Schools deserve better.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"The decisions are simple — government has to cut back expenditures to live within its means. But it's also complicated because there's no way around cutbacks in the area of greatest costs: compensation and retirement promises to public employees. Yes, there are capital expenses that can be curtailed, operations that can be made more efficient, but you can't balance the budget without going after personnel and entitlement costs."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 24, 2011 at 10:02 pm

[Post removed. Please comment on the topic, not other posters.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by School Dad
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I wrote here several days ago and said I would get back to all of you with information on meetings on the topic above. I now have dates and times for some formal and some informal upcoming meetings. All are focused on local education issues, specifically the budget shortfall and potential solutions: appeals, funds from other sources, consolidations. After reading through this comment section, however,I do not feel this is the place to list all what I've put together. I fear that Mr. Carpenter will somehow, someway find fault with the list and springboard into a critcism of why these meetings are all wrong and the parents and educators involved are all off base and thus discourage others. As my intent is only to inform and hopefully get some of you involved on a postive level, I think the better place to give this information is directly to the newspapers. I will be contacting the Palo Alto Daily, which I believe includes this Almanac, and also the San Jose Mercury News. It is my hopes that they will be willing to run a brief article on this subject. If this does not happen I will be back in touch with where the information can be located.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Dad - Please feel free to post your information here.

I promise NOT to criticize the information in your list.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

School Dad,

The Palo Alto Daily and the Almanac are separate news papers, as is the San Jose Mercury News which includes a Daily News, and the San Mateo County Times. You might also include the San Mateo Daily Journal 50,000 copies daily and they claim to be "Leading local news coverage in San Mateo County." I would encourage you to submit it to as many as possible.

Remember this site is viewed by very few people.

Get that information out there. Good Luck


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Poster
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I couldn't bring myself to slog through all of the postings (many of them irrelevant to the topic), so please forgive me if I am reiterating something that has already been said.

The San Mateo County Committee for School District Organization is the entity that deals with school district boundaries. Folks who want consolidation would need to petition this committee.

That having been said, historically, the only folks who go to this Committee to move territory seem to be folks who live in a "less desirable" district (such as EPA and Redwood City) and who want to move their property into a more affluent district (e.g. Las Lomitas or Menlo Park.) Funny how it never seems to be the other way around, so good luck getting those folks interested in consolidating their school districts with districts that are predominantly brown and low income.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by New blood
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm

A few comments

1) Honestly, I think many in MP could be convinced that district consolidation is in our best interests, but I suspect the math & timeline involved in making that happen would greatly outweigh any cost savings that could be achieved.

2) pension promises DO need retracted, just like prop 13 exemptions/loopholes for businesses need retracted. We cannot afford it; our gov't is truly broken.

3) forums like this are "info-tainment". Don't confuse them with the opinions of the majority, or as a place for real discussion or progress.

4) stop taking the bait or getting offended by every little comment. Have you ever read the sfgate comments? This is gentlemanly in comparison :)


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm

New blood -

"Honestly, I think many in MP could be convinced that district consolidation is in our best interests, but I suspect the math & timeline involved in making that happen would greatly outweigh any cost savings that could be achieved."

I can guarantee you that the redundant officials will do everything humanly possible to demonstrate that there will be no cost savings at all.

There is a cost to inaction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MPCSD Educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2011 at 11:42 pm

CONSOLIDATE! CONSOLIDATE! CONSOLIDATE! MPCSD - Woodside - Las Lomitas - Portola Valley. One superintendent and one administrative staff. More programs. Quality education. No more parcel taxes!


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2011 at 7:03 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The ethics of some anonymous critics become clear when you compare the reaction to this anonymous posting
"Funny how it never seems to be the other way around, so good luck getting those folks interested in consolidating their school districts with districts that are predominantly brown and low income."
to the reaction to this posting by an individual (me) who used his own name
"The only short term cost savings will be from a significant consolidation - like all elementary school districts in Menlo Park, Redwood City and, heaven forbid, East Palo Alto."

There was NO reaction to the posting by anonymous poster but harsh and numerous reactions by anonymous posters to the posting by a named individual. Clearly the hidden agenda of the hidden critics is an attempt to discredit an individual with whom they disagree and not outrage at the content of the posting. An interesting insight into the ethical standards of those critics.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 26, 2011 at 8:50 am

[Post removed. Please focus on the topic, not other posters.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Let's deal with issues:

Los Lomitas 29.5% minorities
Menlo Park 32.1% minorities
Ravenswood 99.0% minorities (exactly 2 white students)

Maybe is is time for a court ordered consolidation to deal with both the racial disparities and to reduce administrative costs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

I'm not sure why people care what others write about their posts.

Seriously, what's the big deal?

Geez, if you can't stand criticism on blog...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm

In addition to a drop in funding from the State it looks like revenues fro property taxes for the school districts will also be flat or even drop in the next tax years:

"In the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area -- which includes such varied markets as San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties -- home values on average in February dropped 2.6 percent from the month before and 3.5 percent year over year. (Yes, the real estate markets can be very different in those counties, but S&P is looking at the overall trend.)"

Small cuts in expenditures will not be sufficient.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm

To clarify my earlier comment...

What I don't understand is why someone (especially someone with reasonable ideas to contribute) would decide to "opt out" of this blog just because they think their ideas might receive criticism.

That's a poor excuse for not participating in a community forum.

My experience has been that if you are respectful, you will be treated respectfully. And if you are not, you can always just ignore it. You don't HAVE to play in mud.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

For those that think that we are getting great public schools and property values for our tax dollars please read this story from Forbes:

The Best Schools For Your Real Estate Buck

Web Link

Palo Alto was 29th. Menlo Park did not even make the list.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by School Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Peter - are you serious, you're seriously referencing a survey that does not take into the expense of living in this area, or in Manhattan, or other much more expensive areas? Menlo Park teacher expense averages, close to north of $100K! I think we need to think about this differently, how much would our homes be worth of our school district was a poor performing district? Do we seriously think our homes are worth more because of our vibrant downtown? Not. Or perhaps you think it's because of our $38M fire district.(which by the way has a budget $5M more than the school district) This article is arguing apples v. oranges.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2011 at 6:11 am

Please read the referenced survey - you will note that cost of living is a critical factor in the ranking.

And if cost of living was such a big issue why was Palo Alto on the list and not Menlo Park?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"GreatSchools could calibrate the results of individual cities in a single state with national standards to come up with an absolute score for each city. It then graded them on a curve with the highest-ranking city, Falmouth, representing 100. GreatSchools assesses more than 200,000 public schools, including public charter schools.

Forbes then cut the list by median housing prices: $100,000-$200,000, $200,000-$300,000, $300,000-$400,000 and so on. Our top cut is over $800,000. "

Housing prices are perfectly correlated with cost of living and Palo Alto, with higher housing prices than Menlo Park, made the list.

Also note that Palo Alto Unified School District has 11,704 students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

SS states:"Or perhaps you think it's because of our $38M fire district.(which by the way has a budget $5M more than the school district) "

The Fire District serves over 90,000 residents in Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and parts of the unincorporated area of San Mateo County while the two Menlo Park/Atherton School Districts serve 4000 students which represent about 2500 families which represent about 8-10,000 residents. Or looking at the total population of the geographical area served by these two school districts they serve a total resident population of 40,000.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

from the same Forbes article

"GreatSchools had to eliminate towns with less than 10,000 residents or fewer than five schools"

it's not clear that that combine the separate high school and elementary school districts


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 29, 2011 at 12:10 am

well that was a typo and an incomplete thought ... take 2

with Great School's criteria, it's not clear that Menlo Park is on their list of cities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rory
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

I like what Gia said above the most. She says it as it is, none of this sugar coating. Go Gia!


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