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Elementary school consolidation - an idea whose time has come?

Original post made by peter carpenter on May 11, 2011

The Almanac reports that one more leader adds his name to the consolidation of our elementary schools:

Before casting his vote, Mayor Rich Cline called the need for better education immediate, and suggested the city should take a look at consolidating the Ravenswood and Menlo Park City School districts.

"We should not have multiple school districts in this city," he said. "There should be one; our kids should be in the same schools."

I know that this is politically incorrect, but it is sad to see the continuing segregation of our elementary schools. Feel free to call my comments 'awful' and 'incendiary', but be honest enough to recognize the increasing segregation in our local schools.

Here are some of the facts:

Los Lomita Elementary K-8

% minority 29.5

Menlo Park Elementary K-8

% minority 32.1

Ravenswood City Elementary K-8

% minority 99.0

Racial segregation of children in our elementary schools even if based on the wealth, or lack thereof, of their parents is both illegal and immoral. This is an injustice that begs for both recognition and remedy - why the silence? Or do we save our outrage for injustices which don't benefit ourselves?

The answer is to consolidate all three local elementary school districts - providing equal education regardless of race or income level and with all of us sharing the responsibility and the burden.

Comments (54)

Posted by all about the money, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm

It's all about the money, and how school districts are funded. The state rules are very arcane, and serve to perpetuate the current nonsense of multiple public school districts in a relatively small town such as ours.
Some districts already share back office functions, so it's not clear what the cost savings could be, but of greater importance is what consolidations might do to funding. While racism or elitism may play a role in the current structure, I think the funding issues play a bigger role.

Posted by Uhhh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm

First of all, is anyone aware that Ravenswood School District also covers East Palo Alto? And that EPA is not part of Menlo Park? It always surprises me to hear public officials like Peter and Rich who don't seem to take that into account. Or are we supposed to split it since invisible city boundaries make more sense than geographic location?

Second, Ravenswood children are actually funded at a *higher* level than Menlo Park City School District children, although lower than Las Lomitas. This is due to state and federal programs specifically funded to address issues of poverty, immigration, language issues, etc. In fact, 77.5% of Ravenswood funding comes from these sources.

Now, you may believe in the Fairy God Jerry ... but I believe that *our* state and federal income taxes are providing that 77.5%. MPCSD and LLSD residents -- in addition to covering the vast majority of own own school districts' costs -- are in fact contributing heavily to address equality issues via income taxes.

Of course, not all MPCSD and LLSD residents are paying a full whack. As Peter has often pointed out, those with pre-1978 property assessments are already enjoying a major free-rider effect. Their current property taxes are about half, in real dollars, what they were in 1978 ... in effect, making zero contribution to the schools and covering only Fire, City, County, etc., services.

It's always interesting when folks who aren't paying in the first place decide that I'm not paying enough for their liberal urges -- it's time for my kids to pay, too.

Third, assuming the districts were thrown together, why exactly would this create a melded race-free equal education? Would we then bus every child across the freeway -- Sharon Heights kids to James Flood School and Belle Haven to Oak Knoll? Or would West Menlo simply take over Willow Oaks and push Belle Haven kids back across the freeway? Rich Cline has kids -- why doesn't he go first and show us how it's done?

Bottom line: less funding overall, kids bused down the Willow Road corridor in both directions, a Superman Superintendent who is neither focused on excellent public education for the middle class OR language/poverty issues, and ... perhaps $700K of total administrative savings. Spare me your white man's burden.

If you want to help Ravenswood -- decide what needs to be done there and put out the appropriate proposal. Don't just throw it into someone else's lap in the name of "equality."

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Not wanting to cause further frustration but what's the percentage of legal resident students vs illegal resident students in each of the three districts. Not to sound racist, but I guess it does to some, shouldn't we be focusing on education those who are here legally.
To take it a step further why are the UC and CSU systems accepting foreign and out of state undergrads and grads while turning away thousands of qualified legal California residents. We Californians are paying the taxes, so why the hell are our children being turned away?

Posted by I'll take a pass, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2011 at 3:51 am

Let's think about this. Both Menlo Elementary and Las Lomitas are Basic Aid Districts (ie, they forgo most per student funding from the state in return for getting to keep a percentage of their property taxes). Ravenswood is a grant funded district.

According to the NCES Statistics (08-09 latest on file), the districts received the following per student funding:

Ravenswood: $9,034
Menlo Elem: $14,426
Las Lomitas: $16,339

If they were combined, the Menlo district would almost certainly lose its basic aid status, so the revenue would drop about $6K per student (Menlo wouldn't qualify for the federal funding that Ravenswood receives).

So what would the cost savings be? In 08-09 Menlo Elem spent $1511 per student on TOTAL administrative cost. So if we could do away with having any admin or principles at any site, we would save at most $1511 dollars. The reality is that you are still going to want a principle and assistant principle at every school (at least I would), so overall I don't see the combined district saving more than a few hundred dollars per student. But it would come at the cost of giving up thousands per student in funding.

Hmmm, as a parent how do I feel about this? Let me think.....

Posted by I'll take a pass, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2011 at 3:55 am

principle vs principal -- my bad

Posted by Apparently, a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I think this is a very salient question that has been posed. We have, in SM County, probably the greatest contrast between Districts at the MPCSD and Ravenswood borders, which the "haves" mostly on one side and the "have nots" mostly on the other. Recently, a group of residents on that border successfully argued to the State Board of Education that their upwardly mobile families shouldn't send their children to the Ravenswood school that is immediately adjacent to their homes. I think I smell racism AND classism. The amount spent per pupil is considerably higher on the Menlo Park side than the EPA side. So, the children of upper middle class and affluent families are getting a better funded education than the lower socio-economic kids and "Uhhh?" has the nerve to suggest that this is justified? What happened to the concept of a quality public school education for all of our children? I guess that is just another one of those "liberal" concepts? What a very sad commentary on our community values. All children, regardless of their economic origins (and their immigration status) deserve a good education, indeed, the quality of our future depends on it.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm

If you have children in the Menlo Park or Las Lomitas districts, you probably love your de facto "private schools" and won't support change.

On the other hand, if you don't have children in those schools, you probably are sick and tired of the inefficiency and ever escalating demands for more of your dollars. Of course, those with children will always point out how much more your home is worth.

Posted by Just Wondering, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm

"I know that this is politically incorrect, but it is sad to see the continuing segregation of our elementary schools. Feel free to call my comments 'awful' and 'incendiary'"

I'd say "hypocritical" instead, coming from a resident of the as-close-to-private-as-you-can-get town of Atherton!

Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Just Wandering states:"I'd say "hypocritical" instead, coming from a resident of the as-close-to-private-as-you-can-get town of Atherton! "

It is a common mistake to confuse one's residency with one's values and principles. I stand by my original posting:"Racial segregation of children in our elementary schools even if based on the wealth, or lack thereof, of their parents is both illegal and immoral. This is an injustice that begs for both recognition and remedy."

Perhaps Just Wandering has something constructive to offer to this discussion??

Posted by not PC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm

The difference in funding between the MP, LL, and Ravenswood districts does not mean that the Ravenswood students are receiving an inferior education. Their education includes the basics, taught my dedicated professional teachers, but they are not getting the extras (music, art) that Prop 13 stripped away -- unless volunteers provide them. (I had children in the MP district before parcel taxes, and we parents used to be much more involved in the classroom,teaching science, math, PE, art, and music, than parents are now.)

There are Ravenswood district students that are receiving an education in a top district -- the Tinsley transfers. Longitudinal studies on these children would probably reveal disappointing results. My kids were friends with Tinsley students, and many of us parents drove the kids to practices and scout meetings, bought them equipment so they could have the same extracurriculars as our kids, and tutored them. And almost 100% of the Tinsley students dropped out of high school. This is anecdotal, of course, but teachers have told me that the Tinsley students face immense pressure from their peers to scorn schoolwork. Even the bright and talented students shrug off academics.

So, beat yourself up with liberal guilt, but I believe the problem is not that Ravenswood is inherently inferior but that the community itself does not, for the most part, value education. And if you combined the school districts (thereby ensuring a rise in demand for private schools) you would end up with the district-wide equivalent of M-A, where students from different backgrounds attend the same school but are on separate tracks.

These are systemic problems and a "logical" fix like merging districts would actually create more problems than it would solve, apart from the negative financial implications.

Posted by I'll take a pass, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2011 at 3:21 am

Actually this is was an unfortunate error. The NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) data that I used is not correct. The Ravenswood number only includes that amount that the district receives from the state for it Grant Limit allocation but does not include other state income.

In another thread here, Peter actually posted the a better place to get the data.

Here are the per student amounts that says each district received in 09-10:

Las Lomitas $14,715
Ravenswood $12,119
Menlo Park Elementary $10,441

Anyway, my basic point remains unchanged. Improvement in efficiencies by consolidations seems to me unlikely to yield more than a couple of hundred dollars per student and are thus seem to me to be a red herring to the real agenda here which appears to me to be a discussion of desegregation.

Consolidating the districts would be financial disaster for both Menlo Park and Las Lomitas since they would be forced to lose their status as basic aid districts. Once combined with Ravenswood the entire district would almost certainly become a grant limit district, which would result in reducing per student funding from state tax sources from about $8K to about $5K.

Moreover it also seems likely that the over $1000 per student that Las Lomitas receives in parent donations would drop significantly unless the combined district allowed school specific directed donations, which presumably Mr. Carpenter would oppose. In addition, over $1200 per student of Las Lomitas financial advantage comes to them as a result of their leasing out district buildings to a private school. I'm sure a few folks in Atherton might be opposed to redistribution of that wealth that they might perceive as coming solely from property to which their town should have rights.

Posted by I'll take a pass, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2011 at 3:28 am

And one more thing. Even from Ravenswood's perspective a combination seems likely to a lose-lose proposition. It's not clear to me that once the laudable desegregation goal is accomplished that the combined district would qualify for the $4K of federal funding that Ravenswood currently receives which is why Ravenswood has more money coming in despite not being a basic aid district.

Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

This is a fascinating discussion thanks to all of those who have contributed. Clearly there are big financial consequences of any consolidation - primarily because of the State and Federal programs which are designed to assist disadvantages school districts. The unfortunate result is a system that promotes separate but (not quite) equal schools. Hopefully we can devise a better mechanism than one which reverts to the segregated schools outlawed by Brown vs Board of Education.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

One point not mentioned by anyone was the number of students in each district.
The consolidated district would be about 8500 students.
Ravenswood City School District approx 4500 students
Menlo Park City School District about 2660 students
Las Lomitas Elementary School District about 1340 students

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

The Ravenswood student figures above include about 700 charter school students.

As to how many Ravenswood district students live in Menlo Park. Bell Haven and Willow Oaks schools serve Menlo Park and they have a total of about 1200 students of which about 1000 live in Menlo Park.

To support some of Peter's concerns the following is from the Ravenswood Education Foundation web site
"Although Ravenswood is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and is surrounded by some of the finest public school districts in the United States, currently:
61% of students are English language learners
Just 22% are reading at grade level
Only 28% are math proficient
80% are considered low income
Every year, 30% of students are new enrollees
Over 30% of teachers have only 1-2 years teaching experience

Also less than 20% of Willow Oaks parents have a high school degree according to the school's web site.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2011 at 11:50 am

That last line should read-
Also less than 20% of Willow Oaks parents graduated from high school according to the school's web site.

Posted by observing, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2011 at 7:53 am

Boy I'm just sure that most of the young families that have decided to plant roots in Menlo Park and see their children get a great education are really going to support having to bus them to outer areas, so that they can be in classes with others, full filling the dream of integrated classes, where over 65% of those children are still trying to learn English. Political incorrect, absolutely.

Good luck Mayor Cline.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2011 at 8:01 am

As I've said before, parents with children in the Menlo Park, Woodside and Las Lomitas school districts won't support consolidation because they like their private schools. They proudly proclaim their political social progressivism yet so easily preserve their elitist schools for their own. Classic "do as I say, not as I do."

But if these districts are going to maintain their small class size and high wages, people without school-age children in these districts will be paying more and more in taxes and parcel taxes. Perhaps one day they will say "enough," but I doubt it. "It's for the children," after all... I guess as long as those children live in those privileged districts!

Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 17, 2011 at 9:37 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Today is the 57th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

So in that time we have gone from de jure racial segregation to de facto racial segregation of our elementary schools - progress??? I don't think so.

Posted by Funding, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Federal funding (e.g. Title I) is per school site, not per district. Schools with a certain percentage of low income students quality for this funding.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Woodside High School
on May 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

... and it is the 50th anniversary (this year but not today) of the Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, Peter.

Tearing down school progress built by the community in the name of equality for all is the equivalent of the Handicapper General.

Strong schools sustain the property values, even of those residents without school age children. It remains true even if POGO expects to hear that claim.

I do think that Mayor Cline is correct that school districts should relate more closely to town boundaries. I would also be curious if the business parks east of 101 in Menlo Park contribute their tax base to Ravenswood District: do they hew to school boundaries eg does the Facebook expansion boost the base for Ravenswood? Web Link

I do think that Peter is off the mark that no town should be able to invest in their schools. Nor do I think proponents of consolidation understand how much investment is weakened by regional school systems. While Peter and POGO are absolutely correct that schools must strive for high efficiency, consolidation is not the only route to that goal.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 5:41 am

Observer states:'I do think that Peter is off the mark that no town should be able to invest in their schools."

Off which mark?

"Historically, in California and most other states, school funding had been obtained by levying a tax on local property. This meant that the gross disparities in property values between rich and poor communities translated into equally gross disparities in the quality of education that could be afforded between districts. And, as wealth and race are related in California and elsewhere, this also meant a disparity between races in the quality of education that was provided. As one piece of evidence indicated,

Thus, in 1968-69, the Baldwin Park School District spent $577.49 to educate each of its pupils, while Pasadena spent $840.19 and Beverly Hills spent $1,231.72. This "economic chasm" between various districts with respect to tax base and expenditures meant "poorer" districts had to tax themselves at much higher rates to match the expenditures of wealthier districts, if this was even possible. As the Supreme Court put it, "affluent districts can have their cake and eat it too; they can provide a high quality education for their children while paying lower taxes. Poor districts, by contrast, have no cake at all."

"Thus, in its 1976 Serrano v. Priest ruling, the California Supreme Court ordered that the state develop a more equal system for funding its K-12 school districts. In summary,

Serrano v. Priest is the 1976 California Supreme Court decision that found the existing system of financing schools unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause of the state Constitution. The court ruled that property tax rates and per pupil expenditures should be equalized and that, by 1980, the difference in revenue limits per pupil should be less than $100 ( Serrano band ). This difference in revenue limits has subsequently been adjusted for inflation and is currently about $350. In equalizing funding, districts are divided into three types: elementary, high school, and unified. They are then further broken down into small versus large districts to ensure that appropriate funding comparisons are made. Special-purpose or categorical funds are excluded from this calculation.

To be clear, the Serrano decision has not resulted in equally-funded school districts across the state of California. Yet, it did establish important principles that have framed the continuing struggle for educational equity in the state."

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 18, 2011 at 7:53 am

Observer states: "While Peter and POGO are absolutely correct that schools must strive for high efficiency, consolidation is not the only route to that goal."

I don't know how I can be any clearer. Not only have I never said that consolidation is "the only route to that goal," I've said it's ONE route and the EASIEST route.

It is absurd for us to have redundant administrators and staff in so many 1, 2 and 3 school districts. Consolidation will save millions (yes, millions) of dollars that can be directed to the classroom. Consolidation is preferable to cutting teacher salaries, increasing class size, or raising taxes.

If you want to oppose consolidation because it is not the silver bullet solution, fine. Just be aware that there is no silver bullet solution. Consolidation is a start, a good start.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Woodside High School
on May 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

@ POGO Sorry! wasn't trying to put words in your mouth on the route ... I thought I was attributing to you the call for efficiency. I disagree that consolidation is a route, much less the easiest.

@ Peter off the mark of building good schools. Citing the Priest Serrano case is important to note a floor on spending for good results. But quality is the goal rather than equality: otherwise one could just sets all school funding to zero and celebrate victory.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 11:07 am

Observer - Given the Brown and Serrano decisions you cannot give some children more quality than others within the publicly funded school system. The structure of the current local elementary school districts is de facto discrimination and will eventually be challenged in court - after a lot of students suffer the consequences.

We can build good schools - as good as we can afford - but they have to serve all of the children not just the lucky few who live in wealthy communities. That is why it is called Public Education.

Posted by Retired Educator, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm

We can no longer afford parcel tax after parcel while we continue to support 4 principals and staff for 4 tiny school districts:
Menlo Park: 4 schools
Las Lomitas: 2 schools
Portola Valley: 2 schools
Woodside: 1 school
The superintendents for each of these districts pulls in $200,000+ a year = $800,000 - $1,000,000. That's only the beginning. Each superindendent has its own staff of secretaries, etc.
IT IS TIME TO CONSOLIDATE! Put $$ into programs and kids; not multiple superintendents' salaries managing tiny school districts!

Posted by Retired Educator, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Whoops! In my last message, I meant to write in the first sentence: "...4 superintendents and staff"; not "...4 principals and..."

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Retired Educator -

I'm not sure we could have designed a more top heavy, inefficient system if we tried.

Consolidating these schools would create a single, very average-sized district.

Posted by wondering, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

So the Las Lomitas District has gotten bonds to build up their schools so that two sites can still be leased to private schools, and the Menlo Park District decided to rebuild their sites. Belle Haven seems to have tons of portables on campus, and not the nice built in variety, I doubt a parcel tax has been attempted or would bring in funds to do much. I'm willing to help one, not the other.

If you got this multi district merge, how would these differences be resolved? It takes a 2/3 vote to change taxes like parcel taxes. How many of those of us who've had our kids bussed and crammed onto 2 campuses for the last three decades are going to vote to hand over the two campuses that keep our kids at the level of education we all received in the 1970's? Having gone to the schools, that's all that's been maintained. Perhaps with more bells and whistles, but with less of a lot of other things we all grew up with and took for granted. Could we share the proceeds of our Foundations? Sure, that might make more sense. I'd be willing to give more, but turn over the public properties that are helping to fund the education of our children? Nope. You won't get the 1/3 to vote for that. The Sequoia Union High School District plowed 2 whole campuses into the ground, and still had to ask for money to recreate their campuses. Nope. Not going the route of simply liquidating resources to solve this "problem" They destroyed the newest campus they had rather than looking to lease the space for other community benefits and left the other campus to rot for decades.

The current level of Foundation support expected by the "private" schools in Las Lomitas is now over $2000 to keep things the same. ALL OF US. Every single one of us could use escrip to painlessly donate at least $100 per person every year to our kids. You want to help? Sign up. You can sign up anyone in the US to get companies to give money to our schools. Let's get everyone to give part of that money to the Ravenswood District.

If you can figure out how to merge the administrations to save more money, go for it. If you want to request some of the Foundation money be shifted to some great programs in the Ravenswood School District, please do! When these kids meet at Menlo-Atherton it would be better for everyone if they were closer educationally, but please, don't think that we're giving up what we have. That's simply not the way things work in America.

I encourage all of you to volunteer yourself, or your children to go help tutor kids in the Ravenswood District. Contact the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto (or East Menlo Park) and they will tell you how much your help is needed. Menlo-Atherton students are making that commitment now. Leila Ganz would LOVE to hear from you!

Peter Carpenter are you signed up with escrip? Have you volunteered to help tutor lately? I'm hoping both answers are yes, so maybe there can be some agreement here on things that can help.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Wondering - great idea re escrip. I was not signed up and was disappointed to find that Ravenswood School District is not a participant.

As for volunteering, after 40 years on non-profit boards, 20 years as a volunteer in educational institutions and 9 years as an elected official I think I have done my small bit.

Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm


escrip participants generally enroll by school. But it is not the school directly. It is usually the PTA (in Menlo Park it's the Foundation) that manages this. Willow Oaks, which is in the Ravenswood School District, does participate in escrip and you can sign up with them. If you have any questions you can contact their PTA president.

Also, Selby Lane in Atherton is also enrolled.

If a school does not participate and you would like to have your proceeds go to them, contact that PTA president and encourage them to sign up. As was mentioned, it's a very, very easy way to contribute to our schools.

And note that it is the PTA (or foundation), not the school, that decides how the money is spent.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Atherton Resident - Thanks. Just signed up to support Willow Oaks.

Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm


I'm sure they will be very appreciative. We have done the same thing. Our kids went to Menlo Park elementary schools and then private schools. We actually began supporting Willow Oaks many years ago. Surprisingly it was my young daughter's idea after she spent a day at Willow Oaks in a joint student project there.

I would encourage others to do the same. As mentioned, it's easy and no extra money out of your pocket. But very much needed by kids in our community.

Posted by Correction, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Correction Atherton Resident, the Foundation does NOT tell the school how to spend the money. That direction comes directly from the MPCSD School Superintendent and the School Board. The grant from the Foundation is a restricted grant.

Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 11:18 pm


My apologies if things have changed. I was on the MPAEF Board for 6 years. This was also when escrip first started. All monies earned were discussed, allocations determined, voted on, and then given to the District Superintendent.

And while you might say that the Foundation does not "tell" the school how to spend money, I spent many hours in Foundation meetings as discussions were held on how to allocate profits from the annual fundraiser. And again here the decisions were given to the district. I do not remember any instances where the recommendations were overruled.

My main point in my original post was to offer a suggestion to Peter Carpenter as to how he could donate escrip money to a Ravenswood school.

Again, my apologies if the process I was involved with a couple of years ago has changed.

Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm

I wanted to make one more comment -- this one on the original topic of this article. I strongly support the idea of consolidating the elementary school districts. My question is: has anything been officially started on this process? I fully understand that there will be lots of uphill battles, resistance and obstacles, but in the end it would be worth it financially and the right thing to do for all of the kids in our community.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Woodside High School
on May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

let's continue the thought experiment ...

How about merging Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Atherton and Woodside into a single city? Disbanding all in favor of neighborhoods within Redwood City?

Same claims could be made for back office efficiency and resident segregation/equity that are raised above for elementary schools ... and which completely ignore community drive and engagement.

Shall we discuss?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Observer - these are two very different thought experiments. People have the right to vote with their dollars to live in different communities that have different amenities and standards but people don't have the right to have better PUBLIC school systems just because they live in a wealthier community.

As discussed elsewhere, all local communities need to explore shared services and agencies that are supposed to deliver a highly standardized product/response like fire departments and schools should certainly look carefully at consolidations to both cut costs and improve service levels.

Posted by Thomas Paine IV, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

We can achieve equality by simply teaching two grade levels BELOW norms in MP schools. That way our kids will test at same level as in Ravenswood and all the PC folks will be happy. Turns out money spent on education plays a relatively minor role in basic educational achievement. Education starts in the home with parents who create a positive, supportive learning environment at an early age. That is very hard to do when children come from a single parent family.

For a real eye opener compare test scores for kids of any economic/racial status who come from two parent households against those from one family households. Then look at the number of children in Ravenswood from single family households.

As the Tinsely experiment proved in Palo Alto, putting children who are 2 grade levels behind in a class performing at or above grade level results in lower performance for the entire class. Teachers have to spend far more time and energy on the students at lower levels reducing the time available for students working at grade level. It is entirely understandable why a student who feels frustrated at not understanding acts out and disrupts an entire class. Think this is just theoretical? I saw it happen first hand in Palo Alto.

The answer is allowing Ravenswood students who test in to attend MP schools with MP schools receiving funding for those students. The PC crowd will not allow this as this lowers average test scores even more in Ravenswood.

Posted by Not PC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

TPIV, I made a similar point above. Maybe I was trying to be too careful.

Most kids in this state are educated in revenue limit districts like Ravenswood. But because the MPCSD and LLESD are both basic aid, it's tempting to claim that the problems with Ravenswood are all about the difference in funding.

In fact, the problem is rooted in families and communities that do not value education. As I said in my prior post, most of the Tinsley kids, educated alongside their more privileged peers, drop out of high school. You can't blame their lack of success on inferior teaching and schools when they had the best from day one!

We need to deal with the system cultural/family issues first. Consolidating districts will not fix those problems but will only accentuate the contrasts.

Posted by Consolidation, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

An argument for consolidation is that it (duh) consolidates resources, particularly administrative resources. Nowhere is it written that consolidation would diminish the quality of classroom instruction. I don't know if I fall into the superficial moniker of "pc", but I do know that, regardless of their innate abilities, level of education of their parents, or motivation, all students do better with highly qualified teachers with up-to-date training in the best pedagogical methods, and current and useful instructional materials. Plus, students do better in a classroom environment that respects education, which means good quality facilities that students and staff can be proud of.

So, the best argument for consolidation, is that it uses public funds more efficiently to put more resources into the classrooms, regardless of who is occupying those desks. Parents can still support their local community school, if that is their preference, even if the districts are consolidated.

Any citizen can bring a petition to consolidate districts, or the districts themselves can initiate the process. Like most of our democratic processes, it takes time, but here's the place to start:Web Link

Posted by Henry, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Very interesting conversation.

WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT RAVENSWOOD WANTS TO BE ACQUIRED? The Ravenswood School district was run by the County for awhile because it was doing such a bad job. It hired a school superintendent who was going to reconfigure the curriculum around reading—but she was mysteriously forced out after just a few months on the job.

However the Ravenswood school district does not want to give up its independence. Many vested interests there. At the time I was looking into how the District could be helped, I learned that school board members carried District credit cards. No one 'to my knowledge" from Belle Haven has run for the Ravenswood Board.

THE IMPACT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS AND TINSLEY. As a consequence, many charter schools have opened in Ravenswood and another is applying for a charter. Since the district is paid by the child, charters hurt the district financially. Two charter schools made the "California Worst Performing School list" including a charter school run by Stanford, yet in general charter schools appear to be performing comparatively well. (I am sure there is good information available on this very important subject.) From this conversation I learn that Tinsley students drop out.

Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The issue is not what a particular school board might want but rather the will of the voters. In this case 10% of the registered voters in t each of the Ravenswood, Menlo Park City and Los Lomitas districts could petition for a consolidation.

Web Link

Or we could have a repeat of the Tinsley case with consolidation being the requested remedy, particular since the remedies in the original Tinsley settlement have not had a material effect.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm

It's not about bringing high performing districts DOWN, it's about bringing poorly performing districts UP.

It's truly ironic that people who claim to be so politically progressive will stop at nothing to protect their tony educational turf... even if it means sacrificing the most economically disadvantaged in our community.

Just buy some eScript while your shopping at Whole Foods and sleep soundly.

Posted by Uhhh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm

It's truly ironic that someone from truly tony Woodside is busy lecturing those of us in middlin' ole Menlo Park.

And, it's eScrip. No t.

Which Whole Foods doesn't support.

Still waiting to hear, amidst the sneers, whether the goal is simply to have a district that looks good on paper -- or whether we also bus every child across the freeway (east and west) in the name of an equal education. Or how saving a relatively small number of administrative dollars justifies losing a large number of state and federal ones.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Woodside High School
on May 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm

some thoughtful discussion by California's Legislative Analyst's Office Web Link from May 2011

"Our review does not convincingly substantiate most of the claims in support of district consolidation. Although the data suggest that midsize districts can allocate a greater proportion of their funding for instruction and tend to have slightly better student achievement, the differences are not large. Moreover, neither the academic research nor our own review offers persuasive evidence that consolidating small districts would necessarily result in substantial savings or notably better outcomes for students."

their recommended action is to drop incentives that underwrite districts under 100 students.

Vermont reached roughly the same conclusion

"Administrative Costs
In general, district consolidation has also been shown to increase administrative costs per-pupil while decreasing the amount spent on supplies and teachers (Duncombe and Yinger, 2005). It seems that one of the main risks of district consolidation is indeed the growth of costly and sprawling administrations. Duncombe and Yinger (2005) argue that while this is a serious risk, good management and administration can limit the trend, and maintain the savings gained through consolidation.

Effects on Labor Relations
There are possible negative effects on labor relations that can result from school district consolidation. According to Tholkes (1991), teacher costs in a consolidated district can increase for a variety of reasons including more powerful unions which can both negotiate for higher wages and prevent staff layoffs. And the "leveling up" of wages district-wide to that of the most generous school (Duncombe and Yinger, 2005).

Effects on Housing Values
One study of the effects of school district consolidation (Brasington 1998) found that district consolidation has a negative impact on housing values."

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 20, 2011 at 12:04 am

All the best students will be in belle haven in the future anyways. children of brilliant facebook employees, etc. you guys in menlo park city school districts should be excited to merge with ravenswood. belle haven is the center of the 21st century menlo park anyways.

Posted by Boardermom, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm

You folks all crack me up. Just because you live in a tony towns doesn't mean you know how to think critically. First of all, I was at the city council meeting where Mayor Cline asked the question about why Menlo Park has two--actually 3--school districts. No one and nothing was ever said about bussing, so whichever writer was going off on the bussing issue, that is your own imaginary agenda getting away from you. Second, "allowing" kids to transfer via Tinsley is not an acceptable compromise. All kids perform best going to school in their own neighborhoods close to family and friends who can support them and their families. Many Tinsley families end up transferring back to the Ravenswood district after a few years because the socio-economic disparity issues become too much. Just because someone's mom wants to pay for your basketball uniform and give you a ride in her suburban doesn't mean you still don't feel embarrassed or ashamed. Most kids just want to fit it socially at school and when they don't, the "great" education they are getting becomes secondary. Ask your kids what is their favorite school period of the day and most will say recess, pe or lunch. All social venues. As for the comments that Ravenswood students are all illegals and their families don't care about education, do your homework. Not true on both accounts, but thinking so does allow everyone else to wash their hands of the problem. Open your eyes, read Claude Steele's book Whistling Vivaldi. You can find it at Keplers.

Posted by Charles Catalano, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

For those interested in a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) look at the complex issue of district integration, the following book is a must-read:

Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh by Gerald Grant

Posted by Keeping it real, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

You voted for it, you got it, CHANGE ! IT'S EASIER TO TAKE THAN to MAKE. Why work hard and struggle and be rewarded? Maybe it's best to count on entitlement. The captain of Chaos is in the white house "you haven't seen anything yet".

Posted by Captain Chaos, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 22, 2011 at 9:21 am


You had a president who said "I am the DECIDER", he controlled both the House and the Senate. He puts us into two wars and cut taxes and it's the current president who can't manage to get 60 senators to vote for much of anything at all, and you want to claim that we're in this problem due to the current president??

This issue has nothing to do with the Federal Government. They don't pay for much of our educational needs at all! I'm not sure why we bend over backwards to do their insane testing for the money we do receive. We'd do better to take that money, and the lost time, to teach our kids more. No teacher in the country would ever test kids with a multiple choice test that is 90% identical, administered two months before the end of teaching a course, and not used for any sort of educational benefit to the student. Worst? No testing of seniors to find out what the schools have really managed to accomplished. No concern at all on how any student is actually improving.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

Gee, wasn't it Ted Kennedy who authored that bill?

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 22, 2011 at 10:43 am

That legislation you hate so much passed the House by a 384–45 vote and the Senate 91–8.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 23, 2011 at 8:32 am

If you want to understand why the current school funding situation is not understandable then here is a great collection of articles:

Web Link

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