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East Palo Alto kids likely to get head-of-line privilege (more or less) to attend M-A

Original post made on Sep 26, 2013

The high school district board is leaning strongly toward giving East Palo Alto eighth-graders a preference that would put them at the head of the line of most of the eighth-graders who want to attend M-A but are not automatically assigned there.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 26, 2013, 11:58 AM

Comments (72)

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Here is the bottom line. About 50 kids a year get into M-A via an inter-district transfer. They represent about one third of the kids on the AP track at M-A (as well as a disproportionate number of student athletes and leaders). They will be replaced by adjusted transfer kids from EPA. Over the next four years one third of the AS & AP courses at M-A disappear because the kids and foundation dollars will not be there. In four years M-A and Woodside will be about the same - not bad, but not comparable to the Palo Alto High Schools or the Private Schools (which M-A is currently). Another case of the Sequoia District trying to kill anything that is successful in educating kids.

So a huge win for EPA and their property values. A huge loss for MP students and MP property values. A small win for Sequoia and Woodside HS as incoming high achievers will not be able to inter-district transfer out.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Bill - Here's the real bottom line (from a parent whose kids have friends from EPA). This should be about the students, not yours (or any one else's) property values. Since your District is growing anyway, my guess is most of the kids who want intra-district transfers will still get them. Ravenswood kids will just get the first bunch of transfers, which they should have gotten years ago.

This is a huge win for the Ravenswood high school students who do not deserve to spend hours on a bus traveling far away from home. It will probably make very little difference in EPA property values or MP property values and I'm sure Menlo Atherton high school will be fine, as will its students. In reality, this will probably happen gradually because siblings may choose to stay together and attend the schools currently assigned to their family.


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Posted by JF
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

This recap makes no mention of the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Menlo Park., which is a little over a mile from MA. Does anyone know if there was any discussion about the future of redistricting this neighborhood?


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Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

In earlier stories, board member Olivia Martinez has been quoted to the effect that she is open to allowing households south of 5th Avenue in North Fair Oaks should retain their assignment to M-A, as they tend to prefer.

Households north of 5th Avenue could be reassigned away from M-A to Woodside and Sequoia high schools, as they tend to prefer.

This change would presumably create an opening at M-A that could be filled by students from East Palo Alto.

Web Link


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Palo Alto Parent - You know what would be best for the EPA kids - send them all to Palo Alto High School. It is much closer M-A, Woodside and Sequoia and the campus has the space to accommodate the students.

Of course that will never happen as Palo Alto is perhaps the most exclusionary school district in the country for the reasons I list above. But if you really care about the kids, you should go to the next school board meeting and demand that the EPA kids be admitted.


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Posted by JF
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Thank you, David. Obviously, that would be our preference, since we don't really have any other neighborhood schools. I saw a quote from her, saying redistricting would be unlikely, but she is only one member of the board. Hopefully, the lack of attention to this in the last meeting means it is losing traction as a consideration. HOPEFULLY!

Thanks for your quick response!


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I want to echo the Palo Alto parent above - this is a big win for EPA - but I also want to add, it is also simply the right thing to do.
And please....Los Lomitas parents, tone it down, cool the melodrama, and consider what is fair for EPA students.
In PV, the transfer to MA used to be routine and now, that is no longer the case. Guess what? We are "over it" and a large group of PV kids are happily adjusting to WHS and doing well.
And to Bill above, while I think this is irrelevant, I will add that this change has had zero impact on property values.



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Posted by Really Disappointed
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm

It would have been a huge win for the Ravenswood if the board had done what the report says they are leaning toward, but they did not. the new open enrollment regulation they discussed is just a joke - it changes nothing (bit for the Tinsley students) so why are they bothering to add rules #4 and #5? Another example of the ineptitude of this board and this superintendent.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

@Bill - About your comment that the best thing for the EPA kids would be to "send them all to Palo Alto High School", 150 kids from the Ravenswood District DO attend Palo Alto high schools. In addition, PAUSD has 60 kids per years transfer from Ravenswood. As far as being "the most exclusionary school district", if you live in Palo Alto or are a Voluntary Transfer Program student, you can go to school there.

Sequoia Union is the high school district for Ravenswood, they are not guests or transfer students. They deserve to be in a school that is a reasonable distance from home.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm

The PC posters are popping out everywhere! Anyone bothered to check at the performance of Ravenswood students at M-A? How about the dropout rate? If Ravenswood students at M-A were doing markedly better than those at Carlmont, the faux child-centric arguments might have some weight. As is, they are revealed to be PC pablum.

It's pure hypocrisy for anyone to claim that the ridiculous rise in PA home prices is a function of anything other than school API scores. Why do you suppose all the real estate ads highlight them?!? Instead of eviscerating the one school that's doing well in SUHSD, the board should be trying to bring up the others. And endorsing the construction of a new high school in Ravenswood, one that is designed to meet the needs of those students...who are failing and dropping out of M-A and PA high schools.

P.S. I understand that some Ravenswood parents prefer Carlmont. When their kids are riding the bus, they're not getting into trouble or finding themselves in the midst of gang gunfire.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Reality: in the long-term, the big winners here are:

#1: families that send kids to Carlmont;
#2: families that send kids to Woodside;

It's the academic performance of the kids that make the API scores, more than the schools. I think this will result in a consolidation of the higher-academic-achieving students into fewer schools, and consolidate the lower -academic achieving students into Sequoia and M-A.

Result? The same folks that are clamoring to be IN M-A will be clamoring to get OUT when its scores are among the lowest (probably THE lowest) of the 4 major HS's in the district.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 26, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Question: for families that reside in MPCSD, have they discussed what options we have? Do we have the same options to chose which HS a child can be sent to?

For example, I live near Celias Restaurant in MP. Would we be assigned M-A or Woodside? I realize M-A is geographically closer, but if families with preference chose to send their kids to M-A and it fills up, do we get a choice on where we can send our kid?

Do we all get an option, or is that just reserved for LL and Ravenswood kids?


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Posted by cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Palo Alto Parent: Are we to assume that your kids are directly impacted by this development?


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Sep 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Educator is a registered user.

Just to be clear, Carlmont High School has the highest API scores in the Sequoia District, not M-A.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

> Carlmont High School has the highest API scores in the Sequoia District

I recall reading the API score a couple years back. I believe it.

It's about to get better.

As long as SUHSD is unbiased and allows all families the option to attend an alternate HS -- which has been available to many neighborhoods for decades -- I'm OK with this development.

But the important point is SUHSD needs to stop picking favorites. I'd even go so far as to say the District needs to stop being "biased", regardless of race, sex, orientation, etc.

Give every family an option for the nearest and next-nearest based on capacity, and let families opt-in/opt-out.

And create a 5th high school for east-of-101. There are numerous people and organizations that will actively work towards ensuring EVERY BOND for SUHSD fails until they concede reality and create that HS.


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Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm

If I were an EPA parent, I'd seriously consider sending my kid to either Phoenix Academy or Summit--I gather it's hard to get in, but definitely worth a shot. Kids from EPA and East Menlo are much better served by these schools than by M-A or any other large high school--at least, that's the story that the test scores tell.

In fact, Phoenix Academy has the EXACT SAME aggregate API score as M-A--and 87% of the kids in Phoenix are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, compared to only a third of M-A kids. When you disaggregate, the difference is stark: EPA kids at Phoenix are scoring over 800, and at M-A, below 700, on average.

Will having more EPA kids at M-A bring the overall score down? Maybe, but I wouldn't blame it on the kids.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 9:28 pm

In summary, the EPA students still have to stand in line behind the Las Lomitas transfers to get into M-A. This means that some kids who live in Portola Valley (Ladera) get preference over the EPA kids to attend their closest school. How is this in their favor? I think the language was merely written to appease different groups with no real intent for big change.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm

> Will having more EPA kids at M-A bring the overall score down? Maybe,
> but I wouldn't blame it on the kids.

Respectfully, I don't agree with characterizing it as "blame". It's not blame, it's math.

The current Ravenswood students as a group are lower-academic-achieving compared to MPCSD&LLSD students; that's not opinion, that's fact. Concentrating Ravenswood students to 1 school (M-A, instead of M-A+CHS+WHS) while moving high-academic-achieving students to Woodside has the natural side-effect of lowering the API for M-A. That's not opinion, that's math.

To be clear, I'm in favor of a 5th HS, but even I concede that won't happen in 1 year.

The only equitable way to handle the current state without the SUHSD board being perceived as biased/bigoted/racist/class-ist/elitist individuals is to provide the exact same opportunities to all families in the district.

All families should:
1) be assigned the nearest school with capacity as a default (for example, geographically I'm somewhat closer to M-A, but population density could result in WSH being assigned. That's fine);
2) have the opportunity to opt-in a preference order for placement. If there is room in the 1st preferred school, that's the assigned school. If there is no room, they're assigned the 2nd preferred school. And onwards to the 3rd then 4th. If a school is too popular for capacity, it'll be resolved by lottery. Lottery losers are assigned the next-highest preferred school with capacity

That is entirely fair, unbiased, unbigoted, unracist and shows no socio-economic preferences.

This special treatment crap, whether it's for Las Lomitas, Ravenswood or Unincorporated San Mateo County, has got to STOP.


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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

This is NOT a win-win proposal. They are creating winners and losers...losers will be hardworking 2 working parent households in Menlo Park such as ours that are stretching ourselves to stay in a town that we thought would have a strong, well funded public high school for our three children. Lower API scores and a shift towards more low performing students will cause donations to shrink, home values to shrink. This is a problem and I am nervous about what appears to be a lopsided solution!


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:38 am

Menlo Park Resident, a resident of Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park wrote:
> This is NOT a win-win proposal

I feel for Flood Park families. While I suspect they'd get into M-A, Flood Park families would be at best 4th in priority, after Las Lomitas, Ravenswood and the West Fair Oaks section of unincorporated San Mateo County; despite being closer to M-A than any of those neighborhoods. Welcome to the club.

SUHSD needs to stop playing favorites, and just let geography and ALL families in SUHSD play a bigger role in where kids go to high school. Stop playing god.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:43 am

@menlo park resident, @cmon, etc.

Unless you are a high school student in the Sequoia District, this is not about you. This is about educating kids, its not about property values, or hard working parents, its about the students. The Ravenswood students deserve to be able to attend a local scbool that does not require them to spend hours on buses to attend it. Its not about (or shouldn't be about) school donations. Very bluntly - if that requires a school to have more kids of color, so be it. I think there are enough great teachers in the District and enough generous parents to make it work.

And yes, I'm a parent who puts my $$ on the line for my opinions. Even in another District.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 27, 2013 at 1:29 am

palo alto parent may as well have wrote:
[Only] "The Ravenswood students deserve to be able to attend a local scbool"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. ALL STUDENTS deserve EQUAL access to the nearest available local high school. ALL students. "Menlo Park Resident" is closer to M-A than any resident in Ravenswood, but is at best 4th in line to M-A based on what the board is leaning towards approving. How is Ravenswood more "deserving" than Flood Park?

Deciding on UNEQUAL access is what makes this whole situation unconscionable. The SUHSD and its supporters are flat out racists/bigots/class-ists if they chose any other approach but an agnostic one. There is no reason to show favorites to any neighborhood.

The default school should be based on geographic proximity and capacity, with families having the ability to chose preferences. It's the only non-racist/class-ist way to be fair.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

Graduation rates will decline. Scores will drop. Violence will increase. Outcry for more $ to shore up M-A's declining standards will be deafening. M-A will begin to resemble an inner city school with inner city problems. Congratulations.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

@peninsula resident - haven't you heard? Some students (EPA) are more "equal" than others.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 8:57 am

Sadly, too much of the discussion has focused on racial balance, and not enough on what is best for the kids. As noted by CCB above, the Ravenswood students who have been most successful have been those who managed to attend small high schools. Fewer than half of the Ravenswood students who attend an SUHSD high school manage to graduate. And many of those who do graduate are not eligible to attend a Cal State or UC because they were shunted into courses that did not meet minimum entry requirements.

The district needs to actively pursue a solution that gives underperforming students greater access to small schools, including at least one new school east of 101.

I myself graduated from a public high school that was once ranked among the top in the U.S. Forced integration had disastrous consequences for the district, which lost its accreditation. Families with the means to do so moved out of the district. I could easily see it happening here. No one gains; many people lose.


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Posted by Prefer to be anonymous
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Sep 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

Dave Boyce (and Almanac staff generally), it would be helpful if either in the stories on M-A and Sequoia Union attendance lines or in some linked reference page the numbers at each High School and elementary district were mentioned.

This story does mention that there are "10-12 households" in Las Lomitas assigned to Woodside that get a preference to transfer to M-A where the rest of Las Lomitas goes, but the other numbers to put that in perspective are missing.

Are there 100 Ravenswood kids per grade who would move from other high schools to M-A, 400, 600, etc? How many total kids are there in a grade at Las Lomitas, Ravenswood, Menlo Park school district, etc?

My guess is that the 10-12 Las Lomitas households will be lost in the noise vs the overall number of kids we're talking about, and even the entire 125-150+ per grade from Las Lomitas will be substantially outweighed by the number of kids moved around in other areas, but I'm just guessing on that because I don't know how big each cohort of children is. Having that data might lead to more productive discussions on the stories.

thanks!


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Posted by C'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

Palo alto parent. Gee, what a surprise. No stake in the outcome of this particular situation. Surprise.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

We've come such a long way since 1960's Alabama, haven't we?

It's so easy to be progressive until it's your ox.


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Posted by Trying to take it all in
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Neighbor: Ladera residents, who are in the Las Lomitas district, do not apply for a transfer to M-A. Those from Las Lomitas who have to apply for the transfer (and currently are granted it) are in Atherton and Woodside. As some have mentioned above, the numbers are 10-12. What I don't know is if that's an average per year into 9th grade or if it's the total number of residences. If the latter, that would mean the total number entering 9th grade any given year is lower and seems negligible when considering if they get priority in the transfer game.

I agree with Peninsula Resident that some of the number-balancing could be achieved by allowing everyone to apply to the school of their choice. People might choose based on proximity or offering. Offerings could include specialties at each school, like the IB program at at Sequoia or language immersion, STEM specialty or college seminar structure.


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Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

These numbers are from Sequoia district officials:

The Ravenswood district typically graduates around 370 8th graders.

Of those, about 250 go to Sequoia district schools. Around 90 go to East Palo Alto High (chartered by Stanford University) and 30 go to other schools, including to other charter schools.

About 41 percent of the students (116 students) from the 94303 ZIP code (East Palo Alto) now attend Menlo-Atherton.

If the Sequoia board approves the policy proposed on Sept. 25, the enrollment from East Palo Alto at M-A would increase by about 70 students.

The district and board have talked about plans to reassign households in North Fair Oaks (north of 5th Avenue) to Woodside and Sequoia, and away from M-A, and that this change would likely be welcomed by these families. The departure of these students from M-A would then create an opening at M-A for the East Palo Alto students.

A search of the Almanac archives show that the Las Lomitas district typically graduates around 100 eighth-graders, and the Menlo Park district somewhere around 200.


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Posted by parent of MP elementary school students
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm

What do the SUHSD individual High School populations look like now? (for each SUHSD High School by grade 9-12 and in total show the distribution of the # of students coming from each feeder K-8 school district)? In addition it would help to see an overlay to this showing the # of students who are automatically assigned to go to these high schools and those that come in through transfers.
What would those student numbers change to with this proposed plan? Without the actual numbers we're only reacting (or over-reacting) to a concept. Is there a public source for this info or does anyone have this that can be shared so we can have a fact based conversation about the potential impact to the student bodies at these schools?


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Posted by good data
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Thanks Dave - data is helpful. I don't fully follow so some questions:

1) Would the additional 70 come from EPA High and the "other schools" or out of other Sequoia schools? I presume the Sequoia schools, as it sounds like some current MA kids would be reassigned.

2) So, about 190 of the entering freshman class would be EPA. Do you know how large the incoming freshman class is at MA, roughly?

3) Any change expected to the Lomitas or MP districts?

Thanks for clarifying.


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Posted by getting up to speed
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

As a resident of PA and MA for decades, PA's subtle racism across the board has always bothered me (remember residency permits for parks and pools?) But I'm curious: Mr. PA resident says PA takes lots of EPA kids; the Almanac's numbers indicate none. Which is correct?


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

The numbers are distorted because they do not include the Tinsley figures. About 170 Ravenswood students of color are eligible to enter the Tinsley program each year. PAUSD accepts 60, MPCSD 24,and so on. There are also about 60 eighth graders in the Aspire charter school in EPA. Therefore, the actual number of 8th graders in the Ravenswood district each year is closer to 600 than to 370. But many of these students are already attending a PAUSD or SUHSD feeder school, or enrolled in a charter school.

Dave's numbers for La Entrada and Hillview are low. According to the Ed-Data site, Hillview's current eighth grade class has almost 300 students, and La Entrada's around 135.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The proposed policy would give EPA students continued second class status. They should be allowed to attend the nearest high school and if that requires a new high school then build it now.


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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Based on the graduation program, Hillview graduated 232 last June (2013). Not all go to M-A of course.

M-A released its numbers today:

The Freshman class (Class of 2017) has 574 students.
Sophomore class (2016): 538
Junior class (2015): 485
Senior class (2014): 474
Total enrollment: 2071


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Posted by C'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm

in any event, Dave's numbers are a good start and get the dialogue going. Plus, he is doing the best with numbers at hand. The districts will have the right data. I agree that it is very important that all kids have access to a great education and this development seems to be focused on that goal. That equal opportunity needs to be a given. The data and the specific proposals will help evaluate the implications of the options, so we will see how it develops and then people will have a chance to opine.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm

No need to count names on a program; the official numbers are online.

Hillview had about 235 students in 8th grade last year according to Ed-Data. This year, the 8th grade and 7th grade classes have almost 290 students. A big increase. This year's 8th grade class at La Entrada is about the same size as last year's. But in subsequent years, the 8th grade will exceed 150 students unless a lot of them leave town.

So let's say that 10% of the LLESD and MPCSD 8th graders go to private schools. If those districts continue to feed directly to M-A, we're going to be seeing 400 freshmen just from those two schools. Add 370 from Ravenswood and the kids from North Fair Oaks -- well, those numbers aren't looking very good to me. This influx of students isn't happening in 2020 -- it's right around the corner. How is the board going to make it work?


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Posted by William
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I am starting to see SUHSD's evil plan. They want to redistrict for specious projected growth estimates. The obvious candidates to move out of M-A is Los Lomitas, but they will not stand for going to Woodside as M-A is a stronger school in nearly every way.

So here is the District's evil plan. At the last possible moment announce that they will swap 100 (tell people it will only be 70) ESL kids for 100 AP kids at M-A. Embark on a propaganda campaign claiming the change is all about helping the EPA kids (who they have ignored for 40 years). This way the public has no time to organize and react. Further, anyone critical is a racist. In four years redistricting will be welcomed by Los Lomitas as Woodside will be the better school.

So they destroy the star school and during the transition, all kids lose. But let's focus on what is important - it makes life easy for the District!


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 28, 2013 at 12:22 am

> The proposed policy would give EPA students continued second class status.

I agree, but the proposal will make MPCSD student's 4th class, so EPA's doing pretty well in comparison.

The problem is that there shouldn't be "class status"es at all. There's no need for them.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2013 at 8:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District has the responsibility to provide the same level of service to every resident of the district and to do so has added new stations in response to population frith and population shifts. In anticipation of more growth in EPA the Fire District is already replacing Station 2 with a much larger station.

Why can't the SUHSD operate in the same manner instead if using kids as pawns?


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

> Why can't the SUHSD operate in the same manner instead if using kids as pawns?

I think were I school administration or board member (I'm not), I think I'd find your question needlessly provocative, as though getting the best education for all of the kids in their district was not their first goal, too.

That said, it's an interesting question about funding. How does the Fire District pay for new stations?

Did the rebuild come straight from their operating budget which has large enough reserves to support that or did the district issue revenue bonds which are budgeted from fire district fees?

As I understand it SUHSD is no different than most any other school district in the state in that they do have a budgeted maintenance fund, but do not designate funds from its operating budget for a retained slush fund which could be used to build a new campus or major capital projects. They could perhaps break the mold and do so, but it would be at the cost of reducing current funding for other district programs. The simplest answer to most funding problems is increased class sizes or cutting "luxuries" like music and art. Moreover, to issue such bonds would make them general obligation bonds which require a vote from the district's voters.

But that's only my very limited understanding based on hearing the similar questions asked of administrators.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District receives about 90% of its revenues from property taxes, zero from parcel taxes and the balance from fees and grants. The district has used revenue bonds obtained at very low interest rates to both retire much of its unfunded pension liabilities and to pay for current capital construction. Capital construction is "paid for" by annual allocations to reserves which have been set aside for that purpose. The revenue bonds are paid for annually as part of the District's balanced budget. New facilities are NOT funded by bond assessments on the citizens served by the District.

The above is the result of good stewardship of public funds including providing high quality and uniform services to all residents of the District. Planning ahead and the annual funding of reserves are essential parts of that stewardship.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I think were I school administration or board member (I'm not), I think I'd find your question needlessly provocative, as though getting the best education for all of the kids in their district was not their first goal, too."

They should be provoked!

How can the administrators and school board not be able to project future high school enrollment with 4-8 years of elementary students already in the pipeline? These students did not just fall out of the sky.


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm


> Planning ahead and the annual funding of reserves are essential parts of that stewardship.

Well, good on the district. But is this good performance a different model than the majority of other fire districts?

It seems manifestly unfair to single out SUHSD for not financing its capital campaign out of its operating funds when the other 994 districts in the state aren't doing it either. The model for capital projects has historically been that part of the educational financing is handled through the issuance of general obligation bonds.

For example, take Palo Alto Unified School District. In 2008, they looked over their facilities and they decided that they wanted a long range plan. Then they asked the voters to approve that long range plan to the tune of a $378 million dollar general obligation bond. That's how another nearby well respected district does business.

But then myself, I would take issue of how Palo Alto Unified dealt with their specific financing. They issued $109.4 million of Capital Appreciation Bonds. Simply put, I find any use of CABs to be pretty disappointing. They are just a way of kicking financing down the road to the next generation. But then that's me.

As to the issue of predicting future growth, I think you're being unfair. If it was a malfeasance of not tracking the number of housing units, that would be one thing, but demographic shifts which are notoriously fickle. A few year blip may be just a bubble which regresses to the mean. The district very reasonably kept aware of their numbers and when it appeared that they might have a longer range issue commissioned a study. Their timing of not clamoring for a new high school two years after a blip was first noticed seems imminently reasonable to me. Anyway, that's just me. I like to operate with a general presumption that most of my public servants aren't complete idiots.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2013 at 7:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I like to operate with a general presumption that most of my public servants aren't complete idiots."

Fortunately you ate getting exactly the quality of service you expect from the school board. I doubt that the students being sent to distant and overcrowded high schools will share your assessment.


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Posted by Kristin
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Won't Menlo Park schools lose some funding by the Ravenswood students not attending due to truancy and by the lower grades? Also, these integration programs NEVER work as promised,[portion removed; see terms of use]. Sorry, but it's true. In Italy parents have gotten fed up with this same program and are actively removing their own children from schools that have implemented this PHONY program. These things never. Ever. help nor better anyone or anything- history tells us. Please don't fall for this BS propaganda ploy.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Post removed. Please do not attack other posters.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

To respond to Kristin's question: the district is basic aid, so the funding mostly comes from property taxes, not per capita. The fewer kids you have in the schools, the more money per student. For many reasons, it is each school's best interests for the underperforming students to drop out. Thus, the lack of effort to retain Ravenswood students in HS.

To respond to the other poster's invective: you don't really make your case about being educated with a post full of grammatical and spelling errors.

To anyone who suggests that there is something racist about "East Palo Alto" being omitted from the pulldown: East Palo Alto is not in the circulation area of the Almanac. Belle Haven is, and is listed in the pulldown. EPA is listed in the Weekly's pulldown. If it's important to you to have your neighborhood affiliation listed with your name, maybe you should post on their forum?


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Maybe Kristin did not sugarcoat her points, but the essence of her comments is correct. The students from the Ravenswood district typically underperform students from westside neighborhoods as measured by standardized test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptances. My child is on the honors/AP track at M-A, and we had back-to-school night a few weeks ago. He does not have a single student of color in any of his classes. M-A has long been described as "two schools in one school" and that remains the case.

M-A is not a solution for most Ravenswood kids. As many posters continue to point out, underperforming students do best in small schools where they receive focused attention. Too bad the board refuses to accept the inevitable and provide these students with appropriate educational options now. Simply moving them to M-A will not fix this intractable problem.


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Posted by Ms. A
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Everyone keeps saying underperforming....I fault Ravenswood itself for that. I've looked into alot of the schools MP, LL, SC, Belm/Redwshores, and PV which all get an amount of Ravenswood Kids. I found by looking at some of the work the kids are doing is the same. Basically how it's presented is the KEY... I experienced this simply I started one child in Kinder at Ravenswood then moved her the start of 2nd grade to San Carlos Dist in the Tinsley program. The only differences I have seen was what my child has been introduced to. The curriculm was basically the same. The other schools do offer different expereinces than what she would have gained at Ravenswood. Don't get me wrong Ravenswood has some wonderful teachers who really care. It's unfortunate that I do put my lil one on the bus most of the time but I also drive her. She's made ton of friends and is well liked by her peers.
You also have to understand that Ravenswood has had an influx of non-english speakers and this can and has hendered alot of students that are fluent in English. Now all the other surrounding areas have not had this only thru special programs and that still does not compare.
Personally I feel Palo Alto High School is closer to EPA than any of them in Seq.... We here this all the time about OUR kids being underachievers well mine are not, so they don't fall in YOUR catagory because we live in EPA.


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Posted by Ms. A
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm

@Not a win- First of all I did not state there is something racist about "East Palo Alto" being omitted from the pulldown. I did say that I did not SEE it... I'm far from being Racist.... But, I do see some things on here being said that actually could be Racist.. Some people can understand what coming from EPA feels like and some cannot. I wonder about The People who come here and BUY homes here and act as if their not from here? There is a teacher who teaches at La Entrada and who's kid does not attend ANY school in EPA, she goes to school where mom teaches.... So where is the boundry for that? It sounds to me from a few other comments that the kids in EPA need to stay there to be taught and not go outside of EPA? Wrong... I just personally feel if you have not experienced this school issue then stop assuming how are kids are.... 2013 some things will never change. I can Post anywhere I like, You forgot freedom of speech..Mr. Educated... Whocares of grammatical erros are you grading?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As I reread the above postings I am saddened by how often 'property values' trump community values, how often what is good for "Me" trumps what is best for OUR community.

The issue here is how to provide the BEST education for ALL of the children in our community.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Sorry Peter, but it's NEVER been about what's best for "the kids." It's always been about property values. Look at Cupertino, Saratoga, Atherton, etc. It's all about what's best for ME. "the kids" being an extension of ME.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm

One person has mentioned property values. Other than Peter and his sidekick MV. So typical to ignore the real content of posts and instead tilt at windmills. There are people who have made great contributions here -- and then there are people whose favorite sport is disparaging other posters. That doesn't help our kids one iota!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Actually there are 2 posters who expressed 'concern' about property values. And others who have expressed a clear concern for their values rather than the broader interests of the community.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

True story: the first heroin addicts I ever met were from Atherton. They both were in recovery & I met them via volunteer work I was doing. One of the notorious Chowchilla kidnappers was from Atherton.

When I was in AP classes at M-A, I didn't know which towns all the other students were from. We were all either white or Asian. I didn't come to any racist conclusions from that, nor did it scare my parents into thinking that their property values would drop. (Portion removed. You are welcome to state your opinion but not attack others who do so.)


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Posted by Silvia
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Forgive my basic questions - I haven't lived here long and my children are not high school age - I'm trying to understand.

Why would the Flood Park area be assigned somewhere other than M-A? Or am I misunderstanding? I thought (perhaps wrongly) that the Menlo Park kids who live east of El Camino would automatically be assigned to M-A?

Also, are all children who are assigned to Hillview also assigned to M-A?

Thank you in advance for answering my question.


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Posted by Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm

There is nothing inherent to kids in one district or another that makes someexceland others fail. The difference is school quality and money. Take a M-A kid at birth, plunk him/her in a poor neighborhood where the schools and streets and city building are left to crumble, where he/she doesn't have secure access to health care, where his/her parents, worry every month about where the rent is going to come from, and his/her scores will look like other poor kids'.

And vice versa.

Funding schools town by town is a system that only makes sense if the object is to keep poor people poor and rich people rich. Do we want a state with properly educated kids, or not? If yes, let's stop dividing kids into "ours" and "those people's," a sham and a road to ruin.

My "other community" is SF, where my white, Anglo, daughter-of-US-born professionals kid gets the same education as the Latino, frequently first-generation, poor and working-class kids who share the classroom. Anyone who thinks the benefit is all one way, deprived Mexican-American kids learning at the feet of the superior white kids, ought to visit her school and get their assumptions shaken up. She is getting a fine education and I wouldn't want her to be in a class- or ethnicity-segregated school for a moment.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm

What exactly is your point, reverend? The students at M-A come from neighborhoods and backgrounds that span the socioeconomic range. The district covers the southern half of San Mateo. Pretty diverse! Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the issues before lambasting those of us who are trying to find a solution to a longstanding problem?

Too bad this thread is being derailed by people who would rather attack district parents than focus on finding a solution.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Too bad this thread is filled with elitist, racist people whose sole concerns are so fear-based. There's a place for all of your kids - and that just might be private school. Go on, try it. My parents did and it was great for us for many years before we then went on to public school. Of course, you'll grumble that you're paying for private school and taxes for public education, but then you'll have something new to complain about.

It sounds to me like the good reverend knows whereof she speaks.

[Portion removed. Please don't attack other posters.]


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2013 at 8:48 am

Not a win: Property values have been brought up many times in these forums on the Almanac. As i said in another post, there are other neighborhoods - Woodside and Portola Valley- that are assigned to Woodside High School with exhorbitant property values. I cringe every time I have seen resident raise that argument,

I believe the school board serves its population best by striving for balanced socioeconomic diversity in all of its schools - its not sbout race. Kids stand to learn a lot from the diverse population they live in. But there has to be balance to reflect the realities of where we live.


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Posted by Not a win
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

My point was that property values per se had not been the focus of this thread until a few people, whatever their motives, decided to hijack it by accusing the rest of us of caring only about our property values.

Fact is, unless you're being hugely disingenuous, you have to agree that there's a strong link between property values and good schools. Every time the schools want money they trot out that connection. So let's not be hypocritical here. If you get people without kids to vote for bonds "because good schools keep your home values high!" don't pretend it doesn't matter.

It's also perfectly ok for people to care about the value of their home. For most of us, our homes are our biggest asset: people work hard to afford to live here. So I would never expect anyone to say "yeah, I put $1mm into my house, and it's only worth $100,000 now, but I'm fine with that." There's nothing evil about wanting to protect your financial investments.

Back to the schools. No one is saying, I hope, that changing the demographics of M-A from 40% white-Asian/60% students of color to 20% white-Asian/80% students of color (these percentages are here for illustrative purposes only; I haven't done the calculations) will cause M-A to slip. It might. It might not. However, it's pretty much a sure thing that M-A won't have the same number of AP/honors courses it does now UNLESS the Ravenswood students arrive at high school ready to enroll in those classes.

The SUHSD has no control over whether kids from the feeder districts arrive prepared for college prep classes. Some of the feeder districts (MPCSD, LLESD) currently manage to get most kids on that track. Other feeder districts don't. The reality has been that SUHSD has done a C- job of educating the students who show up without the appropriate background.

Looking at the real world today, I can say with some authority, having worked with dozens of EPA/Belle Haven students, that they don't do that well in the big comprehensive schools. The statistics back me up. The Ravenswood students who go to Menlo or Eastside or Phoenix tend to be the ones who make it through.

To repeat: just transferring a block of kids to M-A isn't going to help them become successful because M-A isn't working for most of the current Ravenswood students. If someone has statistics that prove that Ravenswood kids do better at M-A than at Carlmont or Woodside or Sequoia, I'd love to see them. But my observation is that the dropout rate from all four is equally high! Where are the plans for the smaller schools that are going to help them succeed?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"My point was that property values per se had not been the focus of this thread until a few people, whatever their motives, decided to hijack it by accusing the rest of us of caring only about our property values."

Please take the time to read the multiple threads on this issue and you will see that the property values argument has been raised many times. And then you have just repeated those arguments.

As for solutions there have been a number of postings which argued for a new school located east of 101 and then reassigning all students in the district to their closest high school. And that would cost a lot of money but some of us feel that is a better solution for the students involved.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

If the Ravenswood students are doing equally well at all the Sequoia high schools, then there really isn't an academic reason not to have them all attend M/A. If it is clear that these students need a smaller school, use the current Charter location in EPA for that purpose and work toward that. But in the short run, get the kids off of busses with long commutes and into a school were staying after school to get help, play a sport, etc. is more doable.

@Mrs. A - Palo Alto high school is closer for many of the EPA students, but it is another school district and county. Although I have long thought that Palo Alto should just take all the kids from EPA into their District and Menlo should take all the Belle Haven students...

There were a couple comments above about being part of a Unified K-12 District, the one advantage is that (theoretically), all the students are being prepared for high school with the same curriculum and goals.


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Posted by fed up
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Good grief. The claim that MA's performance ranking will be negatively impacted is a valid one. It is not racist to make an accurate assessment; unfortunately, it is politically incorrect. I'm fed up with pc coming before commonsense. Despite decades of social engineering, differences remain.

What is wrong with building a new, state of the art school in EPA to serve the needs of that community? IS EPA not deserving of its own school?

As for the financial bottom line. The Sequoia Union HSD need not come to me with more bond measures. No way am I going to lend extra support to a district that seems determined to lower standards in our best schools.


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Posted by Zeta
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Peter Carpenter - Do I re-call you were a school board member who sent your children to private school???
As far as the valuation of the neighborhood declining, that is absurd - they are already way out of control!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter Carpenter - Do I re-call you were a school board member who sent your children to private school???"

No, I have never been a school board member.

My son attended Encinal and then graduated from M-A.


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Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 1, 2013 at 11:24 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

I am a little puzzled at the constant comparison of the financial situation of the schools to that of the fire district.

Menlo Park Fire receives slightly more property tax than Las Lomitas and Menlo Park City School Districts combined. That is to say, the property tax funding for educating over 4,000 children is slightly lower that for our fire district. At the high-school level, MPFPD receives about 35% of the total property tax funding of Sequoia Union High district, whose enrollment is about 9,000 -- so roughly the same amount as is currently educating 3,000 high school students.

Since all three districts only receive 'basic aid' from the state (a few hundred dollars per student), these property taxes form the lion's share of local school funding.

It would be interesting to compare MPFPD with other fire districts, certainly many I've come across enjoy a much smaller percentage of their property tax pie than the approx. 16% that MPFPD commands.

At a minimum, schools-to-fire is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Alternatively, I feel our communal nose is being rubbed in a 35-year-old scheme that may not represent the community's current preferences for local property tax allocation.

(Numbers from the San Mateo County Controllers Office Fund Revenue Projection Report, Fiscal 2011-12, and Ed-Data school enrollments, Fiscal 2011-12).


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2013 at 11:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I am a little puzzled at the constant comparison of the financial situation of the schools to that of the fire district."

The comparison is the manner in which the Fire District provides the SAME level of service to each of the residents of the district and the manner in which the district plans ahead to meet anticipated demographic changes - two things that the SUHSD does not do.

The MPFPD serves a much larger are than do the Las Lomitas and Menlo Park City School Districts - the Fire District serves all of Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto, parts on unincorporated San Mateo County and parts of Stanford University.


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Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Throughout its San Mateo County coverage area, MPFPD collects a share of the property tax that is identical to that of Sequoia High School District. Thus, residents are paying the same for fire service as we are for the education of our high schoolers. (In other areas that SUHSD covers, there appears to be a "County Fire Protection" district that collects about half the share that MPFPD does.)

I leave it to readers to decide whether providing the (purportedly) same level of fire service to every resident is comparable to providing the same level of high school education. If it is, then the fire service can lecture away at the school district. If not, perhaps appreciation of the differences would lead to more productive discussion.

I will note that I have never seen a high school pull up at Safeway, hop out, and buy grub.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2013 at 9:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - you are missing the point which is that the Fire District commits to providing the same level of service to all of its residents and it also expands its facilities IN ANTICIPATION of demographic changes in order to maintain that same level of service commitment as populations grow and shift. The SUHSD does neither of these things.

MPFPD serves over 90,000 residents while SUHSD, with a larger footprint, serves less than 10,000 students.

The whole issue of this topic is how to better serve the SUHSD students and I am simply arguing the the SUHSD has failed to set as its objective providing the same level of service to every student and then building new facilities in anticipation of need rather than cramming more students in outdated facilities.


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