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Voter Guide: Measure W would fund rebuilding of fifth district school

Original post made on Oct 8, 2013

Being an elementary school principal can't be easy even under normal circumstances, but it's likely that Encinal School Principal Sharon Burns never expected that she'd have to hone the skills of a juggler.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (79)

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Posted by Rebecca Bloom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Though my own children are well out of elementary school, I support Measure W wholeheartedly. As our community grows, we need to continue to invest in our children and our schools. I have worked with every member of the Menlo Park City School District--I know them all to be thoughtful and highly professional. They've thought this through with characteristic thoroughness. Measure W volunteers are a group of terrific people working together towards a common goal. We are an exceptional community--that's why we attract young families. Nothing could be better for the future of our town. Future students, the kids of my neighbors, deserve the fantastic opportunities that my kids had at Laurel, Encinal and Hillview. On overcrowded campuses, that will be more than challenging to achieve. I urge everyone to vote YES on Measure W. I also hope that should a spirited debate begin on these blogs it will remain respectful and that people will use their own names. We all want Menlo Park to thrive.


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Posted by Elizabeth Ouren
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Great article! With all of elementary schools already having more students than the planned peak capacity and enrollment projected to grow, we need a new school. Measure W will fund this new school and help draw down enrollment across the District so that kids in Menlo Park can continue to have strong schools for years to come.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

NO on W.

I just drove by Hillview. Wow that place looks nicer than my college campus. Maybe you should have use resources (money) more effectively and built more classrooms.

Enough with the "its for the children" thing again. Vote no on W.

As for the people helping push this latest tax. Please write your own checks, stop trying to spend other people money.

Disclaimer: I just received my property tax bills, and this years increase is over $4000.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm

When they fire [Portion removed. Please avoid name-calling] superintendent I might think about voting for paying a parcel tax. If they don't, I seriously question their ability to make a rational decision and by extension the supposed "need" for more of my money.

The district is shedding highly qualified professional educators like rats off a sinking ship. What does that tell you folks? The superintendent [portion removed] and the school board was amply warned this guy was a problem and they don't want to admit hiring him was a mistake.

Now they want me to fork over more of my hard earned money because in their "opinion" it's needed? In my opinion, given their decisions, their opinions aren't worth squat.

Fire this [portion removed] superintendent and I might think about it. Oh, and please spare me the "it's for the kids" BS. It's for your property values and nothing more.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

People may have all kinds of value judgements - Hillview is too opulent, the superintendent is a jerk ... But the facts of the matter are:
* enrollment in MPCSD has ballooned far beyond what was predicted, and far beyond numbers from "new development". You can see the specifics here
Web Link
* the district has had a good track record of revamping half century old schools into modern, functional, though not particularly lavish physical plants, especially when compared to Midwest public schools I attended in the 70's.
* the district has substantially improved in ratings since we moved in in the late 1990's
* we've live through enough portables and partial remodels of Laurel and Hillview to know that those are penny wise and pound foolish options.

That's why we're voting in favor of W


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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

There are 100 extra students attending Oak Knoll who were supposed to go to Laurel or Encinal but there wasn't room. So, 50 or 60 cars have to go across town to school -- adding to commute traffic & squeezing through red light cycles.

Laurel, Encinal and Oak Knoll all have 4 or 5 extra classrooms-worth of students. They are all 100+ students over capacity. So, the average size elementary schools in all 50 states are smaller than Oak Knoll and Encinal. Only Puerto Rico's elementary schools average more students.

There's not a lot of choice about building another school. We support Measure W.



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Posted by Diane
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

There is no question that the district needs another school. The question is: Do we need a $25 million elementary school? Why not give the voters a real choice as in do we want the district to tear down O'Connor and build a new school for $25 million or renovate for a fraction of tax payer money. How much would that cost? Of course that option wasn't really presented to the tax payers.

Vote NO on W and send a message to Ghysels and the board that they can't be so arrogant with taxpayer money.


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm


After attending two of the many public outreach meetings and school board meetings in Spring, 2013, hosted by MPCSD to gather input and opinions from any interested person on how to handle extraordinary growth, it became quite clear to me that the most sound choice to accommodate huge enrollment growth is to add an additional elementary school. The school will need to have the capacity to educate up to 360 students. Using a site the district already owns saves taxpayer dollars rather than trying to locate a new location, so to me as a taxpayer, it makes sense to use of the one site that the district already owns. However, the existing facility on the O'Connor site is too small (10 classrooms) and has not had any major structural improvements in 60+ years. It is not up to current public school safety codes and would require extensive renovation if the existing structure can be salvaged. Even if so, more classrooms would need to be built there to accommodate enrollment. It may make the best use of the site and taxpayer dollars to build a new building in order for the cost to be less than retaining the existing structure and renovate. There will be several public meetings to give input on the site plan and opinions anyone has on whether or how some of the existing structure could be used if Measure W passes.

Although my children will be too old to benefit from measure W directly with less crowded conditions at our elementary schools, I very much support measure W. It's good for the whole community because class sizes can stay as low as possible if more classrooms are built, traffic around existing campuses can be reduced, more children can attend schools closer to their neighborhoods, and core programs such as Science, PE, music, and art, that are being displaced for classrooms at our existing campuses can continue.

I'm proud to be part of a community that truly values education.



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Posted by Willows resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:52 am

When this expansion of the O'Connor campus was first trial ballooned, I thought the dollar figure was $8-9 million. Now the figure is $23 million. What changed?


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Posted by JC
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think there may be an error in the article, which states it will cost us "$8.70 per $100,000 of assessed value". According to the sample ballot I'm reading, that's just for FY14. I'm guessing it would actually cost us more like 25 times that much, given the lifetime of the bond, wouldn't it?


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

You are correct. We will be paying for this one decision for the next 24 years. Who know how many more times (seems like every year actually) we will be asked again for more money.

Vote no on W. Stop funding bad decision making. Stop the waste now!

Seriously, any of you fellow citizens who have not seen the new Hillview campus, should at least drive by and see where all your money went.

As it seems, it should have went to building more classrooms. I know we all want the "best" for our little ones, but these are supposed to be "public" schools, and our limited tax dollars should be used for education, not building better that most colleges like campuses.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

While I'll be voting NO on:

* Measure S (bigger Las Lomitas schools);
* Atherton Parcel tax renewal;
* All SUHSD bonds until there is a Ravenswood high school;

I will be voting YES on measure M.

Reusing an already existing MPCSD property is the RIGHT way to plan for growth, and thank goodness they had the good sense to keep it in case O'Connor became needed again. Well, it's needed. So we should use it.

Let's not make the mistake Las Lomitas is attempting to make, by making the existing schools mega-large (even though they HAVE other campuses that they could put back in service).

If there is an organization that will be "YES on M, NO on S", I will offer my support.



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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Sorry, Measure W :)


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Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:52 pm

This is not a $23M bond. Think of the interest paid to finance this bond. When it is fully amortized, the interest is:
$14.5M at 4%
$18.8M at 5%
$23.0M at 6%

The $8.70 per $100,000 in property is too make it sound palatable. Is this really the most efficient and best way to educate children due to enrollment growth? How much is needed for construction? Won't you rather spend the money on what really educates the children vs buildings? I'll be voting No on W.


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Posted by Downtown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 11, 2013 at 6:03 am

Obviously a 4th campus is needed but no one has explained convincingly why a 10m expansion and uprage won't work compared to a 23m new school. Then add the bond interest and it explodes the total cost.


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Posted by Alison Leupold
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 11, 2013 at 6:19 am

The schools in Menlo Park were originally constructed in the 1950's. I actually think the district has exercised restraint and prudence over the years in capital invesment in the schools. In this most recent round, Laurel, Encinal and Oak Knoll significantly increased their capacity by adding some new construction but also by just renovating existing construction. To increase Hillview's capacity, on a site that is less than 1/2 the recommended size for a California middle school, the decision was made to mostly rebuild the school, and it was a good one. Not only does the new Hillview utilize space efficiently for housing what is currently 800+ but will ultimately be ~1000 kids, it will now last for the next 50-60 years with little additional investment required from the community.
Unlike the current 4 schools in the district which have had capital investment throughout the years to keep them up to current code, safe for students, modernized, etc., O'Connor has had very little done to it over the years. It was originally a Ravenswood property, and since it came over to the district in 1984 (over 30 years ago!) it has had little to nothing done to it. To me, rebuilding the school seems smart. In addition to what I've learned as a homeowner (in older buildings, rebuilding often gets you a much better product for very limited additional investment), as a community we'll now have a brand new school that will last for the next 50-60 years - long after the bond term has expired.
For anyone who believes our current schools (especially Hillview) are "over the top", I urge you to go take a tour if you haven't. They are well-constructed, purpose-built civic buildings that are not fancy - but are designed to do a great job housing huge amounts of kids on school sites that in almost any other suburban community in the country would be considered ridiculously small.
Investing in the education of our community's children is a good thing, and I believe the decisions being made about how to do that in the MPCSD are sound, so I plan to vote Yes on Measure W.


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Posted by MP W Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:53 am

I will be voting yes on W. It seems indisputable that enrollment is way above forecast and that the need for more space is real. Perhaps whoever did forecasting 10-15 years ago did a poor job, but we are where we are. This seems like a pretty well-considered solution. For those here who say it's not about the kids, it is about property values -- I'm not sure why those two things are mutually exclusive, much less why investing to maintain property values is a bad thing. The schools are badly overcrowded and so this is good for the kids. And to state the obvious, people come to our community for the schools -- so if this investment helps support property values, all the better.


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Posted by Sherwin Chen
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I'm sure that people on both sides of this issue want what's best for our children (our community has a great track record of supporting our schools and educating our children), and of course no one wants to pay more in taxes than we absolutely need to. So, for me, support for Measure W comes down to two questions: Do we really need to invest in our school facilities now? And is the cost reasonable?

I think it's hard to argue against the fact that something needs to be done. Measure W isn't a proposal to make state-of-the-art upgrades or build idyllic Stanford-like campuses. It's simply a matter of creating enough space for our children to learn. Student enrollment has far exceeded the capacity of our elementary schools, and as a result:

• Oak Knoll, Encinal, and Laurel have all been forced to add portable classrooms,
• Encinal lost its science lab – converted to a classroom,
• Encinal had to move its computer lab into the district office board room,
• Laurel has lost some outdoor space for community gathering, bike racks, etc.,
• And, still, class sizes have gone up.

With enrollment projected to continue growing, things will only get worse if we choose to do nothing. Measure W is designed to meet Menlo Park school enrollment challenges for the next decade.

Regarding the price tag, I'll offer a few observations:

• The school board reviewed numerous options, including ones that were significantly lower cost, but all those low-cost plans required using portable facilities, which is just not a permanent solution.
• Las Lomitas has a similar overcrowding issue. Measure S (its facilities plan) costs $60 million. I'm not able to compare the two plans, and Las Lomitas' $60 million may in fact be money well spent, but in this context our $23 million bond measure certainly doesn't seem unreasonable or extravagant.
• The 25-year bond is estimated to cost property owners $8.70 per $100,000 of assessed value, annually over the life of the bond. For a property owner with a $1 million home, this comes out to only $7.25 per month.

So what do we get for the price of two lattes a month?

None of our kids will have to spend their schooldays in the educational equivalent of a trailer home. We'll ensure dedicated facilities for computer, science, art, music, and PE. We'll maintain smaller class sizes.

Seems like a pretty good deal to me.


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Posted by Amused
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I do wonder about the poster who said that Hillview is nicer than their college... Did the poster go to Teensy Tiny University?


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Posted by Lisa T.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I do question the value of a multi- million dollar performing arts center at Hillview. I don't question the building of the facility, just the extravagance with which it was built. It is, after all, a middle school. Visitors from the professional world who have seen the sound equipment says that it rivals, if not exceeds, the equipment found in businesses such as Disneyland! Was that really a necessary expenditure of our tax payer dollars?

I worry that the $23 million price tag for the new school will include much of the same. It is only an elementary school for 360 kids. Does it really cost that much to build?


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Posted by 360 x 60 years
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm

@ Lisa T, yes, it is for 360 kids. Every year. Built to last about 60+ or - years. That's about 21,600 kids if you count one student each school year. Hopefully that will help with cost context.
With the average property paying $70 a year to build this school, I believe its a great investment. I am willing to forgo one dinner out a year with the family to support this. I hope you will too.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

Enough of the sky is falling. Enough of the comparisons to how many lattes it will cost per month. These were used last time around (and unfortunately worked), so I am already not buying lattes.

There is another way. Vote no on W. Let them come back with a more realistic value and argument for the next ballot. There is already a functioning school on this property, maybe not as nice as the new standard that was set at Hillview, but people are paying to send their children there for "an education".

I know we all "want things" How about this time stop spending other peoples money and open your own checkbooks as you "clearly see the value" in spending $23M on a small school.



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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm

The questions about how much it should cost to build a new elementary school prompted me to search for some examples. A new elementary school planned for 2017 in Arlington Virginia = $46,500,000. Two new elementary schools in Maryland in 2008 = $33,000,000 each. A new elementary school in Mercer Island WA near Seattle costs $19,857,640 for construction plus $13,900,275 for soft costs (?). A new elementary school in New Orleans in 2010 after Hurricane Katrina cost $54,000,000.



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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Found another example of an elementary school construction cost comparison at Edna Maguire Elementary School, Mill Valley: $36,750,000. This could be a community with costs that are similar to Menlo Park.


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Posted by numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm

There are two big holes in the proponents' arguments. Instead of facing those, they insist on diverting questions and focusing on the positives. They don't seem to understand that they need to address the problems directly or their measure may go down.

* "We didn't anticipate this growth a few years ago." Ok, we get it. That's why the board is coming back and asking for more money even as they finish spending the last $90+mm. Do we have any reason to believe that you won't be back in four years with your hand out again? What have you done to hone your predictive abilities? Have you considered the fact that the next Housing Element is likely to affect the MPCSD (since the city is running out of space in Belle Haven to dump housing)?

* The GAIS has been using the school for years without any apparent complaints. My impression is that they love the school. Comparing the cost of new construction to that of schools in other states is apples/oranges -- you have a campus that is successfully functioning as a school. How about living with a little fixing up for another decade or so? Most Menlo Park homes are about the same age, and we manage!

By the way, most kids prefer portables, even if some adults find them aesthetically unpleasing.

*


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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 12, 2013 at 5:37 pm

@ Numbers Monkey - interesting questions.

re: accurate predictions:
I would expect the District to be obliged to make their best estimate of student growth and now build that level. If there is more unexpected growth of student numbers then we should deal with it when it happens. Don't know how expert their prediction is but the team who worked on it were district parents who I believe are pretty sharp.

re: GAIS happy use of existing building:
GAIS likes the O'Connor campus, so I wondered what makes it unsuitable for MPCSD. The Cal Dept of Ed web site lists many requirements for public school site size, classroom size (even toilet function). The portables on MPCSD campuses obviously meet the seismic and size requirements. But we can't make a gym/multipurpose room out of portables. Families of the new school would have to make the same bond payments as the rest of MPCSD and would be inequitably served by a campus where kids have to walk outside to use the bathroom or don't have the OT work rooms or performance stage, etc., as at OK and EN.

BTW - I looked up what an elementary school gym has cost elsewhere and it seems to be about $4 million.


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Posted by Elementary Watson
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm

The Thygessens. Linkletter-Rich MPAEF myopic mantra got us in this expensive fix with proposed overspending on OConnor

Common sense lacking ignores that Oak Knoll and OConnor are in , as the district engineering consultant stated some 5 years ago during the last $91 million bond discussion, in The Far Corner of the District with poor access

Money should be better spent to undue the grand Ranella campus centralization mantra by re acquiring the old Fremomt elementary school site on Middle Ave to create a much needed K-2 campus for Allied Arts and downtown MP

Buy back from city control , move Rosener House to Little House city owned Nealon Park and convert Rosener bldg to a K-2

But that would be too reasonable out of the box thinking on a grand scale to optimize district facility management for this spend like crazy school board legacy

I'm just a big picture grand planner whose recommendations with Montague and Bourne, among other long time residents, fell on deaf ears 5 years ago, when we forecast burgeoning enrollment that obviated recapturing OConnor in 2008


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm

@Elementary,
Appreciate your thoughts and experience. It would be interesting to see the written report with your recommendations from 2008. As for the central MP campus, that would make sense if that's where the growing enrollment is going to be. Everything I've seen indicates most of the student growth is on the NE side of El Camino:
Web Link
Would be interesting if you have different data.

How is Rosener House set up ? It strikes me that it would be more expensive to acquire and revamp than the O Connor site.


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm


I appreciate that the school board members are being mindful of taxpayer dollars as well as studying where the enrollment growth happening.

If the school district were have to buy a parcel of land from the city or other party, it would be many millions of dollars in addition to building costs. The site where Fremont School was, currently Jack Lyle Park & Rosener House, is on a 4.55 acre site off Arbor Road, west of downtown. Property costs to acquire that for the district would be very large.

Additionally, the number of students who live in the Oak Knoll boundary area are about the right number for the attendance capacity at Oak Knoll. The reason Oak Knoll is over-crowded now is because of the need to over-flow kids who live in the Encinal or Laurel boundary areas to Oak Knoll. The large amount of student population growth is the Encinal and Laurel boundary areas. It makes a lot of sense to me to add an elementary school in the neighborhood where there is the largest student population growth, coupled with the efficiency of the district already owning the site.

Here are a couple informative links--

A history of the school district:
Web Link


Enrollment presentation to the school board in Dec. 2012:
Web Link

The enrollment presentation shows just one of several enrollment reports and analysis presented to the board to help them make the best decisions possible. It also shows that they have been keeping close track of the housing being added in the school district boundaries.

As a planning commissioner, I can attest that school district administration have been been very involved every step of the way in the housing element update and are taking into account housing turnover data when making these decisions.

I'm proud of the board and superintendent for how much thought, study, and public process went into the decision to go out for a bond to add an additional elementary school. I fully support their decision. That is why I got involved as a volunteer to help since I am familiar with the forces in play.

I have no doubt that this school will be an asset to our whole community for generations to come.

Please join me in supporting measure W.


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Posted by numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:37 am

Fremont School belonged to the district, which sold it. What other shortsighted decisions are being made right now? Anyone who knows the political dynamics of the city knows that Rosener House is not going anywhere.

I am glad to see the school superintendents finally coming to public meetings to beg the city not to allow more housing given the lack of capacity in the LLESD and MPCSD districts. Some planning commissioners and council members have heeded those concerns. Others have not, citing the fact that the city does not have to consider the school situation when it makes its decisions. For a planning commissioner and a member of the latter camp to mention school district involvement in housing decisions is truly disingenuous. Those who have the power to limit housing in this city should not be afraid to do so. I am appalled.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 13, 2013 at 6:33 pm

@Katie,
Thanks for confirming my suspicions about where new classroom capacity is most needed. I really appreciate data on the changing demographics and on costs, plus a dose of district history.

@Numbers,
After reading the district history, it's pretty clear that the decision to sell the Fremont property to the city was anything but shortsighted, and led to a number of long term benefits, like the multi at Hillview. I don't think we can expect the district to make decisions based on a quarter century window.


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Posted by Sara Leslie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm


@numbers monkey, I feel confident about the the decision to reopen O'Connor because it is anything but shortsighted. MPCSD knew it had to shorten the GAIS leases and took that step a few years ago; that is planning ahead. Los Lomitas didn't plan ahead and now is forced to build huge schools on constrained campuses because it doesn't have the option to open a school at either of their leased campuses.

It would be one thing if the District was planning the new school for today's overenrollment--this is not the case. MPCSD is building for enrollment growth that will continue for at least the next ten years. Our schools are in demand and we are adding new housing. Further, Menlo Park has a higher than average percent of older homeowners. As these individuals move out of the district, more young families will continue to move in and expand or build bigger homes.


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Posted by Insider
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

It is one thing to say that the school district has been informed about the Housing Element all along, however, no one should imply that the Menlo Park School district has had a seat at the table. For the first time ever the school district has made it clear that they can not absorb more and more students which are the inevitable result to the state mandates that are coming down on use.

I support measure W, but unless we get a handle on our population growth and start saying no to outsiders telling us that we have to grow, grow, grow. The schools in the Menlo Park school district have only one way to go. Down.


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Posted by Insider
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Let me be blunt.

Menlo Park and other cities in our area with good schools are being forced to massively increase housing. Powerful lobbies are writing CA state laws to facilitate this. This process comes down to us in Menlo Park as the "Housing Element." Rather than fight this, the city caved in at the first sign of legal trouble, hired a consultant who went around to various meetings indoctrinating the residents, appointed planning commissioners and city council members to serve on the "over-site committee" who passively accepted our fate.

This is an outrage.

We are losing local control and losing our ability to maintain quality schools, despite measure W or anything else. This process is driven by our high housing prices which are in turn driven by our good schools. This process will continue until our schools are compromised and the economic incentive to cram more people into our particular area is reduced, unless you do something.

Do you hear your elected and appointed representatives doing anything about this, saying anything about this? I don't.

We simply must have people on the city council who are dedicated to fighting for local control of our zoning. Otherwise, despite all the propaganda about how we have to open up our city to more housing for the benefit of the public, we will end up like many other areas, with lousy public schools and good private schools that only the wealthy can afford.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm

@Insider,
While I agree that we shouldn't cede local autonomy when it comes to zoning, and automatically embrace all growth and development, especially driven by political and monetary pressure from outsiders, I would contend that growth and density don't automatically imperil our schools.

I'm not sure what your theory is. New development doesn't fund the schools sufficiently ? Higher density adds more kids with lower revenue/kid ? Maybe you can share your math ? Maybe you can use numbers from the recent MPCSD enrollment study ?

Web Link

.13 enrolled/household for mixed used apartments (e.g. Arrillaga plan includes studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments),
.28 enrolled/household for townhomes, .33 enrolled/household for single-family homes

I'ld rather see a data-driven model that predicts $$/student based on average home/rental prices.


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Posted by numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm

If you read the history of the district on the district website, you are not getting an exactly unbiased view. That should be obvious. The district did not anticipate needing the O'Connor campus when the 2006 bond was put out to vote. What other mistakes are going to be staring us in the face in another few years? I have zero confidence in the district's ability to plan for the future. And why should they have to plan? The arrogant assumption is that taxpayers are too afraid about a decline in schools to vote against bonds.

As Insider points out, the real threat to our schools comes from the pressure to continue adding housing to our already densely populated area. Somehow, the socialist notion that we need to accommodate everyone who wants to live here has gained traction among the PC-minded. Make no mistake, if no one stands up to Sacramento lawmakers (and the lobbyists behind them) we are going to see an inevitable decline in our school quality, no matter how many bonds we're paying for. Our property values may stay high, but ultimately we will be like San Francisco or Manhattan, where no one with any financial resources sends kids to public schools.

If you care about the future of the schools, vote for this measure -- and then tell your planning commissioners and city council: enough.


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Posted by numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm

The point is, stats, we're at capacity. Unless we want to tear down all those schools and replace them with 4-story buildings or go to year-round schools, which would buy us some time.

I have asked the superintendent and school board members (in separate, individual conversations) the question that (I think?) you're raising. Because the MPCSD is a basic aid district, additional students do not bring additional money to the schools. More property taxes -- whether from new housing or resales -- do help the school. But what I was told is that the incremental property tax money only covers a percentage of each anticipated additional student. Something like 40-50%. So each additional student dilutes the resources for all.

Back to Insider's comments. The bureaucrats imposing this additional housing on us do not care a whit whether our schools go down the tubes. That is why we have to speak up and assert our responsibility to dictate our destiny.


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Posted by Insider
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 14, 2013 at 8:10 am

stats - What are the facts? Are projections from a consultant whose business it is to facilitate the Housing Element facts? The school district's own enrollment estimates have been way, way off. No, these are not facts and should not be treated as such.

Facts are things that have already happened, not projections of parties who have an interest in the outcome:

Menlo Park and other cities in our area with good schools are being forced to massively increase housing. Powerful lobbies are writing CA state laws to facilitate this. This process comes down to us in Menlo Park as the "Housing Element." Rather than fight this, the city caved in at the first sign of legal trouble, hired a consultant who went around to various meetings indoctrinating the residents, appointed planning commissioners and city council members to serve on the "over-site committee" who passively accepted our fate.

This is an outrage.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 14, 2013 at 8:35 am

@Numbers,
Agree with you on W and immediate need - we need it. I still question whether anyone could have credibly made the case for a 3000 student district when all existing numbers in 2006 (see foil 18) pointed far more tepid growth.
Web Link
I would love to hear you explain the need for O'Connor based on 2006 data. That would be the equivalent of you, today, making the case that we have to add both O'Connor and Fremont to meet 2025 capacity.
BTW - The main culprit for enrollment growth in the 2000-2013 timeframe appears to be re-sale of existing homes plus the annexation of the Willows in the 80's (when enrollment was 1100).

I also dug up a 2013 Menlo Park report that highlights the fiscal impact of both general plan development and the Housing Element Update. I'm guessing that you take issue with the Housing Element Update, which indeed is projected to have negative fiscal impact on the schools.
Web Link


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Posted by Catherine McMillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The city has been incredibly short-sighted and irresponsible in allowing as much multi-family housing as it has over the past few years. The impact on traffic and school enrollment is more than Menlo Park is equipped to handle. Does anyone know if the developers who benefit from the multi-family housing explosion are required to pay anything to mitigate the impacts of the projects they create? If not, one idea would be to have developers and realtors create a coop fund that could help pay for such projects as parking garages, or a new school. I believe it's called "giving back" and I'm finding this more palatable than going back to the bottomless well of local taxpayers.


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Posted by New Orleans transplant
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Susannah Hill:

When making cost comparisons, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. The $54 million school in New Orleans was built to house 950 high school students, is 210,000 SF and had to be built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. I could be wrong, but I don't think any of those apply to the O'Connor site.


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Posted by Pay attention
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

$23 million is the amount for which approval is sought because, I believe, it is the maximum amount of authorized debt allowed. It has no correlation to the amount expected to be spent for the new school. Pay attention to the fine print. In addition, the board has full authority without seeking any additional taxpayer approval to re-direct the funds to other projects of their choosing. You'd be mistaken if you thought that $23 million was planned in any specific way for the new school. It can be used for portables, additions to elementary schools, new roofs at all schools, etc. As a taxpayer in the district, you can expect that when this school gets closer to reality, remaining funds will be insufficient to cover the higher cost and this dialogue will renew and the board will have turned over and a new set of participants will be responsible for the issue.

I'd ask any member of the school board to correct this statement, or to at least clarify. Some of the posters have a clear agenda on the table so best to put their personal marketing aside. In fact, most are well heeled and pay little mind to long-time residents for whom this cost is not as easy to bear. No one will argue against good, comfortable schools but it comes down to fiscal discipline. Public education is not free.

Do your homework on this kids.

I wont say vote yes or no, but vote informed.


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Posted by O'Connor 2006 Measure U $91MM
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

It's right in the full text of the $91MM Measure U,passed 6/2006, which states under Projects List..

"Listed projects may also be carried out the currently leased-out O'connor School, is use of that site once again becomes necessary to accomodate District programs".

The board and Ranella knew OConnor was needed for growing enrollment and overcrowding at Laurel, Encinal and Oak Knoll, but spent the $91MM on the other luxury items at Hillview.

A remodel of O'Connor was estimated at $8-9 Million in 2008, but fell on deaf ears at District Offices and Board Meetings.


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Posted by Pay Attention
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm

That is not the point. The point is that voters think that they are being asked to authorize $23 million for this new, needed school. Thus, all the comparisons to costs for other schools, etc. The fact is the MPCSD can re-direct some/much of this funding as they see fit for other educational purposes, well beyond the scope of O'Connor. I believe that this amount is the last remaining authorization so, in effect, they went for it all without a clear sense of building costs. I think the public is not being given a fair view of what is being proposed. It would be nice if the board stepped up and put the issues on the table so voters can assess.


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Posted by O'Connor revamp redux
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Actually, district claimed in 2007 that $6+MM would be held out of $91MM Measure U funds for a remodel of OConnor, which Measure U specifically lists as a Project.
Now, after dithering, and letting GAIS make a profit after paying the $300K annual rent ( from tuition and subletting to the French Ballet school on weekends, seems like board and new super think there's another easy $23MM plus interest, on top of $91MM from 2006, and $33MM from 2000.

Better accountability of distict taxpayers bond funds expenditures is overdue


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Posted by Encinal parent
a resident of Encinal School
on Oct 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm

The current Superintendent and Board are not enforcing the District Bounderies.
They are well aware as are many teachers, principals and staff that there is a huge
Number of students from East Palo Alto and farther away than this that come to our schools. Our child has come home and told us of students in her class who have openly admitted they live in EPA and are not in the Tinsley program.
While we are all for helping the disadvantaged there comes a point where it has to stop. If you think we're nuts just watch the cars leave Encinal and follow them back to EPA. A fair estimate would be 20%.
You may ask why they allow this to occur? Job security, liberal thinking, gentrification, who knows, but if you don't believe it go check it out. There's your enrollment growth ! Oh one more thing two years ago at Laurel there was a student in our child's class who was found to live in EPA, but the Superintendent allowed her to stay!


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 15, 2013 at 10:14 am

@Catherine,
Where has the multi-family explosion occurred ? The report I pointed to covered the impacts of the 3 recent significant developments in the MPCSD district area, but none of them have been huge contributors to enrollment. If you know of any others, let us know.


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Posted by For the record
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I am not sure why Las Lomitas is being dragged into this string, but for @peninsula resident who plans to vote no on S and Yes on W you only get to vote for the district that you live in - I hope you reside in MPCSD.

Additionally, @Sara Leslie, the LL district did not pass on the properties it owned because it wasn't planning. The current Woodland School would have required a rebuild because like the the GAIS campus, it is not up to code. It is also a far distance from the other campuses and would add to traffic not to mention administrative overhead. The Phillips Brooks campus, while lovely, has smaller classrooms and would have to be refitted as well. Both bring in a lot of $$$ each year for the school that is an important part of programatic funding right now and it ultimately makes more sense to rebuild at the current LE site.

Either way, I would think residents of MPCSD would be happy to have these two additional private schools in the area offsetting attendance at their own for the time being.

I hope voters will support both these measures because there is frankly no more room at either of the inns.



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Posted by Dollars
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 5:27 am

Again, I think it would help if the Board would address the issue of where the $23 million will go and how much is expected to go just to the new school. It seems like the funds may be insufficient and that they can also be spent elsewhere. That does not need to be a bad thing, but it would be good to hear from the board or the Yes folks on this.


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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

@ Dollars - re: how much money from bond goes to new school:

It looks like the District plans a public process for making decisions on how to build the new campus. That would mean there is no detail on a budget yet and it also means that everyone can follow and track the money being spent on the new campus vs. elsewhere.

While researching public elementary school campus construction costs I learned there are rules to make sure schools are safe & adequate, probably so towns & school boards don't build something cheap & dangerous. The regulations made things more expensive than I expected. Viewing the costs of other schools I think $23 million is enough but not generous.


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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm

@ New Orleans Transplant - Thanks for correcting my error about the school in New Orleans. I wondered why the cost was so high! That explains it. The article I found it in said it was an elementary school (or I misread it). Let's disregard that example.


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Posted by PF
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted by JC, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think there may be an error in the article, which states it will cost us "$8.70 per $100,000 of assessed value". According to the sample ballot I'm reading, that's just for FY14. I'm guessing it would actually cost us more like 25 times that much, given the lifetime of the bond, wouldn't it? >>

That is my conclusion also after reading the text of the bond. Think about the elderly people who will not be able to keep up with the increasing cost of this bond. Some will lose their homes. That does not seem to matter to the supporters of this bond.


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Posted by sad truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm

To Catherine McM - the state of California establishes what developers are required to pay for school impacts. Unfortunately that amount falls extremely short of what would be required to build new facilities.

Our elementary school district (includes Hillview)is funded on a basic aid model, where every additional student dilutes the per-child funding. The increase in property taxes that occurs when a house or commercial structure changes hands or a new building is constructed only covers a fraction of the actual incremental cost of educating the new students generated by the new construction. Again, this also does not consider capital costs of building new facilities.

It is an ironic and sad truth that the state is pushing communities to add housing but restricts the ability to fund the impacts.


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Posted by Dollars
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:47 pm

But the dollars are not earmarked just for the school. I believe they are borrowing all they can under current authorization and dont really know where it will be spent and how much it will cost for the school. I am not hearing any knowledgeable supporter correct this perception


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Posted by Lisa T.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Susannah---thank you for providing this information. It seems as though you are very informed on this issue. I am, however, concerned about your most recent post.

Isn't it a bit reckless of Ghysels and the board to ask for the most amount of money possible in a bond, and THEN they will meet with stakeholders to determine how it will be spent. Seems as though these conversations would happen long before a vote for the bond. Just another example of the poor leadership that Ghysels has brought to this district and is somehow allowed to get away with by the school board. I'm all for supporting the schools, but am having a hard time supporting Ghysels with his lack of decision making ability. I don't trust how he will spend this $23 million.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Ok, now I think the conversation is headed in the right direction and questions that need addressing are being asked.

So, someone please answer, what happens when we stop voting yes for these endless measures? Do we stop admitting more students?, does the state pay for portables?, or who pays, who pays for the extra teachers?

I have a hard time believing the "sky is falling" scenarios. I am pretty sure (most of us) pay enough in taxes. Most likely we pay far more than other districts in this state (who somehow have money for teachers and new schools). I recently had a project in Modesto, and wow, there are some amazing college like campus schools there too, (and I promise you, there is far less paid in property taxes and all taxes there).

So, let us have a real conversation now about resources (money). If we cannot educate our students on the immense wealth we transfer via taxes, can we just forget about it all, and close all the schools. I will happily take my tax dollars back and send my children to private school, maybe even the one were this bond measure is to build a new school.

Where does this end? ABAG somehow is forcing MP to build more housing (including low income/low prop tax). We, property owners, eventually will run out of money.

Vote NO ON W. Send this message back to the district. Find better ways to use all the money you have. Come back next year and put a fully defined measure on the ballot, including the full costs (how much and how many years), and I will consider it. Otherwise, PLEASE my voting property owning neighbors. RESEARCH THIS BEFORE VOTING. DO NOT ACCEPT the well planned arguments will little explaination.

VOTE NOT ON W.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:56 pm

new guy:

very well said.


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Posted by interested observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Yes, well said new guy. Ghysels does not have a very good track record since his arrival in Menlo Park. He's been here for two years and has completely overhauled the leadership TWICE. Twice in two years. He hatches plans, hires consultants to "validate" his plans, then changes his course when things don't go his way. And somehow, the board allows him to keep making these decisions!

And now he and the board are asking for carte blanche with a check for $23 million? For all we know, Ghysels might just use the money to renovate his office -- AGAIN.

No thank you. I will be voting no on W. I've had enough of reading about Ghysels' shenanigans in the paper. Come back with more transparency, and then you'll have my vote.


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Posted by Numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Wait: the district is asking for this money and doesn't know what the actual cost might be? If "the District plans a public process for making decisions on how to build the new campus" (thank you, Susannah) then the whole enterprise appears to be at best inept and at worst corrupt.

I know a lot of us hate to say no to the schools. I was going to hold my breath and vote yes. But after reading some of the comments here, I am leaning to No.

P.S. to PF. I wouldn't worry too much about people who have lived in their homes a while. Many of them have valuations around $100,000 or even less, and if they can't afford $10/year, they probably can't afford to live here either. I'm more concerned about the young families who paid $2mm+ for a modest home in the district and will be absorbing the cost of the district's misguided decisions for decades.


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Posted by dollars
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2013 at 4:47 am

I think people should look at available material. I'd not assume that the money does not get spent on a useful new school. My bet is that is mostly does get spent in that direction and the schools ARE getting crowded. I believe it is simply helpful to know more about flexibility around use of funds and if they are likely to be sufficient. More to understand the economics than to suggest that this should not move forward. I think the Board is generally thoughtful on these issues -- not easy. More info is beneficial but I am still likely to support.


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Posted by A Willows Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

A couple of thoughts:

Coming from a private school, the value received at the MPCSD is an amazing deal - and would be at twice the price. I fully support the District, the Foundation, and the PTA and feel we receive excellent value for the money spent.

Why even mention the cost of the interest? How many folks, when buying a home, consider the cost of the interest they pay over the 30 years? You don't. You agree to a sales price and the interest is whatever the loan rate is.

@ Numbers Monkey: If a new family moves in and buys a $2M home, then I suspect two things are true - they moved here (in part) for the schools, and if they can afford a $2M home, they can afford the bond cost.

I fully support Measure W, and my wife and I will vote YES - for our two kids and all the other kids in the District.


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Posted by A Willows Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

@ New Guy

" Most likely we pay far more than other districts in this state" Not sure about that - it would be an interesting fact to know however.

But, regardless, check your property tax bill - I assure you that you cannot get the same quality of education at a private school for the amount you pay to the MPCSD. What you pay in property taxes would not even cover 1 or 2 months of school (based on my property tax bill anyway).

I know what I am talking about - we were at a private preschool before moving to Kindergarten at Laurel. Having the Foundation ask us for $1500 was a bargain.

I am afraid everyone in Menlo Park has gotten used to the level of education we have in the MPCSD and does not have anything to compare to, so when asked for more money in a Bond, everyone wonders why. As a product of private schools myself, and having our kids graduate from private preschool to MPCSD Kindergarten, I see what a valuable asset we have, and I encourage everyone to vote YES on W.


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Posted by Tricia Barr
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:10 am

Dear Encinal Parent (from Oct 14th comment)

There are a limited number of students from Ravenswood School District who attend Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Las Lomitas, Woodside, Belmont, etc. schools under a court-ordered desegregation program (about 24 per year attend Menlo Park City School District through this program known to many parents as the "Tinsley Program"). Other than that and Staff children, students outside MPCSD attendance boundaries should not be attending Menlo Park schools.

MPCSD has strict attendance verification procedures when people register their children, or change addresses. I know from Board meetings that I've attended that MPCSD investigates leads related to parents who it suspects don't live within MPCSD boundaries (returned mail, info from staff that leads to suspicion, etc). Information about students who might not live in the district can be reported to the Superintendent - even through an anonymous phone call or letter.

More info about the Tinsley Transfer program can be found on the District's website at:
Web Link


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Posted by PF
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:20 am

Posted by Numbers monkey, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
10 hours ago

Wait: the district is asking for this money and doesn't know what the actual cost might be? If "the District plans a public process for making decisions on how to build the new campus" (thank you, Susannah) then the whole enterprise appears to be at best inept and at worst corrupt.

I know a lot of us hate to say no to the schools. I was going to hold my breath and vote yes. But after reading some of the comments here, I am leaning to No.

P.S. to PF. I wouldn't worry too much about people who have lived in their homes a while. Many of them have valuations around $100,000 or even less, and if they can't afford $10/year, they probably can't afford to live here either. I'm more concerned about the young families who paid $2mm+ for a modest home in the district and will be absorbing the cost of the district's misguided decisions for decades>>

You don't know what their valuations might be. As the bond interest grows, likely they won't be able to pay it. Are the "young families" more important than the seniors who have paid school taxes for many years? Do you really
want to see seniors forced to sell? I have neighbors who are in their 80s and 90s and they are very concerned about rising taxes. Where do you suggest they go?


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Posted by Catherine McMillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm

@ Sad Truth: Thank you for your courteous reply to my question.


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Posted by Numbers monkey
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2013 at 8:29 pm

First, increases in assessed housing values are capped. So if your house is valued at $100,000 now and in ten years it's valued at $120,000, that's an extra few dollars in bond payment a year.

Anyone who can't afford $10/year cannot afford to live here, period. At least people in their 80s and 90s who own a home have an asset that they can sell. A lot of MP residents are not that fortunate. You can't expect a community to subsidize everyone who wants to live here and can't afford to.

That said, the school board is counting on the "just a few dollars" argument. I don't have my property tax bill in front of me, but I've noticed it gets longer every year. At one point, a MPCSD board member told me that $500 was considered the limit for district parcel taxes. I believe they blew by that a few years ago. We're not supposed to notice because it's less than a cup of coffee a day.

The original parcel taxes had expiration dates on them. The newer parcel taxes just keep rolling over and costing more each year. You vote for them once and they're with us forever.

Twenty-five years is a long time, and it seems as though the board would prefer that we shoot first and ask questions later. That's not how to run a district. It isn't too late to give us some straight info now.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm

To the NOers,
I feel your pain about taxes, but also realize that even though MPCSD is a basic aid district, only a small percentage of the local general property tax goes to the district. I think the number is 17%. MPCSD is funded at about 10K/pupil before MPAEF, about 11.5K/pupil with the Foundation added in. 10K/pupil is a little less than the CA average and far less than the averages of other entire states like PA, NJ, NY, MN, WI, MD, MS. So I'm not buying the extravagant tax funding story, as anything other than vague anti-tax rhetoric.

And the sky isn't falling, but the schools are most certainly going to get much more crowded unless we vote yes (like my family has)


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Posted by Details
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 4:36 am

Wondering why the strong advocates here in earlier posts are not jumping into the dialogue on how money gets spent. It is important folks.


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 18, 2013 at 7:58 am


There is plenty of detailed information available to review the details of what exactly the bond money will be spent on here:
Web Link

The cost of construction was carefully estimated by the school district director of facilities and I am very confident in the numbers based on past experience in school construction costs. Additionally, as listed in the bond project list linked above, there are construction improvements for the other schools (such as new roofs on some sections of buildings). These improvements are estimated to be approximately $2M, with an estimated $21M for the O'Connor site of the total $23M.

The school district has a very strong history of use of bond funds as shown in the bond oversight reports from past bonds listed in lnk below-- see the left side menu for various bond reports:
Web Link

MPCSD is one of a handful of California school districts that still can get AAA rated bonds because of it's strong financial record as a district.

Additionally, as required by law, this bond will be carefully inspected by a bond oversight committee and produce annual reports to the public to be sure every dollar is properly accounted for. Money can only be used for construction costs, not operating costs of the district.

Sorry for the delay; I am surprised there is any question about how the funds would be used. All information is easily found and publicly accessible. If there are further questions, please just let any of us campaign know directly-- there are links to frequently asked questions here, as well as links to email us to ask us any questions you would like:
Web Link


I hope that we can assure everyone that this is a very well thought out project proposal. I believe it will be an essential community asset we can all be proud of.

Please vote YES on W.

Thanks!


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:05 am


One more link I meant to include above-- here is a link to "Contact Us" for the five campaign co-chairs.
Please ask us any questions that remain and we can get you the information you seek.

Web Link


Please take the time to become very informed on this measure. When you do, I am confident you will see why the district needs an additional elementary school and why the bond amount is a reasonable figure for construction.



Thank you for voting YES on W.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

Thanks Katie,

Real information trumps hand-wavy claims of purported "extravagance" any day. A visit to the O'Connor site might also give people a better understanding why a half-century old, unimproved facility without sufficient classrooms or a multi, might need a revamp for a new wave of kids.


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Posted by details
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm

katie: This is helpful but perhaps comment on the following:

1) Is the $23 million, in fact, the last remaining authorization for the district?

2) While there are estimates in hand, the measure seems very clear that the costs are not fully known, nor is the allocation of the funds to specific projects, nor is it asserted that the funds are sufficient to meet the needs of the projects, as none have detail attached.

3) if the funds do prove to be inadequate, then would the district, by definition, need to seek approval for more authorization?

Again, no one argues against the need nor suggests the motives are not properly directed. It is just about being clear about the financial elements of the proposal such that, if there is a further request down the road, residents don't feel that they did not have the right information for this request. Relationships with residents regarding schools and money is a very long one and trust is key. I am still a Yes on the proposition because I believe the board will spend wisely but I am concerned that some of the details are are just not very clear.


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

Hello,

The maximum amount for this bond is $23 Million. If there are unexpected cost overruns, it has to be handled in other ways, the district cannot add to the bond amount. The term of the bond they plan to issue is 25 years.
There are no current plans for any additional bond issues from MPCSD, however, I cannot speak to some far off year/decade with different board members.

However, the Sequoia Union High School District is discussing the possibility of a bond in the near future for the high school district. This is a separate entity with different leadership and is unrelated to this bond.

There have been detailed cost estimates made for a variety of construction scenarios at MPCSD last spring during the time the school board was weighing alternatives and gathering public input into their decision. As each presentation was made, board members and the public came up with questions, more considerations, etc., which lead to the next presentation, so you will see that each presentation (linked below) builds on some of the same information.

These facilities reports are available on the "facilities development" tab of the MPDSC.org website. In these reports, you will see a lot of different options with different costs associated with each depending on the scope of work. The board heard from community members and opted for a scope that would provide funds to build an additional school and fund some construction improvements to existing campuses. From my observation having attended some of the meetings, it was clear that the comments they received expressed the desire for the board to "do this right the first time," instead of using a quick fix (such portables and minor fix up of O'Connor) that will only last a few years and would lead to another bond issue in coming years to build a permanent structure. The student population is not anticipated to decline, so putting a new school online with temporary facilities/portables is not good use of our funds, in my opinion. If we are going to pay for a new school, I personally want it to be true community asset that will last for many decades to come.

April 9, 2013:
Web Link

April 30, 2013:
Web Link

May 13, 2013:
Web Link

May 29, 2013:
Web Link


I hope that addresses all three questions and more-- thank you for asking and I'll see if I can add some of the above to our FAQ section of our website so that others can read about them.


Please support our community by voting YES on W.


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Posted by Details
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

So as far as you know Katie, MPCSD will have no further ability to issue bonds for any reason under remaining authority, is that right? In other words, this $23 million uses it all up and further authorization would need to be received at some point in the future to support other needs or cost over runs on this project. We appreciate you taking the time to be responsive as questions arise. I really believe this issue is not well understood.


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Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm


Yes, as far as I know, there are no plans for any other bonds. Cost overruns for O'Connor, if they were to occur, cannot trigger more bonds. The district would have to come up with the difference some other way. They don't anticipate cost overruns, though, as the construction cost estimates have been careful. The goal would be to complete the construction of O'Connor and still have a smaller amount of remaining funds (Approximately $2M) of the $23M for other items on the bond project list delineated in the ballot measure linked here:

Web Link


If in a future year, a future board determines there is a need for a different construction project and believes they will need a bond to fund it, they would have to return to voters to ask for approval at that time. I'm glad to report that Hillview Middle School was constructed with capacity that should accommodate enrollment growth for many years to come. Therefore, we should not anticipate a need to build more middle school space in the foreseeable future.

To be clear, bond measures are to fund construction projects. This bond cannot be used for operating costs, teacher or administrator salaries, etc. It is only to be used for construction projects listed in the bond project list, and will be annually audited by the bond oversight committee with public reporting, as required by law.

However, you worded your question in a way that I want to be sure I understand-- you said "MPCSD will have no further ability to issue bonds for any reason under remaining authority," I believe the above answers the intent of your question. However, I'm not quite sure what you mean. If you mean "remaining authority" as the bond issue Measure W would authorize, then yes, they cannot issue more bonds for the same project. However, if you mean this board has no further authority to issue bonds, they are legally allowed to ask the voters for a different bond measure for a different project, however, they have no intent to do so in the foreseeable future.

I hope that helps-- feel free to reach us directly through our website, too: supportmenloparkschools.org



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Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

Here's my concern with Measure W. Twice, I've heard Ghysels state "When I took this job, I didn't intend to be opening up a school." That comment says to me that he knows he is underqualified to oversee the construction of a new school for MPCSD. Is that not part of the description of what a superintendent does?


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Posted by Details
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Thanks katie: My question was basically asking if the district would have any authorization to issue more bonds once the $23 million is raised. I think your answer is "no", not until the district gets an increase authorized.

My basic take is that this is the last remaining authority and it is believed, although, not certain to be sufficient to build the new school, and perhaps make some improvements elsewhere. If that proves to be the case, then things worked out well. If it is not sufficient, then the district will need to receive higher authorization and then get the authority to issue more bonds. So, it is not without risk for the current board if the public is once again asked to bear the cost of an additional debt raise. Thanks for your clear answers.

I am voting YES for the measure.


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Posted by JL
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I have read all of these comments and I will vote No. For the most part I only hear people advocating for the new tax who will benefit directly from it in a disproportionate way, which is so typical. It is no different than any other special interest group. They can deal with the problem without a new school. They just don't want to because it isn't optimal for them.


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Posted by PF
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Posted by JL, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I have read all of these comments and I will vote No. For the most part I only hear people advocating for the new tax who will benefit directly from it in a disproportionate way, which is so typical. It is no different than any other special interest group. They can deal with the problem without a new school. They just don't want to because it isn't optimal for them. >>

And the very cold and selfish comment about elders not being able to afford living here. Where would these people propose the elderly people go? The attitude seems to be "if they lose their houses, too bad". I am stunned.

I will vote NO.




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