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Menlo Park school district grapples with overload of kindergarten signups

Original post made on Mar 18, 2008

Call it too much of a good thing. The Menlo Park City School District's drive to get incoming kindergartners registered early, in February, may have been a little too successful. More children than expected enrolled, raising the specter of forced transfers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:30 pm

As a parent of child who will be entering Kindergarten this fall, I find the potential for a lottery quite disturbing, especially since I live just several blocks from Oak Knoll. If the school board had pursued a more thoughtful approach to its redestricting there wouldn't have been this problem. It seems like the school board is a bit out of touch with the number of young children moving into West menlo Park these days. I find the thought of putting my child in a combo class for kindergarten frightening. While I am sure there will be several families who ultimately go to private school, Laura Rich is kidding herself that it will solve the problem. Hopefully the school district will swallow the bitter pill it needs to and set more appropriate school boundaries.


Posted by Salt on the wound, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:10 am

The School District has taken on more projects than it can address satisfactorily. This is just one in a long line of decisions that have received inadequate attention and oversight and thus, resulted in a poor outcome.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 3:27 pm

I knew it! It would only be a matter of time until someone blamed this on West Menlo.


Posted by Another Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 21, 2008 at 9:50 am

A lottery in one of the most desireable neighborhoods in Northern California? The School Board's obviously trying to 'downsize' the Oak Knoll population, why didn't they 'downsize' the boundaries in the first place. Although the Board may think that re-drawing the boundaries may not be 'politically correct,' it seems the most logical option as long as all others are exhausted, so as to do whatever possible to eliminate the Lottery!


Posted by Hmmm..., a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Has anyone seen the postings on the Palo Alto blog about their overcrowding? Many are questioning the Tinsley program there. I only bring it up, because i live in North Fair Oaks- 6 blocks from Encinal and can't go there, but if I lived in EPA I could! Instead our neighborhood attends mostly private school.
I wonder how many spaces are utilized by kids that are bused in.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Well how dare they? They shouldn't go to our schools. Put up a border!


Posted by Hmmm..., a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 21, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Wow... not my point.

Overcrowding in the coming years is going to pose a really large issue district-wide. I am watching it unfold in many other Peninsula cities and it's ugly. Hopefully by then MP will be prepared, but isn't there already an overcrowding issue happening at Laurel too? Can Encinal house all of these students? Ugh.


Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Don't let Joanna affect you. Consider it like mosquitos, just a deeply annoying bug that won't stop sucking and buzzing.


Posted by Andrea Gemmet, Almanac staff writer
on Mar 21, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

In response to the post about students who take part in the Tinsley transfer program, the latest numbers from the school district show that nine Tinsley students would be assigned to Oak Knoll. The school planned for 120 kindergarteners, and as of March 11, 135 children had enrolled.

The nine Tinsley transfers to Oak Knoll come out of a total of 25 Tinsley program kindergarteners assigned to the Menlo Park district's three elementary schools. Another nine Tinsley students would be assigned to Laurel and seven to Encinal.


Posted by Andrea Gemmet, Almanac staff writer
on Mar 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

A clarification: the nine Tinsley kindergarteners are in addition to the 135 enrolled children who live in the Oak Knoll boundary area -- for a total of 144 incoming kindergarteners.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2008 at 7:45 pm

I don't think this should be a resident vs resident fight or issue. If new schools are not built today, then our problems will only be magnified greatly in the near future. I understand the sarcasm above. I would like to see it as a resident vs government issue.


Posted by Hmmm...., a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 21, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Andrea, thanks for the clarification. Good to know. I was curious how space was allocated.


Posted by concerned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2008 at 4:34 pm

With the rapid increase in the number of school-age children, I'm concerned that the just-approved school expansion and renovation projects will be insufficient before the paint is dry! Overcrowding will affect the kids, school funding (based on retaining small class sizes), recreational facilities throughout the city (when portables arrive, fields are lost on school grounds)at the same time demand increases, traffic and parking problems increase around the schools and routes to school, etc. Please assure us that these concerns have already been addressed (truthfully)!


Posted by enrollment management?, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm

seems the board was shortsighted in extending the O'connor lease for 5 years while pushing the $91 million bond issue to the June 06 ballot, knowing full well that the projected 20% enrollment increase could not be accomodated in the existing 4 campuses.
The board was given bad advice by the superintendant. Now they're stuck with no exit strategy.
Overcrowded neighborhood campuses, threats of lotteries and lawsuits from outraged parents and neighbors of overcrowded campuses.
Maybe, at least for Oak Knoll, priority in the lottery should be for homeowners. They pay taxes into the district, renters don't. Prop. 13 dictates that.
Time to think about replacing the 2 board members up for re=election in Nov., Ives and Thygesen. They got us into this mess.
They don't deserve re=election. Any way we could get rid of Laura Rich at the same time would be a step forward to better facility, fiscal and enrollment management.
Go to the April 15th board meeting and get a taste of how amateurish this board operates.


Posted by Separate and not equal, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:17 am

What do you mean, renters don't pay property tax? The property tax bill may go to the rental property's owner, but the money that pays for it comes from the rent money collected from ... renters!

If there's a landlord in Menlo Park who's giving renters a free ride and footing the property tax bill themselves, let me know.

At least homeowners are getting a tax break out of it -- renters don't.


Posted by enrollment management, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:33 am

Let's clarify the Prop. 13 impact on the school district.
If a rental property owner has owned the bldg. for some years, they are protected by a lower tax base (infusion to the school district).
The property tax is paid by the owner whether or not it is rented.
A $1000-2000. increase in rent over the years from tenants goes into the landlord's pocket, as their property tax increase is limited to 2.5% per year. The tenant is not paying the property tax, only increasing the landlord's profit margin.
Now take someone who just paid $2 million plus for a house near Oak Knoll a few years ago so their kids could enroll at Oak Knoll.
They are paying $30K a year in property taxes under Prop. 13,
1.25% of purchase price, and a good chunk of that base tax amount goes to the school district ( plus additional school parcel taxes which go directly to the district).
How is it fair that the recent renter who sought to get their child in the Oak Knoll attendance area is given the same priority in a lottery as a recent new homeowner who is paying that huge tax bill? The renter's child should be given a lower priority and shifted to Encinal with it's increasing K-3 facilities.
From a housing type overview, there are almost exclusively single family homes in a 3 mile radius from Oak Knoll in its attendance area. More of the multiple family units are closer to El Camino (i.e., west of University Drive, so. of Middle). Those kindergartners of new renters should be shifted to Encinal this fall.
Oak Knoll is already 200 more students than comparable size campuses K-5 in San Mateo County. It's enrollment needs to be reduced. May seem unfair prioritization of kindergarten to some, but something's got to give.


Posted by Separate and not equal, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm

So, the people paying the most money should get special treatment, is that right? That's how it may work in the private school world, but I don't think that's how the public schools are intended to function.

But basically, your argument is that someone who pays less should have fewer rights.

So someone who bought a house 12 years ago, or who inherited a house, should have less of a right to send their child to Oak Knoll, because their property tax bill is much lower than yours?

What about people who are renting recently built 5-bedroom homes? Or newly built townhouses? Maybe, the more expensive the recently purchased house, the more important that household's children should be in terms of priority enrollment.

Just think what an efficient use of your many property tax dollars it would be for the school district to sort out which children's families are contributing the most tax dollars, so they can be buffered from the uncertainty facing the less wealthy rabble.


Posted by enrollment management, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 24, 2008 at 3:06 pm

The argument is homeowners=higher priority in lottery for Oak Knoll than recent renters. We are talking about cutting down the district's kindergarten registration goal of 125 from 135 current registered , so that's 10-15 or so kids more going to Encinal in the fall. Might just be a handful of those whose parent(s) are recent renters in the apartments close to downtown, and not that far from Encinal.


Posted by RealityBites, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Dear "Separate and not equal",

Newsflash: There is high-level class snobbery already at work with the Menlo Park-Atherton-Education Fund, the PTA, and even among certain members of School Board. A classic example is Thygesen and her flippant remark about the amount of monetary donations that upset at least one parent at their Hillview homeroom orientation this year. This individual suffered in silence, but confided in one person who was perceptive enough to notice their distress.

As long as bloated MBA refugees acting as self-anointed masters of the universe (a title which they surely deserve with their command of high-school level Excel skills, advanced PowerPoint knowledge, and "power-lunch" conversational skills) are running complex decision making, you can bet that you'll see all sorts of self-serving and uncreative proposals devoid of high quality critical thinking.

That's what they do, so that's what you'll see. If you want a good laugh, take a look at their cost proposals for facility construction at their various campuses. Now look at the projected Burgess gym cost-overruns at 300% of estimated cost. You do the math. What do you think the odds are that you will see a big fat emergency bond-proposal to finish construction within the next 2 years? Why do you think the Oak Knoll campus will be the first to break ground for remodeling? Could it be that the "rich-folks" (odd, because we are all quite well off in this area) whose kids disproportionately attend Oak Knoll want their campus done before the coffers are emptied?

Be outraged, but don't be surprised.


Posted by fact checker, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Oak Knoll is the LAST elementary school to break ground, not the first. Construction is already underway at Encinal and Laurel.


Posted by unbloated mba, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 26, 2008 at 9:04 pm

I think the rich OK parents who don't want renters taking up space in their school should send their kids to private school so that their precious darlings don't have to mingle with riff-raff.

P.S. EM, a lot of families rent regular homes, some of which are within a block of Oak Knoll. Should those families also be sent elsewhere?


Posted by EM, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 26, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Thanks, UMBA for your input. So let's noodle on a ranking system for this board forced lottery. BTW, it's been their policy since 2003. Seems you're in Felton Gables, next to Encinal, but that's okay, we're just noodling.
Criteria for kindergarten at OK.
Remember this is only for new kgartners who do not already have a sibling enrolled. Those kgartners are automatically "in" per board policy. For the other non-sibling protected:
How about for argument's sake, 1-5 points on this scale....
Homeowners get 5 points, regardless of distance from OK.
Renters get points based on length of tenancy, proximity to OK.
Say 4 for being resident tenant for more than 2 years, within 1 mile of OK, 3 for outside a 1 mile radius, etc. Encourages walking,biking to campus, and not a recent arrival.
Say 2 for tenancy less than 2 years, more than 1 mile from OK.
And, 1 for tenancy less than 2 years, more than 2 miles from OK.
From looking at the new attendance boundary map, it looks like residents in the apartment dominant area between Arbor and University are about equidistant from Encinal as they are from OK.
Driving distance being the same, and with new kindergarten facilities this fall at Encinal, looks like Encinal for some of those in the Downtown MP area might find Encinal an attractive alternative to OK for their newly enrolling kgartner.
Think of all these, what did you in Felton Gables call them, "riff raff", enjoying the new Encinal kgarten complex.
Is that a problem you and your neighbors?


Posted by fed up, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2008 at 7:41 am

As everyone complains about the lack of space i keep wondering why our Superintendent and Board get to enjoy such spacious offices (at Encinal) and why a huge TERC building is now on its way to usurp even more precious land (despite numerous protest from the community and surrounding neighbors).

The justification for TERC is that is can be "repurposed" if there appears to be a need but there was a "need" before it was even approved. So is the Board swindling Fed dollars with the full intention of re-purposing the minute the paint has dried?

I'm fed up with the Board talking about how complicated it is, how there is no space for classes etc. but then they vote to use our limited resources for Administrative purposes that could EASILY be placed off District grounds.

People who are upset about what they see need to stop bickering amongst themselves and start attending meetings on a regular basis. The decisions made in the past 1.5 years are short-sighted, wasteful and without regard to constituent preference.


Posted by make a change, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2008 at 8:24 am

heard that MPAEF reps lobbied Simitian for the $1Million state contribution before he was bounced from educ. subcommittee by Perata.
This "joint use" application gives MPAEF 1000 sq ft of office space free, denying any of the TERC space for childcare/classroom.
MPAEF could easily get cheap offsite space from McCandless, Bohannon, Matteson, probably just give them naming rights for the Encinal playing field or library in exchange for free office space.


Posted by EM, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2008 at 8:42 am

Like we said, for accountability, don't re elect Thygesen and Ives this November. Get some folks who can stand up to Ranella and are not MPAEF cronies.


Posted by big picture, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2008 at 9:37 am

EM, don't know if you are unfamiliar with SB politics, but this is how it works:

* The incumbent SB and their pals figure out who will make a good replacement for whichever members are stepping off the board. Those recruits are taken under the collective wing of the SB, who endorse them.

* The opening on the SB is very lightly publicized, as little as the law will permit, in hopes that no one else will find out about the opening in which case there will be NO election.

* If some naive soul or someone with an agenda decides to sign up to run, the full force of the SB and allies will be deployed to ensure that the rogue candidate fails to win more than a handful of votes in November. Much ado will be made over the "fact" that the undesired candidate is costing the district thousands of dollars in election fees, evidently does not care about wasting district money, and therefore would make a bad school board member.

For many years, the district had nice people (Judy, Meredith) at the helm and not too many knickers were twisted, but now that Ken "man with a plan" Ranella is running the show, we can all see what damage a little hegemony can wreak.


Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2008 at 3:59 pm

District and School Board have repeated the same pattern: limit decision-making bodies to a select few hand-picked members, publicize upcoming decisions as little as possible, ignore or squash any opposition, and thunder ahead as quickly as is possible (announcing that to do otherwise sacrifices the needs of the children).

School board is pushing seriously flawed plans for Encinal, Hillview, and Oak Knoll schools. It is not too late to force critical review.


Posted by flee or fight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Ranella and his gang continue their thinly veiled propaganda campaign. Their select group of insiders knew exactly what they wanted well before the Measure U election. Conceal the details of the campus rebuilding, get Mader to run media window dressing, MPAEF to pressure the electorate (they actually only got about 20% of the eligible district taxpayers to vote yes on the $91million bond measure). Crowd too many kids on undersized campuses, extend the 5 year lease to GAIS on much needed O"Connor school for the Willows, shaft the school neighbors with bait and switch plans, while falsely preaching "public outreach" show and tell meetings packed with their friendlies ready to torch any neighbor opposition with cheap shots.\
Will their duplicity and heavy handedness ever end? Probably not,
because these "insiders" of the Dot Bomb era will continue to stay one step ahead of the law.


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