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Guest Opinion: Hillview student says loss of trees, more traffic at Oak Knoll School would damage community

Original post made on Apr 23, 2008

I was horrified to hear of the impending Oak Knoll plan and the implications that it would create.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (63)

Posted by Erin, a resident of Laurel School
on Apr 23, 2008 at 11:33 am

Awesome job Maddie

Posted by francie, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

[Post removed; see "Terms of Use."]

Posted by Julia, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

this is a great article!!!! I really enjoyed reading a student's perspective! good job maddie!

Posted by OK oak worth saving, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 23, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Yes, thank you Maddie for your insightful comments.
On the other hand, Kim Guthrie's condescening, hollow defense of her site committee is replete with misrepresentations. She made no overt effort to recruit immediate neighbors to participate in site committee meetings. Indeed, interested neighbors were turned away from active participation in her committee meetings.
The voter approved plan to place the large buildings on the back basketball courts was arbitrarily scrapped by her tight knit committee. There whole "process" was borne of fraud and deceit.
The so called "neighbor" lives around the corner and has been anything but proactive in engaging immediate neighbors in any dialogue about the bait and switch plan. When pressed for details of committee deliberations, she dismissed them as having no real power. She has only repeatedly complained about parents parking in front of her house, so that's what seems to be driving the removal of the heritage oak and playground with yet more asphalt to accomodate on site parking. Her few, trite quotes and utterances were reduced to "Well we do live in an urban area!!" to attempt to justify her position of paving over paradise.
None of the teacher/parent committee reps have any real construction knowledge, quite a shame when this community has dozens of knowledgable, well qualified residents who could have provided better direction to the planning process.
The project manager, Ahmad, should have been embarrassed to sign off on the CEQA "negative declaration", claiming no significant environmental impact. His professional integrity and credibility as a state licensed civil engineer have been seriously damaged.
The board has the choice of going back to placing the large multi purpose building on the back basketball courts per the original voter approved plan, or risk protracted litigation and quite probably, the removal of board chair Ives and last year's chair Thygesen in this fall's school board election.

Posted by OK oak worth saving, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 23, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Forgot to mention, Kim Guthrie was listed by the Almanac as residing on Mercedes Lane in "Menlo Park".
For the record, that's Mercedes Lane in "Atherton", not Menlo Park..
Mercedes Lane is off Atherton Ave., and is not only many miles away from Oak KNoll School (read parent who drives the kids to school..part of the overcrowding/traffic problem at Oak KNoll) but is now in the Encinal attendance area.
Obviously, she has little concern for the welfare of the immediate Oak Knoll School neigbors.

Posted by alessonlearned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2008 at 8:52 pm


Bravo! Looking at the glass half full, the MP school district must be doing something right if you are an example of their students. However, they are failing miserably in community concerns/relations and have fell victim to the sense of entitlement that Ms. Guthrie and many financially fortunate but cloistered MP individuals, unfortunately, represent. Kim gave a good "college" try with her argument, but failed compared to your sincere plea for sanity.

I understand Kim may be working from a standpoint of what she thinks is helping the OK community, but there should have been someone who lived directly across from the decision to provide an element of what I like to call - balance How could someone that lives in Atherton and contributes to the traffic problem around OaK Knoll provide a balanced view to the situation? Was she placed by the "powers that be" to support to an already "built it" superintendent?

MP school district and Ranella could have done a better job of protecting the neighbors and community that has been supporting it for many years.

Maddie, you may be the one example of MP school district's shining moments in spite of it shortsightedness.

Posted by Menlo Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 24, 2008 at 9:53 pm

The ad hominems against Kim Gutherie indicate that the writers aren't Oak Knoll parents. Kim has spent three years on the parent-teacher board trying to find solutions to the core problem which is more (and more and more) kids enrolling in the school.

Put the buildings on the basketball courts? And put the basketball courts where, exactly?

Or is the point that neighborhood kids DESERVE the front play area, while mere students deserve whatever's left?

And your talk about the "voter approved plan" -- I think you're believing your own nonsense at this point. The voters approved bond money to rebuild the schools to accommodate the exploding number of students. No one (except, post facto, neighbors who want their own little front-yard park at the expense of other people's kids) ever said there was any specific physical plan being approved.

And I agree -- what a wonderful education Maddie has received. Awesome how phrases like "create an onslaught of traffic" and "close proximity to school boundaries" trip off this pre-teen's pen. Uh. Or does that sound more, say 40-something?

About the only time this letter sounds like a kid wrote it is the convoluted argument about neighbors moving away and being unable to afford to live anywhere else. Shoot -- they might even get so little for their $2M+ houses that they have to come and live over here near El Camino! And worry about being re-routed to Encinal! And go to school board meetings to protest that Oak Knoll MUST accept them ... along with the parents protesting that Menlo schools MUST expand to offer on-site after-school care!

And the sneers at Atherton? Wow, do you really not see your own sense of entitlement? Or how it's blinding you?

Posted by menlo parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 24, 2008 at 11:13 pm

You go Menlo mom. Pity you don't understand that the school board's shortsighted enrollment management under Ranella's "direction" has resulted in Oak Knoll being more than 250 kids greater than any comparable sized campus in San Mateo County. 500 is the typical maximum for an 8 acre campus, yet the board now has to accept that more than 800 kids will overwhelm the Oak Knoll campus. No wonder the neighbors are rebelling at the proposed ovedevelopment of this already oversubscribed campus. More classrooms is not the issue, it's the grandiose multi purpose building and 22 car parking lot on the existing playground next to their homes that they oppose.

If you will only check you will see the district architect's plan for Oak Knoll, dated Oct.2005, showed all the new buildings on the back basketball courts (think year round indoor basketball/volleyball), and that is what the voters approved in the June 2006 election.
You seem to take the position that more is better, but it's a question of enrollment management and facility optimization that this current school board can't seem to grasp. No wonder Oak Knoll and Hillview neighbors are crying foul.
You seem to throw out this "entitlement" epithet without understanding the big picture. Quite typical of recent transplants who have no sense of community history and the necessity of preserving our heritage for future generations.
At the same time that the board was formulating the bond measure for campus rebuilds, they approved the sweetheart 5 year lease extension of O'Connor School in the Willows for the German American and French American School. Willows kids are forced to go to Laurel, instead of the neighborhood O'Connor School. That's 300 kids that could be going to O'Connor.
What you see now is gross manipulation of remaining campus properties due to the school board's shortsighted decisions.
Maybe you need to read Maddie's treatise a few more times to understand that Guthrie's site committee and the school board care little about environmenal impacts as long as they meet "figures".
Typical MBA BS.

Posted by Menlo Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:07 am

Wow, is everyone who disagrees with you, "menlo parent" aka "OK oak worth saving," ignorant? Or just those into whose mouths you insert words?

Perhaps, having attended Ken Ranella's meetings in 2005 and 2006, I do know that Oak Knoll is one of the largest elementary schools in the state. Perhaps I heard his pleas for us to try to find (a) alternative sites and (b) alternative solutions to the tsunami of incoming kids. Perhaps I even put forth some solutions!

But you're right -- "enrollment management" didn't enter the discussion. Birth-control pills in the water? A district-wide moratorium on home sales to families with pre-menopausal women? Infanticide?

People don't "subscribe" to public elementary schools. Kids attend them. And more is worse. But they're there. None of us wants to be at such a big school. But we are. And the choice of a big oak vs. classrooms, playspace and (yes) a gym/multi for our kids seems pretty obvious.

O'Connor would have solved the Oak Knoll problem? I remember long discussions about how that could be made to work -- all of which came up dry because of its location (near 101 and University Ave), its size (ten or eleven permanent classrooms, if memory serves), and the significant overhead costs of another campus (principal, etc.).

In order to offload Oak Knoll, we'd have to go there (assuming you really do live in Allied Arts) -- wanna make the trek across El Camino, along Ravenswood, through the chaos that's M-A's morning drop-off, along Middlefield, down Willow (through that morning commute), right at Gilbert, left at Woodland, right at O'Connor? All to attend a school with under a dozen permanent classrooms? That's eco-sensitive.

Maybe you need to re-read Maddie's cri de coeur a few more times (unless, you helped her write it -- being a neighbor and all?) to understand that a seventh-grader can be manipulated to say whatever her parents and her friends' parents tell her to say. But in the crowding that is central Menlo Park, it's adults who must reluctantly face the hard decisions to give all kids a decent environment in which to learn.

P.S. Where was Maddie when it came to opposing the downed trees and other environmental damage inherent in M-A's expansion? Oh, that's right -- she goes there next. Wouldn't want crowding, an outdated multi, etc., in our bright future!

Posted by let them eat apple pie, a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:13 am

[Portion removed; see Terms of Use]

About those basketball courts. The school outdoor courts are not very safe for kids, jumping and landing on asphalt is tough on young bodies. Isn't Oak Knoll getting a new gym with this remodel? If not, the kids can go shoot hoops at the new Burgess gym.

Finally, to Menlo Mom: my daughter, who is not that smart, could have written a letter with just as impressive a vocabulary when she was merely 11 years old. Maybe your kids aren't very good writers. Maybe you should have sent them to public school instead of to Menlo.

Posted by Atherton MBA, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:47 am

So you want our property taxes so you can spend 50% more than the state average, but not our kids, our moms on your PTA, or our opinions? Thanks.

Posted by tree huggers, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 25, 2008 at 11:01 am

We heard the beef was about removing the big oak and the playground for the new multipurpose building and staff parking lot.
Couldn't they go on the back side of the school, which someone said was already asphalt, and build it like Burgess or Menlo College gym.
Then it wouldn't stick up so high and be on top of those neighors.
Just a thought.
And didn't they change boundaries so that Atherton kids go to Encinal this fall, where they're building new classrooms?
Why do Atherton residents think they should be entitled to have their kids driven to Oak Knoll School, when Encinal is so much closer to Atherton Ave?

Posted by something in the water?, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 25, 2008 at 11:43 am

Kids west of Elena are still in the Oak Knoll attendance area.
New kindergarten registrants living east of Elena, without a sibling at Oak Knoll, are going to Encinal this fall. That's so parents won't have be driving back and forth between Oak Knoll and Encinal.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Why doesn't the school board just put a bunch more portables on the front field at Oak Knoll, send all the kids within a six-block radius to Encinal, and tell the teachers to park in the neighborhood? Then the neighbors can sort out what's really important to them, among themselves, and let us know the outcome.

If there were a magical big-enough space somewhere out of sight in the back, the planners would have built there. Obviously, that was what they were originally thinking of. Instead, they decided on one big-enough playing field, one big-enough multipurpose room, and enough classrooms, requiring building in the front. Get over it.

Killing Gutherie, the messager, doesn't reduce the number of kids or increase the square footage. It just allows someone who's jealous of Atherton and MBAs to get some licks in.

Posted by Sandy Napel, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Menlo Mom ought to be ashamed of herself. Maddie was brave enough to use her real name. Before Menlo Mom accuses Maddie of not being a 7th grader, she should check her facts. It is simple enough to get ahold of a Hillview Directory. Also, Menlo Mom then goes on to say Maddie didn't care about the oaks at M-A because she gets to go there next. Well, is she a 7th grader or isn't she? Menlo Mom, you can't have it both ways. The fact is, she is a 7th grader, and Menlo Mom should be ashamed of herself for insulting a student thoughtful and brave enough to write a letter expressing her opinion, simply because Menlo Mom disagrees with her.

Posted by sheesh, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 26, 2008 at 8:51 am

All over the world people are rioting because they can't get food, but here in Menlo Park, they're fighting over a tree.

Posted by alessonlearned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2008 at 10:32 am

Steve has an interesting but not plausible example. Kim, however, is not just the messenger. She had the opportunity to bring in the correct stakeholders at the beginning of the process. Her argument that the committee listened to the neighbors and made changes to the plan was after the fact not before. As someone above stated "bait and switch." Why have the neighbors participate..........we will just ask for forgiveness instead.

Kim and others on the committee have been around MP long enough to know they must have the right stakeholders from the beginning. Santa Cruz Ave. and Safe routes to schools were five to six years ago - not so long ago.

If those neighbors most impacted by the changes, and not just one individual impacted by traffic(only) were on the committee, it would have gone a long way to soothe the neighbors' view of the plan. If from the beginning they were working together towards a solution for the school, a backlash would have been diminished. The neighbors would have been part of the team. Kim, as PTO Pres. and an individual who is not directly impacted and living some distance away from OK, should have balanced her vote/opinion with a neighbor(s) who will be most impacted by changes on the committee. BALANCE!

Atherton and Menlo Park are privileged and cloistered towns, thus leading to these types of situations. It could be to the many parents (from another part of Menlo Park and Atherton) who hurriedly park their cars (many times illegally) and block safe access to those children that walk or bike to school. Or to a school/administration that rebuffs all opportunities to bring the right stakeholders together, both cases reflect a sense of entitlement. The comments in my previous message are not born out of jealousy. My view exists because Atherton and Menlo Park breeds this contempt for the greater good and in turn, creates suspicions of an individual's or organization's true intentions.

We end up with individuals like Menlo Mom, who need to immaturely attack a child - shameful and an embarrassing reflection of Menlo Park. Menlo Mom, there are some very bright and articulate children in this school system with the capability to express themselves with the written word quite well.

There is a lesson that continues to go unlearned in this community: all-inclusive team work brings about better solutions for all. I do believe there is a solution that keeps the Oak trees and addresses the other issues.

Even if Menlo Park is becoming more urbanized, it is not an excuse for tearing down trees. It is ironic that children at OK are learning about "going green" in the mist of tearing down heritage trees. Someone is not walking the this a fine example of education?

Posted by menlo dad, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 26, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Wow... you guys really dont know how lucky in life you are.

Living in one of the greatest neighorhoods in the world and you can still fight like cats and dogs.

All smiles to each other on the street.. full of venom behind your curtains.

Very sad

Posted by Menlo (Park) Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Sandy, if you re-read the postings, you will see that I, in fact, identified your daughter as a seventh-grader -- and the language of the letter as very 40-something. I don't know why you allowed your daughter to get into this debate -- bravery? foolishness? righteousness? I'll keep my anonymity, thanks, along with the rest of the posters.

Lesson Learned, I happen to agree with you more that Ken Ranella has done a remarkably ham-fisted job of neighbor relations at Oak Knoll. I have no idea whether his team is simply exhausted by the effort of four simultaneous building projects or this is normal.

That said, there will be 750+ kids showing up there in a few months.

360+ of them will be playing on an upper playground and fields made smaller by another portable or two, my kids among them. 260+ will have to share the lower playground that Maddie is so fond of -- which she shared with fewer than 200. Neither playground is big enough.

And green? The portables all have to be air-conditioned, unlike the permanent structures. Haven't we gotten beyond the idea that our ecological footprint is much bigger than a single tree?

But, wait a moment, things are going to get worse before they get better. Oak Knoll will be construction madness for three years. My kids will be out of there by the time it's finished and opens up. Why am I fighting for a sustainable school?

I'm outta here. Off to hug that tree.

(P.S. to menlo dad, yup, that's what it's like here. What's it like on your planet?)

Posted by She didn't write it, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 26, 2008 at 4:26 pm

I'll second all those skeptics that believe Maddie's mom wrote or substantially edited that letter. No way a 7th grader wrote that, and shame on her helicopter mom, who is obviously using her for political purpose. Its shameful behavior and one sees it more and more with little 4 year old children marching with abortion signs, chanting like parental parrots.

Oh, in case anyone takes any offense to my opinion, please excuse my grammer and spelling. After all I'm only in the 6th grade, and I attend Oak Knoll and totally support the expansion and current plans.


Posted by too many sixth graders, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 26, 2008 at 6:52 pm

She didn't write it, I thought Oak Knoll Elememtary only went through 5th grade.
Did you skip a grade but choose to remain at Oak Knoll?
Are you not counted in the 750+ that Menlo Mom refers to?
Pray tell us how many more like you are still skulking around the corridors of Oak Knoll.

Posted by Dave, a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I love and miss Menlo Park and I hope it won't change too much. After living the wasteful Santa Cruz Ave traffic calming fiasco, and now observing the Oak Knoll Elementary bickerings, I feel sure the place will survive intact with little change. On eight acres they should build up and not out. Save the trees? Sure. Calm the O.K. neighbors? that's asking too much!

Posted by it's about a tree, swings, slides, spiritual connection, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 26, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Hey, Maddie, the venerable mother Oak is opening her heart to you and the whole community. Go have a look. She pleads for ever more years to be embraced by countless kids and families.
Better do it Sunday before 'ole Mr. Ackerman silences her forever.
Bring some friends.

Posted by please focus, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 27, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Maddie says she is a 7th grader at Hillview. Why quibble about whether she's a legitimate student, which she appears to be by the way, rather than on the real issues she raises? Some thoughtful planning could spare the centuries-old trees, and some real work WITH neighbors could probably result in some reasonable compromises. Why not try?
From what I've heard, the environmental report was so poorly done that the school district should get its money back.

Posted by Sick of it, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 27, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Please stop this nasty thread now! This forum is characterized by a stunning lack of facts.

Posted by alessonlearned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 27, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Sick of it,

Please enlighten the thread to the true facts.....I am not saying this to be sarcastic.

Are you sick of it, because you would like the surrounding/impacted neighbors to just quietly go away.....when they have justifiable reasons not to .... or are we all wrong on this thread and you will enlighten us to the true facts from beginning to the end. They may help to end the thread; however, it appears many here are aware of the facts....unless as you say -- we are not.

Why can't the OK/school district work with the neighbors to find the better solution for all?

Posted by will set you free, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Agree with alessonlearned. If this thread is lacking factual information, maybe it's time for someone who does have the facts to enlighten us. You don't muzzle ignorant people, you answer their questions.

I'm pretty sure that the original letter writer is a 7th grader, that there is an endangered oak tree at Oak Knoll, and that the neighbors' concerns have not been incorporated into the plans. But I expect there's more to the story than that.

I have to say that I am seriously disturbed that anyone would want to shut down this discussion. Don't know the motivation behind those comments, but it tends to corroborate the complaints about behind-the-scenes agreements and ignoring public input.

Posted by on the record, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm

A reading of the 13 comment letters to the district's negative declaration of "no significant environmental impact" will give anyone the facts they need to ascertain the facts.
Should be available soon from the district office.

Posted by Looking forward, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 27, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Seriously, this much animosity over a single tree that is held up by giant steel poles? I doubt it. The greatest anger seems to be coming from neighbors that want to keep what they consider their own little neighbor park from changing. But it's NOT a park. It's a SCHOOL that serves over 700+ childern. I never hear the kids needs even mentioned by the opponents of the plan. Let's be honest it's about you and you not wanting your neighborhood park to change. Building multi-level buildings is a good thing. Getting a full size soccer field in the back of the school is a good thing. Having enough parking for teachers is a good thing. Having a new drive through drop off lane is a good thing. Having a new multipurpose building is a good thing. Getting rid of the crappy trailer park class rooms is a good thing. Doing it as quickly as possible so the most students benefit is a good thing. I support the plan and look forward to it getting start as soon as possible.

Posted by alessonlearned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2008 at 8:53 am

Looking forward,

If you read every message in this thread, I think you may see the animosity is coming from the individuals who want to expedite the changes, not the ones questioning the validity of these proposed plans.

The "nasty and sarcastic" comments directed at a child's letter to the editor are, again, coming from the expeditor's message.

The neighbors are not trying to keep their "neighborhood park" as you say to the detriment of current and future students. They did not feed the school district by passing the bond measure and paying their parcel taxes to only push back. The neighbors have tolerated a consistent increase in traffic and inconsiderate, stressed-out parents (because they do not have on-site childcare as most progressive school districts do) who hurriedly park and block their driveways and drive on their lawns.

Has the school district done due diligence and repaid the neighbors' kindness and support? .....many say they have not.

Posted by Kristin Duriseti, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:13 am

Dear Maddie,

I sincerely apologize for the vitriolic attacks on you. I have admiration for your parents for allowing you to express your opinions publicly, and I commend you for your courage to take a stand. I never dreamed that you would be attacked personally.

I find it ironic that parents who support a quality education for our children would find it hard to believe that our schools could produce students who write so eloquently.

I also find it ironic that your most vehement critics would hide anonymously, while you have had the courage to speak publicly. As my mom always told me, "Don't let the turkeys get you down."

I hope you are inspired and not discouraged; I know you have inspired me.

Posted by Carol Taggart, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Maddie, I applaud you for your efforts to make known to the public your position on the eight Heritage Oak trees at Oak Knoll School. I couldn't agree with you more, and it's rewarding to me to know there is youth determined to help what is natural and beautiful.
These healthy oxygen-giving trees and home to so many animal species are not only majestically beautiful, but provide a place of rest and shade for us, the birds, and squirrels .
These trees offer so many lessons in the importance of caring for this fragile planet. Numerous species of birds nest there, or pass by on migration grabbing insects from their leaves providing the nutrition they need for their journey.
I should know. I taught 3rd grade at Oak Knoll for twenty years, and my classroom door faced onto the playground where one of those trees stand. We were treated daily to the sights and sounds of birds, and read stories under the spreading branches of the tree.
If there is a group formed to vocally protest the "slaughter" of these trees this summer, I would like to count myself in. I can be reached at
Thank you for what you've done. This fragile planet in peril needs youth like you, the future guardians of this planet, to protect it.
Carol T.

Posted by An 8th Grade Hillview Student, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Maddie, you're awesome, and I hope you know who's writing this right now!

I will admit: when I read Menlo Mom's first comment, I wrote a very angry letter at 11 o'clock at night that expressed my opinions on how a thirteen year old could be accused of a being a forty year old and spoke my stubborn argument about cutting down heritage trees. It was a VERY angry letter, and I'm glad that I was smart enough to think that night, "I'm not going to submit this now, because I'm extremely tired and I may have said more than I really want to." That was a smart decision.

But wait! Hear me out!

I have skimmed over most of these comments. Some say, "You're insane, Maddie! How could you possibly say that? What lunatics have influenced you?" Others compliment, "We applaud you for your bravery!" and continue to either politely point out the conflicts or support their reasoning for agreeing. There are, of course, the more later comments, "Why on earth are we fighting over a tree?"
A tree, though it may seem single and unimportant, is worth fighting for.
Some people ask, "Why? Why not sacrifice the tree? Why when we should concentrate on the education our kids are getting?" This is why:
Number 1: a single tree is like a Native American tribe. We go back about two hundred years when the westward movement was rapidly gathering momentum, and within the next fifty years we have covered the entire continent and left the natives without any land of their own. Well, okay, we tried to share land and mark off reserves... etc., etc... but look how long that lasted. Why did we take all this land? Because we were greedy Americans. Not us, the current generation, but, for some of us, our ancestors. However, if you look at the counrty as a whole, most Americans are, by comparison, extroadinarily spoiled. Especially those of us that live here in Menlo Park or Atherton. Just like the people one hundred and fifty years ago, we are greedy for more land. But, instead of kicking people off of their properties, we cut down trees to make more room. Now, a tree may not be a person, but it is a living thing that provides homes for millions of insects and birds, adn even those pesty squirrels who raid your gardens. I know, I know... those squirrels are annoying, and so are wasps and yellow jackets, but they were put on this planet just like we were- therefore, they have just as much of a right to be here as we do. In fact, I'd say that they have more of a right. They're not polluting the planet- are they?
Was that two points, or one? Oh well, you can decide.

Number 2: If Global Warming keeps heating up our home at this rate, it's not going to be here within the next one thousand years. Wether you believe it's entirely our fault or if we're just speeding up the process, that's the way it's going to be. But we can let our home last a little longer- we just have to do our best to stop the pollution now and find better ways of transportation (already being done) and using our other sources of technology. One way to start- keeping these trees alive!

My personal opinion on the issues of the neighbors: I believe that, in order for this plan to go through, no one who lives near the school is going to be happy. What needs to be done is the best compromising possible. And please, forgive me if you disagree. I am only a fourteen year old, and I'm still learning and trying my best to understand the world. But I do, just better in some ways than in others. For instance, I have firm and stubborn opinions about global warming, but I don't know a thing about politics.

My last comment: This may be an important issue, but, honestly, we shouldn't be snarling at each other because of it. That is what many people are saying, and it's true. I'd like to compliment everyone who has made a comment- it's good to share your opinions. For those of you who have been somewhat impolite, maybe you'll think differently next time. We need to respect each other, and our opinions. I'm sure you all know that, and, just like me and anyone older than younger than myself, you just need to be reminded sometimes. Do not take any of this as an insult- I'm not here to offend anybody. I'm just here to express my opinions.
You can listen to me, or you may choose not to.
Yes, I am only fourteen, and maybe I havent' seen much of the world yet...
But I have feelings and concerns about it, too.

Posted by Barrett, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 8:41 am

Dear Maddie,

You have clearly received a fine education in the Menlo Park Schools. Your familiy has taught you to value community mindedness and raised you to have the courage to speak out.

But the education continues. It is important to know as you go into this world that even a place as polite and comfortable as Menlo Park, perfectly nice people will engage passionatly on issues they care about. And of course so will the not so nice ones.

They will question your motives, your integrity, your honesty. It's an ugly side of the process. And anonnimity brings out the worst in most people. It's universal.

Don't let it scare you away. Don't take it personally. Keep on writing. Keep on being brave. There are so many important issues in this world that need people to be brave and take a stand and say what they feel is right, repectfully and peacfully. Just think of this as a practice test-getting you ready for the bigger issues in this world.

That would be the finest education anyone could get anywhere.


Posted by A second grader, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Dear Maddie,

As I sit here on my wooden chair, typing this on my wooden desk, I ask myself, where would we be without trees. I wouldn't have my wooden chair and my wooden desk without trees. The world would be a very very sad place indeed, if we were unable to cut down trees and use their wood.

My wooden pencil would be gone! There would be NO paper to write on. I often hear my classmates tell me that it is an oil based economy and the world runs on oil. But no, I tell them, it is really a tree-based world and we would be helpless without the ability to chop down trees and use their wood. I couldn't walk into my room or even live in my room if our wooden floors were taken away. We would be reduced to plastic and all those fake man made materials if we couldn't cut down trees. My house and all the houses surrounding Oak Knoll are made out of trees. Thank God for trees.

I know you like trees Maddie. So do I. Trees are not just for birds to live in or an Indian native tribe (Indians really loved using wood). Trees are for chopping down and using them for good things, like church pews or canes for little blind kids.

Sometimes trees get in the way of our plans for a new house or school. It doesn't mean we don't love trees when we chop them down so we have a place to learn or live, it just means we love them differently. I love trees too, just like I love Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Yum yum.

Posted by Another 7th Grader, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Way to go, Maddie! It's great to see some input straight from a student. And as for the less-than-considerate comments - DTIP - don't take it personally. Congrats for having the guts to get out there and fight for your beliefs!

Posted by there's a better way, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:11 am

Web Link

Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I'm very supportive of renovating OK school but I did review the environmental report and was appalled by its baseless conclusions that there would be no impacts at all. I understand a number of people, including the city, commented formally to that effect. The purpose of the examination is to put remedies in place for potential problems. The haste to approve the document without addressing what I understand are numerous concerns seems quite reckless and could put the school district in an exposed legal position. Surely there must be a way to address concerns responsibly without casting aspersions on thoughtful critics, and without rejecting the project altogether. I don't think anyone wants that.

Posted by Oak Knoll mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I am an Oak Knoll parent, and I was disappointed by Principal David Ackerman's recent letter to us asking that we all show up to a board meeting to promote the District's position and push construction ahead as quickly as possible. This seems backwards to me, and I now worry that the school is trying to sweep something under the rug. Isn't the negative declaration the place where we all are supposed to take an honest, critical look at potential impacts so that we can build the best possible school? I'd be curious to see the community (and city) comments to the negative declaration. There might be something to them. Has the district posted those somewhere?

Posted by on the record, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 6:06 pm

The city and community comments have become public record since April 11th. You can ask the district office for copies.
Quite illuminating. The district's in a real bind with this plan.
It won't get approved by the State Architect and the State Office of Public School Construction because of serious issues outlined in the city's comment letter and the fire marshall's letter.

Posted by eliterate, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 7:34 pm

"Public record" doesn't mean much if you have to go to the district office during school hours to see a copy. (Didn't the district say it wanted to help cut down unnecessary traffic? Not to mention that some of us can't get to the district office during school hours.)

All relevant documents should be posted online. There's really no excuse for not doing so.

Posted by lis pendens, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:46 pm

just read some of the comments from the city and other experts. this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. the naive board and it's consultants have no idea what is coming down on them. no ackerman or ranella defense can protect the district from being accused of trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. appears that Brown Act violations, Grand Jury inquiries are soon to follow after the lawsuits and subpoenas hit the fan.

Posted by Yeah Right, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:27 pm

"Grand Jury inquiries are soon to follow ..." Yeah right. We heard the same spiel with the Menlo-Atherton Performance Center. That building is moving ahead at full speed. The School District is not beholden to the city and vice versa, so it's and awkward dance of cooperation but one that ultimately ends in the school district's favor.

That is not to say that there will not be a little give and take and adjustments made in the process, but ultimately the plans will move forward, because it is what is best for the kids. The folks living on the campus boundaries can wail and gnash their teeth, but the bottom line is when you live next to an airport, you gotta accept airport noise. There will be a nice green area where the current buildings are, and a lot of concrete where the current green areas are, but at the end of the construction, it will all wash out, and we will have a new modern and very green campus. There is tremendous support for the current plans, and pretty much the only disgruntlement is from homes around the campus that are going to have to get used to a lot more traffic, noise and a change in scenery. The school district has lawyers that vet the plans, no matter whether you like them or not.

I can't wait for that M-A Performance Arts theater to open up, and already have front row seats for all the shows to come (subpoenas and grand jury inquiries not withstanding : )). The Lindenwood homeowners are unhappy about the upgrading of school facilites at the high school, but such is life.

Posted by a lot of concrete where the current green areas are, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm

don't think so
current plan and "no negative environmental impact" has not been vetted, no experienced environmental/land use atty would touch it, a legal bombshell. Anyone foolish to think so will be taken to school.

read the comments, city and fire district reports
this is not MA Performing Arts center, don't expect a ticket to Pass Go

Posted by Olivia, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 8, 2008 at 10:08 am

I happen to know Maddie very well, and I know for a fact that she IS in 7th grade. As a matter of fact, I'm in her class! I agree with Maddie that the trees need to stay standing, and will support her all the way!
You go girl!!!!!

Posted by Olivia, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

I happen to know Maddie very well and I support her protest. She, in fact, IS in 7th grade. I'm in her class!!! I think she brings up some very important topics and I will support her all the way! You go girl!!!

Posted by don't moss with me, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2008 at 11:42 am

Er, Olivia, today is a school day and classes don't get out for another couple of hours. Are you really in 7th grade or is your mom/dad posting on your behalf?

Posted by Elissa, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 8, 2008 at 1:40 pm

don't moss with me you can't pretend that good students who finish their work early have privileges such as USING THE COMPUTER! I'm currently in class with Olivia, and we have both finished our work and are using the computers right now.

Posted by Elissa, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 8, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Oh, and by the way, Maddie is in class with me several periods, so I know for a fact that she is in the seventh grade, Menlo Mom and She didn't write it.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 8, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Supposing -- just supposing -- Maddie, Elissa and Olivia really are who they say they are, middle school students, and supposing the posters who are challenging these kids' identities and motives are really parents and other adults. What a rotten example you so-called grownups are setting for younger people who are trying to participate in a debate based on something other than personal attacks and innuendo. You folks are toxic.

Posted by Olivia, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

I went to Oak Knoll and every day my friends and I would sit under the trees and talk. some kids would try to climb them and some gathered the acorns and made little towns. These trees play a huge role in the children's education.
( I'm in school now, but my teacher is letting me use the computer)

Posted by Maddie, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 8, 2008 at 5:56 pm

What does it matter that we're all in seventh grade? (which we are by the way...) The point is, we care about the impact of our actions. We care that chopping down several 300 year old trees will greatly impact the environment that we live in. Is a full size soccer field really necessary to elementary school education? Do we really need a new drop off lane designed only for the use of cars? I think that if we are all honest with ourselves, we will come to the same conclusion.

Posted by She didn't write it, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 8, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I think it is great to read postings by real 7th graders like Olivia and Elissa. One can easily see the difference in writing and maturity when you compare the childish comments by Oliva and Elissa versus the commentary written by Maddie's mom using her daughter as cover. Now that's disgusting. Thanks Olivia and Elissa for showing us what a 7th grader is capable of writing, mainly, not much.

Posted by haven't had that kool aid yet, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 9, 2008 at 11:43 am

Oh, I believe that Maddie wrote the original letter. I (mother of a child approximately the same age) have a much harder time believing that when Hillview students have a few minutes of free time to spend on the computer that they choose to hang out on Town Square.

Posted by Maddie, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 9, 2008 at 10:44 pm

I'm sorry, I can act childish too, you know. But when I'm addressing adults, I prefer to elevate my language to a more persuasive tone. I am, after all, trying to save our heritage and environment. I am able to type like a seventh grader when I choose to, but mainly, I choose to act in a way that is appropriate to my audience. Olivia and Elissa are among my best friends, and I must ask you not to insult them. There is a greater issue her than what grade we are in. Really folks, can't we get back to the topic of the Oak Knoll Improvement Plan?

And yes, seventh graders who finish their work early are more than able to post on Town Square. They were both (Elissa and Olivia) very inspired by my article, and appalled at the insulting remarks made about my family and me. Of course they would defend me. Do you question our integrity?

Posted by She Didn't Write it, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm

"There is a greater issue her (sic) than what grade we are in."

Well, I believe that Maddie wrote this last comment, misspellings and all. She just didn't write the guest opinion.

This Town Square item is so over, girl.

The school board has approved the plan, the bulldozers are ready to roll. In the future don't sign work that isn't your own. It is called plagiarism and is punished severely, to include expulsion from school.

Posted by disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I agree with Maddie, there are more important issues at stake here than who wrote what. It's such a sad situation when people would rather attack other people than the substance of the concerns expressed. No wonder so many of us hesitate to put our real names out there when there is no restraint by some of attacking others - even children (or their parents).

Posted by Elissa, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 12, 2008 at 3:03 pm

[Portion removed; see terms of use.] Yes, I am currently residing in seventh period. Yes, I am on the computer. Oh yeah. And yes, Maddie is one of MY BEST SEVENTH GRADE FRIENDS. I am in Journalism right now, and I am writing an article about the Oak Knoll building plans. I know all sorts of fancy words, like defenestration. Which is what I'd like to do to some of you people right now. By the way, it mean I want to toss you out the window

Posted by She Didn't Write it, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 12, 2008 at 6:01 pm

[Post removed; see terms of use.]

Posted by She Didn't Write it, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 18, 2008 at 11:15 am

"By the way, it (sic) mean I want to toss you out the window (sic)."

This is what a 7th grader sounds like, in terms of grammar and maturity. I think it is great that Maddie's 7th grade friends are contributing to this discussion, so that reader's without kids of that age level can clearly see that the Guest Opinion article was written by an adult (Maddie's mom) and signed by the child.

Posted by Apostrophe Posse, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2008 at 11:30 am

I'm beginning to think that "She Didn't Write It" is him/herself a 7th grader and not an adult. Surely an adult would know a plural from a possessive.

The plural of "reader" is "readers" and not "reader's." Just exactly how old are you, dear?

Posted by Maybe she wrote it, maybe she didn't, who cares, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm

AP, my observation is that adults are more likely to make that boneheaded mistake. There's practically an epidemic of stupid when it comes to creating plurals using apostrophes.

So, dear readers, you and your family are the Dumbtwits. Not the Dumbtwit's. You live in the Dumbtwits' house. Unless there is only one member of your household, in which case you live in the Dumbtwit's house.

A seventh grader is unlikely to forget the punctuation rules she learned only a couple of years ago. The verdict is...

Posted by Apostrophe Posse, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Most esteemed MSWIMSDWC:

I couldn't agree with you more. Let's judge each other's posts by the character of the contents, not by the alleged age of the contributor.

Now, if I could just get my sister-in-law to see your post so she'd remove the many, many "Welcome to the Dumbtwit's" signs from her home ...

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