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Everest charter school rejects East Palo Alto site

Original post made on May 2, 2009

Directors of Everest Public High School, a new charter school that plans to open in September, have rejected the high school district's offer of facilities in East Palo Alto and have authorized Everest founder Diane Tavenner to initiate a lawsuit to force the district to amend its offer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 1, 2009, 4:46 PM

Comments (17)

Posted by supporter of great education, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2009 at 10:54 am

How "thoughtful, thorough and considerate" is the Sequoia district when they don't even get the name right? It's the Summit Institute and Everest Public High School, not the Everest Institute!


Posted by Charter school skeptic, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

So the charter school doesn't want to be in the ghetto, I gather.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Interesting comments by Tavenner---funny, a school district that has four charter schools within its boundaries, more than any other district in the area, and she has that to say. The Summit facility looks pretty good to me, and the plans for the site in EPA seem reasonable and appropriate. Seems to me the objection has more to do with EPA than anything. Perhaps Tavenner should go play little red school house elsewhere if she is so discontented.


Posted by Balanced perspective, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2009 at 2:16 pm

It would be interesting to see the actual offer of facilities from the District. I attended the SUHSD Board meeting, and was skeptical that they had actually ruled out locations in RWC for any legal reason, which is where the new charter school wanted to locate. This seems like a political move by the District to try to assure that the new charter does not open. The students who have enrolled in the school are from every area in the District, and placing the charter in the most remote corner of the District makes it nearly impossible for students other than those who live nearby to attend the school. From what I understand on the Everest website, 54% of the Everest students are Hispanic, and nearly all of those students live in RWC. If this was not a political manuever, it would make the most sense for those children to place the new charter in RWC. I would guess the District will lose this lawsuit, which is a waste of all of our money. Too bad they cannot find a way to work together...


Posted by mp parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

So tired of these arguments against Everest and the attempts to accuse the petitioners of racism. If Tavenner et al are bigots, why are they so invested in public schools?

As has been stated above and on other threads, the majority of charter school applicants and students come from Redwood City. Everest leaders have located a centrally-located site that meets their needs.

Conversely, the district's choice is problematic, not the least of which is its remote location on the edge of a large district (easily an hour+ travel time from the opposite end of the district):

* The residential neighborhood isn't appropriate for a school, and the neighbors don't want it there.

* The proposed site lacks legally-required amenities; students would have to be transported off campus.

* The area east of 101 already has two charter high schools, both of which are undersubscribed. Why put a third school there?

The district seems to be totally focused on politics and control, not about providing educational options for its students. Note that the charters serve members of ethnic groups that tend to drop out from the traditional high schools. SUHSD's stance reminds me of the old Ravenswood board, the one that squandered hundreds of thousands on lawyers in an effort to avoid providing support to special needs kids -- when that support would have cost less than their legal bills!

I urge the district to get back on track and try to refocus on their mission of educating our teens.


Posted by Deek, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 4, 2009 at 7:41 pm

MP Parent, how can you say the district is focused on politics and control and not about providing educational options for its students? From what experience and research are you basing this? Can't Everest supporters see that to add yet another charter school to a district that sponsors three already merely spreads resources---construction and technology in particular. This is like a divorce---the parent district has to support two households instead of one, and the kids lose.

If we had failing comprehensive high schools, I could get behind Everest, but there is no need. The greatest shame is that these involved parents have chosen not to add to the existing high school communities within the district. Furthermore, SUHSD already has Summit in a really nice facility. How can you ignore this and be so nasty to a district that has done so much for this community?????

I anticipate someone quoting some stats about the charters' test scores--don't forget that comprehensive high school serve a broader spectrum of students and with that, the test score averages will be lowered. You are comparing apples and oranges. Nonetheless, compare the AP scores of Summit with those of the comprehensive high schools---the charter doesn't even come close. So you can say all students are engaged in an AP curriculum, but that doesn't mean that they can perform at that level. Also, the SAT averages for Summit are nearly 200 points lower than the comprehensive schools.

Also, how about the EPA students who travel from their community to San Carlos and Redwood City everyday? Nobody seems to concerned about their time and inconvenience, but then again, they do not all have college educated parents to advocate, hire lawyers, and subsequently waste tax payer money and occupy local educational leaders with their insular desires.

Also, let's talk about drop outs and the fact that the Summit Institute boasts zero drop outs. Where do these drop outs go? They get assigned to the comprehensive high schools and don't count as drop outs for charters!! The charters have a safety net--comprehensive high schools. Comprehensive high schools do not have such a luxury, and when you look at the drop out rates of the four comprehensive high schools in the district, they are extremely considering their numbers. Who is really working miracles?

THe SUHSD doesn't have the luxury of saying, "we just want to serve this community and not that community." That doesn't sound like public school to me---what is sounds like to me is a bunch of taxpayers who desire a private school, don't want to pay for a private, are bummed that the voucher movement didn't go through, and now see this as a way to use tax payer money to serve a select population.

And don't use race as a means to define diversity. How many prospective Everest students and current Summit students score Far Below and Below Basic on state exams? Also, for those who love stats---what is the average level of education of Summit Institute parents? I'll tell you---significantly higher than the comprehensive high school parent average. What is the #1 factor that determines a student's success in school---parent education levels. In my opinion, Summit should be doing MUCH better than the comprehensive schools, and I don;t see it.

I think the SUHSD deserves a break. How about the San Mateo district to the north who doesn't have a single charter school or the pristine Palo Alto district to the south?

For those who question any perceived hostility on behalf of the SUHSD, and for the San Mateo County Board for that matter, how would you respond if a charter school popped up in your boundaries under the premise that your schools were inadequate when in truth they were award winning schools? What do you expect, a welcome mat?


Posted by mp parent, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 4, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Deek, of course there is a trade-off between school size and efficiency. Why not just have all the students in the district attend a single high school? Not a viable solution, obviously. The question then is how many high schools should the district support, and must they all be the same size and configuration? Our district doesn't offer a very interesting menu -- no science or performing arts magnet schools, for example -- but at least the charters give the students and families some choices.

The Summit facility is nice, but the school had to move a few times first. And the Summit facility hardly compares to M-A, with its new $30 million performing arts center and relatively new gym. By the way, as far as I know, most EPA students attend M-A. Many of them are close enough to walk. No need to travel to San Carlos.

>>>I anticipate someone quoting some stats about the charters' test scores--don't forget that comprehensive high school serve a broader spectrum of students and with that, the test score averages will be lowered. <<<

Well, that's an interesting line of reasoning. First, Summit's API and CAHSEE scores are the highest in the district according to Great Schools. I notice you fail to mention that. As for SAT and AP scores: any M-A parent could tell you that the M-A students are seriously tracked, so the kids in the bottom half of the class (the kids who didn't go to Hillview, La Entrada, or a private middle school) don't even take the SAT or AP classes.

Summit, conversely, focuses on empowering the students, helping them believe that they can not only make it through high school but can get accepted to a four-year college. And the students rise to those expectations. I only wish our comprehensives had that orientation. Instead, I get the distinct impression that M-A is happiest when the low performing students drop out. Many of them do. (We could look at those statistics too: they aren't pretty.)

Tell me, what do you think the average SAT would be at M-A if all kids took the SAT? Rhetorical question.

Any eighth grader can apply to Summit/Everest and be chosen in their lottery system. There were something like 600 applications, as I recall, for the incoming classes. Remember, Summit is only in its sixth year, and the first classes may have comprised students with savvier parents, but as awareness of the Summit/Everest option increases, I expect the charter parent profile will become closer to that of the district average.

But the issue isn't the fate of the kids whose parents went to college and grad school. Most of those kids are going to do fine whether at a comprehensive or a charter. The real test is what happens to the kids whose parents never finished eighth grade. At M-A, about half leave before graduation At Summit, they graduate and go to a four-year college. No small miracle, that.

As for SUHSD deserving a break, I'm not sure what that means. Our district has always been unfavorably compared to PAUSD and the other mid-peninsula K-12 unified districts. How many times have I heard "the grade schools in Menlo Park are terrific -- but that high school scares me!" from people who chose to buy a house in Palo Alto or Los Altos precisely because they didn't like what they saw at M-A? Is that perceived inferiority reflected in our housing values? Probably.

Despite all that, for years I have defended M-A, said it was a fine school, think my kids have gotten a great education there (but they're the white kids with the educated parents), and don't expect that my middle school student will be at all interested in Summit or Everest. So it is personally frustrating to see our superintendent acting like a petulant teen.

M-A is a great school. Summit is a great school. I expect Everest will be terrific also. So instead of attacking the newcomer, why not embrace it and get back to the business of figuring out how to provide the best education possible to all students in the district? The resources are not unlimited, and wasting money on lawyers is, well, a waste of money.


Posted by Former M-A Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Well said Deek. I totally support the SUHSD on this. Rejecting the EPA site shows Everest's true objective.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 4, 2009 at 11:21 pm

MP Parent,
I am not sure when your children went to M-A, but to say that the schools in SUHSD do not offer science and performing arts is just not true. Take a look at the other schools in the district all of the specialized courses emerging--biotech, engineering. When was the last time you saw a drama production at one of the high schools? The comprehensive schools offer far many more choices than the charter schools ever can.

Also, look into the district more before you take a position. EPA students travel to all of the schools on a daily basis. And don't get me started with the perception of Menlo Park and Palo Alto and real estate. I will have to refrain from addressing the insular basis on which the perceptions of those communities are built. I live in Sharon Heights and the elitism is enough to choke. Most people criticism without ever stepping foot on SUHSD campuses. I will choose to send my daughter to a comprehensive public high school where she will learn to navigate in a large, academic and social environment which, I believe, is the best preparation for a 4 yr. university. I am left to speculate what the college graduation rates of charter school students will be in subsequent years.

How many students at Summit have parents who didn't finish the eighth grade? How many free and reduced lunch students? Check those stats.

Classes at M-A are tracked for a reason---to maintain rigor.

Lastly, you write: "Summit, conversely, focuses on empowering the students, helping them believe that they can not only make it through high school but can get accepted to a four-year college."

Do you honestly believe that the staff at M-A, Sequoia, Carlmont, and Woodside do not live and breathe opportunity for all students throughout the year? How can you make a statement such as this? Have you had much contact with the impoverished youth community of EPA? Do you know what these educators are up against? I'll tell you this---Summit isn't serving the long-shots. Not even close, so let's stop throwing rocks at Atlas, who holds the ENTIRE world on his shoulders, not just one little specified part of it, and who is doing the HEAVY, HEAVY lifting.

Go to an Academy graduation, a senior awards night, an AVID celebration, the Sequoia Awards, and tell me that those schools do not foster hope, do not set high expectations despite incredible odds.

I am not exactly against charters, but how much is too much? I just don't like to see educators like Pat Gemma and all of the teachers in the SUHSD get beat up in this ridiculously biased publication that caters to an elite community.




Posted by Everest Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 5, 2009 at 12:25 am

I just wanted to let those of you who support Everest know that donations can be made to the school by visting Web Link and clicking on the PayPal link on the lower left hand corner. Choose the purpose: Everest. Any amount is helpful. There's a school to get open for the kids. Thanks!


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

Deek (Derek?) chooses to ignore some key facts in his rant against charter schools and Everest. The most important of them is that the law is on Everest's side. Gemma and the board can fight and snarl all they want, but California has a charter school law on the books that permits Everest to be established and to have adequate facilities.

The Sequoia district committed itself to provide adequate facilities to charter schools, located when possible WHERE the charter school chooses to open, when it put a bond measure on the ballot some years ago (the bond measure that allowed the district to build the Taj Mahal performing arts center at M-A) that needed only a 55 percent approval rather than 66 percent. To lower the approval threshold, the district had to commit to the charter school facilities provision, among other things. Now, it is legally obliged to provide reasonable facilities -- it's not the board's option to say no.

Now, the children running the district petulantly dig in their heels, wasting taxpayer money on fighting this unwinnable battle. Please, children, abide by the law. If you don't agree with it, try to get it changed. But stop wasting district (the public's) resources on fighting this. You will lose, and we all lose.

Last point: Trying to frame Summit and Everest as elite schools is a pathetic ploy that conveniently ignores the facts. Enrollment is based on a lottery, because there are so many kids wanting to go there. There is a need, or there wouldn't be a huge waiting list and a lottery wouldn't be needed. You can spin all you want, but the ethnic breakdown at Summit is available to the public, and it doesn't support your "facts." Argue on the merits; don't resort to lies.


Posted by MP Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 5, 2009 at 8:49 am

*Magnet* schools, Derek. (Though I realize that is probably not practical for a district the size of SUHSD). And I have kids in the public schools now, and have been pretty involved at M-A. Of course the comprehensives have more courses than the charters -- that's one of the trade-offs, and a big reason one of my kids chose M-A over Summit. Summit is also not a good choice for anyone who wants to play football or any sport other than volleyball, basketball, baseball, or soccer.

Reduced or free lunch? I've seen figures ranging from 28 to 45% (see David Boyce's comment in Web Link )

>>>Do you honestly believe that the staff at M-A, Sequoia, Carlmont, and Woodside do not live and breathe opportunity for all students throughout the year? How can you make a statement such as this?<<<

I know some of the M-A teachers pretty well, and I think they are caring, dedicated people. Same with the teachers I have met at Summit. I am quite familiar with the environment at M-A as a parent and volunteer. Some kids get a great education at M-A but others are left behind. The "left behinds" drop out at M-A, and the administration is relieved to see them go because those kids are the same ones who put M-A into PI status and could do so again. At Summit, teachers do their best to ensure that these students stay.

I invite you to reread Pat Gemma's snarky comments Web Link and tell me that he's a man who believes that all his students can be successful. Shameful.

I've donated quite a bit of money to M-A over the last few years. My son may be classmates there with your daughter. It's a great school. Summit is too. I just wish the administration could take pride in a district that can offer so many fine options to its students rather than fighting the charters at every opportunity.


Posted by informed, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

> Also, the SAT averages for Summit are nearly 200 points lower than the comprehensive schools.

Derek, you don't sound informed. Web Link

look more closely at %tested, scores, and %>1500 Math+English+Writing


Posted by Tired of propaganda, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2009 at 3:50 pm

In these discussions about charter schools, I've heard so many people confidently make assertions about Summit and Everest that turn out to be completely false. (Like Deek/Derek above, with his wrongheaded SAT "facts.")

Does this give you pause at all? Don't you guys ever wonder how you came to be so misinformed? Does it make you suspect your sources just a little bit, and wonder if maybe someone's been feeding you a line?

I've noticed a similar credulity among the parents, students, teachers, and staff members of the comprehensive schools who have spoken out against the charters at district meetings. It's not the opposition I mind, it's the blind faith in someone else's propaganda message. Many of the "facts" people cite are easily checked. Why not look it up for yourself before adding to the noise?


Posted by M-A grad & M-A/Summit parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I went to M-A in the late '60s when it was considered a college preparatory high school. It, along with an excellent parochial elementary education, prepared me well for college.

Our two daughters, both graduated from M-A in the early 2000's and went on to renown universities.
Fortunately, leaving middle school they both qualified for AP classes which helped prepare them for the next educational level.

Our youngest, however, was diagnosed with a reading disability while at a M.P. elementary school. While bright, outgoing and athletic, the results of his disability translated into grades and written test scores that prevented him from entering AP classes as an M-A freshman.
Prior to his graduation from 8th grade, I spent way-too-much time in meetings at M-A, learning about the "No Kid Left Behind" policy. Very clear to all who attended these meetings, was that if your son or daughter is not performing at the AP level, he/she will be virtually rubber-stamped through the SUHSD system. While there are always wonderful exceptions, the majority of SUHSD students are not on the fast track to college.

Fortunately for us, we discovered Summit Preparatory Charter School and were lucky enough to be drawn in the lottery. Sure, our son was reluctant to attend for many legitimate reasons:
• Most of his friends were going to M-A
• It was too far from home
• Sports and Facilities at Summit couldn't compare to M-A

Well, we made the tough decision for him.
And guess what?
He's not only excelling in AP classes and sports, but more importantly, he likes Summit, likes his new friends, likes his teachers, and has become a mentor to other incoming 8th graders who also are straddling the same fence he was on two years ago.
What's more, like most of today's teens who are constantly in-touch with each other through cellphones and Facebook, he has remained close with all his friends at M-A and other high schools.

Our son is just one of the overwelming success stories that make up the majority of students at Summit, regardless of ethnic, economic or religious backgrounds. You know, it kind of reminds me of good ol' M-A, back when I attended (without the fields and gym, etc.)

Since Everest will be based on the same successful foundation as Summit, it seems logical that it too will provide more to more
of what seems to be lacking at the comprehensive high schools.

Regardless of whichever location Everest is destined to occupy, one thing is clear: Mr. Gemma can never take credit for any of the accolades these fine charter institutions deserve.
Heck, he's only visited Summit Prep once â€" and that was to inspect a roof leak! How's that for a statistic.


Posted by jim watson, a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Summit is an amazing school with great results. The staff, teachers and students are on the right track. They know what works and they should be provided the right tools to continue their success at Everest. Lets put our money to good use. We invest in our children from the day they are born. Lets give them our best. Remember,they are our future.


Posted by JakeHilfter, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm

da best. Keep it going! Thank you


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