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Las Lomitas parents pepper high school district superintendent in forum

Original post made on May 14, 2013

Had public comment been darts, Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent James Lianides would have had puncture wounds aplenty after more than two hours on the stage of the Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School on Monday (May 13).

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 11:49 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Nancy Kohn, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

As a 50 year former Sharon Heights resident I can't help but caution the Sequoia High School District to address the issue of expansion with extreme care. When we moved into the district it owned the rights to build a school at the corner of San Hill and Whiskey Hill Rds., and on a sight across Cañada Rd from Cañada College. 16 years later they had closed Ravenswood High and had given up the 2 aforementioned properties.

Posted by old school, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Splitting ANY middle school is beyond stupid. One huge problem for many students in the district now is that they ARE split. Each high school should take on a certain number of complete feeder schools. Schools in East Palo Alto and Redwood City should be partnered with specific schools. Carlmont HAS TO play it's part. Busing difficulties? Bus the students directly FROM the feeder school that the students have managed to get to for 9 years straight.

Menlo-Atherton students should NO LONGER be expected to walk to school when that takes well over an hour from their day, for some kids an hour each way. Starting the day later for their sleep and then expecting them to hike to school is an odd decision.

Wherever La Entrada ends up, keep the ENTIRE school together!! The District should put up a good lump of money to make sure that Woodside has all that the Foundation has put into M-A. Sitting on 16 million dollars in reserves doesn't look good while leaning on the community to put up extra millions.

This isn't rocket science, but the district has been proven a bit short sighted plowing their newest high school in San Carlos a few decades ago. Where did all THAT money go? (Not to mention Ravenswood)
The PEOPLE should have a HUGE say in this! Just Hillview at M-A? Good luck with that balancing idea.

The district has been on the bond band wagon for years, and despite that isn't close to their needs in taking care of students.

Perhaps what they SHOULD have done before getting into this battle would have been to ask for a higher parcel tax to match the increasing student population. Instead... they are going to sour public opinion. Brilliant!!

We have a vote coming up soon for the school board. No decision should be made by those sitting on the board until the have managed to get re-elected on their plans.

Posted by M-A High School Parent, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

To journalists and others in the community who care about ALL students, please follow a similar community meeting to be held tonight in East Palo Alto. There are other communities' opinions that must be heard -- families who are deeply affected by the gross inequities of the current boundary map. I applaud Superintendent Lianides and the SUHSD School Board for addressing this controversial issue head-on.

Posted by Steve Bellumori, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Breaking up any middle school to attend different high schools is completely contrary to the relationships built during formative years.

The Sequoia Union is responsible for schools at the high school level whereas Menlo Park City and Las Lomitas (as it relates to the MP-Atherton area) are responsible for the elementary and middle levels. This may have made sense in decades and decades past but appears now obsolete for sound education structure. There is too much financial stress on these districts and the parental foundations behind most of these schools are already doing an excellent job of support. High schools though should not be segregated from efforts to improve schools from kindergarten to middle level prior to entry to the high school level.Education throughout the area would greatly benefit, I personally believe, by once and for all moving towards a unified school district K-12 and incorporating schools (including several currently under achieving schools on both sides of the freeway) that feed into M-A. It is a vast undertaking yet the benefits of having a strong solid community of parents working towards one successful education goal seems to make the most sense. Improving the level of performance for all feeder schools to M-A in the bigger picture improves the education level for everyone attending at the high school level so that resources at the high school level are not used in catching up those who do not come in at the same level as a MP City or Las Lomitas level for instance. My personal view of our parental community is that they always step up when the (real) need arises. The idea of breaking up middle schools to potentially attend different high schools is at best not well considered for either the solidarity of those children -- nor the benefits derived by a strong parent community contributing to one unified education system.

Posted by old school, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Here here, Steve!
La Entrada was split back in the day. Heck, Ladera was split between Woodside and M-A. It damaged thousands of relationships before La Entrada was put into one school. That damage is still going on throughout the Redwood City and East Menlo Park districts. Unify the district as much as possible by tying specific feeders to certain high schools.

It would become a LOT more apparent that help should be offered to close the gap well before the schools merge at the high school level, but help could be much better focused by the high schools and their communities.

Open enrollment? How about trying to get the schools on equal footing so there wouldn't be a reason to need to switch? Certainly those whose schools are assigned to high schools should have first choice. (There will be a period of transition as siblings are offered the chance to attend the same high schools)

Woodside HS should have all of Portola Valley proper and Woodside now, why isn't the district succeeding in having them enroll? Oh wait, the district doesn't want MORE students.

The district will need MORE money as a basic aid district. What about thinking ahead about a PARCEL tax to pay for these increases in student populations?? Spend some of the reserves to make the schools even MORE attractive. More periods to take advantage of the superior resources that are available! Why do Palo Alto kids get to take seven periods of classes?? Why don't our kids? (At least those who don't really want that added sleep... that Carlmont isn't even offering) (More classrooms? Before you ask for more bond money, what percentage of the day are classes used as offices currently?)

Posted by reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Menlo Park ESD and Las Lomitas ESD aren't going to merge with each other. And they certainly are not going to merge with Ravenswood. I'm surprised that a realtor would be in favor of something that would so dramatically affect property values.

I agree that the change needs to occur in earlier grades. Preschool may be too late! But it will take $$$, political will, and a major cultural shift to fix the problems in the Ravenswood district. Merging all the districts into one at the k-8 level (unlikely to happen for many reasons) would just ruin those districts and send parents fleeing to private schools.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Yup, gotta protect your property value.

Never mind the value of educating children who just happen to have the bad luck to live on the wrong side of the 101.

How inclusive and progressive.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 15, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Thank you, POGO.

Posted by reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Nope. Not "bad luck." A culture that, by and large, doesn't support education. The kids who want to learn are surrounded by negative influences. Parents and other adults do little to combat that.

I work with EPA/BH student, earning an absurdly low salary, trying to help kids who are faced with a myriad of challenges. It's easy to point fingers at others when you're not boots on the ground. The reality is that the community is apathetic. And until they care, good education aint going to happen. Trashing the MPCSD and LLESD due to misguided PC values would be a travesty.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Well, reality, then why don't we just build a wall on the east side of the 101 and forget about them entirely if it's truly hopeless? Perhpas you think it's better to keep "them" around to wash our dishes, clean our homes, mow our lawns and raise our kids.

Instead of condemning them to that life, why not extend a hand and take the incredibly modest step of including these kids - who live in OUR community - by having them join our children in our schools so they can learn the real value of education?

I also have experience with some kids who faced a "myriad of challenges." One young gal came from a single-parent family that included drug, alcohol and physical abuse and zero encouragement will graduate from Stanford next month. No, you can't win 'em all, but you can't condemn them all, either.

Posted by reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

All of you bleeding heart liberals: please come volunteer and help kids in the Ravenswood district. There are a lot of kid-oriented organizations that need you. Contact OneEPA and they'll give you some names.

A lot of resources have been directed to Ravenswood students. A tiny percentage are eager to improve their lives through education. Most are not. Thus, Ravenswood consistently underperforms after DECADES of all kinds of support?

There are already children in the Ravenswood district who attend schools in MPCSD and other local districts via the Tinsley program. Despite having the same fine schools and teachers, most of them do not make it through high school. So much for "joining our children in our schools" and learning the value of education.

It's easy to sit up in the hills and sneer at those of us who face these challenges every day. Unfortunately, the Ravenswood district is largely populated by people who expect handouts and handholding, both from the public schools and from all the nonprofits that serve them.

It's a classic bad-money-drives-out-good scenario. Let's not ruin a perfectly good district with faux concern for the poor people. And I wash my own dishes and clean my own house. You could too, if the idea of employing East Palo Altans bothers you so much!

Posted by Member, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2013 at 8:44 am

I could not agree more with reality!!! I love how all of these rich people that never experienced true socio-economic diversity are the ones to push for it. I grew up in the bronx and I worked too hard to get out...why would I want to relive it just to be PC? And, I also do my own dishes and raise my own kids!!

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

I learned long ago that it is rarely useful or productive to try to outdo another person regarding (a) who was more impoverished as a child or (b) whose commitment to the less fortunate is greater.

You should take your comfort in your anonymity from behind the walls you so desperately wish to build to preserve your precious home value.

Posted by Member, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2013 at 10:35 am

I just want a good education for my own children. And, yes, I also want to protect my home don't? If the education at my local schools goes downhill, I will surely enroll my kids in private school. I am not about to play russian roulette with my own children's education simply to save face and be PC.

This same situation happened in SF and now all of the schools are awful. The citizens with money moved their children into private schools or out of the city. The result is a low performing school mecca. Why not keep the good schools good rather than bringing them all down?

I agree that my BX comment was unnecessary, but, I just wonder if everyone knows what they they are getting themselves into?

Posted by M-A High School Parent, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

Dear Reality,

I won't begin to express all that I think of your comments; it would take pages. I too volunteer in the Ravenswood School District and have been for almost a decade. Given your caustic statements and opinions, I think it would be best for everyone if you find something else to do with your time other than "helping" EPA/BH students. How dare you even suggest that the families of Ravenswood do not care about their children's education!

Posted by J, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

It is truly simple. This is a matter of civil rights. EPA students are being set up to fail. Splitting up a small community to bus them to schools an hour away is just plain wrong. I don't see an argument.

Posted by reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I am not a volunteer and I do not work in the Ravenswood schools, though I work with children and families in the district. I expect that people see what they want to see, especially volunteers who stop by for an hour a month and get a sugarcoated picture of reality.

A senior administrator in the Ravenswood district complained to me, and I am paraphrasing: "We get the kids early in the morning and give them breakfast. We feed them lunch. We provide afterschool care and keep them until 6 pm at night. And the parents still refuse to do their share."

We do-gooders are partially responsible for nurturing this dependent mindset. But only partially. As I said, the will to succeed and achieve needs to come from the residents; it can't be imposed on them. And as long as only a tiny percentage of children/families are willing to make the effort to break the cycle, it's not happening.

Posted by Elaine Park, a resident of Las Lomitas School
on May 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Hi folks,

My son went to middle school at Clifford School in Redwood City. Some of his cohort went to Sequoia, some went to Woodside. They all survived parting ways after middle school. He has subsequently made new and more sympatico friends and is thriving very nicely at Woodside. It's a great school -- you should come and take a look and meet the staff and students. I know the transition to high school can be very scarey, but I think people are being more anxious than they need to be.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Well, just keep those kids in their crappy schools and see how that works out for everyone.

Posted by amazed, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2013 at 3:28 pm

What is your solution? You want to bus kids both directions?

The "crappy" schools do get a good amount of money, but certainly not equivalent after foundation money is added. They need MORE! The FOUNDATIONS need to spread their money out, but more than that the kids need HELP.

The turn around in the teaching staffs needs to be reduced by making the jobs more "attractive" and that doesn't necessarily mean more pay, but that might be a good start. Having kids succeed is what every teacher wants.

Sending work home with kids works when there are people at home who can help. The Boys and Girls Club runs after school tutoring but could use a one to one relationship DAILY for tutors, so that work could be done at school. This would require a whole community of support, but that's what we will need to even things out. After school tutoring is one of the main advantages that the charter schools are offering.

We should be ensuring that students begin school with a good year of preschool to match what happens in many communities.

If high schools could focus on a smaller number of feeder schools, they could offer tons of faculty, parent AND student support. We need a way to FOCUS help. We have buses that could bus them help everyday, but we need the will do do it! The public has to put the pressure on the High School District to supply that help!

What's YOUR answer POGO??

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A great example of 'consolidation' is the Menlo Park Fire Protection District which was established before any of the cities it serves - East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton (plus parts of the unincorporated area of the county). The Fire District serves almost 100,000 very economically and social diverse citizens and provides each of them with exactly the same quality of service. There is no reasons that a consolidated school district could not do the same. The key is to establish a service standard and then to make sure that that same standard of service is provided to everyone in the district.

Posted by A Parent, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm

There's so much to comment on, it is mind-boggling. I'm with you POGO. "Reality"'s post is unreal.

I am a Stanford educated professional who was "boots on the ground" in a socio-economically and ethnically diverse school district for 15 years, so I know of what I speak. I kept my kids in their community school district and worked hard as a volunteer to make a better educational experience for ALL of the kids in my greater community. Yes, some families do not value education as much as others. But having peers who do value education helps those who do not have the advantages many of us enjoy see another way of life beyond what they have grown up with. It also instilled in my children a sense of obligation to better their community instead of a sense of privilege and superiority. I think this experience has helped them become better people/better citizens and the kind of folks who will meet our societal inequities head-on, instead of building walls to protect their privilege.

Think about it.

Posted by Member, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Good for you that you chose to follow that path. I chose to live in a nice neighborhood and would like to send my kids to my high performing neighborhood school that receives my taxes and donations. My school zone is why I bought my house in this area. I respect your decision to raise your kids in that fashion, but I am not getting a choice...I will likely be forced out of my district.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

There are no simple answers, but walling off our poorest and most challenged children certainly isn't one of them. But you asked and I'll give four right off the top of my head.

First, Mr. Carpenter makes an absolutely valid point that there are far too many school districts. How about one per county so we don't have so many redundant, costly NON-TEACHER employees?

Second, how about not only encouraging, but embracing charter schools? Their success is undeniable. Nothing instills parent involvement like a charter school. (Some assert it's the cause for their success, others say it's a result of their success. I say it's probably a bit of both.)

Third, I think that foundations - that dirty, little secret and the way our "rich" schools bypass state-imposed funding limits - should be shared on a per-student basis around each district.

Finally, how about stop building these monster, showcase schools and luxurious performing arts centers and paying a bit more attention to curriculum and results. While they may be breathtaking facilities, they often have shocking graduation rates. Buildings don't matter as much as teaching. Focus on the things that matter.

There. That was four.

Do you have any ideas other than preserving your property values and condemning our community's disadvantaged kids to crummy schools... just as long as your kid's school has gleaming floors, artificial turf on the fields, and an advanced Mandarin program?

Posted by educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm

educator is a registered user.

I know education is an emotional topic, but let's try to back up a bit and help the Sequoia HS District find reasonable and high quality solutions to their growth concerns. After carefully reviewing the boundary map for the four main high schools in the district, it is obvious that there are many inequities built into the existing system. But remember, these boundaries were drawn circa 1983, a very different time from today, during a court ordered desegregation of Sequoia High School. That court order expired long ago and demographics have changed significantly in the past 30 years. The high school district has a serious growth problem which has to be managed. Their need to redraw the boundaries for balancing enrollment can also be used to rectify many of the inequities built into the existing boundary system. There is no sound educational reason to split a feeder school's cohort between high schools, and it should be avoided. Let's focus on solutions that enhance the quality of teaching and learning in all our schools.

I'd like to clarify a couple of facts. 1) The Ravenswood District is well funded, spending more per student than Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, or Portola Valley districts. 2) It is unlikely that the high school district will move all the underperforming students into one school. First, it would be wrong, second, it would draw litigation, and third, it would not improve the quality of teaching and learning. 3) Open enrollment is a good thing. The high schools offer different programs: IB program at Sequoia, AP at MA. Let's come up with something spectacular for Woodside that gives it a unique edge in our educational community. Not every student learns the same way, nor do they have they same educational goals. Our district offers options because they do enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

Posted by local parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Educator: Ma is not the only school with AP courses. Woodside has them as do Sequoia and Carlmont. If the IB program at Sequoia is so great, why aren't more MA students from Hillview and La Entrada flocking to it? Just curious and have no idea.

Posted by A Parent, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

To Member: I always find it interesting when it is the schools that are deemed high performing, not the students. There are high performing students in virtually every school district. Motivated students with involved families who support education, thrive in all districts. When you group a bunch of them together in one place, you call it a "high performing" school. If you took those same students and distributed them throughout the area, they would still be high performing students.

What is truly "high performance" is when a student who does not have the socio-economic advantages that our children have, perform and succeed. It is a true test of the value of any community that those kids can rise to the top. I value a community that prioritizes the advancement of those students and I am proud that my children are their friends and peers and feel a part of their success. Those kids will be able to tear down walls, instead of building them.

Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

Educator is a registered user.

To Local Parent,

Good point, other schools do have AP courses. Sequoia is 'known' for it's IB program, while MA is 'known' for its AP program. IB attracts some of the brightest students (as do the other programs) in our area including many from Northstar. I didn't mean to suggest one is better than the other, just that they are different and are options for students.

What will happen long term with AP at the collegiate level is open for speculation, as some private and out of state universities have begun re-adjusting AP grades from high school GPAs downward and refusing to offer college credit under the premise that the AP courses are not college level. This is an interesting trend that all educators are keeping their eye on.

Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Educator is a registered user.

The following quote from a recently published research document might be interesting to those following this discussion board:

" . . . students whose friends' average GPA (Grade Point Average) was greater (or less) than their own had a higher tendency toward increasing (or decreasing) their academic ranking over time, indicating social contagion of academic success taking place in their social network." (Blansky, Kavanough et al 2013).

The question, then, may be what influences high student performance? Just the student, just the school, or a combination of both. After reading this document, I would argue it is a combination of both.

Posted by local parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 18, 2013 at 8:27 am


If the La Entrada kids stay together and are absorbed into Woodside, wouldn't collectively they maintain their high performance and increase the academic success of those at Woodside given your research?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

Kids grades and scores are mostly a function of genes and parental support. Peers have an influence but schools very little.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

Grades are "a function of genes..." Really? I have to assume you learned that bit of genius when you went to school in Germany. In 1939.

Here's proof that you shouldn't give up on these kids. This was from YESTERDAY'S San Jose Mercury News. One day, your kids might be working for these kids, bad genes, bad parents and all.

Web Link

Posted by Al, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 19, 2013 at 11:25 am

Ouch - Pogo pulls the (insert Godwin type ref) eugenics card. ALso a link to a great article yesterday.

Well played, sir/madame!

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Great article POGO. Proof, yet again, that one doesn't have to have a fancy school to turn out successful students. It takes good teachers, involved parents and most of all - a student that wants to succeed. No amount of cajoling, discipline or anything else will make a student WANT to learn. That's something that comes from within.

Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 20, 2013 at 9:27 am

Educator is a registered user.

Great article and success story, and there are many more like it (thankfully).

To local parent,
You asked if students from La Entrada were re-assigned to Woodside, would they maintain their academic success, and draw lower performers up. This is a thoughtful question that could only be answered by the Sequoia District Governing Board. If the Board chooses a 'standard' curriculum path for Woodside that segregates high performers from mid and under-performing students (AP for example), then there would likely be little if any interaction between high, mid, and low performing students. If, on the other hand, the Board chooses a totally new curriculum, one that is designed to integrate and not segregate students, then we have a totally different story.

There are amazing success stories with programs like this. They provide all teacher and administrator professional development, modeling, and curriculum, and rely on excellent teachers who are highly engaged and work hard to make learning interesting, relevant, and fun. Yes, fun. They encourage hands on learning, collaborative discourse, group projects, integration of technology when it enhances teaching and learning, and always have their focus on higher level cognitive learning. Visitors to these schools are overwhelmed with evidence of student work on display, quality of presentation skills, fascination with curriculum, and obvious love of learning.

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