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Voters lukewarm on raising Las Lomitas parcel tax

Original post made on Dec 22, 2010

The Las Lomitas School District is debating whether to ask voters to increase the district's $311 annual parcel tax next year to help accommodate an unexpected student enrollment surge.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 11:25 AM

Comments (44)

Posted by sarah, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Very interesting. I thought it would pass easily!


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm

How much did the district pay the researchers to make these calls to get the answers that we all knew already?

People are sick of opening their checkbook for the schools, government, pensions, etc..

"Fifty percent of survey respondents gave the district an 'A' for quality, while about 53.6 percent agreed that lack of funding and budget cuts are the biggest challenge facing the schools.

"So we need to figure out how to combine these two pieces of good news into increased support for an additional parcel tax," said District Superintendent Eric Hartwig"

Mr. Hartwig, you need to hire some consultants to combine these two pieces of "good" news into increase suppport for your agenda of higher taxes. I am sure you can get your admistration to manipulate the lemmings in our school district to say "YES".


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:32 am

No more taxes or fees. Apparently there is a projected increase in the number of students who will be enrolling. How can we be sure of that given today's economy? People, families, are leaving the area because there are no longer well paid jobs. Family homes are for sale everwhere you look; those families are leaving, so their kids are leaving.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 9:19 am

Why is raising taxes the only answer possible?

Let's see -- Las Lomitas School Dist. -- 2 schools, each with a principal and staff and a superintendent and staff, and Board members

Menlo Park City School Dist. -- 4 schools, each with a principal and staff, and a superintendent and staff, and Board members

Sequoia Union School Dist. -- 7 schools, each with a principal and staff, and a superintendent and staff, and Board members

Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools -- 26 high schools, 26 middle schools, and 100+ elementary schools, each with a principal and staff and a superintendent and staff, and Board members. And it's a good school system.


Posted by Correct Bob!, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

Bob is correct, THAT is the issue, along with the Teacher Unions that won't compromise which allows us to keep paying for poor teachers. I am personally fine with paying teachers more than what they are paid for, right now, BUT we have to find a way to weed out the bad ones.
I have no idea why we need so many superintendents and staff? This makes no sense. Combine all 3 of the local school districts and we would only have 13 schools, versus what the example above showed. This must be discussed. Each superintendent brings in at least $200K, we'd save $400k in just this small example! FYI - I do not believe the school board members make any money.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Bob is correct - consolidation would save a LOT of taxpayer money. Perhaps as our local jurisdiction feel more pressure from revenue declines and see less willingness by the taxpayers to approve new parcel taxes that will finally start looking at way to reduce expenses. And the biggest savings for school districts, fire services and police services will all come from consolidation. Unfortunately, these consolidations will have to be forced down the throats of the current elected bodies - except for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board which has long ago adopted a resolution urging action on county-wide fire consolidation.


Posted by Bob is my hero!, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

[This and susequent posts by same poster using different names removed; see terms of use.]


Posted by Proud LLESD Member, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

To state the obvious, there is a virtuous cycle created by the Las Lomitas School District having the top API student achievement score in the entire state: It creates further interest from families looking for housing, which props up property values, something any property owner should appreciate. However, the district's Basic Aid status means no additional revenues come from the state to pay for those additional students, so parcel taxes are needed to make up the shortfall, especially when property values are not going up in a sluggish economy. However, the addition few hundred dollars a year in parcel taxes is an incredibly cost-effective investment as it translates into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional property value for the typical owner. That is all the logic that should be needed to justify a parcel tax increase, at least to those not willing to cut off their nose to spite their face.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm

A consolidated school district that includes Redwood City and East Palo Alto could impose uniform high standards for what kids learn K-12.

The San Francisco and San Jose districts have adopted a rule that all graduates -- repeat, all graduates -- take courses approved by the University of California system sufficient to qualify them for entry to that system. How can San Jose and San Francisco do this? Because their school districts are unified.

Why is it said that can't it be done around here? Because the districts are not unified.

The disparity between results in East Palo Alto and Redwood City when compared with Woodside, Las Lomitas, Portola Valley and Menlo Park is shameful.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm

An educated populace lift all boats.

This does not happen when some citizens remain uneducated because they did not have the attention, when it mattered, of highly talented and caring teachers who demand the participation of parents. The result is full jails and busy police, using up tax dollars and ruining lives.


Posted by Here we go again..., a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm

A word of caution for people who think independently: you will find a host of "It's-for-the-Kids" Nazis descending on this thread soon.

It's usually the same folks. More, more, more. They will criticize your lack of foresight in objecting to higher fees because, as everyone knows, there's a very tight correlation between the money thrown at a problem and the quality of solution. The higher the API scores, the higher your property values (true). The more money you throw at the problem, the higher your API scores (not).

Parental involvement and zip code (which, in turn, correlates to socioeconomic status) correlate the tightest with performance, but why dwell on detailed analysis when fear-mongering and platitudes to preserve union wages and union pensions will do? The districts recruit well-meaning parents who love the social status of PTA-head or Education Foundation principle and gets them to rally distracted and concerned parents to the cause. It's a tried and true formula.


Posted by Dinosaur, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

[Post removed; same poster using different names on this thread; see terms of use.]


Posted by Maria Perez, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm

[Post removed; same poster using different names on this thread; see terms of use.]


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I don't know if "an educated populace lifts all boats" is being interpreted as a platitude, or that a call for a regionally unified school district is implicit support of higher taxes. That is not what I intended. I hope my views are those of an "it's for the kids" Nazi.

The improvements I envision seem to be happening at certain charter schools, and they're happening at the going state rate per student, more or less.

Administrative overhead is what these schools do not have and they seem to be doing fine without it.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Obvious correction: ... Are not those of an "it's for the kids" Nazi. ...


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Joe asks: is "a call for a regionally unified school district is implicit support of higher taxes."

No, well organized and managed unified school districts will produce better educational outcomes without higher taxes. Watch who comes out against such consolidation - it will unfortunately be the elected officials and administrative staff who will lose their, jobs not the parents who want better and more cost effective education for their children.


Posted by Here we go again..., a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

No Joe, I don't think that a desire for an educated populace qualifies you as an "It's-for-the-kids" Nazi.

But in light of your desire, which I think most of us share, one has to ask the following question: what is the fundamental goal of a public school education?

If you talk to enough parents in this area, one sometimes walks away with the feeling that the goal should be to make them substitutable with the private academies around -- that includes the pretty buildings, the voice lessons, the pilates classes (I'm being a bit facetious here obviously). Everyone knows that American students are falling behind their first world AND emerging economy counterparts because they don't have nice enough buildings, gyms, and performance facilities. Right?

A consequence of this goal (be it stated or implied)is a high cost public school educational structure where the sky is the limit. There is no end to the money that can be extorted from a concerned voting public. On a separate note, it is also a system that subsidizes people having, 3, 4, 5+ kids. I'm sorry, but I don't think it is society's job to cover for an individual's birth control challenges or desires for a large family. These costs are exacerbated by the suffocating pressure to keep student to teacher ratios low. Notice that Rocketship Charter schools maintain high student to teacher ratios, but escalate discipline quickly. The result: API scores among poor kids in San Jose that rival Palo Alto Unified School District. It's a dirty little secret.

More, more, more .... is not always more.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

What I implied is that there are other ways of funding schools besides increasing taxes.

Mr. Carpenter brought up fire and law enforcement services (which include dispatch centers). We don't need multiple agencies in this county.

I would guess the average citizen would relish tax savings and still receive the same, if not better, services, be it schools or public safety.

Bottom line -- look at ALL the options and then make smart decisions.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Asking about the fundamental goal of a public education is exactly right.

The goal should be to prepare every kid to meet the UC entry standard, should it not? If that is not the goal, exactly what is? And if it is not the goal, why not?

I think such questions are fundamental because they have the capacity to pull the covers back on the matter of our larger interests as a society. In the abstract way that intelligent and responsible tax revenue distribution allows, do we care about the lives of people outside our own families and neighborhoods?


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm

There I go again, laying it on too thick. Sorry, folks.


Posted by Here we go again..., a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Joe,

I believe the goal is to create an informed and educated populace that is capable of exercising their responsibilities of citizenship effectively.

UC Entry is not just lofty, but, I think, a bit paternalistic.

In Europe, there is much more tracking. But vocational education in Europe at the secondary level creates a steady pipeline of often very intelligent, well informed, highly skilled craftsmen. These folks are well respected in their societies and the quality of workmanship shows in the German products they design and build and that we Americans gobble up. College is not right for everyone either in principle or even theory.

The notion that access to a college education grants our society greater economic mobility is interesting, except for the fact that more recent measures of economic mobility would seem to suggest that we have lost our previously lofty perch.

I don't want to inject the code words of liberal and conservative into this debate, but your view of the fundamental goal is a more progressive vision that might not be in the best interests of the people that you think you might be helping with that vision.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:48 pm

There are only 58 counties in California... but there are over 1,000 school districts in our state. Each district has its own supervisor and staff. Talk about duplication of costs.

It may be asking too much of the affluent people of Woodside, Atherton and Menlo Park to mix their precious elementary school services with those of Redwood City and San Carlos. But do we really need an average of 20 districts in each of our counties? Is this duplication of staff really sustainable?

While your school district's thirst for parcel taxes is never quenched, apparently taxpayers do have a limited appetite for increasing taxes. It's going to become quite obvious over the next year or two as our beloved state finds that it is unable to close the budget shortfall and Sacramento's ability to continue providing funds dries up.

Of course, affluent communities will be the last to suffer.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 27, 2010 at 9:11 pm

If you enjoy flushing money down the toilet, then by all means vote for new parcel tax measures. Actually, flushing money into the toilet would be a better use of funds, because it would not feed the appetites of an entrenched, kid-hostile, unionized bureaucracy.

Until public schools can show that they are using money wisely, a day that is unlikely to ever come, no sensible taxpayer should support such proposals.

But we can be certain that the unions will be bleating "It's for the children" all the way from your pockets into their fat fingers.


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 28, 2010 at 5:22 am

Jerry Brown's new dept of education heads will be cooking something very special for the school districts. Liberal democratic state, so you know they will have a gameplan that help get's ALL the kids on track. API organization may go away with all that overhead, and a more consolidated unified education system and the rest can go to private schools if they want. We'll wait to see.


Posted by Correct Bob!, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

I wish anything that involved the public schools blog could be discussed in a less hostile environment. I stated earlier that there IS in fact an issue with the unions and an issue with the bloated administration. Unfortunately, unless there is a separate group of citizens really pushing hard on the unions, this will never be solved. And I AM one of the ones that think we do need to pay for good public schools, with a very slight increase in parcel taxes, to keep the quality of the schools whole. Unless we find some other way to deal with the unions, like voting our politicians out of office that cater to them, we cannot effect the way they operate.
As for folks like "Joe" who blogged above, YOUR home is worth what it is because of the schools, so be very, very careful the way you aggressively make comments like "kid-hostile" or "it's for the children" sarcastic comments. Again, vote the politicians OUT that support these unions, and/or go to a School Board Meeting and take on the Superintendent that bows to the unions ridiculous demands. Not voting for a very small parcel tax, is NOT going to solve anything. The only thing it most certainly will do is deplete the school of some much needed funds for teachers. If you don't believe me, why don't you ask the real question: Why do the schools need this money? Answer: For the growth in enrollment. More people want to move here, this in fact drives up the cost of housing, YOUR housing, the equity you are currently living on.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Bob, the public schools provide terrible value for money, because of the way politicians and unions fraudulently cooperate to pilfer from the taxpayers. Not voting for more taxes addresses the problem in a very direct fashion.

Why do public schools "need" this money? My answer: they do not. They need to stop wasting money on fanciful pay and benefit packages, and improve their management.

The teachers' union doesn't give two cents for the children. They are entirely motivated by lining their own pockets and avoiding as much work as possible. That has been demonstrated by their behavior time and time again. "Kid-hostile" is an entirely deserved term.


Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Yes, the local school districts could possibly be run better finanicall, and I agree with what I think Correct Bob thinks that good, difference making teachers are well worth their money or more, while needing to get rid of the bad ones which of course causes issues with unions.

But...

Out of all the school districts this is the one you harp on? LLESD is basically the best in the entire state and is part of the reason why people want to move into the area and raise their children there (leading to higher property values). I wouldn't be surprised if many of the people with "For Sale" signs in the Sharon Heights/Portola Valley neighborhood are people who no longer have children and don't want to justify the cost of an over a $1 million house (easily) since they might be now empty nesters. While of course socio economic status helps with scores and achievements, the fact that the school is taking advantage of it and seems to be maximizing it, the district should be supported and copied. Menlo Park and Woodside should be doing just as good based on my guess of their demographics. I don't think you should be complaining about children falling behind other countries when talking about possibly one of the best districts in the country.


Posted by Wade, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I don't have kids. Why should my hard earned money go towards educating someone else's child? If you can't afford to put your own kids through school, don't have kids. Quit begging.


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Agree with Wade Bob POGO and Joe! Quit pulling my posts...see my post on dec 26th above.


Posted by Renee Batti, news editor of The Almanac
on Dec 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Renee Batti is a registered user.

Sorry, Dorothy. My mistake.


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:27 am

Everyone will agree that schools is broken in CA. You have a few bright spots here and there (palo alto, cupertino, menlo park (LLESD), woodside, etc.) where the public school option is "very good" relative to the rest of the state (which ranks close to last in the country).

Instead of doing the right thing (see above posts on union, redundant admin., etc.) we have more band-aid fixes. Yes the parcel tax is nominal for people who live in atherton and menlo park but will you continue holding your hand out using the same reasons: we have more students coming, we have declining revenues, we have the best api scores, we are the reason your home is worth ALOT. Keep in mind cupertino schools (and others) spend alot less per child and they have great results. Active giving parents with good kids play a larger role than you give them credit. I am sure many of you grew up in an "okay" school district but you worked hard and had supportive parents. Get to the bottom of the issues and quit pumping up your district based solely on api scores and property values. The people who get credit are the students and the buyers, not admin and real estate agents pumping up the marketing.


Posted by Correct Bob!, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Can't argue with facts, here are a few of them:
* California ranks #47 in Per Pupil Funding @ $7,571. Woodside is @ $16K+, Portola Valley @ $15.6K, and Las Lomitis @ $13.7K. I believe Menlo Park is north of $11.5K. All of these school districts do well, but again LL is the best in the state. I think dollars DO reflect the API scores, they most definitely reflect the property values.(so, Dorothy, why not support this??) This IS in fact the best way to analyze this issue. BTW - Tennessee is #46, Mississippi is #39, these states are continually being singled out as bad public school systems.
* California ranks #46 in the Best Educated Index, isn't that sad? Why would LL want to slip this low to be included in this number.(yes, I know it is included in the number, but it is most definitely singled out, when you post their API scores)
* California ranks #3 for the highest in elementary & secondary pupil to teacher ratio in the country @ 21.1. The only ones higher are Utah and Arizona. Could THIS be the reason for some of our schools failing, many people think so, and it does make some sense. If we have more teachers, with less students, that teacher would have mind share to distribute to less students. By the way, Vermont is #1 with 11.1 students per pupil, and by the way Vermont is #1 in the Best Educated Index. Hmmmm, seems to make sense.

Again, LL is a basic aid district, the increased enrollment and declining tax base is the main reason for this parcel tax request.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

"* California ranks #47 in Per Pupil Funding @ $7,571."

Ya git what ya pay fer.

Quit blaming working folk for a funding problem. Most teachers rock. Trim admin. Fund the dern schools!


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:01 am

LLESD ranks 1st in a state that ranks 46th. How does the high school LLESD students are zoned for fair?

Basic aid districts do great when property values keep escalating; thus, the extra dollars per child. Many revenue limit districts are going broke and shutting down schools.

You can work on increasing taxes or trim costs or both. I am glad I don't have to make those decisions. Yes, trim the admin and consolidate and fund the schools. If done in that order, will get more support for parcel taxes or any taxes to fund schools.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 30, 2010 at 7:08 am

Cut the fat (like woodside elementary school district, one principal/superintendent/staff) and get the $186 parcel tax through. Sounds more reasonable.

"Las Lomitas School Dist. -- 2 schools, each with a principal and staff and a superintendent and staff, and Board members"


Posted by Proud LLESD Member, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 31, 2010 at 10:39 am

To state the heretical: The exceptional quality and focused devotion of the LLESD administration and elected (unpaid) Governing Board may (gasp) actually be part of the secret sauce that makes it such a successful district.


Posted by LL Father, a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Dec 31, 2010 at 11:51 am

Paying an increased parcel tax for the continued success of the LLESD is a "no brainer". There are downward pressures on property values and an award winning school district is certainly one way to counter that force.

That said, consolidating MPCSD and LLESD is worthy of exploration, as they both enjoy excellent reputations and similar housing markets. There is some duplicate infrastructure and personnel which could be eliminated, leading to a more efficient operation.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 31, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Maybe they should pay the Board members a little something for their time since they really run the two little schools anyways, keep one of the principals and get rid of the superintendent and redundant staff. Have the Board (make sure you always get a good lawyer on the Board, heck there are tons of lawyers in Atherton/Menlo Park) negotiate with the teacher's union.

Now that's exceptional quality, devoted, LEAN, and focused administration we're talking about!

Times of double digit appreciating real estate prices are behind us, it's time to do what's right for the kids not the overpaid and unnecessary staff.


Posted by Summer, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 7, 2011 at 11:10 am


The education budget is 31% of the entire State budget, and the State budget was reduced from the previous year, the national average is about 22% of entire State budget, yet we spend the lease per child, so you know where the funds are going (unnecessary perks, overhead, pensions, etc.).

Although I think that public education is an important part of our society, I believe that we have developed a wasteful system populated by greedy and entitled people. In order to funnel money into increased salaries and pension funds and benefits packages, school districts have cut music, arts, technical classes and sports.

These "desperate" cuts and all this "panic" created by the districts are used to round up support from parents and voters to support the spending system currently in place. Whether it be in increased taxes or donations.

I believe their is some merit in the schools' needs for additional funding but the whole education system needs to be fixed.

Like many of my friends (some end up pulling their kids out after learning that the school is not a good fit), I may not consider the public schools as an option even when I live in the the best district as even those are underfunded (even with parcel taxes increases).


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Hi Summer, glad you're putting in your two cents too.

Funny, there are people who are trying to get in or transfer into las lomitas and get shunned, and than you have those who pull their kids out or not consider las lomitas. They're both in Atherton, maybe they should trade homes or figure something out.

I think it's shameful that some kids don't have access to the schools because of dated district boundaries and the school districts fight over their territories instead of doing the right thing. You need strong progessive management who are looking out for the best interest of the kids and not their turf to achieve that.

I own homes in other states and the schools spend 2-3 times per child and in many cases have access to any schools that is convenient to the kids. Yes tax rates in some areas are much higher and the people don't complain about it because they are getting good services.

The homeowners can be generous not with just their support for higher taxes but also time and donations.


Posted by Jozef, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 9, 2011 at 5:33 am

You have a bunch of little school districts in the affluent areas who's purpose is to keep the flow of lower income families out.

Well in some cases the boundaries keep the other folks out too who probably should belong to the same district. One of my neighbors has a couple kids and they inquired a transfer and was passed. They ended up at another school and donated 500K to the foundation. They were trying to give the public school system a chance since they were already paying big tax dollars and their kids were playing with the kids next door. Hard getting support from your community when you're protecting your turf like that.


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 29, 2011 at 5:09 am

Many of the truly affluent really don't consider public schools. Esp. if you have 1/2 million to donate.

Budget cuts will continue as more families flock to the good schools since the school options where they are at gets worst. Overcrowding will always be an issue as more people look for ways to get their cost of living down. We will see if the demand will drive prices back up to historic highs.

If you have the money, you have options. Otherwise, you deal with the schools you're zoned for.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 29, 2011 at 7:38 am

Dorothy states:"If you have the money, you have options. Otherwise, you deal with the schools you're zoned for."

UNLESS we have a consolidated school system which provides MORE choices and better education while eliminating unnecessary overhead and administrastion. In such a system, if well run, more dollars go to the classrooms.


Posted by Dorothy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 29, 2011 at 11:24 am

Well put Mr. Carpenter. I would love to see that happen for the kids but unless things change at the State and local levels, I don't see too much change. None of my neighbors consider the public school because of all the press around cuts and budgets. They want stability and not too happy paying the taxes and still deal with finding a private school, which are good in the area but not affordable to everyone.


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