News


School boards expected to oppose Menlo Park residents' attempt to change school districts

Residents want to move from Ravenswood to Menlo Park district

Residents of the 31 homes on O'Connor Street in Menlo Park who are attempting to transfer from the Ravenswood City School District to the Menlo Park City School District are facing opposition from both districts. Representatives of the districts have indicated their school boards will oppose the move.

Public hearings were held March 30 in the Menlo Park district and April 6 in the Ravenswood district.

The residents who want to transfer live between 235 and 495 O'Connor Street. The districts' boundaries runs down the middle of the street. Their neighbors across the street live in the Menlo Park district.

Ravenswood Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff said the Ravenswood board members oppose the petition, but will formally vote April 23. At the April 6 hearing, the district's presentation showed that the transfer would negatively affect the Ravenswood district in a number of ways, ranging from increasing racial isolation because non-Hispanic students would be removed from the district to affecting funding because fewer properties in the district could reduce its capacity to issue bonds by as much as $400,000 over time.

At Monday's hearing, a presentation from the Menlo Park City School District said the district is worried about negative impacts from the transfer. These include increased enrollment in already over-crowded schools (the district estimates the transfer could eventually increase enrollment by as many as 15 students) and creating a precedent for more transfers into the district.

The presentation also noted that the move would impact the Ravenswood district's "demographics and vibrancy" and that contrary to the petitioners' contention, the transfer would significantly increase the value of the transferred homes.

The Menlo Park board is scheduled to vote April 14 on whether it supports the transfer.

The actual decision on the transfer request will be made by the County Committee on School District Organization. The committee's decision can be appealed to the state board of education.

An election will be required if either district opposes or remains neutral about the transfer, but it is approved by the county committee. The county committee would decide which voters participate in the election, which could include only the homes affected, or residents of either or both affected districts.

The petitioners, led by Susan Stacy Keller, John Barksdale and Lansing Scriven, said the neighborhood now has only six school-age children, with several already in Menlo Park schools, either because the students have a parent who lives in the district, or the child is attending under the Tinsley program, which allows minority students to transfer from the Ravenswood district into other local school districts.

Their presentation says that only one child now attends Ravenswood schools and the transfer of that student won't affect the ethnic make-up of the district.

Comments

33 people like this
Posted by Elsie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Elsie is a registered user.

I think it's a silly arrangement. Your across-the-street neighborhood friends going to a different school just because they live on the other side of some imaginary line seems almost ludicrous to me. Can't we get over this minority/majority argument and start doing and deciding things on a practical, rational basis?
Elsie Floriani


44 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Elsie - I agree it doesn't make any sense – and the reason is because this was an accident, no one intended to have a district line inadvertently cut out a tiny corner of the Willows.

At the end of the day, the entire reason this situation exists is that governmental agencies/processes were not in sync 40 years ago. There was no conscious decision to bisect a street in the middle of a Menlo Park /Willows neighborhood.

When the Willows neighborhood petition was filed to move the Willows neighborhood from Ravenswood to Menlo Park district, this strip of homes was not part of Menlo Park (it was unincorporated). That is why the school district boundary line is in the middle of the street – it followed the Menlo Park city boundary AT THAT TIME.

However, just weeks later, these homes were added to the city of Menlo Park and really should have been included in the Willows transfer – which took place a year later. But no one bothered to modify the Willows petition to include these newly added Menlo Park homes.

When the Willows transfer into the Menlo Park district was finalized, these homes were in Menlo Park, but forgotten and left out of the transfer.

The MPCSD or the petitioners never intended to leave out the homes at the edge of the Willows. They used the city boundary lines to fully include the entire city. However, because the processes were not in sync, these homes got forgotten.

Ironic, if these homes were transferred into the city of Menlo Park JUST 3 WEEKS EARLIER, they would have been a part of the Willows transfer and this would not be an issue today.


43 people like this
Posted by Mario
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

As a concerned neighbor in the Willows I showed up to hear the arguments. I saw the key areas where MPCSD or RCSD exaggerated or construed the facts to meet their case and not look at it from an unbiased POV.

1) I felt the race issue was overplayed and grossly exaggerated as if the residents of these 31 homes were anything but Hispanic or Black than they were racist. Strangely enough I saw many minorities present from the affected homes (some of them were Black and Hispanic) so how wouldn't that continue the minority percentage in these schools?

2) The increase of Student Enrollment including these 31 homes. The petitioners state statically 7 based on their numbers, but MPCSD says 14 (2x as much) relating it to 200 unit condominium complexes which will have new homeowners and families moving in rather than an established group of residents who have no intention to move, may have kids that are already out of school or have no kids. Even at 14 students on the high side across grades K-8, does this really impact the Financial Feasibility of either school district of populations over 3,500 students? I hope not or we are in serious trouble.

3) The Homeowners are going to see a 39% (per MPCSD) or 21% (per RCSD) gain in Property Value with this reorganization. WOW. Where did they get those numbers? As a Realtor I can see I can see around 10% MAX. With supply so short and demand so high in the Bay Area and especially in Peninsula people are looking to buy and not all of them are buying because of the school district, they are just trying to find homes that are near work (especially with FB). The sad reality is many of them are being forced to rent or buy into a Condo Compex as the barrier to entry is not $1.5 million. Also since this is not a new track of homes or one of the 200 Unit Condo Complexes they are proposing on El Camino than it is not really relevant unless everyone decides to sell because now the school district is realigned which will not happen. (Yes some may sell, but people always sell, but I don't see them doing this for financial gain).

And one last comment...MPCSD is worried about Traffic as they always do. So rather than allowing these families to carpool with neighbors up and down their street to school, they are going to isolate these 31 homes forcing them to drive than do ride-sharing. Also rather than bike/walk to school which allows them to stay within Menlo Park we want our students to not only bike to schools equal or further away (MPCSD tried to show that some schools are actually a .3 miles further than a school in RCSD), but we are asking them to bike across a freeway and what I think is the most dangerous overpass to get to school (University Avenue). They compared it Willow Road which has Lights and Intersections to cross. I would not personally allow my kid to ride over that to school at any age, which will make me if I was one of these homes drive and increase the traffic as I would be only so lucky to have a neighbor in those 31 homes with a kid the same age to carpool with.

Just my 2 cents, but I support this petition on its Merits and Facts they brought to the table rather some hypersensitive remarks and unfounded claims.


16 people like this
Posted by Elsie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Elsie is a registered user.

Thanks, Ken. All the more reason to fix it now. I hope they read your comment. Practicality, folks, practicality! A bad rule, though perhaps well intended at the time, is still a bad rule. You can fix it.


9 people like this
Posted by frustrated parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I too was sitting in the audience. "Ken" should come clean that he is a petitioner. You can try to focus on how it won't "significantly increase the value of the homes", but you paid substantially LESS for your homes because they were in the Ravenswood district. You would have been told what district you were in when you purchased your homes!

The Menlo Park school are OVERCROWDED! The petitioners are claiming 1 child will be added. Can anyone find 31 homes in the Willows that only send 1 child to MPCSD? We know lots of housing is coming to Menlo Park because of the housing lawsuit…why make it worse?

And Mario, why are you even bringing up 101? There is a K-8 school 3 blocks from the petitioners houses! There is no need for them to ever get in a car!

And, Elsie…I can't EVEN believe YOU say because "live on the other side of some imaginary line seems almost ludicrous to me"!!! Apparently, I live on the WRONG side of El Camino…an "imaginary line" and so I am not wealthy enough to have Gentry mailed to me! There are ALWAYS lines and you are publisher of a magazine that is all about the lines!


42 people like this
Posted by John Barksdale
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Hi Frustrated Parent,

I do not think Ken is hiding the fact he is one of the Petitioners as he is using his real name as I am (also a Chief Petitioner). I would be happy to invite you over or speak to you via the phone to outline how currently 1 student is attending RCSD (which has been verified) and as we outlined in the Petition and the hearing their are a total of 6 school age kids in our 31 homes. The reason for the disparity between 1 and 6 as the 6 kids are attending either Private School already attending MPCSD or attend a different school(through Tinsley or Separated Parent who still has one Parent in the School District). If the transfer goes through than these households would not be eligible for Tinsley as they are not part of RCSD any longer and will be assigned a school in MPCSD.

The majority of the homeowners in this strip of 31 homes either have no children or have had children that have outgrown the school systems.

Did we pay less for our houses, yes but by how much is a very tough comparison as the comps when I bought my house ranged from Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto and were all quite similar in value. But to think we are doing this for financial gain is not part of the argument as home prices rise and fall (even though they seem to always be rising). I bought my house 8 years ago for the neighborhood when I was single because I wanted to be in a location near work and play. Did school district lines affect my decision or what to buy, not at all. Even so if I wanted to move now, the home prices in the bay area are beyond my means no matter where I live in the Peninsula as opposed to buying outside of Housing Bubble(s). The argument only has merit if it is a new development of homes with new families coming in. These are established homeowners.

Statically 7 potential kids (Our argument that we outlined in the Petition) vs 14 potential kids (MPCSD argument) is nowhere near the amount of kids that can result in one of two 200 unit condo complexes being proposed. That is where you should focus your efforts as that would definitely impact the schools more than a a small strip of 31 homes. Based on the calculations from MPCSD of .49 kids per household is close to 200 kids.

I urge you to read the entire petition and not the bullet points from all the different presentations than invite myself or Ken to walk you through the points.


37 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

@ “Frustrated Parent”

1. Yes, I am a petitioner. I have never said or implied otherwise. So why do you say I need to “come clean”? (p.s. Perhaps it is you who should come clean as you choose to hide behind anonymity while making accusations – and are you really from the Willows as you indicated?)

2. It is clear you have not read the petition, yet you have formed opinions and are stating false information and coming to wrong conclusions.

I invite you to please read the petition – the Almanac posted a link to it here in this article:
Web Link

3. Mistake - you stated “The petitioners are claiming 1 child will be added.” – no, that is not true. If you read the petition or any of the materials presented you will see that we are estimating 5-6 students would join MPCSD.

4. Regarding the appreciation issue, actually, our homes have already appreciated at a rate greater than the surrounding homes in Menlo Park (p.s. O’Connor street has approximately 10% new construction or rebuilds in the last 5 years – more than any other street in Menlo Park – we are actually raising the price of your house by using our own money to improve the neighborhood!).

Please read the petition and you will see that we used the sample homes that the County District’s expert selected as an unbiased sampling in the last petition. We presented honest facts and numbers from based on Trulia and Zillow. The simple fact is that ALL of our homes (yours included!) have appreciated greatly due to the market conditions – low supply and high demand. If you really, honestly, study these homes and their values, you will find that there is little room for more appreciation for our homes.

“Frustrated parent”, if this petition is approved, you (as a Willows resident) lose nothing and there is no impact on you or your child(ren). I am not sure why you are "frustrated", but I invite you to join me for coffee at Café Zoe to discuss it if you are interested.

Student/teacher ratios will remain unchanged. With 6 kids transferring in, Menlo Park schools will see an increase of over $45K in revenue from our taxes and contributions.

This petition is not designed to “make money” – is it for our children to be able to go to school with their friends and neighbors.


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm

In theory the talk of "community" makes sense when requesting the boundary change, however it doesn't feel like this is the primary driver despite what petitioners are saying. (This also assumes that children on the same street are friends and play together which, in my experience, is not typically the case).

As a comparison, I don't recall residents who live on Orange Avenue in West Menlo Park worrying about a lack of community because one side of the street attends the MPCSD while the other side attends the LLESD (both excellent school districts). Given that there has been no discussion in that part of Menlo Park, it leads me to conclude that this is more about home value. It's unreasonable to state that those homes on the RCSD side would not go up in value considerably if they became part of the MPCSD.

At the end of the day, I don't know anyone in the area who didn't thoroughly research school districts when they bought their home. It is the critical factor when making a home-buying decision in this area (MPK, PA, etc.) Those on the RCSD of the street paid less than those on the MPCSD. Why wouldn't everyone want to pay less for a house and then petition to have their children attend a better SD? We paid more for our small house so that our kids could attend great public schools. We knew we had to sacrifice space. etc. in order to get into an excellent school district.


39 people like this
Posted by George M
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I support your petition and wish you the best. My street has a similar issue and I tried to change the border 6 -7 years ago. We lost due to political, racial and financial Subterfuge. All B.S. but damming all the same. Student safety, practicality and common sense all took a back seat. Now our kids still don't attend public school and we pass the neighborhood school every day. The school bus even stops one street over to pick up kids jfor school ust not mine. I will never believe that having kids and parents crossing state highways to get to school makes more sense than having a safe and closer route to school.

I never attempted the change for some finnicial windfall, it's was and still is the right thing to do. Shame on those who hide behind false racial and financial statements instead of doing what's right.


26 people like this
Posted by Perry
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm

So, what is best for the kids? Is it good for children to be used as pawns in a racial apportionment manner? Should children be used to, allegedly, prevent racial isolation because some non-Hispanic students would be removed from the district? My children play with kids on the other side of our street and they share things such as going to the same school and playing on the same teams. We parents share car pools to games and we talk about teachers and school issues. All of that benefits our children. How petty it is to stand in the way of kids being part of the neighborhood where they live.


15 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

> I think it's a silly arrangement. Your across-the-street neighborhood friends going to a different school just because they live on the other side of some imaginary line seems almost ludicrous to me.

The "imaginary line" you refer to is called a "school district boundary." It is very typical for a school district to have a school district boundary. The boundary has to exist somewhere. There is nothing "ludicrous" about it.


23 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:06 pm

As described in a previous post, these few homes were left out of the Willows transfer to MPCSD. It makes no sense that these homes, which are IN Menlo Park in a corner of the Willows neighborhood (where all the other homes in the Willows attends Menlo Park schools), cannot attend the new school right around the corner.

In fact, let me share the view from my driveway of my Menlo Park/Willows home. I can literally SEE the new MPCDS school every day as I drive my kids to their schools elsewhere.

See the photo:
Web Link

It would reduce traffic congestion if the kids could walk to school…


11 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm

1st, I'll say that I think that in an ideal world, school district lines would be in sync with a town/neighborhood as much as school district capacities allow. And in that respect, I'm sympathetic to a closer alignment of school district boundaries and town/neighborhood boundaries.

That said, there's really nothing particularly exceptional about a neighborhood being in more than 1 district. The petitioners imply that their boundary configuration is unusual, but I beg to differ. Many of the nearby towns/cities near the willows have towns/neighborhoods split between 2 school districts. A street in which 1 side is in 1 district and 1 side in another just isn't a compelling reason to move district boundaries.

If this debate was broader in scope, if it addressed the disconnect between town boundaries broadly and the capacity issues that came with that change, I'd be a big supporter.

But as it stands, I feel like this petition doesn't address the core issues with the boundaries, and incrementally makes existing issues worse.


14 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 8, 2015 at 9:12 pm

> I can literally SEE the new MPCDS school every day as I drive my kids to their schools elsewhere.

And Willow Oaks School (Ravenswood SD) is 3-4 blocks away from the homes in question.

I'm not suggesting that the kids in the homes in question should send their kids to Willow Oaks, I'm pointing out that your geographic proximity to the future Laurel school isn't a compelling argument. The neighborhood is close to a Ravenswood school, as well.


9 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 8, 2015 at 10:12 pm

From the previous discussion of this potential boundary change, I suspect discussions may get heated. So I'll say this...

If this boundary change is approved, congratulations. While I don't share your opinion on the merits of the petition, I do think it's possible for a neighborhood to have reasons to petition a boundary change that goes beyond money. And I hope debates on this matter stick to facts instead of just conjecture on race and property values.


13 people like this
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 9, 2015 at 10:17 am

Wow–this one should be a no-brainer. One side of the street got excluded because of careless bureaucrats a couple of decades ago and so now those families have a choice of busing/driving across the freeway instead of crossing the street for school–or going to private school.

I'm disappointed in our school district leaders and some of these commenters. How does it affect you one iota if someone else who paid a bit less for their home (maybe) gets to send their kid to school across the street instead of putting them in a car and driving them somewhere every day? You really think having 7-15 extra kids in this district (not all in the same grade, not all at the same time) is going to materially hurt your child's school experience? Is your property value going to change? Can you really be so small-minded and greedy?

Can someone enlighten me about the property tax issue? My understanding is that IF the property values rise and long-time home-owners cash out (which would trigger capital gains tax by the way), property taxes increase and the schools benefit. At one point I read that 44% of Menlo Park property taxes go to local schools. How is 44% of the property tax on 31 homes only $7K/year?

The overcrowding argument also rings pretty hollow for me. My son is in a 20-person class which at any given moment has 1 teacher, 1 aide, and at least one parent hovering around to help. The foundation and PTA raise thousands of dollars per kid to support what is basically private-school-level education.

Moreover, the Willow Oaks School that everyone refers to (which, if anything, should be serving the entire Willows community, not just one random sliver of it) is owned but not operated by the Ravenswood District. Maybe someday it could be, but not today, anymore than the Philips Brooks School sight is operated by Las Lomitas.

Homes on this section of O'Connor are no closer to *operating* Ravenswood District Schools than they are to Laurel Elementary. They are across the street from the new Laurel Upper School. And yes, they are quite far away from Hillview, as is everyone else on the east side of Middlefield. If Menlo Park district were truly concerned with traffic, they'd have considered making Laurel Upper or Encinal a middle school instead of shipping everyone in the town to one location.

Pure and simple, this seems (on the part of the Menlo District board and parents) to be petty snobbery. I have more sympathy with the motives of the Ravenswood District–they need all the funds they can get.

In truth, if we were serious about racial and socioeconomic diversity, we'd have one Menlo Park district that followed city lines and allow families to choose which school to send their children to. If we were serious about equity and education being a powerful social force for good, we on the west side would spend less time volunteering in our own children's classrooms and raising thousands more for the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation–and more time providing resources to the Ravenswood Education Foundation, which despite serving more kids raises less money for an already under-resourced district. But until we get serious about it, let's not pretend that our motives for denying these O'Connor kids the right to walk across the street to school are noble or even rational.


15 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2015 at 10:34 am

@ Peninsula Resident at MA high school
Thank you for your last comment. I respect your opposition but I applaud you in your statement:
“…I do think it's possible for a neighborhood to have reasons to petition a boundary change that goes beyond money. And I hope debates on this matter stick to facts instead of just conjecture on race and property values”.

You are right:
1. This is NOT about race.
2. This is NOT about property values.
3. This is ALL ABOUT having our children attend the same schools as their neighbors and friends. This is all about being part of a community and a neighborhood.

It is real simple. This was a mistake that a tiny strip of 31 homes got left behind during the transfer of The Willows neighborhood to the MPCSD.

I do want to clarify one point that you may have missed. You stated “That said, there's really nothing particularly exceptional about a neighborhood being in more than 1 district. The petitioners imply that their boundary configuration is unusual, but I beg to differ. Many of the nearby towns/cities near the willows have towns/neighborhoods split between 2 school districts. A street in which 1 side is in 1 district and 1 side in another just isn't a compelling reason to move district boundaries.”

Actually, there is something exceptional in our case that our neighborhood, the Willows, is 98.5% in MPCSD and 1.5% (31 homes) in RCSD. None of the other examples of split neighborhoods or split cities (e.g. Atherton) have that tiny of a percentage. (e.g. Atherton is a more even split, something like 45/35/20% across 3 districts). The point here is that each split has enough homes to create the opportunity kids to cultivate neighbor friends and school friends and that parents can carpool because they are going in the same direction. 1.5% does not afford that type of opportunity.

Unlike other district lines, no one made this decision to leave these 31 homes out of the Willows transfer to MPCSD. This was an oversight between two government entities. This sort of thing happens all the time, people fall through the cracks.

The purpose of this petition is to address this crack. No, it does not address ALL the cracks. I know that there are many vocal people from EPA who have concerns, legitimate concerns about inequality. I fully respect that. It is true that this petition is not intended or designed to address that large issue. I don’t think than any one initiative can address that issue (personally, myself and my better half are working to address this issue by raising money for EPA residents to enroll their kids in aftercare programs that help them with homework and provide after school care for working parents. As a working parent, this is a passionate issue for me. Please support RISE. We will be active this summer in fund raising efforts).

No, we are not fixing all the cracks in the system with this petition. But we are fixing one. Please support us in this one and we can work together to address the other cracks one by one. Thank you!


3 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 9, 2015 at 11:15 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

Proximity to schools should not be an issue. By that argument, the entire Willows neighborhood should have been assigned to Willow Oaks School from the beginning, but instead the opposite occurred when the Willows was transferred to MPCSD. Note also that families who live on the street that abuts the Oak Knoll playground are assigned to the Las Lomitas district. The people who live there may grumble but I've never heard of an organized effort to allow kids to attend a school that is literally across the street.

Those of you unfamiliar with the Ravenswood district may somehow believe that Ravenswood students are not offered a proper education: not true. The former superintendent told me that she was overwhelmed by all the volunteers who wanted to help. There is a district foundation that is supported by people who live on this side of 101. The problems with that district are longstanding and systemic. They aren't about money.

All that said, I agree with the petitioners. This was clearly an oversight that occurred about 30 years ago when the Willows was moved into MPCSD and it should be fixed, just as 600 Willow was transferred to MPCSD a few years ago.


8 people like this
Posted by Mario
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

The comparison of residents on Orange Avenue separating kids into 2 different districts do not make sense, as you can see behind, you and all along the line there are a multitude of houses and homes in West Menlo Park creating your own community in the same City. You do not seem to be isolated like the 31 homes outlined in the Petition where City Boundaries create a dividing line behind them (Yes I am aware that kids can cross city boundaries and there is no fence separating them, but the City boundary creates direct relevance to not only school, but any after school leagues as they use the City boundaries (and school as well) to allow eligibility. So while they may play on the same little league team they can't go to school with their friends in the neighborhood, making it hard on parents like me who rely on carpools and after school play dates.

The argument on Property Taxes is quite funny. It only becomes relevant when they SELL. It is a one-time event and after that new home-owners would pay the prevailing rate for the School District. I can't recall if I made this argument earlier, but as a home-owner I have bought and sold during the real estate booms and busts. If these residents were looking to make a quick buck why did they not sell during the boom years 1997–2000 (with a climax on March 10, 2000) or during the bubble we have now or the additional bubble that Facebook is giving to Menlo Park. We can all agree that property values would go up because of this, but only relevant when they Sell, so how is that different from someone buying property in the Willows when Whiskey Gulch was there and they stayed during the bad times and bursted bubbles (with no guarantee property will go back up). I stayed in the Willows during all of these up and downs for the neighborhood. When it have made a difference if they tried to do this in 2012 when property values across the board were very low and it did not matter what school district properties were in as evident my neighbor had to foreclose (even being in the "good" school district, if only she could have held on longer.

Lastly, I recall voting to approve the Willows annexation into the MPCSD and we were told it would follow the City Boundary lines which made sense to me. By the time we voted all the homes in what I call the Willows were in Menlo Park so very surprised to see these 31 homes in Menlo Park not being included in the school district at the time, but it sounds like they were left off the initial proposal since they were not Menlo Park until the Petition was accepted, but were in time for the vote. That sounds like an example of Government oversight or laziness to make sure all were accounted for when it went to vote. Why has taken so long to rectify, but it appears needs the citizens to step up, rather than the Government(no surprises there).

Full disclosure, I am a resident in the Willows where my grandchild goes to school in Menlo Park Schools and one his best friends when they were kids now goes to school in Redwood City School District which is hard for the parents who have been friends for 10+ years and now find it hard to coordinate time for them to play with each other as they have different school schedules, homework and after school activities. Even Spring Breaks are different so they can not take camping trips together anymore.


2 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I just wanted to point out one fact shared by CCB above that I do not believe to be true:
"Moreover, the Willow Oaks School that everyone refers to (which, if anything, should be serving the entire Willows community, not just one random sliver of it) is owned but not operated by the Ravenswood District. Maybe someday it could be, but not today, anymore than the Philips Brooks School sight is operated by Las Lomitas."
According to the Ravenswood School District website, Willow Oaks school, located at 620 Willow Road, is a currently operating K-8 school, with 600+ students enrolled.
I believe that the confusion here is probably due to the fact that there is an adjacent property (address is 475 Pope Street) that housed the East Palo Alto Academy (charter school, not operated by Ravenswood) until recently. This property is I believe being developed to become the new site for the German-American School.


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Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm

You're right; Menlo Oaks still is in operation. I stand corrected. I was confused by the defunct charter school.


7 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2015 at 7:33 pm

@CCB – you asked “Can someone enlighten me about the property tax issue?”

I appreciate the question because it is confusing and not a lot of people understand it.

1. Property taxes for the districts

RCSD does not get their funding from local property taxes. They get it from the state. So, local property taxes do NOT fund the district.

RCSD gets additional money from local bond measures passed by voters. Currently there are 2 bond measures totaling $196 per parcel per year. (thus the 31 homes provide $6,076 of additional funds to the district). With a budget of $39 million, this is a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket if the district were to lose these 31 homes.

MPCSD is a “revenue limit school”. It gets a little bit of funding from the state, but gets most of its funding from local property tax revenue (not 44%, but some significant amount).

Plus, MPSCD also gets additional money from bonds passed by the voters – currently it is $831/parcel/year and with a new measure W coming next fall, there will be additional $50-200 (based on property assessment). For the 31 homes, this is an average of $65/parcel/year.

The net result is these 31 homes will end up paying more taxes because the extra assessments in MPCSD are much higher. And MPCSD will get even more money from the core property taxes these home pay.

Side note: MPCSD also gets $3 Million from the MPAEF foundation that parents in the district typically pay over $1,000 per student (so even more expense for these 31 homes).

2. Increased property taxes

Prop 13 limits the maximum increase in annual home valuation (for taxation purposes) at 2%. So most homes in the bay area are paying much lower taxes than the true value of their home. There is only a step up in basis if property owners sell their home. I don’t know about you, by my home has doubled in value and I have no inkling to “cash out”. This is my home. Why would I want to leave? And where would I go?

You are right- selling the house triggers capital gains, paying uncle sam hundreds of thousands of dollars and then a realtor 5-6% and having my property tax double, I’d end up not having enough money to buy here and have to leave this wonderful city that is my home and is my children’s home. I have NO intent of leaving, not for a long, long, long time.

Side note: Prop 13 is a an interesting law. It rewards people who stay in their homes a long time and hurts those who buy and sell/flip often. Once you sell, is is impossible to get back in the local market unless you seriously downsize or move out of the area.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 8:54 am

@Ken:

MPCSD is a “basic aid” or “excess tax” district, and it funds its revenue limit entirely through property taxes and receive no general purpose state aid. - it is funded by local property tax.

RCSD is a "revenue limit district" - receives general purpose funds known as a “revenue limit” through a mix of local property taxes and state aid: the State makes up the difference between property tax revenues and the total revenue limit funding for the district.

You got the facts mostly correct, but the nomenclature wrong.


2 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 10, 2015 at 9:33 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

From the district's website (Web Link):

For the 2014-2015 school year, MPCSD’s projected revenue is $36.6 million. This revenue breaks down as follows:
66% General Property Taxes
20% Parcel Taxes (Measures A, B and C)
10% MPAEF Grant
2.3% State Aid
1.6% Federal


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 10, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The problem with the school boards, who maybe fear and hate to upset their little applecarts and don't want to be confused by changes.


2 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

@ Central MP Resident

Thanks for correcting the terminology. Late night focused on getting the numbers correct... lol - I said it can be confusing.


2 people like this
Posted by Manuel Nathenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 12, 2015 at 5:36 pm

I was one of the Chief Petitioners for the Willows Petition to transfer territory from the Ravenswood School District to the Menlo Park School District. When the petition and legal description were prepared in 1982, the homes on O'Connor Street now proposed for transfer to the Menlo Park School district were not yet part of the City of Menlo Park (that happened 11/19/1982). The whole thrust of our petition was to bring residents of The Willows in the City of Menlo Park into the Menlo Park School District. If those homes had been in the City of Menlo Park when our legal description was written, they would have been included in the legal description of territory to be transferred.

Manuel Nathenson


6 people like this
Posted by Sir Topham Hatt
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:08 pm

For the petitioners, if having the community of shared schools with your various neighbors was such a concern, why did you purchase a house in a different school district?

If the reason is you forgot to look, or didn't think at the time that it mattered, why not now move to a house nearby that is in the MPCSD?

I think the answer is that such houses are hundreds of thousands more in price, which a quick survey of zillow will show. It makes sense, 9 years of private school for even one child is probably ~$300K. Saving the purchase price and then trying to get the premium education for free isn't fair to those who actually paid for it.


8 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Funny, every single time petitioners bring these petitions to the committee they are trying to get out of a mostly brown school district and into a wealthier, whiter district. And then we get to listen to the petitioners tell us how its not about race or money. Baloney. It's ALL about race and money.


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Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:42 am

Curious, I just looked at Zillow--and Sir Topham Hatt is just wrong. O'Connor Street homes vary in their estimated value, according to size and condition--but an uninitiated observer would be hard-put to show where the district dividing line is. Most of those homes on O'Connor are estimated to be worth well over a million, in keeping with that section of the Willows.

"A Parent", it's only about race and money to the extent that there is a shocking and sad correlation between wealth and school performance (and in our area, between wealth and race). These parents want to send their kids to the good West Menlo schools, one of which is literally across the street from their homes. Some of them are already attending West Menlo schools via the Tinsley program (are you accusing THEM of being racist?)

Now, if the situation were reversed and they were the only West Menlo homes on a Ravenswood District street, you almost certainly wouldn't see this petition. No one sane could argue with this. But both this hypothetical scenario and the actual status quo are kind of ridiculous. A neighborhood street should be in one district. Decades ago, Menlo Park incorporated most of the street into their city and district. This amounts to a decades-old clerical error. Correcting it is the right thing to do, even if it pisses off people with jumbo mortgages in adjoining neighborhoods.

I say this as one who just took on a massive mortgage for a West Menlo school district home. I bear these families no ill will and will not feel shafted if they realize an increase in the value of their homes by virtue of moving into their neighborhood district. Those will be property tax revenues that land in our district coffers. Stop being so damned petty, people!


2 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:18 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

I get really tired of people who are so eager to imagine that decisions are being made due to racism and money. Who wouldn't want a kid to attend a school in a top-ranked district vs one that's perpetually in the cellar? No one cares about the color of the students' skins -- it's about where their kids will have the best experience.

And why is the Ravenswood district perpetually underperforming? It's about 20% due to mismanagement, and about 80% due to parents. A small percentage of them care, but most don't. If education is a priority for your family, you avoid districts like that.


3 people like this
Posted by More to it
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 15, 2015 at 11:50 am

I think it is a given that the petitioners are just trying to do the best they can for their kids and wish them luck. It is difficult for neighborhoods to be split, but don't lines have to be drawn somewhere?

Those who are part of this discussion might also find interesting an ongoing topic on the Palo Alto Online site:

Web Link

Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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