Despite a last-minute tearful plea from one of the residents asking to move their homes from the Ravenswood City School District to the Menlo Park City School District, the Menlo Park governing board unanimously approved a resolution against the change on April 14.
"I urge you to consider the local educational needs of our children," said Stacey Keller. One of the Menlo Park District's guiding principles, she said, is "that our schools are organized as neighborhoods and our reason for this is that our community values the unique opportunities that neighborhood schools provide."
Not supporting the transfer denies "our children their local educational needs," she said. "I hope you will do what is right for our children," she said.
Residents of 31 Menlo Park homes, from 235 to 495 O'Connor Street, between Elliott Drive and Euclid Avenue, want to transfer to the Menlo Park district. The district boundary runs down the middle of O'Connor Street. Residents on the south side are in the Menlo Park district, and those on the north side are in the Ravenswood district.
While Menlo Park board members all voted against the transfer, several said they did not do so lightly.
"We don't like turning anybody away," said board member Terry Thygesen. However, she said, the district is already squeezing too many kids into too little space.
"We are severely under-allocated in terms of acreage per student," she said. "All the districts around us have significantly more acreage per student that we do." "
Repeated requests to move homes into the district mean "we're just not in the situation where we can say yes to any one individual request," she said. "We're already bleeding to death by a thousand cuts."
"This is a tough one," said board member Stacey Jones, who said she lives in the same Willows neighborhood as the 31 homes asking for the transfer. "These are my neighbors and I do feel for them."
However, she said, "I don't see a factual necessity for making the transfer."
The County Committee on School District Organization will make the decision on whether to transfer the homes to the Menlo Park district. However, opposition by either district board triggers an election if the county committee does approve the transfer.
The county committee makes the decision on which voters participate in an election, which can be limited to the residents of the area seeking the transfer or expanded to involved all voters in both affected districts.
The O'Connor Street residents seeking the transfer argue that it was only a historical accident that left them in the Ravenswood district when most of the rest of the Willows neighborhood transferred into the Menlo Park district in 1983. That's because their side of the street was annexed into Menlo Park soon after the original petition to change districts was filed, but their homes weren't added to the petition.
The resolution approved by the Menlo Park board says, in part, that "the petition is one in a long line of similar proposals to alter the historic boundaries between these two elementary school districts, each of which has eroded the territory of the Ravenswood City School District, and none of which has ever added new or returned previous territory to the Ravenswood City School District."
Because the residents asking to be transferred are "more ethnically diverse than the Ravenswood City School District at large," losing these families "will actually reduce the ethnic diversity in Ravenswood by reducing the population of district residents who are not Hispanic or Latino," the resolution states.
It also says that moving even a small number of students will worsen the Menlo Park district's overcrowding, while also worsening the Ravenswood district's opposite problem of not having enough students to fill its schools.
The county committee has not yet scheduled its deliberations on the transfer request. County office of education officials have said the committee probably will do so at either its May 4 or June 1 meeting.
The committee's decision can be appealed to the state board of education.