Faced with a stack of new information, the members of the San Mateo County Committee on School District Organization decided at their May 4 meeting to wait until June to decide whether 31 properties on Menlo Park's O'Connor Street may transfer from the Ravenswood to the Menlo Park school district.
The proposed new meeting time is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, at the County Office of Education, 101 Twin Dolphins Drive in Redwood City.
Residents of the 31 homes, from 235 to 495 O'Connor St., between Elliott Drive and Euclid Avenue, want to transfer to the Menlo Park City School District from the Ravenswood City School District. The district boundary runs down the middle of O'Connor Street.
Members of the county committee heard from a number of residents of O'Connor Street who have argued 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.
Nancy Magee, who serves as secretary of the committee and provides staff support for it, said in response to earlier questions from committee members she looked up exactly what voters had approved when they voted on the original 1983 transfer that moved most of the rest of the Willows into the Menlo Park School District. She said that voters from both school districts voted to approve the original 1983 transfer of "the Willows neighborhood." At the time of the vote both sides of O'Connor Street were in Menlo Park; but because the odd-numbered side of the street was not in the petition, it was not included in the transfer.
A number of neighbors spoke of their desire to unify their neighborhood with the transfer. "This is a very unique middle-class neighborhood. Very ethnically diverse," said Kim Chun. "A lot of really good people in our community put their heart and sweat into this petition."
Adela Mazzon asked the county committee to think about the neighborhood's children first. "As you make your vote, I would like you to think about our children," she said. "Give our children the opportunity to go to school with their friends and their neighbors."
But several residents of East Palo Alto also spoke, saying that over the years, transfers of homes out of their school district, and of property out of East Palo Alto, has eroded their community.
"I wish you could give us back all that was ours," said Randy Jackson, who said he has lived in East Palo Alto for 50 years. "Where does it stop?" Over the years, he said, "those who had more could take from us."
"If you only knew what we've gone through just to try to hold it together," he said. "Don't become another part of the problem."
The transfer is opposed by both the Menlo Park and Ravenswood school boards, but the County Committee on School District Organization will make the decision on whether approve the transfer. However, opposition by the districts' boards means an election must be held if the county committee does approve it. The committee will decide what areas would participate in the election. That could be just the homes involved, or voters in both school districts.
Representatives of the Ravenswood district said they are particularly worried about the effect the loss of the 31 homes would have on the district's ability to raise bond money for school improvements. They said if they lose the homes from their tax base, the district's more than $45 million bond limit would be reduced by about $250,000.
Representatives of the Menlo Park district say that their schools are already overcrowded and cannot handle more children. Educating children from the homes would cost the district more money than the transfer of property taxes would bring in, they said.
The committee's decision can be appealed to the state board of education.