Back to school: What's new at Woodside, M-A high schools


New courses, staff and facilities are greeting Woodside and Menlo-Atherton high school students, who returned to class Aug. 17.

Enrollment is up at M-A and about the same Woodside, the principals said. The Woodside student body population settled at 1,787, while at M-A, the enrollment of 2,360 students is a 3.7 percent increase.

New courses

Inside the classrooms at the two schools, students will have several new courses to consider.

Both Woodside and M-A are offering two new electives: designing and building software applications for mobile devices, and an advanced-placement course on computer science principles. The target for this course is students focused on the humanities and students "traditionally under represented" in computer science, according to the principals of both schools.

Woodside is also offering an elective on entrepreneurship to encourage student connection and collaboration with local businesses, and a new curriculum from the University of Texas at Austin called "Engineer Your World," a "hands-on approach to tinkering and problem-solving," Ms. Burbank said.

Woodside will be one of eight schools in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties participating in the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League. The intent is to create opportunities for a diverse group of students to improve their research abilities and verbal and critical thinking skills, Ms. Burbank said. "It is common-core perfect," she added.

An elective in marine biology is new this year at M-A. One focus: using laboratory activities to analyze the scope and impact of human interactions with the oceans, Principal Simone Rick-Kennel said. In social studies, a new elective, Race, Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States, will look at current issues revolving around race and ethnicity in the context of their relevance and significance in U. S. history.

For M-A students, review of the PSAT test begins Monday, Sept. 12, to prepare students for the Oct. 19 PSAT exam and the Nov. 4 SAT exam. Go to for more information.

An art competition at M-A on the theme, "What is Your Story?" invites student work in photography, visual arts, music composition, film production, choreography and literature. Winning artists move on to district, state and sometimes national levels.

New people

Woodside High hired 15 new teachers, and M-A hired 30 and a counselor, the principals said. Among the factors: teachers moving out of the area because of the high costs of housing, Ms. Rick-Kennel said.

This year at Woodside, the English, mathematics and special education departments each have three new teachers and there are two in the social studies department and four in the world language department. Most have been working in the Bay Area, though two are from the Midwest and one from Colorado. One was a substitute teacher at Woodside.

At M-A, several of the new teachers completed the Stanford (University) Teacher Education Program, but most are veterans. Three are former instructional aides in M-A's special education department, Ms. Rick-Kennel said.

Vice principals? M-A has a few. Former administrative vice principal Karl Looskoot is now the instructional vice principal, taking over from longtime instructional vice principal Steve Lippi, who will be teaching math this year. Former administrative vice principal J.C. Farr took a position as principal at Tamalpais High School.

The new administrative vice principals at M-A are Brenda Bachechi, a former special education coordinator at the Sequoia district office; Janelle Bugarini, an M-A alumna and former Spanish teacher, dean and vice principal at Berkeley High School; and Daniel Chaja, formerly a science teacher and director of technology in Morgan Hill.

New facilities

In the world of bricks and mortar, the new G Wing at M-A is set to open in the spring with the completion of a two-story, 21-classroom $27 million building. At Woodside, the concrete foundation is either complete or nearing completion for a new $17 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) building with 10 classrooms, including labs for robotics, engineering and chemistry. This building is set to open in August 2017.

Woodside's Bradley Field has new bleacher seats, a new track and a new look that is more in harmony with the architecture of the existing fieldhouse, performing arts center and administration and library building, Principal Diane Burbank said. The cost: About $2.8 million, said Matthew Zito, the chief facilities officer of the Sequoia Union High School District.

M-A added 130 bike racks to the faculty parking lot next at Oak Grove Avenue and Middlefield Road as part of an initiative to get people out of their cars. A new SamTrans bus, Route 81, runs between East Palo Alto and M-A, passing through Menlo Park's Willows neighborhood via Menalto and Gilbert avenues.


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2 people like this
Posted by Do you know?
a resident of Woodside High School
on Sep 13, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Wondering if Woodside HS has a plan to move to a later start time, as M-A and others have done?

Woodside Period 1 starts at 8:00 am
M-A starts at 8:45
Carlmont HS 8:57
Sequoia HS 8:30

All the research point to better success for teens that get more sleep, and many schools are making the shift. Why isn't Woodside?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 13, 2016 at 6:52 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

If I have to be at work early I go to bed earlier. Why can't these students?

Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2016 at 8:28 pm

"If I have to be at work early I go to bed earlier. Why can't these students?"

Maybe something called homework?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2016 at 7:15 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

If the students are being assigned so much homework that it is making them sleep deprived, then that needs to be reevaluated. Starting the day later doesn't solve that problem. It just moves the hours around.

4 people like this
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 14, 2016 at 8:49 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

One third of Woodside High's students start the school day at 8 a.m., but only because they have added academic support classes, usually for English or math.

Most students at Woodside start the day at 9 a.m. with the second period, a change made several years ago. Of the four comprehensive high schools in the Sequoia district, Woodside pioneered the late start under then-principal David Reilly.

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

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