News


Menlo Park City School District gives a raise and bonuses to all employees

Board says increases necessary to keep and attract teachers

The board of the Menlo Park City School District voted unanimously on Sept. 20, with board member Terry Thygesen absent, to award all district employees a 2.5 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year, and to give a bonus of 2.5 percent of their annual salary to all who worked last year.

Some speakers from the public at the board meeting questioned awarding salary increases and bonuses to employees when the district is facing serious financial problems. Two parcel taxes failed to pass in May, and the district now says that it is facing budget shortfalls that could reach $5.3 million in five years.

Joe Giarrusso, a district resident and parent of a former student, said the board should not approve raises and bonuses "until the financial picture is clearer sometime next year." Mr. Giarrusso's wife, Caroline Lucas, is a candidate for the school board.

"What the board is doing now is playing Russian Roulette with the budget," he said, "hoping or maybe assuming that the public will approve a parcel tax measure next year."

But board president Jeff Child said the district lost a number of teachers last year who could no longer afford to live in the area, and without raises the district would find itself unable to recruit new teachers or retain current employees.

Joan O'Neill, the district's human resources manager, said that 11 teachers resigned and two retired last year. The district hired 22 new teachers for the 2016-17 school year.

Mr. Child said that many of the teachers who left either could no longer afford to live in the area, or deal with the commute if they lived elsewhere. "I'm not sure we have seen that before the last year or two," he said.

Mr. Child said that by not giving a raise to district teachers last year, the district put itself at a disadvantage in competing for teachers with all other local districts that did give raises, ranging from 2.5 percent in Hillsborough to 4 percent in Woodside and 5 percent in Palo Alto.

"We're losing ground against our competitors" in the midst of a teacher shortage, Mr. Child said. "We did look at this salary in light of our funding issues," he said, but also in light of a teacher shortage.

Whether teachers' salaries should be cut does need to be discussed, he said, but it should be in the context of the overall cuts the district will be making.

"We'd like to think at least we're keeping up with the cost of living," he said.

The Bay Area CPI, according to information given out at the school board meeting, was 2.3 percent in 2014-15 and 2.7 percent in 2015-16, but Mr. Child said he believes the cost of living, especially rents and home prices, has risen even more locally.

The new salary schedule places the lowest-paid first-year teachers, with a bachelor's degree and no additional education, at $59,662 a year. After 10 years, with no additional education, that teacher would make $77,500 a year (or $91,820 with 10 years of experience and 45 additional units of education). The highest-paid district teachers, with 22 years of experience and 90 units of additional education, make $118,323 a year. Teachers also receive a stipend of $1,750 a year for a master's degree and $1,500 a year for a bilingual certification.

Compared with other local school districts (Las Lomitas, Belmont, Hillsborough, Woodside and Palo Alto), according to information provided to the Menlo Park board, the Menlo Park district's salaries generally ranked at about third out of six in 2015-16, although the district's maximum contribution to benefits was the lowest of the districts compared.

The district also approved a contract for Superintendent Maurice Ghysels for a base salary of $235,205 annually and a $5,737 bonus for the 2015-16 school year. The superintendent last received a raise in May 2015, to $229,468 a year.

Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations official, received a raise to $187,466 a year and a bonus of $4,530.

Erik Burmeister, the assistant superintendent, received a raise to $192,045 a year with a $4,641 bonus.

The contracts can be found online (Item VII).

Background material is in this report.

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Stephanie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2016 at 11:16 am

I support giving teachers raises.

I don't believe that the reason is to attract talent. How many applications does the district receive for each K-5 position? If the district wants to give raises to show support of the amazing teachers, then just say that. Our teachers are terrific and we want to reward them and to support their quality of life. Scare tactics are not the way to go and it simply isn't true that there is a shortage of teachers applying to MPCSD. Let's get the numbers and see.

I support giving teachers raises.

I don't support doing it and then very shortly thereafter holding a gun to the voter's heads and saying, "We're broke". Could the raises have waited a little bit?

If yes, then they should have. If no, that’s OK too but then the board needs to balance the budget with what is has (assuming it can replace the existing expiring tax).

It's not fair to cry for help (i.e. a new tax, bigger than the existing one) if it was that urgent to pass the raise NOW.


1 person likes this
Posted by JAL
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

I am not commenting on how hard teachers work nor their raise. I am commenting on the lack of TRANSPARENCY of the board.

It seems that the board is rushing for no reason. New board members are coming in and that provides an opportunity for the public to voice it's opinion by electing someone to do what it wants.

Question: The raise has to be now in Sept. and not January. when there is more certainly about the direction?
The public didn't even had a chance to comment because the decision was made to give the raise before the meeting even started.

Question: The new supt. has to be appointed now in October and not January, when the new board has started?
His contract is already drafted (wouldn't need it until just before April) and the public hasn't even weighed in!

The school board needs to slow down and simply trust that the public will speak through the candidates it selects, but perhaps that is exactly what they are afraid of.....


14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Menlo Man is a registered user.

"The public didn't even had a chance to comment because the decision was made to give the raise before the meeting even started."

Almanac readers, the statement above by JAL is ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT and FALSE . The tentative contract agreement between the district and teachers was made public, and up for public comment, at the September 13th school board meeting. Look at the board agenda below, it's item XI , and the public discussion happened at 8:40 pm on 9/13/16.

Web Link

The September 13th board meeting agenda was made public on September 9th. I received an email of the agenda, and it was posted on the district website.

As per usual , there was one member of the public who spoke about the contract agreement on Sept. 13th.

Almanac readers need to carefully consider the comments in these forums. They are often fraught with inaccuracies, misinformation, and intentional exaggerations. There is no conspiracy by the school board to mislead the public, they act within the law, and community members need to take responsibility and be informed about what is going on in MPCSD.



12 people like this
Posted by Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Menlo Man is a registered user.

To add further clarification :

MPCSD teachers were "awarded" (great word choice there Barbara, maybe "earned" is more like it?) a ZERO percent on-the-salary-schedule increase for the 2015-16 school year. Yes for 2015-16 they received a 2.5% bonus, which on a 100k salary is $2,500 . After they pay 9% of it to their retirement , and 30% to the government, they take maybe $1,600 ? How far does $1,600 go when the cost of living increased by 2.7% in that same year?

And the 2.5% salary schedule increase they are receiving for 2016-17 is .2% higher than the Bay Area CPI of 2.3%

So can we stop calling this a "raise" and "bonus"for teachers?


3 people like this
Posted by JAL
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Menlo Man,

Making something public and actually considering anything that is said are two different things. I heard a board member say at the 9/13 meeting, “The topic of the raise is being agendized and discussed at NEXT week's meeting.” So while it was "there" at the meeting on 9/13, it was not up for discussion. Then on 9/20, at the meeting apparently designated for this topic, it was agendized but had already been decided prior to the meeting. If the vote was to occur on 9/20, then why wasn't the discussion held the week prior? Why did the board suggest the time and place for that was on 9/20? What good is an input session that asks for input 10 minutes before the vote?

It is unclear when the board intended to hear and discuss the public’s comments on this topic.

The decision is not being criticized Menlo Man, but the process is.
The Almanac published nothing about the 9/20 meeting and when I inquired as to why, I was told that they hadn't heard about it. Why hasn't the Almanac heard about such meetings?


Bottom line:
Teachers got a raise which you correctly stated they "earned".
The board, not the public, made that decision.

Positives likely to come from that: Teachers are supported and can/will continue to deliver the high quality instruction that have always delivered.

Negatives likely to come from that: The board put the cart before the horse and needs to be able to balance the budget with whatever the public is comfortable giving (without post facto scare tactics to increase giving).



46 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Well then, so much for those arguments that MPCSD hasn't been getting raises/bonuses.

If a parcel tax is put back on the ballot next year, it will be rejected.

A temporary, small parcel tax could have been a possibility provided everyone made small concessions: staff and teachers getting smaller raises (or a freeze) than in the past few years, slightly larger class sizes (+1 to 3 students); if there was still a projected deficit, have a temporary, small parcel tax (on top of the 3 permanent ones already in place) to make up the difference.

But not any more.


51 people like this
Posted by The Onion
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:21 pm

This is too funny. Unbelievable. I thought it was April Fools Day or a Headline from the Onion. But it's not. To have this article and its headline right next to this headline "Menlo Park City School District ponders how cuts could affect looming deficit". So I see now. The School District is soooooo worried about deficits, the first thing they do is award themselves all pay raises and bonus'. We should add a new motto next to their crest "I got mine". Do not dare come around my house with your hat in hand asking for a new Parcel Tax, because its for the KIDS. LMAO.


4 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

Just a clarification about the Almanac's advance reporting of meeting agendas in the paper. The Menlo Park City School District meets on Tuesdays, with the agenda usually available the Friday before. The Almanac comes out on Wednesdays, after the meetings, so it is almost never possible for us to announce the agenda of an upcoming meeting in advance, in the paper.


22 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

These across the board and retroactive salary increases simply prove that the School Board is tone deaf to the concerns of the community which it serves - that community is all of the residents not just the students, staff and parents of students.

The issues that I formally submitted to the Board on 10 May 2016 were not even placed on the Board's agenda until 20 Sept 2016 and then the questions were kicked down the road with a referral to the Finance Committee.

There will be NO voter approval for a new parcel tax until the Board starts listening to their very concerned tax payers and then acts on what they have heard.


15 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Peter F. Carpenter
10 Mav 2016
Dr. Maurice Ghysels
Superintendent
Menlo Park City School District
Dear Dr. Ghyles,
In your capacity as Secretary of the Board this is a formal written request for the placement of the following item on the Board's agenda for its regular June meeting as an Action Item:
Review, Revise and Approve the following draft policy statements in response to the
decisions of the citizens to not approve Measure A and Measure C :
1 - The Board acknowledges that there is a need for improved interaction and
communication regarding MPCSD with the community, particularly with those taxpayers who do not have children in MPCSD schools,
2 -The Board is committed to full transparency as we move forward including but not limited to implementation of a redesigned web site that includes and makes easy to find all of the MPCSD financial, enrollment, academic performance, e-mail communications,compensation and union contract information,
3 - The Board will consider a Single Parcel Tax measure for a General Election that supersedes all of the current parcel taxes and which has a 6 year expiration date,(Note: The Board would be well advised to establish an Ad Hoc Committee of two Board Members and a number of citizens not affiliated with the District to recommend the specific amount of such a consolidated parcel tax and the election at which it shouldbe considered by the voters.)
4 - The Board recognizes the potential value of sharing services with adjacent elementary school districts and of possible mergers with those adjacent elementary school districts.
Recognizing the procedural difficulties of merging school districts, the Board will immediately begin exploring entering into shared services agreements for functions such as Finance, Human Resources, IT and Facilities with one or more of our adjacent elementary school districts.


18 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Peter F. Carpenter
May 10,2016
Dr. Maurice Ghysels
Superintendent
Menlo Park City School District
Dear Dr. Ghyles,
In your capacity as Secretary of the Board this is a formal written request for the placement of the following item on the Board's agenda for its regular June meeting as an Action ltem:
Review and Approve answers to the following questions:
1- What percentage of new age eligible children moving into the MPCSD is projected to attend MPCSD schools?
2 - Would new out of district students have been counted as increased enrollments under Measure C thereby causing every parcel to pay an additional tax for these out of District students?
3 - Why are the District's $130+ million bond revenues not reflected in some manner in the calculation of revenue per student?
4 - Why have FIVE parcel taxes than NEVER expire rather than ONE consolidated
parcel tax?
5 - Why not have every MPCSD parcel tax be subject to renewal by the voters on a
periodic basis?
6 - Why assume unrealistically,low property tax revenues increases?
7 - How many out of district children of MPCSD staff are currently enrolled in MPCSD schools?
8 - At $17k per student what is the cost of this benefit?
9 - Where does this expense show up in the MPCSD budget?
- Is it included in the $7 million+ Benefits line item?
10 - Is this benefit reflected in the compensation analysis of the staff?
11 - Is this benefit taxable income to the recipients?
12 - There are 58(?) non-Tinsley, no-Ravenswood students at MPCSD that come from
outside the District. At the claimed $l7klstudent who is paying the $1 million/year cost of these students?
13 - How many Tinsley transfers resulted in the related S804,860 Ongoing State Funds revenue item?
14 - How much do their residence districts pay to MPCSD for Non-Tinsley transfers?
15 - Why does the "Expenditure - Salaries & Benefits" line item - not include pass through of state contribution to STRS on behalf of district employees?
l7 - Why would Measure C have charged taxpayers over $l7k per new student when the current revenue per student is $13,006?
18 - Why are the taxpayers' annual Bond repayment taxes not included in the District's financial information?


23 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To show how totally out of touch this Board is the LATEST minutes of their meetings that are posted on their web site is:


2015-16 School Year Minutes

March 10, 2016 Regular Board Meeting
APPROVED 3.10.16 Regular Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 117.52 KB (Last Modified on May 10, 2016)

Their meetings are not video taped and no recordings of their meetings are available to the public and the approved minutes do not include any insight to how they reached any of their decisions.


24 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

The board still doesn't get it.


4 people like this
Posted by JAL
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Barbara, what date was The Almanac made aware of the vote for compensation increase?
Are you saying it wasn't published because it was decided less than a week before or it wasn't published because you were not told about it as soon as it was se? (i.e. The Almanac was not informed).


It makes a difference. I don't think the public knew about this meeting and I don't think they knew because you didn't know with enough notice to publish it. Is that correct?


5 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 24, 2016 at 11:45 pm

My opinions about the parcel tax and this pay raise aside, I can't for the life of me figure out why people who don't live in Menlo Park, and who don't pay taxes that feed into MPCSD, are so exorcised about our school district and its governing board. Aren't there issues in your own town(s) that you can concern yourself with? Can't you leave Menlo Park affairs to the residents of Menlo Park? A lot of this just feels like pot-stirring, and makes me wonder about your motivations and agenda.


39 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Sep 25, 2016 at 1:20 am

@hellohanalei

Based on how every poster identified themselves, every poster lives in Menlo Park and/or within mpcsd.

The only poster that MAY not live within mpcsd is Menlo Man ("Menlo park, other"), but I welcome his comments, even if I respectfully disagree with some points.


39 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2016 at 8:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

HH writes"Can't you leave Menlo Park affairs to the residents of Menlo Park?"

The first requirement about posting about MPCSD is some small understanding of the district:

"The Menlo Park Elementary School District serves parts of Menlo Park, Atherton and unincorporated San Mateo County."

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 25, 2016 at 11:52 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

JAL -
I receive notice of school board meetings at the same time as everyone else, which is pretty much always too late to get into our print edition for upcoming meetings that happen on Tuesdays. The district distributes and posts online its agendas and supporting materials on Fridays before Tuesday meetings.
Unfortunately, I was on vacation the week of the Sept. 13 board meeting, when the issue of employee contracts was discussed for the first time, so I was playing a little catch-up myself. I figured the more important issue at the Sept. 20 meeting was the budget shortfall, so that is what I gave priority to in the story I posted online before the meeting.
There was no failure on the district's part to disclose that the subject of employee contracts was to be discussed at either the Sept. 13 or Sept. 20 meeting.


20 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2016 at 8:55 am

I don't think I laughed so hard as when I read The Onions post. Bravo!!!!!

So... how much was added to the district's budget with this simple vote of the board? Given staff is about 90% of the total district's operating budget, I have to assume it totaled a pretty good sum of money that the taxpayers are now committed to funding.

Something is going to need to give with the budget issues and it is NOT all going to be shouldered by the taxpayers. It is about living within your means and choosing where to put one's dollars. Staff raises maybe the place to focus but it means something else will need to be reduced(i.e. larger class sizes, reduced enrichment programs, etc.). Every other civic entity must balance their budgets without always going to the taxpayer (City of Menlo Park, Fire District, Community College District, etc.) why does the MPCSD Board feel they are exempt from imposing some form of fiscal constraint.


7 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm

The timing and optics of these raises/bonuses looks terrible.


7 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"The timing and optics of these raises/bonuses looks terrible."

Ya think?


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note this response to my 16 May 2016 email to the Board President regarding the negotiations which were underway as a direct consequence of the Board's decision to seek two parcel taxes via a mail ballot. Before the election was even held the union made clear that they wanted a salary increase and they wanted it to be retroactive to last year. After both parcel taxes failed the Board continued to negotiate a retroactive salary increase that then applied to every district employee. All of this with a funding deficit.

Amazing.

*************

On May 19, 2016, at 5:39 PM, Maurice Ghysels <mghysels@mpcsd.org> wrote:

Hello Peter,

In response to your email to Board President, Jeff Child (see below), public employee collective bargaining is a regulated process. The District must comply with applicable rules relating to the manner in which it makes an offer to its unionized employees, and will do so. Variance from the required process exposes the District to accusations that it is bargaining improperly, and that includes making public commitments outside of the official negotiation procedures. We intend to comply with all of the rules for ‘sunshining’ the District’s offer at the appropriate time.

Best regards,

Maurice
____
Dr. Maurice Ghysels
Superintendent
Menlo Park School District

Every child achieves academic excellence
Every child becomes emotionally and physically stronger
Every child discovers and grows their talents


From: Peter Carpenter
Date: May 16, 2016 at 4:16:10 PM PDT
To: JChild@mpcsd.org

Subject: Teachers' Contract

President Childs,

I note that both the Redwood City and Palo Alto School Boards have just approved pay increases retroactive to July 2015.

I also note the the MPCSD Teachers’ Union has on 8 January 2016 reopened their current contract and on 20 January 2016 notified the Board that it “intends to negotiate a fair and equitable increase to the CURRENT salary schedule.”

Has the District begun renegotiations of the current contract?

Has the District sought public input on what should principles should guide the District’s negotiations?

Will the District agree to make any salary increases retroactive?

Will the Board provide the public with an extended opportunity (beyond the 72 hours required by the Brown Act) to review and comment on any proposed contract changes before the Board considers such changes?

Thank you,


Peter Carpenter


1 person likes this
Posted by It's your fault
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm

I'm surprised you folks have allowed this situation to develop. I know a lot of smart people in Menlo Park, but you would not know it by the hiring. Even now, desperate parents and board members are looking to promote Erik Burmeister simply because of superficial factors. Let him compete again other candidates.


12 people like this
Posted by Michael E.
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 27, 2016 at 10:17 pm


I understand the optics may look 'bad', but let's dissect what teacher's received and stop blaming them.

Despite cost of living increases far outpacing salary growth, the teachers negotiated an extremely modest increase for one school year and a salary freeze for the other. These two years were negotiated in good faith despite not having to lock in 2016-2017 until later this year. This salary freeze on the schedule (during an unprecedented amount of economic growth in the bay area no less with rent increases pushing teachers out of even the once affordable Redwood City area) is now being criticized by the some here because it included a one-time 2.5% bonus...something that amounts to about $1800 for the entire year with no ongoing salary schedule increase? That average over the 2-year contract is a 1.25% on the salary schedule....not even enough to sniff cost of living increases, let alone be commensurate with their performance. Teachers have already begun leaving with at least one at the middle school level, a nationally board certified English teacher, leaving for a closer commute. Are we really going to start a trend of asking teachers to commute from the outskirts of the bay area? Are we so afraid of even 2.5% or openly discussing salary increases that keep MP competitive with Santa Clara county (closer to the affordability zone) as well show our appreciation as a community for raising our current, past, and future children?

I understand that some of the electorate have strong conservative views towards government spending (i.e.....less is more is none is better) and some have valid concerns about more transparency, but it's time we firmly step back from the comments about teacher's taking a paltry 2.5% raise over 2 years which included a salary freeze as worthy of our criticism. Worse, I see that Caroline Lucas once again brought up the issue of teachers sending their kids to MPCSD as a valid concern. What a joke! Does anyone take her seriously? These are human beings, with families, and you are worried about the cost of their children attending the school district as if it's some Sherlock Holmes discovery? Do you know why it isn't brought up? The majority of the residents avoid extremist point of views and stick to pragmatic solutions like 'more transparency', an expiration date on the measure, and an effort to continue our thriving programs while making equally modest cuts to inefficiency.

We all have our priorities as to where we'd want our money invested in students. I respect the many differing views as to how that money should be spent. We can continue to disagree here, in public comment at meetings, and even in an election. Thank you for your time.


3 people like this
Posted by Stephanie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 2:31 am

As I said in an earlier post, I support giving teachers raises. Who is blaming the teachers? I didn't see that in any post.

While I was unable to attend the session to which you refer Michael, I think it’s fair bring up anything that impacts the budget. Furlough days, length of kinder day, encouraging early retirement, have all come up as points to consider and the cost of employee’s children to the taxpayers is just another area of the budget that at least needs to be considered. While I personally support retaining our outstanding teachers, we have to be willing to cut something else if we want to offer that benefit. I do not propose what that something else is but if the parents say no to class size or program cuts (which they likely will) and also want to support teachers with salaries and perks that they deserve (which they likely will), that leaves everyone else who is not a teacher nor parent, footing the bill.

Simply put, from where is it going to come….?

The parents would have to give up a lot or the teachers would have to give up a lot (which is also forcing the students to give up a lot) but right now it seems that the only ones who are being asked to give a lot are the taxpayers. So, MPCSD needs to make the cuts to the programs that they have to make or they need to consider pay raises OR employee perks. It’s unfair to expect the taxpayers to make all the sacrifices and if put to the test, and pushed to the limit, there is a real risk that NO parcel tax will pass including a small replacement tax.

I recommend that you don’t take personally the ideas that are put out there because at this stage in the game, every possible way to save needs to be put on the table and putting these ideas out there doesn’t mean they have to be implemented but it will help us think outside the box and come up with creative solutions that allow the pinch to be more evenly shared by school community and community at large. At the meeting I did attend, I heard many ideas for saving tossed around and I don't assume that the individuals who put them out, Joan and Maria, were suggesting them but rather saying, "they should be looked into as cost saving ideas".

I think our teachers work hard and are supported. I hope that they stay supported but I also support looking at everything before putting out a large parcel tax. After all, WE are the ones paying it long after they have retired and their children have come and gone.....

Thanks for writing.


3 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 6:24 am

There was plenty of transparency here: the teacher's contract was agendized for discussion only at the 9/13 meeting and was agendized for a vote at the 9/20 meeting. It's fine if you want to disagree with the board's judgement that providing a modest adjustment to maintaining competitive teacher compensation, but please stop with the false attacks on "transparency". I agree that the most important thing is the quality of teaching, and I think that's hard to do if make teacher's have an incentive to go work in other districts.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2016 at 7:22 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

facts:

it is not false that this board acts opaquely. A perfect example is the appointment of Burmeister. The board already made him an offer and wrote him a contract before ever presenting it to the public. Never mind the likely Brown act violations that had to occur for that to happen, I'd hardly call putting a done deal before the public for their comments transparent. This board even acknowledged after their parcel tax loss that they needed to operate with more transparency, so it is not a false attack. It's a FACT.


7 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 28, 2016 at 8:46 am

I don't think you can call the teacher's contract negotiations "transparent" when all discussions of the actual contract occur in closed sessions. The contracts are only presented for public comment when all the terms are finalized and to be voted upon. The board and union can decide to to open the sessions to the public, they always choose NOT to. Any possibility of public input is merely a show.

While good teachers definitely deserve a raise and high salaries, it should be based on merit. Blanket raises for everyone regardless of performance, even retroactive, across the board, is ridiculous. No private company runs this way and expects to stay in business. Of course, they don't have taxpayers to turn to whenever they overspend to ask for more money.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The teachers' union obviously came to the table early this year with a proposal.

What was the District's counter proposal?

Was the District's counter proposal developed AFTER getting input from the people who will have to pay the bill?

Was the District's counter proposal changed after the parcel taxes failed?

Why did the District start negotiating a new agreement before the outcome of the parcel tax election was known?

These are just some of the troubling questions that remain unanswered.


2 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

I think the title of the article in the 9/22 Daily Post summed up the frustration of so many residents and why there is a new voice of reason speaking out against unrestrained fiscal spending - "Budget cuts? No, let’s raise pay".

Regarding the transparency of the Board. It seems to me that the board in the past was transparent from the standpoint that they met the legal requirements of making information public but never went beyond that. I think the Board and the administration is now trying to figure out how to work in this new environment where social media has made it a lot easier to share information and opinions. Gone are the days where they really only needed to respond to the parent/teacher requests.

And Michael E. - You may not like the comment by the one candidate, but at least the candidate is putting out ideas for discussion and consideration. I have not heard from one other candidate either at meetings or in the papers talk about where they think the district should look for the reductions needed to balance the budget in 5 years other than let's ask the children what is important to them. If they think the solution is to ask voters to bail out the district, then they are in for a rude awakening.


4 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

There is a lot of good community feedback here however I encourage anyone who is concerned with the current budget issues and potential for another parcel tax to be put before the voters to share their thoughts and ideas on the feedback form set up by the district.

Web Link

It is important that the broader district residents provide input and not just current parents in the district.

As always, please continue to share your concerns and ideas here. They are being ready by not only the broader community but also the district and board.


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I think we are missing the fundamental question - it is NOT how much an individual teacher is paid but rather how much the entire community is prepared to pay for a very good elementary education system.


The current modus operandi is to maximize the quality of the education and then just give the resulting bill, including signed contracts, to the taxpayers.

Most well run organizations start with their revenue and then adjust their expenses accordingly.


1 person likes this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:30 am

Peter, everyone knows that you do not value our schools being able to maintain equivalent programs to those in our neighboring comparable districts such as Las Lomitas and Palo Alto. You want to pay our teachers less. You want to raise class sizes, etc. [part removed.] Do you also advocate for paying firefighters less than nearby comparable fire districts?


11 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Wow Facts. Now you are attaching the person verses debating the issues.

Also, lets stop comparing with other districts.
1) Las Lomitas has a student body of about 1,400 verse MPCSD with about 2,900
2) Palo Alto is a K through 12 district and having the high school in the mix inflates the per student spending. MPCSD is only K-8.
3) It is all relative. If we compared ourselves with Ravenswood, Redwood City and Mt. View, we would look stellar.


20 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is useful to get one's facts straight:

Our son went to Encinal and then MA and then to Harvard.

We have never exercised our senior exemption from the school parcel taxes.

We have contributed to the MAEF.

I have always supported high quality public education - Gold is fine but not Platinum.
****************
This Almanac article describes well the Fire District's experience including SEVEN YEARS without a contract OR a pay raise because your elected Fire Board refused the former union leaders demand for an excessive increase and a contractual obligation to pay above the average of a number of other fire agencies:


Web Link

The agreement process began with a public meeting where the Board solicited guidance from the public on what the public wanted to see in a new contract and ended with a tentative agreement that was publicly posted for 30 days before it was acted on by the Fire Board. The resulting agreement was fair, equitable and
could be supported by property tax revenues without a parcel tax. The contract includes a stipend for firefighters choosing to live within 60 miles of the district, starting at $200 a month and rising to $300 by the end of the contract.

We have the greatest firefighters in the country and we get more than 100 applicants for every vacancy - without paying over the top salaries.


31 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Congratulations to Laurel Elementary School for being selected as a National Blue Ribbon winner - one of only 33 winners in California.


29 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Sep 28, 2016 at 5:56 pm

"neighboring comparable districts such as Las Lomitas and Palo Alto"

Those are not good comparables. This has been discussed many times.

I keep seeing the same narrative from the more-parcel-taxes crowd: cherrypicking their "comparable districts" with districts of substantially different sizes and scope.

When you compare MPCSD with truer comparables (elementary school districts of comparable size and quality-of-education), MPCSD looks well-funded: looking at truer comparables in the Bay Area, only Roseland in Sonoma county gets more funding per student: Web Link


"You want to pay our teachers less."

Nobody has said they want teachers to take a cut in pay, in fact many believe it's important to contain costs now to PREVENT salary cuts and cuts in the # of teachers.


"You want to raise class sizes"

Well, that may need to be the case, but we'll see; the administration and teachers union have more say about that than anyone posting here.

Also, keep in mind that class sizes are also a function of the number of actual classroom that physically exist. If student population growth is as large as MPCSD is projecting, then that may need to be a reality regardless.

Again, I find it troubling that the pro-more-taxes crowd, the administration, the school board, and the teachers union appear unwilling to work with the community on finding a middle ground were all parties help a little in order to prevent a financial problem. They want to spend as usual.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

facts:

perhaps you should try sticking to them instead of attacking the messenger. Everything you said in your last post is not factual.


52 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:02 pm

I've read through most of the comments and attended a few of the board meetings over the past few years.

I'll summarize my positions.

**I support keeping the majority of our programs intact because they are incredible programs that have only improved over the past half decade. This district is top notch and I want to keep it that way.

**I support a more open/transparent process. I'm seeing steps in the right direction on that front and am looking forward to Erik Burmeister taking over as he seems to get this and does a good job at balancing the needs of the students, staff, and community.

**I support teacher raises and will gladly pay to have them increased. I think teachers are vastly underpaid for their work and I disagree with the comments that it is poor 'optics' for a tiny raise that is spread over two school years. From what I understand, this is well below average for districts, especially those that are getting the national recognition like ours and it's obvious that it barely covers basic cost of living increases.

**I support modest reductions/cuts in some areas if necessary, but I do not support increased class sizes or cutting/freezing salaries. I wouldn't mind the district take a look at administrative overhead, district positions, some technology use/pilots, etc. It's a healthy exercise to be more efficient, but unlike a business, they are producing a high quality product without the benefit of easily producing additional revenue. A public school system, especially a basic aid community funded school district, cannot go out and get new investors who believe in their product, charge parents additional tuition/entrance fees, or get corporate sponsorships/backers. It's going to be tax payers and it has been for decades. It's a healthy symbiotic relationships and one that I think will continue to benefit the citizens of Menlo Park (those with children and without), the students, and the staff of our wonderful campuses.

You may disagree with me, but that's why we vote and that's why we discuss. You aren't going to change my mind and I'm unlikely to change yours and that's okay. Sometimes, we speak up in a respectful and courteous way both on the record (at the meeting) and off (here) to help balance out the perspective.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

SEC - are you a parent who is benefiting from the taxes paid by others or are you a non-parent taxpayer?

It is awfully easy to suggest that others pay for something that benefits only a few.


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

SEC:

Thoughtful comments. Unfortunately, we can't have everything we want. We have an outstanding school district, but what matters in producing results is not the school, the outstanding teachers or the gold plated facilities. It is parental involvement in their childrens' education. That said, if class sizes were to increase I don't think it would make a dime's worth of difference in student performance. Parents will make sure of that. If the primary determinate in educational performance is parental involvement and income, why do we taxpayers need to pay for platinum schools? We could pay for silver and have the same outcome. If the kids are getting a lot of exposure to programs other kids in other districts don't, then let the parents pay for it if they think it's that important.

Bottom line, the parents of this district want it all and want the other taxpayers of this district to pay for it. Never mind much of what they want isn't really necessary to a quality education. They're "nice to haves." The parents need to pay for the "nice to haves" and stop asking the rest of us to pay for them.


5 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:43 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

"It is awfully easy to suggest that others pay for something that benefits only a few."

This comment leaves me gobsmacked. We *all* support programs that benefit only a few, by virtue of paying our income and Social Security taxes, and I for one do so gladly. That's what a social compact is all about. People can, and clearly do, have strong opinions about how MPCSD is run and how its budget is allocated, but this kind of thinking should not enter the equation. A strong and robust public school system benefits EVERYONE in the community, and to think or act otherwise is incredibly short sighted.


20 people like this
Posted by Brandon C.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2016 at 7:30 am

" A strong and robust public school system benefits EVERYONE in the community".

No one would disagree with that. The question is, how much does it take to have a strong and robust public school system and could MPCSD have one if it didn't reach out for more funding?

I would argue that the district wouldn't become weak and frail without more parcel taxes.
I would argue that it wouldn't become even mediocre.
In fact, our district is so strong that even with more modest spending, we still have a stronger district than many others. Even Erik said that in MPCSD we offer the same if not more, than other districts with less funding than other districts.


30 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 7:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

HH- You missed the essential point. We all pay for very good elementary schools via our property taxes. And MPCSD's property tax revenues are significant, rising and greater than many other similar size districts.

The issue is how much MORE everyone should pay for a few parents to have their children receive not just silver or gold but platinum educations.


35 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 7:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We all need to realize that doing across the board raises the way that MPCSD has just done puts teachers and administrators first rather than students first.

The teachers and administrators now have their raises and ALL future cuts must come from student programs.

These are the WRONG priorities.


4 people like this
Posted by Tripp
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

People need to realize that you can't put students first if you don't value their teachers. With the cost of living skyrocketing around here, teachers (and police and firefighters and nurses...) need to be compensated well or they will leave the area. That will leave us with under-qualified people in those roles.


Like this comment
Posted by susan smith
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

1. Underfunded Pension Obligations
2. impending long term zero interest rates and the effects on Calpers/Calstrs....

Current Budget Shortfalls and a California law which can not change the deals you all strike.... 5 parcel taxes....

New buildings and paying fields and concert centers...... for what?


Who is in charge of finance over there?


12 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

I value teachers, but what I value more that the district remain financially solvent.

If I'm a teacher and applying to join MPCSD, I see the district pays a lot now. That's a positive.

But then when I look at the board's financial projections, I don't see how MPCSD maintains that level of pay for the next five years, much less beyond. And that doesn't take into account if property tax growth stalls. That's a negative. I would rather go to a district that pays less, but has term stability.

Moreover, in the case of new teachers, a lack of long term stability is the biggest turnoff. The first teachers laid off during a financial shortfall are the least tenured ones. For new teachers, it's critically important to choose a district with great long term prospects.

Parents who value teachers to focus on long term financial stability as the most important way to attract and retain quality teachers. A small pay raise today means little if it means the risk of layoffs in a few years.


36 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2016 at 6:36 pm

I respectfully disagree with Peter on most of his views/points and that's what makes our democracy great. I don't see the world through the lens in which he sees government or public education for that matter. We can disagree on the role of government, taxes, and the purpose of education and vote accordingly. I certainly don't need to put you on the defensive or offensive to try to sway hearts and minds of those that have theirs made up. Menlo Voter, we may not always get what we want, but I am actually in the 40+% that supported the last measure without a sunset, and will support the next measure most likely with a sunset. You can discuss all the things about Cadillac education and gold and silver education, but these are just generalizations and opinions of one perspective, no better or worse than mine, only different. I'm pretty confident I understand your PoV Menlo Voter, and I'm pretty sure I know you as I recognized a very similarly worded argument at the comments. I disagree. I don't see it the way you see it. I disagree that class sizes should increase. It makes a difference to me with or without children. Quality educators who can live and work near their communities has been proven quite effective. Programs that enrich all students/future citizens of our great country should be encouraged and supported within reasonable costs, not put on a chopping block. The burden of tax payers is where we can disagree, but for the record, I have no problem paying taxes and supporting these programs. We happen to disagree on how taxes are used and I respect your attitude towards not wanting to pay for what you consider to be non essentials. I happen to view them as essentials, with or without children in the district. I will vote in favor of them when they come and I'm confident you will vote against. I think it is healthy that we disagree on this topic and neither of us are right or wrong....just different perspectives.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 29, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

" I think it is healthy that we disagree on this topic and neither of us are right or wrong....just different perspectives"

Agreed. Thank you for your thoughtful and civil discourse.


51 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2016 at 8:13 pm

I find myself disagreeing time and time again with Peter's views and approach to the role of government. This isn't a bad thing! I'm sure, all arguments aside, he still has respect for different perspectives. I also know that a history of dealing in a world where he has demonstrated his desire for less government, a distrust of unions, and fairly conservative, fairly rigid positions that fit snugly with a particular set of views. I don't fault him. Many a career/life is spent first loosely shaping, then forming, and finally cementing said beliefs for a lifetime of pursuits. The smarter one is....sometimes, the more impenetrable their worldview becomes. A combination of the two is a recipe for a very successful debater or businessman, but with the drawbacks that come with it....an inability to resist the trap of cognitive dissonance. With old age, such views are Fort Knox.

We have a fairly divided population and I don't find him right or wrong in his views. We're just...quite different. I can give him credit for being fairly consistent. Article after article, issue after issue, I can safely and accurately predict his position on the role of government. He puts it out there. This doesn't make for a very interesting discussion or a very healthy policymaker, but it does set up some interesting resistors that will force reflection, a healthy side effect. What he lacks in imagination, he makes up for in consistency. Frankly, I find his views are a bit dated and out of touch in my humble opinion, but that's just my view and is not representative of the discourse. I don't fault anyone for being intelligent and fierce in their 'battle'-like approach to life, seeing others as the 'enemy' and setting up the occasional straw man to blast through. It actually makes life a lot simpler to create a lens to view all decisions and pick battles (in his case, government) to occupy one's time. I can't fault someone for using his or her talents and even with the obvious flaws mentioned, his is at least somewhat articulate and thoughtful in how he presents his views and certainly spends his time informing himself, arming himself to a degree, as he prepares. Admirable and appreciated as the only thing worse than a 'gorilla dance' argument is an uninformed 'gorilla dance' argument.

Most citizens are not up for debate or reflection. They ignore the gorilla dance and vote through a different lense, but I've met quite a few where the item du jour becomes 'sport' and cognitive dissonance takes complete control in any argument. Remember, in any argument, there is no true winner in any given situation if you ascribe to Carnegie, and that is why I will often allow my opposition to 'proceed' rather than combat as it proves far more useful to listen and allow the other to express their anxiety, resentment, annoyance, or grievance in a respectful manner. I certainly don't give in to bait or a line of questioning that only serves nobody (or almost nobody).

How we differ? I wouldn't call Peter wrong as I'd hope he would extend the same courtesy to anyone who disagrees with him. I'm not wrong. He's not wrong. The 40%+ who voted for the last measure aren't wrong. We just see things differently. It's fairly difficult to be wrong on a such a nuanced issue of the role of government, taxpayers, public education, and how citizens fit into the picture. Without pigeon holing Mr. Carpenter, it would be easy to predict what some citizens would argue. I'm not saying he is any of these things, but for arguments sake, let's predict what a staunch conservative or even a libertarian would prefer in our current school districts situation. I've heard every argument over my many years whether it is here in Menlo Park or just casually chatting up some friends from the east coast.... from "Charter schools are the answer" to "Public Schools should not exist" and even "The community will solve the problem when it arises".

It is most definitely neither Peter's nor my place to state with certainty what constitutes essential programs for our schools and children or whether or not one thinks anyone without children benefitting should even be required to pay a 'dime' of education. He believes he shouldn't pay for anything that he believes is non-essential and he believes spending should be reigned in to an unspecified degree one that is satisfactory to him. We all have different views, opinions, and dots of where we'd place that marker of essential vs. non-essential, and what we'd be willing to pay vs. not pay. Some would say "nothing" and others, as demonstrated by the 40%, would clearly pay quite a bit. This provides quite an interesting spectrum of voters.

It's obvious I disagree with such positions, but that doesn't mean we can't allow for civil discourse such as Peter's to voice his concerns. I think it's a wonderful representation of our democracy to continue this discussions year after year and shape our city's future.

What is essential? What is fair and competitive pay? What is 'platinum, gold, and silver educations' look like? We could spend all day taking our turn with such questions.... elaborating, pontificating, and dare I say, preaching to an audience that is balancing the many nuances of such decisions and discussions. Some would even reflect and reshape a view which, let's be honest, is a bit more indicative of their fluidity than a septuagenarian who has fairly well documented stances on such issues. Everyone gets a voice. Everyone gets their opinion. We don't need to discuss how we disagree on the essentials of public education anymore than we need to discuss why any septuagenarian should get to decide the next generations future.

Each question leads us down a new road and yet, Peter knows as well as I that we aren't going to convince each other. We know that cognitive dissonance exists and that as we encounter very essential challenging questions that force us to reconsider our views, our ideologies....our brain will no doubt begin to reject/shut down by degrees our capability of open mindedness. At this point in your life, I'm fairly certain that not much is going to change any more than your brand loyalty of toothpaste and I do not fault you for that. We need to stay true to our convictions.

Truthfully, you've given me more of an understanding by taking a few minutes to see your history on such topics. Peter's perspectives have been shared upon the residents already over the years, advocating on behalf of what he feels is right even though right/wrong have little to do with such a discussion. After all, we aren't talking corruption, malpractice, or evildoings where righteousness can embolden even an average, mild tempered keyboard warrior. While it is near impossible to prove the mindset of someone else, there is enough to look at even in the most basic of google searches to see a glimpse of the predictable pursuits of Peter and draw conclusions.

A Sequoia Union lawsuit about open government from 2010?
Web Link

Firefighters salaries and an open resentment towards their union?
Web Link

What is interesting is that his same almanac co-poster Menlo Voter is there advocating for Peter Carpenter in what is seemingly a relationship that goes beyond a comment section. This is over 3 years ago!

We could go on, but I do think predictability is an important measure of trying to determine those residents who are invested in the conversation towards common ground versus those that are invested towards only their own perspective with fairly well documented views on the role of government, taxpayer, and unions.

I prefer more pragmatic solutions from more diplomatic policymakers that are more fluid in their views. I'm sure Peter and I could get along just fine as two ivy league graduates, but I can't say for certain that we'd find much common ground on these important issues. I'm glad he has posted so much on this topic because understanding the mindset of another, even when you have a different perspective and approach, allows one to develop patience and empathy for our fellow man.

Sun Tzu would have a few insights as well as to the benefit of knowing one's opposite. I'm sure a response (or two, or three, or four....) will shortly come as Peter's do seem to come in bunches to bring up his same half dozen opinions with different words, but that doesn't mean it will add any real value beyond reheating yesterday's leftovers. I do know that we can accurately predict what they will say and for those who read my words with an open mind, know that I appreciate your civil discourse on the role of our government and the continuing success of our wonderful schools, community funded, and thriving thanks to residents like you and me.


34 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Sep 29, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Holy circumlocution, batman!


51 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2016 at 8:42 pm

LMAO Train Fan...now now, be nice.

Okay here are the cliff notes, tl/dr version

**Peter's views are well documented on unions/role of government and his perspective is different than mine.

**Peter isn't right. He's not wrong either. On a nuanced issue like the role of government, public education, and what is/are essential programs for schools....we are dealing with views/opinions as to who should pay and why? There is no moral high ground here as we aren't dealing with corruption or abuse, for example.

**His history has shown his views and they are unlikely to change at his age and that's his right. However, a conversation on such nuanced issues benefits more from those with fluidity to their views because a conversation will lead to common ground. I don't get the sense based on the history that fluidity exists based on his track record and I think that is valuable information to have. It has helped me understand the pitfalls of his arguments.

**Stakeholders are vital to our democracy. Disagreement with civility is healthy. I don't fault anyone for speaking their mind here or elsewhere.


20 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In reviewing the above postings and postings other on MPCSD topics I realize how helpful this Forum is to both share opinions and to provide clarity on the issues.

My personal view is that we DO want quality schools and the community is prepared to pay extra to have above average schools. However, I and other question whether or not we should be called upon to fund a Platinum level education.

In California property taxes are intended to be the source of funding for basic level public education. In the MPCSD the voters have also added additional funding for going beyond that basic level:

"The four parcel taxes together provided the District with about $850 per parcel for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Senior exemptions are allowed for all parcel taxes. Click here for more information about the exemptions.

On May 4, 2010, 76.2% of District voters authorized a parcel tax (Measure C) to maintain small class sizes, fund teachers and educational programs. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $178 per year on each parcel of taxable real property in the District for a term of seven years. This measure sunsets on June 30, 2017. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $201.38 per parcel.

Funding On November 4, 2003, 77.4% of District voters authorized another parcel tax to restore programs lost due to State budget cuts, including funding for remedial math and ‎reading, textbooks and materials, and to prepare teachers in the most effective teaching techniques in math, reading and science‎. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $73 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2004, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $94.78 per parcel.

On November 4, 2003, 80.9% of District voters approved a measure to renew an existing parcel tax to maintain smaller class sizes for all students, and to maintain funding for the teaching positions that facilitate those smaller class sizes.‎ The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $97 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2004, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $125.94 per parcel.

On April 11, 2000, 74.7% of District voters authorized a parcel tax to improve children’s academic performance, reduce class size, improve teacher quality and expand courses. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $298 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2000, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $429.46 per parcel."

So the issue for me is how much additional funding is justified and sufficient.

I believe that we DO need quality teachers but I question how many teachers we need. If we just keep hiring teachers and expanding programs then no amount of additional funding will be sufficient.

I urge the School Board to FIRST reach out to the ENTIRE community to determine what quality level of education the ENTIRE community wants and is willing to support. Then, with well defined revenue streams the Board should decide how best to utilize those inherently limited funds.

I support having a Gold Standard School District but I do not think that we can afford a Platinum Standard School District.

We cannot afford every possible program and we cannot afford to make multi-year contractual commitments for which there is not full funding.


39 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2016 at 8:54 pm

Gold Standard. Platinum Standard. I'm not sure, but are there standards/proposals that somehow measure this arbitrary language?

Rather than place labels, and here is where we disagree on the role of government/schools, I want essential programs of skills, social emotional growth, special education, technology, teacher retention, and professional development that is continues to attract and retain high quality educators for our youth. I was willing to fund the $800+ per parcel of the last measures. I'm fairly certain that I will support the next one. We have different perspectives and different 'standards'. That's not a bad thing. That's how we disagree and Menlo has a history of passing these measures for a reason. I think healthy discourse is wonderful for the conversation and I've reviewed your comments over several posts on this issue. I disagree with you.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Gold Standard. Platinum Standard. I'm not sure, but are there standards/proposals that somehow measure this arbitrary language?"

Why not propose specifics for the standard that you propose rather than talking in generalities all aimed at what is best for the teachers (" I want essential programs of skills, social emotional growth, special education, technology, teacher retention, and professional development that is continues to attract and retain high quality educators ") rather than focusing on student outcomes?

Here is an example of an elected Board defining the level of service to which it is committed:

Web Link

And having adopted that standard of service all expenditure, staffing and construction decisions are made consistent with achieving that standard.

Why not approach elementary school education the same way - define the outcomes desired rather than just constantly increasing the inputs without regard to outcomes?


3 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Peter, what is your definition of Gold and Platinum standard? Why not propose specifics for the standard that you propose rather than talking in generalities with arbitrary labels that are meaningless? What specifically elevates the current education in MPCSD from Gold to Platinum?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter, what is your definition of Gold and Platinum standard?"

That is the job of the School Board - just as the Fire Board defined its performance standard.

I urge the School Board to reach out to the ENTIRE community to determine what quality level of education the ENTIRE community wants and is willing to support. Then, with well defined revenue streams the Board should decide how best to utilize those inherently limited funds.


1 person likes this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:35 pm

Peter, I don't think you should say "I support having a Gold Standard School District but I do not think that we can afford a Platinum Standard School District." when you can't even define your own choice phrases. That is a bit too Trump-esq in my humble opinion. I think I get what you're aiming at and I predicted your response would be as such, but it's my contention that these sorts of phrases do little to inform/find common ground. I was genuinely giving you the benefit of the doubt. I think this confirms a few additional items for me.


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Setting a standard of performance is straightforward - but not politically easy.

The Fire District had an outside entity audit its performance and then, based on the results of that audit, the Fire Board adopted a standard of performance.

I suggest that the School Board to do the same - have an outside entity audit their performance and then adopt a standard of performance.

The May election results demonstrate that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the current pay the teachers first and then cut student programs approach to standard setting.


3 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

The May election had a low turnout compared to previous parcel tax measures, so the pragmatist in me is skeptical of your sweeping generalization which happened to align with your beliefs. This, combined with its small margin, again triggers the pragmatist in me to look at two things: Tweaking the next measure to include a sunset and increasing voter turnout. We are just going to have to disagree and exercise our rights accordingly. In no way does the measure indicate what you said it indicates, but that's cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias at work in your mind. Take a step back and you'll see. It weakens your position when you result to illogical conclusions that fits for perspective instead of approaching data and analysis with the care it deserves. This is why I enjoy having a civil discourse because it helps to separate those who are genuinely interested in finding common ground from those that have determined the 'cause' and concluded their own 'effect' as you just did. For that, we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this topic.


3 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:12 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

Holy cow, SEC! If the Almanac supported the posting of GIFs, I'd leave the Orson Welles slow clap here for you.

I agree with every single thing you said, and I really appreciate how clearly, thoroughly, and respectfully you laid out your points. Thank you for entering the conversation.

Peter, SEC posed a question that I've also been wondering about; namely, what, specifically, do the descriptors "Silver," "Gold," and "Platinum," in regards to education, mean to you and the other posters who have used those the terms in various Almanac posts?

Your response to SEC was that it's the job of the School Board to define educational standards, but no; you and (I believe) Train Fan & Menlo Voter introduced those terms into the discussions about cutting costs/programs within MPCSD, and I'd really like to know what Silver, Gold, and Platinum mean to you, in terms of educational experiences for our children. You must have some idea, otherwise why would you use those terms so often?

Does Silver mean class sizes of 30 and no Art & Music? Does Gold mean class sizes of 25 and Art & Music bi-weekly? Does Platinum mean class sizes of 20 and Art & Music once per week? I'm sincerely curious to know, specifically and in detail, what you, TF, MV, et al mean when you use those terms.

Thanks.


3 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:24 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

"The May election results demonstrate that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the current pay the teachers first and then cut student programs approach to standard setting."

This sentence is confusing, but I believe the gist is that the May election was a resounding smackdown of Measures A & C. Since Measure A received a majority of yes votes but not the 2/3 necessary to pass, and Measure C received just shy of a majority, I think it's fair to say that the May election mostly illustrated the fact that our community was narrowly divided on the parcel tax issue.


31 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:28 am

Uhh...despite the low turnout (which was by mpcsd design, btw) the no votes were higher in total count than prior parcel elections. And that was with...what the mercury news called...a 'stealth' campaign where the district marketed heavily to parents to help improve awareness only within the community where yes votes would be most likely.

What you have stated so far is personal opinion which you are more than entitled to.

What I just states is fact.

Do you see the difference?


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 7:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Tweaking the next measure to include a sunset and increasing voter turnout."

Great ideas - and with greater turnout the measure will, in my opinion, fail unless the Board does a much better job of informing the taxpayers exactly why they need even more money than is provided by the permanent parcel taxes.

My questions that were submitted to the Board on 10 May 2016 remain unanswered.


4 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 1, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Train Fan, adding in "Uhh" to response in a half hearted attempt at condescension reveals characteristics of a weakened argument to follow. It is with regret that I see the predictable "Facts vs Opinions" resignation that questions go unanswered and commentary ceasing to move towards common ground. I think this is more indicative that my assessment that some individuals don't know how to define their views and instead would rather stick to undefined phrases. I think you have been giving some opportunities here to help at least a small audience or commenters understand your position and that opportunity is being missed response after response, reheating stump speeches. I'll take your mild attempt at trying to state that somehow your OPiNION of what constitutes essential programs is fact based as exactly what it is....cognitive dissonance.

I think this is a closely divided issue that almost passed without a sunset and when the new measures are introduced with a sunset, I believe it will pass in my opinion, especially now that the sense of urgency is more apparent to the community. Moreover, taking a look at the numbers, it does show that voter turnout amongst even parents with children in the district, was low and with their increases turnout and the addition of a sunset, I see a successful measure that will continue to support our amazing schools. Just an opinion with some supported analysis based on facts, but an opinion nonetheless.


30 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"when the new measures are introduced with a sunset, I believe it will pass in my opinion, especially now that the sense of urgency is more apparent to the community."

Interesting that SEC would state "measures" in the plural. What does he have in mind?

"now that the sense of urgency is more apparent to the community." What is apparent is that the first $200-$300 of any new parcel tax will go directly to pay the newly increased salaries. So what exactly will the students be getting?


55 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 1, 2016 at 11:37 pm

'predictable "Facts"'

I know. They are SO annoying when they get in the way of your opinions.

You seem much more interested in playing an amateur philosopher than addressing issues. Personally, I think this is an attempt to take the conversation away from the central issue, which is the long-term financial stability of the school district, and doing so in ways that are in the best interests of the community and the children. Instead, you are much more interested in and focused on making the conversation about the people that state their point of view, than the points of view themselves. I believe you do that because...well...in your heart you know you can't win an argument based on facts.

I welcome being proven wrong. Your move.


"cognitive dissonance."

Name one statement I've made that is inconsistent with my points. I don't think you know what "cognitive dissonance" means, otherwise you wouldn't have used them.


PS: Putting the conversation back on topic, the MPCSD teachers have the highest average salary for all teachers in an elementary school district in the 9-county bay area, based on 2014-2015 data from the California Department of Education. This, sir, is an example of a fact. Do you care to dispute it?


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Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

I'm not sure that you know what facts are if you use phrases like platinum and gold education without defining them. I'm not sure that you know what facts are when you are think that an opinion about what is essential or non essential (which by its very nature is based in opinion, not fact) can somehow be presented as fact. You seem to be obsessed with "winning" something. Didn't you learn that in any argument, there are no winners. You don't have the temperament or discipline to find common ground as evidenced by your continued use of condescension. Truthfully, I don't think many people do, myself included.

I think this is just two residents having opposing views of the role of government. It's pretty common. You seem to insist that one of us has to be "right" and trying to inject pithy, patronizing comments for what purpose? Ego? Come on, man.

I support the current programs as they exist and want them to continue which means I am in favor of raising the necessary revenues to pay for them. There is nothing wrong with our differing opinions. I believe that across the board, students deserve the continuation of our support programs, arts programs, and small class sizes while teachers don't get paid enough as it is a profession once rooted as a female-dominated profession (i.e. secondary income) that has failed to escape unequal pay and has been fighting that battle for quite some time. I believe it is the responsibility allow society to make progress in this direction as as the 'old guard' (septuagenarians, for example) moves on, it will present additional opportunities to cut into this issue even more. Students benefit from a variety of programs that are supported by our community and students also benefit from teachers living close to the communities they serve. There are many factors that contribute to a thriving school district with as much success as ours and I'm interested in reflecting upon that success and examining the programs, but more importantly, I'm coming at the angle of how we can continue that success rather than the angle of how we can ensure we don't have to pay for it as a community. I think our view of the role of government in regards to public institutions is why it is difficult for us to agree on much.

Facts through a distorted lens, through a closed mind, with a history such as yours on the record in comments dating back years, does not demonstrate a reasonable level of fluidity to find political equilibrium. It seems bureacratic bungling of the past has caused quite a hardened approach to spending and immovable objects do not make for a healthy discussion.

There is little we can do to change each others mind because you only want to look at one side of the coin and you certainly get defensive at the mere challenge of your opinion.

Let's take your example of 'average salary', ignoring for a second that you still won't define which programs should be cut in a gold/platinum education and ignoring that continuing the existing programs rely upon the revenue from a parcel tax, and ignoring the incredible success of our school district and what it has done for this community.....let's talk about average salary. With the bay area being one of the most expensive areas in the world to live and the peninsula of Silicon Valley being at or near the top of that cost of living, you would expect neighboring school districts on the border of San Mateo County and Santa Clara County to be amongst the highest in the area and state. They are. MPCSD took a salary freeze with a one time 2.5% 'bonus' and a 2.5% raise spread over a two year period. That is an average of 1.25%. That lags behind the 2.15% annual cost of living increase alone, meaning educators at best stayed stagnant and at worst, took a step backwards. This is even more ironic coming off multiple awards including having a Blue Ribbon School, Gold Ribbon School, and Apple Distinguished School with performance besting goals and expectations. Take a look for yourself.

Web Link

Now, even a skeptic would say that the data shows the programs are working, even thriving. Someone opposed to 'paying a dime' as has been stated would probably just as quickly find a schema that fits their rationale of 'not paying' and use that as the crux of their argument. This is cognitive dissonance at work. I'm not sure you know what it means. You can be faced with evidence that says existing programs are successful and dare we use the word 'essential', yet you would want to increase class sizes 'by a few', decrease or freeze salaries (which has already happened once in this process), or use vague generalizations to fit into your belief system of anti-tax, anti-union to avoid having to actually find common ground. There is common ground amongst most citizens. It involves increased transparency, which I would like our Board to show, supporting the arts (which aren't even addressed in the above scores or measured in any meaningful way by these data sets), purposeful use of technology in the classroom, a social emotional/wellness education (again, not measured by the data above), and competitive increases to salaries for our educators to attract, retain, and support the teachers who have professionally represented this district in the 189 day contract (longer than the other 'average salaries' you used to compare). Would you care to dispute any of this, albeit, while accepting that you can look the wrong way in a pair of binoculars and tell me you see things differently and in your reality....you are 'right' instead of acknowledging that we are viewing things 'differently'. That's the problem with folks today....there has to be a "winner"...entertainment ego junkie nonsense.

Why support the arts?

Undoubtedly, when we start talking about cuts, the obvious targets are presented. Teacher salaries, administrative overhead, technology in the classroom, class sizes, wellness programs, and the arts.....eventually, it always comes down the arts. If you're interested in facts and research, here is but ONE example of hundreds of the importance of supporting arts. I think this does a pretty darn good job of presenting the case, but give it a read and you tell me.

Web Link

In my business, we deal with cuts, reallocation of resources, etc. My heart and mind are aligned in wanting to support all of the above and believe in society/community sharing in the common goal and expense of educating our youth. That's a philosophical difference (your name calling of 'amateur philospher' nonsense can be equally met that you are an 'amateur debater' who succumbs to schoolyard tactics when challenged which AGAIN is cognitive dissonance making you uncomfortable and so you find something more comfortable to discuss to get rid of that feeling...i.e. 'you doody head').

Can we not have philosophical differences on the role of government and the responsibility of the community? Can we not simply disagree on what is essential and non essential? I've already stated that personally, I supported the previous measures and will almost certainly support any future measures. We see the roles of our community differently. One final thing I disagree with Peter is that EVERYONE must be happy. That's simply never been true in the history of our republic. I would even argue that often nobody is truly happy in finding common ground and I'd love to hear from the majority of stakeholders ideas to find common ground, reflect on best practices and spending, and move forward to continued success.

Does recruiting and retaining teachers have an impact on the quality of education?

Here are three facts from the center for public education as they dissected and analyzed research on the topic.
***The effect of teaching on student learning is greater than student ethnicity or family income, school attended by student, or class size.
***The effect is stronger for poor and/or minority students than for their more affluent and/or white peers, although all groups benefit from effective teachers.
***The effects accumulate over the years.

Specifically, one study has identified a teacher quality “tipping point” when the proportion of underqualified teachers is about 20 percent of the total school faculty. Beyond this point, schools no longer have the ability to improve student achievement (Shields, Esch, Humphrey, Young, Gaston, and Hunt 1999). Clearly, districts need to recruit, develop, and retain a well-qualified teaching force.

......yeah, I know....more circumlocution. My apologies. I do not see much common ground between our views and your weak attempts at trying to belittle those who oppose your views are childish. I doubt we will find common ground between us, but I am confident our community will find that common ground of what is in the best interest of our community. That is our democracy at work.


89 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The issue is will voters:
1- approve a parcel tax that provides the many hundreds of dollars more that SEC's desired educational system ( more teacher salaries, more administrative overhead, more technology in the classroom, smaller class sizes, more wellness programs, and more art programs) would require

2 - or a substantially lower parcel tax that just maintains the very good schools that we already have.


42 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sec states "One final thing I disagree with Peter is that EVERYONE must be happy."

First, I never said that,

Second, I do not believe that is ever possible for everyone to be happy,

Three, a perfect example of SEC playing the trump card by misstating the positions of others.


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Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 3, 2016 at 12:31 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

[Post removed because it refers to another post that was removed. Please focus on the topic rather than commenting on each other.]


9 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Well just so that we are clear on the facts:

A Total of 20 people have commented on this thread.....and we have THOUSANDS of voters. The last Presidential Election over 8500 voters cast their ballots in Menlo Park. (vs. 5900 in the mail-in MPCSD Campaign in May 2016)

So that the loudest (in writing) 20 have weighed in on the subject might be a moot point. The voters will have the ultimate say in how much money the MPCSD can access through ballot measures.

Since educational funding is the equivalent of the 3rd rail in politics. I would handicap MPCSD's chances of getting a ballot measure passed as very high, despite the musings of the most vocal few.

Remember that while Peter C. & SEC have set a new record in prolix almanac postings, theirs is just TWO opinions of the many voters and residents in Menlo Park.

Roy Thiele-Sardina




12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 3, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I would handicap MPCSD's chances of getting a ballot measure passed as very high"

Exactly the same prediction that Roy made before the two 2016 parcel taxes failed.

My prediction remains - There will be NO voter approval for a new parcel tax until the Board starts listening to their very concerned tax payers and then acts on what they have heard.


51 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 3, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

Oy vey!

Peter Carpenter wrote:
"SEC ... misstating the positions of others."

Precisely. This has happened enough in the dialog that I think at least some of them are in "strawman" territory.


SEC wrote (and all future quoted text are from his previous posts):
"You don't have the temperament or discipline to find common ground"

Let's see if that's true. See below.


"students deserve the continuation of our support programs, arts programs, and small class sizes"

Regardless if a 4th parcel tax was renewed, the community IS backing...and would continue to back...the support programs, arts programs, and small class sizes, by supporting:

1: property taxes
2: prop 13 increases in property taxes
3: permanent parcel tax #1
4: CPI increases in permanent parcel tax #1
5: permanent parcel tax #2
6: CPI increases in permanent parcel tax #2
7: permanent parcel tax #3
8: CPI increases in permanent parcel tax #3

Note that none of the above sources of revenue for the district are under discussion. Mr. Carpenter has championed making all 3 parcel taxes 1 tax, which I respectfully don't agree. But even in that case, he's not pushing for a reduction.


"teachers don't get paid enough as it is a profession once rooted as a female-dominated profession"

I actually agree with this, to an extent. In many districts...I'll even say most districts...the average take-home salary should be higher for teachers. If we were talking about the Belmont school district, for example (900+ API for the district, with the average # of years teaching the same as MPCSD) we would be having a different conversation: I would be a proponent of raises above inflation for teachers.

But that's not applicable here. MPCSD has the *highest* average salary for teachers of any elementary school district in the Bay Area, based on 2014-2015 data from the California Department of Education. And the entire district just got a raise+bonus that exceeds inflation, at a time when the district is projecting deficits. Do you see the contradiction?


"Facts through a distorted lens, through a closed mind,"

The irony...


"a history such as yours on the record in comments dating back years"

I assume you're talking to Mr. Carpenter with this statement, since I've only been commenting since December, significantly less than "years". You keep switching on which persons you're addressing.


"Let's take your example of 'average salary'"

Ah, you're talking to me again. Proceed...


"you still won't define which programs should be cut in a gold/platinum education"

I never used those terms, though I do agree they've come up in discussions. Even HelloHanalei conceded he/she wasn't sure if I'd ever used those terms.


"MPCSD took a salary freeze with a one time 2.5% 'bonus' and a 2.5% raise spread over a two year period. That is an average of 1.25%."

Uhhh...did you read the article? The article does not support your math:
"award all district employees a 2.5 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year, and to give a bonus of 2.5 percent of their annual salary to all who worked last year."


"their rationale of 'not paying' and use that as the crux of their argument. This is cognitive dissonance at work. I'm not sure you know what it means."

1: While you did say "their rational", let's be clear and point out I never said not "paying a dime" or anything approximating it. Ummm, who are you quoting??? I don't see anyone in this thread making that claim.

2: "cognitive dissonance". I am still waiting for you to point out an example from any of my statements.


"you would want to increase class sizes 'by a few',

Who are you quoting???? Again, I don't see anyone using the words you just quoted.


"decrease [salaries]"

I never suggested decreasing salaries. On the contrary, I'm trying to AVOID cuts, layoffs and decreased in salaries.



"freeze salaries (which has already happened once in this process),"

Oh please, stop. They gave a 2.5% raise and a 2.5% bonus. Yes, they skipped a year (2015-2016) but then doubled-down this year. As I previously stated, I was initially encouraged by the freeze, and I wouldn't have said a peep if they'd just gone with a 2.5% raise. But then adding the bonus on top of the raise while simultaneously screaming poverty is just a middle finger to the taxpayers of this community, and I felt compelled to voice my displeasure.


"use vague generalizations to fit into your belief system"

Example please.


"anti-tax"

Wrong. I support the 3 existing permanent parcel taxes. Try again.


"anti-union"

Anti-union, no. But I do think the unions involved here have been poor partners (so far) in helping bridge the projected budget shortfall. And they absolutely deserve to be called on it.


"to avoid having to actually find common ground."

The irony...


"teachers who have professionally represented this district in the 189 day contract (longer than the other 'average salaries' you used to compare)."

I addressed the 189 days of "service days" almost a week ago. Read here, my Sep 27, 2016 at 8:21 pm post: Web Link

And note that there are other districts that have the same # of service days, or more, and get paid less than MPCSD.


"Would you care to dispute any of this"

Done, at least where we actually disagreed (you assumed we disagreed on everything. Now who's closed minded?)


"while accepting that you can look the wrong way in a pair of binoculars and tell me you see things differently"

Statements like this make you look terrible. You state that you're interested in "common ground", but then you post snide comments like this and the repeatedly unsubstantiated "cognitive dissidence". These make you look very small and expose you as not being interested in common ground at all.


Your posts will be treated with more courtesy when you extend the same. And brevity is your friend.



7 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Publius is a registered user.

BRAVO Train Fan!!!!!


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Almanac announces its Editorial endorsements:

"In the race to fill the Menlo Park City School District board seats of Jeff Child and Maria Hilton, who have chosen not to run for re-election, we endorse David Ackerman and Caroline Lucas."

Finally the non-parent taxpayers not only have candidates running for the School Board but both of those non-parent candidates has been endorsed by the Almanac.

Change is coming!


2 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 5:27 pm

SEC is a registered user.

Menlo Voter
"Unfortunately, we can't have everything we want.”

[Okay, first, this creates an false appearance of the community asking for more than it deserves. By definition, what “we” want is defined how exactly? I’m sure we all have different measures of essential programs and desires for our community standards for public education. It’s easy to agree with a statement like “we can’t have everything that we want”, so a bit of a straw man here, but it’s much more challenging to acknowledge that a mere extension of Measure C wouldn’t even be enough to sustain current programs. If we disagree on that, then we may as well disagree on anything above and beyond that, because we are certainly going to see things differently as to what we feel is essential or non essential, which leads me to…….

Peter Carpenter
I support having a Gold Standard School District but I do not think that we can afford a Platinum Standard School District.

SEC
Peter, what is your definition of Gold and Platinum standard? Why not propose specifics for the standard that you propose rather than talking in generalities with arbitrary labels that are meaningless? What specifically elevates the current education in MPCSD from Gold to Platinum?

Peter Carpenter
That is the job of the School Board.

[So why does Peter use language such as Gold and Platinum to represent a views when he cannot define them. Generalities become useless opinions in a discussion. If anything, they weaken the position of the beholder by insulting the intelligence of others. Disappointing since this phrase has been echoed by a few commenters. At best, it is purposefully vague and at worst, it is a misleading, deceptive, and serves no function. An opinion has no merit until that opinion has substance.]

Peter Carpenter
I urge the School Board to reach out to the ENTIRE community to determine what quality level of education the ENTIRE community wants and is willing to support.

[Again, this is where we can have a healthy discussion on the role of government and the purpose of public schools. I see the current programs and results as well as the numerous studies on the impact of arts and wellness programs in our youth as being essential. I see reductions in revenue, or cuts, targeting these areas as a threat to the success of these programs. Financial sustainability is important. Continuation of the current expense of wellness and arts programs coupled with the increases in compensation connected to our community’s rising cost of living are important issues to me whether I have children or not. We view the role of government and likely the role of such programs differently. I support the renewal and if necessary, additional taxes to generate the revenue. It was this statement where it appears the word ENTIRE (all caps…shouting) is necessary to ‘want’ something. Sorry, Peter, but that’s not how life works. Everyone can’t be happy and get everything he or she wants. If you don’t like the word “happy”, then fine, then let’s your use words….what "the ENTIRE community wants”. This feels to me like a Henry Ford example that we can get the Model T in any color as long as it’s black. Santa can’t bring a present to everyone’s chimney and it’s impossible to incorporate EVERYONE’S opinion to make everyone happy. You are not the center of the Menlo Park’s opinion on these issues. You are one voice, like me.]


[It’s clear to anyone reading comments here that condescending and obtuse language is inserted ad nauseum in an otherwise healthy disagreement about the role of government. It seems important to Train Fan especially that there must be a winner and a loser, a right and a wrong. I don’t understand the ego of such a person, as it makes them appear quite inadequate and uncomfortable with the idea that two views can polarized, yet sound. The condescension began with… ]

Train Fan
Uhh…

Train Fan
I know. They are SO annoying when they get in the way of your opinions.

Train Fan
You seem much more interested in playing an amateur philosopher than addressing issues.

Train Fan
I believe you do that because...well...in your heart you know you can't win an argument based on facts.

[Tell me how one can ‘win’ an argument based on what is essential to MPCSD and non essential to MPCSD. Tell me how one can win an argument between someone who supported the measures this past spring and someone who did not? If someone believes in and supports the measures and recognizes that the best way to continue the programs and grow with the district is to invest as a community together….tell me how one can ‘out argue’ or ‘out muscle’ their way into winning? You may not LIKE that I support additional taxes. You may not LIKE that I agree with the solutions of additional revenue generated by our community to pay for the growth of our district, retention and hiring of quality educators, and support of the arts and small class sizes, but you can’t SHOUT louder than me and tell me it’s “winning”. It’s not. So better yet, don’t bother telling me because it’s simply not possible. The only facts you can recite are what we currently pay in parcel taxes and express your ‘contentment’. I am fine with those and more. Isn’t that my right? Drop in the bucket and I see the value where you don’t. That’s fine. Your heart is wrong to assume that because you disagree with someone, that it must mean they can’t win. Adjust your perspective, and you may see “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Roy Thiele-Sardina
Well just so that we are clear on the facts:

A Total of 20 people have commented on this thread.....and we have THOUSANDS of voters. The last Presidential Election over 8500 voters cast their ballots in Menlo Park. (vs. 5900 in the mail-in MPCSD Campaign in May 2016)

So that the loudest (in writing) 20 have weighed in on the subject might be a moot point. The voters will have the ultimate say in how much money the MPCSD can access through ballot measures.

Since educational funding is the equivalent of the 3rd rail in politics. I would handicap MPCSD's chances of getting a ballot measure passed as very high, despite the musings of the most vocal few.

Remember that while Peter C. & SEC have set a new record in prolix almanac postings, theirs is just TWO opinions of the many voters and residents in Menlo Park.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

[Well said! Regardless of ‘predictions’ being right or wrong, we can safely say that Peter, Train Fan, myself, Hanalei are but 4 commenters who see this issue very differently, split even here. I don’t think either Peter or Train fan are ‘wrong’ for having their views. I do NOT agree with them for sure. I know enough about Peter to understand his politics and boy, we are on just two different planets when it comes to how we view the role of government.

Boys, it’s been fun, but isn’t it okay if we leave it as a disagreement between a few citizens who have done their homework and drawn different conclusions? Can’t we agree to disagree that the role of government, taxes, public education, essential programs, and how to pragmatically deal with growing costs is going to leave us in the same place where we started? There is no winning. There is no ethical/superior ground. There’s just a couple of citizens sharing their views and philosophies. I love our community, our schools, and our country. I’ll see you at the polls to vote accordingly. We live in a great country.]


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I know enough about Peter to understand his politics and boy, we are on just two different planets when it comes to how we view the role of government. "

That is an absurd comment given that there is no record of SEC ever being involved in government whereas I have devoted more than 30 years of my life to public service.


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Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 7:15 pm

SEC is a registered user.

There is very little 'absurd' about knowing your very public views, documented in those 30 years, and disagreeing with your approach and philosophy of the role of government. The best thing about being a public citizen observing the record of others is that you can assess by their words and actions how they differ from your own. It's time you realize Peter that your views aren't right or wrong. They are just....yours. People can agree and disagree with you. Nobody is challenging your devotion or ethics...just your philosophy, approach, actions, and words. We disagree. It's that simple. Lot of people will view the role of government, taxes, and union differently than you. You'd think at your age you'd be less emotionally reactive to such a non-judgmental and simplistic democratic idea.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

SEC - Please provide specific examples from MY postings that you used to establish my "philosophy, approach, actions" regarding the role of government.

And then please provide your own position on each of those issues.


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Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm

SEC is a registered user.

I'm sorry, Peter, but I respectfully decline to accept your 'bait'. Instead, I challenge you to at least start with a review your own history on the Almanac (with some links already posted in this thread to two such issues which can allow for citizens to draw their own conclusions from your own words). If you are concerned that things you post stay on the internet forever and have shaped the view of other citizens, I suggest you do your own judicious review and make your own assessments rather than trying to put someone else on the defensive. Won't work.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My postings and, much more important my life, totally support my belief in the important role of government in our society.

I have literally risked my life in the service of our government.

I have always supported taxes adopted by the legislature and by the citizens.

I have no idea where SEC can presume anything else about my philosophy or beliefs - and he declined the opportunity to document his clever innuendoes.

I stand on my record.

Just what do we know about SEC - nothing!

I asked SEC to please identify his interests and conflicts of interests and he refused to do so.

SEC has no record.


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Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 7:59 pm

SEC is a registered user.

Who are you talking to Peter? This isn't a presidential debate. You are getting all worked up over what? I think you are an honest, ethical, hardworking man. I think our similarities our likely that we both were raised in families that getting involved in our community is essential, a duty. I was raised with family discussions around the dinner table to serve, to do right by my fellow man, support our children, invest our energy and time in advocating for those underrepresented. I had family that fought for civil rights of others, stood up against government oppression, and helped fight corruption in city hall. I believe in government transparency, open door meetings in all government entities. I have seen both sides of the aisle take full advantage of loopholes to allow special interests hijack our democracy. These are gross ethical violations and we can stand strong together against such blatant abuse of power. I do not see that problem in our community at the school board and I do not support cuts/reductions that would result in increased class sizes for our students or compensation freezes for our teachers. We disagree there. I have served my country. I believe in doing your civic duty beyond the cliched nature, supporting civil service and encourage national service where appropriate.

Your record indicates that we should have more common ground to find, yet, we find ourselves disagreeing on the role of government because somewhere along your journey, I believe you got at least slightly out of touch with the current times. I'm not saying you're alt-right or anything, but if there was a financial-only equivalent to alt-right where you grow ever so slightly out touch, perhaps that would be the chasm between you and me. If it's not so obvious to you, then perhaps we can (again) simply agree to disagree on the role of government and who/how much one should pay to support our community services, especially our students and teachers. I ask again...can't we simply disagree there?


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

SEC:

no one said more than the community "deserves." Yet again you twist what others say to suit YOUR straw man. What I've consistently said is that we can't have it all. We can't afford it without spending a lot more money that many of us are not willing to spend. We all have to live within our means. That applies to the school district as well. There isn't a "money tree" in Menlo Park. Some of us aren't willing to blindly spend whatever the school district asks for because "it's for the kids." Either that or parents are going to have to put forward more of their own money for programs that the rest of us don't want to fund.

My sense is that we voters might actually vote for increased funding if the MPCSD actually made an HONEST case for the need. So far, given the boards's lack of transparency, and in fact, their obvious attempt to be opaque, many of us aren't willing them to give them more of our money.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

SEC - you insinuate beliefs on my part that have no basis in reality.

I have successfully negotiated mutually acceptable agreements with unions in both the private sector and the public sector. It is never easy, in fact such agreements are the result of very hard work and requite a deep appreciation of the values and principles of the other parties involved.

I have voted for every tax presented to the voters except the last two parcel taxes proposed by the school district - and my opposition to those was that they were forever and without any justification except "we need more money to provide for the teachers".

I have never exercised my right to an exemption from any parcel tax.

I deeply respect the role of government in providing essential services to every citizen and have worked to that end as an elected official for over a decade.

I work every day to improve the quality of services that my agency provides and to ensure that the taxpayers money is wisely spent.

I am not "alt" anything but I am offended by anonymous people misrepresenting and denigrating the efforts of those of us who actually do that hard work of government and governance. And those same anonymous people continue to refuse to validate their credentials to claim any positive role in government.

Erudition is quite different than commitment.


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Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm

SEC is a registered user.

Well, everyone seems to get "offended" these days by anyone who disagrees with them. I thought you would be able to understand in your years of service that you are human, imperfect, like us all and philosophical differences about the role of government is not only normal....it's quite healthy in a democracy. I'm glad everyone doesn't think like you on some issues while also being glad that people like you do exist to help balance those that think like me. We're just....different.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

SEC - I cannot respectfully disagree with you simply because I do not respect the manner in which you intentionally denigrate every poster with whom you disagree. While you denigrate with cleverness that cleverness does not disguise a certain meanness that I neither understand or respect.


2 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm

SEC is a registered user.

I see. For what it's worth, I would respect your position if you used that logic with fidelity against other posters who shared your view. Condescension by Train Fan is evident in his posts as clearly outlined above, but hey, he agrees with you, right? I think it's convenient that you can so easily dismiss others views who disagree with you, but it's rather small of you to find an excuse. Cheers, Peter.


4 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2016 at 12:05 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

[Part removed.]

As most readers know, I have worked side by side with Peter on two VERY important issues in Menlo Park. Yes on L (2010) (as the Chairman of Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform) and the No on M (Menlo Park Deserves Better) committee on which both of us participated.

What I love about Peter is his dedication to the community he lives in. to make it better and to serve in a way most residents can not even fathom or match. and as a community we should be grateful for his selfless service.

While his zeal for the Almanac Town Square blogging area is UNPARALLELED by any citizen, and his ability to cut and past laws and quotes from others is voracious at best.[although I have to admit SEC is giving him a run for his money in words per posting, and I may have to write a PHP script to start a word count meter] He is, as I've said before just one opinion, and not always wrong, and not always right.

My father used to say about me "Never in doubt and sometimes right" when I spoke, and that's how we should think of Peter and the others who post here. Peter is NEVER in doubt of his opinion.

I stand by my prediction that MPCSD will get a ballot initiative on parcel taxes passed. I say this knowing that when they wind up that machine of theirs and start leaning on our PTO and Foundation to call, and call, and call the students parents.....they can sway the vote. they chose to go low key in the mail-in ballot and lost. I would NOT expect them to make the same mistake twice. Your dinnertime will be filled with phone calls and your mailbox with brochures on the need for the taxes.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


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