News


School board looks at costs of educating kids who live outside district

These are the children of the school district's employees

This year, 67 students in the Menlo Park City School District live outside the district, but have parents who work for the district. Board member Terry Thygesen figures it could be costing the district $1 million a year.

The cost of teaching non-resident students of district employees is among the issues that have arisen in the community before and after two school parcel tax measures failed to pass in May.

Allowing the children of school district employees to attend district schools isn't unusual – every other local district, and, in fact, most districts in California do the same – assistant superintendent Erik Burmeister told the school board at an Oct. 18 board meeting.

Mr. Burmeister said district policy allows children of any district employee working half-time or more to attend district schools, which in the past two years has been about 2 percent of enrollment. The number of such students has steadily increased in the past five school years from 25 in 2012-13 to the current 67.

The numbers have fluctuated, he said: Enrollment of non-resident district employee's children was 52 in 2004-05 but only 23 in 2007-08.

Mr. Burmeister said it's difficult to know the costs of allowing the transfers to the district, but he promised to bring more information back to the school board.

Teachers made it clear what value they give to being able to bring their kids to district schools.

Rachel Naishtut, a third-grade teacher at Encinal School with two small children, said she's been in the district 12 years, since she was 22.

"I've walked around with anxiety in the pit of my stomach since this has been a topic," she said, fighting off tears. "I'm balancing my job that I love and my family that I love more than anything. I don't want to have to weigh those things."

Jarrod Coombes, a resident of Pleasanton, said he "came to Menlo Park because I needed a job. I stayed because my daughter needed an education." Having his daughter in Menlo Park schools "keeps me working here," he said.

Nicole Scott, a counselor at Oak Knoll, said that a deciding factor in her taking a job with the district "was that my kids got to come to school here." She said they get on the road at 6:40 every morning for an hour-long commute. "It is the reason I'm here. If that is taken away, I'd be gone in a heartbeat," she said.

"I rarely miss a day of work," Ms. Scott said. "It's our school. We love it and we are invested in it completely."

Teacher Aimee Oprandy said she worked in three other districts before "I decided to land and stay here." Having her kids attend district schools allows her to both spend more time in her job, and donate more time to the district as a parent, she said.

Pam Musladin said the practice is "very important for recruitment and it's a wonderful benefit to give to your staff." Her children "are so proud to be here. They have thrived," she said.

Teacher Alison Howard, who has been at Oak Knoll for 10 years, said she might leave the district if she couldn't bring her kids to district schools.

Mr. Burmeister said the practice helps recruit and retain teachers, but also allows teachers to spend more time working. District employees who are also district parents may feel more invested in the quality of programs and services, he said, and their students may bring some socio-economic diversity to schools.

Some other districts allow attendance by out-of-district employees' children only for full-time employees (the San Carlos, Los Altos and Los Gatos districts) but others allow the children of any employee, no matter how much they work, to attend school in the district (the Las Lomitas and Belmont-Redwood Shores districts). The Palo Alto Unified district requires at least 80 percent work status to allow out-of-district attendance for employee's children.

However, Mr. Burmeister said, in the Menlo Park district, only five of the out-of-district parents whose kids attend district schools are part-time workers.

Board member Maria Hilton said the district needs to put a dollar value on the transfers, and it needs to be reported as a benefit when union contracts are negotiated.

Board members Terry Thygesen said she figures it cost the district $1 million this year to educate the out-of-district employee's children. She said after the meeting that she got the figure by multiplying the district's average cost of educating each student by the number of employee interdistrict transfers.

"Is that the best way to spend that amount of money?" she asked. "It's part of our staff compensation."

Board member Joan Lambert said that if any changes are made, the out-of-district employee families should be grandfathered in. "I know a lot of them come early and stay late," she said. "I don't want to get rid of the benefit at all."

Comments

14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 12:20 pm

If this benefit is offered then:

1 - It should be part of the negotiated union agreements as a costed benefit

2 - The cost should be a line item in the budget

3 - The value should be part of the reported income of the individual employee- parent whose child is in the school


13 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Peter, you left the October 19th meeting before hearing he teachers talk about all the extra time they are able to contribute because their kids are here and not an increasingly far distance away because of housing costs. If having their children in the schools results in taxable income, then I assume you would also support those teachers submitting for hourly wage to compensate for those many extra hours. Since you want to quantify it, it should reflect the full cost and expense. You'll also want to make sure they aren't being billed for services the district provides but that those students may not use.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:46 pm

"Peter, you left the October 19th meeting before..."

Wrong. I did not attend the October 19 hearing.

I did attendand speak at the October 24th hearing from start to finish - after most of the audience had left. After the hearing I spoke with the Board President and the Superintendent and had a very intersting conversation with a teacher who thanked me for my participation.

Please get your facts straight.


20 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2016 at 11:57 pm

"Mr. Burmeister said it's difficult to know the costs of allowing the transfers to the district, but he promised to bring more information back to the school board."

What's difficult to calculate? Apparently Terry "got the figure by multiplying the district's average cost of educating each student by the number of employee interdistrict transfers."

What was missing from this article is that some districts offer this benefit on a "space available" basis. What does that mean to a district facing a 5M+ deficit? Do we have space? Are the districts that offer this benefit facing a shortfall?
It's a great benefit to employees but Jeff Child said that he wouldn't consider it a "benefit".

Really? Let's call it what it is and offer it to the teachers if that's what's most important to them. The problem comes when EVERYTHING is most important. Whatever happened to the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Committee that was to be formed last spring? Why did that not materialize with enough time for us to get the data we needed to determine actions for this spring's recruitment? What good is the data from the committee if not gathered to inform the parcel tax ask?

Since we didn't bother to study it, we have to just give everything so we don't risk losing our great teachers but how do we know what is really important in attracting and retaining talent? Is it salary? Housing? Professional Growth opportunities? Having a great district for one's own children? Other? It's a shot in the dark trying to speculate based on informal conversations with teachers; when there is a shortfall, priorities must be set. Right now, I'm seeing some members of the public offering to engage in a modest parcel tax with a modest time limit. I'm not seeing what the teachers are offering to compromise. Where is the give? They work hard AND there are not enough resources to support everything that they want. If the community is going to chip in for more than it's own children, there needs to be a compromise on the part of all stakeholders, including teachers who are getting 1 million dollars a year in an added benefit.

Is there a reason it's not listed in the budget as a cost? Transparency is needed.

While I appreciate The Almanac publishing this expense, I'd like to see the public informed BY THE DISTRICT. Doing that would build trust.


17 people like this
Posted by Village person
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 12:32 am

MPAEF is a public school district providing free education so those receiving education are not taxed. Public schools do not charge tuition. Applying this same logic to other out of district students such as the Tinsley students and attempting to characterize the per pupil expense as income to their parents would be both illegal and unethical. Similarly many special accommodations for special needs students that exceed the average per pupil expense and are not treated asincome to the parents of those students. Ms Thygeson is incorrect in assessing the value of the education as simply multiplying the per pupil cost by the number of students. The costs of the district are largely fixed not variable. The loss of 68 students will not materially reduce staff, facilities, overhead or any other costs.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2016 at 7:08 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

" The loss of 68 students will not materially reduce staff, facilities, overhead or any other costs."

Really? The loss of 68 students represents three classes. That translates to three unneeded teachers. That's a reduction of $300,000+. No, there won't be reduction in facility cost. You could reduce the student population by 200 students and it wouldn't change facility costs. They're basically fixed.


24 people like this
Posted by Nicole Scott
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 7:55 am

Menlo Voter says "Really? The loss of 68 students represents three classes. That translates to three unneeded teachers. That's a reduction of $300,000+"

Actually that would only be true is the kids were all at the same school and in the same grades. They are spread out all over the district. Here at Oak Knoll my 4th grader is only one of 2 staff kids and my second grader is the only one. I believe at Hillview the numbers per grade are higher.


28 people like this
Posted by Village person
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 8:59 am

The comment by menlo Voter highlights how uninformed people can jump to the wrong conclusion. The 68 students are distributed among 4 school locations, each with multiple grades, and classrooms. Their number is roughly 2.5 percent of the student head count in the district. Removing them will not likely result in reducing any teachers, janitors, classroom aides, administrators, or any other personnel The district will not reduce the number of buildings that it has, or other reduce any facilities facilities. Those expenses will remain fixed regardless. The logic is faulty as is the estimate that these kids cost the district $1 million based on a $13,000 per student spending multiplied by 68. You can see how even a board member fell into that trap without thinking through her response. I hope that helps


16 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:08 am

Publius is a registered user.

Let's call a spade a spade. It is a benefit and although I do not advocate for eliminating this benefit as it does help teachers balance work-life challenges, the Teacher's Union and district needs to recognize it as such and incorporate some compensation back to the tax payers for this benefit in the contract.

I liked Scott Hinshaw's proposal at the last special board meeting. Teachers/Staff with children in the district contribute $2000 per child to the MPAEF each year as their contribution to the "benefit" they are receiving while their children are in the district. Seems fair to me when the benefit it worth $14K per child a year.


4 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:30 am

Neilson Buchanan is a registered user.

this is important conversation with implications up and down the Peninsula. Can someone clarify the tax code? I think value of ed benefits is not imputed income...many universities and colleges offer profound educational fringe benefits for faculty and employees...not only for the university itself but other university who participate in pooled education benefits. I dont have time to research or fact check.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:49 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Those expenses will remain fixed regardless. The logic is faulty as is the estimate that these kids cost the district $1 million based on a $13,000 per student spending multiplied by 68."

How then did the school board justify proposing to charge taxpayers $17k for each additional student in the defeated Measure C?

How can anyone claim that additional students are a burden on the district but not there is no cost if those students are inter-district transfer students?

And is there an approved interdistrict transfer attendance agreement for each of the current 67 staff children per the Board's policy BP 5117(c)?

"INTERDISTRICT ATTENDANCE
The Process
1.
Parents/guardian apply to their district of residence for an interdistrict attendance transfer.
2.
If the interdistrict transfer application is accepted and approved by the district of residence, it will be forwarded to the receiving district for
approval or denial.
3.
The district of attendance will claim ADA for revenue purposes.
4.
Reimbursement for special educational will be considered by the district on an individual basis.
5.
Parents/guardians accept full responsibility for transporting their children to and from school.
6.
Students granted an interdistrict transfer must maintain satisfactory attendance, scholastic effort and behavior. Failure to do so may cause the agreement to be revoked.
7.
Interdistrict transfer attendance agreements are for one year only. They must be renewed each year by the parents/guardians."


2 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:51 am

I assumed that employees were already donating to the foundation for their children's attendance....

"Board member Maria Hilton said the district needs to put a dollar value on the transfers, and it needs to be reported as a benefit when union contracts are negotiated." Thank you Maria, for requesting this figure. I hope that the board will support Maria in having this number made available. While it's great that Maria requested it of the THE DISTRICT, if the district were truly transparent, it would have been presented to the board as a part of the operating budget and not "inadvertently left out". This is exactly what causes the public to wonder....

On another note, "Board member Terry Thygesen said she figures it cost the district $1 million this year to educate the out-of-district employee's children." Nicole Scott, an employee of the district posts here, suggesting that they may not be true. How can we find out?

I understand that it can cause unrest to worry about such a benefit being removed but we're not there yet.

We are simply trying to get a handle on the operating costs.... What are they and WHY ARE WE GAINING ACCESS TO THEM THROUGH THE ALMANAC, as our primary source for this particular piece of information.....? I believe it was asked last May at a board meeting..... Shouldn't the district be answering that question and the press reporting on the response rather than press reporting out the figures? This is the first time I've seen a figure in print with the district's name next to it.

Different figures where put out publicly by Terry; Barbara, how did you get the information from Terry about the 1 million dollar cost to the district?


3 people like this
Posted by Nicole Scott
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:56 am

Hi Sam - I don't believe I suggested anything about the cost to the district to educate staff kids. I was simply responding that eliminating this would not result in the savings that Menlo Voter suggested. Also I think I was wrong my 2nd grade is one of two second grade staff kids at Oak Knoll.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Can someone clarify the tax code? I think value of ed benefits is not imputed income."

The issue is not whether or not this is taxable income (that is for the IRS to decide) but rather is this a cost to the District and if it is a cost to the District then why does it not show up in the budget and why is it not part of the union negotiations?


10 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:26 am

Even if one uses the logic that students leaving the district would not save much money, but adding students costs a lot, the district could have absorbed the 50+ students added this year at no additional cost if the 68 interdistrict transfer students no longer attended MPCSD. And MPCSD is projected to continue to grow in future years.

Now, if the district decided to keep the same number of teachers on staff, there's a big non-financial benefit with fewer students: smaller class sizes. That's doesn't show up on the bottom line, but it's certainly a big benefit everyone values.

Let me just say if we're all going figure out a budget that moves the district forward, all sides have to realize they have to give up something they want. @Sam is right. Teachers can't say everything they want is important and non-negotiable and it must be the parents and taxpayers that have to sacrifice everything. Parents can't demand that of the teachers and taxpayers. Nor can the taxpayers demand that of the teachers and parents.

Each group has to prioritize what it truly holds dear and what can be conceded in the interest of an agreement that works for everyone.


31 people like this
Posted by kcvag
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:59 am

Wow, as a person who has worked in schools for over 20 years and is now retired, I cannot believe what I'm reading here. When did it stop being about what's good for the children? Shame on you people sitting on your high horses who haven't a clue what you are talking about. Work in a school environment, then get back on your high horse.


2 people like this
Posted by marcel
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:43 am

And the HUGE benefit for commuters: the Diamond Lane Dependent.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm

"..eliminating this would not result in the savings that Menlo Voter suggested"

Thanks Nicole. The problem is that no one knows if what you suggest or what Menlo Voter suggests is true because the district won't verify it.


How could we find out if this elimination would save MPCSD 1 million per year? Would it? Yes or No? My fact checking says YES. I don't propose this but I do propose making the voters aware of it. Is it in the survey that's going out? Is in anywhere in any board presentation? How would voters know?


25 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 2:25 pm

I'm a little sad to see this side of my community. I went to the schools my parents taught at growing up - well outside this tony enclave. This is not a new concept, nor is it just a local perk. In my experience, teachers work far longer than their contract hours, put in time on non-work days, and spend their own money on materials many times. The petty argument that they are somehow not giving enough to warrant a coveted spot in our community schools for their children just makes me sad to see. It makes me wonder just how much the community values all that extra effort and time. I hear the argument about belt tightening - and if you've looked at the list of cuts, they fall on teacher workload and student experience by and large. So the assumption that teachers "want it all" without giving anything back is just narrow-minded IMHO. I know these comments don't represent everyone's opinion and I urge those who feel differently to join in the conversation. It's a little disheartening to see so many comments suggesting that MPCSD staff children learning alongside the children living in this community is just too much of a community burden to bear. I'm sorry to know this about Menlo Park.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dawn - NO ONE has argued that MPCSD teachers should not receive this benefit.

However many of us believe that this benefit should be a budgeted item and included in any union negotiations.

Please take the time to read what people have posted before making such an incorrect statement.


16 people like this
Posted by Secret Society
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm

What are the actual costs of anything in the MPCSD? What's the total annual operating budget? One could pour through every single line item of the monthly Treasurer's reports in the online board meeting notes if you have a year to compile them all. But even then it's not clear because some line items are intentionally vague. Try going on the district website or Google to find the total annual salary and benefits paid to the Superintendent of five elementary schools. Good luck -- it's impossible to find and/or verify. What is the total annual amount of administrative costs and how does that break down into salary, benefits and expenses? How much goes to overhead (administration), how much goes to teacher salaries and how can we avoid paying the handful of teachers who don't measure up to the rest, how much is spent on facilities?

When this kind of isolated one-off expenditure gets brought up for scrutiny by the Board of Education without a real number attached, it raises more questions than it answers. How will the decision be made to eliminate students outside the district boundaries but continue to pay for buses rather than going back to renting them? If the Board doesn't actually know the real numbers or isn't going to reveal them, then an outside auditor should be appointed so everyone has access to the truth. We can't keep throwing this substantial level of taxpayer dollars around without a clear understanding of what's being spent and whether there is a measurable return on the investment.

Are we sending our children by bus to an outside Gold Rush study program because Woodside does, or would it just as effective and cost less to go back to bringing demonstrations on-site? Did we order new equipment because someone read an interesting article in Education Week? Where is the fiduciary oversight? Providing a top-tier public education doesn't require ongoing endless construction of administrative offices, teacher training facilities and a state of the art performance center that no one knows how to operate, and other window dressing that has little to do with improving the educational foundation of our children.


16 people like this
Posted by Village Person
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm

The reason that the cost of educating these kids is not broken out as a line item is that the disclosure would not be consistent with generally accepted accounting principles(GAAP) and I am pretty sure it is not something that would be part of the normal reporting convention for school districts in California. School Districts issue financial reports on a consistent basis of accounting determined by the State board of Education so that financial statements can be compared on an apples to apples basis. The district could do its own financial analysis to estimate the financial impact of removing these 67 kids, but as part of that analysis they would have to include the lost revenue from the loss of daily attendance for these students. What you would likely find is that the lost revenue hurts the district's topline(reducing attendance revenue transferred from the state by approximately 2.5%) and there will likely be no material cost savings. The district could perform this analysis and it would help everyone understand the true economics of the situation.

Many people are advocating that the value of the benefit be calculated and included in Union negotiations. That is again problematic because it is based on the faulty assumption that each employee/parent is gaining $13,000 in unreported income per 67 students (which is actually $871,000, not $1 Million as has been suggested in this forum). Please note that the IRS code allows tax free treatment of many employer provided fringe benefits so I believe that this would fall within that scope (Section 132). Clearly it is common practice among school districts to permit inter district transfers of children of employees and I would bet that it could easily be confirmed through research that the IRS does not consider this to be a taxable fringe benefit. There is probably a revenue ruling on the issue.

Finally, since it is common practice that districts provide this fringe benefit, the attempt to assign value to it that would presumably reduce teacher compensation by a like amount would be unfair and impractical. Essentially what is being suggested is that the compensation of all teachers be adjusted to pay for the fringe benefit provided to just some of the teachers in the district. I don't think that this would be taken seriously in a union negotiation, and even if it were, I think it will damage the relationship the district has with its employees.

While many people who contribute to this forum have legitimate questions and concerns about the financial status of the district, I think that eliminating the benefit to teachers will not result in any discernible financial benefit to the district


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" What you would likely find is ...."

Why not just have the MPCSD make this information routinely available as part of its budgeting process?

Standardized reporting to the State and County does not preclude providing additional information in footnotes or attachments.

MPCSD's shareholders are the taxpayers of the District, not the State of California or the County Education Department.


32 people like this
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

So, I'm hearing it suggested here that teachers should be forced to contribute $2K/year to the foundation while district parents voluntarily contribute what they can. I've heard an implication that teachers are somehow free-riding, that perhaps their kids are at least useful for socio-economic diversity, and even that bringing your kid (s) to work with you gets you to and from school faster because YAY carpool! (Spoiler alert: they're already carpooling)

I'm trying to remember that most parents in the district are probably not really this selfish.

Here are some facts:

All these teachers live somewhere and pay taxes there. They are not undocumented workers. Many of them are homeowners, albeit in far-flung south and east bay locations.

The salaries of our teachers might seem generous in comparison to...I don't know, other teacher salaries? But they are hard-earned. I'd be really curious to know what percentage of our public sector employees (in Menlo Park) are able to live anywhere close to where they work. I know that retired folks, the last vestige of a middle class, might fret about taxes and recall a day in which the current teacher salaries would have looked like a windfall. That day is long gone. Our housing costs are accelerating. Rentals are running $3K/month for a modest, outdated 2 BR apt in west Menlo; homes are selling for upwards of $1200/square foot, often to cash buyers. People in the child-rearing age bracket–those who don't have at least one family member getting paid at Apple/Google/Facebook rates (with the generous stock grants that accompany these jobs) fret about housing A LOT.

(side rant: We are becoming a monotonous world of engineers and the people who run and finance their businesses. Nonprofit and education workers, artists/writers/musicians, social workers, etc. would enrich our world. It's distressing that they are priced out.)

So, back to these ~65 teacher kids who are currently cluttering our schools. As others have pointed out, Thygessen's math is over-simplified. I think any cost-benefit analysis of this situation would look much more complex, even for teachers. (On the one hand, they don't have to pay for expensive child care work-arounds for before- and after-school care, since they are able to plop their kid in the care at 6:20 AM and bring them straight to school. On the other hand, they have to wake their kid up at 0:Dark00 every morning and many kids (and parents) aren't morning people! I jest.)

Joking aside, believe me when I say that most people don't willingly opt into a 3-hr/day commute if they don't have to. One of the most beloved Oak Knoll teachers opted out of that commute last year, taking what one assumes was a lower-paying job closer to her home. In case it's not clear, this is Menlo Park's loss.

These extra-district populations will naturally ebb and flow as our teacher populations age, retire, and are replaced. But I will point out that many teachers who have elementary-aged kids are in their prime. Teacher effectiveness researchers have found that it takes several years for a teacher to hit cruising altitude after a steep learning curve. (Menlo Park seems to hire teachers who have already hit this milestone, to the benefit of our students.) Yet these current teacher-parents are still energetic, still learning, still innovating, not set in their ways. And many of them have not yet hit the salary level that seems to give the well-heeled, well-paid Menlo Park parents apoplexy.

Stop agonizing over exactly how to do the cost accounting associated with this benefit, which I assure you flows both ways. It's demoralizing and insulting to our teachers, the lifeblood of our system (and don't get me started on other employees, most of whom make much much less.)

You don't have to vote for the parcel tax or approve of statewide pension policies but to suggest that we take away this benefit or tax it or use it to displace salary is basically bullying a small # of people who accomplish a great deal of good in our communities. Terry's math makes a great headline but it's wrong. Find something else to complain about.



11 people like this
Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 27, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

Peter - I have been reading the comments, for years. There were suggestions during the last parcel tax campaign. And I've heard a board member candidate suggest that perhaps the community wouldn't want to provide this benefit if the costs precluded something it valued more. So saying that "NO ONE" has suggested removing the benefit isn't exactly true.

It's a rather complicated metric to figure out the true cost of the benefit as the district gains difficult to quantify benefits from staff being more connected to school community. I know from having read posts over the years, that you appreciate a full accounting of costs and benefits. The discussion shouldn't be limited to costs alone.

I did not know so much resentment was simmering over those 2% (and that's the highest its ever been) of students whose parents chose a career working with other people's children and elected to bring their own children to school with them as part of a long held and widely accepted practice. I love MPCSD and Menlo Park, but I am sometimes shocked at the level of exclusivity that pops up in this forum. However, as a long time reader of the Almanac, I also know that those few persistent negative voices are not the majority.




28 people like this
Posted by Jarrod
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 5:16 pm

The cost of allowing these kids into the district can be quantified, but the gain cannot. Yes the district is paying to educate these kids, but in doing so they are:

1. Locking the employee in. Any of these teachers/employees would think very hard before moving to another job as the effect on their kids would need to be weighed into that decision, and they are far more likely to stick around. Give the teacher shortage in CA right now, this is probably worth more than the cost to educate to keep the kids in the district. Pink slip a teacher without a kid in the district and they'd be gone inside a few months, do the same with a teacher who has a kid enrolled and I guarantee they'll stick around much longer to see what happens.

2. It is a standard benefit that most schools give, and if MPCSD were to eliminate it, or change it beyond what is considered normal, then their candidate pool will be significantly reduced, they would not be able to attract solid talent as they would stick out as the one district that was not welcoming to the kids of employees, and even potential employees without kids or plans to have kids would think twice about accepting a job here.

3. MPCSD gains the personal and dedicated involvement of the teacher/employee. The place no longer becomes a job they like or love but one that that transcends this, and therefore they are far less likely to punch a clock for the hours and leave. It means they end up giving significantly more than their 40 hours a week to the place. They come in on weekends and help with events because they want their kids to have the same experiences that others do. They stay late after school because their kids are in clubs or activities, and in doing so are even more prepared for the following day. This list goes on and on.

4. Significantly changing this benefit and/or eliminating it will cause a significant amount of talent to leave the district. Almost all of the employees who have kids in here have more or less said they would leave if their kids could not attend, and there are more than a few others who have young kids who would also leave if these kids were denied attendance. This is close to a quarter of the staff at MPCSD, and ANY organization would think very hard before taking action that could cause such a large reduction in their work force.

There are other, more subtle benefits that the community and school get from this, that far outpace the money, one example would be that these families generally spend more time in Menlo Park/Atherton than they do in their home towns, which means more money spend at local businesses, increases tax revenues from sales tax, gas tax etc.


2 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 5:42 pm

"So, I'm hearing it suggested here that teachers should be forced to contribute $2K/year to the foundation."

I didn't hear anyone say that. Is that what someone said?


Like this comment
Posted by Nicole Scott
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Yes Sam Scott Heinshaw suggested it at the meeting on Tuesday. Others have said it is a good idea.


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Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

Sam - Scott Hinshaw made a suggestion that teachers be required to donate "an amount" to the foundation during public comment at the last board meeting. I think he suggested $1500 per student.


6 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Publius is a registered user.

I don't think the word was "Forced". He also proposed that the MPAEF ask be raised to $2,000, thus the $2,000 figure for staff with children in the district. And this would be for ALL staff. Not just teachers. Need to be fair here.

Scott's proposal was will thought out and goes with the basic premise that EVERYONE needs to contribute here. Some need to tighten the belts and others give a little bit more. This is called compromise and if Washington practiced this a little thinks would move. It rarely works if one side feels they got everything and the other side got the shaft.

Time to work toward compromise. I am not hearing that from the pro parcel tax group.


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Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:52 pm

1: I think most people at this point agree...even those that have voiced opposition to another parcel tax...that keeping the perk of allowing full-time employees' children attendance at MPCSD is a good idea (for many reasons cited in other posts), and removing it would put the district at a competitive disadvantage considering most districts offer some version of it.

I have voiced opposition to last May's parcel taxes, and even I think keeping this perk...in some form or another...is prudent.


2: however, in the interest of transparency, the # of employees' children in the district should be disclosed to the public. In my opinion, the yearly budget presentation document is a good place to do that; it already exists and creates negligible extra work.


3: In my opinion, a forced, strongly-encouraged or coerced donation to the MPAEF by teachers that have children attending MPCSD is not a good idea; or at least they shouldn't be coerced any more or less than other MPCSD parents :) . It wouldn't be enforceable, among other reasons it's not a worthwhile approach in my opinion.


4: However, I DO think it's hypocritical to demand small class sizes while simultaneously be one of the significant contributors to larger class sizes. I think the teachers should be made to make a choice...sooo...

I think the MPCSD community should pay for small-ish class sizes...but ONLY based on the enrollment of the MPCSD community itself. WHICH WE DO ALREADY. We should NOT pay for small-ish class sizes based on community enrollment plus staff's children's enrollment.

If staff wants to have their children attend MPCSD, I support that choice. I also believe staff should be the ones to incur the consequences of that choice, with more children to teach, more homework to prepare and more tests to create.

Carrot-and-stick:
Carrot: $15k/child tax-free perk.
Stick: staff will have to teach incrementally more children/classroom.


That is a very fair compromise.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 8:14 pm

“It is a standard benefit that most schools give”

Mr. Burmeister said that it was a benefit that most schools give but he added that some schools give it on a “space available basis”. The simple question is: Do we have space? What does “space available”, mean? It’s interesting that district cites what other school districts do as “standard” (to quote Jarrod) when it fits their agenda.

Side note: *It is definitely not “standard” school district practice to put a parcel tax on the ballot in March. Check the history. All the other districts have the same HR timeline. All the other districts have the same teacher shortage. Do the research folks. Most districts that put measures on in spring, do so in May/June. Putting a measure on in March to avoid issuing pink slips is not what most districts do, so why is the public being made to think that we must put this measure on the ballot in March? (Is our urgency more than other district’s because we have been less financially responsible in our spending? Why can other districts wait until May/June and we cannot?) RED FLAG.

As Secret Society points out: Upon what are we basing decisions? Do base our actions on those of other districts? To what extent do we consider what makes sense for us and fits our priorities?

“The cost of allowing these kids into the district can be quantified, but the gain cannot."

“… If MPCSD were to eliminate it, or change it beyond what is considered normal, then their candidate pool will be significantly reduced.”

This has why Dr. Ghysels suggested forming a teacher recruitment and retention committee. While I respect this suggestion, I wonder why this committee hasn’t been formed in time to be of use. Jarrod, how do we know if the candidate pool would be SIGNIFICANTLY reduced?” This is speculation and the district talks about it as if it’s common knowledge but no one really knows. Not only do we not know how much this benefit attracts and retains talent, we don’t know the impact of the salary increases, nor the class sizes, nor the professional development opportunities….. I’ve heard teachers talk about the “deal breaker”. So what is the biggest deal breaker? EVERYTHING can’t be the deal breaker.

What if you could bring your children to district A but it paid 15K less than district B (which didn’t allow this perk)? Which of the two would be the biggest deal breaker? Maybe we want to offer both but WE NEED TO KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT WHAT ARE THE TRUE DEAL BREAKERS and only hearing testimonials from teachers (albeit wonderful and hardworking) is one type of data, anecdotal. What else do we have to support Jarrod’s suggestion that “the candidate pool would be significantly reduced”?

I am not suggesting that teachers should lose this perk nor not have pay raises, nor not have good housing plans and the like. I am suggesting that just like many others, WE DON’T REALLY KNOW, what most impacts recruitment.

…“I've heard a board member candidate suggest that perhaps the community wouldn't want to provide this benefit if the costs precluded something it valued more."

Dawn- All candidates should be helping inform the community. Just because a candidate suggests that we let the community know and decide its own priorities doesn’t mean that the community will remove the benefit. Just because a candidate suggests that the community be informed doesn’t mean that the candidate wants to remove the benefit. To suggest something is wrong with informing the public because it might lead to a change is completely against democracy. Would you want anything in place for your community if it was in place due to keeping the public ignorant? I would not. I support a well informed public and have confidence in it to decide what’s best. Right now we have a “partially informed” public and a “dig around and find it if you can protocol. I hope that changes soon.


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Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 30, 2016 at 2:22 pm

A few quick thoughts:
* With as small a population (both student and total) and expensive real estate footprint as MPCSD has, we can scarcely expect more than a small percentage of teachers to live within the district.
* There are many ways to calculate associated costs of the additional students, but all the methods are deceptive and wrong. For instance, Menlo Voter ascribes the cost of 67 extra students to 3 extra teachers. That might be true if all 67 students were in nice compartmentalized bins of only 1-3 different grades, but that's not the case. The only real way to look at the cost is as incrementally more students per class. What's the cost of that ?
* It's also impossible to accurately quantify the benefits to the district of better retained and more engaged educators.

It makes sense to share the numbers year to year, but largely foolish to look at this as a place for cost cuts or income recovery.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The interest in the cost of instruction for out of district students is not to cut costs or recover income but rather to more fully understand the finances of the district. Up until now the number of such students was unknown and even now the costs of instruction for such students is neither a line item in the budget nor a benefit used in union negotiations.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 8:51 pm

" It's also impossible to accurately quantify the benefits to the district of better retained and more engaged educators."


As I and others have said, the district has not even attempted to quantify the benefits. Surely there are ways to gather data on this and given the deficit we are facing, although it's likely only 1 million dollars, everything has to been considered and the public has to understand the costs of instruction.

Why not plan class sizes according the contract and simply not count students of employees if the class sizes go over. That way the contract is honoring the taxpayer dollars and keeping to the class sizes agreed upon and then teachers on their own, in exchange for the benefit of bringing their children, can choose to go above in class size and absorb their own children. If this benefit is as great as everyone is suggesting (which I don't doubt it is), then I am sure teachers would be happy to have a few extra students in their classes on occasion from year to year, in order to bring them. The fact that some teachers enjoy this benefit and others do not, would have to be worked out internally. It's already the case that some teachers are sort of subsidizing the children of other teachers as the public begins to look at this issue.... Maybe they want to divide their portion of the budget differently among themselves....


"It makes sense to share the numbers year to year"

It makes sense to share the numbers for what purpose? It's not just sharing for sharing sake. It's to see how the cost is impacting the overall budget. If the public is fine with the expense, then we march on. At some point, as the pensions and health care benefits grow, there may need to be more give, somewhere and the public will need to decide where it is. It may very well decide that this is not the place to cut but we can't decide that until we know both the line item cost and how it shows up in negotiations.


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Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:54 pm

@Peter,
I agree with you on releasing the yearly out-of-district student numbers. I disagree with trying to quantify the cost as a line item in the budget, just as much as I disagree with the City of Atherton trying to quantify the yearly costs associated with Menlo Park Fire District incidents in Atherton. Same logic applies ... I'm on your side, but you have to be consistent with all area services.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2016 at 5:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In Measure C the District set the cost of each additional student as $17k.

In its budgets the District sets the cost per student at $13k.

Therefore the cost of each inter-district student must be somewhere between those two numbers.


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Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2016 at 8:09 am

I suspect measure C is showing the fully loaded cost (CapEx plus OpEx), while the district budget (per financial standards) is showing only OpEx.


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Posted by FA
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:38 am

@MP Resident

The Measure C text said the money can only be "spent only on teachers and educational programs". That means the money is intended to be spent on OpEx only. Spending on CapEx is not the stated intent.

For CapEx spending, school districts generally issue bonds since the threshold for voter approval is lower (55%).


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Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:36 am

@Peter,
What is your equivalent, the average cost per incident for the Menlo Park Fire District, and how many such incidents occurred in Atherton in 2015 ? I'm sure you can easily gen those numbers.


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

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