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GAIS is at it again

Original post made by X. Lieu, Menlo Park: The Willows, on Feb 21, 2008

The profit making "non profit" GAIS school has applied for another use permit revision. It seeks to place three so-called "portables" (read: buildings) on site. Two would be placed by the basketball courts on the asphalt, encroaching and violating privacy and use and enjoyment property rights of three neighbors on the O'Connor Street side. In addition, they plan to widen the fire lane to allow more cars and SUVs to enter, drive, and park on the school grounds. In addition to the noise, car exhaust, and attendant congestion problems it would expose children to harm. In fact, one student was almost hit and killed inside the school by a speeding car. The same issue that has been plaguing the Elliott Drive neighbors for years.
The GAIS is a profitable business operation disguised as a non-profit. German employees are subsidized by their companies who pay the highest rate to GAIS (15,000 plus). Non-residents of the area and foreign nationals determine school policy with the powerful Principal/Head of School Hans Peter Metzger. Their tentacles go beyond the Bay Area as they seek international status and reach. Meanwhile, Willows residents have to rush to the Planning Commission and the City Council to continue to protect their property rights. Enough is enough.

The City should buy these intruders and allow the community to protect its rural, green, environmentally sound character.


Comments (35)

Posted by Neighborhood watch
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 21, 2008 at 1:54 am

GAIS pays $300K in annual rent to the district (read taxpayer owned) for the 6 plus acre campus. GAIS charges as much as $15K in tuition per student, and sublets to other entities for weekends, dance instruction, etc. GAIS may be nonprofit, but $15K times 200-500 kids equals $3-$6 million, plus sublease income from others. So Willows kids would have to pay $15K per year to go to their neighborhood school that the state mandated when the Willows was allowed to leave the Ravenswood district and transfer to the Menlo Park District in 1980's.

GAIS, your days are numbered at OConnor. District taxpayers throughout Menlo park and Willows families are wise to you. That's why they fought your use permit extension request at the city council in August 2007 and will fight this new one again We are not going to subsidize your "non profit" use of our desperately needed 5th campus any longer.

We voted for the $91 Million bond measure that provided for re opening OConnor and it will happen.Posted by neigborhood watch

Posted by Jan
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:40 am

I keep reading that the $91 million bond measure provided for re-opening the school, but I just don't remember that. Was it on the list of possible bond projects? Did board members make public statements that it was definitely going to be re-opened as a district school? I would certainly welcome that, but I wonder how likely it is.

Posted by Dave Montague
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

The district declared that it planned to use a small part of the $91M (less than $2M) for renovations at the O'Connor campus but never made any statement about using that school for the purpose it was acquired in spite of the fact that a large part of projected K-4 enrollment resides in the willows. They instead are gerimandering the boundaries requiring children to go be transported across town to deal with the overcrowding in the lower grades. In 3-4 years this will become a major middle school problem as well.
The entire problem could be avoided by making better use of the bond money to build a new modern 300 student K-4 school at O'Connor. Unfortunately, it is probably going to take taxpayer action to change the current plan. For a complete analysis of this issue and judge for yourself, see Web Link

Posted by Lovin it
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:46 am

It appears that Mr. Lieu bought a house next to a private school and is now complaining about the noise. While we sympathize for him, I would recommend that he volunteer to work at the school and become a member of the GAIS family. I'm sure he has a lot to contribute, and then it would be HIS school and not an intruder in his neighborhood. I'm sure the GAIS would welcome his contributions with open arms.

The O'Connor school was closed because the facilities were too small to warrant the expenses of keeping open a small public neighborhood school. Economies of scale now apply to maximize our tax dollars for our children, and that means larger schools that offer more courses and greater variety instead of smaller boutique schools for the public. The German American International School (GAIS), a small nonprofit, currently rents the campus and enjoys an excellent relationship with its neighbors in the Willows.

There are one or two folks in the neighborhood that are angry, that either the campus is still in use or that they have to drive their kids to school, when they live next to a former public school campus.

We can sympathize with the folks that live next to Hillview or Laurel Schools with the tremendous traffic issues and congestion problems in and around the campus. The German American school has an enrollment of well under 300 well disciplined students, and its neighbors suffer none of the inconveniences that the public schools inflict on its neighborhoods. Anyone visiting GAIS on a school day morning would be astonished at how low key, quiet and uncongested the school drop off area is.

I am retired military and I was disappointed when they closed Moffett Naval Air Station in Mountain View. I understand why they did it, but I still wish it was an active base with all the facilities that I could use and enjoy. But it isn't, and I understand that it will not be coming back and why it was closed, mainly due to budgetary constraints. Such is life.

The Menlo Park School District has determined that the GAIS campus is not an affordable alternative to use as an additional public school. Should the district student population dramatically decrease,than a review of the situation would be warranted. Thus some funds have been set aside for a study in case of that eventuality. As all of us know, the student population is increasing, and the district has clearly outlined its plan to maintain excellence by expanding its' existing schools that serve all of us.

I think everyone supports neighborhood schools and would love our kids to be able to walk down the block to school. Its part of the American Dream. Unfortunately in these budget strapped times, we are unlikely to see that happen in the next decade or so. For those that live in the Willows and attend GAIS, you are truly lucky and I envy you as I do anyone that can safely walk to their schools. We are very familiar with GAIS and are proud to have them as our neighbors. I can't think of a better run school and more disciplined student body. I wouldn't trade them for the world. We fully support any modernization plans that GAIS proposes, just as we support Hillview and Encinal upgrading its facilities. Only the best for our kids.

Posted by Willows life
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 7:30 am

Thanks for all your comments. While GAIS may be a "good neighbor" the $91 million was approved with the O'Connor campus as 5th campus if increasing enrollment dictated it's upgrading for a growing Willows school population. As such is now the case, the superintendant and GAIS president stipulated in the council hearing last August that there was no automatic lease extension beyond 2011.
Recently, Sup. Ranella has been quoted as suggesting that O'Connor would become the Spanish Immersion Program campus as well as a Magnet School for Alternative Learning Programs. So we can understand that O'Connor neighbors are upset with GAIS proposed expansion plans when the district will undoubtedly need to terminate the lease within 3 years to meet our growing public enrollment needs.
Likewise school neighbors throughout Menlo are complaining about excessive and costly expansion proposals of their neighborhood campuses. The nominal rent that GAIS pays ($300K) which includes maintenance of the physical plant by the district (read taxpayers) is salt in the wound.
So it's time for GAIS to relocate to an office park location down the peninsula, just like the International School (formerly French American) did when they bought across from the Palo Alto E.Bayshore Post Office. Their days are numbered at O'Connor, and there is no reason for Menlo Park residents and neighbors to allow any further profit making expansion by GAIS at our expense. So fight the use permit and sue the school district for it's facility mismanagement to legally force the recapture of the much needed O'Connor campus.

Posted by The Dogs Bark
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 11:08 am

The GAIS has been operating at 275 Elliott Drive since 1991 and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary there shortly. The lease renewals for GAIS have always been a formality over the past SEVENTEEN YEARS to the consternation of one or two die hards that are unaware that the 80s are over. Times change, schools close, and there is no obligation or right for everyone to have a neighborhood school.

There is no bond issue calling for the opening of a new public school on Elliot Drive. The kindest way to put it is one particular individual on this thread has misunderstood a provision in the bond. There is a provision to allocate 1.8 million to maintain the infrastructure of the campus there since the school district is the landlord. All landlords have this expense and obligation to its tenants. Any enhancements that GAIS does to the campus will simply be a benefit for tax payers.

Some on this thread are unaware that California is suffering its most severe budget crisis in history. The money to pay for all these excessive state programs that we can not afford will come from all departments, unfortunately to include the school systems. So although neighborhood schools are a goal, they are simply too expensive at this time. Maybe in twenty years or so, when we get the budget balanced :)

The Menlo Park school district can not afford to run numerous neighborhood schools versus the more cost efficient centralized model that all school districts in the Bay Area use. In fact, that is precisely why we are running such costly deficits in the state. There are too many people that want more schools and more state benefits, without paying for them.

Any talk of suing the school district for facility mismanagement takes away even more money from our kids. I can see a lot of people supporting the punishment of people who initiate frivolous lawsuits that take money away from our kids schools. We can all support that. The GAIS is a wonderful addition to our community, has been in the Willows for almost 20 years, and barring Bill Gates donating 40 billion dollars to our school district, will be there another 20 years.

Posted by O'Connor redux
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Barking dogs make noise, but not always sense.
The bond measure U that we voted for stated under Exhibit A, Bond Project List
"Listed iimprovement projects may also be carried out at the currently leased-out O'Connor School campus, if use of that site once again becomes necessary to accomodate District programs".
That time was anticipated before the June 2006 bond measure vote, but the board went ahead and renewed in May 2006 a five years lease at below market rent, with a 5 year extension option, if mutally agreeable rent were negotiated between the parties. GAIS pays $300K annual rent, but reaps huge profits from subletting to French school and other entities after hours and weekends. Together with tuition at $15K per student, which some GAIS parents' firms pay, that is a huge profit margin for GAIS at our expense.
Not only did the lease require taxpayer funded infrastructure maintenance, contrary to most commercial triple net leases, but the 5 year option was included when the board knew that voters were expecting the recapture of the O'Connor campus if "necessary to accomodate District programs" as well as increasing enrollment.
Recent State Supreme Court decisions have mandated that school districts have to pay for off site improvement mitigation costs for streets, sewers, storm drainage, sidewalks, traffic lights, etc. as a result of campus expansion projects, rather than just taking the position that it is a city/county problem.
The school district expansion landscape has changed. It's not a question of "neighborhood" school desirability, but fiscal responsibility. How could the school board dream that neighbors adjacent to the other 4 campuses wouldn't fight their grandiose expansion plans? How could they sign a sweetheart lease with GAIS for a much needed campus?
The reason to sue is to prevent that additional 5 year extension being granted by a short sighted board as injunctive relief for the taxpayers who have been sold a bill of goods. If you check polling results for the June 2006 Measure U, you will find that with a 38% turnout, 4632 out of 18098 eligible voters said Yes to the $91 Million bond issue. Half of those who voted yes (2459) were Absentee Ballots, many of whom are traditionally tax exempt seniors not subject to the bond obligations. Instead of the 70% approval rating that the district trumpets, it could be argued that fewer than 20% of the district voters approved this huge obligation. That's after they approved a $25Million bond just 10 years earlier. Makes you wonder whether the board is exercising sound fiscal management of our tax dollars.
So enough with the platitudes for GAIS. True, this is not the 80's.
You have a lot of taxpayers without Prop. 13 protection who have serious questions about the fiscal prudence of this board.
You might also check that the Bond Oversight Committee has operated for over a year in violation of Educ. Code 15272, which requires a taxpayer organization representative, as well as a senior citizen representative, a current website with up to date info. on meetings, minutes. This whole boondoggle leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe legal action is overdue.

Posted by The Dogs Bark
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

"Maybe legal action is overdue" Wow, those are serious charges you throw out there. The GAIS is a nonprofit entity under California law.

A nonprofit entity has a mission that benefits the "greater good" of the community, society, or the world. It does not pay taxes, but it also cannot use its funds for anything other than the mission for which it was formed.

Nonprofit organizations can and do make a profit, but it must be used solely for the operation of the organization or, in the case of a foundation, granted to other nonprofit organizations. The GAIS is run by a board of tuition paying parents, and it would be surprising if "huge profits" were being misused.

If anyone has any evidence of illegal financial activity taking place at The GAIS, please step forward, for the benefit of the parents of those "500 kids paying 15K a year". :) To quote the commission hearing paper, available to all online, "The existing four portable buildings are needed to accommodate the current levels of enrollment, which is approximately 216 students. The maximum enrollment per the use permit is 300 students" Also quite a few parents are paying $4.5K a year, so hurry up and enroll your kids at The GAIS, before the delude ones find out it doesn't cost 15K to go there.

Almost all business leases include maintenance and infrastructure clauses that make the landlord responsible for these repairs. If you are currently renting commercial space and find you have signed a contract making you responsible for reroofing, plumbing and other infrastructure issues of the space you are renting, please contact Menlo Park free legal aid as soon as you can so you can be helped. All that legal double talk can be confusing for some simple people :).

As stated previously, the school bond measure U did not call for reopening a school at the Elliot Drive campus, it merely called for the property there to be maintained, so that the school district would not possess a property that was falling into disrepair. Anyone that understood differently, is just wrong. The district owns quite a bit of property in Menlo Park and is responsible for the upkeep of all it, so that it retains its value and doesn't become a public nuisance.

Hardly any households took the time to attend the commission public hearings on the GAIS lease in May 2007. Hardly an overwhelming response to the alleged massive voter support for Bond Measure U to open another school on Elliot Drive. To in anyway construe Bond Measure U as calling for the opening of the Elliot Drive campus is a gross deception that calls into question the competence of those that believe that.

And for those that can't make sense from "the dogs bark", allow me to complete the phrase "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on". Enough already with the sniveling about driving your kids to school. Just Do It.

Posted by Barkoff
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 10:25 pm

DB, this is so rich.
Go to of Women Voters, a MS certified site, ha,ha) and read the Measure U June 2006 ballot details/argument, esp. the very end about O'Connor under Projects. Says there what the other folks are talking about, O'Connor school is needed for district programs, end of subject. GAIS is out in 2011. Sooner the better.
Triple net leases are commonly used in situations like O'Connor, think Post Offices, National Tenants, where rent is below market in exchange for tenant maintaining the premises. Should have been in the amateurish lease with GAIS approved by the board in May 2006. Goes to show there aren't too many savvy business brains among them.
You state that district owns a lot of property. Try 4 sites, O'Connor being the 5th. District stupidly gave away the Fremont site to the city. Time to get maximum taxpayer value for the remaining assets. GAIS is a tenant, not an "owner" of the O'Connor site.
You seem to be a staunch defender of GAIS. Maybe you helped negotiate the sweetheart deal for them?. Wouldn't be surprising.
Oh,and then you tell us to stop sniveling, just drive your kids to some other school. Now you know why neighbors of other district campuses think apologists of status quo like you are smoking out spin doctors like you. Nice try.
You've been outed.

Posted by Mr El
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2008 at 11:18 pm

You guys crack me up. Triple net lease, as if you actually know what one is:

"A triple net lease is a type of commercial leasing agreement. In a triple net lease, the lessee pays taxes, insurance, and maintenance in addition to the rent. There are advantages and disadvantages to a triple net lease for both parties. Individuals considering a triple net lease should research carefully before making a decision. The length of a triple net lease can vary, but leases of this type usually last for at least 50 years."

And in the next sentence, Barkoff actually says that GAIS is out in 2011, lets see in 2006 the School District signs a triple net lease to GAIS due to expire in . . . 2056. Ohhhh nooo Mr. Bill.

Well at least you got the 50 years part right. GAIS will be at the Elliot Drive Campus for the next 50 years, by which time your grandchildren will be driving their kids to Laurel.

Posted by Mr. P
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 24, 2008 at 10:06 am

"Triple net leases typically are for at least 50 years"???
Actually, more like 10-30 years, and single use type properties like banks, post offices, government, institutional (schools) typically have multiple 5 years options after an initial 10 year lease. GAIS has been there over 17 years. There is no automatic renewal provision. The lease expires in 2011. Ranella and GAIS pres. stipulated to that in the Aug. 6th Council Mtg. at the request of the city atty. Watch the webcast of that meeting. The current lease language executed in 2006 is quite lacking in comparison to private sector leases. A competent property consultant would have recommended that GAIS pay for maintenance at such a low rent for a 6 acre campus.
This is a tax free property, so that major expense in private commercial leases is a non factor.
Time for the district to abide by the Measure U language and retake O'Connor in 2011. Auf wieder sehen, GAIS.

Posted by Mrs. Q
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Board set aside $1.7M in Dec. 06 for refurbishing O'Connor as their 40% (60% matching funds from state) share when GAIS vacates in June 2011, figure 12-18 months for overhaul, accomodating 300 kids from the Willows. GAIS has 300 kids now.

Posted by Senior R
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 25, 2008 at 9:58 pm

That's why the district superintendant looks to put the Spanish Immersion program and a Magnet School for gifted/talented students at O'Connor. Parents with students in that mode may want to urge the district to buy out the remainder of the GAIS lease before 2011 so we can get that long overlooked campus up to its untapped potential.

Posted by Darren Teufelkemeier
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2008 at 1:07 am

I noticed that some of the people on this thread are against the Hillview Middle School.

In the Almanac article date March 14 2007 titled "Green light for Hillview school rebuild" Charles Bourne and Dave Montague are cited. Here are the relevant sections of the article, which stated that the vast majority of school parents are wildly in favor of the Hillview Middle School expansion and want to see it start as soon as possible. The people living next door to the school want to derail the plans.


Some neighbors of the school reiterated their concerns about increased traffic, congestion, parking, and students on the small site, and the impact of construction and the new buildings on the livability of their properties.

Charles Bourne, speaking as a Hillview neighbor and not as a member of Menlo Park's Transportation Commission, said the district was taking a "minimalist approach" in notifying neighbors of the meetings dealing with Hillview and did not provide background information prior to the meetings.

Hillview Drive resident Dave Montague told trustees that they had chosen "the wrong plan" for the district middle school. "The right plan would be a five-campus plan with two middle schools, grade 5-8, on the district's largest sites, Encinal and Hillview," he said. His model would re-open the O'Connor School site, now leased to the German American International School, as a K-4 school.

His comments drew a reaction from parents who insist that Hillview must continue as the district's only middle school, serving all students in the district. A quality middle school program depends on advantages of scale that enable choices of electives, appropriate class sizes, a range of programs, and use of specialists to meet student needs, they said. "Hillview is the crown jewel of Menlo Park schools," said parent Kim Young.

Parent Michael Stoner urged the board to move forward and continue the "open public process," adding that "time is critical."

Posted by Arles Bourne
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Feb 26, 2008 at 1:38 am

Darren and Marrying,

These folks that are against the Hillview Middle School expansion have been very very vocal, consistently writing letters to the editor under their own names. It is only very recently that they have gone underground and started using this forum under assumed names, pretending to be Willows Residents in favor of kicking the German American School out of the O'Connor Campus, in hopes of stopping the Hillview expansion which is in their backyard.

I found a Sep 7 2007 Alamanac letter to the editor, in the Back to School edition of the paper. Back to school time is normally a time of joy for parents of school children, but apparently not for the Montague family whose backyard is right next to the planned Hillview campus expansion. I didn't mind the signed letters to the editors, because you can see who is writing the letter, where they are from and what axe they have to grind.

But it is truly low to adopt numerous identities in this forum to bash the GAIS, and pretend to be a Willow resident that wants the O'Connor campus to undergo the construction and traffic congestion that they wish to avoid on Hillview Drive.

Was it Barkoff in an above thread that talked about being outed?

Read this signed letter to the editor from last year below, and then reread this thread understanding what their agenda is. What type of people do something like this? Shame on them.

Almanac Letter to the Editor from Sept 7, 2007 Back to School edition

I wonder if others who live or
work in Menlo Park are dreading
the return of students to
school, as I am. From now until
June, twice a day, Santa Cruz
Avenue will be log-jammed.
The number of students enrolled
at Hillview School is, at present,
659. (The school was originally
designed to hold 550.) With this
school population, I have seen
traffic backed up along Santa Cruz
from University Drive downtown,
west to Lemon. The cars, bikes,
walkers and students are in jeopardy
of a serious accident with kids
late to school and drivers rushing,
or attempting to rush, to work.
I believe this is a serious problem.
But, with the school district’s
decision to make Hillview the only
middle school in the city, Hillview’s
population is anticipated to
rise to near 1,000. I can’t imagine
how any increase in traffic around
the school is remotely feasible, and
with the huge number of students
who will come from east of El
Camino to this one middle school,
it’s an alarming picture.
The tragedy of the school district’s
decision is that there are other
choices to handle the increase of
children in the district. Encinal
School, which is a larger campus
than Hillview, could be returned
to its original status and be a second
middle school. And the district also
owns Willow School, currently
rented out to non-district pupils.
This campus could be returned to a
district elementary school, and thus
the cross-town commute for many
children could be avoided.
The problem is not just at Hillview
School. Oak Knoll Elementary
School has a dangerous
traffic issue too, and the expected
enrollment increase there is as
large as the one at Hillview.
Surely the school district can see
that, in addition to the traffic congestion
and safety issues, cramming
1,000 children onto acreage
designed to accommodate 550
cannot be good for the students.
Limited outdoor space combined
with ever-increasing pollution
does not lead to the standard of
education and quality of life that
we are known for in Menlo Park.
Nancy Montague
Hillview Drive, Menlo Park

Posted by free O'Connor school
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2008 at 5:13 am

Looks like GAIS defenders are resorting to personal attacks against some Hillview neighbors because the assailants have no factual basis for countering the substantial arguments that have been made. The board is moving ahead with plans to retake and renovate O'Connor on or before June 2011. That was stipulated by Ranella and GAIS pres. at the Aug. 6th council meeting. Also, read the Measure U Master Plan adopted by the board in November. It's expected that 300 district students will replace the current 300 GAIS/French school students in the existing facility. It may be utilized for other than a Willows only neighborhood school. BTW, the current mayor doesn't live in the Willows and was outspoken against the GAIS use permit at the Aug.6th meeting. The current GAIS application will be opposed by more than just a few Hillview neighbors as taxpayers throughout the district and city officials are questioning the board's lack of foresight in its reconfiguration scheme.
So stop relying on dusty articles from the Almanac

Posted by Arlos Bourne
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Feb 26, 2008 at 7:34 am

Looks like the Hillview mafia is in full panic this morning at having there sneaky little plot revealed to all. Shame on them for their multiple anonymous postings libeling GAIS and spreading lies about school district plans.

Dr. Ranella clearly stipulated at the Aug 2007 council meeting that O'Connor would only be used if their was a dramatic unanticipated increase in student attendance. He clearly stated that current attendance projections were accurate with the exception of kindergarden which has 30 more students than expected, which is 92% of the anticipated student load and that would not warrant opening a new school with all the attendant costs and staffing.

What is despicable are the two anti-school gadflies on this forum, that have no school kids in the district, posing as "concerned Willows residents" in a feeble attempt to oppose the expansion of the Hillview Middle School because it is literally in their backyard.

Those Almanac articles clearly identify who we are talking about and put a little sunshine on what their agenda is.

So of course they are afraid of their signed Almanac articles quoting what they really feel. They hate the school year and all those families with school children, because it ruins their peace and quiet in their neighborhood. They will stoop to nothing, slander and lie in hopes to stopping the Hillview expansion.

The bulldozers will roar in June 2009 in Hillview, nice try folks.

Posted by B.L.F
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I am a resident of the Willows area who has lived on the O'Connor St. side for over 20 years. At the time I bought the school was closed. A few years later, the GAIS opened up. My backyard looks into the GAIS site and viceversa.Over the years I have seen and heard the gradual but steady increase in foot and vehicle traffic, noise,fumes, etc. My doors and windows have been double framed and yet I can hear the noise. From a legal standpoint it means that "the nuisance came to me".
The noise is not my biggest problem. For instance, without prior notice the school installed a canopy/tent that is not up to code; three large steel shipping containers donated to the school now sit on the school grounds making it look like an industrial park. Now they want a use permit revision to place two large "PORTABLES" next to my fence and that of my two next door neighbors. My issue is personal. See you at City Hall.!!

Posted by editor
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 26, 2008 at 10:53 pm

I'm taking off comments that go after other posters rather than argue the topic. - editor

Posted by Nancy Montague
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Oh me oh my. What have I done? I wrote a letter to the Editor some months ago, signing my name. Now I am being suspected of fabricating another name in order to politicize a view I don't even hold. I regret that an open discussion of what I see as a real city problem, not just a neighborhood or even a Hillview Drive problem, has come to name calling and badgering the likes of which might occur on a middle school playground!

To whomever writes the inconsiderate and incorrect accusations regarding the GAIS vs O'Conner neighborhood school issue, please know that I am not interested in writing about anything anonymously. I have not attempted to write about or even discuss this issue since I voiced my concerns about the traffic issues on Santa Cruz Avenue last September. And as for not "even having a student in the school district," this is true. My concern is for all students in the area. I am a former elementary school teacher, and am appalled that the school district does not see the inherent problems associated with such huge numbers of children squeezed into a small campus.

We are a community with a large problem--rapid increase of numbers of school-age children. We are also a community with intelligent adults who have opinions and ideas. I wonder why we are unable to work together constructively, democratically and honestly, toward a resolution which is fiscally, educationally, and practically sound.

The Hillview mafia? What can this person be thinking.

Nancy Montague

Posted by Dave Montague
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2008 at 2:58 pm

For the record, I have never submitted any posting to this site or any other to which I have not signed my name. Unlike the ranters who makes such accusations, I have the courage to put my name on my opinions because they are backed by facts and analysis. Like many other tax paying residents of Menlo Park who have lived here for many years,our kids attended Menlo Park Schools. We helped make those schools the best in the area and don't like seeing them or our city's environment spoiled by short sighted decisions. I will continue to express my opposition to a bad plan regardless of the likes of AKA "arlo".

Posted by mom x 4
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 29, 2008 at 9:37 am

I'm wondering why anyone wants to hijack this thread about a school site in the Willows and turn it into a rant against the Hillview neighbors. As a long-time parent in this district, I'd say that Hillview neighors are the least obnoxious and most accommodating of all the school neighbors (if you buy a house on the same street as a school, you really shouldn't throw a fit if a parent parks on the street in front of your house for 5 minutes at 2:30, but that is a topic for a different thread).

As an east-of-El-Camino parent, I would love to have a middle school on our side of the tracks, as was the case until about 1990. Hillview is a terrific school with a top quality curriculum, but it is going to lose a lot of its edge when it becomes so bloated that the small community ambience vanishes. So Hillview neighbors aren't the only people who have a cause for concern--families all over Menlo Park and Atherton have legitimate concerns, but all we can do at this point is hope that the board made the right decisions and that our kids will be successful at Hillview.

The next few years are going to be a time of great transition for us on the east side (much more so than for the west siders, despite the fact that they have had the lion's share of complaints). Adjusting to the separation of Encinal and Laurel, which have essentially functioned as one school on two campuses, will be difficult for many families here. And at some point, it may make sense to use the German American site for a K or pre-K program. It won't be optimal, but it may be the most cost-effective solution.

Meanwhile, I respect the concerns of the current German American neighbors, and hope that they will get a fair hearing. No point in invalidating them or their questions by accusing them of being Hillview residents in disguise.

Posted by B.F.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 2, 2008 at 1:58 am

Lovin it penned an indiscriminate paen to the GAIS: "The German American International School (GAIS), a small nonprofit, currently rents the campus and enjoys an excellent relationship with its neighbors in the Willows...We fully support any modernization plans that GAIS proposes..." I suspect that he/she works or has kids at the GAIS for my personal experience based on direct interactions with leaders of the school in the past 3 years is not very positive. I have resided in the neighborhood long before GAIS took over in 1991. On several occasions in the past 3 years we had to make frequent calls and personal visits to the principal and members of the board in order to make the GAIS operate like good neighbors. For instance, instruct the teachers to supervise and discipline children who violated neighbors' privacy by climbing trees, chastising teachers who drove their cars right up to neighbors' fences and left them with the engine running, etc. Since a number of GAIS staffers tend to be transients,and since some teachers don't stay long due to low salaries, and because many parents are foreign born employees of multinationals with different cultural expectations, the GAIS continues to be a work in progress. So if there is disciplined behavior it is partly due to some of us neighbors demanding it! The writer calling itself "Liking it" is someone willing to give a carte blanche approval to "any modernization plans". Doing so reflects a lack of adult reflection and prudence for the GAIS is not "modernizing" but "expanding" the number and size of its facilities. The results are already visible and clear if one compare before and after GAIS since 1991: more asphalt and concrete, more traffic impacting the environment and ecology of the 6.7 acres plus diminished enjoyment of the open space, and reduced land value of the neighboring properties.

Posted by Lovin It
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 5, 2008 at 3:25 am

I sympathize with B.F. having a backyard to the GAIS elementary school playground. Your backyard is definitely not a place to seek peace and quiet. If after 17 years of living next to an elementary school playground, your biggest complaint is some kids climbing a tree in the playground that overlooks your backyard, then that sounds like a model school to me.

Please come on over to the GAIS and volunteer some time and join the community. I've found thats the best way to make friends and be a good neighbor.

Posted by member
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2008 at 5:21 pm

All I can say is that the property prices in the neighborhood will go down if GAIS moves out. Where angels fear to tread . . .

Posted by T.R.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Loving It obviously works for or sends her/his kids to GAIS for she/he is a true believer of the worst kind. Children climbing trees are not the only issues with this outfit. I have been a good neighbor that has put up with the duplicity of school administrators and the boorish behavior of parents who have no respect for private property rights. Like B.F. My backyard is an award winning garden, moron, where I sit to enjoy the sun and breathe fresh air, and I have the right to enjoy it. If your backyard is a dump so be it. Stop inviting people to go to the school and do something about improving the behavior of teachers and parents and preventing GAIS from continuing its search for more invasive intrusions into our daily lives. We used to live in a near pastoral ecological setting before GAIS begun to turn the place into a "white and blue" industrial park.

Posted by Cutting off your nose
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2008 at 12:38 am

Poor TR seems to feel that if GAIS were to leave its Elliot Drive campus, that the place will be turned into a park or a nature preserve. That most certainly is not the case. The only reason GAIS would leave the campus is for another, larger, noiser, busier public school to replace it.

If you buy a house next to a school campus or playground, then you either need to enjoy the sounds of children playing or move. If you have problems with a small private school as your neighbor, you are not going to love a big loud public school in your backyard. Hopes for a pastoral ecological solution to a school campus in your backyard are remote to say the least.

I do agree with previous posters, that the best way to come to terms with living next to a school is to get involved with it, instead of throwing stones and wishing for a private park to replace it. I for one would not look forward to a dramatic increase in traffic and activity that a large public school would bring to our neighborhood. If someone is going to use the campus, I would prefer a small private school instead of a large public one. Oh . . . congratulations on the garden, pity it is right next to a children's playground if you don't like kids.

Posted by Marrying Joseph
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Let's smoke out the one or two people that are posing, rather poorly as different people on this thread, as O'Connor redux, Barkoff, Mr. P, Mrs. Q and Senior R. And discuss the elephant that is in the living room, and it isn't the O'Connor campus, but Hillview Middle School.

The two posters posing as different people on this thread live on Hillview Drive where, surprise, the new Hillview Middle School is undergoing a dramatic expansion with construction of new school buildings.

Their backyards currently abut the green playing fields of the current school, but in about 12 months time, the bulldozers are going to appear and the school district is going to build their brand new two story school building right next to their backyards, move in and then knock down the old school buildings on Elder Ave and turn that area into a green playing field. In other words, they plan to flip the campus layout.

What a bummer if you live on Hillview Drive. Not just the increased traffic, but the noise and construction of the new building for 12 months not to mention a huge two story school building looming over your backyard. Especially if you are old and retired and stay at home all day long. NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY.

Oh, did I mention the new Hillview school is going to add 200 more students to clog up their roads and ruin their beauty sleep. We all refer to these type of people that buy houses next to the airport and then complain about the airplane noise - dumb. Or just plain unlucky.

Now, what can you do if you are in their shoes? Suffer quietly, move, or muddy the waters by saying the school district needs to change the plan and use the O'Connor campus on the other side of town.

What do these Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) eccentrics want to see happen? They want Encinal Elementary turned into a Middle School that takes away half of Hillview Middle School's students. That stops the construction of the new school building in their backyard. They then want current Encinal and Laurel students to be packed into the former O'Connor School campus (they propose building a huge new two story school building at O'Connor and filling it with 400+ students). Check out the link to the website with their proposal on Dave Montague's thread above. Oh by the way, he lives on . . .Hillview Drive. Tah Dah.

Now name me one Willows resident that wants to see a two story new school building constructed on Elliot Drive and packed with 500 students. I didn't think so. Oh by the way, the mayor lives in that neighborhood, so I double don't think so. Not going to happen.

Don't fall for all those conspiracy theories about the German American School illegal profits, corrupt sweetheart deals, Measure U promised a new school on the O'Connor campus, and Spanish immersion school at O'Connor. This is all a smoke screen for a couple of eccentric old folks who are mad about school district plans to expand Hillview Middle School which would inconvenience their few remaining years.

Will it work? No. The School District and the City Council know who these folks are and what their ulterior motives are. Who are they? You may see their names on a law suit in the coming 12 months in a futile attempt to stop the school district plans at Hillview. They will try to paint it as helping "all Menlo Park citizens".

You will see them at City Council meetings (all two of them), not at School District Meetings. Why? They don't have any kids in the school system. They are grandparents, not school parents and they could care less about the Willows or the schools, as they attempt to stop the construction at Hillview.

Now that is what I call outed!

Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2008 at 7:44 am

Marrying Joseph, You went to great lengths to speculate about the IDs of previous posters, although your presentation of your speculation as fact -- an "outing," no less -- is an amazing display of arrogance and astounding self-confidence.

I've followed this issue, though I don't have kids in the schools, nor do I live by any of the schools affected by expansion plans. The Hillview situation is a problem not only for neighbors but because of the poor planning and arguably short-sightedness it represents. (That campus was renovated VERY recently, and now will undergo a huge reconstruction? Doesn't sound as if people with long-term vision were involved in that one.)

The issue is extremely complicated, and the lives of real human beings will be affected. Perhaps there's no choice but to burden the Hillview neighbors with the consequences you mention (though I'm not totally convinced). But your callousness and smug malice have left me with a queasiness and sadness that will be hard to shake.

Posted by Go Hillview Expansion
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm


On April 5, 2008 the City Council met and approved GAIS plans to upgrade and improve the campus with three portable classrooms (one will be used as a library) and approved the use permit through 2011.

You can view the meeting at this web site: Web Link

What was interesting was that ALL of the neighbors and Willow residents that appeared at the hearing were full of praise for GAIS and how it handled any neighborhood disputes. The only complaints were regarding Little League activity and the renovation of the league baseball field which was directed by and under the control of the Menlo Park School District, which the city council has no authority over.

Not suprisingly, the only people protesting the GAIS use permit were two people from Hillview Drive complaining about the noise and traffic that the Hillview Middle School expansion was causing. One of these individuals was Dave Montague, cited in the postings above, as a member of the Hillview Mafia. These two individuals blamed the school districts rental of the extremely small campus to GAIS as the reason why Hillview Middle School is undergoing a dramatic expansion. They are opposed to all that construction that is going to occur in their backyard and all the traffic and noise they will have to endure.

This unfortunate couple found themselves addressing the Menlo Park City Council about things that were exclusively under the School District's purview, and they were told as much. If you have a beef with the school district, take it to the school district, not the city council. GAIS has been approved to use the campus and to improve the campus through 2011.

Victory, victory, let the bulldozers roar at Hillview Middle School.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Encinal School
on May 7, 2008 at 11:51 am

GO Hillview: I think you mean Menlo Park PLANNING COMMISSION, not City Council.

Posted by Willows PAC
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 18, 2008 at 10:55 pm

The main reason why GAIS received some positive comments was that we were swift and very firm in objecting to the original use plan and were able to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution of the LOCATION OF THE PORTABLES with GAIS prior to this meeting. The GAIS original proposal was not sensitive at all to the neighbors needs. GAIS must now deliver on several related issues addressed by the Planning Commission in order for peace and cooperation to exist between GAIS and the neighbors. To wit, they must set up a barrier to the emergency access road (Principal Metzger recently blamed the Little Leaguers for breaking the chain to the access road but it is untrue since it has been broken for over two years and unfixed so staff can park along the access road. So take one trust point away from Metzger for that STUPIDlie). Second, GAIS must take CORRECTIVE ACTION and responsibility for trimming and spraying the school trees bordering the adjacent homes on the O'Connor side, both as required by its use permit (2007 MP Council)AND per personal promise/reassurance to the neighbors at the May 5th, 2008 Planning Commission meeting (i.e."don't worry about the trees" said Metzger). Third, GAIS needs to supervise use of the school grounds after hours and on weekends to prevent and/or reduce nuisance activities.

This is the beginning of another trial phase for GAIS. Its future in the Willows is at stake, believe us.

Posted by Willows PACKER
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 19, 2008 at 1:23 am

I attended the Planning Commission meeting on May 5, 2008, and what was very obvious was that the city has little to no say on how the Menlo Park School District runs its schools. The local School Board decides how it will respond to any issues pertaining to its properties. And believe me, the local School Board is not as sensitive to neighbors complaining about noise on campus as the GAIS is.

That was very clear regarding neighbor complaints about the new weekend Little League softball activity on the campus. The School District, not GAIS, not the Planning Commission, is responsible for the new construction of the baseball diamond and now the weekend Little League games that are taking place on campus.

Neighbors that were concerned about the sudden increase in weekend traffic and noise, now that the Menlo Park School District has decided to use the campus softball fields (as required in the GAIS rental contract) were dismayed to discover that now they have to address this to the School Board, and not the accommodating GAIS or Planning Commission. Neighbors with houses bordering the GAIS campus got a very bitter taste of an unpleasant future, should the School District take over the property, mainly that the School Board will totally ignore them. If you doubt this, please talk to neighbors in the Oak Knoll or Hillview campus area, to get a taste of the future should the school district convert the campus to a public school.

I find it extremely telling that Willows PAC refers to Little League weekend games on the campus as "nuisance activities" and does not understand that GAIS has NO say or control of this use of the playing field as stipulated in the rental contract. The School District is starting to make use of the campus on weekends, as is their right, and some neighbors are about to find out the hard way, that the School Board is not as accommodating to their complaints as GAIS has been. So no, GAIS is not responsible for supervising Menlo Park School District authorized activities on the campus on weekends or after school.

Regarding the spraying of trees, the Planning Commission recommended the neighbor complaining about moths from the campus trees, go house to house, hat in hand to collect money from the entire neighborhood in order to have ALL the trees in the neighborhood sprayed, on campus and off, as that is the ONLY way to kill the moths that she was complaining about. Feel free to watch this on the Planning Commission video of the May 5 2008 meeting that is linked in a previous post.

To describe a private school that has been on campus for close to 20 years as a "trial phase" indicates that Willows PAC is living in an alternate reality. "If only GAIS would go away, so we could have an abandoned, quiet campus in our backyard." Uh, that is not going to happen. A few neighbors have been slow to realize what a good neighbor GAIS has been. Now that the Menlo Park School District is using the campus on weekends by diverting Little League activities to Elliot Drive, these neighbors are about to get a very unpleasant taste of what life will be like if that campus is ever converted to a public school. They are now getting unsupervised traffic, driving at high rates of speed through their neighborhood. They are now getting a huge increase in noise, and weekend activities on the playing fields from groups that are completely unresponsive to their complaints and they have gotten construction on these playing fields by a school district that does not have to get permission from the city or the neighbors. And that is just a minute taste of things to come, should GAIS leave the campus.

So Willows PAC, you never miss a real good thing, until it goes away. It looks like you are getting a taste of the way things can be if GAIS leaves. If you don't like what you are currently experiencing, please complain to your local School Board, because they are responsible for these "nuisance activities" on the weekend, as you describe them. Please respond back to this forum and let us know what the Menlo Park School District/School Board says to you about their "nuisance activities". Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by Jon Kessler
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2008 at 1:59 am

As a parent at GAIS, I say a big "thank you" to our neighbors in the Willows, the School District and to the City of Menlo Park Planning Commission for their continued support. I hope we can all be good neighbors for many years to come.

The German American International School traces its roots back to the 1960's and has been in Menlo Park for nearly 20 years. It started as a school funded by the government of West Germany for expatriates who flocked to Silicon Valley. Today, it is a parent-funded international school. 30 different languages are spoken in the homes of our families. GAIS is the first school in Northern California to earn the coveted "World School" designation by the International Bacheloriate Organization, based on a curriculum that emphasizes global citizenship and mutual respect, quantities in such short supply these days.

Although it is parent funded, it is not, in my experience, a high pressure private school. Every effort to have among the lowest tuitions for independent non-religious schools in our area.

GAIS has a thriving program that starts with daycare and pre-school and goes all the way through eighth grade. If readers would like to learn more about the school, check out the website at or come visit us at 275 Elliott Drive in Menlo Park.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Just one single question: Why would all these anti-GAIS posters think that the public School District taking over the grounds would result in less traffic and less issues? Public School Districts are not known for their responsiveness and collegial attitudes - and if the District placese the same number of students on the same campus, there are very likely going to be more issues, not fewer.

A parent of a GAIS kid.

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