Town Square

Post a New Topic

Sequoia board revises charter school offer

Original post made on Apr 3, 2009

The board of the Sequoia Union High School District voted 4-1 Wednesday (April 1) to approve a revised and "final offer" to Everest (charter) Public High School of a temporary home in several portable buildings on a residential street in East Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 2, 2009, 4:48 PM

Comments (48)

Posted by Maria Flaherty
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:38 am

I believe if Sequoia is forced to pay for another High school than East Menlo Park is the place to locate it the only city SUHSD serves that has not had a High school since they closed in 1976. Redwood City does not need another high school.

Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Even if the district locates Everest in EPA, the Everest students are going to have to travel about 8 miles roundtrip to M-A for lots of the facilities. That's the main reason that the EPA site won't work and why it won't comply with the law. At least with the Redwood City site, the students will have everything they need right there.

Posted by menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Maria, could it be that you're not aware of Phoenix Academy (Web Link and Eastside Prep, (Web Link both of which are high schools on the east side of the freeway? By the way, there is no city called "East Menlo Park" -- the Belle Haven neighborhood is part of Menlo Park, which has several high schools. True, there are no high schools in Belle Haven, but the site offered by the SUHSD is in EPA, not Belle Haven!

The SUHSD charter schools accept students from throughout the district. It makes sense to locate Everest in a central location, and the majority of the students live in Redwood City.

Posted by Marilyn
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Its my understanding that the 2 charter schools already located in EPA not only do not have a waiting list, but are not full to capacity. If this is true, why would the district want to put another charter high school in the same location? It would make sense to put the new charter high school in a more centralized location, near Summit, that has a huge waiting list. Likewise, EPA would be difficult for many kids to get to. If Everest does locate near Summit, there is a free city shuttle which could transport them from the Sequoia Train Station to the school. Finally, according to the proposal to put Everest on Charter St. (which is public record) it would cost the district less to agree to Charter Street versus put the portables on Green street. I would think with pink slips going out, the district would want to save every dime they can.

Posted by a parent from Woodside
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

If Everest truly wants to provide a diverse environment, then why should they object to East Palo Alto? It would draw more kids from East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park. Those kids already travel far away for services so going to Menlo-Atherton wouldn't be that far.

If SUHSD has to provide facilities to every charter that pops up, how is that going to affect the quality of education for its students? I think this offer is more than generous and fair under the circumstances.

The fact that the other charters in East Palo Alto are under-enrolled should not dissuade Everest if its founders truly believe that they are providing a unique product to its students.

Posted by menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Do you suppose that Everest should focus on educating students...or should their priority be political correctness? They received hundreds of applications for the 100 spaces in the class; they know where the incoming students reside. Why would they want to locate the school at a site that is inconvenient for students? Why would they consider compromising their educational standards by using inadequate facilities?

The last paragraph of Woodside's post is particularly peculiar because it suggests that Everest is trying to compete with existing schools. They aren't selling laundry detergent, and putting a charter school in East Palo Alto does not create a "diverse environment." Everest will have a diverse student population, but to suggest that locating it in one city will make it more diverse than locating it in another city is laughably illogical.

Posted by Confused
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:49 am

Woodside, you're concerned about costs, so why do you think the more expensive option is the best idea?

I guess one could view the district's spending approach as generous, but it doesn't seem like good stewardship of limited resources for them to spend more, get less for their money, and risk a lawsuit while they're at it. The Sequoia district must have deep pockets.

Posted by Parent in support of Everest
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2009 at 8:52 am

Parent from Woodside, just because Everest might be in the proposed location of EPA does not mean it would draw more students from that area. Entry into Everest is by lottery, meaning that a student from Belmont and San Carlos would have the same opportunity to get into Everest as a student from EPA and Redwood City. The school should be more centrally and conveniently located so that all students in the district have access.

The Summit Institute has done an exceptional job with Summit Prep, the district should stop standing in their way so they can get on with providing an education to the lucky 100+ Freshman who will be starting in Fall.

Posted by Mom in Belmont
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

Our local represnetatives, the SUHSD Board of Trustees, voted NO. Our County Board of Ed voted NO. Our local boards are most familiar with the financial impact that opening ANOTHER high school has on the district. How can anyone justify opening yet another charter in this district that has 3 existing charter high schools, each of which are college-focused? Each school requires a complete administration staff...that's A LOT of money going to non-student expenses.

Charter schools want local control of education but when the local educational experts say this is a bad idea, suddenly they cry out to the remote state board to override local decisions.

The majority of the SUHSD students will pay a price for the Everest experiment. The district will pay out $7800/student/yr for this new high school. About 50% of that money would have gone into the general fund that pays for electives, small classes, support, and higher-level classes. Ninety percent of our District students, as well as charter students who transfer back to our comprehensive high schools, will all suffer as a result of Everest and an over-indulgent State Board of Education.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

How can anyone justify opening another charter school? Well, there's still plenty of demand, isn't there? How can you justify NOT opening a school when so many kids want to attend a charter HS? If you've recently talked to middle school students about their high school options, as I have, you'll see how frustrated they feel about the low acceptance ratio at Summit and Everest.

The reason the state overturned the district's decision was that the state understood that the decision was made for political reasons that ignored the benefits for the students. The local boards need to remember that they are supposed to be serving the students; the state reminded them of that obligation.

The district spends over $11,000 per student for students who attend the conventional high schools and less than $8,000/student for the charter school kids. So the district should be saving money with the charter schools! SUHSD might want to take a lesson from the charters: the reason they can educate students so well on so little money is that they don't have the bloated administrative overhead that the SUHSD does.

Posted by Everest supporter
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Well said Menlo Mom!

Posted by Woodside
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Talk to middle school kids and you will hear a lot of stuff. If they don't have older siblings who have gone to SUHSD, it is understandable their ambivalence about their choices. Most of the people that I have talked to are sometimes fearful when they are the first in their families to go to high school in the SUHSD (after all they are coming from small feeder schools) but then after they have gone to the schools, they have changed their minds. I have heard of many who transfer into the SUHSD after leaving Summit but have never heard of anyone who has done the other way around and I don't believe that is because of space either.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Ah, the "Summit supporters are racists who are afraid of traditional high schools" argument. Cheap jibe, and wrong. I encouraged my son to apply to Summit because I was so impressed with the school and its mission. He wasn't interested, wanted to go to M-A. And that was fine. I also talked to a girl who transferred from Summit to M-A after a semester because it wasn't a good fit for her (she had gone to Summit because of parental pressure).

Summit and Everest aren't for everyone, and they don't claim to be. The small size of the charter schools means that they don't offer the same level of sports, theater, music, and other extracurriculars you find in a comprehensive HS that's four or five times as big. Too, a lot of kids want to go to their neighborhood HS because most of their friends are going there.

I think it is terrific that students in our relatively small school district can have a choice between a traditional high school and a charter. I'd like to see even more options available, because the dropout rate indicates that the system is still failing to meet the needs of all students. It's sad to see the SUHSD reacting with fear instead of embracing innovation and student-centric educational opportunities.

Posted by Another Everest Supporter
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2009 at 9:50 am

One stubborn fact that cannot be disputed is that district families and students are "voting with their feet." Everest and Summit are operating at full capacity and there are far more students than available spots. Applicants come from every race, economic group and location - EPA, Menlo, Atherton, Belmont, San Carlos, Woodside, Redwood City and even out of the district!

Our district officials say these charter school are a bad idea so why are families and students lining up and begging to get in. Have you ever asked yourself why? If you think these schools are racially different than M-A or Woodside, then you haven't driven by Summit when it lets out its students! You can listen to the Superintendent's propaganda or you see it with your own eyes.

As far as funding goes, charter school funding is dictated by state law. Because the Sequoia district is a basic aid district, it receives considerably more per student than the amount per student that they transfer to the charter schools (see David Boyce's analysis in another post). So the district actually MAKES a bit of money when they pass dollars to the charter schools. And there's NO extra money to support a charter school's administration and the charter pays rent to the district for its facilities.

Stubborn facts, no?

Furthermore, Everest made a proposal to the district for their new site and the district didn't even bother to review it. The cost to the Sequoia district for the favored Charter Street site is just a faction of the cost of the EPA site that the district offered - why are the trustees ignoring this less expensive, more central option?

Finally, regardless of how you feel about charter schools, this is now about THE SITE and being reasonably comparable to other district schools. This isn't about the quality of the school, commuting time or diversity and those aren't even considered by the courts when determining reasonable comparability. So consider this: our district believes that making each Everest student drive all the way to M-A High School and back - that's an eight mile round trip! - to access required resources will in compliance with Prop 39 law.

If you think that arrangement is reasonably comparable to Woodside, Carlmont, Sequoia or M-A, then you need to go back to school.

Posted by Summit Prep Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Redwood City is a central spot for a charter school. Everest is not meant to be "another Redwood City high school". The Sequoia board have fought Summit and now Everest every step of the way. How much money has this stubborn unprofessional behavior cost the district? The high schools spend millions on maintanence of their campuses from pool cleaning to field maintenance to tennis court net replacements...there are thousands of dollars that are not being spent at the charter schools on facilities...come on board, let this new school have a central spot with a nice facility. It is only buildings.

Posted by Woodside
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2009 at 4:34 am

When they were building the new pool at Menlo-Atherton, the water polo players and swimmers had to commute back and forth to Belle Haven pool. It was a bit far but parents organized and did the driving. Seems to me that Everest parents could do the same without complaining. If SUHSD is forced to offer facilities to every charter school that asks for it, there won't be enough facilities/money left for the majority of students in the district.

And the kids that drop out of the SUHSD won't be going to Everest or Summit. They can't/won't transfer then. If anything, Everest and Summit will be taking away funds to address their needs.

Posted by Informed
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2009 at 7:53 am

@ "mom in Belmont" The district and county votes against Everest came from not following the law. (and spending a fair sum of money to break the law all of the way through appealing to the state level.)

The vote for not-equivalent facilities also rises from breaking the law. Over the past 10 years, a third of a billion dollars has been raised for high schools atop the substantial investment already made. If spending a third of a billion dollars equates to trailers in an empty lot, then the district board has seriously mismanaged funds. Other misspending is ripe: anyone recall the district buying the church in Redwood City for millions? Is that boondoogle is still sitting empty? These are our tax dollars being squandered: those involved should be resigning in disgrace, especially when the district college readiness is still lagging.

@ Woodside of Menlo Park: the district is not required to provide facilities for any charter: just those which are meet state qualifications and have local students enrolled.

Yes, there are many students who seek to transfer from SUHSD schools -- as well as SUHSD students who seek to transfer and have already fallen behind in their freshman year and are already on track to be unready for college. It's not a fear or unfamiliarity of SUHSD: it's a desire to be ready for college and life.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:20 am

Seriously, Woodside? You're expecting parents to figure out a carpool that works for the entire school every day for four years? Not really comparable to hauling around a small group of kids for a limited time.

Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:29 am

Keep in mind that whether or not Everest or Summit are good programs or diverse is no longer an issue.

The only issue now is if the proposed EPA site is "reasonably equivalent" to the district's other facilities. I can't imagine an objective observer is going to see it the district's way. Shuttling kids 8 miles so they can meet or use the library - two essential parts of going to school - isn't what students at other facilites do.

Our trustees are totally out to lunch on this one.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:25 am

I am a tax payer and a supporter of public education (including charter options). The state is getting skewed advise when it comes to vetting charter schools. The 9-member board (ACCS) appointed by the state to advise the state on charter schools is rigged. The ONE position on the board that is to represent the concerns of School Board Trustees is NOT occupied by a typical school board trustee. It is occupied by a school board trustee who has donated $1 MILLION DOLLARS to High Tech High Foundation in San Diego (she and her husband stand with the Gates, the Jacobs (founders), and the senior Jacobs (parents of the founder). That's VERY untypical. That "typical" school board trustee also sits on the the Board of Aspire Charter Schools...and is listed among the $100,000-!,000,000 donors of that organization. That typical board member is currently president of the ACCS. Is the state getting SOLID, BALANCED advice? that truly factors the challenges that Districts face?

The State, by charter law, MUST provide each student access to a viable education. But current charter law also says that the "negative financial impact to a district CANNOT be factored as a reason to deny a charter." This simply makes no sense. The state is funneling money away from Districts serving 90% of students...and serving 100% of students for facitilies they must maintain and share freely with charters (pool, library, facilities). $3500 of the $7800 paid out for EVERY charter student would have gone to pay for these REQUIRED facilities and other required services.

In short, the state is violating charter law...the state is no longer providing a viable education to students. They are no longer providing the financial support required for a viable education at our comprehensive high schools. They are DARING districts to provide services with less and less financial support.

It is vital to EVERY FAMILY in our District to have healthy comprehensive high schools: as a fall-back for all of our children, for the health and safety of our Democracy, and, for the health of our local community.

It's not we/them, it is only WE.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Belmont Mom -

You are horribly misinformed. The only thing that's rigged is our local and county school boards that never overrule the other. Just show me one example and I'll rescind this accusation.

Local parents always have to appeal to the state and it's truly rare that they get relief. The fact that the State board overruled the local and county boards on Everest is truly notable. The fact that they did so unanimously - noting the excellence of the charter proposal - is a loud condemnation of our local officials who said the petition was unacceptable. And that nine member board you complain about - eight of its members are local and county school board officials from other districts. You seem to forget that they, too, supported the Everest charter.

Our local officials talk about their support for charters but they always vote them down. If, by some miracle, they are approved then the local board provides them with the worst possible locations and then play three card monte with the location to discourage parents. The Sequoia district does this routinely.

If the trustees are going to support charters - as they say they do - then they should provide decent locations and facilities. Otherwise, they should just tell the truth - that they are against charter schools and parent involvement.

Posted by Violet
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm

The drop-out rate and the college acceptance rate for SUHSD speak for themselves. They are terrible. No one people want to send their kids to charter schools.

Posted by a concerned parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:05 pm

The drop out rate at SUHSD is because of the lack of preparation and language difficulties and the difficulties in bringing them up to speed while in high school. You are sorely mistaken if Summit and Everest are going to meet those kids' needs. In fact, it is going to make the problem grow because they are taking away much needed funding for programs and staffing to address their needs. All Everest and Summit are doing is compounding the problem.

In my opinion, it takes extreme audacity for Everest and Summit to ask for facilities when they have clearly said that they can raise the money to pay for them-ask the parents from Portola Valley who founded Summit to pay for them. Has East Palo Prep asked for them? Has Aurora or other charters asked for them? If SUHSD has to provide facilities to every charter in the District it is going to have a negative impact on the majority of kids in the District. And it seems to me that the majority is what public education is all about.

Summit and Everest parents think that they can have a free ride. Quit crying about having to drive to facilities a few miles away when kids in EPA have been bused for decades.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:57 pm

It's not about money. That mammoth structure being erected at the intersection of Ravenswood and Middlefield proves that there is plenty of funding available...if you know how to go about procuring it. My own rather cynical belief is that the SUHSD doesn't want to meet the needs of the students who are falling between the cracks. Instead, they would just as soon get rid of the students whose test scores bring down the average.

The threat to the SUHSD comes not from charter schools but from their own inflexibility and inability to adapt.

Posted by parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 7, 2009 at 1:43 am

The theater was a special project approved by the taxpayers and voters of the SUHSD. M-A sorely needs it for a school of its size and for its students. The city of Menlo Park also is chipping in and needs it as well. Are you begruding the community for that? That has nothing to do with drop out rates, give me a break.

The teachers that I know at the SUHSD and the administrators as well care a great deal about all its students. They just don't have much compassion for spoilt ones who want a private education paid for by taxpayers.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:00 am

"Begrudge the community?" Hardly! I'm part of that community and I'm helping pay for that theater both through the city and through the district. My point was merely that the money is there, even though it usually seems to find its way to glamorous projects like the theater and the gym rather than the classrooms or labs. For the SUHSD to claim poverty is simply specious.

"They just don't have much compassion for spoilt ones who want a private education paid for by taxpayers."

Um, not exactly. The administration does care about the so-called "spoilt ones" -- it believes that they are high achievers and wants to shame them into staying in the district. The administration does not care about the dropouts and, I suspect, encourages them -- through neglect or through course scheduling -- to leave the school.

Posted by a concerned parent
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:07 am

Shame? My children's friends have mostly all had positive experiences in the District and do not require any shame to stay in it.

There were bond or parcel tax measures also passed for improving classrooms and labs. The schools are vastly improved from the conditions they were in in the mid-1990s.

I disagree that the District does not care about the dropouts. In fact, that is why they are opposed to charters like Summit and Everest-they want the money that will be used for paying for facilities for them, etc., to use for providing more teachers and programs to prevent dropouts.

Posted by Parent of former Woodside High student
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:31 am

Concerned Parent in Atherton:

In all fairness, "Menlo Mom" didn't say students who stayed in the district were shamed. Menlo Mom said the administration tried to shame families of high achieving students who were looking at Summit and Everest "into staying in the district."

This kind of incendiary redirect and exaggeration is really not useful. The district staff and trustees do enough of that for all of us.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:46 pm

This area has been more than generous with charters. The County overroad the District (writer who claims the county votes with the Distirct 100% of the time, this is for you) when they voted to open High Tech High Bayshore (this was the school started by Ted Lempert's wife aka San Carlos High School). It was a total failure as indicators told the District it would be. On some state tests almost 100% of HTHB students scored Below or Far Below Basic on state tests. It voluntarily closed after 4 years, avoiding the 5-year forced closure of a failed charter.

HTHB did not warn students/families of the pending closure. How they handled things displayed their true colors. They simply abandoned the kids. Our SUHSD treated the kids with sensitivity. HTHB students were even given their choice of District high schools, ahead of students who were already on waiting lists for high school choice.

When Summit began the SUHSD took only 1% for oversight, though, by law, the SUHSD was entitled to 3%. SUHSD slowly phased into the 3% oversight fee. But Tavenner claims the SUHSD is intolerant and has treated charters badly. Everest's web site makes horrible comments about the SUHSD Superintendent. Is this disrespect what we want to teach our kids? I thought we were done with this kind of hate speech when we voted GWB&Co out of office. Teaching kids to judge and hate without fully vetting all nuances and view FACTS is simply a horrible thing to do to our kids.

I'd like to ask one question: Tavenner said at the County meeting that there were 200 applicants for Everest. But there were no Everest applicants who spoke at the County Meeting where the very existence of the school was being decided. Why? I can think of only 2 scenerios: 1. Either potential Everest parents were not told the school's existance was on the line (very reminiscent of HTHB tactics of keeping parents in the dark), or 2. There simply is not 200 applicants waiting to get into Everest.

We'll never know because charters can keep their payrolls, budget, and private funding a secret, unlike public schools whose budgets are fully transparent and can be viewed by the public.

Posted by Amazed
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I am amazed at the hostility towards Charter schools in this thread. Education is not a "one size fits all" situation. Different kids do better in different sized environments.

To address Belmont Mom (who seems especially hostile) I would say that I know of kids who tried for both schools, but did not get in due to the the overwhelming number of applicants for seats. Friends were calling me from the lottery in tears. BTW, the lottery is open to the public and those applying, so you would know if there were not 200 applicants. I also went and reviewed the web site and did not find anything hostile regarding the SUHSD Superintendent other then what was in the articles cited under their news update section. Do you consider what the Almanac has written to be hostile stuff?

I do personally know students who have learning disibilities and poorer backgrounds that are thriving at Summit due to its small class size and motivated faculty.

An interesting ABC news clip on Charters in the Bay Area can be found at Web Link

Posted by a taxpaying parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:59 pm

in all fairness, Menlo Mom did say that the District shamed high achieving students into staying in the District. I am not sure where she gets that idea. Information about charters were provided to my child and no one discouraged her from applying-she just chose not to do so since her siblings had fantastic experiences at Menlo-Atherton High School. If that is the kind of attitude that is being taught to charter students, then I am not supportive of Summit or Everest's administration.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Amazed in Portola Valley: I'm against charters? Wow, that's another example of GWB&Co speak. Accuse your critics of being AGAINST you rather than address the facts. But I am not amazed. This is the same tactic that Tavenner used at the County. And the same tactic that Everest has used on their Web site (yes, they were posted in the Everest web site a while back, I can assure you.)

I am hostile? Another characterization to demean someone, to discount what they are saying, to attack personally, and to distract from discussing the facts. "Hostile" characterizes an enemy. Is that how you describe someone who raises concerns?

I am not hostile. I am appalled with very good reason (remember, I am arguing facts, not emotions here) at the huberous of those who wish to open another college-bound charter school when there are two college-bound charter schools already open and under-enrolled in the Sequoia Union High School District. One of which even Tavenner referred to as a "sister school" in her remarks before the County.

At that same meeting, Tavenner assured the Board that Everest had an "donor" who would ensure the financial viability of the school. Of course, she revealed no names. Who is the donor? It could be anyone or any entity. We, the public, are not told. But that's beside the point. Why does that "donor" not wish to support Everest's sister school located in East Palo Alto whose mission is a college-bound education?

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Forgive my unclear language. Perhaps I should have said "guilt trip" instead of "shame." My point was that the charter school opponents have claimed that charter students are taking money away from students who need it more, have suggested that charter students are "spoilt" rich kids whose parents could easily pay for private school, have accused charter students of demanding a private school experience at public expense. Pat Gemma echoed these sentiments in his argument against approving the charter when he said "Everest focuses selectively on high-achieving, privileged students" and "Everest would take away from the many for the benefit of a few." Maligning the students and their families in this way is fallacious and mean-spirited.

M-A provides many kids with a superb academic and extracurricular experience. Each graduating class sends dozens of seniors off to Stanford, Cal, and other first tier schools all over the country. But a big high school environment isn't the best fit for other students, and that's why it's wonderful that charter schools are available. Instead of fretting about the charters, the district should look at the kids who are dropping out and try to improve their experience.

As for the Everest donor, what's the big deal? M-A has a swimming pool that was built because of a generous donor, and (as I recall) much of the money for the track and football field came from private donations. Besides, just a minute ago you were complaining about the charter schools siphoning off money from the comprehensives, and now you're complaining that they're using private money instead of public money. Kind of inconsistent, don't you think?

Posted by Amazed
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm

I am new to this thread, so I am not sure what GWB & Co refers to -- I am assuming it has something to do with SUHSD since that is the discussion here.

Simply put, I support a variety of opportunities for students in our HS system. One of the things that makes America great is diversity of opportunity. Thank goodness we don't have one size fits all state regulated schools in our country. For some kids, smaller is better. Others need that large campus to be able to breath. But trying to force every kid into the large HS model (or any model) leaves some kids behind, however well intentioned.

Private donors are fantastic, whether it is for a swimming pool at M-A or for a charter school. Perhaps my background is a bit antiquated, but real charity is anonymous. If you need to have your name on a building or your charity acknowledged, its not charity but an advertisement for your goodness.

I do know current students at Summit (although I don't have one), and I have been very impressed with how well they are doing, including kids from very limited backgrounds and several with learning disabilities. I have not doubt that those families are very grateful for Summit.

Posted by informed
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:00 pm

@ Belmont Mom mock theatrics are not facts, not even a "GWB&Co" red herring.

let's return to facts. there is a highly successful charter school (fact) it has hundreds more applications than slots (fact) a second charter employing a similar model proposed opening following the state law. (fact) the district and county decided to not follow state law.(fact)

let's try to address concerns.
Concern: charters take only high performing students.
Status: proven to be false - and the district had acknowledged it.

Concern: charters don't take low performing/special ed/ELL/ disadvantaged students.
Status: also false.

Concern: charters should only serve low performing students.
status: that would be illegal

Concern: charters should serve East Palo Alto since the district doesn't.
status: this one is harder - there are charters in EPA and their track record is mixed. Should the district do something itself about the 18% of underserved students? the facilities painted the district into a corner: stated that it was not serving these students well, so it would require any charter do so. The former is a liability, the latter doesn't address that liability.

Concern: charter enrollment is only driven by fear, ignorance and misperception
Status: the charter performance at Summit is unmistakably positive for all students.

Concern: charters skim off the engaged parents
Status: false since there are powerfully engaged and positive parents at the district schools. moreover, that parent engagement doesn't show up in the middle school scores of applicants and enrollees

Concern: charters show their bias since 9th grade scores are higher.
Status: charter scores are higher from start to finish. this difference reflects the first year of excellent teaching. The district facilities report chose to use the 9th grade results, rather than the middle school scores - a distant echo of the superintendent's 2006 fulmination that Summit was biased since it didn't have enough failing juniors.

Concern: the charter is more expensive.
Status: untrue; operational expense is 25% less and capital expense is about 50% less. at the same time the success rate is remarkably higher.

Concern: the district could absorb charter students without issue
Status: debatable - charters have grown to reach 10% of the district enrollment; it might be true for the wrong reasons: enough space since so many drop out. Certainly one would not want to take more students and replicate the district outcomes: 70% graduate, 30-50% ready to enter a CSU school.

Concern: there are too many charters.
Status: There remains high demand: this year 1/4 of the Sequoia district enrollment applied to Summit - enough for 5 charters.

Concern: there could be more charters
Status: true but they have to meet rigorous standards (although not fictitious nor illegal ones) Moreover, if they are not performing well, they must close if no parents want to go there.

Concern: No charters should open if any charter is underenrolled
Status: false - charters are independent of each other; moreover, a high performing charter should replicate even if a struggling one should phase out.

Concern: charters should not ask for facilities
Status: false - beyond being state law, these are public school using public school funds.

Concern: charters should be more grateful for trailers on a vacant lot
Status: that doesn't reflect a third of billion dollar investment in schools. if it does reflect equivalent facilities for that scale of investment , the concern should run along far different lines.

Concern: the district can't afford facilities
Status: the district has funds although it's been spendthrift. $30 million for a theater is not normal; buying properties willy-nilly around town is poor planning. Even in this last dust-up, the district rejected a lower cost solution.

any other concerns?

Posted by Everest supporter
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Just a quick correction to Belmont Mom. I am not sure where you get your facts from, but I am wondering if you actually attended the County meeting last fall. I did and both my husband and I spoke at the meeting in favor of Everest. We were never lied to about the status of Everest's existence and we feel very fortunate that our daughter has been accepted into Everest for next fall.

Posted by EPA Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Hey, I have a novel idea. How about asking the neighbors who live on this residential street if they want a high school with all it's students, parents, and traffic on their rural street. Green street has no sidewalks, no traffic signal and is one of the peaceful blocks in the city. So while Everest and SHSD are debating the location, some consideration should be given to how this will impact the local community. I's like to know what other city SHSD has quietly acquired land for a school with NO regard for the neighbors. Is this yet another sign of disrespect?

Posted by a taxpayer who doesn't want to pay for charter schools
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:24 am

A solution to this problem is for the donor that Tavenner referred to pay for the facilities that Everest needs/wants. Then SUHSD money will not be taken away from the District. Then it can be built in Portola Valley where its founders reside...

Posted by Amazed
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:58 am

The comments by EPA resident make sense to me, especially since there appears to be other facilities within the SUHSD which could be used. Having a HS, or any school, dropped into your area will certainly change the attitude of the neighborhood.

Again, the Charter saves the district money on a perhead basis, and uses facitlites that SUHSD already owns. Putting a school in PV would create quite a drive for just about everyone, so that doesn't make much sense.

Posted by Another EPA resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:42 am

Thank you EPA resident! I also live in the area and we're not especially thrilled about having that shchool on Green Street either. It's really not a great location for a hundred kids to gather.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

Any other concerns??? I still have not heard answers to the concerns I've raised. Again "informed resident of another community" you are arbitrarily listing concerns I've never had, nor thought, nor expressed. But let us go on with the facts.

In short, our comprehensive high schools cannot maintain health while funds are chipped away. Period. The system gives more support to those who need it, less to those who don't. Seems unfair but really, it's the right thing to do. The comprehensive high schools provide diverse never know what is going to spark the mind of a young person. Our high schools provide higher level classes for students who seek and are capable of more depthful and intense exploration. Each high school has a full library with librarians who cull the stacks, maintain the inventory, research new books, and order appropriate material. Each high school now has a state-of-the art auditorium that enriches our community (these facilities are available to the community as well).

The District has proactively managed funds and proposed bond measures when needed. I applaud our SUHSD Board Members who are, by the way, non-paid public servants. Everyone should listen critically to those wishing to degrade or dismiss the mission, the intent, and accomplishments of our local SUHSD.

Charters have a place. They stimulate competition and offer an alternative. But, we can only afford so many high schools in one area. Period. There comes a tipping point when public investment is diverted away from our comprehensive high schools and it begins to crumble the foundation of our community.

We are beyond the tipping point. As we fund and open another charter high school with 20-student class sizes, our comprehensive schools must cut services: non-direct student services go first but the cuts go deeper than that. As services erode, class offerings lessen, and class sizes enlarge we will see our district begin to fail. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy that when the public no longer supports the general good, the general good fails.

Charter schools themselves are fine. But a balance must be maintained so that the general community is positively impacted by a well-run charter school. Too many charters concentrated in an area negatively impacts the viability of a comprehensive system. Period.

Analysis shows that the SUHSD and Summit are on par with each other in student test scores, with the District stronger in some areas and Summit stronger in others. Leading indicators of student success is parent education and economic status. Though Summit has 2x the number of parents than the SUHSD with post grad degrees (34% compared to 17.2%) they have exactly the same percentage of students whose parents have a high school degree or less (37.9%). Summit is only slightly advantaged in economic status than the SUHSD. Does Summit warrant public support? I think it provides a positive stimulus to the educational community. Does Summit warrant duplication? No.

Posted by Paul Goeld
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 9, 2009 at 11:35 am

David Boyce of The Almanac provided a superb explanation of how funds move from the district to the charter schools and the impact it has. I hope interested parties will read it - it may surprise you. With full credit to David Boyce, I've copied his text below (unedited):

The Sequoia district is required by the state to pay charter schools about $7,000 for each student who attends the school. This amount, known as the "average daily attendance," or ADA, varies year by year and the annual setting is anticipated by 90% of California school districts. Why? Because their local property tax revenues are not sufficient to reach ADA for every student. So they hand over all of their property tax revenues to the state and get back the full ADA (supplemented by state money). Their total ADA rises and falls with student population.

Recently, the ADA has been between $6,800 and $7,000. For the 400 students at Summit Prep, for example, that would work out to an annual payment of $2.7 million to $2.8 million. The Sequoia district's annual budget, most recently, was $92 million. For the district's 8,200 students, that works out to about $11,220 per student.

Since the Sequoia district has enough local property tax revenue that it doesn't need supplements from the state, it is responsible for paying charter school ADA from its operating funds. That includes ADA for out-of-district students. The district is supposed to be reimbursed by the student's home district, but I have heard Sequoia district officials say that getting that reimbursement money is not easy or simple.

In the context of the documented success at charter schools, charter school advocates point to this difference in ADA -- $7,000 per charter student versus $11,220 per district student -- as evidence of fiscal prudence. Sequoia district officials have argued that this difference is misleading in that while the district has to pay $7,000 per student, it doesn't save $7,000 per student in overhead expenses when that student leaves.

Summit Prep founder Diane Tavenner told The Almanac recently that Summit Prep raised $700,000 in donations for the 2008-09 school year. For 400 students, that raises the spending to about $8,750 per student. The district and the comprehensive high schools also receive donations.

Don Gielow, the former interim assistant superintendent for the Sequoia district, has said that for every 100 students attending a charter, the district pays about $800,000, but saves about $400,000 in overhead costs, such as for teachers.

As for costs of charter school facilities to the Sequoia district's bottom line, all of that money comes from bond measures.

The Sequoia district has raised $323 million from a series of successful ballot measures it sponsored, starting in 2001. Charter schools are eligible for some of that money because the district put a measure before voters that could win approval with less than the normal two-thirds majority required for tax increases. State law requires that charter schools also benefit from that tradeoff.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2009 at 11:49 am

Thank you, Paul. Boyce confirms that:
- 50% of the money paid out from the District to a Charter would have gone to pay for programs (i.e. pays out $800K, saves $400K, leaving a $400K deficit for the District per 100 students.)

Therefore, a 400-student charter school takes away $4 million from the District's general fund each year.

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

It's irrelevant that the class sizes are smaller in the charters. It is relevant that the cost/student is much lower. Seems to me that the charters should be saving the district money. I hear a lot of wailing, but has the district had to compromise the offerings at the comprehensives because of the charters? (I hope no one is blaming the economy-related cuts on the charters!)

As noted above, the existence of Everest is moot anyway: the school will open. The only question at this point is where.

And again, let's not use the charter schools as a red herring to distract people from the real issue, which is the fact that the district is still not providing an adequate education to a significant percentage of students, many of whom become discouraged at the comprehensives and drop out. No Child Left Behind has exacerbated the disparity in education: the substandard performers are assigned to classes that are essentially test prep courses. The low performers have no access to the "diverse electives" and the better teachers refuse to teach these kids. No wonder so many quit.

That is the scandal that the district doesn't want to discuss, and all the hand-wringing over the charters doesn't make a dent in the real problems that confront the SUHSD.

Posted by Paul Goeld
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Thank you for reading the post. There's a lot of misinformation being spread (including by the district staff who made this remarkable admission at their April 1 meeting). I'd like to think that we can bring some rational thinking to this issue so I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

My point is that you can't ignore that the fact the district spends about $7,000 per student at its charter schools and a little over $11,000 per student at its non-charter schools. The district will spend about $700,000 on Everest's 100 students and more than $1.1 million on 100 students at a non-charter school.

The fact that the district is offering an expensive (albeit flawed) facility to Everest isn't the charter's fault. We both know that Everest actually wants a far less expensive facility.

Everest is now a legally chartered school - that argument is over and the district lost. I would think the district's trustees would now want to limit the financial damage and providing a Prop 39 compliant facility - ironically at a far lower cost - would do that.

Posted by Belmont Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

Paul, charters do not pay for its own facility. The District does. Charters do not pay for facilities it "shares" with Districts (library, fields, gymnasiums, pools, etc.). The District does. These costs, which should be charged to both District and Charter Cost Per Student appears only in District's cost/student. This means that it inflates the actual cost/student for the District while it deflates the cost/student for Charters.

If you read my previous posts, I explained that the State appointed a Charter Sponsor/Charter Board Member to speak for the needs of Comprehensive High Schools. Yes, the State decided, against local judgment, to approve this charter. (How could it not?) So, here we are. The District must find a way to situate this duplicate charter where the need is greatest. Do you put it a few doors down from its duplicate charter? Or do you place it in a neighborhood with students facing the greatest challenge with accessibility?

Posted by Menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:46 am

I find the district's cost accounting system rather murky. If their marginal cost/student is truly only about 1/3 of their revenue/student, that suggests to me that their overhead is way too high. The charters run a lean operation.

As for location: do you locate the school on a site that is near three other undersubscribed charters, in a neighborhood that is inappropriate for a school? Or do you locate it on a site that is convenient for your students and not disruptive to a residential neighborhood? Given that demand for Summit far outstrips supply, seems as though you could locate three schools in that general area of Redwood City -- central to the district -- and still not have enough capacity.

Our educational system is failing to serve the needs of many kids who live in the Ravenswood district. Clearly, lack of available options is not the problem. I am not an educator and I don't have any solutions, but cramming yet another school into that area does not make sense.

Posted by Paul Goeld
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:45 pm

You've changed the discussion from "per student" spending to total spending. If you include capital spending (and that's in the tens of millions of dollars) and donations it would certainly skew the data even more. This is part of our problem, everyone is mixing data to demonstrate their point.

I tried very hard to compare apples to apples. You should note that I didn't account for the loss of 100 students to the district and the additional $420,000 funds ($11,200 - $7,000) x 100 students that the district is now able to spend on their remaining 8,100 (8,200 - 100) students. I believe these are the funds that Don Gielow referenced in David Boyce's post above and this actually increases the district's spending by $52 per student. When 100 students go to the Everest and the district pays $700,000, per student spending in the district goes UP, not down.

I agree that it would be best if no new facilities were required. As I recall, Everest asked to be housed in unused classrooms inside an EXISTING high school - the district rejected that proposal and came up with the Green Street plan. Even if existing space is not available as the district says - and that's hard to believe given enrollment and capacity numbers - then why is the district not even considering Everest's Charter Street proposal at half the cost of their Green Street plan? That simply makes no sense to me.

But we all know that this is going to court to see if Green Street is Prop 39 compliant - that's truly the only issue. You don't address the district's trustees who have repeatedly stated the Green Street facility is not Prop 39 compliant (they refer to it as a "starter campus"). The district is not going to be able to escape that representation in court.

Like I've been saying, this is going to be another very expensive lesson for SUHSD. It doesn't have to be this way.

I do want to thank you for conversing in a respectful manner. We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable!

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

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

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Vietnamese restaurant that may offer special menu for canine customers coming to former Wahlburgers site in Palo Alto
By The Peninsula Foodist | 2 comments | 3,796 views

I Was At The Stanford Shooting. Let’s Do Better Next Time
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 2,863 views

The clothes we wear: Cool, chic, casual -- or just plain sloppy?
By Diana Diamond | 30 comments | 2,455 views

Some of the best jobs around
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 2,017 views

People and Relationships Never Stop Being a Work in Progress
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 999 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $260,000.