Town Square

Post a New Topic

Menlo Park: New Hillview Middle School playing field must be ripped up and rebuilt

Original post made on Jul 1, 2013

Neighbors of Hillview Middle School may have hoped for a quiet summer after living through three previous summers of major construction work required to rebuild the Menlo Park campus. But that hope was dashed with the school district's recent determination that the new playing field must be ripped up and repaired beginning this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 1, 2013, 11:37 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:43 am

Who's paying for all the rework?

Posted by inexcusable
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Who was in charge of supervising the work?
Are the attorneys standing in line?
and who will pay for all of that?

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

If the problems are due to defective workmanship and not following plans and specifications, the contractor that originally did the work will have to pay for it. At least that's the way it usually works.

Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

How about being covered by warranty???

Editor's note: District Superintendent Maurice Ghysels told the Almanac that the contractor will be responsible for the repair costs. "We expect that all the corrections to the field will be complete this summer and will meet required installation specifications without any additional costs" to the district, he wrote in an email.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I'd settle for government doing something right... just once.

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

What about the potential health impacts of artificial turf?
Check this article from Environment and Human Health, Inc. (a non-profit environmental health organization).
Web Link

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Another opportunity to do the right thing & put in grass! One can wish....

Posted by Grass is for lawns and croquet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm


It took me months to get my ankle right after I hit a gopher hole playing on a grass field. Add to that the expense, the pesticides, herbicides and oil based fertilizer. Count the increased availability of turf when rains close grass fields (if it ever rains again!)

The government made the correct choice to go with turf. Sounds like the contractor erred and is responsible.

Posted by Arthur
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

The basketball area should be redone too. It looks good from a distance but up close the courts have too much slope( I don't think you need that much slope for drainage). Players feel like they are shooting or running uphill or downhill all the time. The rims are flimsy and without any springs. The backboards are razor thin. You may slice a ball in half if you hit it against the sides of the backboard. cheap materials, poor planing and worse oversight.

Posted by Brucie
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:45 pm

we need another bond measure.

Posted by spin zone
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:02 pm

[Portion removed. Not relevant to topic.] The folks writing headlines for the Almanac are obviously residents of the spin zone. I'll bet this turf will be rolled up, not ripped up.

Posted by not a surprise
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I first heard about the turf replacement three months ago. I don't know why this is a surprise to anyone.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2013 at 10:45 am

To "not a surprise" -- I recall this too. Perhaps the editor dredged it up as a contender for the "outrage of the week" to generate angry letters about a local government conspiracy and/or government ineptitude.

Editor's note: The story is based on an announcement on June 28 by Ahmad Sheikholeslami, director of facilities for the Menlo Park City School District.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

"Neighbor" from "another community" (how does THAT work?), you say you knew this work had to be done three months ago, even though you live in "another community." Odd, given that many residents in Menlo Park didn't seem to know about it until the Friday announcement by the district. How did you find out?

Posted by sports fan
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

That field has been in constant use since it opened. Lots of kids on there all the time playing lacrosse, soccer, etc. Not all live in Menlo Park. I don't remember who told us that the turf was being redone, but it was common knowledge within a month or so of the turf first opening. It was so clearly defective.

Posted by facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This is not new news. The summer field repair project was previously announced along with all other summer facility projects in an earlier District newsletter:

Due to increased enrollment, we have several summer construction projects. To accommodate more students, the District will be installing one classroom portable at Laurel and one at Encinal, as well as converting the small multi purpose room at Oak Knoll into classrooms. As a matter of routine the District will also be conducting several maintenance projects over the summer. Also, we have noticed areas of the new field at Hillview where the subterranean drainage system has not been working as expected. The contractor is responsible for the installation, and their corrective work will be conducted during the summer to avoid any impact on the instructional year. The City of Menlo Park has also been informed, and they will be scheduling alternative locations for summer community uses of the field. District staff will closely monitor the work to ensure that the field corrections are timely and meeting the design parameters."

Posted by Freedom of the Press
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm

For years, The Almanac was a shill for the MPCSD. It printed all of their propaganda verbatim, and when a reporter covered board meetings there was never any mention made of anything contentious. If someone contacted The Almanac to report questionable conduct, it went nowhere.

Now, after many years, the local paper is showing some independence. It's long overdue. A public agency is supposed to operate in the public eye, so the MPCSD needs to stop whining about being picked on when their actions make headlines. It is appropriate for a newspaper to report on this subject because it does have an impact on the entire community -- especially the neighborhood around Hillview that's already been changed dramatically.

And for those of you with short memories, the cost of the Hillview field went significantly OVER BUDGET during the construction because this drainage problem was discovered then and the scope of the project had to be changed to accommodate it. Taxpayers have already paid a price for this correction, which makes it even more sad that the work still has to be redone.

The other reason it is appropriate to report on the Hillview site issues is that it reflects on how the MPCSD has managed its construction work to date, in light of the fact that they are about to ask taxpayers to approve yet another hefty bond measure to rebuild the O'Connor site. It will be overseen by the same person and most likely awarded to the same architect and builder.

Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Deja vu all over again! Does anyone remember when the "new" Hillview Gym was built about 7 years ago? Mistakenly built below sewer level, so sewage from lavatories have to be pumped-up and out. Ain't there an App for that - sheesh!

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

The question that should be asked is why wasn't it done right the first time?

Yes, it could be the contractor's fault but the district's engineering team gave final approval.

Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Between the Hillview construction defects & the troubles PA has with Mitchell Park Library issues, it appears that the local engineers & inspectors don't know how to read the plans & specs, understand if the engineering calculations are correct, or evaluate the quality of work as it's performed.

For all the grief residents endure during home remodels & new constructions, it is ridiculous that if the project is big enough, anything goes.

Does the company who'll supposedly redo the field at its cost have adequate funds or insurance to do so? Is there a completion bond? Who will oversee the work this time? Are there new specs for drainage? Is the same engineer doing the specs?

It's just so much easier to get it right the first time. Who selects the winning contractor? Is it based on lowest cost? Maybe that shouldn't be the primary consideration and perhaps the people who decide to whom the contracts are awarded are incompetent to make that determination.

Posted by Dee Sanchez
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Did they even check references of the contractor before giving the contractor approval to commence work? The School District and the City Public Works departments usually choose the lowest bidder, not a very good practice in my opinion.

Posted by disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 3, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Wasn't it the sole responsibility of Sheikholeslami this past year to to complete the construction of Hillview? How could something like this happen when there is a full-time, highly paid district employee overseeing this project? People have been ousted from the district for making fewer, if any, mistakes. How does he manage to come out of this unscathed?

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

I might be wrong but don't local school districts have some sort of exemption when it comes to local government oversight of designs and construction projects. Thus home much if any inspection responsibility does MP Building and Planning Depts have over the school projects?

Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2013 at 9:46 am

Disgusted-Your comment reminds me of something I read in the Almanac from 2009. This was about Ghysels time in Mountain View Whisman School District.

"The "Gang of Four" administrators, as I have heard them refer to themselves, operate as though they are untouchable and unanswerable to the community they have been hired to serve."

The same scenario is now playing out in Menlo Park. Sheikholeslami is Ghysels "golden boy" and part of his new gang in Menlo Park.

Wake up Board!

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Folks, The time to influence your board about their chosen Supt is when they are hiring! After that, the Supt works for the Board, and all other District Employees are the Supt's responsibility. Contractors have to fix defects all the time, and public agencies select the low bidder almost exclusively because the Public Contract Code requires them to except in specific circumstances. School projects are usually processed through the Division of State Architect (not city building dept's), by Architects rather than Engineers, and yes I was able to observe Dr. Ghysels while he served the MVWSD board -- Plenty of positives to go along with all the negatives you all are still twitching over.

Posted by Interested Community Member
a resident of Encinal School
on Jul 5, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Unfortunately, in this case, the negatives far out weigh the positives. Hopefully the Board will understand before much longer that their selection for superintendent is slowly disemboweling the entire district. It is getting worse and worse as each day goes by!

Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Old Steve,
To be clear, we gave as much input as we could into hiring a new superintendent. The hiring process, after the input sessions, was completed by only the 5 board members. And it was completed in a facility off-site. And Ghysels is friends with Larry Aceves, one of the recruiters from Leadership Associates. We were bamboozled by the board and by Leadership Associates.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 6, 2013 at 8:23 am

Citizens still have the right (and obligation, if you ask me) to make their feelings clear to elected officials. If you don't like the way your school district is managed, you should go to a school board meeting, stand up and tell them. These elected officials are your neighbors and you should be able to speak to them.

If enough people did that, they would get the message. If people don't do that, then the board rightfully assumes that citizens approve of their actions.

Posted by Concerned Community Member
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm

With two senior members of the administration announcing that they are leaving in the past two weeks, MPCSD is not in good shape. This disruption will only end with the realization by the Board and community that the emperor is wearing no clothes. Until then, you will see more people fleeing for the exits, to the detriment of the District.

Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Why doesn't the board get the root of the problem and remove Ghysels from his position rather than sit back and wait for more administrators to leave. Soon there won't be anyone left! What's shocking is that one of the senior administrators leaving was HIS hire.

Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Could someone satisfy my curiosity and say who the two admiinstrators are who are leaving?

Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm


Jim Bowlby, Director of Technology and Allison Liner, Chief Learning Officer. Yes, his second in command is leaving for a lesser position in a different district and a huge cut in pay. What does that tell you?

Posted by A little history
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jul 10, 2013 at 12:21 am

Hillview School is the historic site of "The Tank Collection grounds" for the Sharon Estate and it's then hundreds of acres of fruits and vegetables grown to send up by train for the Palace Hotel in the city, also owned by the Sharon family.
La Loma creek and all the run off from the hills west of the Alameda slope down naturally to the school grounds. A hundred years ago and until the forties or fifties, this water was collected right there at what is now the school grounds, and then pumped back up to Sharon Heights for irrigating the entire estate.
Some of the best wells currently owned by the County are under the School

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.

California must do a better job spending cap-and-trade revenue
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 2,162 views

Got the Munchies at Hardly Strictly? Your Weekend Guide.
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,693 views