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Now that Measures A and C have failed what should be the agenda for the MPCSD Board?

Original post made by Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood, on May 3, 2016

Now that Measures A and C have failed what should be the agenda for the MPCSD Board?

1) Understand the depth of misunderstanding and mistrust in the community,

2) Commit to full transparency as they move forward including a redesigned web site that actually includes and makes easy to find all of the financial, performance and union contract information,

3) Prepare a SINGLE Parcel Tax measure for the November General Election that supersedes ALL of the current parcel taxes and which has a 6 year expiration date,

4) Commit to doing everything possible within the next six years to creating a Unified Elementary School District serving Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and the adjacent unincorporated areas of San Mateo County.

Comments (13)

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 3, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT MEASURE A
20 Complete Precincts:of 20
Yes 59.17%
2,819

NO 40.83%
1,945

MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT MEASURE C
20 Complete Precincts: of 20
Yes 53.79%
2,560

No 46.21%
2,199


2 people like this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm

Peter, thank you for caring about our community. I hope you will work with the Board members going forward and that people will stay involved in the issues.

I disagree with you on your last point -- which for lack of a better term I will call the "south county" school district concept. I think at some level when institutions become larger, additional bureaucracy is needed just to support the bureaucracy, it is all too easy to duplicate functions, and there is less accountability and less responsiveness to the children and parents. I do think one could probably successfully combine adjacent districts (e.g. MPCSD and Ravenswood, MPCSD and LL/LE, Portola Valley and Woodside). Curious to hear other perspectives.


2 people like this
Posted by Time for change
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2016 at 10:12 pm

I second that. Thank you Peter for caring about our community. I personally was inspired by your thoughtful comments and moved to action by what I read and saw others doing. I've never been so involved in an election before and I have NEVER voted against anything that the school district requested.

I feel duped by our school board and am intrigued by Peter's question.

The agenda should be to hold lots of town forums, where WE pick the agenda item, not comment on theirs.

Possible forum topics could be:

TRANSPARENCY:
What transparency would look like to the constituents (decisions on calling special elections, evading questions that are posed multiple times)
Q and A on any numbers, line items, expenditures etc.


BOARD APPOINTMENTS (related to transparency)

TEACHER INCENTIVES
What do we need to do to support attract and retain strong teachers and what is excess (salary increases at this time, 17K for 60 students, etc.)?

UNIFICATION AND OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP RAVENSWOOD
What kind of unification does the community want? How can the voices of those who stand to truly benefit from
unification be heard if they are not district residents?

What do others suggest?


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Posted by District Employee
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 3, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Thank you, Peter, Train Fan, Jack, and all of the additional parents and community members who dedicated time and energy to ensure that the public had access to accurate information regarding the parcel taxes. Thanks, also, to the Almanac staff for the editorial. Great job!

To add to Peter’s list…the Board needs to:

5. Oust Ghysels and appoint Erik Burmeister to the position of superintendent. The district desperately needs, and our families and staff members deserve, an ethical, knowledgeable and wise superintendent.

6. Oust Ahmad Sheikholeslami, Chief Business and Operations Officer, who was appointed to the CBO position in 2014 while serving as the district’s Facilities Manager. He holds an M.A. in engineering. The district requires a CBO who has expertise in school finance and business.

In Addition, Our Community Needs to:

1. Identify and support quality candidates for the School Board who are willing to ask questions and provide input that may differ from the current Board members.

2. Harness the momentum created by the election and continue to be involved in the business of the district by attending Board meetings and providing input at the meetings. There is a saying in the district that if 5 parents voice concerns at a Board meeting, the Board will “change its mind.” Parent voices do make a difference.


28 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 3, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

1st, let me echo the sentiments of others and thank Mr. Carpenter for his investigations, questions and persistence in demanding transparency from MPCSD, and ultimately his involvement in the push for No on measures A and C.

He and the people that crafted the official "arguments against" that were provided with all voter information were likely the biggest factors in A and C's defeat.


That said, I think it's important that our focus on MPCSD be narrower than Mr. Carpenters points above. Specifically we should expect the following changes from MPCSD:

1) More financial transparency from the district. Based on the digging I, Mr. Carpenter and others had to do, it's clear that MPCSD prefers to work under a cloud of financial ambiguity. This is unacceptable.

2) MPCSD needs to return to budgeting with a SURPLUS as a goal. The local economy is booming; NOW is the time to build a surplus so when we have an inevitable downturn, we won't need to lay off teachers or cancel programs. NOW is the time to plan for the educational and financial future of future students and future parents. The board needs to stop mortgaging that future with excessive spending.

3) MPCSD needs to financial plan with the existing 3 parcel taxes, property taxes (which continue to increase), state funding, MPAEF funding, etc. Those sources alone are a healthy revenue source by most standards.


I agree that all parcel taxes should have sunset provisions, but considering the pasting the district took in today's vote, I think there is no chance they'll risk losing ALL of the parcel taxes. They lost the 2nd measure by almost 13%; for this district that's a historic rejection that they won't want to risk with the other parcel taxes.

And while I agree that MPCSD borders should be larger, I think this muddy's the water; focus on transparency and the long-term educational and financial stability of the district. That resonates with everyone, pro-tax and anti-tax, and that's what's most important.


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Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 4, 2016 at 9:38 am

Message from Superintendent Ghysels:

Dear Parents and Community Members of MPCSD,

Last night we learned that Measure A and Measure C did not receive the two-thirds YES votes to pass. We sincerely thank all those who supported and voted Yes on these measures. While I express my disappointment and sadness that the measures didn't pass, we will reach out to listen and learn from our parents and community, examining our next steps. Above all, we remain committed to excellence as we lead and persevere.

As a result of these measures not passing, I have instituted effective immediately a hiring freeze. We invite you to attend our next regular Board meeting at 6:00 p.m. on May 10 when the Board will address options to reduce our expenditures related to district operations, compensation, class sizes, and essential programs, as well as discussing parent donations.

The teachers and every team member of the The Menlo Park City School District are committed to serving our wonderful students and remain dedicated to our families and community.

Sincerely Yours,

Maurice Ghysels
Superintendent
Menlo Park City School District

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


1 person likes this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

Agenda for MPCSD board:

Discuss how better to engage with the broader community (i.e. not just parents with kids in the district) and encourage their involvement with the schools.

In the meantime put Measure A on the November ballot with a 6-8 year sunset provision. I bet it will pass easily.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

MP parent. I won't vote for another parcel tax until the board cleans up its act.


1 person likes this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 5, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hi Menlo Voter,
What do you think it would take for the board to "clean up its act"?


1 person likes this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Ugh, hit submit too soon. Would you please clarify what you mean by having the board "clean up its act"?


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

MP parent:

for starters stop treating the citizens in an arrogant fashion, especially when they are questioned. I've been to board meetings and seen it in action. While I appreciate their volunteering I don't appreciate being treated submissively, nor does anyone else.

Answer the questions that were previously posted in this forum. It would display transparency.

Actually practice transparency. Make the books public. Don't try to manipulate the numbers. Be factual. Recognize ALL of the money the district receives from the tax payers.

Reevaluate the need for the size of administrative staff. We don't need an assistant superintendent in a district this size.

Stop treating the school board as a special little club. If someone from outside of the "clique" runs for a seat, don't start the whisper and smear campaign. Don't set things up so they control who gets elected via appointments.

That would be a good start.

Bottom line is that given the past practice of the board and the shenanigans surrounding this special election (the cost, the trying to fly under the radar, etc) I have zero faith in the boards recognition that they work for ALL of us, not just parents.


2 people like this
Posted by Truj
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Peter Carpenter's idea: "4) Commit to doing everything possible within the next six years to creating a Unified Elementary School District serving Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and the adjacent unincorporated areas of San Mateo County."

Why are you excluding the Redwood City Elementary District from your school consolidation plan? Many of us attend Woodside High School with as your people from Woodside and Portola Valley and Atherton, and we should get to stay with them.


2 people like this
Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

To read Mr. Ghysels message above is to see exactly why he needs to be replaced. Despite the deep perception that he had no financial discipline and assumed residents, via donations and parcel taxes, would never compel him to be prudent, he then takes to the airwaves immediately after the defeat to prove that everyone was right. To spend in advance of your means is never a good idea, especially dealing with our kids education. He simply needs to step aside and board members up for reelection this year need to do the same. Time for a change in how we educate our kids within our means.


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