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Yes, Daily Post, there is a 'divident'

Original post made by Erik Burmeister, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks, on Jan 27, 2017

An open note to the MPCSD community,

I don’t usually post on the Almanac Town Square Forum. In fact, this is the first time. Yet I’m so excited about the attention the school district I serve received this morning as I was flooded by texts, calls, and emails from folks in our community around 9:00 a.m. letting me know about Palo Alto Daily Post’s front page “article.” If you haven’t seen it, allow me to set it up for you.

The Daily Post took a picture of a Measure X (school parcel tax) campaign flier that included an MPCSD teacher on a computer with three actual MPCSD students. Barely readable in the background is some student writing on the classroom whiteboard with an equation and the label, “Divident?” The word is circled by The Post with the title ‘Teacher, What’s a Divident?’ along with the following “article?”:

“This brochure promoting the Menlo Park City School District’s parcel tax measure has arrived in mailboxes. On the white board behind the students is a math equation showing the word ‘divident.’

To my surprise, readers were reading this as a sarcastic insult to the teacher or the district for having what the paper deems a spelling error.

Now, I am not so cynical to believe that a respected daily newspaper in a neighboring town would so overtly attempt to shame the 9-year old student who was the one who actually wrote what was on the board.

Rather, I am going to assume that the Daily Post really wants to know what a divident is and moreover, wants the community to know how incredible the education in Menlo Park City School District is and thus, offer their support of the Measure by highlighting the great education that is happening at MPCSD.

In the spirit of education and since you asked, allow me to define “divident” for the Daily Post. “Divident” is a not-often-used, but also not incorrect version of “dividend.” A simple Google search would reveal that a 9 year-old misspelling the word dividend with a “t” is actually not an error. Thus, “dividend” and “divident” are both mathematical terms, which are used to describe a number to be divided by another number. If anyone is in need of a tutorial, the 9-year old students in MPCSD would be happy to provide you with some assistance and an illustration of the outstanding instruction led by our teachers...again, since you asked.

Additionally, I would like to thank the Daily Post for highlighting the engaging, hands-on instruction emblematic of the learning occurring in every classroom in MPCSD. Yes, you’ll find student writing throughout our classrooms, rather than a focus on teacher writing. You’ll find students engaged in high-level academic vocabulary and discourse. Our outstanding achievement and culture of support (rather than shaming) is evident throughout all our schools. In fact, as an official partner of Stanford’s, we live the mindset of embracing our mistakes.

I can only assume that the Daily Post’s placement of our work on the front page of their newspaper is yet another endorsement of the quality education in MPCSD that should be supported by all in our community, including at the ballot box.

In closing and on another note, I’d like to thank The Almanac for being a great hometown newspaper.

Erik Burmeister
Incoming MPCSD Superintendent

Comments (40)

Posted by Caryn Wasserstein
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Erik, you make me a proud MPCSD parent once again. I am consistently impressed with your leadership, professionalism, character and how you care for our community. It is no wonder you are loved by students, staff, teachers, parents and community members. Our students are consistently reminded of the THINK acronym in their school day. For those unfamiliar THINK stands for T=is it true? H= is it helpful? I= is it inspiring? N= is it necessary? K= is it kind? Thank you for modeling THINK for us. I hope your model shows others the way.

Posted by Kate Kennedy
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Thank you, Erik, for clearing up this mystery for The Daily Post and its readers.

I have to confess I wasn't familiar with the term "divident," but you're right — a quick search gave me the answer (courtesy of

n. 1. Dividend; share.

I assumed when I saw the photo that the writing on the white board was the work of a student. Since Mrs. Yamada's math students are so smart and savvy, I figured they knew something I didn't — and sure enough, they did!

I've learned over the years not to presume that I'm right and the kids are wrong when they present me with unfamiliar information. Often, as in this case, they've been better-informed than me, and I'm given the opportunity to learn something new, which is awesome.

I'm glad we all got to increase our knowledge today!

Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

Seriously? This really happened? Wow. Thank you, Mr. Burmeister, for taking the time out of your very busy day running our city's school district to deal with tabloid "news."

And Caryn, my kids are constantly reminding me of the THINK acronym too! Got to love our MPCSD schools!

Posted by Proud MPCSD Teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Thank you for speaking up Erik. I use the word "newspaper" loosely in reference to The Post but they should be ashamed of their deplorable tactics of insinuation and embarrassment towards a very respected and loved MP teacher.

What does it say about the opposition to Measure X when all they can do is resort to enlarging a tiny fraction of a whiteboard with a (possibly) misused word on it?

Thanks Post, I am now more motivated and energized to help and support the Measure X campaign!

Posted by Mpcsd parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Really Post? Highlighting "misspellings" in kids' math work?

I am glad that the teacher (unlike the Post) did not put a big red circle around the words used in the kid's solution.

I expect that the teacher appropriately pointed out what the student had done right in the math problem, and perhaps quietly told the student that the word he/she used is often spelled with a D.

Btw, I will be supporting Measure X.

Posted by Parke Treadway
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:56 pm

My kids received a great education at MPCSD and are well prepared for high school and beyond. As an alum parent, I'm proud to be supporting Measure X because I believe quality schools - made so by quality teachers - benefit our whole community. Keep it up, MPCSD!

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

It would not surprise me if the Post endorsed Measure x. Dave Price's front page made readers aware of the election. Hopefully, that will lead to a large turnout where reason will prevail and Measure X will be defeated.

Posted by Menlo Park Parent
a resident of Laurel School
on Jan 27, 2017 at 5:33 pm

I really appreciate Mr. Burmeister's article and I am very disappointed that the Daily Post in Palo Alto chose to do a story of this caliber. With all of the real news stories out there, especially now, I am baffled why a newspaper would print "rag" news like this. This makes me ask, what is the Post's end goal of writing an article like this? Wouldn't it be appropriate for the Post to reach out to the campaign first if they had questions regarding a mailer? Or perhaps reach out to Mr. Burmeister or district staff if they had a sincere concern? As a parent volunteer I am in classrooms at MPCSD every week, and anyone who is connected to the district's schools will tell you what a fabulous district it is! By the way, the teacher in the photograph, is my son's teacher and she is absolutely incredible! Her detailed level of support in both educational and social emotional learning has been fantastic. It breaks my heart that the Post did not take into account how their attack portrayed in this irresponsible article would reflect on this top notch, MPCSD teacher. Like Michelle Obama said, "when they go low, we go high." Please "go high, keep positivity, and funding in our excellent schools, despite the negativity of articles like this...join me to support Measure X!

Posted by MakeAmericaNiceAgain
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 27, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Wow, how disappointing that the Daily Post would decide to attack a teacher and try to harm an effort to fund public education. And here I've been doing what I can to support journalism in this new time in our country where journalists are under attack. This is no way to prove how important journalism is when a simple search also quickly demonstrates how wrong this supposed call out is.

I do hope that readers of that tabloid take a moment to look up the word "divident" and find what anyone can find-- a correctly spelled version of the word dividend-- and come to the quick conclusion that I did: The Daily Post is just mean. (And short sighted. Realtors support Measure X in overwhelming numbers and by my observation seem to be the ones who support that paper.)

Our public schools depend on parcel taxes to provide quality education. To have a local paper try to smear our teachers, our schools, and our volunteer lead effort to fund our schools through much needed parcel taxes is a seriously low blow.

Really happy and proud to see our Asst Superintendent call this out and defend our great teachers.

Posted by jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 27, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Let the realtors join MPAEF and the PTO's to fund the embellishments.

Posted by Menlo Park Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 27, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Tut, tut, tut, Daily Post, edit and verify your work before you print it.

Posted by Seek and Ye Shall Find
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 27, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Thank you realtors!!

Web Link

Posted by Emily Robinson
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 27, 2017 at 10:51 pm

All of Mrs. Yamada's parents, both present and past, know exactly what kind of teacher she is: creative, inspiring, innovative, and caring. She KNOWS her students as individuals, and she celebrates them and draws out the best in them. My middle son had her in first grade -- she fostered a love of learning and a deep sense of curiosity in him. The Post's ridiculous article notwithstanding, she is one of the biggest reasons I am so supportive of Measure X. Our students, our District, and *our entire community* is richer because of teachers like Mrs. Yamada. And thanks to Erik Burmeister, our entire community (and hopefully the editors at the Post) now has a richer vocabulary as well. Teachers never stop teaching.

Posted by Sydney Merk
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 28, 2017 at 5:11 am

I am so proud to call Heidi Yamada a friend and colleague and today, reading these comments, I am equally proud to be a member of MPCSD and the Menlo Park community. Let's keep supporting our EXCELLENT schools and pass Measure X!

Posted by Linda Creighton
a resident of Laurel School
on Jan 28, 2017 at 9:57 am

Thank you, Erik, for providing the complete, true story and for understanding the inspirational, meaningful education our students receive at Laurel, and in the entire Menlo Park City School District.
Laurel School is a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. No other school in San Mateo County received the 2016 NBRS Award, and less than one half of one percent of schools in the entire State of California were honored with it. Mrs. Yamada absolutely contributes to our ability to inspire, challenge and develop confident students. She embodies everything that makes Laurel a nationally recognized leader in education. The Daily Post "article," unfortunately and unnecessarily, likely chipped away at her self-esteem and also the self-esteem of her students.
I tried to attach an image of the complete student generated poster, but was unable to do so in this comment section. The poster was collaboratively created, where students defined AND provided models different division terms. We know that when students can teach and explain concepts, they have reached the deepest level of understanding. I'm proud of our fourth graders, their ability to learn collaboratively, and their confidence to take risks when producing publicly displayed products. I'm sure you would feel the same if it was one of your own children who had created the math display.
I've sent a formal request to the Daily Post to correct their information and print the real story of our high-quality education in MPCSD.

Posted by More than one meaning
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Urban Dictionary has its own definition of divident:

Web Link

Posted by Community Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I sat down with my fourteen year old to review the "article" and teach him to read/think critically. Before we even had a chance to discuss the "article" he stated, "That's not an EQUATION; it doesn't have an equal sign. It's an incomplete EXPRESSION".

Since we're discussing mathematical terms, I thought it important to highlight the correct definition of equation for the record. Even more importantly I'd like to highlight that a student caught this error.

My son is a recent graduate of MPCSD.

I hope that the community members will support our schools on Measure X; we need smart graduates who can read for detail AND think critically.

Posted by respected
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 28, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Erik, the Daily Post is NOT a "respected" daily newspaper?

Posted by respected
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm

If Daily Post employees don't live in the district, then some unscrupulous individual in the district shared this mailer with the publisher Dave Price. So sad.

Posted by Sleaze factor
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 29, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Though I support Measure X, it's incredibly inappropriate and borderline illegal for the district superintendent to use this platform to shill for votes.

I wouldn't expect a 9-year-old student to know how to spell "dividend" so no reason to concoct elaborate excuses -- the misspelling (let's not sugar coat it) does not reflect badly on the district's education, but the post suggests poor judgment on the part of the superintendent.

Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 30, 2017 at 10:31 am

Sleaze, You should re-read Burmeister's letter. It WASN'T a misspelling. Divident is a math term that was correctly used by the student. But even if it had been a misspelling, which it wasn't, it's not at all acceptable behavior by adult editors at The Post to shame a child for a mistake. I appreciate that Burmeister came to the defense of a defenseless child being attacked by a newspaper for political reasons.

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 30, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

I suspect that a supporter of Measure X "leaked" the error in the flyer to the Post in the hopes of getting it on the front page. It worked!

Posted by Get real
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Oh please, nobody in the real world uses the word divident.

We all know it, and so does Erik Burmeister.

I attended the MPCSD in grades k-8 and nobody ever taught us that spelling. If they're teaching it now, the question is why are they using such archaic language.

Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Divident is a math word.

Webster's defines divident here Web Link

And here is a non-MPCSD example of it being used in a math context: Web Link

Posted by Mason
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2017 at 7:32 pm

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"


You're linking to a 1913 edition of Webster's dictionary. That's over one hundred years old. In that time, "divident" became obsolete such that the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary no longer lists it as a word.

Web Link

Are there any up to date dictionaries that list it as a word? When I Google search it, those dictionary entries cite the same 1913 version of Webster's dictionary as the source. Google suggest an auto-correction from "divident" to "dividend".

Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 31, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Eric, admit it. Divident isn't a word in your math curriculum. Either a teacher or a student made a mistake, then somebody put together this mailer without catching this error. So now you're doubling down on this mistake. You look silly.

Instead of blaming the messenger, you should fault the person or persons who approved this mailer. It doesn't make the district look very good.

Posted by Doug
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 1, 2017 at 11:22 am

It's sad that our new superintendent won't take responsibility for the error in this flier. He should have checked it over carefully before it was printed. Now he wants to blame the 9-year-old who wrote the misspelled word and the newspaper that merely pointed out the mistake. Pathetic!

Posted by Doug
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 1, 2017 at 11:27 am

@Facts. You're mistaken in saying the Post shamed a child. There was no mention in the Post of any child. The caption had the heading, "Teacher, what's a divident?" That implies a child was asking why a teacher put that word on the board. But I saw nothing in the caption or photograph that mentions a 9-year-old student. @Facts, seems you've fallen for Dr. Burmeister's attempt to shift the blame away from himself.

Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Holy smokes! OK...

First, I'll just point out that I think it's entirely reasonable for Mr. Burmeister to defend the district if he feels the district is being misrepresented in some way. So in that respect I'm supportive of Mr. Burmeister's post and defense of the district.

That said, the length to which he goes does scream "thin skinned" to me. Just point out (with a reference supporting your claim) that divident is a valid word, then move on.

10 paragraphs???

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Divident shmivedent.

It's not a term of art - certainly not in current use. The flier was simply not proofread.

I look at meaning of language and terminology as part as a technical expert, and co-authored a legal reference on the subject.

See, The Thesaurus of Patent Claim Construction.

Web Link

Buy a copy, or two. Please.

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 1, 2017 at 7:05 pm

I'm really puzzled by the word 'divident', so as a public service I've arrived at the définition.

A divident is the name for the space between teeth of gapped-tooth people. See, for example

Alfred E Neuman, icon of Mad Magazine: Web Link

Or Guy Verhofstadt, former PM of Belgium, current president of the EU: Web Link

Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Proofread, shmoofread. That a zoomed in photo from a classroom happened to show a poster created by nine year olds in the background is only an issue because the Post decided to step away from journalistic integrity by confusing its front page with its op-ed section.

Still, it's ripe that the Post decided to make federal case out of a young child's minor error. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Glass houses and all.... Do we need a thread that calls out every typographical and grammatical error inserted into the Post's editions? I'm not sure that the Almanac has reserved enough storage space to archive it all....

Posted by George
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

@fifw, you're shooting the messenger when you blame the Post. They're just exposing an error made by the campaign committee. And the Post never mentioned any 9 year old. Burmeister should have proofread this mailer carefully, and because he didn't, a big mistake happened. Now he's trying to blame others, such as the Post and a 9 year old. It's total CYA on his part. It's sad somebody who is willing to stigmatize a child for his own benefit is our school superintendent.

Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

@George, we're just going to have to agree to disagree. Sure, there was nothing in the Post's "story" about the 9 year old who actually was responsible for writing the word on the poster because the Post never bothered to exercise the journalistic integrity necessary to bother with an inquiry. But beyond that, the not so subtle implication of the story was to impugn the districts teaching staff as though their teaching methods were sloppy or below par.

Simply put, it was an obvious hit piece. Certainly the Post is entitled to their opinion, but have a little integrity and put your pretentious complaint in the editorial section because there was nothing there that was newsworthy in the story on its own merits, and I say that the district was naïve not to put extra effort into proofreading knowing that its political opponents would make use of any opening, even if a cheap shot.

Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 2:36 pm

My last post has at least one typo in the last sentence. Feel free to correct it on your own if you're offended.

Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Feb 3, 2017 at 5:02 pm

So the Post never mentioned the 9 year old? Supt. Burmeister did that to deflect blame from the mistake he or another adult made? That's disgusting. Instead of blaming others, our new superintendent needs to man up and accept responsibility. I expect a superintendent to protect kids, not scapegoat them. Unless Burmeister apologizes, I'm voting NO!!!

Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:15 pm

> Unless Burmeister apologizes, I'm voting NO!!!

Seriously? What a bunch of misplaced faux outrage.

Honestly, I don't have a dog in this fight. Reasonable people can
argue over what level of taxation should apply to their own public
school district. And my own kids go to a better funded district than
your district anyway.

On the other hand, I happened to actually read the Post on the day
the "story" came out, and I found it offensive in that it so unfairly
and obviously denigrated teachers and a district of which so many of
my friends have spoken so highly. It's just a fact that 9 year olds
created the poster that happened to be sitting in the background
photo. That the poster existed accurately conveyed the work that was
going on in that classroom. I have no doubt that the teacher understood the proper spelling, but allowed it to be unedited because, as explained in one of the early replies in this thread, she preferred to focus on the
meaning of the terms quotient, divisor, and, yes, dividend.

Good on Burmeister for standing up for his district and its employees.

Posted by Community Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:43 pm

To Disgusted:

It's the journalists who need to be proofreading; that is their professional obligation. Why are they calling an expression and equation? My son pointed that out to me and he's only fourteen! I don't want that job to be given to Mr. Burmeister.

I personally want our school district leadership to focus on leading, not on minutia. I don't want Erik to be focusing his time on proofreading, unless it's a decimal point in a budget item. If he is sitting in his office proofreading campaign mail, then he is not out in the field, seeing what is going on in classrooms. If he is in his office, I want him focusing on staying current with best practices, not proofreading a campaign poster. We can't have a talented leader doing everything. That's not his job nor would it be a good use of our taxpayer dollars to pay him six figures to proofread campaign mail. Glancing it over, sure. Scrutinizing, absolutely not.

1. It's not his job to proofread.
2. An error was not published. The real situation was published and that's how schools run. Students do work and teachers display it.
3. There is a place to disagree with the measure and that is the Op Ed section.
4. Voting NO because the superintendent tells it like it is or doesn't call it a mistake is ridiculous. Vote no, if you don't want to vote for the tax, but not based on Mr. Burmeister's blog.
5. If you want to know more about the tax itself, call or write to the district or school board to inform yourself. Make a decision based on what you hear to be the facts, not about a blog, where an opinion about journalism was expressed. That has nothing to do with a tax.

Posted by Pam
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm

@community member, you're missing the point ... Burmeister defended himself by scapegoating a 9-year-old child. Do we really want a superintendent who uses children that way? He's apparently willing to stigmatize a child (who was never mentioned by the Post) in order to make an argument. I agree with @Disgusted above. Burmeister needs to apologize to this child, his or her class and the child's parents.

Posted by Mark D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 6, 2017 at 12:25 am

Mark D. is a registered user.

Pam stated, in part: "Burmeister defended himself by scapegoating a 9-year-old child. Do we really want a superintendent who uses children that way?"

How did you reach this conclusion given the text of the article, above? In all my interaction with Erik Burmeister he's been nothing short of outstanding (my children attend school in the district) and the notion that he "uses children" in any way is patently absurd, doubly so if based on this article alone. I support Measure X and Erik's use of this forum for the purpose of providing a light-hearted response to what is clearly leaden snark on the part of the Daily Post, and I won't lose sleep over a Measure X flyer which exposes a misspelling in the work of a nine-year-old student, if misspelling we deem it.

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