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Private school supporters plead for more time

Original post made on Mar 21, 2013

(==B This is an expanded version of a previously published story.)== More than 600 supporters of a private school that may be booted from its longtime home two years before its lease is set to expire signed a petition that was delivered to the Menlo Park City School District board on March 20, appealing to the board to delay the eviction for one year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:51 AM

Comments (20)

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Posted by concerned citizen and educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I applaude the German American School for standing up to Mr. Ghysels and the School Board. Looks like another group of people who are being "bullied" so that they can have what they want! I was active in the schools when my children attended and I recall Ken Ranella being very cautious about taking over O'Connor as they provide a tremendous amount of income to the district and are great tenants.

I'm sure this will all lead to yet another bond, parcel tax or whatever means necessary to fleece the property owners in Menlo Park for more money to recoup this loss of revenue. The town may have been supportive of the schools in the past, but Ghysels has put a black mark over our amazing schools. I'm not so sure that the next time they ask for money that it will be as easy as it has been in the past! As he stated, change is sometimes hard. Well it might be hard to deal with the change that will come with the schools not being supported by the community because of him!

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I also support the German school's efforts whole-heartedly. 15 months to find a new site for a school is simply too short! And the alternative (closing the school) would serve no one. Let's remember that we are talking about children here, who are being evicted! They should be allowed enough time to find an alternative site - moving to new school grounds and losing their "home" at the O'Connor site will be disruptive enough for the kids.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Let's hope that the "lease modification" means another year for the German American School! As one of the parents I can tell you it is extremely stressful for the kids, parents and teachers to go through this uncertain period. GAIS has been a reliable tenant for 22 years - don't they deserve a respectful end to their tenancy? After all, it's not as if they are debating to stay, they just want a little bit more time.

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Posted by Menlo Park Tax Payer
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

With this kind of a rapid mobilization, The Menlo Park City School District should expect more vocal resistance. Can they guarantee to us that they will not end up in a messy legal battle that ultimately only costs tax payers?

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Posted by Monica Brandt
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The comment above from "German Parent" do not reflect the views of the German-American International School or its parents.

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Posted by Menlo Park Grandmother
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

• Why is the district meeting in closed session?
• Critical decisions about the German School and O'Conner site should be made public to ensure transparency on the public process.
• Clearly, they didn't have all their answers in Wednesday's public meeting. Why is it being handled secretly now?

- Grandmother in the Willows

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Posted by Public schools for the public
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I understand the predicament of the German American School, but remember this is a public school property and if the space is needed for public school children, they should take priority over the private school pupils.

The private school signed the lease that indicated the property might be reclaimed prior to 2016, so it should come as no surprise to them that they may be looking for space sooner. They should have been better prepared and that situation is not the responsibility of the school board.

The elected trustees must put the needs of the public school pupils ahead of the needs of the private school.

The reason this is being discussed in closed session by the school board is because state law allows real estate issues to be discussed in private. The public may still speak to the issue before the trustees retreat into closed session, and if the board takes action behind closed doors it has to be reported to the public.

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Posted by Take back O'Conner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm

As a long time Willows resident we well remember that the State Board of Education permitted the Willows to leave the Ravenswood School District to join the MPCSD with the "quid pro quo" of OConner being its neighborhood elementary school.
Birth rate decline allowed the MPCSD to lease out the under utilized campus 2 decades ago with a lease that requires the district to maintain the physical plant infrastructure.
Now, with burgeoning enrollment, and Willows kids forced to cross busy Willow Road to get to Encinal, and increasingly overcrowded Laurel, Encinal and Oak Knoll campuses, its long overdue to sunset GAIS.
Thanks GAIS, you've been a good neighbor, but time to gracefully move on as you are creating negative externalities as a result of your tenancy on Public School property.

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Posted by GAIS making millions off our public property
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

If you check the books, GAIS pays a rather modest rent for the "prime real estate" OConner campus, with MPCSD paying for capital physical maintentance (roof, plumbing, etc)
GAIS gets $15-20K per student in tuition, some of which is paid by German companies like SAP, and sublets the campus to French American school and ballet and ....who knows what else.
Been a sweet deal for GAIS for many years at the expense of MPCSD taxpayers.
This is all a matter of public record, but the Thygessen led MPCSD doesn't need a Stanford MBA to figure this out.
Show some common sense and get OConner back ASAP.

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Posted by Stanford MBA not needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Let's see, 3 posts in the last approx. 25 minutes marginalizing GAIS's existential concerns, supporting the MP district's apparent determination to kick out GAIS ... could there be a propaganda campaign at work here?

No question, the MP board is in a tough position. Glad I'm not in their shoes. But please, it's pretty obvious the propagandists are calling out the troops. Also obvious: the GAIS folks are truly concerned with survival, and they're acting in good faith to try to negotiate a solution. They're not the bad guys. Maybe there are no bad guys. But can we show some compassion, and agree not to paint the GAIS as greedy opportunists? Can we stop with the black and white nonsense?

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Posted by Public schools for the public
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Don't be paranoid. My post supporting public school children getting priority to use public school facilities has nothing to do with the other two posts that follow. I don't know them and I am not part of any campaign.

I attended Menlo Park public schools, have paid taxes in the district for years, and I think it's high time the pupils in the neighborhood have a local, neighborhood campus.

The GAIS community would be better served if it put its efforts toward finding a new location instead of trying to hold on to this piece of publicly-owned property.

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Posted by Public school parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Our district is legally required to provide a free and appropriate education to all students who live within its boundaries. Private schools are not essential, and parents who prefer a private school education cannot expect to exercise that option at the expense of public schools. And if parents withdraw the kids from private schools, they will expect their local public schools to be able to accommodate their children.

I don't care if GAIS has made money or underpaid its rent. If the district didn't need the space, they could stay there indefinitely. But there is no other property available for public school students. And 15 months is plenty of time for GAIS to relocate, maybe to an industrial area (as many of the newer schools have done). Of course it's not easy, but they were lucky to be able to enjoy that campus for so many years. Maybe the parents and supporters can appreciate their prolonged good fortune and look ahead to a new home rather than whine?

And no, I am not part of a propaganda campaign (!) though I am a Stanford MBA so am pretty experienced at evaluating, analyzing, and reaching conclusions.

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Posted by GAIS Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

As a resident of Elliott Drive, I am concerned that it was not until the school notified us that we learned of the termination of the school's lease. GAIS has been a good neighbor. When we were concerned about traffic, they worked with us for a solution. Currently, as a one way street that terminates in the school parking lot, traffic at drop-off and pick-up can be terrible, but the school staggered starting and ending times and there is a cap on enrollment to control traffic on the street.

When it reverts to a public school will the city re-open the gate at the end of the parking lot that opens onto Oak Court to create a through street? Will they pave through the school lot to reconnect Elliott with Byers Drive? In short, how will the city handle the increased traffic? I would think that residents of Oak Court, Byers Drive, and Elliott Drive would need to be informed of this?

Finally, I believe GAIS is an asset to Menlo Park. As private schools go their tuition is quite low and allows for a dual language education. Many of the school families have relocated to the Willows in order to have their children walk to school.

Hopefully the discussion can continue with ALL involved parties participating.

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Posted by School daze
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Live by a school then expect increasing school traffic
The back gate will be opened to Oak Court by necessity to relieve Elliott

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Posted by Menlo Park taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

Like any smart landlord, the school district should keep their rent paying tenant in place right up to the last minute when they need to take over and begin renovations. A good look at demographic projections and construction schedules will tell exactly when the school district needs to take back the site. Too early and they lose hundreds of thousands in rent. Too late and they will have overcrowding problems at other schools.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Take back O'Conner, says:

¨As a long time Willows resident we well remember that the State Board of Education permitted the Willows to leave the Ravenswood School District to join the MPCSD with the "quid pro quo" of OConner being its neighborhood elementary school.¨

I was living on Concord Dr. then and was involved in the process and campaign to move from Ravenswood to Menlo Park schools. There was no ui pro quo¨ at all, and nothing to do with O ´Connor school. The only requirement for the change was that Ravenswood let us go and Menlo Park accepted us. Their Boards of Ed did that. First the Ravenswood board and the the MP B of ED. As we said at the time, our students joined MP, ¨a community to which they belong in all respects¨ (sic, from the petition). The first year of Willows changed to MP Schools, my son was bused to Oak Knoll for kindergarten and we were very welcomed there.

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Posted by a taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Parents of kids that attend private schools pay taxes just like everyone else. However, their kids don't fill up classes in public schools.

If a private school has to close, even more kids will want to join public schools in Menlo Park. It's completely counterintuitive to what the school board wants to achive: Smaller class sizes.

At the end, Menlo Park citizens will have to pay more for their public schools to fund more teachers and significant reconstruction.

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Posted by Intuitive
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Board prez Thygessen kids have moved on to private school instead of MA, which gives one pause on her objectivity in the present matter
MPCSD campuses are overcrowded and OConner needs to br restored as a neighborhood elementary for the Willows as originally conceived as a PUBLIC elementary school, not for the current 450 GAIS and French American students per MP city use permit application
Not many Willows families can afford the €$15-20k annual GAIS tuition payment to attend OConner
Portable classrooms for the short term. So what! Lots of public elementary school kids have done just fine in portables. It doesn't have to be world class state of the art for the first few years
It's not about the facilities, it's about the inspirational teachers, eager students and supportive parents, whatever the facilities to create an enriching public school learning environment. OConner has expansive playing fields so that is inspirational in itself for fresh air play. Artificial turf athletic fields are not mandatory for physical education
The Wiilows growing young family population deserves and demands a neighborhood school!

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Posted by anti-Toxic
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:33 am

Not only did our [portion deleted] Maurice, inform us that O'Conner is coming back, but he also stated that the taxpayers will soon have to voter YET AGAIN on ANOTHER school bond!

What's interesting is that our [portion deleted] school board is seemingly dragging its feet on O'Conner. [portion deleted.]

Second, is this a chink in Maurice's bizarre control hold over this board? idk, but appears too little too late.

We have got to get down to the next board meeting and line up to publicly complain about this [portion deleted] Superintendent.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 3, 2013 at 8:56 am

Let's repeat and keep focussed on this:

It's not as if they are debating to stay, they just want a little bit more time! GAIS is diligently working on finding a new home, but they can't do it in 15 months!

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