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Election: A quarter-billion for Sequoia district high schools?

Original post made on May 13, 2014

The coming surge in enrollment at area public high schools, particularly at Menlo-Atherton High School, is the issue driving Measure A on the June 3 ballot.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 9:34 AM

Comments (60)

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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

One of our local low-accountability dumping grounds for taxpayer wealth is back for another hit.


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Posted by Andrew Bean
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The fact that the school district has to go to bonds every time they want to expand facilities suggests poor budgeting. Clearly, putting aside funds for future repairs and expansion should be a part of all school budgets. I'll be voting no on this because: I think it rewards poor budgeting and we can't continue to have 25-year bonds issued in 10-year cycles (the last three bond measures for the district) without the district collapsing in debt.


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Posted by facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Bean: Enrollment is increasing and new facilities must be added, and you expect the District to figure out a way to fund this out of deferred maintenance? That is ridiculous.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Bonds are coming out of the woodwork now that the economy is said to be improving


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Bean is correct - the District should have been accumulating depreciation on its current capital facilities to pay for their maintenance and also reserving funds for new construction.

I will vote NO.


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Posted by Mark James
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Wouldn't it benefit the students from Ravenswood to have their own neighborhood high school?


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Don't forget state matching funds. Those come from our taxes through more bonded indebtedness.
"In response to a question posed by President Weiner, M-A Principal Matthew Zito said he has led M-A through bond measures in 2004 and 2008; and once the dollar amount is known, staff will work with the architect on a master plan. In the past, most work is done after the bond has passed. The total amount of the bond will not be the total dollars available for construction because the district will leverage state-matching funds, and the total funds available will probably double"

Questions: What are the Districts real estate holdings? Do they need it all? More and more education is being provided in on-line venues outside the "brick and mortar". How is that factored into enrollment projections? How is the education monopoly stifling the competition?


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Dave, why is this posted under Woodside instead of schools?

Editor's note: The topic was posted by the first person who commented on the story and he selected the category. You are right. It should be under Schools, and we changed it to that.


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Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Enrollment grew 20% since 2002 and SUHSD expects another 20% in the coming 7 years. Growth is accelerating. Measure A expands capacity to educate that number of students and make sure they can enroll in the classes they require.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm

"...SUHSD expects another 20% in the coming 7 years" And they expect us to believe them. Wrong. Check your assumptions.

Enrollment projections always increase when an election campaign calls for it.


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Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

The key is the student population projections. According to the article, significant enrollment growth is coming from the Menlo Park and Las Lomitas feeder schools. Though I haven't reviewed the projections, it's been clear for a while in my part of the district that people with children are moving in to access these highly rated schools.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Didn't plan ahead; always looking for funds every time there is an election; poor financial management....

Plan to vote NO too.


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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

People with school age or planning to have children are moving in because of the highly rated ELEMENTARY schools. They are not moving in because of the so-so and poorly rated public high schools in the Sequoia District.

Not that it's worth anything but US world & News rated the four major district high schools at College Readiness ranging from 32.5% at Woodside to 44.5% at Carlmont. This information is proudly presented on the district's own web site.

So, this begs the question of how many of these families, the district is counting on for increased enrollment, are or will be willing to send their children to such mediocre (or less) public high schools. Seems like the private high schools will be getting those new high school students and should plan accoringly.


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Posted by Carl
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I'm very much for competitiveness of our youth, especially wrt international standards, Singapore, Finland etc etc. However, I am feeling this is getting to the point of bad behavior. Organizations do not linearly improve the quality/quantity of their output in response to funding stimulus (tons of examples of that). I think I'll just pass on this one and wait for some reports on the effectiveness of the previous rounds of funding.


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Posted by private schools
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

To whatever,

whether you vote yes or no, I think perhaps you are unaware of the private school admissions/enrollment situation. Applications have sky rocketed in the last few years and admissions has become a contact sport.

Private schools are under the gun to keep their enrollments within city use permits - which means the numbers at some schools - Castilleja, Menlo, etc. - slots might go DOWN, certainly not UP. This is part of the reason you see massive attempts to try keep the traffic down into the schools (buses, etc.). Yes, Nueva is expanding and Crystal Springs is trying, but that isn't going go make up for the huge increase in student population.

Also, as private schools continue to take kids from more diverse backgrounds the chances of getting in from the standard Menlo Park/Atherton demographic is going down. Kids are coming from as far north as Hillsborough and as far south as Cupertino and a few from the east bay. My kids' private school classes took kids from more than 25 schools - and a lot of them are in Santa Clara County.

You can't punt this problem to private schools. It's not possible (nor desirable from the schools view) for the private high schools to absorb these numbers. And even if they wanted to none of the local private schools have the building infrastructure to support large increases, and they certainly don't have support from the cities where they reside. RIght now Castilleja is in an all out battle over 30 girls, and Menlo is trying very hard to not end up in the same position as Castilleja.

Vote no or yes - but don't think the private schools will/can or should solve this mess.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Private schools, there's something drastically wrong with the picture you paint. The playing field needs to be leveled. Government schools have a monopoly on dollars. The Cato institute has a paper called "Donated the Voucher"Web Link which would partially solve the problem. Then there is still the facilities advantage which government schools have.(read: negative declaration). I'm familiar with the plight of the schools you mentioned. It's not right.

I'm voting NO.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I hope that this bond gets voted down and that the board then realizes that they have to provide a comprehensive financial, enrollment, staffing and capital improvement plan that demonstrates what is needed and how both the capital and operating expenses will be financed.

School funding is no longer an automatic yes.


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Posted by private schools
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Hi Jack,

I didn't say it was right or wrong - nor have I taken a position on how someone should vote. My post was in response to "Whatever" who asserted that the current private schools will absorb the increase in numbers.

I hope that at some point the State of California is able to educate all children properly. it's not my area of expertise, and it's not something I feel comfortable trying to solve. Our family decision is to put kids in private and donate heavily to the food bank because no child can learn when he/she is hungry.




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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

to private schools
I'm simply saying that the folks paying top dollars for homes in the better elementary districts can't all be counted on to send their darlings to the local mediocre public high schools. Where they go is anyone's guess - might be local, out of area, or out of state private. Or maybe they just move to a community with better public high schools.

The point is the district's calculations are flawed in more ways than they seem able to comprehend.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 14, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A publicly owned private company seeking to raise a quarter of billion dollars would provided its shareholders and prospective investors with a detailed prospectus outlining its business model, balance sheet, revenue and expense projections, competition and proposed use of the funds being raised.

The SUHSD is instead waving a flag saying "Its for the kids" and expecting its investors, the taxpayers, to simply fork over the money. I received a slick color two sided post card that said absolutely nothing about the district's business model, balance sheet, revenue and expense projections, competition and proposed use of the funds being raised.

Vote NO.


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Posted by Kelvin Kramer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 14, 2014 at 11:00 pm

For many years the SUHSD board has exercised poor fiscal planning and budgeting. Years ago they sold valuable real property -- the Ravenswood and San Carlos HS sites -- to cover operating costs. Now that these sites are shopping centers and homes they want more money to build new schools. As Mr Carpenter points out they still have no specific plan. They just want more money from taxpayers, and this after erecting gyms, performing arts centers, and lighted playing field that contribute nothing to core education. I too will vote no.


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Posted by WP
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

It's fascinating to see the anti-tax cranks come unhinged when there's a school bond -- something about investing in our communities and educations sends them over the edge like some kind of tightly wound Bay Area version of Boku Haram.

We have great elementary and middle schools in our area, and the high schools educate a diverse student body from a broad range of demographic backgrounds. Matthew Zito of M-A is terrific, he balances many different interests exceedingly well.

Our good schools have attracted more kids who need to be educated. Sure, 40 years ago the district sold off land that it shouldn't have, and now that creates a crunch, but we are where we are, and have a responsibility to make the best of the situation. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to vote for these bond measures, it's a fabulous way to invest in the future our our cities, state and country. Vote YES and invest in our future.


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Posted by Patti
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm

We need to be more mindful of our elderly residents who, quite likely, cannot afford yet ANOTHER bond.

I will vote NO.


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Posted by JC
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I'm sympathetic to the idea that our kids' education should continue to be well resourced and paid for, and I don't consider myself an "anti-tax crank", but all the same, is it unreasonable to hold out for evidence of value for money? This is a quarter of a billion dollars they are asking for! (Actually probably will cost twice that by the time you count in interest payments.) How high does that figure have to be before the pro-tax cranks question it?

There really does seem to be little accountability or specifics on the line items, and no chance for us to assess where on the ROI spectrum we want to land. Also, if it is truly a greater population pool driving the need, doesn't that also increase the tax base, such that they pay their own way? And if not, why not?

I'm not opposed in principle to paying more tax for better educational outcomes, but I do want to see it at a carefully gauged level and I want to see demonstrable value for my investment. Also, I want to discourage the habit of continually going to the well with bond after bond. I think they should try harder before they take our money for granted.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I agree with WP. I will vote yes on this bond. This bond is not about how the district has inadequately planned or budgeted in the past. It is about their current plan to meet projected enrollment in the future. For all those voting no, if this initiative fails, I wonder what you will say 10 years from now when the district faces poor education standards as a result of massive over-crowding. Will you smugly chalk that up to poor planning as well?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"This is a quarter of a billion dollars they are asking for! (Actually probably will cost twice that by the time you count in interest payments.) "

Note that the outstanding General Obligation Bond debt of the District as of June 30, 2013, is already $336,340,000.

The total requirements to amortize through 2044 these General Obligation Bonds outstanding as of June 30, 2013 is $558,520,819.

Now add $265 M more in debt which would take $530 M to retire and the SUHSD would now have a total amortized debt of $1.08 BILLION !!!

Please correct my figures if they are wrong.

Actually INVESTING in education is a great idea. What is a horrible idea is for a high school district that has only $112 million of annual revenue (only 80% of which are assured via taxes) and only $16 million of non-special reserves to have over a $1 BILLION in debt.

Blindly supporting any class of public expenditure is a very dumb idea and suggesting that education should get a special exemption from the reality test of its ability to service debt is even dumber.


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

> exemption from the reality test of its ability to service debt is even dumber

Really, I have no desire to go round on this issue and am generally let the naysayers have a place to vent over their extra $10 in annual tax, but I have to admit that it bugs me when people who clearly know what they are saying dress it up in rhetorical language that is completely misleading.

Just to be clear, the district $16/$100k of assessed value will be by definition of passing as Prop 39 bond sufficient to fully amortize the debt over the issued bond's lifetime. Conflating the bond issue with school revenue is simply a specious argument.

Moreover, it should be noted that historically, the amount of the assessment on a per parcel basis has declined by several percent annually so that since the last bond issue passed property owner's bill has seen something like a $10/$100K reduction in their annual assessment (I may be off here as I'm back of the enveloping it based on my last look at my own property tax). This is all because of market level reassessment of properties that turnover to new ownership within the tax rate area.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Conflating the bond issue with school revenue is simply a specious argument"

Ok fwiw - where is the district going to get the money to operate these facilities?

By law they cannot use bond money for operating purposes.



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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

> where is the district going to get the money to operate these facilities?

The district is saying that an additional 20% more students will have arrived by 2021. So your question could as easily be asked, where will they get the money to pay for these students? As a basic aid district, Sequoia won't see any additional funding on a per student basis, so somehow we'll have make due. But here's the good news, there is a half-way reasonable floor in place on a per student basis provided under the state funding model, so if it gets to be too bad, the state will pick it up.

Additionally, some of the redevelopment agency funds will start flowing back into education and that will be a supplement to basic aid districts. But if you don't build the facilities, the kids will come, they'll just have to get portables and increase class size. You can vote no but you'll just be taking your pound of flesh out of a broad section of mostly pretty middle class kids (at least for the valley), the ones that can't pony up $37,000/year to attend the local private schools.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"As a basic aid district, Sequoia won't see any additional funding on a per student basis, so somehow we'll have make due."

Now THAT is a specious argument to support taking on an additional quarter of billion dollars of debt.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Has anyone noticed that class sizes were reduced from 28.9 in 2004 to 24.9 in 2011? (See EdData at: Web Link If you reverse that, you could accommodate 16% more students! And,"Five new regular classrooms are already funded." That's another 144 students. The projection of a 20% increase by 2021 is grossly overstated.
This bond measure is unnecessary.


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

> Now THAT is a specious argument to support taking on an additional quarter of billion dollars of debt.

We're going around in circles here. Whether you take on the debt or not, the students will be coming. The question is whether to cram them in to the limited space and/or make due with portables. Additionally, the new campus options will hopefully be targeted to trying to find a niche for the set of students that aren't finding a answer in the general large campus environment. Voting no on this measure isn't somehow going to improve the funding situation for the influx of students.

Before I got your attention and spelled out the answer, you pounded out half a dozen message on other threads asking why the school district couldn't do as well as the fire district. When I explained the answer to that question (that the fire district is privileged to receive a disproportionate share of tax dollars relative to pre-Prop 13 while our basic aid district has had its funds permanently reapportioned to support the fire district. Once I got you to understand it all, my bringing it up was a "diversion" from the issue.

The reality is that I didn't truly honestly answer the question. The truth is that capital spending for school districts has from day one operated outside of the operating budget funding model for schools. Back in the pre-Prop 13 days, when district officials needed a bond, they issued it at their voting discretion and then applied the levy against your income tax bill. Historically the state has had funds in place to match the local efforts but they go on a first come first serve basis. When they are expended, no more appear until the next funding cycle, which can sometimes be a decade or more. Fulfilling this bond is an opportunity to bring some of your state dollars that you have already funded home.

This isn't particularly personal for me except as it effects my property value, but I do sincerely think it's the right thing to do.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The truth is that capital spending for school districts has from day one operated outside of the operating budget funding model for schools."

fwiw - Thank you - we agree.

What I want is for the district to present a consolidated budget which shows exactly how it proposes to operate all these new buildings. Will it require a parcel tax? Or what?


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm

> What I want is for the district to present a consolidated budget which shows exactly how it proposes to operate all these new buildings. Will it require a parcel tax? Or what?

I honestly don't believe that there is the will to try to press a parcel tax through at the high school level. Your question is a valid one, and I don't have the answer of how student funding will work when the masses do arrive. I am reassured by the floor that state provides on a per student basis. Prop 98 has overall brought funding levels at least to reasonable minimum level, so each student that arrives will have the level of funds that 97% of the state gets along on. Additionally, there are pending multiple avenues of possible upside to our district's basic aid funds.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

for WP and Aaron: I have no problem investing in education or a child's future but in a way that is financially responsible.

If I vote yes, I may be adding to their education now, but I'm also adding the debt to their future. The school district asked for money not too long ago and is carrying a sizable debt. It is now asking for more money which would increase that debt. What's to stop the district from asking for more money a few years from now and increasing the debt even more?

As a parent, I invested in my children. But what does it say about being a responsible parent if I grow my indebtedness just because I should invest in my kids. That's not teaching them or modeling good financial responsibilities.


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Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 16, 2014 at 4:15 am

> What's to stop the district from asking for more money a few years from now and increasing the debt even more?

Well, there is a hard cap in Prop 39 that would limit the district to only about $11/$100K of additional assessment until current bonds (including this one) are paid down.


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Posted by Been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm

If I had a hint that my bond money would be well spent I would vote for it in a minute. But when $35 million dollars are spent on Menlo-Atherton's Performing Arts Center I have to back away. That works out to $66,000 per seat.
The people who spent our money like drunken sailors don't deserve my vote.


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Posted by Cathy
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on May 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Those of you who think there should be greater oversight of the money as it is allocated would be welcome, I am sure, to attend and voice your opinion at planning meetings. But my experience assures me that you do not bother to attend. You simply use this public forum to spout your opinion, to sway a vote in your direction. It takes a village to navigate the rocky waters of student enrollment and the part of the village who is trying to meet the needs of the youth of today and the next decade have presented to the public their best effort to plan. As far as debt for repayment, you can see all over our country at local, state and federal levels, we are debt laden. An investment in our schools will allow us to better educate our youth and increase our property values, both of which will lead to stronger prosperity from which to draw the funds to support this debt. We, as a society, have decided that taking on a debt load was a lesser evil than austerity which could have extended the recession. When we have a surplus, and we will, we have several times, it is incumbent upon us to reduce that debt. We will need to voice our opinion on that as the situation presents itself.

Vote Yes, our schools and kids need it. Don't have kids? Your property values will appreciate it, pun intended...


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Cathy - What if we are renters? What about this endless push by property owners with children and their money and their over-weaning ambitions as they look to aggrandize all their investments ... their home, their prospects and those their children -- to the specific disadvantage of the education of the nearby poor and dispossessed.

Where will we go when we can no longer afford to live in the area where we work? What about the people who are not entrepreneurs, who were never going to be entrepreneurs but who are nevertheless part of the same society and necessary, and more important to society than these suburban wealth bullies?

What about the humanities as an important element of education, especially in contrast to the STEM elements? STEM is about one thing and one thing only: finding a good job.

Some society, this Silicon Valley. As Margaret Thatcher said: there is no society, there are only families. Exhibit A are the wealthy bedroom communities in Silicon Valley.


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Posted by Woody
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Silicon Valley, and the local High School district in particular, is home to a diverse community of families from small business owners and front line employees to CEOs and the like. In fact, the avg income of families in the district is $87,000 per year according to the census bureau today. Official demographers have forecast HS student growth over 20%, backed up by current kinder enrollment.

If you value smaller class sizes and quality instruction, you must have enough classrooms to put the teachers and students in, if you can even attract them. 20% growth is not something that can be accommodated in existing facilities.

And since there is no more available land to build on, the schools must build UP. With California's building codes designed to withstand earthquakes, there is no cheap way to build. Yes, it's expensive, but please review all the constraints and come up with a better way to do it. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback, and much harder to deal with reality and find an economical solution to a real problem. I will vote Yes.


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Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 20, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

Links on this topic that I found to be useful: Web Link (very general, so may be only somewhat useful)
Web Link (HS board documents leading to bond resolution, interesting to me)
Web Link (draft list of planned projects and their cost, imo useful)
I have a call in to the District asking where we can access the student population projection study. Will advise when I hear back, or perhaps someone in this forum already has that weblink?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Very helpful links from Jon Castor.

Any ideas why only 40% of the $250 million is for classrooms?

Look like they tossed everything else they could think of in there including a lot of deferred maintenance.

What in the world do they use their operating budget for?

And where are they going to get the operating funds for the teachers et al to actually use these classrooms -- they cannot by law use bond money for that?


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Posted by Woody
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 20, 2014 at 2:56 pm

the student projections have been in Almanac articles several times over the past year, and the district has their community presentations on their website for those that have time to go find it.


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Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

We've been reading about increases in student population for nearly two years, including summary figures, and as my first post notes, I don't doubt that enrollment is growing. A key question is how much will it actually grow. Whether you're leaning yea or nay on this bond, or still undecided, it's a big one, and citizens who want to become well informed may be interested in more info than the standard fare. I agree with Peter Carpenter that when it comes to bond approval time, the "details" should readily accessible.

Haven't heard back from the District yet, but I did some digging. This is what I found:

According to several articles, the student population study was done in 2012 and discussed by the Board at its June meeting. Don't know if the study has been refreshed since.

The District Board agenda for June 27, 2012 includes "demographic study" among many other items (see item 12 under Discussion Items): Web Link

The Background Information for the June 27, 2012 Board meeting included information on the study (see item 12b, "Demographic Study", on page 12, under Discussion Items): Web Link
From this I learned that Enrollment Projection Consultants conducted the study, and EPC's Mr. Tom Williams presented the results to the board for discussion. (EPC is likely now a 4 person firm named Williams & Company: Web Link)

The Board Minutes for the June 27, 2012 meeting minute the discussion that occurred: Web Link Some of the concerns (e.g. re operating costs) that have been expressed in this forum are noted in these minutes.

Woody (or anyone), it would be great if you would share the weblink to the actual Enrollment Projections study if you have it. Otherwise, I'll share the link with this forum if I obtain one from the District.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 21, 2014 at 9:49 am

In a previous post, I said: "Has anyone noticed that class sizes were reduced from 28.9 in 2004 to 24.9 in 2011? (See EdData at: Web Link If you reverse that, you could accommodate 16% more students! And,"Five new regular classrooms are already funded." That's another 144 students. The projection of a 20% increase by 2021 is grossly overstated.
This bond measure is unnecessary.
What about enrollment 10, 20 and 30 years from now? Might this not be just a bubble? Isn't it likely that technology will obviate the need for brick and mortar?

Alternatives to the government schooling system should be encouraged. I suggest that we take a serious look at vouchers. As I previously posted, the Cato institute has a paper called "Donating the Voucher"Web Link Here is an excerpt from that paper:
In the United States, parents send about 10 percent
of elementary and secondary school-age children
to private schools, which through their accreditation
meet the requirement that students receive an
adequate education.1
An important implication is that sending children to
private school generates what economists call a "positive
externality." By paying out of pocket for their children's
private education, these families relieve a financial
burden on local, state, and federal taxpayers, who would
otherwise have to fund the public education of these
children. If private schools did not exist, then public
schools—and the tax collections to support them—would
have to be about 10 percent larger than the current $600
billion spent annually on public education.


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Posted by Pati
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on May 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

Sequoia Unified is expected to absorb all RWC, Fair Oaks, Menlo, Ravenswood and EPA, since neither Menlo Park or Palo Alto cities want to take responsibility for these populations. Most of these communities are struggling, so, don't expect strong, wealthy PTAs pouring resources into the schools. But it is usually here were the opposition comes.

I do not think its a problem of bad budgeting but of lack of budget. California has invested very poorly in public education.

Our students deserve better. They need more space, more resources. I will vote YES.


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Posted by History guy
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on May 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

If M-A is too impacted, why not send the kids from west Menlo Park just down the street to Woodside? Everybody wins and the taxpayers stop subsidizing some folks with political clout. Both schools would benefit--Woodside would get a bunch of motivated students to energize the student body and up the level of competition while M-A gets some breathing room. Such a simple solution. If the existing boundary policy is finally changed to one that makes more geographic sense I will vote Yes, otherwise, well......


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm

It seems to be that the most intelligent, thoughtful comment so far was made by WP on May 15. So many of these anti-tax arguments I've read here on this message board are made by highly emotional and under-informed voters. The public high schools will shortly have a massive influx of kids they need to educate, and they need the space and resources to do so. Yes, it's a shame that the district sold off the land from the previous Ravenswood High School, but wishing it weren't so doesn't help us solve the challenge we face.

And by the way, I believe the Almanac's choice of headline was an example of extremely poor journalism and showed its bias. Instead of choosing a factual, informative headline, it chose to state the bond measure as a question (implying "can you believe it??"), and chose to state the dollar amount of the bond as "a quarter of a billion" instead of $250 million. C'mon, Almanac; we expect more from you.

I will be voting YES on Measure A.


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Posted by Woody
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Enrollment projections
Web Link

Essentially 1500 new students to place in a few years. These are not top performing high schools as it is, so I don't know how anyone can think that cramming them into existing space will maintain or improve school performance.

And the Los Lomitas families lobbied hard to be assigned to M-A, rather than Woodside HS. That ship has sailed after many community meetings and probably back-door meetings.

As much as no one wants to spend more on schools and bond issues, with student growth comes expansion, and expansion is not free.


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Posted by Math
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 21, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Another way to look at is that facilities built/improved by $250m will be used by 10,000 high school students every year for likely 30 years. That comes out to $833 per student per year. Or maybe $1666 after paying interest on the bond.


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Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on May 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

Enrollment projection study
Thanks Woody for your post. For anyone interested in where the enrollment projections come from, call the District and ask for the consultant's 20 page 'concluding documentation to the enrollment forecast update' dated December 3, 2013. This report is addressed to the District Superintendent and Board. A nice person at the District also wasn't able to find it on the District's website, so she emailed a copy to me.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I also obtained a copy of the enrollment forecast.
Here is a notable quote from the bottom of page 1:
"Due to nuances now occurring in the lowest grades of the elementary "feeder" districts to the SUHSD, the
projected 2020 total of 10,056 SUHSD students could be the maximum achieved in the next decade." This sounds like the "bubble" which I referred to in an earlier post.
The bonded indebtedness will span several "decades".
A modest increase in class size to levels dealt with 10 years ago would absorb this "bubble".
And remember, "Five new regular classrooms are already funded." Let's build those and forget about this bond measure.
Vote NO on Measure A


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 22, 2014 at 2:34 pm

A new high school, Ravenswood, has been suggested as a means of meeting the increased enrollment. I'm wondering why Sequoia Unified covers such a large area. Given the enormous costs of maintaining Sequoia's budget, could a case be made for splitting up the district into two districts? Perhaps one of those districts would qualify for additional state funds. I realize nay sayers will claim that running two districts would cost more, but since smaller, though by no means small, districts could be managed better, the students would benefit. The belief that the poor and disposed students benefit from attending schools in affluent neighborhoods, is not supported by results.

As for me: I'm voting NO!


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm

To Pati:

Although I agree with your ultimate position, you have some incorrect facts. It is not Sequoia Unified (a unified district is K-12) it is Sequoia Union High School District (only high schools.)

Secondly, Menlo Park is in the Sequoia Union High School District. So Menlo Park City School District would not be in a position to absorb any high school students, since that district does not have any high schools. Menlo Park high school students attend SUHSD schools.

Thirdly, Palo Alto is really not relevant. They are in a different county and not part of the Sequoia Union High School District. The other communities that you named are in the Sequoia Union High School District and thus their students are to be accommodated by SUHSD.

Thanks for listening.


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Posted by Cathy
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on May 22, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Joe - you brought up renters. Essentially you drive up your own costs by choosing where lots of others choose to live (supply/demand) but you are choosing a living situation that is fairly fluid. Homeowner's are not typically that mobile and occasionally need to pass bond measures that support their needs. Thankfully, the investment in the education system pays off for that homeowner, not each month, but in the end, when someone is choosing to buy in a community supportive of schools rather than one that chooses to leave the schools to fend for themselves. They receive more sales opportunities and end up with rising sales prices. If your rent go up, it is easy to MOVE. You describe someone without kids, also easier to MOVE. Lose your local job, MOVE. One of the benefits of the areas with good schools is they have nice amenities because the kids and people living there invest in themselves and their community. If you choose NOT to invest in your community by purchasing locally, donating locally or allowing your tax dollars to be allocated locally - MOVE. By the way, prices won't go down for your rent, just because you want to vote no...It will keep going up because this is a terrific place to live and work. The pockets that continue to support education will grow faster and they will ALWAYS buoy their neighboring communities.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 22, 2014 at 6:07 pm

It is not a terrific place to live and work for reasons I already alluded to. As for moving, where? Answer me that.

And it is not easy to move. It is traumatic when you're forced out by a cost of living driven up by people enthusiastically working for an industry that is nothing but a giant casino, producing all the great products that casinos are known for.

This is a boom town. It was a boom town at the start and it hasn't changed. Get in, make a killing and get out. Disrupt the lives of the squares out in the hinterlands. Take the legitimate occupations they had and suck the life out of them with digital technology.

The one thing they've figured out over time is the importance of changing their focus from these "achievements" and lobby Washington.


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Posted by Cathy
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on May 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Joe -
Sounds like your issues aren't really a function of the Bond Measure A to support an underfunded school district attempting to support a massive influx of students.....and I do understand where you are coming from, moved back here from afar not so many years ago...ouch.
Vote Yes on A


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Cathy - You are right in that Measure A is not my issue. It is inarguable that the coming wave of children must have as good a high school as the children now in high school. Measure A is one way to do that.

It's the context, as I have already alluded to.


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Posted by stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 26, 2014 at 10:09 am

@peter,
Surely you are joking with your comment about only 40% going to classrooms ? Literally yes, but more students/classrooms have a knock-on need more hallways, restrooms, food service space. There's also a need for capital improvement (not maintenance) to existing facilities that were built in the 50s. But feel free to misconstrue the specific line items any way you want as it befits your alternate worldview.


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

A question for Peter Carpenter:
Peter, why are you advocating so hard for additional development in Menlo Park (where you do NOT live), yet you advocate against funding for the students of Menlo Park schools? Why?


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