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Unprofessional/unsafe PAUSD residency checks

Original post made by parent on Jul 19, 2007

A man from PAUSD just rang my door bell at 6:40 PM and expected me to open my door since he had a PAUSD tag around his neck. Being alone and not being an expert in self defense, I am not about to let some man or women in my home. He said he was verifying student residency. Then he said he wanted to know if the "student" lived here and what my name was. Would you discuss who lives in your home with an unannounced stranger? Is this the unprofessional, unsafe matter in which PAUSD handles situations? I asked him to leave his card at the door. Of course he did not have a card but left his supervisors card, and no one is answering the phone at this time. The supervisors name on the card is Roberto Antonio River, Residency officer his phone # is 650-329-3955.

Comments (109)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 7:05 pm

There is someone at PAUSD whose job it is to look into whether suspecious students are in fact resident at Palo Alto addresses. Their job is to find out students who are not resident here so that they can be dismissed from Palo Alto schools. I expect part of their job is to arrive unannounced when someone is home which may or may not be in the evenings. What type of identification they have to carry is probably similar to a PA utilities id. I have no idea if this man was legitimate but I would definitely check with his supervisor tomorrow (although I believe Churchill offices are closed tomorrow).

If indeed he is legitimate, he has probably come to your home due to someone being suspicious of a student living at your address. If you do have a student living in your home who is your child or under your legal guardianship, then there is nothing wrong and he is just doing his job.

On the other hand, if these things do not check out, you should report this to the police and probably to PAUSD as both will be interested in someone pretending to be what they are not.

Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 19, 2007 at 7:37 pm

thanks for the advise. Sorry to hear the office might be closed tomorrow, but I'll go down there hoping someone will be available to assist. I would think a simple phone call to a home would be the first step, followed by a surprise night time visit if they were not happy with the information provided. I expect this man was not a fraud, however he should receive training on a safe way to approach someone in their home. PAUSD needs to arrange a safe way for parents to provide information about their kids. We have been in the the PAUSD for over 6 years, with 2 kids, and have never moved or changed home phone numbers.
I wonder how much money is being spent on "visits" when a phone call would suffice.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Please let us know what happens.

Posted by Peter, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 19, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Perhaps the reason that a simple phone call might not suffice is that it is too easy to lie over the phone, and a phone call might alert cheaters that the school district was alert to their games.

Posted by No Soliciting, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Yesterday afternoon a young man came to my door and said that he was a college student and that his summer job was to "survey" all the PAUSD students. He said he did not work for PAUSD but was a Univ. of Wisconson student and made it sound like this was a legitimate survey. I was suspicious because I had heard nothing about it. He seemed to have the addresses (and ? the names) of district students.

He showed me a list of other student families he had and slipped that these were "customers". At that point, it became clear that he was selling something (I think software). I pointed to my No Solicitors sign and left him on the porch.

While he did have a permit, he was certainly not forthcoming about his real job. I'm also bothered by the fact that he clearly was working from some type of student listing. And I wonder where it came from.

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 19, 2007 at 9:56 pm

This "student" is discussed in a previous posting: Web Link
Has anyone ever received the products that they ordered from him?

Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:14 pm


I disagree. I think it's an incredibly stupid way to do residency checks. Why couldn't the District send a note in advance saying that they are going to drop by during the next week or two and let her know that it's legitimate check? As it stands, it seems like the guy was lucky not to wind up getting tasered by Palo Alto's finest.

Is the guy a deputy or something? At least a utility worker drives an city truck. If this guy isn't official enough to carry his own business card, who's to say that waving a few bills under his nose isn't enough to make him look the other way?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:59 am

To the topic of the young man selling books.

I bought a set from him last year..with doubts, but I did it anyway.

Everything came through that I ordered.

But, I agree, it gave me a little bit of the creeps.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:01 am

To Joe:

If I were sheltering a young person into our School District by letting her/him use my address to get into the school, then I were given a "few weeks" notice that I was going to be inspected, I am certain I could fit the student into my apt or home and make it look like s/he lived there.

So, no..that isn't feasible for the purposes.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 8:37 am

There are definitely "many" students at our schools who do not legally reside in Palo Alto. Some are here because they are using a relative or friend's address, some are here because the family has rented a cheap apartment but live elsewhere. Some may be using business addresses at someone's home. There is even one student who has an address which cannot be found on any map although mail seems to be getting to him. There are enough of these students to warrant hiring an individual to fish them out. I would expect this individual to have all the correct id and business cards. Any warning to a family that they were being surveyed would give them plenty of opportunity to make their address look legit so doing visits without warning are the only way. Granted it makes the rest of us feel freaky when we get someone coming to the door like this so be careful and check them out.

But, if you are doing something to get your child here under false pretences, then beware, they are out to get you.

Posted by Unconvinced, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:10 am

I have heard about students being followed home after school to verify their residence. That sounds very creepy, but at least it makes sense.

It makes no sense for an alleged district employee with inadequate ID to show up at a home on a mid-summer evening. What could possibly be proven by such a visit? Families go on vacation during the summer. Some even swap houses with a family from another country, or hire a housesitter to live in their home. Kids go away to camps for weeks. Sure, if the student is at the home, that should be adequate proof that s/he lives there, but if the student isn't home, that doesn't prove anything...except that the student isn't home. Sounds like a huge and clumsy bureaucracy to me.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:26 am

Seems like the more logical time to check, (perhaps by viewing from across the street(, would be who's leaving the house at 7:30-8:00am in the morning on a school day.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:38 am

There must be a better/more efficient way to do these checks, which are necessary, by the way - the Fremont Unified High School District (covers a large territory of Sunnyvale, Cupetino, parts of San Jose, etc.: Lynbrook High School, etc.) had a big problem with non-resident students attending their fine schools, and they dealt with this a few years ago. Maybe PAUSD could find out what the FUHSD did.

Posted by native, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:50 am

People will do anything to get into Palo Alto schools i.e. buying million dollar houses. It's forcing out the native Palo Altan's who can hardly afford to live here anymore or who can't afford to because of the demand.

Posted by Paly student, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

My mother told me whats going on

It started in the Monta Vista/Lynbrook area high schools, which are distinguished schools. However, the neighborhood around the school may not be nice, or the homes might be too expensive, but either way, the people don't live there. What they do instead is rent out a cheap apartment or house and pose like they live there, when in reality they live many miles away. Due to the school overflowing with kids who came out of nowhere, the districts start doing inspections to see if the student actually live there.

Its been happening in the PAUSD recently too. It has been targeted at the gunn high school region because (im speaking very very frankly here) it is considered a more educationally edged school than paly.(keep in mind, i go to paly, but im not immune to the talks of the town). there are also a lot more apartment complexes in the gunn boundary side, so anyone can pose like they live there.

The district is worried that if they give people a week or two notice, that the fake inhabitants could move in just for that week and act like they live there. I agree though, that the inspectors should have a better way of telling residents that they are from the district, instead of showing a card that anyone can fake.

Posted by Above poster: Paly Student, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:57 pm

I might want to clarify from my post...

1. I meant to say that the people who want to attended Monta Vista/Lynbrook schools might not have enough money to buy a home there or may not like the neighborhood. There are of course legitimate residents in those neighborhoods. It just came out like I said no one lives there.

Posted by Anamika, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:02 pm

Makes me wonder why they do these checks during the summer holidays? I mean, isn't is possible that people are genuinely on vacation when the inspector arrives?

IMO, they should visit the homes during the school day - right before the school begins ! People renting apartments for the school district reason are not going to be in the apartment - do this two or three times before taking any action.

Posted by No soliciting, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I know of one family that lives in the East Bay but rents an apartment here so their child can go to Palo Alto schools. While it's not something I would do, I don't think it's illegal, if they are the only family renting that apartment. They definitely don't advertize the fact and I think it's a very bad idea to make your child party to something like that.

Posted by PADistrict, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 20, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Taking an aggressive approach to ferreting out illegals casts some doubt on PAUSD's priorities. If the district is really concerned about money, there are better things they could do than paying salary and benefits to investigators to intimidate legal residents.

Each illegal child is worth about $10,000 per year (what PAUSD spends per child per year), so one has to ask "how many do they expect to find?" If they're that concerned about money, they could:

1) Discourage Palo Alto from building 100s of new housing units which they've just done at the corner of Charleston & El Camino.

2) Manage their funds more wisely.

3) Appreciate the free ride they get from the large number of Palo Alto taxpayers who send their kids to private schools. Larger than most districts.

4) Fire a few of their useless "assistant superintendents". A single UAS is probably worth 12 illicit kids ($120,000 per year in salary and benefits).

Posted by PAUSD Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Over the years, my kids have had friends or classmates who

Are dropped off at grandparents houses before school and picked up in the evenings while living with parents outside Palo Alto

Are living with an aunt on Escondido village for the school year and going back to live with parents for long weekends and school breaks.

Are very vague about where they live and are unable to have play dates after school, but do come to parties, etc. if an invitation is made over cell phones.

Are living with one parent outside Palo Alto when the other divorced parent lives in one bedroom PA condo.

Although many may be legitimately living in PA, I am always very wary of any friend whose address is not included in the school directory. I know that there are other reasons why a family may choose not to put their address, or even list their child, in the school directory, this is one of the first smoke signals.

Posted by Hank, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:29 pm


I have to agree with Joe, the point of all of this in the inefficiency of PAUSD. They should at least call first. You are just assuming they will say the exact day/hour/minute. They can just say they will be stopping by in the next couple of weeks. Is that not "feasible" enough? Next time consider all of that facts with an open mind before jumping to assumptions.

Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:38 pm

I believe Hank makes a very good point they can make a phone call a few weeks to tell that they are coming in a certain time period. Kind of like the Comcast cable people but with a bigger time slot.

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm

While I share the concerns of the poster who started this thread about opening the house to a stranger (and while I think that, because of these legitimate concerns, that this door-to-door visiting is likely not effective), I completely disagree with those who believe this work isn't necessary or cost effective. Like the other PAUSD parent above, I have known of several situations where kids attending Palo Alto schools do not actually live here. When the Board authorized hiring the part-time residency investigator (Web Link), I thought it a great idea. How many $10,000 per year kids (ignoring the fact that the marginal cost per child is of course much lower) would it take to pay a part-time person?

I do not think the method described is very effective, especially late in the evening during the summer, but for the reasons stated in the article I linked, I think the idea of a residency inspector is a good one.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 8:55 pm

I recall that last year there were about 70 reports of illegally enrolled kids--and I can think of several cases that I know were not reported.

So, at $12,000 a kid, you're looking $840,000, not to mention issues like overcrowding and local kids getting bumped. That's the upper end, but even if a quarter of those 70 reports are valid, then we're still looking at $200,000.

The spot checks have to be by surprise--we're looking at fraud here, less than honest people involved. (No matter how much we may like some of them.)

I don't think you have to let any stranger into your house, but I'm all for better I.D. cards.

I think there could easily be 100 kids in the district there under fraudulent premises. Some kids are listed at their grandparent's address. Some have families who have rented apartments. I know of one case, secondhand, where the employer allows her housekeeper to use her address as her own. And my favorite--buying a townhouse in PA while retaining a mansion in Woodside.

Part of it is that PA has created very strict residency rules--it used to be that it was okay to use a grandparent's address or rent an apartment. But PA wants seven-days-a-week residency.

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:02 pm

Having had the experience of all the information we wanted in the classroom directory not listed, and all the information we didn't want in the directory listed (even after we signed something with our exact wishes) -- after we complained to the school about the classroom listing, somehow all of our child's information was simply left out of the school directory. That was bad enough, no one could get a hold of us. We had to jump through so many hoops to prove our residency in the first place, I would very much resent if we then became the target of an investigation simply because of the classroom directory.

There are lots of ways to veryify someone's residency. In our case, one of the teachers in the school is a long-time friend. We know our neighbors, many of whom have lived in the neighborhood for decades - they could also verify our residency quite easily without any scary surprise visits. I would never let any stranger in the house who showed up the way the above person did, and I certainly wouldn't give out personal information then or over the phone. I'd be more inclined to call the neighbors to warn THEM, and call the police.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Ah, Private Parent, I am sure that not compromising your very sensitive privacy (my address! my phone!) is worth the effort to send a team of investigators over to interview your neighbors vs. a simple knock on your door.

If you don't want to let them in, don't let them in. If you need to call the supervisor, call the supervisor. I'm not sure what kind of ID would satisfy the original poster (what ID or explanation can't be faked?) but surprise visits in the evening seems like a pretty sensible approach to seeing if who actually lives in a residence. Sure, there'll be lots of false negatives (i.e., no-one is one, but the people are on vacation, etc.) but if they can just eliminate a bunch of suspected frauds based on positives - the parent was there, the kid was there - then they can spend more time on the remaining suspects.

Good job PAUSD and thanks for watching out for the taxpayers.

Posted by Resident, Working Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:52 pm

We don't need to give up our personal rights, and the safety of our children to get this done. I do think PAUSD needs to be aggressive about this. particularly with MI on the horizon, the incentive to gain entry to PAUSD language academy (over paying 90,000 for private school tuition) will be enormous and create a great strain on the district.

I would be careful however in assuming you know a family's situation based on what you ~think~ you see. We live in Palo Alto (we bought a small house and pay our outrageous mortgage, property taxes and PTA donations, just like everyone else) but drop the kids off every morning at Grandma's, who also lives in Palo Alto, because we both leave for work before school. And Grandma graciously drops the kids off and picks them up from school as well.

This is why the district needs to be very careful about their investigation methods, and the other very 'clever' (ie NOSEY and SMUG?) neighbors and school parents should be careful about making judgements.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Here's the answer. A person comes to your door with a badge. There is a phone number with a LIVE PERSON on the other end during these investigation hours, which perhaps is through the police department or the main district phone number. So people can get immediate verification that the person at their door is who they say.

Perhaps PAUSD should hire Palo Alto police officers to conduct the visits so people can feel secure about what's going on.

Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:59 pm

I am the original poster. I stopped by the district at 8:00 AM today and the entire district office was closed. I left several messages for Roberto Rivera hoping he would at least get phone messages. I have had no response. If I had more time I would have called school board members, but I had family and work obligations so time was limited. I will not be available for the next two weeks, so I will have to wait until then to resolve this issue. I hope someone from the district reads these comments as there were so many logical, simple suggestions to make this visits safe and effective.

I wonder what position the man who came to my home has at PAUSD. Has he had a complete background check? He was not driving a PAUSD vehicle, just a private vehicle.

thanks for all your responses and ideas

Posted by AnotherGaff, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2007 at 8:28 am

I liked the comment about MI adding yet another reason for people to sneak into the Palo Alto district. Score another gaff for the school board.

Posted by PADistrict, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 21, 2007 at 8:54 am

On the other hand, to the district's credit they are doing their search in the summer so that people will have time to register their kids in their home districts. It would probably be painful for a child to attend school a few weeks then be yanked out.

It's actually mysterious to me why people would do this. Are the other school systems in our area so bad? No offense, PAUSD, but I've been kind of underwhelmed during my children's combined 15 years in the district. Could Woodside, Mountain View, Los Altos and Redwood City be so bad that you rent an apartment in Palo Alto? If you could find an apt in PA for $1000/month (which you probably can't), then that's $12,000/year and pretty close to the cost of private school.

On the other hand, living with grandparents is cheap. If I were the investigator, I'd look for addresses having several children with different last names. That suggests people are sharing a rental for the same purpose, or someone is "sheltering" a kid from outside the district.

All that said, I still think it's a weak approach for saving money.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Nixon School
on Jul 21, 2007 at 8:58 am

Of course you should challenge anyone who comes to your door, but a telephone call isn't enough to verify whether there is an "illegal" PAUSD student not residing there. The only way is to verify that the student actually resides there or not is to inpect the premises and you can't give a telephone warning that the visit is coming!

Posted by So You Know, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:38 am

For all those knowing or suspecting a particular non-resident who is attending PAUSD schools, you can report it anonymously:

"Leave a confidential message for Palo Alto Unified School District's Residency Officer regarding a possible residency violation at (650) 329-3700 ext. 7385"

(From PAUSD website).

A student "must reside within [PAUSD] boundaries on a full-time permanent basis, that is, seven days and seven nights" to attend our schools.

(Also from PAUSD website).

For the child's sake, as well as the district's, it is better to have a residency challenge investigated over the summer than once school has started and class assignments, etc. have been made.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:19 am

WAIT a mean with almost 50% divorce rate and kids being split between two homes half the time ( poor things), they ALSO have to be kicked out of PAUSD school district because they visit one parent on the week-end who isn't in PAUSD?

In my very humble and shyly stated opinion, :)that is hogwash!

Seriously, that is too far. Does anyone know if that "7 day per week" thing means that kids can't stay every weekend or every other weekend with parent#2 in another city?

Posted by PADistrict, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 21, 2007 at 11:34 am


Yes it does mean that. We have friends who are divorced and their kids have been in the district for 18+ years (some graduated, some still in H.S.). They were told they had to sign an affidavit certifying the child lived in the district full time. They signed with absolutely no intention of abiding by it. And ... frankly ... I'm on their side. The district talks a good line about "community" and "student wellbeing" but when it comes to this issue they appear perfectly happy to boot out a kid who's spent his entire life in the community. All because they can't manage their finances. Yes I know I sound like a broken record on that one...

Posted by Unfair to divorced parents, a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2007 at 12:09 pm

I don't know if the other districts have such draconian policies about "7 days, 7 nights" because if so, children of divorced parents who live in different districts wouldn't be allowed to go to public school anywhere.

Surely there's a better way to treat children who have already had to undergo the trauma of divorce? One has to wonder whom the district is serving if not the students.

P.S. With a couple of exceptions, the other districts in the area have schools that are comparable to or better than the PAUSD schools. Not sure what all the fuss is about.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 12:11 pm

I know of one family recently divorced where the terms of the custody agreement were that both parents had to live in the city the children attended school in for this very reason. If they hadn't both lived in the same city, the father would not have got any custody (w/e or during breaks).

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2007 at 12:35 pm

I agree with parent that it was unforgivable not to man the phone number whenever investigators are in the field.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:38 am

My instincts are that in response to the original poster's inquiry, this individual was genuine. PAUSD website seems to be down at present, but the phone number does appear to look like a genuine PAUSD number.

The school district is doing its best to weed out those who should not be in our schools. I personally feel that 6.40 on a weekday evening in summer when it is still light and during the "dinner hour" is not an unsuitable time for someone to do this job. I would rather they come and knock on my door rather than watch my house for hours or arrive in the morning when I am in a rush to get my kids off to school and work.

I think we should actually credit the PAUSD for trying to weed out the non residents. They are not the only district that does this and I am sure that they have reasons for targeting a particular address and I also expect that they are realistic to know that during the summer people are away. The other side of this is that those who are abusing the system may have their guards down during the summer and more easily can get caught. I am sure that they have their ways of being able to judge a family who are speaking to them at the door with ease, rather than those who are trying to cover up.

By all means check anyone coming to your home to see if they are genuine. I am sure that there are many chancers out there. My inclination is that this is not one.

Posted by Pure Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2007 at 11:06 am

>>>I am sure that they have their ways of being able to judge a family who are speaking to them at the door with ease, rather than those who are trying to cover up.<<<

The PAUSD Thought Police know and see all. Let's keep the Mudbloods from contaminating Palo Alto schools!

Posted by Think before you flame, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 11:45 am

This has nothing to do with "Mudbloods" and "contamination". Each city pays taxes and supports bonds for their own school district. It's not unique to Palo Alto, and cracking down on abusers isn't unique, either. Many school districts do this. Are they being "Palo Alto" about it, or are we being "Cupertino", et al.?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 1:45 pm

It is also worth remembering that we are a basic aid district and as such we do not get more money per student, just that each student gets a small cut of the pie.

Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Since Palo Alto is a basic aid district, the schools can be hard by rental properties that have low property tax valuations, but are rented out to families with students. The landlords get a tremendous windfall and the schools are burdened. The state collects more in state income tax because of the high profits from the rental, but none of the benefits flow to the local schools. To the best of my knowledge, PAUSD has never collected statistics on the magnitude of this problem. Does any one want to venture a guess as to what fraction of students live in rental properties (home or apartments) that are taxed at less than 50% of market value?

Posted by Great idea!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2007 at 3:24 pm

14k, I think you are on to something! Renters and long-time residents should be excluded from the schools because they are not contributing enough to school funding.

While we're at it, let's keep them out of Foothills Park too. No one whose property taxes are less than $10k/year should be using Palo Alto's amenities.

Posted by PADistrict, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 22, 2007 at 4:50 pm

PA benefits from being a basic aid district, getting something like $10k per child compared to other districts which get $8k per child. I believe Los Altos is a non-basic-aid district and so somehow manages to get test scores as good as Palo Alto's with only $8k per child. I wonder how?

Palo Alto gets tax money from that portion of Los Altos Hills whose kids are served by PA schools. They also get a fair amount of taxes from the wealthy who send their kids to private schools (thus not claiming the money they contribute). And there are some big businesses here (HP, Varian).

Frankly folks, if I were an investigative journalist (and yes I know PA weekly doesn't have any of those) I'd be looking into where all that money went. The money PAUSD has somehow managed to squander over the past 10-15 years.

Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 22, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Great Idea?

You misunderstand my point.
I don't see renters as doing anything wrong.
If you rent an apartment or a house, you should have the right to attend the local schools.

I believe that the current tax system provides a windfall to landlords at the expense of everyone else.
Of course, this problem only arises in the 1% of school districts that are basic aid districts.

Please tell me what is wrong with my argument.

Posted by Barron Park Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 22, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Los Altos/Mountain View High School District is also a basic aid district. Don't know about the elementary schools.

Glad to see the district is working on finding students who don't live in the district. A couple of years ago Fremont School District (Monta Vista, Lynbrook, Cupertino) did this and saved a lot of money.

As an earlier post said "we don't get additional money for more students." Every additional student only cuts the slice of the pie smaller.

Posted by Private Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Hey Sam,
Since you are so dismissive about anyone being private with personal information, how about posting YOUR phone number and address here (and your last name while you're at it), so we can discuss your ignorance about privacy and why sometimes some information is necessary to keep private.

Posted by Private Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Oops, I forgot to add -- Sam,

And why would talking to the neighbors vs. talking to the the person being surprised, or say, mailing letters to the neighbors asking for verification of another neighbor's residency, require a "team of investigators" -- it seems to me that asking the neighbors to respond via mail would be a more sound, safe, and inexpensive way to establish someone's residency than hiring a person to make surprise visits. I mean, how much can a surprise visit accomplish? Seems to me it could lead to all kinds of misunderstandings and snafus that could easily be avoided with a more intelligent plan of investigation.

The original poster was right to be concerned about safety. This is a nutty and expensive way to go about verifying residency. I'm not suggesting the school district shouldn't do it, I'm suggesting perhaps they find someone with a little bit of common sense (which we know after the MI debacle to be distinctly lacking at Churchill) to come up with a more effective and safe way to do it.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Private Parent

I do not like your idea at all. I am not sure how many neighbors would like to be the cause of getting their neighbors, who they have to live next to, into trouble. Apart from the fact that it is not a neighborly thing to do, it could possibly cause all sorts of friction.

I do not like the idea of outsiders getting into our schools. If I suspected my neighbors of doing something like this, I certainly wouldn't do anything to report them, the same as if they were driving an out of state licensed car. I am not a snitch. I am sure many people feel the same way. I certainly do not want to be asked to spy on my neighbors.

A couple of years ago I had some neighbors where the wife, who was not a US citizen, was applying for citizenship. They had met out of the country, got married and then they moved here with her children.
They were afraid that authorities would ask us as neighbors if we thought that this was a marriage of convenience. This never happened but it could have. I liked my neighbors who I considered a normal married couple, but even if I thought otherwise, asking neighbors to snitch is not a good idea.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 22, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Just check utility bills every year. If the name on the bill does not match the student's name, then require an explanation from the student and his/her parents at a meeting at the school. Require drivers licenses and tax returns at this meeting. Follow up with a surprise visit, if there is any perceived problem.

This is not rocket science. Any private investigator could get the job done. In fact, try playing Little League in this town, if you are out of district!

Posted by Sam, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Private, there's a big diff between putting your info HERE, on the internet, when you are spouting about issues (esp since there is no purpose beyond responding to your taunt) and in your school directory so other parents can reach you. Having had mine in about 7 various school directories over 13 years now, I can assure you that nothing scary happens - you can sleep easy, your privacy only slighty violated.

As for sending people to ask neighbors - good grief, just going to the source and asking is too easy for you? You'd rather have neighbors (with and without their own agendas) ratting out neighbors than somebody with an ID tag knocking on your door?

Posted by Grumpy, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2007 at 9:13 pm

"As for sending people to ask neighbors..." My late wife used to live in a country like that. It was called the Deutsche Democratik Republik, or, as we called it, East Germany.

Posted by it's basic, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 22, 2007 at 11:37 pm

14k, do you understand what basic aid means? Apartment building owners pay the same amount whether a district is basic aid or not. Owning property in a basic aid district does not provide them with a windfall.

Many of PAUSD's neighboring districts are basic aid, including Los Altos, Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Woodside, and Portola Valley. But PAUSD seems to be the only district pursuing big brother tactics.

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 1:25 am

I was being ironic. I don't think people should have to defend their reasons for privacy, but clearly you have no idea of the issues that can be involved in other people's lives. You obviously have some concerns of your own when the rubber meets the road -- which is why I suggested you post your info here -- but you just didn't get it.

I personally WANTED certain information in our school directory; other information could have been a serious problem for our child. It was not my desire to have all information withheld, that was the school's mistake. Your assurances mean squat. What if I assure you that if you post your information here, nothing will happen? I'd be happy to show up at your home at any time to help you understand the original poster's concerns, and I assure you I am not a psychopath (at least not a dangerous one).

What's the line between putting certain information in one directory vs. another? -- someone else could always post it somewhere more public without meaning any harm. I advertised something for a friend once, using her address (which was okay with her) -- she contacted me a few weeks later asking me to remove her information from that same forum which was little more private than this one. I have to admit, I was embarrassed, it never even occurred to me that her private info would be online forever, and that to be polite (and safe), I should have removed it when the event was done. Of course I removed it then. But let's be real. Thirteen years ago, people had nowhere near the ability to disseminate your private information in a way that is so indelible, irretrievable, and so widely disseminated. What if another parent or child enters your private info on some other public forum, for perfectly innocent reasons? Perhaps that doesn't bother you (though I am skeptical since you wouldn't post it here), but it bothers a lot of other people. And frankly, I respect other people's desire for privacy, whether or not they have a serious reason as I have. Simply desiring the privacy should be enough. I invited you to demonstrate your position by posting your info here, but you declined. Didn't you even get the point, just a little bit?

Look, asking neighbors for references doesn't have to be so sinister. (If you read my post, I personally was suggesting that sending a person to the neighbors and the family in question is an unnecessary way to do this, among other things -- I only mentioned it because you said it would require a team of investigators to talk to a few neighbors, which made no sense.)

It could come from the neighbor seeking the reference -- and should be a penalty-of-perjury document, so that if many people decline to respond, THEN maybe the investigator might want to go in person. I wouldn't mind asking my neighbors to send in a letter verifying my residency. I would mind a stranger showing up asking for my personal information, especially about children in the household! I'd call the police. Frankly, I would expect a lot of other people to call the police, making this kind of investigation pretty low yield. And how creepy is it that a stranger would know enough about you before they even arrive that they would know in such a limited visit that your child does indeed reside there? (But wouldn't somehow already know from this information that you reside there?)

Sending someone out is an inefficient way to do this, whether to talk to you or your neighbors. There are better ways to get the information from most people. We have thousands of people in the district, we can't visit everyone.

Posted by respect privacy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 23, 2007 at 2:02 am

"And how creepy is it that a stranger would know enough about you before they even arrive"
How is this any creepier than having the 'strangers' sitting at 25 Churchill (PAUSD) know all these things about you? They do, and the strangers at your bank, DMV, IRS, insurance company, and so on, know a lot more about you than that PAUSD rep stranger knocking at your door.

I fully agree with you about people having legitimate reasons for privacy. I've known cases where parents withheld information in the student directory because of ugly divorces and one where the parent was a local police officer. Who are we to judge whether someone's reason is legitimate?

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 1:51 pm

While it sounds like we are on the same page about privacy -- including that I think there are far too few safeguards at the places you cite, like the bank, DMV, insurance company (especially), etc. -- I disagree that the usual information these sources have on you (except insurance) would give them enough to establish that a certain child is living at a certain residence from a surprise visit. You'd have to have a lot more information than just sensitive financial info. And again, there are significant safety issues here. We have had in-home violent crimes committed against residents of PA and MP by people posing as solicitors, etc.

Insurance companies of course are the exception, I think most people have no idea how Big Brother-ish that whole industry has become.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2007 at 3:03 pm

To parent of Palo Alto, my mother was recently visited by PAUSD; the person who came to verify acknowledged, that according to state law, they are not allowed to enter the house, and this person came in the morning around 7:15am. It seems unusual that a PAUSD person would come around dinner time and not provide his name or business card.

Please let us know the outcome when you speak to PAUSD. remember, they are not allowed to come in to your house by law!

Posted by Wondering, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm

This seems like such a burning issue here in Palo Alto, but does someone know how many of the surrounding basic aid districts are doing the same amount of investigation that we do? And if so, wouldn't it be funny if the "cheaters" in Palo Alto actually belong in Woodside, and the cheaters in Woodside actually belong in Mountain View, and the cheaters in Mountain View actually belong in Palo Alto. I doubt Palo Alto is getting a lot of riffraff from Lower Podunk, Minnesota. I mean, these people must have actual legal addresses somewhere pretty close by. So ... maybe the school districts should work it out amongst themselves instead of playing an expensive game of "cat and mouse" with vulnerable children as the mouse.

I realized something a little scarey recently. When my son applies to colleges, he's going to be explicitly competing with other kids from Paly. So ... if he's a bright kid (and of course he is!) then wouldn't he look better graduating from some school with fewer blinding lights? And as I've practically bankrupted myself paying for tutors over the years anyway, I could just as well have done that in Lower Podunk.

Hm ... maybe it's time to rent an apartment in [some suitably inferior neighboring school district] and sneak my son into a school where he will rise above the rabble and shine as the incredible genius he is.

Tongue in cheek.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 23, 2007 at 6:43 pm

P.S. - I got curious and a very quick internet search shows that MVLA, Sequoia/Woodside, San Mateo, La Honda, Cupertino, and Fremont school districts are all basic aid districts at the high school level. Most, if not all, of them are engaged in ferreting out "illegals" in one way or another.

So, the circularity I suggested in my previous posting may indeed be happening. Curious.

Posted by Public School Teacher, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:32 pm

I just wanted to express my deep sorrow for how shallow and petty most of you are. I understand that you paid huge sums of money for your homes and your children are entitled to a good education. However, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is willing to do anything to get a better education for their child. Most of these kids, whose parents "break the rules", tend to be good students, with good attendance and positive attitudes. If they are attending school and contributing to the school and student environment in a positive manner, then leave them alone. It really bothers me that we only think of ourselves and not others, especially children. Imagine if you lived in East Oakland and had a son who was academically gifted and a cousin who lived in Palo Alto. You too would use his/her address.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:56 pm

That's the spirit, PST - why should a little thing like money keep the deserving poor from having what we have? How shallow! How petty! From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs, eh?

I don't think the "cheaters" are bad people - I don't judge them. I just know we need to police the attendance rules if we want to have a sustainable system. No enforcement, lots of mad taxpayers; mad taxpayers, no new parcel tax; no new parcel tax, higher class sizes, etc.; you get the picture.

And if I had that kid and I lived in East Oakland - heck, maybe I'd find a way to move to Palo Alto. We have apartments, trailer parks, and lots of rentals; maybe I would move in with my cousin! The only requirement is that you actually live here; high income is not a requirement.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2007 at 12:28 am

Heck, if I were the East Oakland parent with aspirations for my kids, I could think about moving to East Palo Alto and applying for a Tinsley transfer. (Though I'd probably try to squeeze over the border into Berkeley.)

Seriously, of the cheaters I've heard of, or known, it's not so bleeding heart. It's things like: family bought house in Redwood City, which has a mix of schools, but have grandparents in Palo Alto. So, they figure they can go for PA schools.

Now, could they afford to live in Palo Alto? Yes, if they wanted to rent or live in a townhouse. A lot of families do just that to send their kids here--renting with no possibility of buying in sight. Or squeezing into a tiny condo or house.

Lots of people in Palo Alto aren't rich. The percentage of renters is very high--lots of students and singles, of course, but also a surprising number of families hoping they'll get some sort of real-estate break.

I do have sympathy for situations where the kids are in the district, but the parents get divorced and screw up the residency requirements, Also families that have been living in Palo Alto and can't afford the rent hikes.

But families that own homes elsewhere, but want the bonus perk of PA (or MP or Saratoga) schools by gaming the system don't get a lot of sympathy from me. I rented way too long to feel that way.

Posted by Paranoid Mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 24, 2007 at 9:18 pm

There is no obligation to answer your door or answer questions of a stranger, no matter who they purport to be. If they're on your property, you can ignore them or ask them to leave. If they don't leave, it's trespassing, and you can call the cops. Or, if they creep you out, just call the cops.

Especially if I were a woman home alone, or even with kids, I might assume someone was casing my house, no matter what story they concocted or what ID, real or bogus, they produced. (How would I know the difference?) In my several decades of existence, no school district employee has shown up on my doorstep asking nosy questions, and for all that we teach our kids about stranger danger, we adults ought to practice the same and beware strangers on our doorstep who pry into our affairs.

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2007 at 3:09 am

PADistrict - Los Altos may have comparable test scores, but they also have a wealthier and less diverse population of students. Despite its reputation, we chose not to buy in LA because we did not like the early stressful academic bent, the social environment in most (though not all) schools, the emphasis on test scores, the lack of diversity. I'm not saying their schools are bad, they are excellent, I'm just saying it wasn't our cup of tea. There are concrete reasons beyond test scores that so many people choose PAUSD. LA is having their own problems with overcrowding now, and I like their way of dealing with it even less than PAUSD's.

I agree about some of the surrounding schools, particularly Mtn View which has some great schools and an unreasonable reputation -- but some parents like it that way because it keeps the school community real. They get the great education without all the pressure.

That's an interesting point about rentals above. Renters really don't pay their way, unfortunately, though they do have the same right to attend school and I wouldn't change that. I would think looking at how to have the owners pay their fair share might be a good approach. After all, owners are getting a huge benefit from these properties because of PA schools which contribute so much to their property values -- and property values is why so many people hang onto their PA properties so long. PA has an unusually high level of rentals, something like 50%. (Compare with some communities in the Bay Area which are 80-90% owner occupied.) Let's face it, most of these owners have had the properties a long time, are paying comparably next to nothing in property tax, and are reaping huge rental fees and appreciation on values. They are not contributing even close to their fair share to the schools and are reaping a disproportionate benefit.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2007 at 9:13 am

How do people figure renters don't pay their way.

If a landlord owns a piece of property - he covers his operating costs with rent. That operating cost includes mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, maintence, etc. Rent covers all that.

So renters sure do pay property taxes - they just don't make their check out to the county.

C'mon people, think.

Posted by by the way..., a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2007 at 11:51 am

It would be very Palo Alto to exclude renters and long-time home owners. Clearly neither group is contributing enough to the pot. Only children of rich people, those who have spent over $1mm for their homes and pay prop taxes accordingly, should be allowed in Palo Alto schools. Children need to mingle with the "right kind" to get the best education.

Did you all know that Portola Valley spends $15k/child/year? Maybe you all are sneaking your kids into the wrong district! PV also has topnotch scores, and from what I can tell, the residents don't like to scuffle nearly as much as Palo Altans do.

Posted by Aghast, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 27, 2007 at 10:03 am

Palo Alto has a longheld reputation for being full of itself, if not snooty. Are we moving it to a new level by suggesting that those who pay the most in taxes are the most deserving and worthy of citizens in this town?

Shall we just kick out those deadbeat old-timers who bought their houses 10 to 50 years ago, despite their having paid taxes all these years that have contributed to the building and running of our city and our schools, whose votes we have depended on to pass our school bond measures even after their children have graduated from PAUSD? And shall we evict all those parasitic renters who have the audacity to pretend to be Palo Altans? To be citizens in good-standing, must residents hold deeds with the ink still damp?

Posted by John D., a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 27, 2007 at 10:33 am

Who do you suppose is complaining about "illegals" in our district? The administrators at PAUS? No, it is we, the people. We are the ones calling our board members, speaking out at board meetings and calling the district administrators TELLING them to "do something about it".

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 27, 2007 at 11:16 am

Perhaps renters are not paying their "fair share" but that is not the point. If you rent a home and live in it, your children have a right to go to PAUSD schools.

The key thing is living in it. Renting an apartment and not living there (or using it for an office, etc.) does not make you a resident and does not entitle your children to go to school in Palo Alto.

Posted by Um...., a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Several people (or maybe it has been the same person, several times) have said that renters don't pay their way and/or that landlords are getting unfairly rich off palo alto schools.

Wow, does this person (or these people) believe that owners of rental property don't pay property taxes? How can anyone be that dumb? Especially anyone living in this particularly brilliant community?

Posted by Um...., a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:35 pm

The people who have made this claim that renters don't contribute, you've got a lot of freakin' nerve.

Renters don't get to claim property taxes or mortgage interest as deductions from their income for tax purposes. Those two deductions make a huge difference in my tax bill each year, and I feel lucky and privileged (possibly unfairly) to have that option.

What do renters get? A lousy, insulting $60 renters' credit.

And some of you have the arrogance ... ugh I can't even finish this note, it's so disgusting.

Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2007 at 5:56 am

Um..., I'm not suggesting renters are the issue here, please read my post again before going off on another rant. Perhaps since you are a renter, you haven't been confronted with the issues around property taxes and how Prop 13 has affected funding for our schools. (I know you claim to be a homeowner, but it's hard to believe given the lack of knowledge in your posts.)

Because of Prop 13, families with small children are likely paying $15,000-$25,000 per year and upwards in property taxes often for modest homes, merely because of having bought in recent years, while the people who have owned property for many years are likely paying only a few hundred dollars to a few thousand a year, if that. The cumulative payments over the years really don't compare, even adjusted for inflation, because of the situation created by Prop 13.

As a renter, you usually pay market value for your place, the owner is the one who benefits from the tax break, not you. The owner is the one benefitting from the high property values over the years, which is why so many people hang onto their properties instead of putting them on the market which would benefit younger families by increasing inventory, increasing recent sales (i.e., improving the property tax base considerably), etc.

This really is why we have such an unusually high rental property rate in Palo Alto, rather than being primarily owner-occupied. I've known of situations where long-time owners were able to keep a separate, vacant home in nice parts of Palo Alto just for gardening or storage, or to keep five or six homes, for which they were paying only a few hundred dollars in property tax each and collecting huge sums in rent.

No, thinking about it, they are not paying their fare share, especially given the huge benefits they are reaping simply for having bought so long ago. (Many new families are the new "house poor" simply because of when they became of age to look for housing.)

Prop 13 created this unfair situation, and there have been many laws and adaptations to help correct unfairnesses created by Prop 13. There are lots of things that can be done short of draconian measures which would help make things a little more fair. These owners can and should contribute more towards the schools which give them back so much in property and rental value.

People always take umbrage when they are reaping unfair benefits and are asked to pay a little more of their fair share. It doesn't mean we shouldn't still do it.

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2007 at 6:07 am

On the topic here:

I'm really concerned about the underlying assumptions in this discussion about using these unsafe and inefficient private investigations methods to check residency. I'm a part of a community here. There would be so, so many ways to verify that I live in my home without the expense and safety issues of randomly sending out a private investigator to see if I'm home that day. For thousands of people?

People who are part of the community should be offered other, frankly better cheaper less-Big Brotherish ways to prove their residency. People who are taking advantage of the system probably aren't integrated into the community and would have more difficulty with such proof. Okay, maybe in those few cases an investigation is warranted. Sheesh, shouldn't we be thinking about doing things in the least expensive, most effective way possible? Protecting privacy at the same time? Wow, what a concept.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:28 am

Private Parent

I think that if our school district and others have determined that hiring an individual to investigate the legitimate residential status of those who appear suspicicious is the most expedient and cost effective way to do this, then they may be interested to know what your suggestions of a better way is.

I am sure we all agree that this seems costly and unsafe, but if there is a better way, then please let us know. These individuals are devious enough to be able to prove residency status with the correct paperwork, so I am sure that they are devious enough to come up with ways to get round the system.

Any ideas of how else to go fishing?

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2007 at 7:07 pm

What's wrong with asking for references? That would eliminate the need for a lot of investigation. Most people don't live as islands. I just feel like a lot of this is silly. The kids have play dates at each others' home, other parents and their children go to each others' homes, neighbors visit, etc. If a teacher, minister, neighbors all verify that you live there with a simple affadavit (a signed letter, fill in the blanks), that's a lot cheaper than sending around an investigator. Yes, they can be falsified, just as with any job. But if it's penalty of perjury, people take it seriously. And if they are mailed directly from the 3rd parties so that the person under investigation has no idea whether they return them, and some people aren't verified, well, those might be the people to follow up with an investigator on.

I mean, if you're only able to talk to me on the phone, and you need to verify whether I am a man or a woman, is it really necessary to send around an investigator or get a DNA test? Why not just ask me to ask for a letter from my doctor? For the vast majority of cases, such a thing would be sufficient and would be vastly cheaper. There's really a point where this gets ridiculous. We don't need to go broke doing this, the idea is to save money.

My family has been in this community for 30 years. I could easily have teachers at our school verify my residency with a simple letter. Spending money for an investigator would just be flushing money down the drain. I think in the vast majority of cases, simple measures like that would be sufficient. People who reside here usually are part of a larger community; people who are not residing here or are otherwise cheating the system probably aren't.

A single visit by a PI could result in so much misunderstanding. I think it's likely to end up ensaring people who really do live here in time-consuming battles. (read: costly to both the district and parents) The cost in bad will over things like that is also usually enormous and not worth it. And you could pay for collecting affadavits for the whole district for the cost of investigating just a few people. THat's just off the cuff -- I'm sure there are better ideas out there from people who do this kind of thing for a living. We have a lot of HR resources in this area, suggestions?

Posted by Another Person Heard From, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2007 at 8:12 am

I suspect that PAUSD employees who hired the investigators are not lurking around Town Square looking for ideas, so instead of pondering why they do what they do, how's about just calling and, like Parent suggested, offering suggestions? According to the Weekly, Marie Scigliano is the staff person in charge of residency verifications. Her number is 329-3776.

I recall reading in the Weekly a year back that PAUSD staff surveyed other school districts' residency check procedures pretty carefully before they updated ours, so isn't it plausible that PAUSD is following what other districts found to be the most cost effective and result effective way to ferret out non-residents in our schools?

Link to Weekly article on this: Web Link

Fremont Union had shared that people wanting their children in their schools were forging driver's licenses and getting others, local taxpayers mind you, to falsely report that their home was the residence of the non-resident. Against self-interest I'd say, but some people did it.

Who's to say that Palo Alto neighbors wouldn't do the same when asked to falsely verify the residence of a friend? And how do Private Parent's suggestions work for those just moving in who don't know their neighbors yet? For those who go to a church (or those who don't) which doesn't have a minister who visits congregants at home? For those who haven't had teachers visit them at home recently, if ever?

I suspect that the bulk of the fraud is with new "residents" and none of Private Parent's well-intended suggestions are good ways to verify residency of those not yet connected in our community. Bottom line -- no solution is perfect.

As for the penalty of perjury part, check with a lawyer but I don't believe that works when putting your home address on a school form since the penalty of perjury clause it is not required by or allowed under law for this type of thing.

Posted by shocked, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:15 am

I'm surprised that so many self-congratulatory theoretically egalitarian Palo Altans think it's okay that their children are receiving a better public school education than others because of Prop 13, Serrano Priest, and other legal abominations. How dare a child from a less expensive community partake of the Palo Alto education: let them eat cake!

My district is also Basic Aid, and I have known kids whose parents were so desperate to get them a quality education that they resorted to all kinds of subterfuge to get into our schools. Do I mind that my prop tax dollars are supporting these kids? No, I don't. I'm just sorry that the inequities among our schools make it necessary for parents to manipulate the system.

These are our children, and all should have the right to the best possible education. Those of you who are so self-righteous about the need to shut out other kids should be instead seeing what you can do to make opportunities available to all.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:30 am

Why not get the teachers to ask the kids. Particularly young children, are very bad liars. They may be trained to say things like they live on such and such a street, but ask them about things like favorite parks, favorite restaurants, neighbors names, what they like to do after school, and you see other things come out. When this seems to be the overall picture, the teachers can then get the residency department to ask for verification.

I have driven on field trips and I am surprised what little Johnny or Janie says when they don't think it matters. Even older kids let things slip when talking in a friendly setting.

So let the kids incriminate themselves.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:31 am

Why not get the teachers to ask the kids. Particularly young children, are very bad liars. They may be trained to say things like they live on such and such a street, but ask them about things like favorite parks, favorite restaurants, neighbors names, what they like to do after school, and you see other things come out. When this seems to be the overall picture, the teachers can then get the residency department to ask for verification.

I have driven on field trips and I am surprised what little Johnny or Janie says when they don't think it matters. Even older kids let things slip when talking in a friendly setting.

So let the kids incriminate themselves.

Posted by Anamika, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Teacher's should ask the kids?? This is playing with the children's innocence ! This problem of lying for the residency is entirely the parent(s) issue - deal with the parents. Leave the children alone!

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Another Person Heard From -- you didn't really read my post. It would have spared you that long response.

No perfect solution, agreed. But no, I have so little faith in common sense, responsiveness to community input, and fiscal responsibility out of Churchill after the whole MI debacle (and other simultaneous trust snafus) that I wouldn't waste my time calling. Like anything I have to say would have an impact.

I do know a lot about how investigations work, and they are vastly more expensive than you can imagine when they involve a skilled investigator. The real world is not like t.v. If we had to do this for even a substantial fraction of students, we would not be saving money. And I can promise you that unless those responsible for contracting for the investigations are very experienced working with this type of investigator, PAUSD will end up charged much more than we expect in the end. And will likely have clean up and consequences that we have to handle internally. There is also the potential for lawsuits from those people whose cases are mishandled.

All of your questions are legitimate points. I didn't say that everyone would be able to provide ready, cheap evidence that they live here. But many, many can, so we should start there, as I said in my previous message. We can't send a person out everywhere if we want to save money, do this in an efficient way, and get the right answer from an investigation like this most of the time. Some people who are here legitimately, but perhaps new as one of the examples you gave, would need to be followed up with, but there are easier intermediate measures in those cases, too. I use a POBox in another town for my mail, have for many, many years. So my file might like suspicious. I don't mind having to jump through a few extra hoops to verify my residency, that's par for the course. Sure, maybe Palo Alto could verify that I live here with an expensive private investigation, but why not just give me the option of saving the district money by asking me to provide references? Or suggesting a simple phone call to some long-time teachers who know us?

Or how about this? Just announce to the school that certain staff will go home with certain students at times randomly chosen -- a pop quiz? Staff that know the kids would be more qualified to assess whether a child actually lives in that space, a teacher would be more welcome in the home than a private investigator, and the "pop" quiz could be a positive visit for the child if nothing is actually amiss. For people who live here legitimately, this would be far less of a privacy and personal threat than a private investigator, but for those who don't, the unpredictable threat could make for some early "transfers" away to their real home districts. Okay, go ahead and criticize away, I"m not saying this is my first choice. But figuring out something like this is just so much easier and cheaper within a community context.

For me, personally, I believe most of the kids hurt by this will be those who have more complex lives, not those who are deliberate cheats. I know one family that owns a home in another town, but their child mainly lives here in Palo Alto, yes, for the schools, with the grandparents, but also because the grandparents are primary caregivers. Does the child always live here 7 days a week? Probably not every week, but at least 5 or 6 days most weeks. Does the child substantially live here most days of the week even on weekends? Yes. Does someone in the family who cares for the child reside permanently in a house or apartment in Palo Alto? Yes. Will the child be living here this summer for those infamous residency checks? No. Sent away to another country for language immersion. It would be so easy to assume from circumstantial evidence that this kid doesn't qualify to go to school here. The fight the family would probably have to endure if an investigator makes natural assumptions would hurt that family, my kid's classroom, and our school in ways that simply wouldn't be worth catching a few cheaters who don't live here over. The cost of straightening out the misunderstandings that could come from someone making summer spot checks probably haven't been considered by the people at Churchill (or more likely, fancifully justified away as being cost neutral).

Posted by Angie, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Well Private, it is too bad that you are more interested in writing long missives (ok, let's just call it complaining) than actually making things better. I hope you change your mind. In the meantime, it isn't that interesting to read what you write, since you aren't actually that keen to get it implemented.

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2007 at 6:51 pm

Even though you aren't listening and are so happy to let me know it, other people do clearly read this forum. You never know, maybe someone will read it who has fewer qualms about being the kind of threat-maker who gets heard and gets things done in this district than I do. Just because it's pretty clear from past experience that I'd be wasting my breath at Churchill doesn't mean I think discussing things with other parents in a town forum is useless.

Aren't you being a little hypocritical to criticize, when you aren't even willing to consider ways PAUSD could save money from someone you deem a "complainer"? Since you didn't read the message, you missed the constructive. (So how does that make you anything but a complainer to me?)

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 29, 2007 at 9:35 pm


Would you feel the same if your child was bumped from her or his neighborhood school because, in part, of an uptick in fraudulent registrations?

I honestly think it's the overcrowding factor that's made it such an issue. It's one thing to occupy an otherwise empty spot, another to bump a local kid from that spot.

Private Parent,

I'm sorry, I don't see why it's less invasive to check with the neighbors than just ring the doorbell. In apartment buildings, it's quite possible for people not to know one another. I think the residency check issue is more readily solved by, as someone suggested, having a line manned at the district office while the checks are going on.

Posted by Truth, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:02 pm

I support 100% the removal of students that don't live in the Palo Alto boundaries. They need to attend their true "home schools" and leave PAUSD.

Posted by Angie, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Sorry, I meant long-winded complainer!

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2007 at 12:24 am

Please tell me which of my constructive suggestions are complaints. Sorry I couldn't sound-bite-ize them for you. What are you but a short-winded complainer, you've done nothing but complain about me (without having even read my suggestions)!

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2007 at 1:05 am

Speaking of talking to other parents being worthwhile ... I'm glad to see you on this thread!

I'm not suggesting we send an investigator to check with the neighbors. (I think I've tried to clear this misunderstanding up once already.) Please read my previous posts all the way through.

I'm suggesting sending an investigator at all (whether to a parent or the neighbors) except for the most serious and suspicious cases is inordinately time-consuming, error-prone, invasive, expensive, and unnecessary in many cases. That anyone would think of such a thing is the result of having absolutely no sense of Palo Alto as a community. (And no sense of how much anything involving hiring a private investigator costs.)

There are any number of scenarios where a knock on the door would lead to a false conclusion and a nightmare for the family. In the above case, for example, the investigator knocks on the door and finds an elderly couple who can't speak English. The child is nowhere to be found, and after lengthy and expensive summer surveillance, is still nowhere to be found. What about people, like me, who keep a POBox for mail and would never allow a stranger into our home or answer any personal questions? Frankly, I don't even answer the door if it's someone I don't recognize. What if someone like me sicked the police on this investigator, and that person, tired of getting nowhere with several investigations, gave in just a little to the temptation to retaliate in the interpretation of the investigation? And just how many people could be surveilled accurately under such a situation, and just how much is that going to cost at $100-250/hour for one person plus overhead and expenses?

What I am suggesting is that we send parents home with a few forms to give to their neighbors, or teachers who know them outside of school, or reputable members of the PTA who have attended parties at their home or go there regularly for play dates, or other reputable people who can vouch for their residency, with stamped envelopes. We ask parents to provide references. That's a far cry from sending an investigator to everyone's door. Sure, maybe not everyone can provide those references, but you eliminate a lot of the need for investigation right there with less expensive methods.

I mean, the district does this kind of thing all the time. They need to know my kid has had a dental check-up by kindergarten. Do they send a private investigator to my home or the dentist office? No, they send ME home with a form that I give to my dentist, and the dentist fills in the blanks and mails it in. Sure, some cases will require follow up. But they still don't need to send an investigator to get the information or results they need.

Beyond that, the random teacher/staff visits (for example) could mostly be a positive thing for the kids who are mistakenly "targeted". My kid would be tickled pink if his teacher or the school secretary walked the short distance home from our neighborhood school with us and had tea with us one day. You wouldn't even have to visit everyone before this practice acts as a kind of deterrent for those who are cheating. When it's random, it would be difficult to prepare. People who know the children could tell a lot more from a single short visit than a stranger could. People who know the children would be welcome in the home, for one thing. I wouldn't expect most of these visits to do anything but verify a student's residency. Cheaters would be on notice, would be more likely to consider returning to their districts -- it is a bigger issue preparing for deceiving one's teacher (at random, no less) than trying to falsify documents and combat a stranger. The few who come up with repeated excuses could get those investigator knocks on the door. Again, I'm just pointing out that it's possible to do this in a cheaper, less creepy way. I'm sure there are better suggestions.

The more we incorporate this effort into community, the less creepy and expensive it becomes, and I believe the more effective. And you can't put a price tag on Good Will (well, actually, you can -- it's also an important financial interest to keep parents who really do reside here feeling more part of the school and less harrassed).

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2007 at 1:14 am

Editorial staff,
"Angie" has posted no opinions or suggestions on the thread, only called names after admittedly not reading my posts. Is there some point where you delete name calling, or do I have to make a strong point that your editors disagree with to get deleted?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Private Parent,

Thank you for the compliment. My understanding is that the checks only occur if someone has made a complaint about a student not actually being in the district. Given that you're already dealing with a possible case of fraud, I don't think the paperwork solution works--these are people who already had to have lied to get into the district and can probably get other people to lie for them. (I'm not talking here about those cases where the child's parents split up.)

With an in-person check, an investigator can see, for example, kids' bikes around--that, alone, is going to make fraud seem less likely.

There doesn't seem to be much thread-editing right now, by the way.

Posted by Private parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Are you sure the checks only happen if someone complains? I thought with the overenrollment that the district was going about systematically checking residency with the kind of effort the original poster complained about. If they are only sending out investigators in rare cases, then my points are moot.

Overuse of investigators would IMO be a penny wise and pound foolish approach, yet another strategy it seems to ensure we don't get the next school bond measure passed! I hope you are right, that it's just the rare instance, spurred by an actual complaint.

Posted by Angie, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2007 at 3:45 pm

LOL - a classic in the Emily Litella (SNL) model - "Oh, that's quite different... Never mind!"

Emily Litella was an elderly woman with a hearing problem seen on the op-ed Weekend Update segment in the late 1970s. Frumpily attired in a dress and a sweater, "Miss Emily Litella" was introduced with professional dignity by the news anchors, who could sometimes be seen cringing slightly in anticipation of the faux pas which they knew would follow as their "guest" launched into tirades on various topics. She was phased out when Gilda Radner's other character Roseanne Roseannadanna proved more popular.

Radner's character peered through her bifocals and read a prepared letter addressing some public issue, becoming increasingly agitated as her statement progressed, only to discover in the middle of her report that she had misheard what the issue was. A typical example:

"What is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a "deaf" penalty? It's terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is!"

When the on-air reporter interrupted to point out her error (death vs. deaf), she would crinkle her nose, usually say, "Oh, that's quite different...", and then humbly say to the audience, "Never mind." She has been quoted as having said "Never mind" in the Internet Movie Database's Memorable Quotes from "Saturday Night Live" (1975) and in SNL Transcripts: Richard Pryor: 12/13/75: Weekend Update with Chevy Chase. When Litella played against Chevy Chase he was somewhat sympathetic to her, but when Jane Curtin took over the anchor role Jane's character was not too kind to Emily.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Private Parent,

That the investigators were sent out in response to complaints was what was said in the newspaper articles I read last year. At that point, the district said complaints about fraudulent residencies had jumped from about 30 a year to 70. It then said that investigators were sent out . . . my guess is that the number of illegal enrollments hadn't jumped, just the reporting of them when people started getting concerned about their own kids getting a spot at the neighborhood schools.

However, that doesn't mean things haven't changed and now the district's doing random spot checks. I haven't heard that they are, but I don't know the doings on Churchill.

I do know that proving residency has gotten more and more involved. Now you're not supposed to have just a grant deed, but a property tax bill to show that you're taking the homeowner's exemption. Though, frankly, I could see a situation where a family out here for a year, say, was staying in a second house, while claiming an exemption on the main house somewhere else.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 30, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Does anyone know the phone number for the residency inspector? If so, could you post it here, please. What process is involved in reporting someone? Thanks for clarifying.

Posted by Another Person Heard From, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2007 at 6:25 am

To Paly Parent:

From So You Know's post above: "Leave a confidential message for Palo Alto Unified School District's Residency Officer regarding a possible residency violation at (650) 329-3700 ext. 7385"

To OhlonePar and To Private Parent:

Yep, the investigator is selectively selecting which residents to check based on credible reports. It appears to be working and saving the district money, as reported to the Board last April:

"Tom asked for an update on the effectiveness of the Residency Inspector and suggested it may be self-funding. Marie Scigliano, Director of Central Attendance and Library Media, said when the position was filled in December, there were 268 open cases. Now there are 209 open cases. In three months, 15 students who did not reside in the District had been removed. Last year, only 16 students were removed in all of the previous school year. In addition, awareness had been greatly increased. Townsend asked for elaboration on the Residency Inspector's duties. Scigliano said it depended on the case, but there were instances where the Inspector had to actually enter the home and make sure the student resided there. Tom said it appeared this position would create a net savings. Scigliano agreed."

To Private Parent:

As to teacher visits to homes to help with district administrative matters, I suspect that you would have to pay teachers more to do this or allow them to reduce their teacher prep time. You'd also have to negotiate this new job responsibility with the teachers' union. So that solution, creative as it is, is not inexpensive or necessarily practical or possible.

As you see from Public School Teacher's post above, some of our teachers think PAUSD should turn a blind eye to out-of-district children attending our schools. Most others probably do not want to play a role in kicking their students out of school or being perceived as distrusting. Hard to imagine teachers wanting to play this role or, if they did, having their hearts in it.

Posted by Favoring Truth and Honesty, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2007 at 7:42 am

Public School Teacher:

The few families I've known who put their out-of-district children in our schools and in your classrooms are not underprivileged. One rented an apartment in Palo Alto but slept most if not all nights in a very nice home in another school district, another dropped her child off at school each morning in a new Mercedes, and another had been sending the child to private school but found the Palo Alto schools more convenient for his/her job.

Try as I may to put myself "in the shoes of someone who is willing to do anything to get a better education for their child," I find it hard to see how I am not thinking about others when I see some parents break the rules for their children who appear to have more options than many who live here in Palo Alto.

In my mind it isn't about whether non-resident kids are good students, it is about where to best place limited resources for all the kids who we are required to educate.

Isn't it that each non-resident student costs the district $5,000-$10,00 extra to educate? If so, the savings when just 1 nonresident student in your school leaves could go a long way to help all the disruptive or struggling kids in your classroom be better students. It could buy 50-100 more hours of school psychologist time each year or 500-1,000 more hours of aide time (at an elementary school that would be 20-40 more hours for your classroom each year alone).

And that is just for 1 non-resident child. Multiply that by the number of non-resident kids who are at your school and you can see how they, regardless of how nice a kid or good a student they may be, impact you and your other students' school experiences.

Perhaps it is just the way I am wired, but I happen to think that parents who commit fraud and have their kids lie to friends and teachers about where they live are the ones who are not thinking about others, especially children. Ever wonder why things like Enron happen? It is because some parents raise their children to think the rules they don't like don't apply to them and other kids, who are taught to be honest, see that there are no consequences but rather tangible benefits to not telling the truth.

Posted by Grandma, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2007 at 11:46 am

Removing non resident students from Palo Alto Schools should be encouraged and helped by the community, not criticized. Not only do these children fill up our classrooms and schools they are costing the taxpayers of Palo Alto almost $1 Million to educate.

Students get into the PAUSD by giving fake addresses and addresses of friends who they have no intention of living with. The District finds many of these homes empty during the day and in the evening, they must make checks at unusual times because that is when occupants are home.

I support the School District.

Posted by Resident, a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2007 at 3:13 pm

When my son was at Gunn a friend at school lived in Santa Clara. For four years he attended Gunn on an old address, nobody bothered to check. This costs the taxpayers of Palo Alto lots of money not to mention filling up our schools with non-residents.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

What about some common-sense procedures, like:

1) Having the name and photo of all investigators published on the district web site and have a district hotline (which must have a widely published phone number and be manned all evenings when investigators are in the field) so parents could verify their identity before opening the door?

2) Giving parents a call 5-10 minutes before the investigator arrives so they aren't surprised by a stranger showing up, and can check the web site and/or call the district hotline to verify the investigator's identity. This also helps reduce costs, because the investigator doesn't have to waste time visiting a residence if the parent indicates the child isn't home that night (the investigator can just try again at a later, random date) and therefore should be able to "process" more residences per paid working hour.

Posted by Jules, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 5:47 pm


That is not common sense at all. Publishing photos of the investigators will just help the cheaters.

And the investigators are supposed to show up without notice so they can catch the cheaters. They aren't suppose to give a warning that they are visiting or the cheater could run over there to act as if he lives there. Or a "no, the child is not home" could mean that he really does not live there, because he is not there.

I support the idea of busting these people and all people need to do is call the attendance office anonymously and let them know if they know a cheater.

Someone I know was being driven from another town every day and then an investigator showed up at the PA house early one morning. Since then, the family had to kick out the renters and move back into the PA house. The child was so relieved to not have the 20 minute morning drive and to be close to his PA friends and not have to lie anymore.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Palo Alto is now a very ethnically diverse community, lots of Indians, Taiwanese, Chinese etc-- it is time to end the Tinsley failed experiment in social engineering--

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm


Tinsley is a legally binding settlement. You claim to be a lawyer, so that should be something you understand.

Tinsley kids are here legally. Don't group them with families who are cheating the system.

Posted by Jules, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

BTW, the district gives these families time to obtain legitimate residency, they don't just kick students out the next day (I think they give them 60 days).

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm

The Tinsley deal was 20+ years ago, legal agreements change with circumstances, think about divorce, bankrupt deals, sunset laws etc,etc

It is time for PA to divorce from the Tinsley deal.
Times have changed, the demographics of Palo Alto have changed dramatically, just look around.
We are rapidly becoming a wealthier version of Cupertino, look at the schools.
The only difference is the immersion programs here are Mandarin rather than Cantonese.
The demographics of EPA have also changed dramatically, blacks are now a minority over there.

EPA needs to take responsibility for educating its children, the Tinsley experiment is no longer relevant.
It failed and dragging this failure on is unfair to the new generation of Palo Alto taxpayers.

Posted by Jules, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:58 pm


Many people completely agree with you. There is an entire thread on ditching Tinsley. People seem to think it is not possible. I think with a huge lawsuit it would be possible, but who wants to be the person who will be harassed for filing a lawsuit? Everyone knows busing does not work. It may be helpful for EPAs but not for Palo Altans.

Posted by CalBar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

Sharon has no understanding of the law.

Absent a showing of fraud, it it almost impossible to get out of a court approved settlement. Sharon is urging us to enter an expensive exercise in futility.

The only way to change the Tinsley settlement would be by suit filed by a white student in EPA alleging discrimination by being precluded from participation in the VTA program. However, I seriously doubt such a suit would lower the financial burden on PA.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Jules, your comments don't make any sense. Please explain how publishing photos of the investigators helps "cheaters". The children either live in Palo Alto "full time" or they don't. If they don't, publishing photos of the investigators won't help cheaters pretend their children are home when the investigators make random visits, but it WILL help all parents who are visited feel safer cooperating with the investigators.

Also, how will 5-minute advanced warning make it easier to cheat? Do you really think you could re-locate a child living out-of-town back to Palo Alto within 5 minutes on any random evening?

I would have hoped Palo Alto residents could have a calm, rational discussion about policy, but I guess that's just not possible when talking about school residency or immigration policy (which a lot of posts on this thread sound like; just replace "cheaters" with "illegal aliens" and you can hardly tell the difference!)

Quite a disappointment.

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