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Castilleja seeks to boost enrollment by 70

Original post made on Jul 19, 2013

Castilleja, an independent middle and high school for girls on Bryant Street, says it will seek permission from the City of Palo Alto to increase its enrollment gradually from 445 students to 515.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 19, 2013, 9:40 AM

Comments (66)

Posted by I wonder, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

Are the "no castilleja parking" signs that Ms. Powar talks about real signs put up by the city? When I bike by the school the only signs like that I see are home made ones mounted in coffee cans filled with cement. If that's the case how is this enforceable?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

Casti school head states: "We want to bring in a greater number of more diverse young women so that girls who have unique interests aren't the only ones."

Are the new students minorities instead of WASPs?

Otherwise, any private school which adds students is adding for the extra tuition.

Posted by Honor Spitz, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

As a Castilleja Alum (class of '62) and someone who is a strong supporter of same-sex education (whether it be all girl/all boy), I do have grave misgivings about this proposed expansion of the school's enrollment. The neighbors have spoken loud and clear: Castilleja has not been a good neighbor in regard to the traffic/parking situation, and until and unless they can demonstrate that they can or will change the current situation, I do not think that the City should grant them a permit to increase their student population. If, for instance, Castilleja can put in place shuttle/off-sight parking NOW, ( and see if that will mitigate some of the current problems,) and do that for at least a year, then I do not think that they can expect to be able to accommodate more students.

Posted by Rudy Wang, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm

515-445 = 70
Not 90.

Posted by Time-To-Move, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Maybe it's time for Castilleja to consider moving to another location.

Posted by Casti Dad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

As a father of a Casti student who lives in Palo Alto, when I saw this "Neighbors at Thursday's meeting -- who said they were tired of Castilleja students parking in front of their homes in violation of posted signs -- weren't so sure", I had to laugh because how can one be in violation of a handmade sign? The impression the article gives is that Castilleja students are breaking Palo Alto city parking rules, and that is not the case. Clearly if the residents are able to get the city to post official city signs, and students park in violation of them, then that would be a problem -- although a good percentage of these Casti students are in fact Palo Alto residents so does that lead to neighborhood passes needing to be put on people's cars, etc.?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Casti Dad - I've wondered about those signs, too. What is it w/people who move to a home right by a major feature, such as a school, & then think they can dictate parking? It's just weird. We deal w/big parking problems on my street & it's not due to a feature like a school, theater, etc. What's the point of a homemade sign & why expect a teenager to "obey" it?

Posted by casti neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

The signs in question are distributed by Castilleja School. They are not handmade by the neighbors. They often tip over, are moved, or are ignored by parents dropping off students.

Posted by Casti parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I am also a Casti parent and take offense to those signs. The streets surrounding Casti are public and therefore open to anyone needing to park there - obviously without blocking a driveway - and the residents surrounding the school have no right to put up these signs. The school has been there for over 100 years and most, if any, of the residents have not. Therefore, as "Hmmm," stated, how do they feel entitled to be living on a public street where parking is not allowed? No such rule exists on my Palo Alto street. The surrounding neighbors are asking Casti to be good neighbors without returning the favor to the school. The only understandable point is the traffic during dropoff and pickup, but again, every resident living near ANY public school or event venue suffers the safe situation. The Casti neighbors are not suffering unduly or unknowningly.

On a separate note, I'm thrilled with the school adding 90 more students at the current campus.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

So they're not legally enforceable. The school should've taken on the parking issue in a *real* way before this.

Neighbors - please don't shove your parking issue onto T&C. Not only is there there Paly student problem, it's crowded enough as it is. You bought the house by the school, don't put the problem onto another crowded area.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Since I believe in giving credit where it is due - Thank you, Rudy Wang, for your arithmetic correction.

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The school currently has a conditional use permit for 415 students. Castilleja currently has 445 students, a violation of 30 students above what is currently allowed. This violation has equated to $1,080,000 in revenue to the shool (Tuition is approx $36k/year before further donations are made by families). Before any further discussion on increasing the school numbers should proceed, the school should use this surplus towards lowering the school's carbon footprint by creating a shuttle service from where they have students residing: Los Altos, Portola Valley and the Woodside neighborhoods. I don't think that three Bauer Black Buses directed to these areas will eat into $1.00MM already received by the school.

Many neighbors have lived on my street when Castilleja boarded students and the issue with parking didn't exist then. Furthermore, there are students living 4 blocks away on Waverly driving their cars to school.

The school is trying to disguise diversity as a reason for growing numbers and increasing cash flow when less than 20% of students receive tuition assistance.

Castilleja, put your best foot forward and show us how you can reduce the traffic and parking situation before we consider allowing an increase from your permit of 415 students, which you are already in violation of by +30 students.

Posted by Casti neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Casti seems to be a very fine institution. And it seems there are many neighbors who are angry about the parking and traffic situation today, let alone if the enrollment were to increase. What I'd like to know is which of the below apply?
1) Casti doesn't know of the neighbors concerns and issues
2) Casti does know, but doesn't feel compelled to do anything meaningful
3) Casti does know and feels compelled, but is not sure what to do

My sense is that neighbors think we are at #2 above, and Casti probably sees it self at #3. If so, then Honor's comment (#3 on list) to fix today's problem now and if adequately addressed, then expand seems like a great proposal and win-win.

Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm

If a school wants to educate more people, I say find a way. I can't believe there is a discussion concerning the value of educating 70 more people weighed against some minor parking inconveniences.

Posted by Go ahead and park, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm

The students can freely park on those streets. The signs are not city issued signs and they are not backed by any ordinance. Ms powars comments are laughable. I checked on google maps, most of the homes on her street have garages and driveways, so it looks like mean spirited selfishness in play

Posted by Menlo Mom, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

With regard to traffic calming:

My kids attend Menlo and the school has worked very hard in the last year to reduce the traffic footprint of the school. They've implemented private buses (several of them - running from San Mateo to Los Altos and also a bus that picks up at the Menlo Park Train Station). They also facilitate carpools, and generally work with families to come up with great solutions for getting to school. It's been a huge success for the morning commute (still struggling with afternoons because of some of the after school activities).

I hope Casti reaches out to the Menlo Sustainability Director - it's always good to find out how other schools are tackling these problems.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Public streets are public streets. No argument there. And the school has been in place for many years - although it was primarily a boarding school leading into the 80's.

However....Politics are politics. You want expanded enrollment? Then you have to play nice with your neighbors. Otherwise I can see the locals revving up another petition to shoot down any expansion agreement if the school doesn't step up to relieve congestion.

Be political smart, not rulebook smart.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Congratulations to Castilleja on your pending expansion - clearly this is a successful school and that is beneficial to us all.

Posted by Palo alto native, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

"In addition, new revenue is needed to meet the cost of offering a top-notch program which, in today's world, includes computer science, Mandarin, digital fabrication and a strong arts component, she said."

They need to try and compete w the free public school around the corner!
Very few new "diverse" students will be added, but it sure does make the argument sound better.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Not that it really matters, but where's the 445 number from? 425 is the current enrollment stated later in the article.

515-425 = 90. Was that number in the original headline?

At any rate, I agree with Crescent Park Dad's comment.

And PA native, imagine how much more competition students would face in our public schools if private schools did not exist.

By the way, do public schools need a use permit from the city that caps their enrollment numbers?

Posted by Creative Solution, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Put a team of 6 or 8 bright young casti students on it as a live "field study", what a learning opportunity:
*A wonderful way to encourage the girls to take the leadership on an important issue facing the school and its neighborhood

*The solution will require the team of students to research, propose, and then implement the solution, and will thus have a high level of "buy-in"

*We may all be pleasantly surprised with the creative solutions that come out of it

Posted by Chris Kenrick Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Musical and Rudy Wang,

The correct enrollment numbers provided Thursday by Castilleja are:

Current city use-permit allocation: 415
Current actual enrollment: 445
Use-permit allocation Castilleja plans to seek: 515 (gradual increase over five years)

Sorry for the mix-up!

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Thank you for the update. The reporting is appreciated and most of us understand that numbers we read are often a moving target.

Posted by Casti Grad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I'm a recent Castilleja graduate and thought I could offer some insight. Firstly, Castilleja is dominated by the school's "Green Team," a club encouraging students to bike, carpool, walk etc. in order to reduce the carbon footprint and the institution has been highly success in doing this after this big push. Far fewer students are driving to school alone, many are driving together, biking or using Caltrain and then being picked up by a Castilleja shuttle. Secondly, Castilleja students often do not park in these no parking zones because we were all required to get our cars registered with the school, meaning that each driving student had a sticker on her car that indicated she was a student. If she was caught parking in one of such zones she would get a "Casti Ticket" which, when totaled with uniform violations and tardies would result in a "work crew" -- a detention-like punishment. I think the issue is the parents. Senior year many parents would park illegally in the handicap spot of the senior parking lot, or "briefly" park to pick up their child while locking students in. Lastly, the neighbors have no legal right to not allow parking by their house. Castilleja is doing its neighbors a courtesy by discouraging students to park on the "wrong" side of the street. If students parking is somebody's greatest concern then they really do have a privileged life that they should be thankful for.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

First Old Palo Alto doesn't take it's share of affordable housing - creating a neighborhood without diversity. Then they try to limit public parking with some crude signs; and now they have the gall to limit the educational opportunities for young women.

Try being more civic minded Old Palo Alto. But of course we know that many of our council members come from Old Palo Alto. They can be civic minded like creating high density affordable housing when it's someone else's neighborhood like Barron Park. They are fine with the parking mess downtown (especially since they have reserved spaces for themselves under city hall), but not when some school uses the parking in their neighborhood to drop off kids.

Can't wait for the election next year....

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Raymond R. White, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm

For educational purposes, a boarding school of under 300 total students would be highly preferable. The school seems to be exceeding ideal size.
It is quite possible to increase monied diversity in this area. That is, diversity of ethnicity among the rich.
It is not possible, by definition, to pair up persons of unique interests.
Castilleja should issue conditonal or tentative acceptances to sufficient numbers of applicants so that it need not exceed its use permit limits.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hmmm: Paly is more academically rigorous than Castilleja, according to many gals who have transferred recently. Yes, anecdotal, not scientific.
[Portion removed.]

Castilleja has dropped science AP classes. Why? To reduce stress for their students. And to colleges, if they don't offer AP classes, students aren't expected to take them. So Casti students can claim all they want about how they wish they could have taken a science AP but it was not offered and the colleges will accept it. Thus, Casti students avoid taking the rigorous AP science classes that PAUSD students struggle with.

Posted by Friendly neighbor?, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm

We have lived across the street from Castilleja for two years. I have found most students/parents/guardians to be quite respectful of the school's "no parking" signs, and have been grateful for the stewardship of the school in creating them. We knew we were moving into a home across the street from a school, and took the morning traffic in stride.

I am disturbed to learn the school is already operating beyond their maximum enrollment, as well as by the veiled reference to a goal of a more diversified enrollment. In what terms? Race? Culture? Socioeconomic class? How would greater diversity balance the aparent current monoculture of girls with "unique interests?" What is a "unique interest?"

What disturbs me more is the sense of entitlement and irritation of some of the posts made by parents and one recent graduate regarding Castilleja's neighbors. Why make enemies where you perhaps had allies? That's one broad brush you seem to be painting with!

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm

[Portion removed.]

Listen, people - I may live in EPA, but I went to Paly. I'm well aware of how many students are at Paly vs. Castilleja. I'm well aware of how much insane pride you all put into the "academic rigor" of your school - of which I'm a product.

I'm also aware of the increased number of suicides in Palo Alto schools. Your snideness toward Castilleja is unacceptable unless you accept my snideness. Your derisive comments re Castilleja are unacceptable unless my comments are acceptable. What, you can't face what you all have created in your hotbed of academic rigor? Many of your [portion removed] commenters brought up repeated academic criticisms of Castilleja. So here's some criticism about your precious Paly:

Paly's been an emotional wreck for decades. I transferred to Paly from a private school & I saw so much drunken debauchery, violence at parties, cruel cliques, purging in the restrooms at lunch, cocaine use & bullying in my first year there that it literally gave me nightmares, as it did my sister. We're not exactly hothouse flowers, either.

When I'd be home from college on vacation & did a lot of babysitting of Paly teens, I saw the same things, except worse - it was like the plastic Paly bubble had gotten even more dangerous. [Portion removed.]

You're also smugly pointing the finger at the perceived, inherent snottiness of Castilleja because it's a private school. For crying out loud, why do you live in Palo Alto? I'm sure its status in Silicon Valley had nothing to do w/it, right? You just moved there for the tree canopy & to be near a Whole Foods.

[Portion removed.]

There are many definitions of teenage success. A useful, practical one is to actually survive adolescence. Perhaps if the Palo Alto parents of troubled kids I knew did more hand-holding than hand-wringing (& ignoring while they hurried off to play golf/ski/date/work/sleep around/drink/get into local politics), their kids would still be alive today.

Posted by agree with Hmmm, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 20, 2013 at 12:54 am

I hope you are not deleted but based on past experience you probably will be. I am not sure why. It's harsh but it's not uncivil. Your view is a valid one and even if it upsets people to hear it it's not "offensive," obscene, profane or even insulting. It just states a view of the PAUSD school culture that many people agree with and many people don't.

On the substance, I agree strongly that emotional and mental health are secondary concerns, if that, in this district. Please do keep in mind that there are many causes for any suicide. Academic pressure is only one factor that could affect teen health. Suicide is complex.

What is not complex is that there are many kids in this community who need more support and less stress of all kinds.

Posted by Casti Student, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2013 at 2:30 am

Mom- The Castilleja AP science courses were dropped not to reduce stress but to allow for a curriculum that goes into greater depth than what was doable with the AP looming. As a current student, every person I've talked to that left Castilleja after middle school has said her experience elsewhere has been easier. And Casti only gets harder in highschool...

Posted by Name, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2013 at 8:37 am

This a post about proposed casti enrollment and the impact on the neighborhood

Please find an alternate channel for all the other non related issues to the crux of the article

Posted by Old Palo Alto , a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

When many neighbors bought their homes near Castilleja, it was a small dormitory school that sustained its own parking and traffic was not an issue. The school became a commuter school and significantly increased their enrollment and the staff. Maybe a two-campus (or more) approach is the future for Castilleja. Most of the girls at Castilleja are from the neighboring towns. Has anyone considered adding a campus (or several campuses) closer to the student population, somewhere in Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, etc. In less time than it will take to fight the city of Palo Alto and the neighbors who are already organizing, the school can complete a brand new campus in a town closer to the cluster of their student population and educate an even greater number of girls.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Old Palo Alto, property owners in other neighborhoods can say the same thing, but that never stopped the city council or staff from changing the zoning or rules.

There are many neighborhoods which deals with a nearby schools and their rising enrollments, and I don't see how Old Palo Alto should be any different from the other neighborhoods. Just suck it up, and stop whining.

Posted by Juno, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I don't understand the gall of Castilleja to propose shuttles and other mitigations only if they get their expansion. I'm with the earlier poster who said that "until and unless they can demonstrate that they can or will change the current situation, I do not think that the City should grant them a permit to increase their student population. If, for instance, Castilleja can put in place shuttle/off-sight parking NOW, ( and see if that will mitigate some of the current problems,) and do that for at least a year, then I do not think that they can expect to be able to accommodate more students."

Posted by Castilleja Neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

What the reporter failed to point out is that the school property is zoned R1, and that as a school it is a non-conforming use that requires special permits to function. When the last use permit was approved, limiting enrollment to 415, the school agreed to several conditions, one of which was to implement a parking management program. Specific mention was made of the parking restrictions related to resident side parking and the enforcement by the school through a car registration program, active monitoring and fines and/or other sanctions for students who failed to comply. With that agreement by the school and its specific mention in the use permit, the neighbors agreed not to oppose the granting of the permit.

Although these restrictions do not carry the force of law from a police department standpoint, they are a codified requirement of the permit that the city of Palo Alto granted to the school to enable it to enroll no more than 415 students on a piece of property that they would not be able to enroll a single student otherwise.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Castilleja Neighbor - careful what you wish for. The school is on a very large parcel, and I can see a high density BMR development of 4 stories + 16 market rate houses put on this property through PC zoning, instead of a school, especially since it's so convenient to the train.

Posted by Casti neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Mr. Midtown, BMI, as in condos not body index, if anything, would give our neighborhood a greater sense of community. Read today's paper, the city is not in favor of approving concentrated housing going forward. We are a diverse community. 26 to 32 7,500 sq. foot lot houses on a parcel that is less than one lump-sided block facing El Camino is much more likely. Keep in mind that each house would be required to have a driveway and a garage.

Posted by Castilleja neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

I did not notice a "wish" anywhere in my statement. What I was trying to point out was that the parking restrictions are a legally enforceable contract between the City and the School under terms of the use permit and not some capricious action on the part of neighbors.

Posted by Life is not always fair, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Many of our current local political officials have and/or had their girls at Castilleja. Look at the published Castilleja graduation lists from the last few years and you will see many familiar names. This may already be a done deal for the school.

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

"creating drop-off and pick-up points away from the school in places like Town & Country Village or Gamble Garden Center."
Speaking as a Paly student, this will not work
T&C is already packed with Paly parents dripping off students in the morning, and the wait in the underpass when its near 8:15 results in 8 minute travel from the entry of the underpass into T&C. The problem with Casting traffic, as far as Embarcadero is concerned, is that the left turn lane most students use backs up the whole left lane (when heading in the direction of El Camino) and is compounded by Paly students trying to get to Paly.
Regarding the "in depth" idea -- this may be true for the new AP Bio curriculum which is way more involved than it used to be, but AP Chemistry actually covers relatively basic concepts and nothing in its curriculum easonably be skipped in a college chemistry course. Plus the test varies little every year (ex how the first question is ksp or acid-base) so in theory even with a non-AP title any chemistry class should allow you to do well on the AP test and redeem college credit (sometimes they just require the AP, not taking of the class). Casti student, I'm curious -- do Casti students still take AP science tests?

Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Were the Castilleja parents paying the $36,500 a year made aware of the school's attempt to boost enrollment by 100 students or 25%?!(use permit of 415 vs proposed 515).

I have a friend that said that the parents found out only AFTER this article. Not a very good idea. So much for community transparency. GW

Posted by Old Palo Alto Neighbor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

George/GW -
I spoke with a neighbor and teacher at Castilleja - whom shared that plans to increase enrollment and class sizes hadn't been "transparently shared" with the existing staff at Casti. This was a surprise to the faculy until reading the Palo Alto Daily (article above).

Agreed, sounds to me that with another 100 students, not only will traffic increase around the neighborhood but over time, so will the tuition. Tuition has rarely decreased at private institutions. When tuition is raised over time (from $36k to the $40k range) and with a larger class size, that would increase current revenue from $14,940,000 (415 @ $36k) to $20,600,000 (515 @ $40k), an additional $5,660,000. This is what I believe the Finance Committee is focused on doing - increased cash flow. Not diversity, this can be achieved through the admissions committee.

Castilleja is a private school with non-profit status. The entire 6.75 acre site sits on 4 parcels and county records show that the school only paid $40,722.62 in Real Estate Taxes to the City of Palo Alto. The large parcel of 6.17 acres is currently assessed an annual tax of $4994.22/year. This is the inherited tax basis from 1929.

Unlike Stanford, where the city benefits from families visiting their children or additioanl sales revenue from the college students, I see little benefit with increasing the school size. The school should remedy their +30 student overage and violation of the current 415 student permit and immediately reduce congestion by sending a shuttle to areas of concentration where students reside.

Posted by CitizenJane, a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I'm a Casti parent who found out about this expansion plan only AFTER this article -- and I am appalled and on the verge of incensed. First of all, if this were a plan to meaningfully increase diversity, well then, bravo! But wouldn't it have been spun differently? Those of us who are there believe it to be a revenue-builder, but I'm sorry: at over $36g/year, we should, at the very least, be buying small class sizes (and more meaningful diversity already -- the diversity is minimal). And yes, traffic is awful -- I feel for the neighbors, but we have no choice other than to drive our daughter to school, so we're there every day amid the chaos. The security guards are useless when directing traffic. I'm starting to think Nanci Kaufmann is going to ruin the school. First weakened by the removal of APs, now growing ... ? Paly is looking better and better ... we're not getting what we're paying for.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Agree with Hmmm - thank you for your comments. It's so annoying that many of these threads get hijacked about Paly/Gunny/Palo Altans when it's irrelevant. In this case, the AP aspect & snotty comments of which school is more rigorous had nothing to do w/the proposed expansion.

Check out the thread on the civil rights attorneys checking into issues w/the Ravenswood school district. It has NOTHING to do w/Palo Alto, but snotty comments make it about the students parents, Tinsley & Palo Alto. Of course, aside from the callow, provincial, smug navel-gazing of many of the PA residents, the fault lies w/the editors for their idiotic choice to run the story, now, in this publication, after it had run for days in The Almanac, where it belongs.

I also love how Casti is being treated in the comments, as if the school is a second class citizen, eg, a renter, unlike all the Old Palo Alto residents. I'm not saying Casti is going about this the right way, but some of the comments reflect a policing of Castilleja as if it doesn't deserve to be in the midst of wonderful Old Palo Alto. Yawn!

A lot of my old Paly friends look back in wonder about what they survived. Truly, while there were some incredibly wonderful people at that school - teachers & students - I was often shocked at how lousy some of them treated each other. The worst teacher I have *ever* had was a nasty Paly teacher. If teaching today, his comments to students would've made headlines. And the violence among the students at parties? Wow. Boys abusive toward their girlfriends, drunken debauchery - it went on & on. I caught a kid kicking a dog into a swimming pool at a party & I honestly thought I was going to lose it. How about the night I was babysitting teenage girls & boys broke into the house & one of them jumped me to keep me from calling the cops? Yeah, he was a football "star." This was in Old Palo Alto, btw, just down the street from that celebrated technology innovator who died a couple years ago.

But part of the bottom line here is how much phoniness I see in Palo Alto. I guess it's okay to tear down & rebuild/expand a home, but not add more students to a private school (while the public schools grow) because the whiners will complain ad nauseam - unless what's happening is to their benefit.

Posted by Response to Hmmm, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Why don't you point out that Castilleja has $35M for an endowment and can afford to expand their campus outside of the already cramped grounds for the 415 students. The 2.5 acre site where Ming's Chinese restaurant is located is for sale and will be a great middle school campus. This is what Pine Wood has done in Los Altos and Key's School has done in Palo Alto. The land is zoned R1 and requires a permit to operate. I would ask how you would feel if the hundreds of cars were driving in front of your home to pick-up children twice a day. I'm sure you'd feel obliged to reconsider that the residents aren't "whining" about the traffic issue. The tax on my home for a 7500 sq ft lot is slightly half what Castilleja pays for their 6.75 acre site. Is that fair, no, but that's the result of the inherited tax basis and the school operating as a "foundation," when it's truly a for-profit center.

Posted by HSR, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I don't see how a few extra cars compares with the looming prospect of High Speed Rail coming crashing through this neighborhood in just a few years.

Furthermore, the only time of year when traffic is a "nightmare" around schools is at the start and end of the school year when student schedules aren't staggered due to sports.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Response - hundreds of cars do drive past my home, for many reasons. I deal w/it. It's not my place to suggest that Casti open another campus. And yeah - you're whining.

Posted by Jane Doe, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2013 at 12:50 am

Response to Hmmm from Old Palo Alto neighborhood,

I guess the point you are making is that this private school is a net negative for our town, and infringes on the local tax paying Palo Alto residents. If 50% or more of Casti girls are from Palo Alto, than the school does provide an enormous benefit to our community by relieving our crowded local public schools of a few students while their parents are still paying taxes that support Palo Alto public schools.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2013 at 8:32 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2013 at 8:38 am

This discussion shows the fact that traffic and parking are real concerns in Palo Alto.

Whether we are talking about Castilleja, Facebook, T & C, or Stanford, the underlying problem is not with the schools or businesses, but the fact that Palo Alto residents and daytime regulars are not able to get where they are going or park in town.

We need to improve public transit options (via improvements to the shuttle for starters) and put pay per hour meters in all city lots.

These are facts of life in Palo Alto.

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I seem to recall a friend who had a daughter attend Castilleja a few years back who had informed me that the average class size was about 65 girls per grade. I then read your recent June online article stating that the graduating class of 2013 at Castilleja had "63" girls graduating this spring.(63 girls in 7 classes = 441 total students) Web Link

The new article above states that the school had "misjudged how many girls would accept its offer of admission". I must be confused. Misjudging offers of acceptance would have been for the incoming first year middle school students(6th grade?), not the graduating class of 2013 (came in 7 years ago?) Is this CUP problem a recent phenomenon or something extending much further back in time?

Posted by transparency, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

I too am surprised by the Castilleja contention that this enrollment spike is a sudden occurrence. Even their stated goal of 60 students in each of the 7 grade levels (420) exceeds the approved Use Permit cap of 415 total students. Castilleja has taken very few concrete steps to reduce the impact of the schools expanded enrollment on the surrounding neighborhood despite repeated statements form the school that it is an important issue and they are concerned. The school's homemade signs were a response to neighbor complaints, not a planned mitigation effort. Even now, the neighbors who complain get some relief to the detriment of those who sit silent and expect the school to do something.
The comments that parking and traffic are only an issue at the beginning and end of the school year are unfounded. Castilleja has an extensive array of extracurricular activities before and after school and on many evenings and weekends including sports, fine arts, lectures, parent events, open houses, admission events and testing and dances to name a few. The school also hosts summer camps for 9 weeks of the summer which include regular bus field trips. All of these activities contribute to the vitality and quality of the education that Castilleja provides but they also increase the impact of the school on the surrounding neighborhoods.
Currently, parking for the school extends approximately 2 blocks in every direction around the school, not a large number of impacted neighbors. Any increase in students will extend this radius further, probably across Embarcadero to areas already reeling from the Downtown parking impact.
I am a supporter of the goals and values Castilleja professes to teach but do not see those on a daily basis from the administration in their relationships with their neighbors and the City. The Board and staff clearly feel that asking for forgiveness is beter than asking for permission, not what I would want my daughter to be learning for $40K a year.
Finally, none of the neighbors are suggesting that Castilleja be driven from the area. This is a small site for a school and there are limits to what can be accommodated here. These limits may have been reached.

Posted by Midtown mom, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2013 at 5:03 am

Anyone who lives in palo alto knows that parking around our schools is a problem, especially for the private, middle, and high school campuses. The elementary schools seem to be less congested, probably because the students live closer and are more apt to walk to school.
Have you tried to drive south on Middlefield when Keyes School is getting out? Tried to drive either direction on Churchill when the Paly day is starting or ending (not to mention Embarcadero past T&C)!!! Had the pleasure of traveling along Arastradero when Gunn is getting out..... Good luck with that, and hope you're not in a hurry!
The point is, parking and traffic around Castilleja is far from an anomaly in this town, any resident who lives within a couple blocks from any school can tell you that. it's part of the price we pay for living here. It's not a new problem, maybe we could all be a little more mature and just deal with the reality of living here, the good and the bad.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 7:32 am

My neighborhood school has increased in size over the past few years and caused lots of extra traffic, parking, noise, bikes, pedestrians, too. Perhaps the neighbors around here should complain about the way the school has increased enrollment and caused so many problems in the neighborhood too.

Posted by Oh The Hypocrisy, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Oh, the hypocrisy! Castilleja is trying to be "the good neighbor" all of a sudden and making everyone else out to be like the wicked Halloween neighbors. [Portion removed.]

I heard they whined about the fine and got it reduced by $50,000. Something to do with the number of days they were actually in session over the last few years. Um, wasn't Castilleja overenrolled for the last 10 years??? Shouldn't they have been fined for a decade?

And here is the icing on the cake. According to what I've been told, they've worked out a deal with the city politicians to GET REIMBURSED for their fine! You heard right. Rather than use that money for parks or libraries or public schools or whatever else, Palo Alto will give it all back to Castilleja over time. They will get to submit receipts for things like traffic cops, buses for students, public transit subsidies, parking garages, you name it. Um, when BP got fined for oil spills, did they get their money back to pay for the cleanup? Does Castilleja really want to "cry poor?" Because if that's the case, just go online to This is a school that is so full of money it doesn't know what to do with itself. They paid their former Principal over a million dollars as a going away present a few years ago. It's all right there in the public documents, form 990. And now they want their fine reduced and the fine money back. Please.

So in the end, when the school applies for a higher CUP in a year or two (you know that's the plan), the residents of Palo Alto will actually be paying Castilleja to help get the application approved. Oh, the hypocrisy!

Posted by Casti, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm

@Oh: Oh, come on now, you present not a shred of proof, just wild speculation, "I heard," "I've been told." None of that stands up to scrutiny. Come back when you've got facts.

Posted by Current Casti Parent, a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:23 am

I implore Castilleja neighbors to be less strident in their 'hell no' position they seem to have adopted towards an institution that is attempting to educate women leaders of tomorrow. Measures put in place by the school - two shuttles, car pools and more girls riding bicycles to school - has made a noticeable and significant difference to the traffic at school. I drop my daughter off on Kellog entrance, I rarely find more than two cars ahead of me. This was no the case last year. So please give credit where credit is due.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
2 hours ago

I tend to think the community is being too hard in its criticism of Castilleja.

All schools are growing in enrollment. There are more people living in the area and more people wanting an education for their children at all levels. From good preschools to places in the UCs and private colleges, all are being pressured to enlarge enrollments.

I tend to think that Casti should increase its enrollment to enable more parents of qualified girls to get places. All schools at all levels should be serving the community not becoming more exclusive and more competitive just to get in. Is it as hard to get a place in Casti as it is at Stanford, or so it seems? This will make it even more difficult. No, I haven't tried to get my daughter in so I am not speaking from the point of view of sour grapes.

Now the parking situation is a different situation all together. Like Downtown, College Terrace, the areas near Gunn, Paly, and in fact all our schools, etc. etc. parking is a big problem in Palo Alto. This area is no different.

I suggest we get realistic about parking, making it easier to park for longer time without having to buy monthly/annual passes. We need to make realistic shuttle services that serve all our schools for a reasonable fare. We should also be looking at satellite parking lots with shuttles into town.

Stop giving Casti a hard time for doing what all other schools are being forced to do and other successful businesses aim to do, grow.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm

@resident – All of our local schools are growing, but the big difference is that private schools have both control of their growth AND a financial incentive to grow. As far as Castilleja becoming "more exclusive and more competitive" generally that is the point of a private school unless it has a particular educational bent such as Charles Armstrong. Part of the lure of a private school is usually its small size.

A school is not a business it does not need to grow larger in order to "grow" its students. There is no reason, other than the financial benefits to Castilleja, to allow Castilleja to grow its enrollment.

Posted by Character & Conscience, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm

It is time for Castilleja School to find a new leader who will come clean with the truth to the community and stop the shenanigans. The school leadership, unbeknownst to many including it's own trustees and it's tuition-paying Castilleja parents, attempted to coerce the neighbors and subsequently the City into increasing their officially permitted enrollment to 510 students from the officially permitted enrollment of 415 students. The school this year is 33 students over the existing permit at 448 students.

They publicly failed, and were found to deceptive and untruthful in their tactics. As a result, they are being forced to retrench and reduce enrollment back to the original 415 students as mandated by the City years ago. Besides the $300,000 penalty, the ruling will cost the school millions of dollars in tuition and gifts in the years ahead, making this blunder a fiscal disaster as well as a public relations one.

Some words of advice to the Castilleja trustees - come clean to the community, admit your mistakes, and do the right thing. Retrench to 415, start consolidating your budget and finances, and move on. Castilleja will survive, it's tarnished reputation will heal, and it will eventually flourish once again, just as it has for over 100 years. If your current school head cannot do the right thing, ask her to move on and find a new head of school who will, with both good character and clean conscience.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Confused, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Why did Castilleja's school head go to the neighbors to tell them she would ask the City for another 70 students? She knew at the time of the meeting, that she was in reality telling the neighbors she would be applying to the City for 100 more students over the existing use permit of 415?

The obvious goal of the the first meeting was to railroad a larger school into a peaceful residential neighborhood, pure and simple. They had no idea that the neighbors would find out/react in shock that the school had admitted the largest class in history - 448 - well over the existing permit of 415. Castilleja's leaders were caught unprepared and on-their-heels when they were forced to back-track with intelligent and concerned neighbors. Enough re-writing history. This meeting was all about raising the CUP to 515. Telling the neighbors to take it or leave it. I know as I was in attendance.

I understand that the school's head, Ms. Kauffman, is well into her fourth year as head. Why did it take her 4 years to come clean with the neighbors that she was breaking the existing CUP of 415 students? Why does she want to increase the school size now? Clearly, she is pushing for a huge increase in student headcount? Does the Castilleja community and board really want a bigger school? Did they vote on this "bigger is better" proposal?

From the onset, the head of school was trying to buffalo a new use permit of 515 without addressing the 415 CUP. Read the article above. She was caught both breaking the law and trying to inflate enrollment for profit by increasing existing enrollment. Shameful.

Castilleja has turned down applicants for years because the prior heads' all wanted to coexist peacefully with neighbors, and live within a reasonable measure of the City's CUP.

Shame on the four year head of school. Time for Castilleja's board to pursue leadership that lives up to the ideals of the school. Bigger is not always better.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Maybe the Castilleja would like to accept all applicants willing to fork over the $40k, and they could open up the new school here is east PA. No parking problems here and neighbors will believe anything the school tells them.

Posted by Broken Covenant, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

This is Casti's REAL agenda, no doubt!

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