South PA growth means new school boundaries

Gunn, Terman will close to new students soon –- time to rethink attendance, school officials say

As south Palo Alto schools swell with new students, it is time for the school district to consider redrawing school-attendance boundaries, Assistant Superintendent Scott Laurence told the school board Tuesday.

The discussions should start next fall, he said in an informational presentation requiring no board vote.

The boundaries are meant to direct students to neighborhood schools but must be disregarded when there are more students than classroom spaces.

Construction of new housing in south Palo Alto has made the situation acute, Laurence said.

Housing growth means Gunn High School has about 200 students more than the northern Palo Alto High School. Gunn later this spring will shut its doors to students enrolling for next year, he said.

Currently at 1,857 students to Paly's 1668, Gunn can't accept more than 1,920 students next year and its enrollment is 1,900 now, he said.

Extra students will go to Paly, he said.

Terman Middle School will also have to split students between Jordan and JLS middle schools next year because it is packed to capacity already, at 704 students, he said.

Nor is northern Palo Alto immune to having too many students for school boundaries, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said

Elementary schools there routinely send students farther afield as they run out of room, he said.

The boundary discussion could include all grade levels, Laurence said.

Board members agreed on the need to redraw boundaries and brought up concerns about school size and equity.

"Good for you for saying 'boundaries.' It's a tough word to say," board Vice President Barb Mitchell said to Laurence.

As boundaries get a closer look, so should the district's school-size policy, she said.

The district's habit of setting limits then exceeding them means there is no reliable policy to act as a "compass" for the redrawing of boundaries, she said.

The district should ask its long-time demographic firm Lapkoff and Gobalet to draw up school-by-school projections based on neighborhood growth, she said.

This year, 235 more students came to Palo Alto and the district should expect 420 more next fall, according to Lapkoff and Gobalet's medium-growth projections, but those numbers are not broken up by neighborhood.

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell asked Laurence how size difference between the two high schools could cause disparity in academics or extracurricular programs.

While larger schools mean more candidates to fill Advanced Placement courses, the current 200-student gap means only three or four courses difference, Laurence said. The gap makes a minimal impact on activities such as sports and theater, he said.

Mitchell and Baten Caswell also said the site of the former Garland Elementary School, to be reclaimed from the private Stratford School this fall, should figure into boundary discussions.

Mitchell suggested dedicating "Gardland" classes at other schools before Garland is operated by the district again in 2010. Blocks of students could then be moved to Garland together with classmates, making overcrowding not quite as disruptive, she said.

Limits to school size are tied to classroom limits.

At the high-school level, Gunn is limited by the number of science classrooms it has, Laurence said. Additional students could learn English or social studies in portable classrooms, but science requires laboratories, he said.

With the right facilities, high schools could grow to 2,300 students and still offer a good experience, a task force on high-school size (for which Laurence acted as liaison to the board) announced last fall.

Middle schools are limited by space. Terman is smaller than Jordan and JLS.

And at the elementary level the district participates in a class-size-reduction program that receives state funding and is tied to a promise of an earlier parcel tax to keep classes small. Classes in kindergarten through third grades must average 20.4 students per year and in fourth and fifth grades must average 24.

The district will get as close as possible to meeting those maximums next year as a way to avoid hiring more teachers during a statewide education-budget crunch, Chief Business Official Cathy Mak said at the last school board meeting.

Instead of 21 teachers earlier planned for, it will hire eight, she said.

In his presentation on enrollment, Laurence said more students mean some parents may wait until late summer to hear which teacher their child will get.

There are currently 60 more kindergarten students signed up than the district has space for, he said.

The numbers will likely change as some drop out – a common occurrence in kindergarten -- yet that means families might not know their child's classroom before Labor Day, he said.

Laurence also gave an update on school lotteries held in February.

The Mandarin-immersion program to open at Ohlone Elementary School accepted 25 of 98 English-seeking applicants and 13 of 42 Mandarin-speaking applicants.

Ohlone Elementary School accepted 17 of 139 applicants and admitted 39 siblings, who are guaranteed spots.

The Spanish-immersion program at Escondido Elementary School accepted 11 of 15 Spanish-speaking applicants and 19 of 136 English-speaking applicants. It accepted two new students and 21 siblings for those groups respectively.

Hoover Elementary School accepted 29 of 72 applicants and 25 siblings.

The Young Fives program accepted 35 of 72 applicants and no siblings.

Each program also accepted between two and six voluntary-transfer students.

But these numbers mask an even greater acceptance rate, Skelly said, noting that they don't count students taken off waitlists when others decide not to attend.

In other busines, the board:

* Voted unanimously to approve the second interim report on next fiscal year's budget, which has a deficit of $3 million, up from $2.7 million at last week's discussion.

The change comes from increased unemployment insurance rates that will cost $245,000 and increased utility rates that will cost $60,000, Chief Business Official Cathy Mak said.

* Heard an informational update from Palo Alto Community Child Care, which offers after-school activities at all elementary schools but Nixon. The group's main goals in the next three years are to amp up recruiting, find funds to subsidize child care costs for less wealthy families and increase parent awareness of the group's offerings, according to Executive Director Janice Shaul.


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Posted by carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:30 am

Given the capacity issues PAUSD is facing w/ increasing enrollment, isn't it time to re-consider the Tinsley program which allows non-Palo Alto kids to attend our school?

Why don't we address the needs of our community first, before even dealing w/ other communities? Isn't this just a matter of common sense and fairness?

I never understood why our leader have usually chosen not to deal w/ this issue. Is the topic too politically incorrect? I would think most parents in PA would like to revisit this decision made several decades ago.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:52 am

Carlos, Palo Alto is under a Court order to accept the Tinsley children into the PAUSD. The Court order was issued in the 1970s to integrate the School Districts of the mid-Peninsula.

It will take another Court order to end the program.

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Posted by former AAAG member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:07 pm

This forecast is just what the AAAG committee reported back over a year ago. Why is this just making sense to the Board? Is it just because we have a new Board, or is it more political?

Anyway, this is no news to us.

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Posted by Lisa
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I agree with Carlos. The school integration idea is great but when it has a direct effect on the opportunity for Palo Alto children to attend their local neighborhood school it does not seem fair. It's just like Stanford allowing families earning less than $100,000 a year to attend their school tuition-free, putting many Palo Alto families at a great disadvantage.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2008 at 1:51 pm

I don't think it's just like Stanford. Stanford's a private university and it can do what it wants with its tuition/scholarships.

Tinsley, I think, is kind of a mess at this point. I'm not opposed to it in entirety, but it seems kind of absurd that kids get bumped from their local schools so kids from out-of-town can have a spot there. And at this point, I don't think you can argue that Palo Alto lacks diversity. I mean, you could conceivably bump an Asian kid for another Asian kid. I suppose you can argue economic diversity, but you could also get a homeowner in EPA bumping a PA renter with the EPA homeowner having a greater net worth than the PA renter.

But it would be a thorny political/court battle. Basically, at some point, it will take some disgruntled parent who decides to sue.

I think there needs to be a spave-available clause, basically.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Is Tinsley open to all EPA residents?

I heard of a family who own their own EPA home, are remodling, own their own business and have got into Tinsley SI at Escondido. This family is planning a trip to Europe and would have put their child into a private school if they hadn't got into Tinsley.

Is this how it is supposed to work?

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Here's the link to the VTP info on the PAUSD website, any minority resident of EPA can apply.

My kids have enjoyed and learned from the diversity (non-Asian) that the VTP program has provided, but as EPA becomes increasingly middle class, and as hopefully, their schools improve, maybe the VTP program becomes no longer needed.

I don't think the intention of the Tinley settlement was to allow families to go to Europe instead of paying for private school.

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Posted by Lisa
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm

OhlonePar - It is a mindset or belief that we should be diversified and allow all people equal opportunity for education. Stanford, whether private or not, holds this same mindset. An EPA student can come into the Palo Alto school district and take a slot in a completely over crowded school stystem and then turn around and go to Stanford for free.

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Posted by Resident PV neighborhood
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Why is this just now coming up for discussion? Where is the planning that should have been done before large new housing developments were authorized? We should be executing a previously agreed plan, or the housing should not have been approved.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I was told by a former City Council member that it is against state law for a city to take into consideration the impact of housing development on schools when discussing or considering housing developments of any sort - BMR and not BMR. Is this true? Could a city official or councilmember answer this?

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Posted by reader
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:19 pm

What a horrible group of people you are!!!! Shame on you!!! (except Kate and Resident PV)

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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:50 pm

What is PAUSD doing with all the money from the development impact fees? Is that put in a separate fund for classroom expansion or is it thrown into the same pot of money as all other operations? The impact fees for a new residential unit should be substantial. If they aren't, PAUSD needs to increase them and establish a clear fiscal policy to bank that money for new school facilities.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm

I think or have heard that city or school employees can put their children in Palo Alto schools nomatter where they live. Is that true?

There should be hugh impact fees from these high density developers, but I have heard of only nominal fees for other than processing the bldg application and spent at city hall. They should be charging like $100,000 per unit to be used for parks, and other nearby city services, more police, fixing the roads near the project, etc.. Most of these houses sell for $1,000,000 or and more so a 10%fee would be reasonable considering they actually cost less than 500,000 to build.

The people of Palo Alto are being made fools of for allowing these high density developments that also cause blocks of back-up traffic.

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Posted by rofl
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Reader, what a well thought out and considerate post. It's a pleasure to have you on the forums

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Posted by here we go again
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 20, 2008 at 3:23 pm

The boundary issue has been on the back burner for many, many years. I was invited to be on the review committee to review opening up a third middle school(now Terman)which had to be at least 10 years ago. There was a big discussion about how Terman was always going to be smaller due to the physical location and lack of land to increase the facilities or field space. At that time there was discussion about the need to change the boundaries because of several schools issues and here we are acting like this is a new subject. Then again, we should remember that we are "in Palo Alto" where we talk about a lot of things. And we talk and we talk and we talk....

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Posted by Impacted
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm

The impact fee is paid one time before getting a building permit.

For a new 2,000 SF home it would be $5,250.

It would be interesting to calculate the construction cost of building a classroom, divide by 25 students, and compare to a fee of $2,625 (assuming 1 student/1,000 SF of res. construction).

More Info:
Web Link

Residential development at $2.63 per sq. ft. assessable space
Residential assessable space is defined as all square footage within the perimeter of a residential structure except for carports, walkways, garages, overhangs, patios, enclosed patios, detached accessory structures, or other coverage. Remodeled residential space with a net increase of less than 500 sq. ft. is exempt from school impact fees. Remodeled space with a net increase of more than 500 sq. ft. is assessed with the entire increase.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2008 at 8:06 pm

It took Tinsley an individual to file suite against discrimination to integrate all the School Districts of the mid-peninsula. It will take another parent with Tinsley's courage to file suite to end the VTP program.

School District employees can put their children into the PAUSD no matter where they live. It is for their convenience, they can drive their children to school in the morning and pick them up on their way home.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2008 at 8:42 pm

There's also an advantage to the district in allowing district employees to put their kids in schools here--it means you can recruit teachers and such without having to pay them so much that they can actually afford to live here. It also ensures that the teachers stick around a while.

Tinsley was based on this idea that EPA was poor and minority and PA was white and rich. EPA is now more mixed economically while Palo Alto has a number of families in it who rent to be in the district. I'd love to see a number sometime of the percent of families who rent in this district--particularly in the elementary schools. I'll bet it's easily over a third at some of the schools.

Meanwhile, EPA's getting gated communities--do you really think those kids are going to EPA's schools? They're either Tinsley or private. Maybe charter.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2008 at 11:14 pm

The City must stand up to ABAG and say "NO". The last thing we need now is thousands more residents pouring in.

This so-called ABAG law dreamed up by the Legislature has never been tested in court. It is time that it was. And it is time for the City from top down to get some 'spine' and if necessary join with other cities to stand up to the State. And yes, the Tinsley decision should be revisted, and under a recent interpretation of the Supreme Court, may well be illegal and /or not enforceable. Applications for Tinsley are available in Spanish. New residents of 'gated communities' are encouraged to apply for aTinsley transfer. I think there about 600 Tinsley transfers in grades 1-12. Does anyone know the real numbers?

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Posted by cerf in the city
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2008 at 12:09 am

maybe city council should investigate the cost of a moat and rather large draw bridges - maybe then the frequent posters would find a satisfactory community - I suspect their greatest challenge to that proposition would be how could they buy groceries and othe sundries at a reasonable price if they had to stay within the borders of the kingdom of Palo Alto because they outlawed big box stores and full sized grocers so daily shop and spend their much needed tax dollars in other kingdoms forgetting with each trip that those tax dollars would and should support the city serivices they crave

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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2008 at 6:22 am

At 1900 students Gunn High is way too big. I would support a third high school by reopening Cubberly. Big schools are impersonal and studies show that optimal size for learning is 600-700 students per school. Of course reopening Cubberly would involved hiring additional staff and administration which would be costly.

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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

Agree with Laura. 1900 students per school is insane.

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Posted by Even more so...
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2008 at 12:16 pm

I have questioned the fact that the Tinsley program buses kids from EPA to PA - since they are not even in the same county. I live in North Fair Oaks of Menlo Park (6 blocks from Encinal school) and I can't go there...but the Tinsley kids can get bused in. For the most part, our neighborhood sends their kids to Private School...or people move after's a shame. The schools we usually get into after the RWC lottery do not fit the demographic of most of our neighborhood applicants. Maybe we should all move to EPA!

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Posted by Latina Mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm

whine whine whine

is this why they call us Shallow Alto? One of the things we LOVE about the schools is the diversity we have here. It is also one of the features that allows our kids to compete in a global economy.

Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. I say open another school or two!

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Posted by even more so...
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Latina Mom- opening another school or two is definitely the best option...just one problem...$$$$. Of course this is a great answer to the problem. Yes, I also agree that diversity is important, but so is being able to send your child to your neighborhood school with priority over someone who doesn't even live in your county. At what cost to residents and tax payers does diversity prevail?

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Kate-- I think maybe it is also true that cooperating with ABAG brings to PA a stipend of 1-2
Mil per year. This is hard to turn down, because a nickel now is often preferred to saving a dollar down the road. And impact fees get lost after received. E.g., didn't impact fees from Rickey's re-development get spent for part or all of the Charleston Road project now under way ? Think I heard Steve Emslie say that. So much for small ABAG or Impact-Fee revenue being helpful with school costs. City planners spend, and hope citizens will vote in Bonds to provide the needed money.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Latina mom,

What's shallow about this discussion? Fact is, we're facing budget cuts and increasing enrollment within the district. Fact is, we currently don't have spots *anywhere* in the district for 60 kindergarteners--we're banking on parents choosing private schools for enough of them that it becomes a non-issue.

Half of Palo Alto rents--that creates economic diversity within the district boundaries. The city's become increasingly diverse--again within district boundaries.

I question whether Tinsley is still serving its original purpose. And I really question whether it's "fair" to bump kids from their neighborhood schools while guaranteeing a set number of spots for kids under the VTA agreement.

I don't want to bump kids currently in the system, but I think we should look at why kids need to be brought into a system that is challenged to meet the needs of the population whom it is legally required to serve.

EPA's system is actually doing well financially--it has a surplus (all those charters), but it's still losing enrollment. The VTA at this point is bad for both districts. EPA, because of its funding, needs students, PAUSD, because of its funding, needs a reduction.

And much as I never agree with Walter Wallis, there is something to be said about Tinsley skimming off the top performers in EPA. Quite possibly Tinsley makes Ravenswood a worse system than it would otherwise be--60 kids a year--there's a high-achieving charter, a la Redwood City's Northstar Academy, in numbers like those.

As for those talking about moats and such--you know, you can join all the renters in this city who scrimp to pay for tiny apartments so they can send their kids to school here. If you can afford to buy in EPA, you can afford to rent something in Palo Alto.

Plenty of people around here do just that. Of all colors.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2008 at 5:57 pm

OhlonePar: "I question whether Tinsley is still serving it's original purpose". No, of course it is not, but that's not the point. Since the PAUSD is under a court order to provide these children with an education, we must accept them into the District; unless you want to file a law suite in the hopes of ending the VTP program.

Another problem is that not only do EPA children attend PAUSD schools, the Tinsley law suite also included 6 San Mateo School Districts, where they now attend school. As a result many elementary schools and Ravenswood High School in EPA, have been closed and the land sold off to developers. There are no schools facilities left in EPA for these students to return to.

I believe Ikea and Home Depot were built on former school sites.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2008 at 8:39 pm


My understanding is that the legal basis of the original Tinsley suit has been thrown out. So, the Tinsley agreement could be challenged.

But I wish it could be simpler than that--if we're overenrolled, we should be able roll back the VTP admits.

You're right--Ravenswood got screwed by the whole thing long-term. It's in worse shape than Redwood City, which faced similar challenges.

Of course, since Ravenswood kids go to Menlo-Atherton (and mabe Sequoia?)--in a sense all it has to do is create a couple of strong elementary schools to be a more viable district. There's a district that could use well-run magnet programs.

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Posted by here we go again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Forget the Tinsley issue,I would much rather support those families in need than the ones that are scamming the system. What I find interesting is that my son has to give more identification to prove that he is able to play on a sports team in his league than it is for him (or anyone) to attend our public schools. We could solve a lot of our overcrowding very quickly, if we would just have to give proof of residency at the start of each school year. I do not think that any parent that is constantly being asked for extra money to support the schools would mind showing a current vehicle registration and utility bill as proof in order to help solve the overcrowding.

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Posted by PAUSD Watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Here we go again: have you read the latest list of identifying requirements to enter the PAUSD, here they are:

# Child’s Birth Certificate, Passport, or Baptismal Certificate
# Proofs of Residence

1. Current California State Driver’s License, or Current California State ID Card, or Valid Passport of Consulate Issued Picture ID. AND
2. Property Tax Bill (indicating Homeowner’s Exemption) or Rental/Lease Agreement with parent/guardian’s name, student name(s), number of occupants, and address as well as manager or owner’s name and phone number. AND
3. Current, valid DMV vehicle registration, Current bank statement (issued within 35 days from the date of registration), or current Governmental Agency letter.

# Current Health Requirements

1. All immunizations must be completed and records submitted to Central Attendance office at least ten (10) days prior to the first day of school.

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Posted by Never checked
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

PAUSD Watcher: We've been in PAUSD going on 16 years, and we've only been asked twice for such information - once for each child on entry to kindergarten. Once in, PAUSD never checked again to see if we're still residents. (We are.)

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Posted by strange world
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2008 at 6:49 pm

never checked, you are correct.

yes, we have to show id EVERY YEAR to play in baseball, but not to go to school here.

we have to show ID to get on an airplane, but not to vote for the future of our children.

The world I live in now is very strange...

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Posted by me too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2008 at 10:30 pm

I had a friend register my three children (at three separate times) for kindergarten while I was at work. My kids are in high school and have never been asked to verify their residence again. They have plenty of classmates that live in Woodside, San Jose, Fremont and other distances from school. The classmate from Fremont said that his parents rent a Palo Alto apartment for the address but they actually live in Fremont. Please don't ask my kids to start turning in their classmates to the hotline. The district needs to figure out a way to reregister all of our students so that when they ask parents for financial assistance, we know that they have done everything to make sure that they really need the assistance.

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Posted by sw
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2008 at 8:28 am

I think everyone would be surprised how much support the VTP children are getting once they are admitted into our schools.....resource, reading specialists, summer school, academy, the list goes on. Are they taking away services from PAUSD residents???? Do we get any money from the EPA distircts or is the bill on PAUSD?

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Posted by another latina mom who PAYS TO LIVE HERE
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 9:27 am

Latina Mom:

Please follow through with your condemnation of palo altans by being sure to give 6% of your weekly take home pay to a neighbor who makes less than you. If you instead need to use your hard earned income for your own kids, please feel free to do so..but then call yourself a horrible person.

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Posted by ctw
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2008 at 9:42 am

I'm so glad someone else raised the concern about our wealthier neighbors finding a way to manipulate the system and send their kids into our district. I find this to be far more egregious than supporting our VTP students (which I do). Our crowding issues (especially at the high school level) might be quickly alleviated by addressing this issue. I know lots of Woodside, etc. families who do this as an alternative to private high school (or when their kid doesn't get in to a private high school).

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 9:59 am

Grandma ,
you have it wrong. The Tinsley transfer program is a settlement, NOT a court order. The settlement was APPROVED by the court. The parties* had agreed to end the lawsuit with this settlement.
A settlement is essentially a contract. All* parties have to denounce it in order to put an end to it or under if certain conditions were present when it was signed it is valid and enforceable.

I supported the transfer of the Willows' students (in Menlo Park) from the Ravenswood School district to the Menlo Park school district. I was then living in the Willows and both and Ravenswood and Menlo Park school districts had to let us go and let us in, respectively.
We had to go to ballot and vote. My oldest child was one of a first batch of students bused from the Willows to the Oak Knoll school (we were received with a most warm welcome).
This was a very different process and completely separated from the Tinsley suit . But it just to shows that there were many ways to execute a student transfer.

The Tinsley settlement is not easily overturned and in my opinion shouldn't be.
It is doubtful that all signatories and the court that approved the settlement can be shown to have been impaired or under duress.

* Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Woodside, Portola Valley, Belmont and San Carlos.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 10:52 am

just a clarification:

all children who are in the PAUSD keep their places if they go some where for a period even a long period. It happen to me when I went back to the UK for more than a year: my child "kept" his placement at Ohlone.

In every school district I know of city employees and school district staff/faculty can have their children attend schools in that school district. Nothing knew here.

How to solve the problem?

it will require 2nd floors on all schools since PAUSD board/boards sold school buildings and sites for housing in such a shortsighted way that now they have no possibility of meeting demand with new schools.
Believe it or not many schools in other places have 2nd and 3rd floors without being "bad" schools. In fact many of the very famous public and private schools have them.
Many of our (60's) schools in Palo Alto do not meet earthquake current adequate safety standards. By building new and bigger schools with different "pods" for different grades we would solve both the overcrowding at each grade level and the safety issues.
and Oh, let me speak of the elephant in our room forum: prop 13 needs an overhaul. Just a little overhaul...nothing dramatic.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 11:10 am

Unfortunately I believe Narnia is right - the Tinsley settlement is not so easily undone. Keep this in mind as we undertake other long-term obligations - our 1970s selves agreed to educate about 700 EPA students IN PERPETUITY to settle the law suit (and presumably salve their own guilt). Fair or unfair, right or wrong, easy or disruptive, they signed us up to educate other people's kids for (close to) free. Quite a deal.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Terry and Narnia,

I suspect the Tinsley settlement would take another lawsuit. The irony of Tinsley is that Palo Alto pretty much had a basic protection in its being in another county.


Yep, Prop. 13 is the root here--our schools are all old and several were, of course, closed. But I think revising Tinsley would be easier than overturning Prop. 13.

PA seems to get a lot of the Tinsley business because we're nearby. Portola Valley may be a signatory to it--but if you look at Ormondale, it's very, very homogenuous. But then it's a half hour to get across the valley there.

When you came back for your spot at Ohlone, you came back as a Palo Alto resident. I think people are talking about families who keep their kids in Palo Alto schools even though they have moved away from Palo Alto--permanently. So one-time legal residents who no longer are. While I think people will report people trying to sneak into the system, I think they're less inclined to tell on former neighbors and their kid's friends.

But I've also heard all sorts of wild tales--people who buy townhouses for residency while living in their Atherton mansion, fake rental agreements between kids and grandparents, renting apartments where no one moves in. That's why you get that seven-nights-a-week thing.

You can be a legal resident and have a hard time meeting the criteria. When we were renters, we'd been renters since before we had kids--so no kids names on the lease. I've also known people who had to find a rental 8 months before a move just so they could get in during the beginning of enrollment.

At least everyone's kind of dedicated to get the best possible education for their kids. Just sort of a shame that that energy isn't being used to create better districts--I mean what's with the crappiness of Woodside High? Menlo-Atherton keeps it together with a diverse population, so why can't other high schools?

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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm

I don't have a sense of humor about these clever tactics to get a child into PAUSD; some of us paid a lot of $ to move here.
Some people (parents) who don't have residency keep a very low profile; still it is incredible some of these have not been caught.One clue is if your child has a friend who is never available on the weekends and you learn from your child they have "another home" in San Francisco.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm

good comments-thoughtful
but you say
"When you came back for your spot at Ohlone, you came back as a Palo Alto resident."
you are right
" I think people are talking about families who keep their kids in Palo Alto schools even though they have moved away from Palo Alto--permanently. So one-time legal residents who no longer are."
Why would anyone "keep" a place when they will not comeback? what is the sense of it?
If they move away "permanently" don't the kids go to school? and doesn't the new school ask for a transcript of the "old" school who then gets the information the child moved permanently?
as the child is on the roll whether away or not, the school still receives funding destined for that child and gets to use it with other kids-nothing lost.

"While I think people will report people trying to sneak into the system, I think they're less inclined to tell on former neighbors and their kid's friends."
"But I've also heard all sorts of wild tales--people who buy townhouses for residency while living in their Atherton mansion, fake rental agreements between kids and grandparents, renting apartments where no one moves in. That's why you get that seven-nights-a-week thing."
well, I have a very hard time believing those tales: why would anyone who is that wealthy
not send the child to an independent school (there many, all sorts) instead choosing to buy in Palo Alto maintaining an Atherton "mansion"? I know of a case in which the father lived in Palo Alto and the mother Atherton -they had been divorced for a long time and shared custody- but that's about it. Those tales don't make a lot of sense to me.

Boy, am I glad that PAUSD didn't have the seven day rule when my children were at PAUSD- our skiing and hiking family never lost a weekend away from Palo Alto and all our long vacations were somewhere else. Does that mean we were not Palo Alto residents?

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm


I am sorry I misread your post. I see now that what you mean is that there are people who move to nearby towns and still have their children enrolled in the Palo Alto schools:yes, I think you are right. My comments were focusing on those who move quite far away.

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Posted by Smart
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Its now becoming obvious what many middle and upper middle class parents think about the students who come from EPA. You should be ashamed of yourself the schooling in PA is top int he country you all should just be thankfull.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 23, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Yes, Smart, it is obvious - we think we are paying for other people's kids to go to school here. I don't want to pay for kids from Portola Valley or Woodside either. It isn't discrimination or hate - it's just common sense. How long is enough?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2008 at 12:41 am


Plenty of people in Palo Alto rent to have their kids in scchool here when they could afford to buy elsewhere. This town is half-rentals. Plenty of Tinsley transfer families are middle-class--or haven't you noticed some of those housing developments?

I don't see why homeowners in EPA should get a pass into PAUSD when people in Palo Alto, many of whom struggle to stay here, can't get their kids into the neighborhood school.

Open spots--I don't have a problem. Nor do I think families already in the system should be booted out, but I think the VTP agreement no longer serves its intended purpose. As I said earlier, you can have an Asian VTP kid bump a PA resident Asian kid. The former's family can be better off than the latter--as the first owns a home and the second is squeaking by in a rental.

Anyone is welcome to move here is they want PA schools. Yeah, you're not going to have the room you will other places, but that's a choice. And I think it ought to be a level playing field. That was the original intent of Tinsley--to create an even playing field. I don't think, at this point, it works that way.


Just because people are rich doesn't mean they don't like a bargain. You can resell and make money off a townhouse--once private-school tuition's paid, it's gone. And to be completely fair, it used to be that owning a second residence entitled you to attend school in most districts. Palo Alto has tightened its residency requirements over the years.

Housing prices being what they are, you get a lot more property for the same money in Woodside than you do Palo Alto. Say you own an acre in Portola Valley and have 3 kids. Buying, say, $640K townhouse in Palo Alto is more economical than 12 years of tuition for three kids--i.e. $20K per kid--so $60K times 12--$720K down the hole with no return on investment. (Kind of like spending five years badgering the board to get a boutique program in a public school so you save years of private-school tuition. It never hurts to look at the money trail.)

I don't think this is the most prevalent form of residency fraud, but there are people who'd rather pull a fast one if it means living in splendor and not paying an arm and a leg.

After all, what happens if they get caught? The kid quits attending PA schools. Which is the situation the kid would have been in anyway. So, it's not that risky a gamble in terms of the downside.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2008 at 8:09 am

me too,

.....paying for "other people's kids" by which I suppose you mean that you are paying for EPA's kids. That's taking your math a little too far... The state pays its share wherever the kid attends school. Others who are now paying full property taxes or who pay more than you by and large pay the rest, just as you pay a bit more than people who pay less overall taxes.
We also pay taxes for roads don't use, bridges we never crossed and many other services that we don't use, etc. This is a distribution system. That's why we have a country and not 300 million fiefdoms. In the end your contribution is very small specially if you have more than one child attending and even smaller if you consider the overall federal and state distributions. I am fairly certain that I am paying more for "your child" than you do. I don't begrudge it.

Where the point is better made and without rancor is on the matter of overcrowding, which we know is serious. It would be less serious if Palo Alto and EPA had a better population equilibrium agewise - more childless people, of all ages and incomes... but as it is there is nothing you can do or anybody can do that will change this situation in time for your children. It took Margaret Tinsley ( the lead plantiff in the Tinsley suit) about 20 years to get to the settlement -her children had left school by then- and my guess is that it would take at least that long to overturn the settlement ( I think it's fairly unlikely )

Is there any evidence that in fact non-authorized children (authorized children are the ones of PAUSD employees, city employees,etc) from the portola/woodside areas are attending the PAUSD schools? If so, please, what is the evidence of widespread abuse or even single instancies?
In the end many factors are responsible for this state of affairs: in fact the tinsley children are the smallest contribution to it. You've got to have schools. Redo them with 2nd and even 3rd floors in pod like fashion (at most it only takes about 2/3years to build a new school ).
Money for this means bonds.
Convert part of single housing into small apartments. It is needed and will provide a better population equilibrium: it can be ongoing. Yes it would change the nature of PA- it has already changed: we are in the 21st century not some victorian pseudo paradise.

As far as not being able to have a second home, well, what defines a second home is the amount of time that you spend in it- I am certain that a weekend and vacation home is lived for fewer days than "regular " home. It used to be that people would say " I am paying local taxes, therefore my kids have the right to attend school here". But in fact what gives anybody the right to have their children in a school district is not the taxes you pay but the fact that you are in their catchment area. What you pay has nothing to do with it*

The way I see it people just want to complain, focus on the obtainable and blame Tinsley. That's it. They are stuck in that mode and no other solutions are acceptable. Well, choose your poison- Tinlsey is not ending anytime soon. Start making other plans.

About prop 13:
I agree that overturning it doesn't seem possible anytime soon, but redefining certain
criteria seems possible to curb its more glaring inequities. It is possible for someone whose property is in a trust, never (that is in perpetuity), pay higher taxes than in 1976 even though the property passes effectively from one owner to the heirs who then can , of course, send the children to local schools- that OhlonePar is what a call the bargain of bargains. It should be corrected. It will take time, but it can be adjusted.

* A few years ago vermont enacted a sweeping change for they funding: vacation homes used to be taxed at a lower rate mainly because those homeowners didn't use the schools. The change was and is that a homeowner, whether the home is a second or first residence pays now regular taxes (average 11,000.00/year in the turistic areas) and the kids still cannot attend the schools precisely because that's not where they live, notwithstanding the very high number of days they spend there.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 24, 2008 at 9:33 am

Narnia, the state aid that comes with the EPA kids is far less than the cost to provide the PAUSD education. And while you are right about roads, etc., that is not how the US education system works. Districts have historically funded themselves, i.e., each community pays to educate its own children at the level it chooses.

As you know, PAUSD opted out of state aid so we continue to control our revenue and spend more. Hence the problem when out-of-town kids are educated here. We've been educating 600-700 kids from EPA for 25+ years now - when is it enough?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2008 at 1:51 pm


I know personally of people who moved to Los Altos who continued to use the PA system. I know personally of another family where they moved to Mountain View and kept their children in the system. The Atherton case was a friend of a friend. I know of another case--again, I know the people, but heard the story through another source--of a family who tried the false lease with the in-laws to avoid Redwood City schools. I think that one didn't work.

Given that I've come across that many individual cases--and no I haven't reported them (Sorry guys)--I'm inclined to think it's not an uncommon issue. I really haven't been looking for these incidents--in two cases, the families were neighbors.

Prop. 13's inequities have been there since the get-go--every attempt to improve its inequities have met with screams from the old Jarvis-Gann people and gone nowhere. Challenging it is seen as political suicide. The other big political suicide issue that costs the state a ton of money is the three-strikes issue. We may not need to keep in burglars in prison for life. But any revisions there also meet with huge opposition.

Re: Tinsley--I'd say the weakness in the settlement is that it's discriminatory. Caucasians can't apply, so EPA residents who are white (and, yes, they are some) don't have the same access to PAUSD that other EPA residents do. The settlement doesn't qualify for disadvantaged minoriites--it's any minority. Since the increase of higher-end housing in EPA, you're beginning to see a situation where, as I've said, a richer kid could be bumping a poorer kid from a neighborhood school. A non-white family can buy a starter home in EPA and send their kids to good public schools; a white family has to hold off until they can afford the home actually in the good district.
(And, yes, I personally know of families in this situations.) I just dont' think this outcome was *ever* the intent of the Tinsley settlement.

Tinsley is based on a somewhat fixed notion of social dynamics--i.e. EPA is always poor and minority; Palo Alto is always rich and white. That was once true and I understand the arguments for offering better educational opportunities to poor kids. At this point, though, I'd rather see any kind of program like this have some sort of SOE status qualification--but more importantly that there be a space-available clause.

I don't by the way have any issue with the Tinsley kids who come here and need extra help. Public schools shouldn't be restricted to kids without problems. That's not the point of them. I do think kids within a district should have first call on spots at their neighborhood schools before we import kids from other districts.

And I do have to wonder if Tinsley has had a negative effect on EPA schools--the families there who'd fight for better schools within the district simply send their kids out of the district so things within Ravenswood don't improve.

Interestingly, the kids of teachers are more inclined to be placed where there's space--or, it seems, where the parent is teaching. I think there are very practical reasons for offering the people who work for the district places for their kids. It's good business and it's a sign of respect to the educators who make our district what it is.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Does anyone know if adding the 13th elementary (Garland) is a done deal? I read it somewhere within this thread that PAUSD is taking the Garland site back from Stratford and Garland will be officially operating starting 2010. How would that affect school boundary? Or did I mis-read something? Thanks!

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2008 at 6:13 pm

One last comment:
I am hoping for the 13thg elementary but I heard nothing worth reporting (speculation only)

The problem of overcrowding is serious. If there is a problem with unauthorized students coming to PAUSD then that has to be addressed first. The Tinsley children come legally.
I simply cannot understand that we are not prepared to address the illegality of non-catchment area students by contentedly saying nothing but we feel quite free to then say that the Tinsley children shouldn't be here.
I suggest that you read "The conscience of a community" to better understand why Tinsley prevailed. The reason for the suit was never that those "Tinsley" children were poor and minority, but that PAUSD and o Palo Alto et al had effectively deprived those children by establishing arbitrary city and school bounderies that purposefully excluded them . It is because of that (though my terms are not the actual terms of the suit) that the Tinsley plantiffs (margaret Tinsley was only the first plantiff in the list of plantiffs) won repeatedly in court. Palo Alto at al fearful that there could be an order from the supreme court that would render these cities unable to control the process of integrating the EPA students decided to settle.
I see nothing that was not true in the arguments made as basis for the suit that is still not true today. I doubt Tinsley can easily be put away. So let's concentrate on the unauthorized students and in more creative forms of finding space and funding for the new schools.

Of course, most of you seem far younger than me and can't remember or weren't in Palo Alto when the Tinsley suit was settled. It is not whether the Tinsley settlement is right or wrong now it is very simply that was agreed freely.
Are we stuck with it? you bet, for the time being at least. But as East Palo Alto changes may be one day we will have the PA/EPAUSD (just like PAUSD integrated Mayfair and the like). Catchment areas are just that-arbitrary bounderies. What could be so fundamentally wrong in altering them?
In the East school/city bounderies may be justified on the account of the fact that there is no State aid in many districts and so residents pay for the schools entirely out of property taxes. But in California that's not the case. This is a complicated matter involving basic aid districts and the like but in all cases the state contributes either directly or indirectly.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Tinsley was a good result for Palo Alto. I had kids in the PAUSD at the time and the result was a compromise. I can remember us parents being concerned that an equal number of Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills children would be bused to East Palo Alto Schools while the EPA students were bused to Palo Alto. This had happened in other wealthy School Districts.

Of course that did not happen in the Tinsley case, and the settlement reached was actually beneficial for both Palo Alto and East Palo Alto children at the time.

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Posted by a mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I appreciate all the thoughts you have added to the discussion, thanks. I wanted to add a few thoughts to a point you made above. I disagree about adding multi-story classrooms in this area. It makes little financial sense for many reasons.

People tend to automatically think multi-story is more economical, but it's actually only more economical if you have to buy the land and the land is very expensive, but labor is comparatively cheap. We actually have several school sites we can put back into service, so we already have the land. In this area, however, labor is terribly expensive.

Multi-story buildings are exponentially more expensive to engineer and build than single story - and overruns can be expected no matter how much is budgeted - because our main expense will be LABOR. Single-story buildings are far faster (a big issue if displaced students put an even greater squeeze on the system), more economical, and more flexible to build and change. Also, they tend to have a much longer usable life in an area like this, because earthquake codes, for example, will always change over time - thinking a few decades into the future, a single-story building will likely meet code for longer than a multi-story dwelling and be cheaper to upgrade if not, so it would tend to have a longer expected lifetime in this area.

And let's face it, no matter what anyone promises for a two-story building, it's easier and cheaper to make a safe, survivable single-story dwelling, period. Our schools will be community hubs in the event of a big disaster, for so many reasons, we want the facilities standing. Single-story structures with comparable engineering to multi-story will be more likely to be repairable, for less money in the event of damage.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Garland is being taken back by the district, but it will not automatically become an elementary school. It may be used for temporarily housing students as their schools are renovated.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Re: Tinsley. No, I wasn't here for Tinsley. I am, however, a product of an integrated district. Kids were bussed to my elementary and I was bussed to the secondary schools. So, I have some firsthand experience--good and bad--as a participant in that kind of social engineering.

I don't think PAUSD's boundaries were arbitrary--school districts don't normally cross county lines. I *do* think that's a legitimate complaint about Menlo Park and Atherton schools. Palo Alto had a natural line demarcation because it's in a different county.

I think you could argue that there are chunks of Portola Valley, Los Altos and Palo Alto that could be swapped around--but I don't think there's a strong argument for PAUSD being discriminatory by not going across the county line.

Yes, Palo Alto wanted, to some extent, to do the right thing--though it's also pretty clear that the real motivation to sign the deal was the threat of having one's kids bussed to EPA--this would have been around, I think, the insanity of the bussing in Los Angeles. And there are advantages to Tinsley. However, if a district is overcrowded and has problems finding spots for the kids residing in its own district, I *do* question having a program that continues to import up to 600 kids. Given that the district's become more diverse within its own boundaries, I'm not sure why Tinsley should take moral priority over other concerns.

As for people I didn't report--in one case, I didn't have the details. In another, I figured they wouldn't make it through. In the third case, the student would be graduating that year. In the last case, the family was being forced out of Palo Alto by increasing rents, even though the family had been in Palo Alto for 50 years. The grandparents owned, but the family could no longer afford to rent. The kid had been in the PAUSD schools for 9 years.

I expect that family will move back to PA as soon as they can find a way to do so.

So, yeah, Tinsley kids are legal--but I don't think they have the greater moral right to attend PAUSD schools than the family who's lived here for years and being forced out by high rents.

After all, isn't the moral ground of the Tinsley agreement that kids should have equal access to education. Well, doesn't that also describe the kids of a family being forced out by high rents?

Meanwhile, the overcrowding in south PA is only going to get worse--the Bayshore townhouse complex is moving right along and Palo Alto is turning the Elks Lodge site into housing as well.

From what I can see, Garland will be turned into some sort of elementary school again. And I'd think they'll have to use the part of Greendell being vacated for something, but it's too small a site for a full-fledged elementary--even if they boot PSF, the site's small-ish.

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Posted by Chapstick
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 11, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I don't have kids in the PAUSD or in EPA. I recently returned to living in Mtn View after an absence of 8 yrs because I couldn't afford the rents in MV as a single girl. Now that I live with someone, we can begin to create a rental household here in south Mountain View.
I am an educator; I work as a substitute for Palo Alto Community Child Care and am working on my single-subject credential in English. I would be one of the ones who would get to put my kid in local schools if I worked for you all at Gunn or Paly, or any of the three middle schools.
I sure was glad to see that there wasn't much flaming or argument against the "fairness" of school/city employees being able to school their children in the communities where they work but cannot hope to afford to live. It's bad enough that teachers get neither the salary respect nor the societal respect that other professions get - but to hear one more person whine about the few perks that teachers might get at SOME school districts would truly make me sick.
Nor would it endear me to the profession, at a time when California faces a shortage of credentialed teachers. She really needs us!
The majority of we teachers work hard to: ensure your childrens' safety while you are at your job; hopefully teach them something; and run a classroom on constantly contracting/reacting budgets. No wonder we keep our unions strong. Normally, I'm not in favor of a governing body speaking for me, but I've got to support this one.
I hope you all can work out the overcrowding dilemmas in PA. It's clear that some new agreements and boundaries need to be considered and approved.
Incidentally, per the complaint about a high school reaching 1,900 students....I graduated from a high school of 1,600 and did just fine. A 3.85 GPA with three 5's and a 3 on my four AP exams, in fact. And no, I'm not of all lily-white, privileged background/descent. I simply studied hard and played hard.....and did what my excellent teachers asked of me. :)

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Terman Middle School

on Sep 26, 2017 at 8:46 am

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