Schools - November 30, 2011
Residents denied appeal to change school districts
by Barbara Wood
Woodside residents who wanted to have their two streets on the edge of Menlo Park and Redwood City transferred from the Redwood City School District to the Las Lomitas Elementary School District have had their final appeal denied and will have to stay put.
The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Nov. 10 to deny the appeal from the residents of Ward Way and Greenways Drive, and the few homes on Alameda de las Pulgas between them, a total of 43 parcels.
The residents had asked to change school districts back in 2009, arguing that their children should be able to go to school with their friends in Menlo Park and the neighboring streets in Woodside. At the time, all of the school-age children on the two streets were attending private schools.
Their petition was turned down by the San Mateo County Committee on School District Organization in September 2009, citing a fear that other neighborhoods on the boundaries of their district would also try to move out and worsen the ethnic and economic imbalance in the Redwood City district.
The original petition said: "Our children should have the same opportunity to go to school with their friends and neighbors, thereby keeping the community whole," and argued that the Las Lomitas school was closer to their homes.
Claire Cunningham, the deputy county counsel who represents the Redwood City School District, said the district was pleased with the decision by the state school board.
"From the beginning, the district's primary concern has been the cumulative effect of subsequent transfers should this transfer set a precedent for other neighborhoods," she said. "While the loss of a small number of students from one neighborhood would not substantially impact the district's revenue limit, the loss of numerous border neighborhoods would."
The report on the transfer said the homeowners would see a substantial increase in their home's values with the transfer. "If the transfer were approved, the property values of the petitioners would increase 15 to 20 percent or $150,000 per bedroom," the report to the state board said.
The Redwood City School district's demographics vary widely from those of its wealthier neighboring districts.
For example, while Redwood City in the 2009-10 school year spent $9,097 to educate each student in the district, Las Lomitas spent $13,413, the Menlo Park City School District spent $11,283 and the Woodside Elementary School District spent $20,211 per student.
In that school year, the Redwood City district had only 21.3 percent white students while Las Lomitas had 70.5, Menlo Park had 66.9 and Woodside had 78.4.
Posted by Attentive mom,
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm
This has a long back story. The man behind the now-failed effort to shift school district boundaries is quite a wily guy (can't remember if he's an attorney but one would think so). He bought a modest house in a subdivision near WHS. It was an unincorporated county area with a mailing address of Redwood City. He figured he could get a great deal by buying in a somewhat over-looked neighborhood, and then pull some strings to upgrade the neighborhood, and, coincidentally, make a ton of money. Pretty smart.
His first step was to get the area established as part of the Woodside sphere-of-influence boundary, so that they can use Woodside as their address, instead of Redwood City. He got it done -- pretty impressive. And, by the way, Ka-ching! That's quite a few hundred thousand dollars more per house right away. Now he's got lots of neighborhood support for the next step in his plan.
Once he's upgraded his mailing address, he figures another way to increase his property value, at little cost to him, is to get the street upgraded to Las Lomitas. After all, Las Lomitas in recent years has ranked at the very top of California schools on the STAR tests. As the article quotes, getting shifted from Redwood City schools to Las Lomitas schools would add value of about $150,000 - PER bedroom! 4 bedroom house, that's an easy $600,000, for everybody in the neighborhood. (Wonder if any of this triggers a re-assessment, so that the county gets more money for the higher value services they're angling for??) Plus, of course, he and his neighbors could keep the cash they're paying for private school.
"Mr. Wily" came to a Las Lomitas school board meeting, and tried to pass himself off as just a concerned parent wanting the best education for his kids -- something we all want, right? He almost came off as Mr. Nice Guy, but he couldn't keep that oiliness from oozing out. Mr. Greedy Opportunist, really. I talked to him after the meeting, to suggest some strategies for getting into a Las Lomitas home: selling/buying, downsizing, renting, getting an apartment at Sharon Green, etc. You know, actually moving into the district, rather than having the district move to him. It was kinda cute watching him try to keep that nice guy mask on while juggling with his frustration that this woman just didn't get it. He wants to explain how smart he's being...but wait, he needs to show how much he cares about his kids' eductaion...but wait, that would mean actually paying attention to her irrelevant ideas about how to get into the district legally...but wait, the real point here is to win (steal?) a huge benefit for having been smart enough to buy a house in a neighborhood he can get upgraded, for almost free.
Too bad "Mr. Wily" was a bit too self-confident to do all the research. If he had, he would have been aware that the district was already in an uproar about whether increasing enrollment would mean they'd have to take back one of the two district properties that are currently leased to private schools. Aside from the gross unfairness of his profit-seeking plan, there just wasn't room. But there are only a few kids in the neighborhood, he protests! That's true, at the moment. But the older neighbors are starting to move out, and if the neighborhood shifts into a better school district, all those houses will be bought by parents with school-age kids. We're already seeing that age-related turnover in Sharon Heights and Ladera - and that's why there isn't enough room for all the kids in the district already. Maybe he could have pulled this off a decade ago, when enrollments were lower. But he came at about the worst time he could.
Another of his arguments is so bogus he has to be called on it: He wants his kids to go to school with their "friends from the neighborhood". Ward Way and Greenways Dr. don't really connect with each other, or any of the LL streets, to make a natural neighborhood. The next street in the LL district is Stockbridge, and those houses aren't the type where you run next door and ask if Jonny can come play street ball. The streets across the Alameda, Nassau Dr. and Inyo Place, would be a more natural neighborhood for Ward and Greenways, and they're already in the same Redwood City school district. But somehow, I don't think Mr. Wily really wants his kids playing with those lower-income, lower-educated, differently colored people, does he?
Other commenters have pointed out that being involved in your kid's school, volunteering, funding, etc. is how you get your kid a better education at a public school. So, Mr. Wily, work with your local schools, or move into the district you want to be in, but please give up on these games you've been playing to increase the value of your property at the cost of the public.