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Update: Everest raises stakes in looming court battle with high school district

Original post made on May 25, 2009

Everest Public High School is seeking to add $2.3 million to the payout from the high school district if Everest sues the district and wins over a dispute about locating the school in East Palo Alto. ==B This is a corrected story.==

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 25, 2009, 8:54 PM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Libertarian
a resident of Woodside High School
on May 25, 2009 at 11:46 pm

I find it amazingly hypocrytical that the district, as represented by the assistant superintendant and legal council, with a straight face asserts that the offered site is about where it was requested. The offer, as more facts come out, make it very clear that the district is trying to put together assets that already exist and call it a school. Further, a not-so-subtle attmept to smear Everest's plan by mentioning toxic waste without details is intellectually dishonest at best and more likley a cynical attempt to play PR games with taxpayer money. From here, the facts appear to be that: 1) the district didn't want Everest to exist, hence turning down a charter at all levels except the state (where it was unanimously approved),
2) with a requirement to provide a suitible facility, rather than work with Everest, there is an attempt to take the district's "leftovers" and cobble them together and call it a facility.
Were this the deep south in the 1950's and we were talking about a group of African American students rather than a group of charter school students, the district's legal arguments of "separate but equal" might have held, but as a society I thought we'd moved past that. The district should be embarrassed.
In terms of monetary concerns, it appears that the district is proceeding with building, despite Everest's declination of the EPA site. That hardly strikes me as the best use of taxpayer dolars since the portable buildings (hardly the set up for a "real" school campus) will not be used as was once planned for adult evening education nor for Everest. In other words, the district could be required to pay for both sites.


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Posted by Stacy Wenzel
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2009 at 6:58 am

Another advantage to having Everest in East Palo Alto is that hopefully it will draw students from the East Palo Alto area. I understand that the school plans to draw a diverse student body. Since East Palo Alto does not have a comprehensive high school and students in East Palo Alto currently have to commute to other areas (if they do not attend the charter schools in the area), having an option in East Palo Alto would seem to be an advantage to this community.


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Posted by Everest in RC
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2009 at 8:21 am

A third charter school in EPA makes a lot of sense, especially as the other two are undersubscribed. Right.

Students entered the Everest lottery without knowing where the school would be located. The students who won the lottery mostly live in Redwood City. Why not locate the school in a facility that is appropriate for them and a location that is convenient?


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Posted by Concerned taxpayer
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on May 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Regarding Ms. Wenzel's comment above, I'm not sure what the first "advantage" to having this particular school located in EPA. Furthermore, it would be more honest if she were to have identified herself as a teacher at Sequoia who spoke against Everest's petition earlier and as such has a vested interest in her statements.
A few things to note:
-Charter schools have a mandate to serve students of the entire district. Geographically this includes the most southeastern parts of EPA and the northernmost parts of Belmont.
-The site the district has offered is not accessible by public transportation
-Charter schools are not comprehensive campuses.
-Entrance to charter schools is based on lottery with the schools having no control over who gets in if a school is over subscribed. Locating a school in EPA does not give students from the local community priority in admission so there is no guarantee that it would be an option other than through a lottery if it is oversubscribed (which I understand it is).
-It sounds like Everest asked to be located close to Summit. (This makes sense in an era of budget shortfalls) and the district has no intention of being the slightest bit cooperative.

Locating the school at an extreme part of the district's boundaries, particularly at a place without access to public transportation as opposed to a more central location within the district will inevitably result in more traffic for the region. It certainly cannot be construed as "green". It will require additional transportation around lunch time. Since the district believes the site is so nice, perhaps adminstrators (starting with the superintendent) can relocate their offices in the portable buildings. I understand the rooms are quite large and the campus will be beautiful. The distance from the other schools is not too far. And while administration location in EPA would not bring a comprehensive high school to EPA, it could certainly bring administrators in closer contact with the neighborhood and educational challenges.


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Posted by law abiding citizen
a resident of Woodside High School
on May 26, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I have read with interest the debate about Everest vs. SUHSD. It doesn't really matter if you support charter schools or not. What is important is that the district is not following the mandate of Prop. 39. Which states "The school district shall make reasonable efforts to provide the charter school with facilities near to where the charter school wishes to locate, and shall not move the charter school unnecessarily." This is really what it comes down to and why the Summit Institute has declined the EPA site. Everest would like to be in Redwood City and the district has not fulfilled its obligation to try to facilitate this.


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Posted by Let's move forward
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on May 27, 2009 at 9:25 am

Law abiding citizen is right about the mandate of Prop. 39 and the district's weak position if this goes to court. But another law the district seems intent on ignoring is the one that authorized the establishment of charter schools in the first place, authored or co-authored (I think) by Ted Lempert.

At the heart of the district's resistence to Everest -- and Summit before that and Aurora before that -- is that the district's leaders can't seem to accept that these schools are legal, and that lawmakers, in authorizing charter schools in the manner they did, were attempting to ENCOURAGE charter schools in response to the general failure of public schools in this state to educate our kids.

Stop fighting, superintendent and board members. Stop wasting taxpayers' money. You will lose in court, just as you did in the Aurora case. Find the silver lining in this situation. Learn what's working at Summit (and stop denying that it is working), and apply some of the principles applied at Summit to your own school programs.


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Posted by School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 27, 2009 at 9:47 am

I agree with Let's move forward. The district is not doing an acceptable job of preparing our children for an increasingly competitive world. The reasons for this are multiple and likely some causes are beyond the capacity of a school district to remedy. Charter schools appear to be experimental and some work, some don't. Trying to quash one that appears to be working is hardly the approach we need for our children.
Sadly it appears that the schools as run by the district in conjunction with teacher's unions have become a political vehicle for tackling all of society's challenges. The result is underperformance at almost all levels and a desire for alternatives, hence the interest in apparently successful charter schools. The demand for and the chartering of Everest is a reflection of a desire for an "education product" that the district is not providing satisfactory manner and the unfortunate response from the district is denial and an attempt to not give parents alternatives. Imagine that the district attempted to work cooperatively with Summit and could claim high scores as it's own. It would be a different model and it might create friction with teachers who are not used to having their performance rated, but there is every reason to think the result would actually be better in the long run for, most importantly, students, but for teachers as well.


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Posted by We don't need more charter schools!
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 28, 2009 at 2:22 am

School parent from the Willows has no clue about what is really going on. The SUHSD does a good job overall in preparing its students for the future. I had had three kids go to District schools so I know what I am talking about and each had different needs. The SUHSD teachers are a hard-working, caring bunch. Thank god for the unions or all the experienced and qualified teachers would have fled by now since it is so expensive to live here. The scores for well-prepared kids are at or above those from Summit. Also, there are multiple programs to help kids who are less-prepared.

Why should a public high school district have to divert funds from programs for those kids to provide for those who want a private school education without having to pay for it? That is the bottom line here and the SUHSD is rightfully fighting it. I applaud them. The demand for a $2.3 payout by Everest is blackmail of the worst sort.


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Posted by an outraged taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2009 at 2:31 am

And if you remember recent history, in fact the SUHSD had plans to build a small high school on the Canada campus but after Summit came along they dropped those plans since there wasn't enough funding to go around. Wow, what else are they going to have to cut out now?

I agree entirely with John Beiers, attorney for the Sequoia district, who said in an interview that "taxpayers should be outraged that Everest Charter School is threatening to sue the school district for $2.5 million during this time of fiscal crisis." I am outraged!

"Asked in early May if Everest officials had gauged a lawsuit's impact on taxpayers, school founder Diane Tavenner replied, "Oh my God, absolutely." She added that one board member was "really opposed" to it. Any money awarded would go "straight back to students," perhaps as scholarships, she said."

Geez, what about the kids who really need it? Who is she talking about?


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Posted by Everest in RC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2009 at 9:13 am

>>The scores for well-prepared kids are at or above those from Summit.<<

And therein lies the rub. All Summit kids take the SATs and do as well as the <60% of M-A kids who take the SATs. Why are only 60% of our high school students well-prepared? Maybe the district should be spending time and money looking at that instead of wasting public resources on lawsuits.

>>Geez, what about the kids who really need it? Who is she talking about?<<

This comment makes no sense. Obviously she is saying that they would rather not have to take legal action and that they will not use any "profits" that accrue as a result of the ill-advised lawsuit.

Outraged and We Don't, it's okay to use a pseudonym, but not okay to use multiple handles on a single thread. Got it?



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Posted by School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

Several replies:
We don't-
I actually do have a clue about what is "really going on". I have one child who is graduating from a regular district high school this year and know his friends pretty well. I know multiple teachers within the district as well. You may disagree with me, but you have no standing to claim absolute knowledge. Congratulations on your three children having their needs met, but you cannot speak to my nor my child's experience. Additionally, as previous posters have noted, approximately 25% of possible district high school freshman applied to charter schools, which strikes me as a very high number of people who you would write off as having "no clue". More likely is that they do have more than a clue and don't like it.

Given your comments on the teacher's unions, I question your objectivity. Teacher's unions claim to be for education, but in fact are for teachers. These are not necessarily the same thing. The downside of the unions is that there are MANY teachers who have long since lost their passion and cannot be disciplined in any way. Take a look at the stats for teachers statewide who are terminated or even disciplined after receiving tenure (granted afer 3 years of teaching). So it may be that unions have saved some good teachers and it is also likely that there are some classroom teachers that should be doing something else but have essentially guaranteed employment. You should also actually check the scores posted. Summit's were the highest within the district.

Outraged taxpayer-
I agree that as taxpayers we need to be concerned about where our money goes. We should have as an obligation to look at ALL the money the district spends and while you can choose to look at ANY money going to Everest as taking away from the district, you should consider the following:
Both Woodside and Menlo-Atherton have build performing arts centers recently (I believe M-A's is still under construction) at a cost of >$25 million apiece. When we're talking about preparing our children for the future and complaining about $2.4-$4 million over 3 years, I would contend that perhaps our priorities are wrong. Yes, some of the funding sources for those buildings are different, but the district is happy to have two such facilities within 5 miles from each other. Imagine if the district had the two schools share such a facility?
As a parent of children in the high school and junior high ages, looking forward, I believe it is important for there to be good option. To see Everest getting bashed for asking for decent facilities for teaching and learning, something which by all measures Summit has done at least as well or likely better than the district's best, is shameful. I believe at some point, Everest asked for some space on the Sequoia campus that would not have required any new building but the district refused. While the district routinely uses divisive rhetoric to paint charter schools in general, and in this case Everest specifically as "taking away" from others, it appears more accurate that in every case the district takes action that is calculated to creat unneccessary conflict. Given that Everest is chartered, despite the district's opposition, it would be nice to see a more collaborative approach.


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Posted by RWC Native
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

From a parent perspective it's an issue of choice. Considering the 25% of district incoming freshman made an application at a charter school indicates that there is interest in the Summit/Everest form of education. In business, this would be considered Competition. State Funding follows the student, it is not taking away from the District as it is not their money in the first place. The District & Union is trying to maintain a monopoly on how our children are educated. Our secondary education system dates back to pre-WW II.

Let Summit/Everest succeed or fail based on their own performance - or is the threat to the status quo too frightening for the District and the Award Wining Superintendent to face?


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Posted by School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 9, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I agree with RWC Native. Competition can hardly be seen to be a bad thing. It may be that some charter schools fail and disappear. On the other hand if a charter school appears to be delivering, we as a community, and ideally the district as concerned educators should take notice.
People should take a look at the recent rankings from Newsweek about high schools nationally:
Web Link

From that ranking (based on achievement, AP classes, etc.), Summit ranks with the Palo ALto schools and far above any of the Sequoia Union High Schools.

Some rankings:

Lowell, (SF) 68th (33% subsidized lunch)
Gunn, Palo Alto 114th (4% subs lunch)
Summitt (RWC) 118th (31% subs lunch)
Monta Vista, Cupertino 138th (1% subs lunch)
Burlingame, Burlingame 321st (6% subs lunch)
Menlo-Atherton, (MP) 371st (27% subs lunch)
Palo Alto, (PA), 544th, (6% subs lunch)
Woodside (RWC) 886, (57% subs lunch)
Carlemont, Belmont 1001 (16% subs lunch)

While the methodology of these types of rankings can always be criticized, this was done by an organization outside of the district. These rankings would argue that Summit is performing better than any Sequoia Union schools and on par with the Palo Alto schools with (based on the percent subsidized lunch numbers) a more socioeconomically challenged group of students.
As I understand it, the Summit Group would like to expand on that success with Everest. I say more power to 'em.


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Posted by a parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 10, 2009 at 10:34 am

One note regarding "School Parent"'s posting. Lowell in SF is usually not compared to other general public high schools because it requires an entrance exam to attend - so they pull the cream of the crop.

In all of this discussion there is no mention of Gateway High School, also in San Francisco:
Web Link
Gateway is also a charter school - a better comparison to the Summit Group. This school is notable because, unlike the Summit Group, it has a proven track record of success with children who need special educational supports. It is also the only charter school to have currently met all requirements to become a California Distinguished School.

Until the Summit Group shows that they can actually educate all comers for all four years of high school - including those with learning challenges, I will resent the funds that the group is demanding from SUHSD. So far the statistics I've seen for the education of children with learning disabilities by the Summit Group have been vague and there not being a teacher certified in special education on staff at the current Summit Group school is also a red flag for me.


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Posted by Diana
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

Aren't there provisions in the state's charter school law that address special education? And hasn't Summit met all the requirements? Seems to me Summit wouldn't be able to keep its charter if it hasn't, and Everest wouldn't have been able to get a charter if it doesn't also have a plan to meet the needs of kids who need special education.


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Posted by Everest in RC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm

>>>Until the Summit Group shows that they can actually educate all comers for all four years of high school - including those with learning challenges, I will resent the funds that the group is demanding from SUHSD.<<<

That's something of a conundrum. Summit won't be considered an acceptable alternative in your eyes until it can prove that it is capable of educating everyone -- but how can it prove that without funding?!?

I personally know several special needs students who have done well at Summit. One of my own children is special needs, and I wanted him to attend Summit because I knew that he would get personal attention there. When he was starting high school -- at M-A -- I went to meetings at the district special ed office and was shocked to hear the experiences of other parents. The comprehensives -- there were parents from all four in the district -- were not meeting their kids' needs adequately. The special ed staff members were sympathetic but severely constrained by resources.

My anecdotal observation is that Summit is doing no worse and in many cases, quite a bit better than the district comprehensives when it comes to educating special needs kids. And, unlike the comprehensives, Summit does not backburner the students who are facing impediments to success, be they learning, cultural, or economic.


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Posted by M-A grad & M-A/Summit parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Have any of you Summit/Everest "nay-sayers" ever taken the time to visit Summit Preparatory Charter High School or talked to a Summit student. If you had, you would discover what great work and accomplishments are being made daily there — on the shoestring budget they are allotted by SUHSD. The student body is extremely diverse both economically and ethnically, yet the students all get along and are supportive of each other. What's more, as an entire student body, they're performing better than the other established schools in the district. And here's proof.
In this week's issue of Newsweek, Summit Preparatory High School in Redwood City was named number 118 in Newsweek's survey of the country's top public high schools. That puts the six-year-old charter high school in the top 0.1 percent of the nation's public high schools. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, always a top ranked school, was 114.
But where was M-A, Sequoia, Woodside, Carlmont? In the country's top? Nope.
So before one voice's a staunch opinion against our charter high school's, may I suggest you come check out the undersized digs that Summit Teachers, Parents and Students have transformed into one of the top schools in the nation — it's the real Performing Arts Center of which the district and taxpayers should be most proud.


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Posted by Paul Goeld
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Jun 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

These are the same arguments we've heard all along from the same people. Everyone uses selective "facts" to support their own position.

But here's a stubborn fact that the anti-charter school people never address. Even the SUHSD's own trustees recognize that their "starter campus" in EPA is not Prop 39 compliant. Because of this, as was the case with the Aurora and Summit litigation, the Everest lawsuit has a very predictable outcome and the district is going to lose. In addition to paying for the Everest campus in RWC, they'll have to pay legal fees for both sides and they'll be stuck with a bunch a trailers in EPA! It is going to be an incredibly expensive lesson.

Everest is not "holding up" or "blackmailing" the district for $2.3 million. That claim is totally outrageous. The District is actually spending nearly twice that amount on their proposed EPA campus that they admit will be relocated in two or three years. When students leave one of the district's high schools (as 25% of the incoming freshman apparently want to do this!) to go to the charter school, their funding follows them. This is apparently a difficult concept for people to understand - the district has one less student to teach and therefore sends that money to the charter where those identical funds are used to teach that same student.

If the District and trustees wanted to be Prop 39 compliant and fiscally prudent, they would abide by the law and provide Everest with the requested funding and be done with it. Anything else is a waste of our time and money.


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Posted by Summit Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Pow! Summit is ranked 118 among the US high schools by Newsweek. You go Diane!


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Redwood City Elementary School District is estimating a surplus of 51 classrooms as a result of a restoration of larger class sizes in K-3. Sounds like enough to close a school with possible conversion to accomodate the Everest Charter. John Gill might be a good choice. RCSD would then have an influx of cash to mitigate their budget woes.


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Posted by Jordan
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I'd like to point out that we do in fact need more Charter Schools. If you care to look up the statistics, Summit Prep, my school scores above the district consistently. Our API is significantly higher and 100% of graduates complete all requirements needed to attend a University of California or California State University .
All statistics are below.
Web Link
I would argue that the district schools while diverse are also self-segregrated to a point that there are fights every day and racial tensions are alarming. While it may be self-segregated the schools themselves do little to discourage that and in their tracking system and level of regular classes they offer tacitly encourage that.





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