The superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District sent a strongly worded letter Tuesday, Sept. 12, to Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, telling her in no unclear terms that any attempt to "secede Belle Haven from the Ravenswood City School District" will be "met with resistance at every step."
Ms. Keith has not made any attempt to withdraw Menlo Park schools from the Ravenswood City School District – and wouldn't have the power to do so anyway, since the matter falls under the school districts' jurisdiction. She has scheduled a community meeting on Monday to discuss potential options to improve educational quality in the city of Menlo Park.
Ms. Keith says she has not done any of the things alleged in Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff's letter.
In an interview, Ms. Keith noted that, for years, residents have come to the City Council during its public comment portion and asked for something to be done to increase educational equality across the city. The council can't respond to public comments, Ms. Keith noted, and said she hoped Monday's community meeting would help start an "open dialogue."
"I don't know what people are going to say. I know what they've said at council meetings and that's it," she said. "Dr. Hernandez and I and the rest of the council all care about quality of education for our students."
The community meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Menlo Park Senior Center at 100 Terminal Ave.
Two elementary schools in Menlo Park are in the Ravenswood City School District: Belle Haven and Willow Oaks. According to standardized state test results, a higher proportion of students in the Ravenswood district do not meet state learning standards in comparison with students in other districts where Menlo Park children attend school: Las Lomitas and Menlo Park City.
Ms. Hernandez-Goff, the Ravenswood district's superintendent, slams Ms. Keith in the letter, saying any attempt to remove Menlo Park schools from the Ravenswood district amounts to a "power grab" with the "sole purpose of increasing Menlo Park property values." Ms. Keith has not advocated removing the schools from the district, she emphasized in an interview.
"We are a blue-collar community working each and everyday to provide our students with a strong education that will allow them the opportunity to one day achieve their dreams," Ms. Hernandez-Goff says in the letter. "What the test scores you irresponsibly throw around to make your point do not capture is that, unlike students in Menlo Park, half of our students are homeless because they cannot afford to live in the Silicon Valley."
Ms. Hernandez-Goff says the secession of schools within Menlo Park city boundaries from the Ravenswood district would cause the "complete economic destruction of our community ... where the only winners will be those who already have, at the expense of those who do not have affluence or power." She also says the move would "create an environment that segregates our district based on race and socio economic status" and "segregate our community."
Her letter includes a defense of the progress of her district. Noting the significant economic obstacles students in the district face, she wrote, "our district has implemented major reforms that are beginning the process of completely transforming the educational experience of students in our district. . . . The days of the Ravenswood City School District being at the bottom are over. We are determined to persist and succeed despite any detractors."
Ms. Hernandez-Goff could not be reached for comment by the Almanac's deadline.
Editor's Note: This story has been modified for clarity and accuracy from its original posting.