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MVLA won't evict preschool to make room for Terra Bella students

The local high school district has decided not to relocate students from Terra Bella -- a county-run "community school" for struggling high school students -- to a building which currently houses a popular preschool program next door to Mountain View High School.

After strong community backlash at a Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District board meeting earlier this month, Superintendent Barry Groves has announced that the district is no longer recommending the closure of the Parent Observation Parent Education Preschool to make room for the small group of troubled high school students from Terra Bella.

"I will recommend to the MVLA Board that we not create a community school classroom on the MVLA district office site," Groves wrote -- in bold font -- in a press release sent to local media outlets and other interested parties, Feb. 23.

The announcement came 10 days after parents of children who attend the preschool, along with residents of the neighborhood surrounding Mountain View High School, packed the Feb. 13 MVLA board of trustees meeting to voice their opposition to the district's initial plan. Those who spoke at the meeting expressed opposition to closing the preschool and to bringing more "at-risk" students into the area.

In a conversation with the Voice, Groves noted that the board of trustees had reservations about the plan all along, and that after the meeting, the board instructed him to search for more options to deal with the situation.

According to Groves and county board of education officials, which runs Terra Bella, it is possible that the community school will actually remain on its current site, when all is said and done.

Reasons behind the move

The district initially proposed moving the 25 students currently attending Terra Bella to the location of the Parent Observation preschool after the county asked the district and the other districts to share more of the costs associated with running the community school.

The county's lease on the Terra Bella facility is due to expire at the end of the school year, and the landlord is hoping to get more money for the site, according to Linda Aceves, chief schools officer with the county.

In the interest of keeping the county's expenses on the Terra Bella site "cost neutral" -- meaning that the Office of Education would not pay more than the money it takes in from the state for each pupil at Terra Bella -- the county proposed that the district contribute more money to the program.

There are about 25 MVLA students attending Terra Bella (most of them high school freshmen and sophomores) -- along with a handful of other students from two other north county school districts, Groves said.

According to the superintendent, his district would contribute an additional $250,000 to $300,000 to the program, under the county's original proposal. Initially, Groves said, the district administration decided that it would be more cost-effective to educate the students on its own, and proposed terminating the preschool's lease to make room for those students.

However, after the community backlash and further conversations with the county, the district is now looking at a variety of other options. The district may end up settling on an acceptable cost-sharing arrangement with the county, it may find another site within the district (away from the Mountain View High School campus), or it could ultimately end up busing the students to another site outside of Mountain View, Groves said.

"At this point, both the district and (the county) are very interested in trying to find a solution," Aceves said.

What is Terra Bella?

Terra Bella is not technically a continuation school, like The Alta Vista High School at MVLA. It is a county-run "community school," that educates a small number of students from Fremont, Palo Alto and Mountain View school districts -- all of whom have had problems with attendance, truancy, behavior, academics, or generally assimilating in a traditional high school environment. The school serves about 25 MVLA students, Groves wrote in his release; there are a total of 31 students in the program. It is located at 1012 Linda Vista Ave., just off of Terra Bella Avenue in Mountain View.

Following the district's now-retracted proposal to move students from Terra Bella to the site of the Parent Observation preschool, many alarms were raised over the specter of "at-risk" youth bringing trouble to the neighborhood around Mountain View High School, and to the high school students themselves

Alice Cota, who lives less than a block from the high school, said she opposes moving the district's highest-risk students to the site.

"We already deal with what I believe is a higher number of incidences by living next to a typical high school and a continuation high school at this point," Cota said, referring to Alta Vista, which is located next to Mountain View High School and the district's administrative offices, at the end of Bryant Avenue.

According to Cota, she sees lots of litter on her street and there have been three recent daytime break-ins in her neighborhood. While she can't be certain that high school students are to blame for all of it, she worries that if more teens -- especially teens struggling with behavior issues or academically -- are added to the mix, these problems will only get worse.

Cota is not alone in her perception of Terra Bella. Many others at the Feb. 13 board meeting stressed similar concerns about the students from the county school.

This point of view is concerning to Brigitte Sarraf, associate superintendent of educational services for MVLA. "The kids at Terra Bella are being painted like they are villains," Sarraf said. "They aren't bad kids. They are kids who have made poor choices, who need a smaller environment and a different environment."

Sarraf stressed, just as Groves did in his email announcing the district's decision not to move the Terra Bella students to the Parent Observation building, that none of the teens from MVLA in the county-run school have been expelled from any school within the district.

She noted that some presume the students who attend Terra Bella are "juvenile delinquents" -- the worst of the worst -- unfit to attend even the district-run continuation school, Alta Vista.

On the contrary, Sarraf said, the students from MVLA who attend Terra Bella are largely there because they are too young to legally attend Alta Vista.

"Terra Bella is a county-run community school," Sarraf explained, and as such it operates according to a different set of rules than Alta Vista -- a district-run continuation school.

The education code stipulates that students who attend a district-run continuation school must be juniors in high school or older, Sarraf explained. County community schools, on the other hand, can accept students that are younger. She said almost all of the MVLA students attending Terra Bella were too young to attend Alta Vista.

Comments

Posted by Sneha, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm

"along with a handful of other students from two other north county school districts"

"a small number of students from Fremont, Palo Alto and Mountain View school districts"

Isn't Fremont in southern Alameda County instead of "north county" (meaning northern Santa Clara County)?


Posted by Sneha, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Not very timely:

Uploaded: Monday, March 5, 2012, 12:26 PM

"in a press release sent to local media outlets and other interested parties, Feb. 23."


Posted by Le dude, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Fremont HS district is in Sunnyvale.


Posted by Fed-up, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Once again, the South of El Camino folks rise up in un-abashed nimbyism. Nothing wrong with the school, just ....not here. The super got the message loud and clear, "it may find another site within the district (away from the Mountain View High School campus)" The North of El Camino neighborhoods have shouldered the community load for far too long. Remember the county "night jail" on East Middlefield, or the half-way house on Alice Avenue and most of the section 8 housing, to name a few. If we as a community deem that these things are necessary, then we as a community should share the burden of responsibility equally.
Feed your friend with a long handled spoon, a popular thought south of El Camino. If we are really serious about helping these young people, ostracizing them is not the answer, but embracing them near their peers sends a positive message. Even a dog knows the difference between being stepped on and being kicked.


Posted by Frustrated, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Fed-up,
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Frustrated, and I could not have written it better myself. You said everything that I've been saying for a couple of weeks, only you managed to be much more concise. Thank you.
We in the Stierlin Estates neighborhood, on the other hand, purchased knowing that there WASN'T a school nearby, and ended up with one anyway. But we don't get the same respect. How does that work? Oh, that's right, we're over "here" and not over "there". Wow, the nerve - I don't even have words.[Portion removed.] If you don't like the issues, don't buy there. End of story. Wow. That's all that I have left to say. Just Wow.[Portion removed. Please do not use this forum to launch personal attacks.]


Posted by Fed-up, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Mr. Perkins, I am glad that you are feeling better. However, you totally misunderstood the point of my commentary, and your analysis of my political beliefs is so far off the mark that I can't fathom how you could have arrived at those conclusions.
Perhaps if I restate my point in a more direct manner, the mists will part and you will have a clearer understanding of my position. Many of the people who live south of El Camino firmly believe that the axis of the earth visibly protrudes in their neighborhood, and the world really does revolve around them. That opinion is very irritating to the rest of us in Mountain View.


Posted by Frustrated, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm

First off, I'd like to direct a comment to the Voice for removing my post. That was not an offensive personal attack. The person to whom I referred put herself and her comments out there for everyone to read. I was merely stating the obvious, which according to you, isn't allowed. So much for free speech. Another great reporting job. Well done.

Fed-up has nailed it. Many people don't like what he has to say, but it's all true. The sooner people realize this, the better for everyone who lives here. Those who live south of El Camino want their own little Utopia without the dregs of the commoner. I'm getting so tired of all of this. I just wonder how these people can live with themselves.


Posted by Jack Perkins, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Quoting Fed Up;
"If we are really serious about helping these young people, ostracizing them is not the answer, but embracing them near their peers sends a positive message. Even a dog knows the difference between being stepped on and being kicked."

I think I have you pretty well pegged.


Posted by Waldo, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

This is directed to those making the class warfare comments regarding north vs. south Mtn. View. I have lived in this city for more than half a century, and I consider it my hometown...all of the town. For the past two decades I have lived next to Mtn. View High School, which has its own unique set of problems. For example, the marching band starts at 7:00AM every school morning in the fall and spring, and many weekend mornings as well. For the most part, they do not play music, they PRACTICE, which amounts to irritating noise. Traffic and parking are of biblical proportions, both during regular commute times and during random special events during the day, weekends and nights. Public address announcers at the football field are in love with the sound of their voices, the sound of their recorded music, and the comments they repeat over and over again, all done with the volume turned up as high as possible, in case somebody might want to to hear them in Sunnyvale. Lunchtime trash can be a problem, as well as couples making out in secluded areas of people's yards. Frankly, the kids at Alta Vista don't have time for any of this, because they are working one or more jobs, in addition to going to school. So, if some of my neighbors got a bit up tight about adding more commotion to the neighborhood, please cut them some slack.


Posted by Frustrated, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

This is directed to Waldo. This is class warfare at it's worst. And not a soul can deny it. And as far as your comments about living next door to MVHS. Boo-hoo. You, and the majority of your neighbors, purchased your home knowing full well that there was a school there. My point has been that we purchased NOT knowing that a school was going to be dumped on our back doors. Yes, you put up with the issues that come along with living near a high school. But you CHOSE to live there anyway. So, no, I'm not going to cut anyone a bit of slack. This issue is about the residents of the south of El Camino always being heard, and getting the opportunity to be heard, and those of us "over here" not getting the same respect or the opportunity to have our views and concerns taken into account. You are totally missing our point.


Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

"our point" - seems like I see the same name. Sorry you have had bad experiences with some people from south Mountain View. There are bad apples in every neighborhood. I think you are generalizing though. Mountain View is a nice place to live and there are nice people in every corner. I have had the pleasure to get to know many. I don't see a class war. I see one neighborhood had it's act together to voice it's collective concerns. They didn't get gold plated invitations to those meetings. They just exercised their democratic rights and barged in there. Have you got out and organized a similar effort? It seems you have many complaints about fairness that should be directed towards the government of the city, not it's residents.Get a group together and storm the next city meeting. All this anonymous chatter on these message boards won't revolutionize this city. You have to do what those south MVers did and go face to face with the officials. I sincerely wish you all the best. (and be thankful you don't live in Palo Alto where your issue would be x100)


Posted by Anon2, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm

If one reads the article (and talks to people), it appears the initial recommendation was unlikely to happen - even prior to the outpouring of public opinion. It just wasn't the best direction...for many reasons...but mostly related to the kids and the effected programs rather than the specific neighborhoods.


Posted by Frustrated, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Anon,
First, let me address your comment about being anonymous. That is for a reason. We have already dealt with issues personally, and I will not put my family through any of it.
Second, I stand by what I've said. We were never notified of the school as the residents of Waverly Park were. I have many friends and acquaintances who live there, and have seen over many years of my children attending MVHS the power that they yield. They are a vocal, rude bunch of people, and I'm generalizing, I know. But after years of watching them get their way, I reached a point of being disgusted. Yes, the city has a responsibility - we should be treated the same way as the residents "over there". But we're not, and there is a definite aura in Waverly Park, and other neighborhoods, of being better than those of us "over here". I've heard many comments over the years - "we would never buy on the other side of El Camino". After decades of hearing it, I've reached my limit. And yes, I've spoken with many people in high places regarding the school, and no, they haven't given me one iota of respect in dealing with the situation. So, yes, I will continue my rants until we are recognized as tax paying citizens of Mountain View who deserve the same respect.
You seem to think that storming the city meetings will make a difference. Are you serious? Have you seen what the council members consider important here? Stopping the building of new drive-thrus because of auto emissions. Are they serious? We have gangs and break-ins fairly often and many violence issues to deal with, and that's what they consider important?! And the school board isn't much better. Waffling the minute the Waverly Park residents get their dander up. Where does that leave us? Exactly where we've been all along. The residents don't want cars parked on the street. Done. They don't want the school there. Done. The list goes on and on. Whatever they want, they get. It's as simple as that. Yet we don't even get the respect of a note or a call telling us an alternative school with gang members - who hate each other, by the way - will be plopped down within a block of homes in our neighborhood. Can you blame me for being so frustrated? A lot of the home owners are original and past retirement age. They're angry, but don't have a lot of fight left in them. I think the district was banking on that. We also have a lot of non-English speaking families. Coincidence? I don't think so. So, even as your argument is sound, it doesn't necessarily apply to this situation. There is no panacea. It would be nice, to be sure. If you're from another community, I appreciate your need to provide a thoughtful approach to the situation, but in this case, you are out of the loop and not aware of the whole situation. There is class warfare. They are just really good at hiding it and making it seem as though they are just "looking out for the best interests of the neighborhood". But that is a thinly veiled disguise. They want nothing to do with anything that will sully their Utopia. And please, don't compare us to Palo Alto. We are our own city - we don't need to be compared with anyone else. It's what is going on here that matters to us.


Posted by Why pay for the County?, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Still unclear why MVLA has to bail out the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

The Mercury News just had an article

Web Link

with the following facts about the County Office of Education.

"The office's annual revenue budget is $266.4 million, 59 percent of that from the state and from local property taxes, the rest from federal and local sources. Unlike districts, whose budgets have decreased in recent years, the county office's budget this year increased 2.8 percent over 2010-11, primarily because local school districts were charged more for services."


Posted by $1M home loan for county supe, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

From the San Jose Mercury News

Web Link

"De La Torre is also being offered a $1 million home loan, half at 2 percent and half at 3 percent interest rates. The board will also advance him $25,000 for moving expenses."

Couldn't the County extend such a loan for Terra Bella?


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