News

Merge school districts, grand jury says

Unification could save $9.4 million, but local officials skeptical

Three local school districts should merge to save money on "administrative staff reductions and operational efficiencies," according to a recent report by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

The June 24 report estimates that about $9.4 million could be saved by turning the Los Altos School District, the Mountain View Whisman School District and the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District into one single unified school district.

The recommendation is part of a number of similar calls for consolidation countywide. In all, the grand jury identified 17 unique districts, and proposed merging them into four larger districts -- all at a projected savings of about $51.2 million.

Local school officials, however, expressed skepticism regarding the report.

"I think that we are very successful with our current configuration and I'm not sure how the proposed consolidation would make things better," said Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos School District.

The report estimates savings of somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent for each consolidation from scaling back the "many redundant administrative functions" in the 31 county school districts, as well as additional efficiencies "to be realized by operating transportation, maintenance, IT, food, and other functions for a single larger entity."

The jury settled upon an estimated savings of 7 percent across all the affected districts after reviewing a similar consolidation of the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento and hearing testimony from unnamed education officials.

Angie Cardoza, foreperson for the grand jury, said one of two things must happen in order for the recommended mergers to take effect: either 25 percent of the registered voters in the affected districts must sign a petition indicating they would like to see the merger go to a vote, or a majority of the members from each district's governing body must approve of the proposal.

Whether a concerned citizen will collect the needed signatures remains to be seen.

Groves said he feels that his district's relationship with Mountain View Whisman and Los Altos school districts is fine as it stands.

Furthermore, he said, " there would be some fiscal disadvantages for the high school district."

Craig Goldman is superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, which was created in 2001 out of the then-separate Mountain View and Whisman districts. He said consolidation is always a worthy topic of discussion, but noted that the grand jury's proposed merger is much more complicated than what occurred in his district nine years ago.

If the other school districts were interested, he said, Mountain View Whisman would also be interested. Goldman just doesn't see that happening.

"Ultimately," he said, "because of the higher level funding received by Los Altos and the high school district, we don't think it's a viable alternative."

Cardoza said she feels the grand jury's recommendations will be beneficial to all the school districts named in the consolidation proposal, including Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View Los Altos.

"Any time you're asking for change, people will be hesitant," Cardoza said. "It's easier to stay the way it's always been -- the status quo instead of saying, 'Let's try something new.'"

The full report is available on the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury's website.

School district merger recommended

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by le dude
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Funny thing to ask the very administrators who would stand to lose their jobs if a consolidation were to happen. Of course it's an unlikely proposal for them.


3 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

What a concept! There should be fewer school districts. This would increase their buying power, reduce overhead and the list goes on and on...


3 people like this
Posted by Long lost observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Having once followed the local school districts very closely, I do not know how seriously these Civil Grand Jury Statements should be taken.

I know this is a trying time for all three districts, and in fact, all districts across the state and country. However, this decision has to be made very carefully as not to lose special programs and aspects of each district that help each respective population.


3 people like this
Posted by Bruce Karney
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I am inclined to support a 3-district merger, and hope that this will be seriously debated and discussed in the next few months.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the local Los Altos-Mountain View League of Women Voters has been advocating for this merger for many years. The League typically studies issues in great depth before taking a position.

The current fiscal challenges make it urgent to move from "study" to "decide."


3 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm


I have been wondering lately if this push towards greater efficiency can go too far. What happens at the macro level when productivity gets too high and you have a smaller and smaller number of people producing the economic output? I think the answer is deflation, which would be really bad.


3 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Folks should read Kruman's latest column ( Web Link ).


3 people like this
Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

MVWSD teachers are currently the lowest paid in all of Santa Clara County, this may get the Mt. View Whisman teachers the raise they so richly deserve. Trim the fat and give it to the teachers!


5 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Los Altos would never go for it. Never. It would ruin all that they have fought to preserve--an exclusiveness from Mountain View.


3 people like this
Posted by John the Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:53 pm

It'll never happen. Los Altos folks don't want anything to do with so many poor and/or brown people. MVWSD won't do it, just look at how they are still struggling to make the MV and Whisman merger from NINE years ago fully take (as amazing and pathetic as that is).

MVLA doesn't want to be a part of the MVWSD dysfunctionality. Plus people go into secondary teaching for a reason; if they wanted to be a primary teach or administrator, they'd do that already.

There are a LOT of public agency mergers that make huge sense: fire, police, maintenance/public works, schools. The only reason they never even see the light of day is power: no one wants to give it up. That's what makes San Carlos disbanding their police so incredible: they are actually swallowing their pride to help their community more.


3 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 3, 2010 at 4:54 am

Having seen the "savings" that resulted from the unification of our county courts in the 90s, with the result of MORE administrative staff at all levels and many more "supervisor" positions created.

No, this type of "make it bigger" thought does NOT work... I will cost much more, will NOT eliminate any jobs, it will increase the number of employees...

No Thanks.


3 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 3, 2010 at 4:55 am

OOPS.. I meant "IT" will cost.... not "I will cost".. I'm as cheap as ever, but I digress.

george


3 people like this
Posted by Pat
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 3, 2010 at 11:16 am

Los Altos school district will never go for it because inclusion of MV Whisman would cause their API scores (as well as their property values) to take a nosedive. While it is certainly true that Los Altos wants to remain an exclusive community, the fact is that all schools in the Los Altos district have API scores over 950 while schools in the MV Whisman district, with the exception of Huff Elementary, have API scores in the 800s with some even down in the 700s. Common sense dictates that, as long as API scores are used as the measure of success for CA schools, there is no way that a district with 950+ API scores will want to merge with one that has API scores in the 700s and 800s. It's a shame that this is all about saving money instead of improving the existing schools so they all have API scores over 950.


3 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

The Grand Jury makes so many poorly thought out observations. Like their tantrum about Superintendents being paid too much. The market is what it is.

I'm sure money could be saved if Palo Alto and East Palo Alto schools combined. But that will never happen either. But according to "Pat from the Waverly neighborhood" doing so would probably magically increase everyone's API scores to over 950.

LASD foundation donors would donate less (less than their $1,000 per student) if proceeds were spent and spread across other neighborhoods. So total school funding would decrease. Also, parcel taxes would need to be greatly increased for Mountain View Whisman residents (think 6x!), or decreased in LASD (1/6x)to equilibrate funding across a new district.

This latest Grand Jury Edsel is sooo poorly thought out.

LASD has a much lower adminstrative overhead rate than the state average for school districts, and its board members are paid less than MVW, MVLA, PAUSD or most others statewide. So neighboring administrators and board members would need to have their pay cut, and/or fired.

Now, let's take a vote. Anyone still think this sounds like a good idea? I'll bet that even the Grand Jury is moving on to their next dumb recommendation at this point...


3 people like this
Posted by MVWSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I support the merger! Too much money is spent for administrators who, too often, create/maintain jobs for themselves at the expense of our wonderful students! We have California State Standards for Instruction (K-12), California Standards for the Teaching Profession, and California Curriculum standards/recommendations to guide teachers. One administrator, and a strong School Board, for multiple schools would actually help everyone by saving money, streamlining processes, and removing barriers. Teachers & Parents could choose from the curriculum that the state recommends and that best meets the needs of our students. It would be nice to shake things up with our current administration AND board. What do parents out there think? All that I know feel similar -- we want to work together and often find too many barriers to that. I feel like parents support us. Can't wait to see things unfold!!!


3 people like this
Posted by MVWSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I just wanted to mention the the API scores are often lower in schools that have a higher English Language Learner population. There are 5 stages in English Language Learning. These students will become Fully English Proficient in about 5 years, as well as proficient in their first language. Research shows that these students tend to do better in High School, College, and life than their non-ELL peers -- especially in the areas of Science and Math. A high percentage of our ELL's go on to Los Altos High School when they leave Middle School. Be careful how you may judge schools/students/teachers/ethnic groups based on API. There are many other factors to consider. I'm sure you can find a way to keep your precious funds in your own schools -- don't worry about that! Let's just work together to simplify things for everyone and save money!!!


3 people like this
Posted by le dude
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

"These students will become Fully English Proficient in about 5 years, as well as proficient in their first language. Research shows that these students tend to do better in High School, College, and life than their non-ELL peers -- especially in the areas of Science and Math."

Simply not true. The statistics don't support it. It only applies to a small fraction of ELLs.


3 people like this
Posted by SoonToBeLASDParent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

JohnTheMan... please don't insult everyone in the LASD by insinuating racism is the driving force behind aversion to merging districts. LASD parents are asked $1K per year, per child to make up funding shortfalls for their kids education... they pay what many would consider exorbitant parcel taxes to do the same. Many vounteer in the classroom weekly, or take central roles in fundraising efforts. They do this, not because of some thinly veiled need to harm those in other districts, but because they want the best education for their children and know it comes at a price and with significant effort and involvement. California has a very challenging educational environment... LASD does not. The teachers in LASD have the good fortune of the being able to focus on teaching, and most parents in the district go to great lengths to make sure the teachers and students have what they need. Anything that puts this at risk will be opposed, for whatever the reason.


3 people like this
Posted by Gloria Higgins
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 7, 2010 at 6:50 am

This is the topic on KQED's Forum at 9:00am. Wed, Jul 7, 2010 -- 9:00 AM
FM 88.5

School District Consolidation in Santa Clara County?
The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury has recommended that the County consolidate many of its small school districts into four larger districts. The civil grand jury says the move will save the County in administrative costs -- but critics say the move won't save money and students would be better served by smaller districts.

Host: Michael Krasny

Guests:
Angie Cardoza, jury foreman for the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury
Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District
David Gordon, superintendent of the Sacramento County Office of Education
Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford University and former president of the California Board of Education
William Mathis, managing director of education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder


3 people like this
Posted by vfree
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

If you like the way the public education and schools are administered, wait until they control healthcare.


3 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Stop being selfish. Schools are not about API scores, they are about educating students. It is a no-brainer that the same kids who attend elementary school and middle school together could be part of the same HS district. It works just fine in Palo Alto. And before I hear protests, I think Ravenswood (EPA) should absolutely be absorbed into another district instead of sending its best, brightest and most well-supported student to charter schools and other districts thru the Tinsley program.


3 people like this
Posted by SoonToBeLASDParent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 8, 2010 at 11:28 pm

PA Mom... not sure I understand, MVW and LASD are in the same high school district (MVLA). No one wishes poor performance for other districts, but merging districts has the potential to disproportionately help the educational and financial interests of one group of parents and residents, while disproportionately hurting the interests of another. If not harm LASD education, a MVLA unified would immediately hit property values (especially MV homes in LASD). Why should these parents support a merge? This reminds me of all the traffic calming measures that inevitable send commuters down streets that were not previously busy... someone gets the shaft, and it is disingenuous to believe those that get it should see the benefits others may get as worth it. Selfish, maybe, but I would venture your tune would change if you had a child that was to be enrolled in a newly created PA/EPA school (of course that's not possible, and MVW is no ravenswood).


3 people like this
Posted by MVWSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

My hat is off to PA Mom! I am also a PA Mom whose children attended PA Schools. I teach in Mountain View! I understand that the desire to protect our children and provide for their best interests is at the heart of every parent (for me also). Sometimes parents can become blind, and/or unreasonable when it comes to seeking out the best for their/our children -- we make decisions based on what we know, or think we know, but this is often hampered by our emotions/fear (not a good way to make decisions and influenced by our prejudice/steriotyping. I challenge parents to think of how important it is for our children to be prepared for the future -- one that includes DIVERSITY. As far as property values go, it is unfortunate that people actually think a merger would bring property values down. I challenge you to find any evidence of such a thing going on in any other similar town -- show me the facts! I actually think that all Santa Clara County Schools should be merged under the Santa Clara County Department of Education! That would cut the fat out fast!!!


3 people like this
Posted by bobobear
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm

the consolidation makes sense - the teacher's had to absorb a layoff
there is a lot of FAT at the top - do the math - 3 boards down to 1
besides all the sleeping around the sup and principles do - ghysels should of been fired instead he gets promoted to scoe - free willy!

and let's not forget the bungled mess lausd made out of bullis
again - fire all the boards - have reps from each constituancy
on one board - one stop shopping, easier to watchdog developers

also there are 2 mv schools "district'd" for la
also there are several polarized neighborhoods created by fat developers in mv "districted" for la ie the crossings dispite the fact that they are on the "wrong" side of the el camino

the district lines are bunk - created a long time ago

i'm curious what school distict the new pumpkin patch homes will get? first - oak or springer before huff


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Jackson Park

on Jun 4, 2017 at 11:31 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Contemporary Indian restaurant, Ettan, headed to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 6,144 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,418 views

Two degrees can do all that?
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 969 views

Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 598 views

 

Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More