Foothill officials lament 'missed opportunity' on Cubberley

Middlefield Campus prepares for exit to Sunnyvale after 27 years in Palo Alto

As Foothill College prepares for an eventual exit from Palo Alto, college officials expressed regret they could not reach agreement with the Palo Alto Unified School District for shared use of the old Cubberley High School campus.

Former Palo Alto Mayor Betsy Bechtel, now a trustee of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, said she was "deeply disappointed at the lack of collaboration," despite what she said had been years of efforts.

Trustee Bruce Swenson, a 35-year Palo Alto resident, said the failure to agree represented a "huge missed opportunity" to create an educational institution for the future.

Bechtel said she was particularly galled to hear public testimony at a City Council meeting recently to the effect that, "'It will hurt our brand in Palo Alto if we allow a community college to be (at Cubberley) as opposed to Stanford.'

"That really bothered me because we are a real resource to the community, and I think people don't know it and don't appreciate it," said Bechtel, a Stanford University graduate, in an emotional statement during a Foothill-De Anza trustees' meeting Monday.

"I've heard some school board people say, 'Our children don't go to community college, they only go to four-year colleges.' I hope people will convey ... that they may think Palo Alto students only take AP classes, but there are a whole lot that don't, and there are a whole lot that our schools could serve better," Bechtel said.

Between 13 percent and 18 percent of Gunn and Palo Alto high school graduates enter community college after graduation each year, according to figures supplied by Foothill-De Anza.

The high schools themselves publish somewhat lower percentages. Gunn said that 13.7 percent of its Class of 2010 said they planned to attend two-year colleges, and Paly published a figure of 9.2 percent.

Bechtel said many other Palo Alto students begin at four-year schools but return to regroup at Foothill when things don't work out as planned.

Foothill offers a little-known Transfer Program in which admission to certain University of California and California State Universities is guaranteed if a student maintains an agreed-upon Foothill grade point average.

The college works with administrators at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools to offer many classes on those campuses -- including digital photography, Photo Shop, sports medicine and environmental horticulture -- for which students get both high school and Foothill credit.

However, except for a Java class once offered at Gunn, Palo Alto schools have not taken up the collaboration offer from Foothill, according to Denise Swett, Foothill's associate vice president for the Middlefield Campus and community programs.

Swett oversees Foothill's Middlefield Campus, which serves up to 4,000 students, about 25 percent from Palo Alto. Since 1984 the Middlefield Campus has occupied about five buildings at Cubberley and now pays $933,000 a year in rent to the city of Palo Alto.

With $40 million in bond money, Foothill had hoped to purchase 8 acres at Cubberley to build a state-of-the-art education center.

That option appeared all but dead this week when the Palo Alto City Council decided to send a letter to Foothill-De Anza stating it is not interested in selling Cubberley's eight city-owned acres. The decision followed a unanimous June 28 statement by the Board of Education that it will need all of Cubberley's 35 acres for future enrollment growth.

Foothill officials said despite numerous meetings with Palo Alto school officials, they could not find enough common ground for collaboration.

"Over the past year there have been a number of meetings with the superintendent that also have been attended by the city manager," Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Linda Thor said.

"We have not found a lot of areas of agreement on opportunities for joint programming, or even necessarily a shared vision for the type of programming we would offer at an education center."

As Foothill turned its sights toward two land options in Sunnyvale, Swett said she hopes to keep some programs at Cubberley, where the college is on a month-to-month lease.

Those include the popular REACH program for people recovering from strokes, as well as classes using gym space, including yoga and pilates.

"We feel like it's a done deal," Swett said. "I'm always looking to collaborate and we've really reached out.

"I'm really disappointed because we really would have loved to stay here."


Like this comment
Posted by Thomas
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Palo Alto snobs...

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Shameful snobbery, PA. You lived up to the worst of your reputation as rich, insensitive mandarins. What is it you're protecting, exactly?

Like this comment
Posted by Hunter
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Hello Palo Alto rich people, I have news for you. We gonna getchyu.

In your effort to protect your children's "education brand" - pause over that one for a moment - you have done them grievous harm. You've gifted them with a sense of classism, entitlement, and invulnerability. This will serve them poorly as they face the darwinian vicissitudes of life. I imagine they will struggle to understand how the social ecosystem tied them willy nilly to those who seek to rise through community college, and I'd like to see the astonishment on their faces when they are bested by those who were tougher than they are because they had to struggle for what they got rather than inheriting it from their snob moms and dads.

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

What are you talking about? 50% of Palo Altans and their students are ethnic Chinese, many just off the boat, with plenty of money from the exploitation of their people back in China. They purchase their green cards, homes, Mercedes Benz (never BMWs, very odd) and houses in Palo Alto and are out to take it over. There is plenty of angst in Palo Alto about it, and it's hilarious to watch. They'll make a great ruling class. I suggest you rework your theory can come back with something else.

Like this comment
Posted by SP Phil
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Can Mountain View benefit from Palo Alto's decision? With our transportation hub, can Foothill find the land it needs for its new facility and provide these programs here?

Like this comment
Posted by Wrebbel
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I agree with SP Phil about inviting them here. How about using the former work furlough and HP sites on Middlefield between 237 and the light rail station?

Like this comment
Posted by greycat
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I cannot believe Foothill was spending $933,000 A YEAR for that rat hole! Let's see, at $17 a credit and for the sake of argument say ~2 credits per course, that means you'd need 27,400 local course registrants just to pay the rent? Even if state and federal funds subsidized half these costs, this was still a RIDICULOUS proposition. I'm no fan of Palo Alto (or Stanford) but maybe this will save FHDA from itself.

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

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