District may evict preschool, use space for high-risk teens | February 17, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - February 17, 2012

District may evict preschool, use space for high-risk teens

by Nick Veronin

A proposal to evict preschool program from its current home on the Mountain View High School campus and replace it with a continuation high school is meeting with vocal opposition.

It was standing room at the local high school district's Feb. 13 board meeting, as supporters of the preschool and residents of the Waverly Park neighborhood to speak out against the plan to move students at Terra Bella onto the high school campus.

Those opposed to the proposal worried that bringing the county continuation school to the area would bring an increase in crime and juvenile delinquency to the neighborhood, and said that the district should figure out a way to solve the issue some other way. Other speakers said that the preschool, which also functions as a parenting class, is an invaluable community resource.

Board members were sympathetic to the community's concerns — pledging to look for other solutions — but made no explicit promises that the Parent Observation Parent Education Program could remain at its current location.

"We don't want to close the Parent Observation Program," said Phil Faillace, president of the board of trustees, noting that he strongly believes in the value of preschool and parent education. "If it turns out that we need their space, perhaps the parent observation program could find a new space and continue to run their program."

Melissa Neumann, a parent who is active in the preschool, said if the district moves forward, the outcome would be disastrous for the preschool.

Considering the short amount of time the school would have to find a new space if it were forced out, it would likely spell the end for the organization, which serves about 150 families each year and has been a part of the community since 1968, according to Neumann.

State Sen. Elaine Alquist called the program "one of the most valuable resources for parents and children in the local community," according to a press release asking for community opposition to the proposal.

Lost lease

On Jan. 31, the Santa Clara County Office of Education informed the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District that it would not be able to renew its lease on the Terra Bella County School at 1012 Linda Vista Ave. at the end of this school year. That means that the county-run alternative school — which educates high-risk students from a number of cities, including San Jose, Fremont and Mountain View — will be closed next fall, and all of its students will need to be moved to similar programs elsewhere.

MVLA district officials have a variety of options of where to move the 20 or so of its students who currently attend Terra Bella, including busing them to a county-run facility in San Jose or finding a place for them within the district.

Barry Groves, superintendent of the district, said busing the students to San Jose would be both expensive and a liability. The most feasible option would be to put the students in the building that currently houses the preschool, he said.

The proposal came as a shock to both parents and officials with the preschool, who found out Feb. 9, as well as to those living in the area surrounding Mountain View High School.

"We were very surprised," Neumann said. "We had no notice."

Neumann acknowledged that the district could not control the terms of the county's lease agreement. Nonetheless, she said, the fact that the district notified the preschool of its proposal to evict it less than a week before the board meeting felt sneaky. "I wish they would have been more forthcoming," she said.

According to board president Faillace, the district needed time to figure out its options after learning about the county's plans to close the Terra Bella campus. He pointed out that the item on Monday's board meeting agenda was strictly informational — held specifically to allow for community input. If the board wanted to sneak this item by, they could have put it to a vote that night, he said.

Faillace also said he understands the concerns of the residents living in the Waverly Park neighborhood, as well as the parents of high school students and children attending the nearby Mountain View Parent Nursery School.

Alice Cota, who lives within one block of the Parent Participation Preschool, 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 Mountain View and Alta Vista high schools, which are located on the same campus at 3535 Truman Ave.

She said there is a lot of litter and that she knows of three daytime break-ins in recent memory. While she can't be certain that high school students are to blame for all of it, she worries that if more teens — especially high-risk teens — are added to the mix, these problems will only get worse.

Complaints such as Cota's have not fallen on deaf ears, Faillace insisted. The board has instructed the superintendent's office to assemble a task force to explore whether another facility in the district might be found for Terra Bella students.

However, Faillace said the board may have to move forward with the proposal even though it is not "the ideal situation."


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Posted by Jan Johnston-Tyler
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

I understand the problems of having a high school across the street -- I have lived across from MVHS for 8 years. However, the high school was very much there when I bought my property, and as such, I was aware of the challenges that comes with this location. To think that there are no downsides to living near ANY school is to have your head in the sand.

I'm not keen on having Terra Bella move across the street, and I am very saddened that the preschool is being shut out. However, SCCOE closed the Terra Bella location, no doubt because of funding issues. MVLA has to find some place to relocate, and they are not exactly flush either. This is a sad -- but very typical -- chain of events in our public school systems. And as always, the disenfranchised youth are shunted about.

Now, let's talk about these kids. Twenty of them. There are already about 170 'at risk' kids at Alta Vista, right next door, which, by the way, is also a 'continuation' school. Yes, the kids at Terra Bella are even more 'high risk' -- but they have also made the CHOICE to go to school. Trust me, they don't have to make that choice, even if judges and truant officers and school districts try to 'make' them. I think that counts for something.

Finally, let's talk about MVLA. They have been wonderful neighbors. Anytime I have ever had any issues with trash, unsafe driving, parking illegally, they have been on it. The principal at AV takes a very serious and active role in making sure his charges do not run amuck in the neighborhood, and has instilled very strict 'must leave by' policies for the students. They simply are not allowed to mill around the school afterhours -- they must leave the area. I have no doubt that an additional 20 kids can be shepherded in the same fashion.

And about OUR schools. MVHS is a wonderful school. We are so lucky to have it in our neighborhood. My son absolutely flourished there, and I anticipate that my daughter will also have a great high school experience there. While I may be lucky in that neither of my children have had emotional or economic challenges that have caused them to run afoul of the typical school career and childhood, I also know many kids who have not been so lucky. And some of them come from families just like mine.

We must take care of all of our children. It's the right thing to do.

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Posted by stay at home mom in the neighborhood
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

We are in the same situation- We weren’t oblivious to the idea that we should consider there may problems or issues that could potentially come from living in such proximity to a high school. But let's be real about the students they are proposing to add to the mix on Bryant Avenue. This is a group of extremely troubled kids who are known to engage in “HIGH risk” behavior and activities, a different category, and whole new level in school terms than "At-risk".
I also believe we must take care of all of our children. I have served as a mentor to at-risk, high-risk, troubled, emotionally challenged, economically challenged ..you name the term- Whatever words the system wants to use to label them. I have been a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) worker for the Santa Clara County foster care system. I look forward to continuing this work. I am not a person who doesn't have compassion for the welfare of all students. We do not ask the district to lock the door over at the Terra Bella site and say "Have a nice life" to the kids. We ask that they find a suitable and appropriate alternate location. To us, this does not translate to a place where “Traditional” high school students (Mountain View High), "Alternative" high school students (Alta Vista High) and preschool kids and families (Mtn View Parent Nursery School) kids are being educated every day.
And regarding the day to day activities of the students at the school. I stay home during the day, and I absolutely DO see students in the neighborhood. At all times of the day. Before school, mid morning, lunch time, and after school. Again, I expected nothing else when I moved into a house that was close to a high school so this is not a complaint, just a reality check. I have called the police on 2 separate occasions, one when a very large group of students were clustered near the edge of the street, taking turns throwing each other into oncoming traffic when the cars reached a certain point on the road. Some form of "chicken" ? Another time when I found a student huddled behind my car in my driveway- He seemed to be hiding and ran off when I asked him if he was ok. A couple of weeks ago I was inside making my coffee when I heard a commotion so loud I went outside to make sure nothing serious was wrong. It seemed to be a mother or guardian of a boy who was trailing a boy up and down the street in her car (he was on foot) and yelling at him about smoking and skipping school. He finally stopped walking and stood in the middle of the street while she stayed in the car. They were literally screaming at each other for 5 minutes. On another occasion I helped a girl jump start her car which was parked on our street and had broken down. She came in the house and I let her use my phone. Our neighbors have told us that they once found a group of kids in their back yard. Less than 3 months ago I was called a MILF and offered a joint by a boy in a group of kids who were walking by. I laughed it off despite the rudeness of this term and told them to get back to class, since I didn't actually see anything... I will stop here since I could go on and on with examples. My point is, we can't say the high school students do not "mill around" the neighborhood. The fact is that they do.
We have no idea what type of or frequency of interactions this new student population will have with the community. Do we want to take the risk to wait and find out? Absolutely not. Please help us come up with alternative locations for these students who absolutely do deserve our compassion and help and another chance, etc. But let's not jeopardize the safety and well being of our other students. Not to mention the peace of mind of the surrounding community and neighborhood.

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Posted by Doubting MVLA intentions
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I find it disheartening that one of the Santa Clara County Board of Education Members, Craig Mann, made the following comment about this story in the Mercury News (Palo Alto Daily):

The Santa Clara County Office of Education is NOT, repeat NOT pulling the plug on Terra Bella. We have been subsidizing the lease to the tune of $150,000 per year for the local districts use. We can not afford to continue this subsidy. The local district(s) should they choose can continue the program, but they have to pay their own lease costs. This is the simple, plain truth.
Craig Mann
Member, Santa Clara County Board of Education
(link to original quote below)
Web Link

That being said, isn't it curious that the President of the MVLA Board, Faillace, says to the paper (and not before parents started asking questions at the board meeting) that they don't want to close Parent Observation, and *perhaps* the program could find another space. In three months, when parents are making decisions for what to do next year, after it took LAPP over one whole year to relocate their program.
The MVLA Board should have had other options on their list.
They know full well what they are doing. They are not being honest to the community.
I suspect that SCCOE will continue to run Terra Bella as they currently are if the participating districts (MVLA, PAUSD, & FUHSD) chip in for rent. I know all districts are strapped for cash, but how would turning one program into three separate programs in three separate locations save money?
Thank you to all the parents who are standing up for Parent Observation and working to help both programs.
To Phil Faillace, how can you stand to disrupt the Parent Observation program for no reason? How is it cheaper to move two programs than one? Oh, wait, you are not helping the Parent Observation program, are you. "They" can figure it out on their own. And how disrespectful to say you could have put it to a vote that night...the other board members did not seem ready to vote.

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Posted by William S.
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 22, 2012 at 6:32 am

Sure, as residents near a high school we should expect some amount of disturbance for the convenience for our children, but also as a stay at home dad I see the disregard, disrespect and lawlessness EVERY school day. I invite anyone to sit with me in my front yard during any morning lunch or afternoon....
The HS District makes no attempt to control even it's regular high school kids off campus. This facility needs to be in a commercial or central city area. not residential.