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MV Whisman board struggles to balance enrollment

Original post made on Apr 13, 2016

The Mountain View Whisman School District doubled down on efforts to balance enrollment across all the elementary schools last week, after board members agreed that each school campus in the district ought to be built to hold 450 students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 1:58 PM

Comments (40)

Posted by You can't have it both ways
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Ellen Wheeler, you can't have a 450 student school at Huff and Bubb and have all the families in those neighborhoods get go to one of those schools. Why doesn't the district open a new school in that area, where we actually need one?

If the Board was using data, rather than buckling under pressure and bullying from Nelson and Colodonato, they would NOT be opening a new school at Slater in the area where we have declining enrollment. It makes no sense, so of course the numbers don't add up.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:56 pm

As the district has evolved from the two former districts, a series of enrollment area decisions have led to Huff & Bubb being oversubscribed. Carefully unwinding those decisions will level out attendance. It would also be helpful if parents would realize that high performing schools are mostly made up of high performing students. Parents can raise high performing students regardless of which school in our district their students attend.

During past periods of economic decline in Silicon Valley young families had fewer housing opportunities south of El Camino. Older, well established tech workers do have those opportunities now, so enrollment areas (which have never been defined as permanent) need to be adjusted again.

Posted by Theureukauf
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 13, 2016 at 3:20 pm

TH is not subject to Open Enrollment because it is the lowest performing school in the district. It is subject to OE because it is a failing school as designated by the CDE. The data used is pretty old at this point due to the change to the SBAC tests, but that's the designation for now.

If you are in Los Altos and every school but yours is a 10 on Great Schools but yours is a 9, you don't get to request a transfer. It's only the schools that are such low performers as to be put on a state list where parents have the right to request out.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Apr 13, 2016 at 4:49 pm

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

Posted by dk
a resident of Slater
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:27 pm

@You can't have it both ways

According to the past 2 demographers reports the NE quadrant, Slater area, is actually the fastest growing area in the district. It also has ~20% of the students currently enrolled in the district. The demographers only look at the next couple of years so don't take into account the 10k micro-units in North Bayshore.

Due to gentrification the area with declining enrollment is believed to be around Castro / Mistral. Of course, Mistral has district wide enrollment and the current thinking of some of the board seems to be that the extra rooms at Castro could be used for daycare.

A bunch of kids are actually crossing El Camino to reach Huffs. Opening Slater would help address over-crowding at both Huffs & Landels. Possibly others dependent on what the new task force / board does.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Since no one within Bubb or Huff is going to raise their hand and voluntarily go to Castro/Th/Monta Loma, getting down to 450/school is going to take revisiting the boundaries, and enforcing them.

If a large group left Huff or Bubb together for another school, they could help make it great- but let's be realistic- who wants to do that, and who wants to commute? I wouldn't. But I also don't see a serious boundary restructuring happening anytime soon, with the current board or superintendent.

Posted by Concerned Castro area parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:43 pm

"Due to gentrification the area with declining enrollment is believed to be around Castro / Mistral."
Why is that? One answer is that the school board seems but at all invested in assuring the district is providing an equally high quality education in each school. I'm planning on sending my now-toddler to Castro or Mistral, and it's sad that what is implied, or what is occurring, is that people involved in "gentrifying" this area are not sending their kids to local public schools. I understand this, no one wants to sacrifice their childrens' education...But sending our kids to other district schools, private schools, etc will not improve our poorly-performing schools. Perhaps enforcing borders will. I hope to invest in our community and or local school. It's unfortunate our school board is so clearly dysfunctional, but hopefully concerned and engaged parents of kids assigned to under-performing schools will continue to advocate for and help improve resources and scores in these schools.

Posted by dk
a resident of Slater
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:00 pm

@Concerned Castro area parent

Sorry, I should have been clearer. When I cited gentrification resulting in lower enrollment in the Castro area I was referring to the point the demographers made about higher rents forcing folks out of housing, that currently have many families in them, and being replaced with a single family or young professionals without kids.

Hopefully the new turnaround programs put in place at Castro are effective and help address the reasons that you cite.

Posted by SW
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:27 pm

How about starting with the out of district students in our schools?

Posted by @SW
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 13, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Very valid point. Getting in district is medium-hard. Staying in district = easier than kindergarten homework.

Kicking out non-district kids at Huff and Bubb might just do the trick to get them to 450 each.

Also it's practically free! Why aren't we looking into this as a district? Rudolph?

Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:02 am

Cfrink is a registered user.

We as Mountain View can't have it both ways. All of our schools have talented teachers and administrations. Test Scores do not determine how good a school really performs. I think we should continue to build stronger communities at Theuerkauf and Castro. Both of those schools have incredibly passionate and talented Administrators who fight daily for their student's well being. I can't understand why any parent wouldn't want that for their children. Those schools need a strong group of families to send their kids there and build the community at those schools. The educational factors at those schools are solid. All that's missing is dedicated parents which is what the "better performing" schools have as an advantage. The rest of this is choices. We do what's best for the children. We already know what that looks like. It's just time to get it done.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2016 at 7:47 am

Wheeler: why would Huff get special treatment? Not all of the incoming Kinders slated to attend Landels were placed at their home school. Why aren't we equally concerned about them?
Connie Sawdey ran Theuerkauf into the ground. Her retirement was a blessing. Now it's time to clean house from office staff to the teachers who were placed there for bad behavior, but because of contract can't be fired.

Posted by Real solutions
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

As others have written before, it's a chicken and egg thing. For schools to turn around, there has to be enough active parents to help make that happen, especially early on. This is not unique to schools. Just ask Google how well they fared with trying to convince people to leave Facebook for Google+. There is a stickiness social factor that cannot be ignored.

Speaking as someone who lives in the neighborhood, with so many of the neighborhood kids already going to the two choice programs, TH becomes an afterthought. Naturally parents talk to each other about schools, especially among neighbors. Since so many in our neighborhood attend Stevenson or the DI, those are the schools new parents hear about - both wonderful programs. Those schools become the benchmark for those new families. Families who don't get into those two programs often choose private school. You may not like that, but I think you are asking a lot of parents to do otherwise. If all your neighbors kids attend a great school, and you have to hear about those schools all the time, it takes a very brave soul to attend a school that appears to have little going for it, especially when you don't even know anyone else going there. I'm being brutally honest, but that is what the district is up against. The district will have to address that if they want to change things. Ignoring it, reassigning boundaries, or simply saying, "If everyone in the neighborhood sent their kids there the school would be great" - while true! - is not enough to reverse the flow.

I agree with another poster, the new TH principal seems much better than the previous. However, so much damage has been done already, it will take a long time to undo. One person can only do so much. With demand clearly high for Stevenson, and even a STEM focused program, I don't know why the district does not add one of these programs to TH. Offering something unique and in demand is the fastest way to get a large number of active families to take the gamble with TH. Once there, they will likely be very happy. But they need an incentive to get there first, and they need an incentive to get there in large enough numbers to notice a difference. Otherwise, these schools will continue to limp along, and local private schools and landlords in Los Altos, Palo Alto and even some neighborhoods in MV will have a field day.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Sounds like it's time for Huff and Bubb to split off into their own district, or to join the Los Altos district. I have no idea how or if this could actually be accomplished.

Posted by resident
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 14, 2016 at 2:43 pm

FWIW you'd be surprised at how many kids who live a block away from Huff go to school elsewhere, such as Dual Immersion at Castro, St Nicholas, and St Simon. Not sure of the numbers, but you can be sure that not all kids living nearby go to Huff.

Does the district track the number of MV residents that go to private schools?

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 15, 2016 at 9:29 am


Private School does mean PRIVATE. Parents don't have to tell anyone where their kids go to school. So how would MVWSD track that information. Parents can certainly volunteer their own reasons to the district, but why would they want to??

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 15, 2016 at 11:15 am

The above poster may have meant "does the district keep an eye on how many kids opt out of their public schools".

You would only need to know census info and subtract kids attending district schools from school-age kids living within district boundaries to get a rough answer.

You'd of course have an incorrect one because you'd have out-of-district students attending MV schools in the equation & messing up the numbers :).

Posted by Is out of district really an issue?
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 15, 2016 at 12:52 pm

If I were looking to fraudulently send my kid to a better district, I would go to Los Altos. Just saying.

This idea people keep flogging here that the real problem is out of district kids whose parents are just dying to get them into MV Schools (from where?) makes no sense to me. Does anyone flogging this dead horse have real evidence, or just hearsay? If you have evidence, are you reporting it?

Posted by @out of district
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2016 at 3:07 pm

True, me too. Los altos or Palo Alto. But mountain View gets you:

Bubb. Huff. And Los Altos High. <--- that's a big one.

And it's SO easy to rent one month, leave, and stay in forever. Idk about Los Altos.

There is also major ESL help in MV schools - this is the superintendent's newest push to improve even more- so if you're in San Jose or east of here (or whatever) and you want ESL help for your kid, MV is the place to be, moreso than LA or PA.

Posted by LASD vs MVWSD
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Both districts are VERY well funded compared to other Santa Clara County districts. LASD had total revenues of $52 Million last year versus $55 Million for MVWSD. About the same number of kids. 4675 LASD 5065 MVWSD. Yep, if you're in Huff or Bubb, it's a very good deal and easy to see why someone forced out by rising rent would keep on attending this district even after relocating elsewhere, especially if the parents work in the MV area.

Posted by m2grs
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm

It's silly and wasteful to invest in expanding classrooms when enrollment goes down. Maybe politically correct, but very wasteful.

How about use the money to expand school hours in low-performing schools, say to 6pm? I bet that will have a huge positive impact on student learning.

I remember there was a news that in China a low-performing school forced all students to study in school until 8pm, dinner provided, except Friday. The result was spectacularly positive.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 17, 2016 at 1:47 pm

I wish there was something attractive about our local school, Monta Loma. People have little to say about it. Right now, I have no plans for my preschoolers to attend there.

Posted by Worried Parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 18, 2016 at 11:37 pm

@ Real solutions = amen! everything you wrote I agree with 100%. I'm in the TH area and I'm not sending my kids there. And now where do my kids go....

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

@Worried Parentx2:

Folks, You can't believe everything you hear. But if you do, you can choose to invest your resources in Private Schools (many choices). Or you can choose to invest your time in your local school. People have been saying these things about ML & TH since the 90's. The most important factor in a good school is prepared, motivated students, ready to learn. If your kids are those kids, they will succeed at any MVWSD campus, regardless of what you might have heard or read. I'm going to keep repeating, the only thing the old API index actually measured was "Affluent Parents", specifically Mother's educational attainment and interest in her children's education.

Posted by ML Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 19, 2016 at 8:01 pm

@Parent: regarding Monta Loma, let's see:
- California Distinguished School (won a couple years ago)
- Very diverse school (socioeconomically diverse, also people from different backgrounds like international families, military families)
- Strong math program results
- Large site (most permanent classrooms of any school in the district)
- First in line for remodeling

It's a good neighborhood school... and you may want to wait and see about the new principal they're hiring before dismissing it as an option for your preschoolers.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Apr 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

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

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Thank you commenters. Many of the MVWSD Board read this commentary forum. I particularly agree with Old Steve of Rex Manor on his comments just above. There are families with dual graduate degrees and/or professional degrees who enroll their kids in TH or ML elementary, contribute to those (mixed) communities, and have been happy with public education. Old Steve is one of them. I personally know others at ML.

Conversely - I have personally known parents in PAUSD, who were unhappy with the school environments - and enrolled their kid in private school! And there are parents (believable?) in Los Altos school district who want another environment for their kids - and enroll them in private schools (or public charter BCS). > $30,000 8th grade private tuition anyone?

MVWSD is a "community funded" district. Any student going to private school takes $0 (Zero Dollars) of our property-tax-based revenue. They reduce our funds by nothing! Any student moving to private school takes $0 (Zero Dollars, nada) of our public funding with them (no 'public vouchers' in CA).

SN is an elected Trustee of the MVWSD, his agreement with Old Steve is his own and not necessarily MVWSD's

Posted by ML Parent 2
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Monta Loma is great for K-2. Let me know if you visit the playground or classroom for upper grades. It's a physical danger zone (playground) and psychological mess (classroom) as many have left for private or other area districts by that time.

Let's not be so quick to judge "Parent" for not planning to send her preschoolers there. Maybe she's witnessed some hairy playground situations that not everyone here has, or would simply like a more attractive program (to some) such as mandarin immersion.

Posted by Reasons for private
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2016 at 1:53 pm

People don't always go to private schools because they hate their local district schools. This is a misconception.

People sometimes turn to private schools when their child(ren) have a need for a smaller, more controlled classroom environment that can't be found in a larger public school. Or, they may want more field trips/religion/second languages/etc.

These are all very different reasons than being unhappy with a district.

Posted by Real Solutions
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 21, 2016 at 5:57 pm

@ Steve Nelson

Your statement isn't exactly right. In our neighborhood more and more families are choosing to homeschool, which is usually done through an online charter school. The charter school is a public school and is given most of that money instead of the school district. This will continue to take funds from your district. Numbers may be small now, but I've seen them growing.

Maybe if you lost funds for every private school enrollment, you would have an incentive to deliver a desired product. 130 kinders on the Stevenson waitlist?! That's a disgrace, and you seem not to care? (Who cares if they enroll in private, we get to keep their money anyway.)

If we do choose to enroll in a private school, you may still get our tax dollars, but you'll be missing out on the large donations we would be making to our school and foundation, as well as hours and hours of volunteer time. Multiply that by all the families you lose to private school, and I feel sorry for those left to help the schools with so little support. You may want to care a little more about the families you are loosing. They are the very ones in a great position to help.

Posted by School Choice
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:06 pm

In MVWSD and LASD, as across the country, 20-30% of kids are in private schools K-8. This is not counting Charter schools. In MVWSD, you can see the drop off in public school participation in 6-8 grade. It's the Jr High's that are not popular in MVWSD. Perhaps it's related to all the fanatical attention to elementary schools as shown in the comments on this article. In LASD, interestingly, it's the case that kids go to private schools for K-6 but then return for Junior High. Others do the reverse, like MVWSD.

MVWSD isn't a community funded district last I checked. They are state funded by just a hair. Regardless, they collect about $12K in tax revenue overall from all sources per child. When a kid goes to Charter school, that school only receives about $7k, but it's less if the kid is NOT disadvantaged and more if he is. Something like $6.3K for non-disadvantaged and $7.5K if he is disadvantaged.

Posted by Shame on you Nelson
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 22, 2016 at 9:12 am

Nothing this man says should be shocking at this point but the idea that an elected school board member would suggest in a public forum that it's cool with him if kids go private because we still get their parents' tax dollars is beyond shameful.

The school board, of which he is a pitiful example of a member, *exists* to serve kids in this city. The fact that many parents are choosing to for those kids to leave is something a decent human being would care about. And Real Solutions is exactly right-- the parents who are involved enough to give all the time, thought, and money to private schools are exactly the ones we don't want to lose. If Nelson speaks for anyone but himself, our district is in big trouble.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

Thanks nex-to-last commenters. I understand that free choice involves many reasons. I also am very aware of the Demographics in MVWSD - K-5th has consistently averaged 3% per year decrease,. 9% (nine percent) drop form 5th elementary to 6th (middle schools). I have family friends that 'faced the middle school' crisis with their kids in that way. Go to 3 years of private school.

The comparison noted between LASD and ours is very interesting (I knew it but glad those others are paying close attention). LASD does not have any grade to grade drop off in enrollment! There is no distinct middle school droop off (6th --> 7th). Why? Good speculative question. The Economic Disadvantaged in LASD - ah - 2% or so.

We are definitely "community funded" and expect to be so for 4-5 years (CBO - Ap 21 public meeting). However - hey, I don't really know how "subtraction of LAFF ADA equivalent" funding exactly affects MVWSD Budget. Good Question! Does K12. inc. get some of our LCFF ADA funds (Mercury New 2 day 'expose') - you are probably right Real Solutions! I guess Summit Schools (Danali Charter middle school in Sunnyvale) also must therefore get some ADA money.

Do I care that ST enrollment has become the most segregated (Economic Advantage) in the District? Do you? Does it matter that TH has > 80% Target Students (LCFF +20% funding) when it's neighborhood enrollment area starts as 45% ED? (came up in the 2015 Boundary Task Force demographers. study). Can we ask such questions? Gloria Higgins - 2004 Board member and candidate called it "the elephant in the room."

TH used to have 30 Ks on it's waiting list. Since ST opened - the dynamics of enrollment have obviously changed around the "Rex Manor" neighborhood and PACT preference. Gloria Higgins put it in her comments on her 2004 run for office (she won BTW),"Each school should look like the entire district, so we don't have segregated schools.". [ Web Link ]

This is a Human Relations Committee type of community issue I think. For, I think contrary to Higgins' 2004 wish, this is still "like the elephant in the room".

PS - I voted to build ST as an entirely separate school, (Agenda Ap 21) and have supported it through the 2015 'troubles' as a program that deserved to both keep its 'central' site, and keep it's school.
SN, even as a MVWSD Trustee - expresses his own opinions - which are not the word of the MVWSD or its Board.

Posted by Rafael
a resident of Slater
on Apr 22, 2016 at 11:31 am

I would like to know few things:
Why is it that Slater School can not be open to K-students for next year who live within the neighborhood?(I live a block away.)

I am forced to drive my son to Monta Loma for kindergarden next year when I belong to Landels. Could the district verify how many more K-students that belong's to Landels brought back to their school and not forced out to have another section within the school????

Now for a bigger concern not talk in this tread,
Why are really great middle school tenure teachers leaving our district?
Specially at Crittenden Middle School. That is something our new Superintendent should look into in. How many tenure teacher has the school lost in the past 3 years? Can someone post that information per year and the total amount of teachers in that specific school???

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 22, 2016 at 11:40 am

The decision to move ahead with Slater School is not that old. Public School construction requires a review by the State's Division of State Architect. This usually adds 4-6 months to the preparation of plans for a school. The board can answer for the reasons not to place a couple of portables on the campus to start with K or K-1.

As to teachers, just from conversation with my neighbors, as rents have gone up, so has commuting time. Many teachers prefer other activities to 60 minute commutes each way. One I know has moved to Reno for a teaching job, and in less than a year has saved enough to buy her own home before her 30th birthday. Not sure how we compete with that as home in Reno cost about 1/3 of a small condo in Mtn Vw.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 22, 2016 at 11:44 am

As I have stated before, one terrorist attack on a school in America and you may well not need large school sites as parents will not continue sending their children into buildings that may become terrorist targets. In addition, it is increasingly obvious that lower-to-moderate income renters will soon not be able to rent in Mountain View - absent real action by the City Council or passage of the rent control-just cause eviction City Charter amendment initiative that was just presented to the City on April 1. That initiative will need more than 4,500 signatures of registered voters just to qualify for the ballot. The school district should plan for these new realities.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 22, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Hey Gary,

Last time I checked, Columbine, VA Tech and Sandy Hook had all passed into recent history without the kind of change you postulate. Student populations will vary up and down, but even high priced tech workers may someday decide to start families and need public schools. Quality public schools have been a fundamental community goal in most of the United States for a least the last century. Once when populations dipped, our neighboring district sold school sites to homebuilders, now they have overcrowded schools again.

Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Apr 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

> I am forced to drive my son to Monta Loma for kindergarden next year when I belong to Landels.

Theuerkauf is only a few minutes/half mile further away than Landels.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm

@ Old Steve. Great that you have already adjusted to the imminent loss of lower and middle-income renters. As to terrorists, wishful thinking is nice but contingency planning is essential.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 25, 2016 at 11:01 am

@ Gary, No argument here about contingency planning for violent events. If all those plans were perfectly public, they would be of limited use. Except of course to potential perpetrators. Maintaining the socio-economic diversity of our community is well beyond the School District's portfolio. Given how fast enrollment trends can change, planning for a mid-point would be ideal, but in this case that would have meant going forward without Slater. Don't worry, when cuts are made, do to lower enrollments, I'll be asking all the noisy Slater folks if they are happy now. Until then, plan for the worst, hope for the best. We appreciate your ideas, but I'd hate to half to bet in a hyperbole contest between you and Trustee Nelson.

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