If you live within the Sequoia High School District and have a child who is nearing high school age, you’re probably somewhat aware of the challenges the school board is facing with balancing the enrollment at the four high schools. The problem is that while enrollment is flat or down at Sequoia, Menlo Atherton, and Woodside high schools, Carlmont is literally bursting at the seams. Why? Since the City of San Carlos made that fateful decision over 20 years ago to tear down their perfectly good high school, many of the residents have taken advantage of inter-district transfer option and have sent their children to Carlmont, which is closer for a lot of us than Sequoia. In the past 20 years, the demographic make-up of San Carlos (and surrounding communites) has changed entirely, and the number of children approaching high school age is at record levels. Consequently, the “open door” at Carlmont may close this year for many families who would like to attend but don’t live within the Carlmont district.
But that’s just the background, and not the reason for this post. Being residents of San Carlos and having the first of our three kids entering high school next year, my wife and I are part of this group of parents who just assumed we’d apply for a transfer and follow the droves of other San Carlos families to Carlmont (even though we’re in the Sequoia district.) I mean, who would go to Sequoia, right? I’ve lived in either Redwood City or San Carlos for the past 43 years — you just didn’t go to Sequoia because you wanted to — you went because you had to. So if you had asked me 6 months ago if I was going to write an article like this I would have laughed (long and loud, for that matter.) Hey, old perceptions die hard.
Fast forward to present…. As part of this re-balancing process, parents who wish to apply for an inter-district transfer MUST first tour their designated high school, and their child must “shadow” another student there for a day. For us, that meant reluctantly going to Sequoia and going through the motions just to confirm what I thought I already knew.
And I’m glad that I did, because I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This is not your father’s Sequoia High School. When Principal Morgan Marchbanks took over the helm of the school nearly 9 years ago, she essentially picked the school up by its collective feet and shook out everything that wasn’t working. In it’s place she implemented leading edge educational programs such as the International College Advancement Program (ICAP) and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which provides students with study options that are so advanced that students actually get college credit for some of these courses.
Realizing that programs don’t implement themselves, Principal Marchbanks embarked on an aggressive recruiting campaign to attract the best and brightest teachers and administrators to breathe life into not only the core academia, but the arts and trades (such as dance and woodshop.) One of those key hires was vice principal Bonnie Hansen, who together with Principal Marchbanks, has created a leading-edge learning environment where challenges are abundant for every student, and respect is mandatory for anyone who steps foot on the campus.
This school has a buzz and vibe that I haven’t felt at other schools that I have visited. Combine all of this with the first rate facilities and Stanford-like campus, and the recipe is ripe for success. But don’t take my word for it — check it out for yourself. Because if Morgan Marchbanks and her staff have their way (which I have no doubt they will) Sequoia High School will soon have the same problem that Carlmont has — more students will WANT to come here than they will have room for.
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