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Sequoia Union High School District Proposes Boundary Changes.

January 15, 2014 San Carlos Schools No Comments
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All 4 Schools Affected.

According to a news flash on their website this afternoon, the Sequoia Union High School District is proposing changes to the enrollment boundaries for each of their 4 public high schools which would be effective in the 2015-16 school year.   There was no explanation given on the site as to why the District is looking to make these changes, but one could likely assume that it has to do with balancing out the rapidly growing enrollment across the District.

The District has provided some high-level maps to outline the changes are proposing.  They can be found on this page — just click on the link for the changes proposed for each of the schools.  It’s a little bit hard to see exactly where the changes will take place from these maps, but they give you a general idea of what the District is thinking about.

Will it Impact San Carlos?

Yes.  The map associated with both Carlmont and Sequoia High Schools shows that the most significant proposed change is to San Carlos residents is re-zone the area that’s west of the Alameda and on the north side of Brittan Avenue (that currently feeds into Sequoia High School) and put it into Carlmont’s boundary.  See the circled area below:

Proposed Changes: Sequoia High School Boundary

Proposed Changes: Sequoia High School Boundary

One might have expected the opposite — to reduce the number of students going to Carlmont.  With all of the talk about how over crowded Carlmont is, this seems somewhat counter-intuitive.   But this underscores the dramatic growth that Sequoia High School has experienced over the past 5 years, and the measures the District needs to take to keep it balanced.

Meeting Tonight.

It’s late notice, but this topic is slated to be discussed at tonight’s District Meeting, which starts at 5:30 at the District Office at 480 James Street in Redwood City.   If you’re at all concerned about these proposed changes, it might be worthwhile to attend this meeting.

(Thanks to blog reader Nelson for the tip on this very important proposed change.)
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What’s the Plan for Adding More School Capacity in San Carlos?

September 25, 2013 San Carlos Schools 3 Comments
SCSD Door

 The 2013 Master Plan.

The title of this post also happens to be one of the most often asked questions that I get from new buyers today in San Carlos.   This comes as absolutely no surprise, since the reputation of the School District here still ranks among the top reasons that home buyers want to make San Carlos their new address.   In recent years, the insatiable demand by families with school age children to buy homes that reside within school boundaries has pushed the District enrollment to its limits.  The physical capacity of the schools simply can no longer accommodate all of the students that will be attending in the coming years.

Most buyers do know that a $72M bond measure was passed by voters to fund the expansion and improvement of the District, but many don’t know how the School District is going to change as a result of this.   There were, after all, several options that were discussed.   So hopefully this post will answer most of the common questions, and provide you a resource if you need more information.

The Build Out.

Back in March of this year, the Board of Trustees of the San Carlos School District settled on one of the various options that were on the table about how to increase capacity to handle the future enrollment requirements.   That plan is outlined in great detail below in the 2013 Master Facilities Plan, but here are the key points:

  • All four elementary schools will be reduced from the existing K-4 configuration to K-3, which will allow for more K-3 classes at each location.
  • There will be two “bridge” facilities built at the existing Central and Tierra Linda Middle School locations, which will accommodate 4th and 5th grades and handle about 400 students each.  They are tentatively known as the Arroyo and Dartmouth Schools, respectively.
  • 6-8 grades will remain in their existing locations.
  • Numerous upgrades and improvements will be made to all of the existing school facilities.
  • Full implementation will take about 3-4 years.   The Arroyo bridge school will likely be ready a full year before Dartmouth.

If you’re interested in more details of the plan, including projected costs, here’s a link with lots of information:  The San Carlos School Facilities Master Plan – 2013.  It’s an interesting read, and does a great job of highlighting the exciting changes that will be happening in the coming years to all of the schools in San Carlos.
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A Changing of the Guard at White Oaks Elementary School.

White Oaks School

Principal to Depart.

In a letter that I’m sure shocked many White Oaks School parents, Principal Elizabeth Veal announced yesterday that she has accepted a principal position in the Hillsborough City School District for the 2013-14 school year and will leave her position as the principal of White Oaks Elementary School next week at the end of the current school year.

The announcement was made via an email to the parents on the school district email list.   For those of you who did not receive it, here is the announcement in its entirety:

“Dear White Oaks Families,

I am writing with difficult news to share with you, the staff, and the students of White Oaks…

Last Friday, I was offered and have now accepted a principal position in the Hillsborough City School District for the ’13-’14 school year. This opportunity was truly unexpected, and it has been a very emotional process for me in making this decision, but in the end, this opportunity will be best for me and my family.

I want to thank each and every one of you for all your support and for the trust that you have given me and the White Oaks staff in teaching your children and helping them to become fine human beings and academic scholars. I am honored and feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to work with your children. White Oaks students are incredible! I am so proud of each and every child at White Oaks!

During my six years at White Oaks I have fostered relationships with many of you and will cherish the memories and friendships I’ve made during my time here. White Oaks has been a very special place for me and I will miss the students dearly.

Please know that my dedication to my position as your principal will continue as we transition to a new leadership at White Oaks throughout the summer.  Dr. Baker, Tammy Pigot (our current PTA President) and Libby DeMeo (the ’13-’14 White Oaks PTA President) will be meeting to discuss the district’s hiring process for finding my replacement.  Dr. Baker will be meeting with my staff this week to get their insight into the forthcoming process, AND Dr. Baker and I (along with Tammy Pigot and Libby DeMeo) will be on campus on Monday, June 10th at 6pm in our MU to discuss any questions you may have about our next steps. Those who are interested in attending this meeting are welcome.

Please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation as I enter into a new learning experience of my own.

Respectfully,
Elizabeth Veal”

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San Carlos School District Community Safety Forum.

January 17, 2013 San Carlos Schools 2 Comments
SCSD Door

Public Meeting on School Security.

As I discussed in an earlier post on the blog, the openness of our San Carlos schools campuses is a mixed blessing, since the aesthetics and convenience are somewhat offset by the inherent security risk.  Apparently others feel the same way, because the school district has gotten inquiries about what they’re doing to enhance security in the wake of the Newtown school tragedy.

If you have concerns about the safety of the various San Carlos schools , then you should be aware of the meeting that’s being hosted by the San Carlos School District and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department to address this very topic.  This community forum will be held on Monday, February 11th at the San Carlos Library.

Here’s the email that was sent out to the San Carlos community from the school superintendent today:

Dear Staff, Parents and Community Members,

Some of you have called or emailed the school district recently with concerns regarding the safety of adults and students in our school buildings in light of the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. The district administrative team has been revising and updating the current emergency plan and security protocols for each of our schools. We appreciate and welcome your comments, concerns, and input. The San Carlos School District, San Mateo Sheriff’s Department, and the San Carlos Youth Center will host a Community Safety Forum on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at San Carlos Library Conference Room. The meeting will focus on school safety, violence prevention, traffic safety, internet/media education, current prevention, training and activation strategies within the District and Community.  There will be an opportunity for the public to speak about safety with our school administrators, counselors, recreation leaders, and Police Chief Greg Rothaus.  If you would like to know more about safety and security in San Carlos, please plan to attend this event.

Thank you for your continued support of San Carlos School District and our community.

Sincerely,

Craig Baker, Ed. D.Superintendent

 
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Reflecting on School Security.

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A Different Mindset.

The Monday morning school drop-off came with an unwanted twinge of apprehension and vulnerability for many parents across the country today in the aftermath of the horrific events that transpired last week in Connecticut.    I know I certainly felt a little bit different as I dropped my kids off at school this morning, after spending much of the weekend watching the news coverage of this unfathomable tragedy.

Our complacent sense of security and invincibility has been shaken a bit, even here in San Carlos.   The long-held mindset of “Something like that would never happen here“, is understandably replaced by “Could something like that happen here?“  for many parents.  And although naysayers will point to the statistical improbability of such an event happening at one of our schools — there are, after all, over 100,000 public and private schools in the United States that serve grades K-12 — the answer to that question is yes, something like that could absolutely happen right here in our back yard, or for that matter anywhere else on the Peninsula.

You only need to look at the wide-open layout of virtually every school throughout the area to realize this.

Designed in Another Era.

The physical vulnerability of our schools is no fault of the school district.  Our schools were designed and built in an era when many residents didn’t even lock their own doors at home, let alone worry about a violent act being carried out by the school.  The idea of designing a school to be a bastion of security was an unwarranted concern when these schools were built, and it’s a tragedy in itself that we even have to think of our schools this way now.

Just one of the many things that distinguishes the school system in San Carlos from others is by the abundance of parental involvement, whether it’s helping out in the classroom, driving on field trips, or volunteering for special events at the school.   It’s a wonderful characteristic of our school district that isn’t necessarily reflected in the fundraising and bond measures that grab the headlines.  But this relatively unfettered access to our campuses for parents to come and go as needed also poses a undeniable security risk.

Simply requiring people to sign-in at the office does not disguise the unfortunate reality that anyone could literally step off the street and walk the halls of our schools without having to open a single door.    And we’re not alone in that respect.  Most schools up and down the Peninsula share this same basic flaw.

Looking Ahead.

The underlying motivation behind Measure H was to increase the capacity and to upgrade the capabilities of our elementary and middle schools.  As the San Carlos School District evaluates how to they are going to allocate this $72M of  funds, enhancing school security probably will hopefully be part of the discussion.  It’s unrealistic to think that we can make any institution completely safe from this type of violence – even the security measures that were in place at Sandy Hook Elementary School were breached relatively quickly.  But they did provide valuable notice to the impending disaster, and those few precious seconds of time very likely saved many lives.

It’s sad that some of this valuable money needs to be spent in an area that adds zero value to the learning process.  But it’s a pretty strong statement about the state of affairs in our society right now.
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San Carlos Measure H Appears Headed to Victory.

Measure H

Early Results Point to Passage.

If the early poll results are any indication, San Carlos Measure H appears headed to a comfortable victory at the polls.   The $72M school bond measure needed a super-majority of 55% for passage, but by the 8:30PM report on the San Mateo County Election Results page, Measure H was enjoying a very comfortable 65% lead.

Barring any unprecedented swing in the same-day vote count, Measure H appears headed to an easy victory.


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San Carlos Schools Post Impressive Gains in API Scores.

CDE

All Schools Post Gains.

Last week, the California Department of Education updated their Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) metric for the 2011-12 period.  The API scores posted in this report were the result of testing that was conducted across the district during the Spring of 2012.  The new API scores for all San Carlos elementary and middle schools are posted in the table below.

Without exception, every school in the San Carlos School District posted gains from the 2011 Base metric.   Gains ranged from 3 basis points at White Oak Elementary, to a whopping 17 point gain at Central Middle School.    The District as a whole posted an impressive gain of 12 basis points over the previous year, which is an incredible achievement.

I know that the District is quick to disclaim that too much focus can be placed on API scores, so I will save Seth from at least one comment to this post ;-) .  Yes, API scores are only one of many important factors in judging the proficiency of a particular school or a school district.  There are many other factors that make San Carlos schools what they are — parental involvement, funding, teachers, etc..

But I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that these scores are the first thing that most home buyers look for when they determine which city (or even which neighborhood within a given city) they will focus their house hunting efforts on.   That will never change.

So congratulations to the San Carlos School District for an impressive showing by all of their excellent schools.

API
2012 Growth 2011 Base 2011-12 Growth Target 2011-12 Growth





SAN CARLOS ELEMENTARY 915 903 D 12
Elementary Schools
  Arundel Elementary 955 946 A 9
  Brittan Acres Elementary 880 870 A 10
  Heather Elementary 929 917 A 12
  San Carlos Charter Learning Center 925 918 A 7
  White Oaks Elementary 935 932 A 3
Middle Schools
  Central Middle 889 872 A 17
  Tierra Linda Middle 932 922 A 11

“N/A” means a number is not applicable or not available due to missing data.
” * ” means this API is calculated for a small school or LEA, defined as having between 11 and 99 valid Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program test scores included in the API. The API is asterisked if the school or LEA was small in either 2011 or 2012. APIs based on small numbers of students are less reliable and therefore should be carefully interpreted.
“A” means the school scored at or above the statewide performance target of 800 in 2012.
“B” means the school did not have a valid 2011 Base API and will not have any growth or target information.
“C” means the school had significant demographic changes and will not have any growth or target information.
“D” means this is either an LEA or a special education school. Target information is not applicable to LEAs or special education schools.
Targets Met – In the “Met Growth Target” columns, the growth targets reflect state accountability requirements and do not match the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. The AYP requirement for the API is a 2012 Growth API of 740, or a one-point increase from the 2011 Base API to 2012 Growth API for a school or LEA.
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Measure H Polarizes San Carlos Voters.

Measure H

$72M School Bond Measure.

Three weeks from today, San Carlos voters will head to the polls where they will once again be asked to vote to approve a bond measure which will raise funds for the San Carlos School District.  Measure H, if it passes by the required supermajority of 55%, will authorize the school district to issue up to $72 million in bonds to fund improvements deemed necessary to “improve, repair, and equip San Carlos elementary and middle school facilities”.

The principal and interest on these bonds will be covered by a levy on all taxable property in San Carlos.  That levy equates to about $30 per every $100,000 of assessed value of that property, and will be recorded against the property for at least the next 30 years.  As we discussed in this post, the average homeowners can expect to see an extra few hundred dollars tacked onto their property tax bill over the next 3 decades if the measure passes.

Strong Opinions on Both Sides.

As this election draws nearer, it’s very apparent that there are strong opinions both for and against this measure.  On one side, there’s the very well organized and vocal pro-Measure H contingent who have been stuffing the mailboxes and working the phone banks with equal efficiency and determination.

But there’s also a significant portion of the San Carlos voting population that has yet to be convinced that they should vote in favor of yet another school bond measure while there are still two others currently on their tax bill.    This is likely a common under-current for families with no children, and perhaps those on fixed incomes who will find it difficult to absorb another few hundred dollar hit to their bottom line every year.

There’s absolutely no refuting the direct relationship between a strong public school district and the health of its respective real estate market.  The reputation of the San Carlos School District remains one of the top reasons (if not THE top reason) why home buyers insist on establishing their roots inside the district boundaries — even when their house buying dollar will go further in other neighboring communities.   And that constant demand has kept house prices in San Carlos stable (and high) while prices in communities without a strong school district have fluctuated with rising and falling market.

A Tight Race.

But despite this obvious correlation, there’s a certain percentage of San Carlos homeowners who may not feel that another school bond measure is in the cards for them.    And in order for supporters of the measure to ensure that they get their required 55% vote, they may need some of that aforementioned group to change their minds.     The results of the highly UN-scientific poll that has been running on the site seem to support this:

How will you vote on San Carlos School District $72M Bond Measure on the November ballot?

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If this slice of voter sentiment is even remotely accurate, it’s apparent that the race for Measure H will be a tight one, and that every vote will indeed matter.
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