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Original post made
on Sep 12, 2013
Get enrollment back down to 415 where you agreed to keep it - we will fight any further increases.
The shuttles (we used to call them school buses) are something that all the public schools in Palo Alto should implement. Much of the traffic in the morning is just due to parents dropping kids off. This is especially true on rainy days when it is not too nice to bike or walk. Even if the school district does not have the money to implement this, I think many parents would gladly pitch in to subscribe to a shuttle route. Look at the popularity of the VTA bus that goes to Gunn high school. It is jammed packed in the morning.
To Castilleja: You can figure out how to be competitive with smaller enrollment. Many schools do. Exercise creativity. Model good character to your students by keeping your promises to the city and your immediate neighbors. Honor your commitments.
To City of Palo Alto: Every neighborhood, school and business that has worked on a CUP is watching what you are doing here. Get it right. You have brokered many CUPs. We want to know that those commitments mean something.
We are not blind to precedents that may be set here.
Castilleja neighbors would do well to heed the cautions of the example set by Menlo School when they expanded their campus and enrollment. The former head of the school promised that enrollment would not increase and then went ahead and increased enrollment anyway, as well as subsequent traffic. They needed that additional revenue (at almost $40K/year tuition) to help pay for all those new buildings.....
Call us skeptical. It is clear Castilleja will promise its neighbors anything when it has something to gain. In 2000 the school told neighbors it was planning to build an underground garage. That plan melted once it had its CUP in hand, and the mandated cap on 415 enrollment was blithely ignored. For the past 13 years, "traffic control" has consisted of leaving notes in mailboxes: "There is going to be a big event tonight. Sorry for the inconvenience!" Now they want more enrollment, so they have finally implemented what they said they would do 13 years ago - institute shuttles, create parking on their own property during events, tell parents not to block streets by double parking, and not to block local driveways. We have lived across the street for over 40 years (did not get a gift card from Douce France btw) and are not yet ready to give them a pat on the back.
Only time will tell. Castilleja has been in session not even two full weeks and half of the grades have been away on overnight retreats. The weather has been gorgeous to walk and bike if a girl lives close enough, lets see what happens with the first rain. The school is trying for the first time in a decade to respect their neighbors or are they trying to do this just to get something back from the neighbors yet again. Only time will tell. It can be a symbiotic relationship overtime if and when the trust is regained.
For the record, the journalist did not stay throughout the entire meeting and left midway; many important points were not discussed in this article.
School hasn't been in session for a full week since most students have already been on retreats since August 26 for 1/2 days. There has been a noticeable reduction in traffic and what seems to be less cars around areas posted for residents only, this is due to the increased monitoring of parents around the perimeter of the school by faculty, including the finance head and head of middle school, groundskeepers. Faculty have been commissioned to act as parking guards and no one at the school level has confirmed that these morning and afternoon traffic monitors will be permanent, especially when we see the daylight savings time change or rainy weather.
While staff have been asked to commute 20% of the time, use other modes of transportation and carpooling, and a newly implemented pilot shuttle, there is no record or history to measure the reduction of parked cars.
While all of us relished the opportunity to drive at 16, if we were lucky to have extra car in our family to use, I still expect juniors and seniors to drive to school; unless the school imposes a "no driving to school" ban on juniors and seniors (similar to Stanford freshman), increased class sizes will result in more parked cars on streets surrounding the school (Waverley, Bryant & Emerson, extending south of Churchill).
All of the traffic demand measures should have a TWO YEAR HISTORY before any increase in the Conditional Use Permit is accepted. I cannot be convinced that these recent improvements in transportation management (another post accurately referenced should have been in place 13 years ago) are permanent. Board members emphasized last night that they intend to be but so were the commitments made by the school 13 years ago.
Castilleja has its work cut out, I'm not holding my breath for at least two years of demonstrating that the school can maintain this traffic management.
<Parents, she said, "are so eager to learn about what they've been doing that's destructive to the neighbors.>
The parents are not the offenders here, neither to the neighbors or to the City. The offenders are the school head and leaders. The parents are the victims here, not the violators.
Also, the Douce France gifting to the neighborhood is at best a little disingenuous. Can't wait to see what they send the Palo Alto City Council? New iPhones?
If the school wants to make amends, the school itself should initiate and submit a plan to the neighbors and City as to how they will be complying going forward with their legal limit of 415 students, as opposed to waiting for the verdict and financial penalty from the City. A two to three year consolidation plan should be sufficient. Giving the impression that the school must expand its enrollment in order to be competitive is more of the same from the school. Complete and utter hogwash.
Breaking the law, attempting to cover up the breaking of the law, attempting to quell the neighbors in the short run with happy talk and bribery while continuing to break the law without any real long term plan to comply is what got Castilleja in this mess in the first place. It is clear the verdict is still out. Way out.
It's time for Castilleja to follow Palo Alto Military Academy/Harker School and move to a larger property that will support the growth they want to achieve.
If they move, it will be so easy for a developer to buy up the land and build zillions of housing units.
Is that what the neighbors want???
I suggest that they get on with the present school because otherwise the traffic and parking problems will be so much worse.
...maybe they can build (yet another) grocery store. Or use it as an overflow parking lot for Town & Country. Or let it turn into a crumbling ruin of a school, like Cubberly.
Castilleja has peacefully co-existed with the city and the neighbors for over 100 years. Over that time there have been many evolutionary developments in children's education that have transpired, and Castilleja has successfully adopted to these changes without finding it necessary to blow up the size of it's enrollment and faculty & staff in order to stay "competitive".
If the school's head and some members of the board feel it must have 500+ students and 75 faculty and staff to be competitive, then they must find another home for a new school. The population density of that magnitude in that area of town cannot possibly be supported over a long period of time.
However, as for those educators, board members, community members, parents, students and alumni that believe Castilleja should continue to peacefully co-exist with the city and neighbors for another 100 years, then they need to ask the current head and supportive board members to resign and go build their new larger school elsewhere.
Castilleja should remain as an excellent school which resides in our excellent city of Palo Alto. If current leadership cannot be trusted to live within their means (415 students, fewer faculty and staff) by which the city and neighbors have appropriately determined to be necessary after all of these years, then the Castilleja school head and followers must go. The school however should stay. It is part of our city's long and proud history. Let's move on from this unfortunate bump in the road.
I disagree with resident of another neighborhood (above). When the Palo Alto Medical Foundation outgrew its location on Homer, a developer did not buy up the land and build zillions of housing units. There is now a lovely park, and a complex of very nice, somewhat affordable houses (each with underground parking) on that large lot. This is a residential neighborhood, not zoned for a grocery store (or a private school for that matter). Traffic in that area is completely fine (it is certainly better than 515 girls being dropped off every morning and picked up every afternoon). So housing doesn't scare me.
We sold our house on Kellogg back in 2001, and moved to another part of Old PA.
Even back then, the traffic problem surrounding Cast was unbearable, and we were In The 100 block!
Action against Casti is way, way overdue. They have broken commitments in the past, they are breaking them now. They should honor them or build another facility elsewhere. With all those students at those prices, they can afford it!
Traffic on Embarcadero will only get worse with the increase in elementary students coming down the pipeline. I drove my child to school this last month due to a sports injury. Most of the cars are not going to Paly, as someone stated above. They are driving to Stanford or left or right on El Camino. Oregon Expressway and Embarcadero Rd. are arteries for the out-of-towners.
There is an Embarcadero Shuttle service but it starts picking up at 3:30 at Paly but on Tuesdays and Thurdays, the students are released as early as 1:50., latest, 2:25 and 2:55. It would be helpful if the schedule could be re-evaluated (I'll contact them) so it picks up earlier. Of course, it was on the chopping block a couple of years ago, so doubtful they'll add times. The shuttle is usually standing room only at 3:30.
Castilleja should move out to Portola Valley for more land. These parents are rejecting PAUSD so it doesn't need to be in a neighborhood location.
It's strange how neighbors are using this anonymous website to voice threats and hostility. There must be a more product place for this discussion? Elementary schools all over Palo Alto have increaded enrollment/increased traffic without having freaked out neighbors. Castilleja and it's neighbors should look to many cooperative neighborhood/school partnerships happening all around them. The Ohlone/Friends Nursery School/residents have worked this out well.
Mid town parent - the article states that the school held a meeting with the neighbors. That is certainly a more productive place to air grievances.
Point of interest: As a Castilleja neighbor, I encountered head of school out monitoring traffic this morning. She told me of this good summary article of the meeting (I was traveling), but she said she does not read these comments because they are anonymous. I hope others in Castilleja management are listening to the community.
What about the extra 33 students? I will believe Castilleja is serious when they actually follow the agreement to cap enrollment at 415. Gift cards are a ridiculous gesture given the sustained over-enrollment.
The City needs to address this issue before the next admissions cycle in the spring.
"...Castilleja neighbor doesn't think $300,000 is steep enough..."
In response to today's news that Castilleja will be fined 300,000 TOTAL for being out of compliance for so many years....
THIS YEAR ALONE:
Enrollment is over by 33 pupils
Annual tuition of $38,200 per pupil
doing the math, a 300K fine means they make significant revenue by being out of compliance... hmmmm
In the end, the Castilleja community knows that the whole situation was poorly mishandled by school leadership. It has damaged the school's stellar reputation immeasurably. Internally, the school's expenses will now need to be curbed in the years ahead, as it is staffed to serve 448 students, not the 415 that is now mandated by the city. The school will not only lose millions of dollars in revenue through a significant reduction in tuition and gift-giving dollars, but in the end will be unable to enroll more qualified young women to the school - which was the head of school's original goal for expanding enrollment in the first place.
In addition to the $300,000 fine, probably the first fine in the school's one hundred year history, Castilleja has also more than likely spent plenty of money through lawyers and such to address the incident and put it in the rear view mirror as they say. However the significant ramifications of this situation will force the school in the coming years to move backwards, layoff faculty and staff, shrink student enrollment, and abandon all of the new 21st century teaching and building plans that had been promoted to the current parents in the prior few years. All good news for the local neighbors and the parking problem, but for a Casti loyalist - its one step forward and two steps backward. Is anyone on the school's management board paying attention? If so, when will someone come forward and explain how any of this is good news for someone in the Castilleja community?
@current parent - can you explain how reducing each grade by 4 or 5 girls will cause Casti to "abandon all of the new 21st century teaching and building plans"? I also am not too concerned about Casti's ability to fundraise in the future. With the daughters of movie stars (since graduated), venture capitalists and CEO's of major companies, I think the ongoing fundraising will do just fine. Not too mention the huge existing endowment...
Casti has been a great school for over 100 years and will continue to be a great school with a few less students.
palo alto resident, It has been made clear to many over the last several years by the Castilleja head of school that the school had been preparing for a larger upper school with more competitive and innovative 21st century offerings, and as a result a larger campus facility to accommodate the increase in enrollment. Hence the problem with the City in the first place when the administration met with the neighbors over the summer to make them aware of the desire to increase the existing city use permit to 515 students. This has been communicated to the community by the administration as necessary to enable Castilleja to offer more qualified students the ability to attend Castilleja and gain access to new, innovative 21st century courses and experiences. It was said that a big fundraising campaign was to follow as this was made public to anyone in our parent community that wanted to learn about it.
As of today, due to the mismanagement of this unfortunate situation over the summer, those plans are now all dead on arrival. In fact, Castilleja will now be forced to down-size operations to accommodate only 415 students from our current 448 students. By retreating into a smaller community, Castilleja obviously will need to plan for fewer students, fewer course offerings, fewer faculty and staff, and less revenue.
I agree that Castilleja should remain a great school, regardless of its leadership blunder, but its ambitious goals of a new campus, new curriculum, and new vision has been severely deterred for the foreseeable future.
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