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School board gives go-ahead to Bowman talks

Original post made on Jan 16, 2013

It's far from a done deal, but Palo Alto school leaders agreed Tuesday that expanding Terman Middle School through purchase of an adjacent parcel is an idea worth pursuing.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 9:24 AM

Comments (49)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 9:52 am

I wonder where the money will come from? Hopefully the builders development fees for schools impact will be put towards this. I would like to know where this money goes as we had to pay a tidy sum when we remodeled our home and I hope it just did not go into the general fund.

As for Bowman, what about the Ventura site. Last time I saw it it was in a delapidated state and I think the Y uses it, but it may prove to be more useful if renovated for something like Bowman.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2013 at 10:54 am

If Bowman is in the market for a larger site, why not sell Terman to them and then put a third, larger middle school at Cubberly?


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

I think that Garland/Stratford should be considered as part of a middle school expansion also since it is next to Jordan and we own it already.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

> I wonder where the money will come from?

The PAUSD was able to con the voters into passing a $375M bond a few years back. The spending authority given to the District was quite broad--including buying new land.

How long have you lived in Palo Alto? Did you vote in that election? If so, did you read the literature--or just vote Yes--without even thinking about the matter?


Posted by Utter Stu, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Half of what the school board does is grandstanding. There's no accountability of the Superintendent. They haven't stood up to him once.

I don't expect any sensible action out of this so-called organization.


Posted by member, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:56 am

Traffic will increase even more by adding 350 more students to the Terman site, and it is already horrendous on the south side thanks to all the road changes and new building...housing and commercial. Now that my kids are out of the school system, I hope to one day move to another city where better planning is implemented. This is not a cute place anymore.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm

So far I am neutral about acquiring back the school land on which Bowman school currently sits. As someone who has lived here on and off for many years, I happen to think PAUSD should never have sold it in the first place - unwise decision... With some foresight and creative outlook, expansion of now tiny Terman should have been on the radar.

I agree the middle schools should be of approximate same size. Otherwise the ones in the larger populated school may suffer. My kids experienced some bullying at Jordan; I don't think it would have been as likely to have occurred at Terman. (Understand the supervising personnel have changed at Jordan and no comment is directed at current administrators there.)

As a taxpayer, I am puzzled to read in today's Daily Post, page 1 and 22:
"However, Bowman would require "significant" earthquake upgrades to bring it up to code, said Superintendent Kevin Skelly.
This would be an alternative to trying to open a fourth middle school, and less costly, said Skelly.
The district estimates a savings of $1 million in annual operating costs when compared with opening a fourth middle school."

ok, so whatever scenario they opt for, it will be expensive.

Do I gather-
Bowman is not up to current code.
If and when they sell, PA taxpayers would be on the hook for bringing the facilities up to code.
Why is Bowman not required to be up to code? If PA building dept found out any of us homeowners are not up to code - have a code violation of any sort - they can require it to be remedied. And, at time of sale, they certainly can require current code to be met on a whole realm of aspects - smoke detectors, no illegal remodelling and on and on.
-But in this case, PAUSD appears to be weak and willing for us taxpayers to assume the expense of bringing Bowman up to code for their (PAUSD) occupancy?!
I don't get it.
Someone needs to look out for us taxpayers on these matters.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

@Wondering,
I don't mind the district having flexibility in implementing a bond, I just have a lot of trouble with what's being done (or not being done).

I look at all this flurry of activity, and I don't see our aging facilities being replaced. At Terman, they added a nice new building for the administrators, and a new drama room or something like that, but the aging, stinky old classrooms that are cramped aren't even getting a new coat of paint. I see some new hardscape, that's it. At JLS, they're putting in a new building and the principal isn't even sure exactly what's going to go there, and again, there is no plan to rehabilitate or replace the majority of the aging classrooms, the gym, or do anything about the flooding around them when it rains.

The intention of this bond, what I thought I was supporting and voting for, was to replace and rehabilitate our school buildings, but for the most part, I see a lot of expensive bells and whistles and very little of what was originally intended.

Web Link
According to this state of California link, the cost of constructing an elementary school is about $10M, a middle school about $18M and a high school about $40M. We have 13 elementary schools? According to these projected costs, we could have replaced them all for $130M, replaced the middle schools for $50M, and replaced the high schools for $80M. That totals $260M, so if you think despite the down economy that our area costs more, even 50% more (!!!) we still could have gotten all or mostly brand new schools for the amount of money we taxed ourselves. Someone with vision could probably have finessed a deal to help bring the per site cost down if we were going to do all the schools.

And yet, not a single one of our schools is being replaced, and despite the flurry of activity, I see very little actually being done. I'm at the point of wondering if we should be looking for Swiss bank accounts.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Wondering - the school construction cost estimates are from 2009 and specifically say "Local costs may vary due to district educational program needs and the local building economy." Just think about housing costs - how much does it cost to build a house in Palo Alto vs. Sacramento?

Regarding the code issues - it may be that California Public Schools have different earthquake codes than private schools.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

> According to this state of California link

Well .. yes .. but keep in mind that these are really just guidelines. The current cost of new public school construction in CA is probably closer to $1,200/sq.ft.

> And yet, not a single one of our schools is being replaced

You should have read the fine print of the campaign literature (and ballot language). Although a Prop.39 election requires that the school district provide a complete list of construction projects that the bond money should be applied against—the Courts have allowed School Districts to spend the money anyway they want—once authorized by the voters.

That's why I used the word "con" in my first posting. There was very little truth in the Vote-Yes campaign for Measure A.


Posted by Doesn't it equal out?, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

"Traffic will increase even more by adding 350 more students to the Terman site"

But what about the effect of removing the Bowman students?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Bowman traffic is probably higher than an extension to the Terman site because Bowman is private and has a lot of pupils from outside the present Terman boundaries. More Terman students should be biking or walking than at present come to Bowman from out of town.

The Bond (which I do understand) is not an infinite amount of money. There is the purchase of the site beside Greendell as well as the cost of opening another elementary school. The purchase of Bowman and the cost of altering the existing buildings (??) is still another good question.

My point about the developers school impact fees being accounted for is still valid. Are these fees set aside for school improvements in a fund somewhere, or are they just lost in the accounting of general funds?


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

> Are these fees set aside for school improvements
> in a fund somewhere,

Yes.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

@Wondering and Palo Alto mom,
PA mom - because of the economy, construction costs are actually LOWER today than in 2009. Recall, 2009 was when the market peaked. It would be really nice if people got familiar with the issues before making strong statements. Sure, it's more expensive to build here than Sacramento. But specifically in this situation? How much more? Not 50% more (do not confuse real estate cost with building cost, the land is the big difference between here and Sacramento, and we already own the land).

Even if we assume our building costs are 50% more here, we still had enough to substantially replace the buildings, even if we assume our administrators are too dumb to negotiate economies of scale for a whole district's worth of construction, which I don't think, and too arrogant to consult the guide the state produced on how to keep down the cost of school construction. Oh, wait.... Not only did they not consult that guide, they did many things in the most expensive ways possible.

We could have substantially replaced most of these campuses with new buildings. Think about it -- we just built a new giant library and community center for $40 million, and there are no economies of scale there, it's a one of. Yet we haven't managed to substantially replace ANY of the aging school facilities.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

> Even if we assume our building costs are 50% more here, we still
> had enough to substantially replace the buildings

Without doing the detailed design, this kind of claim is probably not likely to prove true.

Please keep in mind that no one replaces a public building--they always increase the size, the scale and granduer--if only for the glory of the people who had the vision to push the project.


> library for $40M.

Costs for schools are quite a bit higher than other public buildings. Lots of reasons, but nonetheless true. And, since this library has turned out to be badly managed, and is still not complete--it's very likely to cost a bit more than expected.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Here's an example of just how costly schools can be these days:

RFK is LAUSD's most costly campus – and it needs more cash:
Web Link


Posted by Wrong Reporting, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

The reporting on the Bowman site has been wrong. The land on which Bowman sits NEVER EVER belonged to the PAUSD.

Some 45 years ago that site belonged to a Mother and Son who ran a pre-school, I know because my sons now in their 40s went there. They sold the land to a private school who built the present yellow sided school buildings and operated there until they sold it to Bowman.

The area which was owned by the PAUSD and subsequently sold to the City is where the low cost housing is presently located. The subsidized condos were built by the City.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm

"Without doing the detailed design, this kind of claim is probably not likely to prove true."

And you know this because? NO ONE WAS ACTUALLY TRYING. You have to TRY to do something to actually accomplish it. There was never any attempt made to replace our campuses and all of those aging building as we were promised. We spent nearly $400million and we're getting (almost) squat.

The point is, they should have done the design. That's what the state recommends to keep down costs -- if you think you need something costly, make real, alternative designs and compare. Apparently, decisions were made by people like you who lick their fingers and put them in the air, figuring no one in this district is intelligent enough to build schools for even 50% more than everyone else does. (Try asking someone who is actually trying next time.)


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm

FYI, there are no special seismic codes for schools in California, but the Field Act requires school design and construction to involve licensed architects or structural engineers, and that the State Architect check them.

Why would a 12-year-old school building be so deficient in design, though, that it would need a lot of seismic retrofit. (How could it be in worse shape than our 60-year-old buildings?)


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm

The language of the bond ballot is below. The main purpose has been to increase capacity - new classrooms have been built at Ohlone, Fairmeadow, Jordon, Gunn, and Paly, as well as athletic, drama, and computer facilities, libraries, etc. A chunk is now being earmarked for a new elementary school and possibly this Bowman project. There has been some remodeling and some new technology, such as Smartboards. Replacing the existing buildings was not the plan.

[To] provide safe and modern schools; accommodate enrollment
growth; upgrade aging classrooms, libraries, computer and science
labs; repair or replace roofs, plumbing, heating, ventilation and
electrical systems; improve fire alarms and school security; meet
current earthquake standards; provide current technology; and
replace old portables with permanent classrooms.


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Wondering Too - private schools are exempt from the Field Act, I believe, so Bowman is likely not compliant.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

@language,
What part of "provide safe and modern schools" do you not understand? Do you really think your parsing parts of the bond language is defensible, as if somehow the public just didn't realize we were promised a rehabilitation of our facilities to the best of anyone's abilities with $400million dollars?

You can often accommodate more kids better for cheaper by starting with a new and better-designed building. Reducing the size of Gunn and Paly, improving them, and rebuilding Cubberley could have been done for the same amount of money as expanding Gunn and Paly. Either would have accounted for extra enrollment but only one would look to the future with the best facilities in mind.

Web Link

The bond promises:
"Construct new permanent classrooms and classroom buildings to accommodate enrollment growth and expanded programs."

"Replace temporary classrooms with permanent classrooms."

"For purposes of the Bond Project List, renovation and modernization projects are intended to restore the building systems and infrastructure, weather protections, finishes, and technology, or reallocate and reorganize space, to a condition that will provide a sustainable, functional educational and administrative environment for future years, comparable to new construction."

It says NEW construction or COMPARABLE TO NEW construction. Gee, if you can choose between sticking some new buildings here and there in the most expensive way possible in a ridiculous patchwork, or simply rebuilding new schools for the same money, which does a better job meeting the spirit of this bond? JLS was originally slated to be completely replaced. The neighbors didn't like the design, so what did the district do? Leave the aging facility mainly as it is and stick a new building in there that mostly doesn't replace anything.

Terman got a new adminstration building and drama room. How did that account for new classrooms and expansion? How did that make those crappy old cramped classrooms comparable to new? Skelly is talking about buying a new school, when they could have done better designing something new from scratch.

Bonds are written to be very specific. The actual Bond Authorization states:
"Proceeds from the sale of bonds authorized by this proposition shall be used only for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities

CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, REHABILITATION, OR REPLACEMENT. The board decides. The idea was to revitalize our school facilities by building new or making them as new.


Posted by Wondering Too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm

@Language,
Thanks for the clarification on the Field Act and private schools. The Field Act has its shortcomings, too, but that's kind of disturbing.


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2013 at 7:46 am

@Wondering too- you use the term "the bond promises" - actually, it is more "the bond permits" - the language of the bond set the authorized scope of how the funds can be used; it does not of course guarantee that everything in the list will be done, and certainly not at every school. The board chooses which projects get done, which is primarily based on priorities set by the site itself - principal/teachers/ parents on the site pretty much decide which projects at that site are the top priority.

It sounds like you disagree with the approach they have taken, which is fine of course; but I think you are incorrect when you say that they said they "promised" one thing and then did another - the project list so far is very consistent with the project list in 2008.

There is a bond oversight committee - you should apply for a spot (if you haven't already).


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

> And you know this because?

Are you for real? That's the way the world works!

> never any attempt made to replace our campuses and
> all of those aging building as we were promised.

You are correct that there was never any attempt to replace all of the buildings—but you are more incorrect about being promised that feat. You should read the ballot language before you cast your vote.

> The point is, they should have done the design.

This is an incredibly expensive proposition. By the way, the District did spend a lot of money on various "designs" over the years. One of the never-ending citizen groups produced something called "Schools 2000" (sometime around Year.2000)—which involved some sorts of "design" of what some of the kinds of castles that some in Palo Alto were wishing for. After that, some actual "design" was done—with some cost estimates generated.

Keep in mind that the District had had a miserable time managing the Measure B projects—with many people close to the projects claim immense waste—through indecision and unqualified management. So, it was going to be a little difficult to finish the Measure B work—and then promise to tear down all of the buildings that had just been refurbished, or built.

You are welcome to your own opinion—but not your own facts!


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

> There is a bond oversight committee

This committee is a joke. It has no authority, and is there just as window-dressing for a process that is totally non-transparent.

After the Measure B fisco, the District came to the rightful conclusion that it could not promote excess District personnel into the roles of construction management. So--they began to hire 3rd Party Construction management companies. This moved all of the decisions/resutls out of the public domain--making it impossible to know what is going on with the projects, unless screwups resulted in court cases.

The City's Library Bond Oversight Committee is an example of another bit of window-dressing that comes almost close to fraud. There is nothing that this group has done to protect the public--nothing at all. It would be hard to find any evidence that the PAUSD Bond Oversight Committee has done anything of value to protect the public either.


Posted by Wondering Too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm

@Wondering,
You state a strong opinion, tell me that you know because it's the way the world works - ignoring my link to the proposal as filed by the School Board and my quotes from it - and then say "you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts" . I gave YOU facts and you gave me opinions! Sheesh!

Sorry, but if you look at the intent as stated by the School Board and Skelly in meetings (on record), and at the intent in the proposal for the bond measure, it's represented as a revitalization and expansion of our schools for the next century. From the documents themselves, "CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, REHABILITATION, OR REPLACEMENT" [emphasis mine] does not mean they have to favor stupidity and expensive short-sightenedness over strategic replacement.

They have effectively not updated, revitalize, nor improved, much less made "comparable to new" the aging classrooms at ANY of the many campuses I am familiar with, NONE of them. You cannot tell me that isn't a violation of the intent of the bond. (I'm sure you'll try, as your unsupported opinion is quite clear.)

I couldn't agree with you more about the oversight committee and the way we got here (opinionated people aren't always wrong).


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm

> FYI, there are no special seismic codes for schools in California,

Not exactly certain that that statement is true--

Seismic Safety Standards In California Schools Sub-Par: Thousands Of Kids At Risk Due To Unresolved Safety Issues:
Web Link

Audit: Sloppy oversight increases risk of unsafe school buildingsAudit: Sloppy oversight increases risk of unsafe school buildings:
Web Link

Department of General Services: The Division of the State Architect Lacks Enforcement Authority and Has Weak Oversight Procedures, Increasing the Risk That School Construction Projects May Be Unsafe:
Web Link

The Field Act was passed back in the early 1930s because a school in Southern California collapsed during an earthquake. It's a little difficult to believe that after all of these years, and the passage of the Field Act, that there are no "standards" for schools--relative to seismic safety.

However, it would probably take an employee from the CA Office of the State Architect to fully explain how they go about certifying shcool construction for "seismic safety".


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm

> ignoring my link to the proposal as filed by the
> School Board and my quotes from it -

Thanks for the link, but you have failed to interpret the language properly, and/or remembered the events leading up to the MEASURE A Election.

By the way, here's a link to the PAUSD Facilities Master Plan--

PAUSD Facilities Master Plan:
Web Link

This was produced before the District went to the voters for the $375M. The dollars for the projects came (more-or-less) from this document. There just isn't any evidence that the Board/Superintendent /Measure A supporters were promising a complete knockdown/rebuild of every building in the District.


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Are you folks saying that the school bond construction process has somehow gone wrong? Do you think bond money is being mis-spent or wasted or that there is fraud involved? Why do you think that - I have not heard anything along those lines. Why do you think the oversight committee does not do its job?


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Building codes. Local, State and not to mention National should be followed. I think does review and approval building plan every year, once plans are approved, they can be purchased by other districts. Kinda of a hand me down of building plans.

Today in this age we must think of fire, earthquake, flood, kidnapping, shooting or any kind of horrible acts against school children, the teacteachers, the staff.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Oops I I meant to say. The state does review and approval is granted for building plans that meet guidelines.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm

@ Ballot Language,
To answer your questions, Yes, Yes, and please read my previous posts for why. To your last question, the proof is in the putt(dd)ing.


Posted by Wondering Too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm

@Wondering,
"There just isn't any evidence that the Board/Superintendent /Measure A supporters were promising a complete knockdown/rebuild of every building in the District."

Just as there is no evidence that the bond required them to do virtually nothing at all about the aging classrooms, which is what you seem to be saying and what they have done.

I'm saying this now for the third time. When the bond was passed, it was to revitalize and expand our schools for the next century (per Skelly) through "CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, REHABILITATION, OR REPLACEMENT" -- how they did it exactly was up to them (per the bond, and what they did) after we gave them the money.

If you look at what the State of California says it costs to construct schools in this state
Web Link
we COULD HAVE, with the amount of money we had, essentially replaced most or all of our schools with brand new facilities, with good planning and negotiation. (And again, for those who like to be contrarian without knowing facts, the costs the state lists COULD be more, depending on what you want, but the State includes all districts, not just those in the middle of Fresno, they look at Beverly Hills, Los Altos, Belmont, and La Jolla, too. Plus, the big cost differential for real estate in this area is the LAND which is NOT a cost for us here, we own the land, and construction costs are LOWER NOW than those numbers from 2009 because of the economy tanking.)

What they HAVE done falls well short of what they COULD HAVE done with that money, given the stated intent of the bond. In every project I am familiar with, it's as if there are a few expensive bells and whistles, a flurry of activity, but for the most part, the bulk of the aging classrooms remain and are getting no more than some window-dressing hardscape outside at most. This was not worth $400million and did not fulfill the intent of the bond (@ Wondering, if you like, DID NOT DO A GOOD JOB fulfilling the intent of the bond.).


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

@Wondering,
Your links about seismic safety in California schools only prove my point. The Field Act isn't a code, there are no special seismic codes in California for public schools. The safety it provides for is that the office of state architect reviews everything, but as your articles point out, there are shortcomings to that. The government points out exactly what your links exemplified: Web Link
Under section 4.4.2 Seismic Codes and Schools:

"...in California, K-12 schools are regulated by the Field Act, which is the only significant legislation that singles out the design and construction of schools to resist earthquakes.. However, the Field Act is not a code; it requires that schools be designed by a licensed architect or structural engineer, that plans and specifications be checked by a special office of the Department of the State Architect, and that independent testing and inspection be conducted during construction. " The document goes on to list a number of limitations and drawbacks to the Field Act, which apparently can come to pass as your links demonstrate.


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

@wondering too - so the cause of your feeling that the bond program is mis-managed and the oversight committee is not doing its job is that you felt the bond was meant to rebuild classrooms and that has not happened? Unfortunately, I think others do not share your view on that.

If you think there are other reasons, I would be keen to hear them.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm

@Ballot,
Please actually read my posts before you misinterpret what I said. You should read my actual views before you jump to disagree.

Hmmm... so, if the bond wasn't supposed to rebuild classrooms, why was the first proposal for JLS from the bond a complete replacement of the JLS campus with a new building? Perhaps you think they discovered after they designed it that they were instead supposed to spend the money badly by leaving the aging, crappy old classrooms intact and sticking an expensive tall building in the open space that has no clear plan for the campus and won't substantially replace any of the aging classrooms?

The bond did not direct us to make the most expensive school construction choices possible while accomplishing the least for the future of our kids, as you seem to think. Sorry, you can't parse the bond language enough to get that.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

@both Ballot and Wondering,

You both seem very intelligent and caring about our schools, and yet you both seem hampered by the online disease that gets people speaking assertively from pride and ignorance, rather than knowledge and familiarity with the issue and facts.

Here is just one example of the many promises we were made about the construction (this prior to the vote), from the website of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools:
Web Link

"In this June's election, Santa Clara County residents will vote on Measure A, which will raise $378 million for Palo Alto schools in through a bond. The bill language references Palo Alto Unified School District's commitment to meeting the CHPS Criteria for all new construction and major modernizations in the district. This is the first time a district's commitment to CHPS has been specifically referenced in bond language, and CHPS congratulates Palo Alto Unified for their integration of high performance priorities at the very beginning of the process! Including CHPS in the bond bill language is a great way of prioritizing CHPS high performance features when asking for community approval and funding for the projects.

"... If the bond is approved by voters, Palo Alto will get a new high school theater, a new high school classroom building, permanent buildings to replace portable classrooms, and NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS [emphasis mine]."

That's at minimum a promise of 13 new schools; more than that, it's a commitment to the priorities of high performance schools, which would definitely mean new, high performing buildings if they could be had for the same money instead of old, stinky, cramped, poorly insulated, mildewy smelling, sometimes poorly ventilated ones.

The fact is, the plans going into the bond were nebulous, and the bond language is actually pretty broad. But we were promised a revitalization of our schools for the next century (from the mouth of Skelly). That's not what we got, even though we gave them enough money to do it.


Posted by paly Parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

Wondering too - the phrase "new elementary schools" did not mean replacing existing ones, it meant we could use the money to build brand new schools - as in building a school where none existed before. I don't think anyone voting for the bond expected us to tear down all our elementary schools and rebuild them.


Posted by paly Parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

Regarding JLS - as far as I can tell, there were plans in 1996 to replace the school, but this bond was and is supposed to build 10 new classrooms which replace portables and add a total of 4 new classrooms. The JLS classrooms I have been in seem just fine, not "old or stinky, cramped or poorly insulated"


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

@paly Parent,
Please do not put things in quotes as if I said them, when I did not. I never called JLS classrooms "old or stinky, cramped or poorly insulated".

I called the classrooms at JLS "aging" and "crappy", a sentiment you will hear over and over again from people coming from comparable income districts across the country when they first see our facilities.

I called the classrooms at Terman aging, stinky old classrooms, and I was referring to them in particular when I mentioned cramped classrooms in general. (Some, by the way, "seem fine", but the stink is very noticeable in others and from the stuff kids put in the lockers near them.)

Across the district, we do have many old, stinky, cramped, poorly insulated, aging, and crappy conditions. We also have rooms, including at JLS, that "seem just fine" -- having some places that seem just fine is not a justification for ignoring those that ARE NOT, nor for spending our bond money in a way that did the least for improving our facilities overall, for the most amount of money.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

"the phrase "new elementary schools" did not mean replacing existing ones, it meant we could use the money to build brand new schools - as in building a school where none existed before. I don't think anyone voting for the bond expected us to tear down all our elementary schools and rebuild them"

So, you know this, how? The quote is not specific. The amount of the bond COULD HAVE built all those schools new. If we assume your interpretation of the things stated in that quote, the amount they asked of us for the bond is hugely excessive.

Kevin Skelly gave speeches about how our schools were aging and unbefitting of our quality of district, and how we needed a new infrastructure for the next century.

Again, the bond language was broad, and the powers of the board to implement it, too. If we look at the amount of money we had and the goal of revitalizing our schools, we could have substantially rebuilt our schools with new facilities. Instead, I see virtually all the aging classrooms remaining, none of them renovated to be "like new" as the bond promised, and certainly not conforming to the High Performance standards promised in CHPS (which WAS promised in Measure A).

Measure A COULD HAVE rebuilt those schools, which would have done a better job fulfilling the intent. In contrast to your prejudice of low expectations, having actively campaigned with other parents for the bond, I think many of us expected the money would be used in the best way possible to renew as many of our schools as possible.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

@ Paly Parent,
By the way, JLS campus floods in the winter, not just between buildings, but the walkways, where they bring in pumps only if the water gets several inches deep, a perpetual state that is just accepted like the aging buildings. Do you also think things like that "seem fine"?


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Wondering and Wondering Too,

From your posts I'm wondering whether you're aware of the new construction, including many two-story, multi-classroom buildings, funded by the 2008 bond. And the building is still going on, with projects in the pipeline. Here's a partial list:

Gunn: New, two-story classroom building; new single-story classroom building; new air-conditioning; new pool/tennis courts; new gym; new Career-Technical Education building; new parking/drop-off

Paly: New, two-story classroom building; new, two-story Media Arts Building; new theater (in planning stages); new multi-use field; new football bleachers/concession area

JLS: New, two-story classroom building; drainage work

Jordan: New cafetorium; new sixth-grade classroom wing

Terman: New drama room; library/administration renovations

Ohlone: New, two-story classroom building

Fairmeadow: New, two-story classroom building

Duveneck: New two-story classroom building plus additional kindergarten building (about to break ground)

Funds set aside for 13th elementary school and possible addition to/or new middle school

This list is off the top of my head and does not include technology improvements and other upgrades, such as ventilation, on various campuses


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm

School-by-school info is posted here: Web Link


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Thanks Chris, I'm aware of these projects. Except for the drainage work at JLS -- doesn't seem to be in progress or working, and I wonder at what needs to be done with the rest of the facilities to correct chronic flooding and dampness from previous years.

With multi-story construction as the most expensive per square foot in school construction and not recommended by the state unless there really is no other option (i.e., innercities where the land doesn't exist), I question the decisions and make the point that what you have listed just isn't a lot of bang for our $375 million bucks. Good re-design could have replaced and given us many new facilities, with modernized functionality, while maintaining open space for the same money. The bond left open whether "CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, REHABILITATION, OR REPLACEMENT" was to be done, and certain encompassed reconstruction in both spirit and moneys collected from us.

Jordan seems to have gotten the most out of it. Overall, on the ground, it's really very little compared with what could have been done. Having observed the planning, the outcome-of-highest-cost-and-low-expectations was inevitable. A Paly mom even wrote an editorial about the same exact concerns I was having, back in 2009 Web Link


Posted by Ballot Language, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Wondering Too - well, I guess you are a dis-satisfied taxpayer, but I don't see much actionable in what you have posted. You expected something different, but I don't believe others did; you aren't pleased with the project and design approaches, but oh well - it is impossible to please everyone, and many, many people collaborated to arrive at the projects and designs that were chosen. I haven't heard anything that suggests there is lying, self-dealing, fraud, poor management, etc. - just that you think other options would have been better.

Hopefully you can turn your knowledge and energy into a constructive contribution to the process! Have a good day.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2013 at 3:13 am

@Ballot,
Do you just like to hear yourself talk, or did you try to contribute to the process like I and many of my friends did? Try reading the 2009 essay by the Palo Mom - she was concerned that flaws in the process would lead to a poor outcome. And many of the concerns she had have come to pass. Among the many flaws, she pointed out how things were set up to dramatically limit input from the public -- something many of us realized from attempting input.

Well, that's a typical approach when you don't have a real argument, to try to negate your opponent's points by saying it's a solitary opinion. You don't know that any better than you know most of the things you've said, you just argue without knowing, don't you? The proof of poor management is in the putt(dd)ing. People see a flurry of activity now, but it's just now beginning to dawn on many people that there's no there there, we're getting a few new things here and there, but mostly the aging campuses remain, unrenovated. The square footage Chris mentioned above shouldn't have cost us even half of the bond money.

You haven't heard anything that suggests there is "lying, self-dealing, fraud, poor management, etc" -- well, there has definitely been poor management. As to the others, if those things happened, that's not something you and I would unearth in an online conversation. Your not hearing about it, though, is not exactly proof one way or the other.


Posted by Wondering too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2013 at 3:30 am

@ballot
So, by the way, if the bank overcharged you a lot of money, would you try to get your money back by comparing what you were charged against what you were supposed to be charged, or would you ask a bunch of people and if too few of them thought you were overcharged, then clearly you weren't?

Just curious.


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