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Measure W and cotton candy

The idea that there is enough financial waste in the RCSD to cover lost funding is just wishful thinking.

OK, it's been a while since my last post in this series on Measure W, but I finally got the numbers I've been looking for.  And a big thanks to Jack Hickey and RCSD's Raul Parangao for helping dig it all out.  Now to the point.

Jack Hickey believes that there is a lot of wasted space in the RCSD.  He thinks the district could consolidate students into empty classrooms elsewhere in the district and sell off surplus property, ending their financial issues.  Sounds like a simple idea.  Over the past few weeks, he sent me some information that might even back up what he had to say.

One piece of information showed that throughout the district in 2010-11 there were 90 rooms not being used for classrooms.  "Wow," I thought, "That's about as big as one school.  Maybe Jack has a point." 

He followed up quickly with a news article about a bidding war for a piece of property in the Portola Valley area between the private German-American International School (GAIS) and Woodland School showing that there was interest for surplus property, and suggesting that Selby Lane School be put on the block.

So I decided to check it out sending a request to Raul regarding the current inventory of empty rooms in the district and he and his staff went to work (doing that and everything else they have to do).  The answer (drumroll)....

Six.

Yes, six empty classrooms throughout the district.  How did we go from 90 unused classrooms to six?  Couple of answers.  Number 1, the inventory Jack provided for 2010-11 was at the beginning of the year, not once the year got underway. 

When you expand class sizes to 30+ you tend to run out of room for all the stuff that must be done to educate students as the state and feds require.  So you need resource rooms for the entire program.  That inventory of 90 rooms quickly gets whittled down as the year goes on.  Students transfer in, stuff accumulates, empty classrooms get turned into storage, etc. 

Number 2, enrollment in the district doesn't go down.  Between the 2010-11 year and now, several hundred more students are in the district classrooms.  It's a fair certainty that by the time the 2012-13 year rolls around, that surplus of 6 rooms is going to be gone.  The district is racking, stacking and packing students right now and is at the limit of its facilities.

That is going to become even more problematic in the 2014-15 year when districts statewide will be required to reduce classroom size to 20 students maximum or risk losing funding.

But let's put that reality aside for a moment and consider Jack's other idea: leasing out, long-term, a facility to a private school.  Let's say we clean out all the storage rooms in the schools, ignore the class size mandates and free up Selby Lane for the GAIS.  Let's get on that right away before the new school year hits, as Jack suggests.

Hold your horses, Jack.

I called up the school headmaster, Hans-Peter Metzger, and asked him directly what it would take to set up such a deal.  Keep in mind that, as I mentioned in a previous post, that the district is required by law to do a search for and offer surplus facilities to other public agencies when a long-term lease is involved, which takes about a year.

First, Mr. Metzger wanted to know if the district was actually interested in the idea because, on their side, it wasn't even considered.  I told him it wasn't, that this was just Jack's idea.  He said, first, there would have to be some discussion among the GAIS board and then negotiations would have to begin.  "Optimistically, it would be two years before we could come to an effective agreement," he surmised.

That's just from their side.  Imagine what would happen in Redwood City if the idea was even proposed by the school board.  Imagine angry parents at board meetings.  Imagine lawsuits.  Imagine a spinoff of Occupy Redwood City (Occupy RCSD?) railing about educating the 1 percent.  Imagine a 10-year process.  Then imagine mandatory classroom reductions in 2014 and the need to build new facilities.

Imagine a parcel tax 5 times the amount of Measure W to pay for it all.

The financial need of the school district is in our laps right now.  The cuts have already been done.  We educate students cheaper than any other district on the Peninsula.  We've sold and leased everything out that wasn't nailed down.  We can come up with all kinds of scenarios that might save money or generate income, but all of it is theory and cotton candy, not present reality.

I'm almost done with this series.  My next, and possibly last post will be about the political and financial benefit of the parcel tax.

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Merrily May 16, 2012 at 02:33 PM
We sold off property decades ago and when populations go up (as they do) we are short 3 schools - Washington School (which now houses Woodside Terrace) & Edison (which was sold to Sequoia Dist for their Redwood Continuation High) & Lincoln School was sold for a few residential houses! :(
Zeke Mead May 16, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Thank you for taking the time to investigate these options. I've enjoyed your series and have always said things would be so much simpler if it wasn't for the details.
rcrapes May 21, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Lincoln, Washington and Edison were sold many years ago. Classrooms have been added at Kennedy, Selby Lane, Clifford, Cloud and others as well as conversion of DO to Orion and new North Star Academy. If you want a true calculation of class size, take the number of students and divide by the number of teachers and you will more than likely get a different number that many school districts publish. Money is wasted and every school district. After more than 30 years of teaching, I have worked for many principals and they always find money for pet projects but dismiss or eliminate other programs due to "budget cuts" The priority is not the students, rather keeping college educated administrators and union members in jobs is the priority.
Merrily May 21, 2012 at 04:32 AM
@rcrapes - thank you for your 30 years of service to education! Where was it you taught? Just curious!?!?
Unemployedin SF May 28, 2012 at 03:00 AM
All compelling arguments for totally privatizing public eduction, where the ratio of students to teachers is never an argument, they are not striking for more pay and the Administration is not bloated. There are little or no surplus classrooms in private run schools because they know who to get along on what little resources they have. Ask any Catholic school kid if they hear that the teachers tell them they are underpaid, they have no supplies. They have a graduation rage of upwards of 90%, the college acceptance is close to that. We are being duped by a bunch of bureaucrats whose only interest is to perpetuate their own existence, they don't see Education as a product or a service, only a means to ask for ever increasing funding to waste. For a quick little lesson in Economics, take the number of children enrolled in RCSD and divide it by the total (city, county, state & federal) money that they get. I bet you'll find that RCSD is not hurting for money, they just have their priorities firmly rooted with the Unions and not educating the children. This is just one school district in California, then you multiply it by the number of school districts state wide. They are not underfunded, just mismanaged.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive May 28, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Unemployed, As I mentioned in an earlier post, Not all the money from all the different sources is used for education. Some is use for school lunch programs, some is use for testing programs, some for capital improvement. But even if you do the kind of math you propose, RCSD is educating students for mess money per student than ALL surrounding school districts and most private schools. You may have a point about efficiency looking at all the schools in the state, but when you focus only on the RCSD you find a notable exception. Look at just this district as compared with surrounding districts. Don't accept the "conventional wisdom" from people who have not done their homework.
Juana Martinez May 29, 2012 at 09:14 AM
Rcrapes----don't bother responding to Merrily---she regularly asks career teachers when THEY will retire---doesnt sound like embracing diversity of age now---does it? Drinking from the Al Gore cup of global warming BS ( does he still fly in his giant carbon footprint jet to his many carbon footprint mansions?) is part of the curriculum problem our district has-----Merrily would know.
Judi Mahoney May 30, 2012 at 12:04 AM
What is included in the current administrative "Fringe Benefits" package that is listed on the RCSD website? The amount is $9924.00 per person! Although the money from Measure W CANNOT go their salaries....let's take a look.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive May 30, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Judi, that's not per person, but for a community school coordinator. However, the benefit package is much like it is for any job. Health insurance, continuing education, vacation pay, life insurance... it all adds up. When my business was going well and I had a full staff, health insurance alone represented 15 percent of my costs of doing business. In fact, that $9,994 would just about cover one person for health insurance.

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