Fix the Bancroft Split

2 Responses

  1. Jessica Clark says:

    My young family and I are very proud Walnut Creek (Larkey Park neighborhood) residents/homeowners.
    We have been thrilled to be part of the wonderful Walnut Creek *community* for the past several years & are really enjoying utilizing all the amazing resources throughout our city!
    That said, as my children are now rapidly approaching school age, I have some serious concerns regarding how the current (& proposed potential changes to the) school district boundaries affect the unity of the City of Walnut Creek. While I realize that school districts are not actually directly a part of city responsibility, I believe consideration of how the schools are the heart of the city’s young family community & how district boundaries can create a very divisive atmosphere amongst city residents, is something the City should be very much aware of/involved in. It’s interesting to me that part of this “Northgate District” proposal is about fixing the “Bancroft Split,” but this proposal would instead create an even greater split within the greater City of Walnut Creek “community” by “leaving behind” only one small section of Walnut Creek in the MDUSD…
    I have also recently reached out to my nearby neighborhoods on this topic utilizing the NextDoor site and will copy my posts below as well…
    My first NextDoor post several days ago:
    “Hello wonderful neighbors/community,
    Looking for your insight & perspectives…
    When we bought our home I was extremely perplexed by some of the most confusing/un-intuitive school district boundary lines I’ve ever encountered (& I’m a CA educator).
    We have now been living in the area for the past several years and have children who will not start attending elementary school until 2017, so I’m feeling somewhat “out of the loop” for school news, but something has just come to my attention that will directly impact me both as a Walnut Creek homeowner & (very soon to be) parent of school aged children:
    Have you heard about the proposal from “CAPS” for the Northgate feeder schools to leave the MDUSD & create their own new/separate school district? The process has begun, so the clock is ticking *if* there are concerns/alternatives to be addressed/considered…
    Here are my concerns now (as someone who just found out about this & still feels disconnected from my very soon to be school community/wants to know & learn from how my neighbors feel/think): 
    As the plan stands now, the community/City of Walnut Creek will be even further fragmented into 3 totally separate school districts:
    1. Walnut Creek/Acalanes (existing)
    2. Proposed Northgate Unified (*LEAVING* the MDUSD)
    3. The City of Walnut Creek neighborhoods north of San Luis that currently attend Pleasant Hill Elementary/Middle & College Park that would *STAY* in the MDUSD. 
    Did I miss any?
    Even if people are happy with their current schools in MDUSD (& the schools truly do look great to me), further fragmenting WC & excluding only one small section from being part of a Walnut Creek specific school district, seems *to me* to be a long term negative for unifying Walnut Creek as a city/”community.”
    I would be so grateful for any history/insight/experience/perspectives my neighbors could provide me on this topic as I decide if this is something I should be concerned about & potentially get more involved with?
    Thank you wonderful neighbors/community!!”
    One NextDoor “neighbor’s” especially relevant reply to my post/gives needed context to my follow-up reply:
    “I live on (removed for anonymity), Walnut Creek. My children (now in their 20s) went to PHE, PHMS & CPHS. I was very satisfied with the schools and the exceptional parent involvement. However, the city of Walnut Creek treated us like we didn’t exist in regards to any children or student activities and events put on by any city entities. It seemed because my children weren’t in a Walnut Creek School District or Acalanes School District school, we weren’t on the mailing or notification lists….. despite being Walnut Creek residents. It really angered me that we were neglected here in this corner of Walnut Creek bordering Pleasant Hill and Lafayette because we were in the Mt. Diablo School District. Heads up!”
    My NextDoor follow-up reply (after several other replies from my neighbors):
    “Thank you all for your wealth of knowledge/insight!!!
    Also, thank you (neighbor) for sharing your feelings/experience!
    The description of your experience gets straight to the heart of what my concerns are as a Walnut Creek resident/homeowner & why I feel like this topic is something for my WC neighbors & I to all keep a close eye on.
    Also, world politics today remind us that what we think is “improbable” is often very much possible… 
    I personally truly feel very conflicted about this whole “Northgate District” proposal for a variety of reasons:
    1. My impression (repeatedly confirmed by this post) has always been that the Pleasant Hill schools my Walnut Creek neighbors & I are currently assigned to are wonderful & my family & I are very much looking forward to joining that active community officially in a year! 
    2. I also personally feel that smaller, locally controlled districts are ideal/do represent “best practice.” While I realize it’s a highly complex issue & there are many contrasting factors to weigh, I do think it’s a shame their creation/re-evaluating the way things are/have been is so “improbable.”
    3. That said, as a Walnut Creek resident, I’m still baffled by the how/why there was ever the creation of the small, locally controlled “Walnut Creek” School District (whose schools are geographically by far closest to my WC house), but that excludes my neighborhood, as well as much of the rest of the City of Walnut Creek (currently part of the extremely large MDUSD instead).
    4. Most troublesome to me is that the “Northgate District” proposal, as it currently stands, only serves to make the issues of exclusion & divisiveness between Walnut Creek residents even more pronounced: creating a second small, locally controlled school district for Walnut Creek, but overlooking/excluding only one small section of Walnut Creek residents. As a result, my small section of North/West Walnut Creek neighbors & I would be in a district that would no longer be even remotely associated with “our” City of Walnut Creek, because “they” would have their own separate districts & “we” would still be part of the MDUSD where our WC resident children are sent to “Pleasant Hill” schools.
    As a parent of a child soon to start at PHE, a wonderful school/community I am very excited about, I’m tempted to just ignore what is going on/enjoy the experience… BUT, (as *my neighbor* also referenced) as a Walnut Creek homeowner & resident, I can’t shake the very troublesome feeling, & long term implications, of being continually neglected/overlooked/excluded by MY city.
    I think my next step will be to make the time to try to connect with Walnut Creek City government & hopefully they will have some useful insight on this topic as well…”

  2. Jim Mills says:

    Jessica,
    Your post covers a number of topics, both historical and current. As far as the history of WC and school districts, most of these boundaries were established many decades ago, when much of our area was farmland, and well before our neighborhoods were built up as they are today. That’s why WC students today attend five different school districts (WCSD, MDUSD, Lafayette, SRVUSD and Acalanes High School District). Our municipal officials have absolutely no official role in determining or changing these boundaries. District boundaries are strictly governed by the districts involved, the County Committee for School Organization in the County Office of Education, and the CA Dept of Education. So you can certainly appeal to our local municipal officials to voice their opinions, and they can do that, but they have no legal role in these decisions.
    Northgate CAPS is a Northgate-based, all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the schools for our local teachers and students. All of us in the organization have, or have had, children in our local public schools, and all of us have worked for years (20 or more, in some cases) in volunteer roles in classrooms and at school sites, in fund-raising, donating personal funds, in political campaigns to increase school funding, and in many other ways–all to improve the learning environment for our teachers and students. During our years of work with our schools, we have learned a lot about how our schools work, and in particular, about how MDUSD functions — or doesn’t function! — on behalf of our teachers and students.
    We have learned that MDUSD faces many challenges that they are struggling to meet. In too many cases, the district is under-performing compared with districts facing similar challenges, and often, when you look at those comparisons, the district is falling further and further behind. In attempting to address its many challenges, MDUSD has often failed to meet the needs not only of disadvantaged students, but also the needs of students in communities like Northgate. We have concluded that the district is too big, and too dysfunctional in its current form, to meet the needs of its students. More important, we have concluded that if our schools remain in MDUSD, they cannot become the motivating, successful learning communities that our teachers and students work toward everyday.
    I understand your desire to have your identity as a Walnut Creek resident reflected in your local public school community, as one finds in so many parts of the U.S. Unfortunately, that sensibility just wasn’t a big factor in the way our current school boundaries were constituted. As much as we share the value you place on identity and consistency, we value the learning environment in our local schools even more.
    At Northgate CAPS, we understand that other communities may also be dissatisfied with how MDUSD serves their students. Some of those communities, such as Pleasant Hill, are even larger than Northgate. Those communities should reach their own decisions about how they can best improve their local schools, but if any community wishes to pursue creation of their own school district, we would offer their leadership whatever learnings and experiences we have gained from our own campaign.
    Thank you for joining in the discussion!