Northgate HS Attendance Boundaries Likely to Change
By Jim Mills
The Northgate HS attendance boundary issue appeared again on the agenda for the MDUSD board meeting on Tuesday night, and attendees could easily conclude that the board has not wavered from its plan to assign all of the original Clayton Valley HS attendance area to Northgate HS. That plan was approved last April, with minimal public discussion and no supporting analysis from district staff, and then rescinded in May due to the uproar it caused within the district and of course, especially within Northgate. Everyone hoped that the matter would not be considered again until a thorough study of campus capacities, enrollment trends, and traffic patterns could be done, with appropriate public input. No such luck. The board will vote on the boundary change at its next meeting on November 14. There was no indication that any board member will oppose this controversial vote. It comes at a convenient time for the board, because Brian Lawrence is leaving the board after the November election, avoiding blowback from his neighbors in Northgate, while incoming board members, including Cherise Khaund, a front-runner candidate from Northgate, will have no responsibility for the decision.
Tuesday night’s discussion, although billed as “informational”, included only a spotty PowerPoint presentation by Felicia Stuckey-Smith, Director of Student Services, that included a sampling of transfer populations at various MDUSD schools, but with no back-up data nor analysis of who was coming from where, or why, and no attempt was made to relate her disparate data to the issue of Northgate’s attendance boundary. Information on total transfer requests and numbers rejected was also spotty.
We did learn that of the approximate 302 current transfers into Northgate HS, fewer than 100 (9th-12th grades) come from the former Clayton Valley attendance area. (That total excludes 18 transfer students in special education, who are counted separately.) The under-100 total implies that only about 20-30 students per grade transfer to Northgate from Clayton Valley, compared with the approximately 500 students who enter CVCHS each year, mostly from the surrounding Clayton Valley neighborhoods. When you see Board president Cheryl Hansen exclaim that “Clayton Valley students have no high school”, she is ignoring that they DO have a preferred high school—it’s just not one that MDUSD operates. That, in a nutshell, is what this entire fiasco is about: MDUSD views high school students in Clayton Valley as “their students” and as you will see from Hansen’s comments in the video below, she appears to resent that they are no longer part of the district’s revenue stream.
You can see the whole video here:
The presentation on transfers from Dir. Felicia Stuckey-Smith is 59:10 to 1:26:55.
At 1:23:50 to 1:24:24, Debra Mason asks how many of the 302 transfers into Northgate HS are from the Clayton Valley attendance area, and Stuckey-Smith responds that it is less than 100.
At 1:25:15 Debra Mason asks why Crystyl Ranch is counted separately and was historically included in the NHS attendance area. No one on the board seems to know (or be willing to admit), but it is widely known — outside the MDUSD board room — that the developer of Crystyl Ranch cut a separate special deal with the district to be included for the first nine years and in 2006 the MDUSD Board made it permanent.
The actual discussion related to the NHS boundary change begins at 1:38:40, with a series of public comments from members of the Montecito neighborhood, asking that their neighborhood be included in Northgate HS attendance boundaries. (Unlike residents of the Crossings and Crystyl Ranch, Montecito is not currently in the attendance boundaries of Foothill MS or Northgate HS.) The last comment from Gina Hayes, a Bancroft Elementary parent, at 1:57:50 to 2:00:35 highlights the long-running problem of the split attendance pattern for students leaving Bancroft after 5th grade, which makes some students jump through multiple bureaucratic hoops to attend Foothill MS and Northgate HS with their Bancroft classmates. This is an issue that Ms. Hansen has said is not at all comparable to the problem in Clayton Valley (where most students, in fact, appear to be attending the high school of their choice).
Following public comments is an interesting board discussion, once again dominated by board president Cheryl Hansen, who claims that Clayton Valley residents have been “discriminated against”, that they have no high school to attend (even though, apparently, over 90% of neighborhood families choose to attend CVCHS), that the “County Office of Education closed your high school” (even though it was the teachers there who voted to leave MDUSD, after years of mismanagement by the district, and convert the school to a charter school). She further charges that CVCHS is “limping along” and that the County should “withdraw the charter”, even though it is widely known that the school has an extensive wait list of students, and our sources tells us that the schools turns away about 400 potential 9th graders per year (about as many as it admits), due to lack of space.
In the end, as Northgate residents, we can only observe these decisions and hope for the best. With only 15% of the residents in this huge district, MDUSD will do with us, and our schools, as they wish.