The Silicon Valley Voice

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Education Desk: May 3, 2016

Pruneridge Neighborhood’s Bid to Change School Districts Gets a Hearing in Sacramento

The California Department of Education has agreed to hear the Pruneridge neighborhood’s 2013 appeal of the County Committee on School District Organization’s refusal to move the school district boundaries. The neighborhood, which is south of Pruneridge Ave. between Saratoga and Winchester, is in the Campbell Union elementary and high school districts.

The County Committee has refused the neighborhood’s request at least three times – even though Campbell closed all the schools serving it, forcing students to travel across the highly congested, pedestrian and bike-unfriendly Saratoga Avenue/I-280 intersection.

The Santa Clara Unified school board is willing to accept the new students and has consistently supported the change. There are only about 20-25 students from Santa Clara enrolled in Campbell schools.

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The Campbell districts get at least $3 million (as of 2013) from the neighborhood. That is the only fact in this question that Campbell offers against the change – other than an attempt to portray Pruneridge residents as racists, even though SCUSD’s demographics are very similar and API scores are lower than Campbell’s. There are nine criteria that are supposed to be used for considering school district boundary changes. However, money appears to be the dispositive factor for the County Committee – other than preserving the status quo.

Today’s Santa Clara County school district maps are byproducts of the post-WWII era when population was exploding and cities were racing to annex smaller towns and unincorporated areas.

Leaving annexed property in the original school districts sweetened deals and reduced potential opposition because districts retained their tax base. Under pressure from school district officials and municipalities, state law was changed so that school districts didn’t have to be contiguous with the towns they served.

This was also the genesis of the nine criteria for boundary changes. Meeting all of them is difficult, and because most of them are subjective, change is virtually impossible.

A measure of that difficulty is the CDE’s statement about the Pruneridge neighborhood’s request. “The CDE agrees with the petitioners that all nine EC Section 35753 conditions are substantially met. However, the CDE does not find a compelling reason to overturn the County Committee’s action to disapprove the transfer.”

You can find the CDE’s report at tinyurl.com/pruneridge-school. The hearing is on May 12, 10 a.m. California Department of Education, 1430 State St. Sacramento.

SCUSD Gears Up for School Renovations

Santa Clara Unified is preparing for a busy summer of remodeling and upgrading school buildings, as well as preparing for future construction. At the Apr. 28 board meeting, trustees approved roughly $20 million worth of contracts for project management and construction work.

Funded by 2014’s Measure H bonds, the projects projects include: elementary school heat and air conditioning, George Mayne and Central Park modernization, Peterson and Buchser gym modernization, and pre-construction work for next-phase projects at Central Park, Cabrillo, Peterson, Wilson, and the Agnews campus.

The contracts approved last week include:

  • Elementary school HVAC: $11.15 million
  • Central Park modernization, windows: $3.24 million
  • Buchser main gym modernization: $694,000
  • Strawn Construction Management and Development, project management services: $5.2 million
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