The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara City Desk: Sept. 12, 2012

Santa Clara Woman's Club - Hacienda Section

Santa Clara Teacher Helps Advance Science, Technology and Math Education

St. Lawrence Academy high school math and computer teacher Natalie Murphy was one of 165 lucky local teachers to spend the summer as an Industry Initiatives for Science and Math (IISME) fellow, developing education plans for enhancing K-16 math and science education.

Murphy spent six weeks at the Silicon Valley office of electronic design, test and verification solutions company Synopsys.

Closed Sessions Matter

On September 12 the City Council held a closed session to discuss the appointment of a new City Manager.

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New SOFN Effort to Join SCUSD

Now that Santa Clara’s South of Forest Neighborhood (SOFN) has a Santa Clara zip code, the time may be right for also becoming a part of the city’s school system

Neighborhood residents are mounting a new effort to join the Santa Clara Unified School District. Currently the neighborhood is part of the Campbell Union Elementary and High School Districts (CUSD and CUHSD). A similar effort in 2009-2010 was defeated by the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) school district organization committee.

The first step is getting a petition signed by 25 percent of registered voters in the transfer area – Pruneridge west to Stevens Creek, and Saratoga south to Winchester. The petition will then go to the SCCOE for a decision.

Organizer Mike O’Halloran, a Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Commissioner, thinks that the effort will succeed this time around because the 11-member committee has changed its procedures to require only a majority vote of a quorum to change boundaries. The request was denied in 2010, even though it passed 5-4, because committee rules counted absent members as ‘no’ votes.

School/Community Disconnect for Students

SOFN petitioners point to the neighborhood’s geographic unity with the City of Santa Clara and its corresponding isolation and distance from the Campbell schools. Santa Clara students must cross Stevens Creek and Highway 280 to get to school – and some high school students must cross Winchester, Bascom and Highway 880 as well.

“There’s a real isolation that’s occurred here going back a long way,” one parent said at a 2009 hearing on the question. “This is a case where the petitioners can’t access the community where they’re sending their kids to school.”

“The issue is, What is the effect on the kids?” SCUSD Trustee Andy Ratermann told that school board in 2009. “Students in the CUSD go a long way to school. It’s somewhat disenfranchising for those kids, they feel like they’re not part of Santa Clara. What is the right thing long-term for the kids? And if it turns out that the right thing is to have them in our district, then that’s what we should do and figure out the details.”

“These people are in Santa Clara,” added SCUSD Trustee Albert Gonzalez. “They want to be part of Santa Clara. I can’t see how we could vote against allowing them in the district.”

Campbell Schools’ Budget Pain

In 2009, the question for Campbell began and ended with money those districts receive from Santa Clara property taxes. At that time, Santa Clara property taxes represented 0.86 percent of budget ($840,000), while students from this neighborhood were only 0.25 percent of Campbell’s enrollment (15 to 20 students).

Neighborhood residents say that over the last 40 years, Campbell has systematically neglected Santa Clara students, closing all three schools serving the neighborhood.

Campbell didn’t address these questions in a series of public meetings in 2009 and 2010, confining its comments to impact on its budgets.

District Boundaries: Legacies of Mid-Century Land Grab

Today’s Santa Clara County school district maps are byproducts of the Bay Area’s post-WWII municipal land grab era – a time when population was growing quickly and cities were swallowing up smaller towns and unincorporated areas. As San Jose annexed property, those rural districts didn’t want to be part of San Jose Unified.

“State law was changed to say that school districts didn’t have to be contiguous,” County Supervisor Ken Yeager told the Weekly in 2009. “There was no connection where the cities grew and where the school districts were.”

Leaving property in the original school districts sweetened annexation deals and reduced potential opposition because districts retained their tax bases, according to the late Frank Barcells who served on the Santa Clara City Council during those years.

All proving, it seems, that no ghosts of the past return to haunt their unlucky victims more persistently than those of short-term thinking.

For information about the school district committee, visit www.sccoe.org/supandboard/countycommittee or call (408) 453-6869.

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