Belle Haven Elementary School, which uses the adjacent Belle Haven branch of the Menlo Park Library as its library during school hours, is part of the Ravenswood City School District. Many neighborhood residents want to leave the district and possibly create a new one in its place, due to poor academic scores. (Kevin Kelly / Daily News)
Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith has scheduled a meeting for Belle Haven residents later this month to discuss long-standing concerns over their children’s education.
“For years, we’ve been hearing from residents in Belle Haven who are not happy with education … and are asking for help, for assistance with this,” Keith said. “I wanted to start the conversation. … It’s the start of a community-driven conversation.”
At the meeting, titled “Community Conversation: Improving Quality of Education,” Keith will hold a question-and-answer session with residents alongside a panel that includes Suzanne Carrig, director of policy development and administrative programs at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and Joe Ross, president of the San Mateo County Board of Education. The meeting will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Menlo Park Senior Center (110 Terminal Ave.).
Unlike the rest of Menlo Park, Belle Haven is part of the Ravenswood City School District, which also includes East Palo Alto and whose history of poor academic scores has driven many in the community to send their children to other districts.
Prior to the Q&A, Carrig will give a presentation regarding possible tools the neighborhood could use to improve the district, alter boundary lines or create a new district. She said creating a new district can be a very complicated process, one she has never seen during her 19 years with Santa Clara County.
“When you create a new school district, it’s not even a local decision, it goes to the state,” Carrig said. “In cases of changing boundary lines from one district to another, that’s a local decision that can be appealed. … For the most part, the activity we see in Santa Clara County is transfers, moving from one district to another.”
The overwhelming majority of Ravenswood’s students, about 89 percent, live in poverty. Roughly 83 percent are Latino, 7 percent are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 7 percent are African-American and the remainder are other races. Last year, 19 percent of Ravenswood students scored proficiently in English and 12 percent proficiently in math on state tests — only a 1-point gain in English, and no change in math from 2015. The scores are markedly worse than state scores for low-income students of all three predominant ethnic groups in Ravenswood.
Carrig said the state doesn’t use socioeconomic status as a criterion for creating new districts, but it would not be out of the question.
“I would think, although I can’t say with any certainty, that they would look at this as well,” she said.
She added there are ways to file complaints against school districts with counties’ offices of education.
“County offices are required to look at particular schools, making sure they provide proper books and the facilities are clean and operating, and there is a percentage of qualified teachers,” Carrig said.
“Everybody has the right to make sure their kids are getting an adequate education.”