About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

I will not accept anonymous comments, and all persons who post comments must have a valid e-mail address. Note that I reserve the right to edit, reject, or delete posts based on spelling, grammar, readability, or my judgment of what is appropriate discourse.


August 2014
« Jun   Sep »

Staying Put

At last night’s School Board meeting, the Board voted 4-1 to keep the Charter Learning Center (CLC) on the Tierra Linda campus. I was the dissenting vote. Although I think re-locating CLC to the Heather School campus would have been the more optimal solution, I’m glad that the decision is made and we can move on. As I said last night, despite the relative angst generated by this question, the truth is both of these solutions will work out fine for students, teachers, and for all of the schools involved. I had just felt that moving the school to Heather would have been a more efficient use of our land, would have given us greater future flexibility for growth, and would better disperse traffic throughout the city. My colleagues did not give as much of a weight to these arguments, and all cited the specific preference by CLC to stay on its current campus.

In the grand scheme of things, this is the last piece of the puzzle that defined how we move forward on our Facilities Master Plan. And of course, this decision faced by the School Board was the result of the City Council’s inability to bring to the voters the proposition to swap land to have a new site on Crestview for CLC — that would have been better for both the school district as well as all San Carlans for for many reasons. So, despite the fact that CLC won’t be either in the optimal location (Crestview) or in what I think was the better back-up location (Heather), the decision allows us to move forward in what is, overall, an incredible plan for the school district and its students. We will have two new 4th-5th grade schools on each of the Central and TL campuses (built for 21st century learning), and we will relieve overcrowding at all of the elementary schools.

The default assumption has been that CLC would move to the upper part of the TL campus and the new 4-5 school would be where CLC is now. But in our upcoming board meetings, we will look at specific plans which could include an alternate configuration of leaving CLC in its current location and building the 4-5 in the lower section of campus.

Now, the main challenge will be traffic mitigation measures on the Alameda/Club/Dartmouth corridor. As our enrollment grows as does the enrollment of nearby Carlmont High School, there will need to be a fair bit of work on safety and traffic mitigation measures. There is a committee of four government agencies that has been working on some recommendations, so we will likely hear about that soon. Also, the District may need to consider re-locating some of the other facilities on the TL campus, including the Montessori school as well as the bus transportation yard.

9 comments to Staying Put

  • Liz Seckler

    With all due respect, citing the “City Council’s inability to bring to the voters the proposition…” is a misstatement of fact and unfair to all the effort that was expended. It implies they did not do their jobs. The truth is, the City Council voted and used their best abilities to make the best decision they deemed appropriate.

    The more correct statement might be “the City Council voted NOT to bring the voters the proposition”.

  • Michael Takamoto

    I hope the that district will consider budgeting for school buses to alleviate the traffic on San Carlos Ave.

  • Seth

    Liz — obviously my choice of words was meant to demonstrate my perspective of a failure of the part of council to execute on behalf of the best interest of the community. And to be clear, a majority of council members did indeed vote to send it to the public for vote, but a provision in the law in this narrow case required 4 of them to vote for it, so I also lay blame at the inability of the system.

    Michael – it has always been my hope and goal to invest in transportation solutions, however we have learned that district-run school buses are not the optimal solution because they are not allowed by law to stop at many of the places we would want to have bus stops. Rather, we need a partnership with the city, SamTrans, and/or others to bring back a SCOOT-like system which is more of a shuttle system that can be utilized by students. We have diligently been working on this with these agencies, but it has been a very slow process unfortunately.

  • Melissa

    As a TL parent I am not happy. How could they feel that TL has the space for a new 4/5 school, a 6-8 middle School AND and K-8 Charter School. Oh and don’t forget the preschool classes on the upper campus. Oh, and don’t forget that even though many walk to school, the traffic is already a huge nightmare.
    As a TL parent I will and should expect the campus to look just as nice as they are doing over there at Central as well as not leaving a “patch” of concrete for kids to play on.
    I expect my middle school children to have just as nice of a facility as the Central students will have.
    I would hope that this is the plan and that the board was aware of the plan for the current TL campus before they voted.
    I honestly don’t even know if there are plans yet so I can only voice my concern since I am having a difficult time visualizing what it is going to look like when it is complete. I have seen the pictures of the new Central 6-8 and will expect the same for my child’s school in a few years. Traffic wise, I don’t see a solution, but can I assume the Board does?
    Thank you Seth for attempting to do truly would have been best for all.

  • Seth

    Melissa — the assumption is that the preschool will likely have to move. As for physical space, fields for school, etc, I think it will actually fit just fine, and there will be no material difference in terms of facilities/campus between TL and Central. For me, the reasons not to locate CLC on the TL campus were not about physical fit per se, but rather the flexibility for future growth as well as traffic/safety issues. The latter is a real short-term and long-term issue, so that is something we need to address. As I mentioned in my previous comment, we have been working with both the City of San Carlos and the City of Belmont to facilitate a new entrance into the campus, and we would like to convince the city and perhaps SamTrans to partner with us on a transportation solution. But these discussions are slow going.

  • KS

    I didn’t see it mentioned in your post, but an email I received from the school district said that at the most recent board meeting, the board also discussed potential bond issues. Here’s a section of the email.

    “Series B structure: The Board heard a presentation on various scenarios for issuing the next series of bonds, including scenarios with Capital Appreciation Bonds (which defer the repayment of principal and interest until later years), and Current Interest Bonds (which begin repaying interest immediately). The board has an option to issue either or both kinds of bonds in its Series B issuance.”

    Seth, I strongly urge the board NOT to consider Capital Appreciation Bonds for San Carlos. These bonds delay repayment of both interest and principal, so the interest compounds, creating a very expensive financing vehicle for taxpayers down the road. In fact, the Superior Court of California, San Mateo County, issued a paper called “Capital Appreciation Bonds:Ticking Time Bombs.” http://www.sanmateocourt.org/documents/grand_jury/2012/bonds.pdf

    Let’s not be the city that takes such imprudent actions.

    Please feel free to move my comment if you blog about this issue.

  • Seth

    KS — I strongly disagree. The report you cite (which was actually from the Civil Grand Jury) just perpetuated a lot of the myths about Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs)and was written by folks who have no expertise in this matter. It was catalyzed by a single school district who went to an extreme in their use. I actually wrote a piece on EdSource last year which dispelled a lot of the misinformation out there (http://edsource.org/2013/proposed-restrictions-on-school-bonds-would-harm-districts/29136#.VAk8ZhbCcig). In fact, out district and many others wrote responses to the Grand Jury on that report citing multiple errors in both facts and analysis. The truth is that CABs can be a very prudent tool in school bond programs, and in fact are often necessary to create the necessary bonding capacity. Certainly interest compounds, but given the time value of money, the real cost is not materially affected. If you were at our last meeting, you would have seen a presentation by Keygent Advisors, who is expert in these matters, on how we are using CABs well and how it benefits the entire program (their presentation is here: http://sancarlos.csbaagendaonline.net/cgi-bin/WebObjects/sancarlos-eAgenda.woa/wo/ – click on “Series B Information Overview”). As you will see in their presentation, our CAB use is very prudent with very low repayment ratios. This is really a non-issue stirred up by folks who frankly have a very limited understanding of finance.

  • KS

    Hi Seth.

    Thanks for the reply and the link. I read your article and will read it again in more detail. Early on in your article you say:

    “Naturally CABs will have a greater total payment at the end of their term, as interest payments were accrued rather than paid along the way, and CABs will likely have slightly higher interest rates because of the lack of current income to the investor.” You sort of brush these away and suggest that these two factors are offset by the time value of money, and give the example of inflation and the cost of milk.

    First, I don’t see why San Carlos would willingly want to have a greater total payment on anything (unless we don’t care what we pass along to those who live here after us?). Second, the interest rate differential can be large. To me, it seems like a CAB is like an ARM mortgage, whereas a Current Interest Bond (CIB) is like a fixed rate mortgage. Which do you think is more fiscally prudent for a house that you know you will be living in for the next 40 years?

    You also say that “the other common way to illustrate this principle is interest on money (which has been historically higher than inflation).” Sure, if I can get a 6% return on my money I’m better off investing it than paying down my 4% mortgage ahead of time. But right now, I believe that investment returns are generally lagging inflation. And in general, somebody will always pay more to borrow money than the investment return they can get somewhere else (in an investment with a similar risk profile of course). Right?

    The link to the Keygent presentation seems to require a login user name, so I wasn’t able to read it.

    Again, if there are other issues or reasons you would like San Carlans to consider these bonds, then please share. But I wouldn’t characterize it as a “non issue stirred up by folks who have a very limited understanding of finance.”

    I hope you will consider a separate post on this issue, so we can continue the discussion there, rather than under a conversation about where Charter should be located. I am sure that many folks (who will be the ones voting on any bond measure) would appreciate more information.

  • Seth

    KS – This may be easier to talk about on the phone, as it gets complicated. But roughly speaking the time value of money does offset the higher nominal total payments, so the real cost (meaning the cost in current dollars) is similar. There are small differences in interest rates, but they are more than offset by the ability to do projects in the nearer term (by using CABs, we can “layer” them on top of total bond issuances and increase near-term bonding capacity while staying under the tax rate limit). That allows us to accelerate construction projects, and since the inflation on construction costs will surely exceed the rate of inflation or the interest rate, we overall save quite a bit of money by being able to do those projects earlier.

    Also one clarification — a CAB isn’t like an ARM — that’s an adjustable rate instrument — a CAB will have a fixed interest rate. A closer metaphor would be a zero-interest payment loan. But as I said in the earlier post, we “layer” these series of CABs to have an overall bond program which actually levels out the yearly costs, so out total program is closest in characteristivs to a normal “mortgage” with fixed periodic payments even though elements of that program may consist of CABs and CIBs.

    As for the link, I’m not sure why it isn’t working. Try to go to Agenda Online, and click on the meeting for August 28th, go to Agenda Item 8B, then click on the “download now” button next to the final attachment. If that doesn’t work, e-mail me at seth@rosenblatt.org and I can e-mail you it.