When the Los Altos Hills Education Committee appeared before the city council March 20 to present its annual report, councilmembers focused more on the committee’s objectives and responsibilities than its enrollment and financial numbers.
“I’d like to know, if anything, what your Education Committee has done to promote choice in education here in Los Altos Hills in the past year,” said Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan, who has children enrolled at Bullis Charter School. “In the two years I’ve been watching the committee, you’ve been challenged to diversify the committee and, as I understand, there is no one serving on the committee from BCS.”
Corrigan challenged the council to consider “how useful this committee is if it’s not representing all school choices to residents in our town.”
Education Committee Chairwoman Heather Rose defended the committee’s efforts, citing difficulties in recruiting volunteer members – six of the committee’s 11 seats remain open. Rose said the committee aims to “preserve, support and promote public education opportunities in Los Altos Hills,” values a diversity of opinions and encouraged any resident or parent of children in the community’s public schools to join the committee.
Councilman John Harpootlian questioned whether the advisory committee should be engaging in outreach efforts at all.
“The direction of the committee is primarily to bring suggestions back to council,” he said. “The town speaks as one voice, and that’s the voice of the council and not some individual on a committee. If we’re looking at outreach, we really want ideas coming back.”
According to the Education Committee’s report, 916 Los Altos Hills students are enrolled in public schools for the 2013-2014 school year, 14 fewer than last year. Rose said that taxes from two to three parcels fund each public school student. From total funds generated for schools, Los Altos Hills pays approximately $27,000 per student to the Los Altos School District, $30,000 to the Palo Alto Unified School District and $38,000 to the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. Because Bullis Charter School is not part of a local school district, the school receives $6,011 per student plus facilities from the Los Altos School District.
Committee figures indicate that Los Altos Hills students’ matriculation to Los Altos School District middle schools and MVLA high schools has increased over the past five years. Currently, 144 students from town are enrolled at Gunn High School and 168 at either Los Altos or Mountain View High. Calculating accurate figures for public elementary school enrollment is more difficult, as not all schools provide data to the committee.
Rose touted the Education Committee’s achievements during the past year, including the placement of a crossing guard at Foothill Expressway and Edith Avenue, the completion of the Safe Routes to School pathway on Fremont Road and the implementation of new bus procedures for students attending Nixon Elementary, Terman Middle and Gunn High schools in Palo Alto. Rose added that future priorities would target safety improvements to West Portola Avenue near Egan Junior High School and traffic congestion along Fremont Avenue near Pinewood School.