Margot Harrigan, Los Altos School District Board of Trustees president, last week signed the district’s official response to clarify facts and challenged findings in two reports from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.
The district had a Sept. 27 deadline to submit responses to the June Civil Grand Jury reports: “Achieving School District Efficiency through Consolidation” and “Looking at Policies Our Schools Use to Find and Place Employees.”
The report on school district consolidation argued that the Los Altos School District would experience financial and educational benefits by consolidating with the Mountain View Los Altos Union High and Mountain View Whisman school districts.
The Los Altos district’s response to the recommendation to consolidate is that it “is not reasonable” on several levels.
While the Grand Jury projected a 7 percent savings, the district response stated that consolidation would cost the district more money, rather than generate savings.
Current law requires that salary schedules for consolidating districts be raised to the level of the highest current salary.
“In this case, the two elementary district salary schedules would increase to the level of the high school district,” the response stated. “The estimated cost of doing this for just the teachers in the Los Altos School District is over $6 million – far greater than the savings shown in the Grand Jury Report.”
The response also claimed that district officials said that consolidation could harm students more than it benefits them. Due to the ample community support the district receives, it is able to maintain smaller schools and smaller class sizes.
“A larger school community is less likely to provide the same level of financial support as a smaller, more local one,” the report stated.
The district response indicated that one of the reasons the district is so successful is due to its strong ties with the local community.
“Consolidating the three districts results in a larger community, which potentially weakens the ties between the schools and the community they serve,” the report stated.
The district response stated that district officials already meet regularly with officials from the high school district to ensure a seamless transition between the two levels of education.
“The results of this articulation are evident through our students’ effective transition into high school and outstanding performance at the high schools,” the response stated. “The same type of work would still be required under a unified district. No benefit or cost savings would be realized.”
The second Grand Jury report reviewed county school districts’ hiring practices and suggested improvements.
The Los Altos School District response included several clarifications for the Grand Jury, stating that the jury misinterpreted district policy regarding several hiring regulations.
Other parts of the Grand Jury report did not affect the Los Altos School District.
For more information, including responses from other districts, visit www.sccsuperiorcourt.org/jury/GJ.html.