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Community Matters Quarterly

Winter 2020
World Class. Community Funded.
The Community Newsletter
of your Menlo Park City School District
From Superintendent Burmeister
Happy New Year! Let's use the year 2020 to seek clear vision around the things that are important to each of us. Here in MPCSD, I know there will be conversation about funding our schools and the programs and priorities that are important to all our stakeholders. Please look out for opportunities to share your opinion with our School Board. I believe that excellent public education is an investment that every community needs to take seriously and it will take our whole community coming together to make the next decades of education here in MPCSD as great - or better - than the last.
The new year also started in MPCSD with a wonderful Speaker Series event focused on what we call restorative parenting. Based on the science of restorative practices, in which all members of a community are valued and supported, restorative parenting helps build a healthy and balanced relationship between parent and child. Please read my Sup'sOn blog for more on how a little restorative practice can make parenting easier. And join us any time for our community-building Speaker Series events. Upcoming topics are described below.

Join me for lunch! I am hosting a town hall event, Sup & Sandwich, on April 17, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Arrillaga Family Recreation Center. I'd love for you to come hear more about our district and meet you in person.
Thank you for supporting YOUR community school district. You are always welcome to reach out with questions at [email protected].
 Dates to Note

All School Board meetings are held in the TERC Boardroom,
181 Encinal Ave., Atherton

February 5 - "Parenting Landmines: Ask the Experts," Speaker Series event, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview

February 9 - MPCSD at Menlo Park Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

February 13 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m., TERC Boardroom

February 17-21 - No School: Presidents Day & Mid-Winter Break

March 4 - "Small Animals: Parenting in the Age of Fear" with Author Kim Brooks, Speaker Series event, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview

March 12 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m., TERC Boardroom

March 22 - MPCSD at Menlo Park Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

March 27-April 3 - No School: Staff Development Day & Spring Break

April 15 - "Are You Using Technology or is Technology Using You?" Speaker Series event, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview

April 16 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m., TERC Boardroom

April 17 - Sup & Sandwich Town Hall luncheon, all are welcome! 11:30 a.m. -1 p.m. at Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, 701 Laurel St, MP

April 26 - MPCSD at Menlo Park Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

May 14 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m., TERC Boardroom

May 25 - No School: Memorial Day
Have Lunch on Us!
Superintendent Burmeister hosts a town hall event, Sup & Sandwich, April 17, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Arrillaga Family Recreation Center. Please come, have lunch, hear what the school district is up to, and talk with Superintendent Burmeister. RSVP Here.
MPCSD Receives Distinguished School Honors
In December when the California Department of Education released its selections for this year's Distinguished Schools, Oak Knoll Elementary was on the list. Oak Knoll was selected because it maintains a high level of academic achievement and for its Model Practice called Teacher, Peer, Admin (TPA). TPA raises the bar in terms of expectations and achievement for teachers and students alike, while continually reinforcing the school’s values of growth mindset, collaboration, reflection, and progress. Oak Knoll serves a wide range of students with very different life experiences and speaking over a dozen different home languages, yet maintains cohesion through a positive school climate where students, teachers, and parents remain engaged and motivated.
Of Oak Knoll’s selection, Principal Kristen Gracia says, “We believe that our success is the result of three things: the clarity of our school mission and goals, our positive school culture and climate, and our strong relationships and instruction. Our students are so fortunate to have such incredible teachers. Our high-quality teachers are the main reason our students thrive.”

The California Department of Education recognized 323 elementary schools for 2020, including only eight from San Mateo County. Oak Knoll previously received the Distinguished School award in 2014 for its equity work and growth mindset instruction. Oak Knoll will retain the 2020 honor for two years. 

All four of MPCSD's outstanding schools have received the California Distinguished or Gold Medal School honor multiple times, including most recently Encinal Elementary in 2018, Laurel Elementary in 2014, and Hillview Middle School in 2015.
Kindergarten & New Student Enrollment Opens February 3
What, "Back to School" already? All NEW students entering MPCSD schools in Fall 2020 - kindergarten through 8th grade - may register starting February 3 at

Parents interested in  Spanish Immersion kindergarten  for their children must attend one mandatory information session. You may attend any session that fits your schedule, and the optional classroom visit can be attended regardless of which information session you choose. Parents with older children in the SI program must still attend an information session for a new incoming kindergarten student. The dates are:

  • Monday, February 3, 2020, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., Oak Knoll School-Library
  • Thursday, February 6, 2020, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., City of East Palo Alto, Community Room
  • Thursday, February 13, 2020, 8:30 - 9:30 a.m., Lower Laurel Campus
  • Thursday, February 27, 2020, 8:30 - 9:30 a.m., District Office TERC

All incoming kindergarten students are welcome to register for Spanish Immersion at Laurel or Encinal, no matter what your neighborhood school is. If necessary, a lottery for spaces will be conducted March 16.

Oak Knoll School offers another choice program, Multi-Age classrooms. These dynamic classrooms of mixed kindergarten through second graders, and third through fifth graders offer students a unique learning experience that blends project based learning, deep teacher-student relationships, and the opportunity for students to learn with and from students in three grade levels. All families eligible for registration at MPCSD schools can choose the Multi-Age program at Oak Knoll. Read more here.
Speaker Series - FREE & Open to the Community
MPCSD offers a speaker series featuring experts and timely topics that are sure to interest our community. In March we will host bestselling author Kim Brooks, and we have great events coming up on parenting conundrums and social media/technology. Please read more here and join us for any or all of these community-building events. Our events are free, include free, onsite childcare through a partnership with local Steve & Kate's Camp, and include snacks for all attendees. Coming soon:
Parenting Landmines: Peer Pressure, Vaping, Concussions, Sleep, Stress, and More
February 5, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview Middle School

A panel of experts will take your questions on all the hottest topics and engage in helpful, productive discussion with the audience. If you'd like to ask a question ahead of time for the panel's consideration, complete this form . Panelists include:
  • Dr. David Anderson, Senior Director of National Programs and Outreach, Child Mind Institute
  • Dr. Naama Barnea-Goraly, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, former Stanford brain researcher, founder of “Telle”
  • Dr. Karli Cleary, Pediatrician, Menlo Medical Clinic, Stanford Children's Health
  • Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, Director of the Stanford Brain Performance Center, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Devin Prouty, Senior Research Psychologist, SRI International
  • Dr. Erin Vogel, Social Psychologist & Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University
Small Animals: Parenting in the Age of Fear
March 4, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview Middle School

Best-selling author Kim Brooks will discuss Small Animals , an NPR Best Book of the Year 2018 and which Goodreads calls "a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America [that] calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another." Ms. Brooks' writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Chicago Magazine, Salon, Buzzfeed, and other publications. She has spoken as a guest on CBS This Morning, PBS Newshour, 20/20, NPR’s All Things Considered, Good Morning America, the Brian Lehr Show, and many other radio shows and podcasts. Read Ms. Brooks' recent (August 2019) opinion in the New York Times, about how "We Have Ruined Childhood" here.
Are you using technology or is technology using you?
April 15, 6:30 p.m. at Hillview Middle School

A screening of the documentary "LIKE" about social media overuse and addiction will be followed by an expert Q&A with Dr. Naama Barnea-Goraly, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and former Stanford brain researcher as well as the founder of “Telle” - a girl empowerment app where girls support, advise, and inspire each other. We are excited to invite Dr. Barnea-Goraly back to the MPCSD Speaker Series. She will help decipher the information presented in "LIKE" as well as answer the audience’s pressing questions about social media addiction. Dr. Barnea-Goraly will draw upon the latest evidence-based research to advise parents how to help our children use social media in healthy ways.

Early Learning Matters to Us
Finding a way to increase opportunities and access to high-quality early childhood education was an issue that mattered to over one hundred people last week at a showing of the documentary film No Small Matter , followed by a discussion panel with regional leaders. In partnership with Community Equity Collaborative, All Five, Good2Know Network, and The Primary School, Menlo Park City School District hosted the event and MPCSD Superintendent Erik Burmeister welcomed the public while presenting the district’s own Early Learning Center preschool as a model of how public school districts can enter the arena of early learning with excellent programs that are available on a sliding scale to lower-income families. The distinguished panel was moderated by San Mateo County Office of Education Superintendent Nancy Magee and included (pictured left-right) Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, The Primary School Teacher Tajmah Martin, All Five Teacher Kerry Folan, and MPCSD Early Learning Parent May-Ling Kuo Gonzales.

Stay informed and learn about what our local candidates think about early childhood and education issues. See below for upcoming candidate forums.
Candidate Forums: District 13 Senate Campaign
Early Learning: The future prosperity of our community is directly tied to increasing access to and the quality of early care and education. During this moderated conversation with the candidates, we hope to learn more about their platforms and plans for elevating early learning issues and leading our state to greater equity in education, especially for young children and preschool teachers.

Date/Time: February 9, 3-5 p.m.
Location: Performing Arts Center at Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Avenue, Menlo Park
Candidates: Josh Becker, Michael Brownrigg, Sally Lieber, Shelly Masur, Annie Oliva, Alexander Glew, and John H. Webster 
Moderator: Ted Lempert, President of Children Now and Lecturer at UC Berkeley, former Assemblymember and San Mateo County Supervisor & Special Guest Speaker Dr. Deborah Stipek 
Co-Sponsors: Community Equity Collaborative, League of Women Voters, Good2Know Network, Congregation Beth-Am, Foothill College, Peninsula Family Service, Santa Clara Office of Education, Footsteps Child Care, First Five, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
K-12 Education: Our partners Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation invite you to learn more about the candidate's views on K-12 education in California and their plans to put kids and schools first in California. MPAEF is part of a coalition of education-focused community organizations hosting the event.

Date/Time: February 13, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Location: Redwood City Downtown Library, Second Floor, Community Room, 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood City
Candidates: Josh Becker, Michael Brownrigg, Alex Glew, Sally Lieber, Shelly Masur, Annie Oliva, John H. Webster
Moderator: Mark Simon, Columnist for The San Mateo Daily Journal
Co-Sponsors: San Carlos Education Foundation, Carlmont Academic Foundation, Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, Redwood City PAL, Parents for Better Education Funding
More information: Facebook event page
Leading the Field
When we survey our community on their feelings about MPCSD, over 80% of respondents believe it is important that the district be a leader in education design and prototyping new models of delivering a high quality and innovative educational experience. Part of the way MPCSD fulfills this is by creating ways to share knowledge among education professionals. We share our expertise and bring other leaders together in conferences and events to elevate education on a regional. state-wide, and national level. This year, MPCSD is instrumental in producing two conferences. Please read more below and share the information with educators you may know.
SPANISH IMMERSION: MPCSD's own World Language Team is planning its annual "DLI Saturday Reunion: Together Increasing The Rigor of Our Instruction In the Spanish Classroom" to be held at Laurel School's Upper Campus on  April 25 . The success and popularity of this homegrown conference increases every year, with participants coming from all over the country to attend. Secure your spot by registering by  March 15, 2020 .

This year's conference will include engaging workshops around Mathematics, Literacy, Project Based Learning, and Social Emotional Wellness in the Immersion or Spanish Classroom, and a powerful and relevant keynote speaker address by Dr. Mary Montle Bacon. Dr. Bacon will reaffirm your passion for educating biliterate and bicultural students!

GRADING PRACTICES: MPCSD is joining forces with Altitude Learning, a leader in catalyzing personal learning, to host a Transformative Grading conference June 15-16, 2020 at Hillview Middle School.

Receiving a “C” in math tells a student very little and yet often this is the only information a student receives about their progress. Feedback is an essential ingredient for learning, and our traditional feedback loops are not designed to give children and their parents the necessary information to grow and excel. Transformative Grading is designed to help educators, families, and students understand the impact of grading, assessment, and feedback in order to build practices that support learning. Together let’s reimagine grading practices in hopes of empowering learners to deeply understand where they are and where they’re going.

Because we strongly believe that better grading practices and better learning go hand in hand, MPCSD is making this event  FREE to all MPCSD employees and offering them free childcare while attending ! Thank you to Steve and Kate's Camp who provides childcare to us at no cost at many of our events.

District Digest
Crossing Guards Needed
MPCSD is now looking for interested individuals who can be crossing guards. If you have some free time and love being part of the school community, this job might be for you. Many of our wonderful crossing guards have become a beloved part of their students' routines and love the daily connection. We have contracted with All City Management to provide additional crossing guards throughout the city of Menlo Park to assist students to cross the busy streets and intersections. To apply for a job as a school crossing guard please visit the All City Management website and submit an application or call (800) 540-9290.

Need space? Consider our Facilities
The MPCSD community has supported the building and maintenance of excellent facilities over the years and we pride ourselves in making them available to the community. If your group is in need of classroom, theater, or field space, take a look at what your local school district offers. Information is available here.

Musically Minded
Thanks to a generous community donor, about 100 Encinal School students were able to attend a holiday concert at the San Francisco Symphony, which also included the opportunity to talk with musicians and try out instruments. In MPCSD, all students K-5 receive music instruction weekly with credentialed music teachers and may choose a band or orchestra instrument in 4th grade. At Hillview Middle School, students may enroll in a variety of music electives including band, orchestra, and jazz band.

Be Counted!
Census 2020 begins soon. The Census allows our county to accurately plan and provide services for children and families. An accurate count helps ensure that children receive the support they need to be healthy and successful. For more information visit San Mateo County's census website .

Campus Enrichment Thanks to Girl Scouts
 Recently several Girl Scouts who are also MPCSD students have earned Silver and Bronze awards by completing projects that benefit our schools:
Troop 62410 ( Sheryl Chen, Margaret Donald) – AIMS Club at Hillview Middle School

Troop 61767 ( Faith Cropper, Svita Kiran, Maya Jhawar) – LGBTQ Book Program at Hillview Middle School

Troop 62425 (Auden Jones, Avery Hill, Ellie Dillon, Ella Mohr, Emma Mulcahy,
Hannah Walker, Leah Collins, Lucy Houston, Kate Baron, Kylie
Winters, Maddie Eckert, Ruby Stone) – Summer Reading Library at Laurel Elementary School

Troop 62410 ( Helen Brockett, Emma Holmes, Sidney Loftman) – Garden Beds at Laurel Elementary School's Upper Campus
This project received support from the District Office Maintenance & Operations Team and Laurel Principal Linda Creighton and Vice Principal Ellen Kraska. The scouts and the district are grateful for the partnership.
Taxes, Budgets, Giving & More
A Primer on MPCSD's Finances
The MPCSD Board has been discussing its  Vision for Outstanding Public Education  for the past year. This Vision was developed with extensive input from a diverse advisory group that included parents, teachers, staff, and community members. The Vision outlines all aspects of an MPCSD educational program that the Board would like to provide if funding were sufficient. The Board will work with the community on an ongoing basis to ensure that the Vision priorities are met.

While the Board is considering the Vision for Outstanding Public Education, it is also involved in a larger discussion of MPCSD's sustainable financial future. A sustainable financial model will include property taxes, parcel taxes, bond measures, philanthropic giving to the One Community Campaign, and growing the endowment of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation. This year, the first year of joint PTO-MPAEF fundraising known as the One Community Campaign, was hugely successful with 72% of district parents donating to support our schools at an increasingly meaningful level. The success of the OCC is good news, as all the potential funding levers will need to work in tandem for a sustainable financial future.

Property and parcel taxes also make up an indispensable portion of the district's budget - 62% of funding comes from property taxes and 16% from parcel taxes. Measure X was passed by a nearly 80% majority vote in March 2017 as a temporary way to shore up the District's budget while providing a four-year runway for the Board to develop a more sustainable financial plan. In addition to Measure X, the District made $2 million in spending cuts that along with other influences have made our finances stable for the past two years. That Measure X will need to be replaced is a reality, one that has been communicated since the beginning. We need the revenue it brings in to continue providing our program. And if we wish to replace some of the services that were lost in the cuts, or realize an even stronger vision of public education, a replacement parcel tax may need to be larger, and the timing of the replacement may need to come sooner. To explore more about MPCSD's finances, please visit our OpenGov portal or look through our financial FAQ .

The Board began the parcel tax conversation at its November 12 meeting and continued it on January 9. We look forward to partnering again with our supportive community on how best to continue meeting the community's expectation that MPCSD provide the best education possible, with the most highly qualified teachers, to its families.
Art & Animals: Hillview Students Serve Local Shelters
Hillview art students have had access to a very special opportunity for the past couple of years. Teacher Anna Kogan forged a partnership with the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority and the Palo Alto Humane Society that combines art and service. The students have had field trips to the animal control facilities to interact with animals in preparation for painting and drawing them. While there, they learned of some needs the shelters have for items that could help the animals.
The beautiful animal art that students created has hung in the shelters to brighten the space, and students have made and donated blankets, banners, and even a custom-made birdhouse from the Hillview art Makerspace. Just last Saturday, Kogan and a group of students visited Silicon Valley Animal Control to make the special delivery, and again had the opportunity to socialize with kittens. There are many ways to partner with our community, and this is just one example of service and school coming together.
National Board Certification
The MPCSD staff and teachers make us proud every day. They are accomplished, dedicated, and professional in all they do. Thirteen of our teachers have taken the extra step in their careers to become Nationally Board Certified, making up over 5% of our teaching staff. Nationwide, fewer than 3% of teachers have this certification. Laurel fifth grade teacher Gina Watkins is the most recent MPCSD staff member to earn National Board Certification, and Encinal kindergarten teacher Sydney Cooper recently became recertified. It takes hundreds of additional hours for a teacher to earn this certification and according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a teacher who has earned national certification exhibits "a deep understanding of their students, content knowledge, use of data and assessments and teaching practice. They must also show that they participate in learning communities and provide evidence of ongoing reflection and continuous learning."
Gina Watkins says, "Like all Menlo Park teachers, I'm committed to my students and teaching. National Board certification gave me a fresh lens which validated my practice and boosted my confidence, but also made me question, evaluate, and refine my teaching. A special thanks to Lucia Rocha Nestler, Leigh Wilson and Nick Keller who helped me and served as role models throughout the process. I hope to support others who decide to work toward this certification." 
Sydney Cooper adds, "Working on my National Board recertification was a valuable experience. It offered me the opportunity to really dive deep into my practices, reflect on my teaching, and focus on student success in learning objectives and new concepts. I am especially grateful for the assistance from Katherine Strach, Jocelyn Guerra, Theresa Fox, and my Kindergarten team! It takes a village!" Congratulations Gina and Sydney.
Celebrating Community & Innovation
The Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF) raises significant money every year for our school district. Their annual grant makes up about 8% of our operating funds, and this year over 70% of district parents gave during the annual campaign. We are grateful for our generous parents giving above and beyond to ensure that MPCSD provides all students with the best education possible.
A unique way the MPAEF gives some if its funds is through the Jeanie Ritchie Innovation Grant Program, named for one of the founders of the MPAEF. Jeanie Ritchie Grants have been enriching classroom experiences for 35 years! This year, MPAEF awarded $39,000 in Jeanie Ritchie Grants for 26 innovative projects led by teachers and staff at four Menlo Park City School District schools: Encinal Elementary, Laurel Elementary, Oak Knoll Elementary and Hillview Middle School. These grants – ranging from $122 to $6,250 – provide funding for teachers to integrate innovative curriculum, projects, and experiences in the classroom during the 2019-20 school year. The grant recipient reception in the fall was  honored to have Jeanie Ritchie herself attend (pictured in the center of the photo)! Simon Breitbard Fine Arts generously hosted the event in their beautiful gallery on Santa Cruz Avenue. MPCSD is honored to have the partnership and support of so many in the community who care about our students and work to make their experience excellent.

Teacher Shares Story of Loss & Love in New Book
Laurel third grade teacher Dana Russell collaborated with Hillview art teacher Anna Kogan and Tech & Innovation Coordinator Theresa Fox to publish a lovely new book, Mocha: A Loyal and Loving Cat , inspired from Dana's real life and her exceptional cat, Mocha. Mocha was an instrumental force in Dana's grief process after her husband's sudden death in 2003 and the touching story is told from the cat's point of view. Dana hopes that her book may be helpful for any child going through a tough time (death, divorcing parents, anxiety, loneliness). The book emphasizes that with the powerful love of a pet, sometimes we can get through the worst circumstances. If you'd like to see more and possibly order a copy, please  click here . The district has purchased copies for each school library and counseling office as a resource for students. Congratulations to three of our staff on this wonderful collaboration!
Community Connection - Engage with Us
Have more questions about MPCSD and its financial stewardship? Check out our Media Literacy & FAQ or use the Interactive Financial Portal OpenGov. Get the real facts about the district's finances.

We invite you to connect with MPCSD in person by attending School Board meetings, our Speaker Series, Farmers Market, student art show at the Menlo Park Burgess Library, and via our Facebook and Twitter pages: @goMPCSD.
Our Schools

Hillview Hawks, Laurel Squirrels, Encinal Eagels, Oak Knoll Otters. These mascots represent MPCSD's four award-winning schools that are the hearts of their neighborhoods and the pride of our community. As partners in educating our future, we welcome your interest, questions, and feedback at any time. Use the links below to access each school's website, or email [email protected] .
School websites:
Menlo Park City School District | 650-321-7140 | Email |
Erik Burmeister, Superintendent
Jammie Behrendt, Assistant Superintendent

Board of Education
Stacey Jones, President
Sherwin Chen, Vice President
David Ackerman
Mark Box
Scott Saywell
School Bus