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My reasons for supporting the Crystal Springs Uplands School.....

I thought I would give my humble opinion as a Belmont resident, and as someone who has a keen interest in educational policy in the United States.

 

Dear Patch Readers,

I am writing to you to ask for your support for the Crystal Springs Uplands School (CSUS) middle school on 6 – 8 and 10 Davis Drive. I live in Belmont Heights and both my sons attended Fox Elementary School and now Charles Armstrong School in Belmont. I have lived in Belmont for eleven years and am originally from Greenwich, CT outside New York City.  Up until one year ago I had never followed the Belmont political scene.  I am a SAHM and was busy taking care of my two young sons. One of the main reasons I started paying attention to local politics, is that last fall when my sons started at CAS I heard through several Belmont residents that CAS wanted to build a gym and was turned down.   (CAS is a private school for children grades 2 - 8 who have language based learning differences such as dyslexia. CAS is a nationally known school and only one of three on the West Coast.)  Sad to say I looked into it and it was true.  Belmont voted it down about six years ago. According to many people I have spoken with including neighbors who lived directly next to the school, the school got a raw deal, mind you CAS has been in Belmont since 1984.  In any event, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this now and CAS will never try again to get a gym built in Belmont.  Clearly, they are better off trying to build in San Francisco.  By the way, this cost the school $500,000 in consultant, architect fees etc. 

So what does that have to do with the CSUS proposal?  Some of the same exact people on the planning commission and the city council who blocked the CAS proposal are blocking the CSUS proposal.  CAS deserved a gym.  Just last week my 8 year old son came home from school and said, "Mom, I heard the gym teacher muttering to himself  “All I wanted was a gym” while he dragged the balls and assorted sports equipment across the field and putting them back in the storage sheds."  This teacher is LOVED by the children at the school and has been teaching at the school for over 25 years.  He is an institution at the school.  It broke my heart to hear this story.  (Exercise is extremely important to the children at this school.  They get brain breaks every half hour.  Many of these kids are simply wired for movement…sports, p/e, movement classes are part of the curriculum. ) In any event, I have listened  via the web or attended every meeting since last spring regarding the CSUS proposal because, I was genuinely concerned about the decision making process in Belmont. I truly understand people’s apprehension to the proposal and respect all opinions.  However, after careful examination CSUS has answered my questions, mitigated my concerns and sweetened the pot financially.

I would like to state why I support the CSUS proposal.  1) It will benefit Belmont financially. There will be a one time $1 million payment and $250K yearly payments to Belmont.  They have also offered to give $250K to help with traffic improvements at Davis Drive and Ralston. 2) We will be able to use the all weather soccer field on the weekends and for three weeks during August. 3) CSUS has academic summer programs for those residents who wish to pay for them. 4) It is a racially diverse school, which gives out $2 million in financial aid to those families who qualify.  However, I would like to see continued outreach to the Latino, African American and students with learning differences. (By the way, the Catholic schools in the United States have been very successful on this front.) 5) Instead of old, decrepit buildings on Davis Drive we will have new state-of-the-art, LEED Silver Certified , architecturally pleasing green buildings.  6) They have mitigated the noise problem by enclosing the swimming pool and there will be a gymnasium for sports.  7) It is a small school of 240 children.  They will not be allowed to expand at this site. 8) It will provide another middle school option for those families in both the public schools and the private schools.  9) CSUS will use vans, shuttles and carpooling to help mitigate the traffic.  10) It has been in operation for 60 years and is financially sound.  As well as being one of the top middle schools in the entire United States according to many publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.  11) And lastly, private schools actually save Belmont money, because those same children could be enrolled in public schools at taxpayer’s expense.  

If the CSUS proposal is not approved, a private company can buy the building and pack in 800 employees.  There will be no summer school, no soccer field, no environmentally LEED Silver Certified building and potentially even more traffic than CSUS will generate. I truly respect all opinions and applaud all those Belmont citizens who are trying to educate themselves on this very critical issue. I am optimistic that the Belmont City Council will vote in favor of this project on October 9, 2012. It is a win, win for everyone!  Thank you for reading.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Beth Kelley

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Annie September 13, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Very well written Beth.
Belmont September 13, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Thanks, Annie. I hope the Belmont City Council can be more open minded about this proposal.
Annie September 13, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Mary Beth, I hope that you are right, but after watching the meeting the other night, I find it unlikely. Some members of the Council made their vote very clear.
Rob September 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Great letter! I hope you sent this to the City Council and all Belmont families at CAS and those in your neighborhood. Well done!
Belmont September 13, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Great suggestion, Rob. I will send it off tomorrow.
Karen Silfvast September 13, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Thank you Mary Beth. Very well thought out. I support your views.
Timothy E. Strinden September 14, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Your letter is very well written and touching, Mary Beth. I don't agree with your conclusions regarding CSUS, for reasons I've posted, but understand your reasoning and respect your motives. I hope your sons are doing well at CAS.
Shelley September 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Mary Beth as a resident of Belmont for the last 21 years, I have to agree with you. I find the city council to be extremely narrow minded. It is a huge disappointment that they can not look forward and see what is the best for the City of Belmont. I have pretty much given up on the Council. Sad.
Sharin Castro September 14, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Great letter Mary Beth! Thank you for opening yourself up to all of us and for claifiying the points of contention regarding the proposal. Hopefully people will read your letter and realize that the benefits far outweigh any potential negatives for our city. We can still hope that our City Council will try to make an educated well thought-out decision about what is best long term for our kids and make Belmont a place they will be proud of in the future!
Belmont September 14, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Shelley and Sharin, Thanks for the kind words. If you have a minute send a quick email over the weekend to the Belmont City Council stating your support for the school. Hopefully, this situation can still be salvaged. If Belmont let's this opportunity slip through its fingers, we may all live to regret it....
Belmont September 14, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Hi Dennis, I agree with you. I have no skin in the game....However, I am a big supporter of education whether it is public, private, charter etc. This is a top-notch school and we really should be honored that it is even considering Belmont. CSUS would not be the right place for every student....However, our country needs the best and brightest to end up at Stanford, MIT, Harvard or Yale...to conduct scientific research to discover cures, invent products, create companies or lead our government. I was in Saratoga recently and the downtown did look very nice...I did notice that...lots of nice shops etc.
ronny September 14, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Let's please cut the political election agenda and get to the truth. 11 pt. rebuttal: 1. there is zero fact that it will benefit Belmont financially and in fact, may turn out to put Belmont in the red after five years. There is only one fact here. Belmont CC has not presented an independant financial impact analysis to the citizens of Belmont. Moving forward without this is not conducting risk mitigation, due deligence and is irresponsible 2. this is not a long term solution to Belmont fields situation - is a bandaid approach at best. 3. Do the math. This works out to possibly $6k for a summer program per student based on available data. 4. The fact is all of their sponsorships go to under priviledged households. Belmont residents do not qualify. Not one Belmont student is sponsored. We already have diversification in public schools. 5. this Davis Dr. area just needs a redevelopment plan to revitalise it and tax monetise it. 6. a gymnasium for sports serving just 0.42% of Belmont school students-95.58% not served by CSUS. 7. Yes, small school, big bucks. -$8.4M yr. from this small school. Belmont's cut is 1.78% of this. 8. $35,000 tuition per year, the other 99.58% school students in Belmont are not served. 9. Vans? Shuttles? Carpools? Steve Jobs' daughter and all her buddies are going to carpool, ride in shuttles, vans? Reality check: They roll in SUVs, one to a car. 11. Studies have shown private schools reduce revenue to public, based on enrollment. BRSSD is against this.
Annie September 14, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Hi Ron, I do know people that live in Atherton and their children went to Crystal Springs in Hillsborough, and yes they did carpool. I also know people in Hillsborough that had children at the Priorary and they carpooled every day. They are the norm. What study did you see that says that private schools reduce revenue to public schools. I went to private schools and my dad was the one that said that it was a priviledge to go to private school and he was happy to pay taxes for the public school. If you own a home, it doesn't matter if you go to a public school or a private school, you pay the same taxes.
Belmont September 14, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Ron, it takes hard work and courage to pursue your dreams because life is full of critics who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo. Many times the status quo is “preserved” by those who are quite happy with what they have, are indifferent to those who want something different, or who just fear change. America is also a place where people have the right to disagree. Often there is no right or wrong answer, only better or worse answers. However, more often than not, doing nothing is the worst answer. Let's agree to disagree and move on....
Libby DeBattista September 14, 2012 at 09:03 PM
As a parent and homeowner, I think a Belmont that is a diverse, education-rich community will attract new people and contribute to our future economic growth. We believe in public schools — one child attends Central Elementary and the other spent K-5 there. We also know that public schools do not always present the best fit for every child, as we learned with our eldest at the beginning of middle school. We left for a small private middle school on the Peninsula, not because we could afford it (we received financial aid) or because we wanted our child to mingle with the elite. No, we were desperate for a school that would be the best fit for our child and our local middle school, while excellent, was not a place where she could receive an education. There are few middle school options of any kind in this area. Many of the students attending the school we chose traveled there together via CalTrain, a school-run shuttle and carpools; our daughter rode the train as much as possible. Families received financial aid. If we had had another option we might have stayed in our own community. We would have applied for financial aid. Our daughter could have taken the bus instead of a long daily commute. Perhaps your family will not need an education option, or perhaps like our family, you simply aren't yet aware that you will. We would like Belmont to be the town children travel to for an education, not the place children leave to get one. CSUS has our vote.
Charles Stone September 15, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Ron Tussy, 1. Currently the property generates around $145,000.00 for all taxing agencies. Can we agree on that? With the 2% property tax cap, it will take 28 years for that property to generate $250,000.00 a year if nothing changes. I admit it could be assessed up but it could also be assessed down (as appears likely given its condition and unattractiveness as commercial space.) There has been no development offers to turn this into a newer, vibrant commercial space that I'm aware of. So essentially, if we deal only in the here and now and not in idle speculation, we have the proverbial bird in the hand vs. two in the bush situation. CSUS is offering the City $250,000.00 with a 2% annual increase cap as opposed to the $145,000.00 in property taxes (with the same 2% annual increase cap) it is getting now. Please explain the circumstances in which Belmont would be put in the red in five years by the CSUS project and then compare and use those same circumstances assuming the property remains as is.
Charles Stone September 15, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Going in reverse order, Ron. 2. Who said this was a solution to the field problem? Not I, certainly. What I have said and will continue to say is that the addition of an all weather field for weekend use by the community would be fantastic. As for the traffic, I've got to ask you a question I've been thinking about today. If traffic were really going to be the huge problem the opposition says it is, why would CSUS want to locate here? Why would their parents want to sit in the traffic the opposition alleges the school would create? Doesn't add up to me.
Some recent posts in the Belmont Patch may create the erroneous impression that Charles Armstrong School is a dissatisfied member of the Belmont community. This is not the case. Please know that individual posts do not reflect the opinion of Charles Armstrong School. We have been serving students with language based learning differences at our site on Solana Drive since 1985. We continually strive to balance our enthusiasm and commitment to our students with the interests of our neighbors. In the past, there have been some issues that have been very difficult for the school and for our neighbors. We are committed to learning from those past experiences and addressing any of our shortcomings. We appreciate that our neighbors and the City of Belmont’s leadership have been willing to work with us through our challenges. We are fully committed to maintaining and continuing that relationship and to exploring ways to work cooperatively. Debbie Vielbaum Director of Admissions & Community Relations Charles Armstrong School

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