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Serrano residents question Oak Ridge boundaries

One of the ways that long-shot candidate Ron Mikulaco won the District 1 supervisor seat last month was his tireless canvassing of neighborhoods. Between dog bites, bee stings, sun burns and blisters he heard some recurring complaints, including several over school boundaries.

The easterly Oak Ridge High School boundary has drawn the ire of some Serrano parents who bought homes assuming their kids would attend the local high school, but later  learned that their neighborhood is outside the school’s boundaries. Their freshman attend Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, eight often-congested miles east, rather than Oak Ridge, which is much closer and in some cases, where nearly all their middle school peers are enrolled.

The new Blackstone community has it much worse. Located off Latrobe Road, Blackstone families send their high schoolers to the under-populated Union Mine High School, located 16 miles east in the rural community of El Dorado.

Local Real Estate Broker Sheri Elliott sums up the situation on her website: “Which high school an El Dorado Hills resident will attend is usually the biggest concern when purchasing a home in El Dorado Hills. The most common question is ‘Is this home within the Oak Ridge High School boundaries?’

“Although both Oak Ridge and Ponderosa schools are top-notch, Oak Ridge tends to be the first choice due to convenience and reputation,” she continued. “Ponderosa is located in Shingle Springs, which is a much more difficult commute for an El Dorado Hills resident.”

The current high school boundaries were redrawn in 2005 and enacted in 2006, following a west county population surge beyond all expectations but before growth came to a screeching halt, leaving overall enrollment declining in the district’s three other primary high schools — El Dorado, Ponderosa and Union Mine — but relatively flat at Oak Ridge.

Early boundary realignment proposals tried to keep Oak Ridge enrollment in check by carving established neighborhoods north of Green Valley Road out of the Oak Ridge boundaries, and were met with predictable howls of protest from affected families.

District officials, led by former El Dorado Union High School District Superintendent Sherry Smith, heard their 2005 constituents and opted for the current boundaries, which carved out the then-unbuilt Blackstone community as well as portions of eastern Serrano under construction.

Oak Ridge’s enrollment for next year is 2,224, comfortably beneath the 2,388 capacity afforded by portable classrooms. A recent demographics study [link] by SchoolWorks, the district’s school statisticians, predicts Oak Ridge’s enrollment will rise slightly, peaking at 2,314 in 2016 then gradually dropping to a low of 2,028 in 2021.

With Oak Ridge enrollment now plateaued below capacity and Measure Q improvements ongoing, families who live in eastern Serrano neighborhoods hope for either a boundary adjustment or a softening of the district’s historically strict student transfer policies.

“We’ve been asking for over three years,” said Catie Phemester, who wants her 11-year old to attend Oak Ridge, and said she’s spoken out at board meetings and via e-mail on the matter, to no avail.

In 2010 Phemester and other families backed challengers Kevin Brown and Todd White for two high school district board seats. Both were elected, defeating incumbents Madeline Restaino and Kirby Ehler.

The group subsequently organized as the Community for Educational Alignment, and are backing a policy authored by Brown that would allow transfers between district high schools for students graduating from “feeder schools.” The so-called “95-5” policy would apply in middle schools where at least 95 percent of the students live in one high school district. The five percent who live outside the district would be allowed to transfer, as long as the target school is under capacity.

The appearance of an attendance/school boundary matter on the El Dorado Union High School’s July 12 board meeting agenda is a glimmer of hope for parents hoping that the district’s strict boundary policies might be softened.

Superintendent Chris Hoffman warned that board-level discussion is strictly procedural at this stage. On Thursday he’ll ask his board if and how to analyze three related enrollment and boundary issues, with potential No Child Left Behind problems at center stage.

No Child Left Behind
The board must plan for the possibility that both Union Mine and El Dorado high schools could be deemed “program improvement” schools under provisions of the No Child Left Behind law because test scores for special education students don’t meet federal targets, according to Hoffman.

“Even though El Dorado has a healthy 792 API score and Union Mine is over 800, they have subgroups that don’t meet all the requirements,” said Hoffman. “We won’t know until fall.”

No Child Left Behind is under intense scrutiny by the Obama administration, and is up for reauthorization this year. The president has granted some states relief from provisions of the law. California has an outstanding waiver request.

By law, students in program improvement schools must be allowed open enrollment to other schools in the district, regardless of school capacity.

Hoffman doesn’t think it will come to that. “It seems like that system’s broken … but it’s still in place so we have to plan for it.”

The possibility of mass transfers out of two of four schools trumps other district boundary concerns, and will likely drive the discussion in the July 12 special meeting. The open session is scheduled to convene at approximately 7:20 p.m. at district headquarters, 4675 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville.

Hoffman said he’s also asking the board to take a fresh look at school boundaries and the intra-district transfer policy, based on how the housing market has unfolded since 2006.

As always, the board will take brief pubic comments on any topic, but Hoffman warned attendees not to expect a substantive discussion of specific boundary issues in this meeting. He promised to involve the public “once we decide how to look at these things.”

Serrano finger
Phemester and her husband moved to Serrano in 2005, a decision she said was based largely on the local schools their two children, currently 7 and 11 years old, would attend. They had no idea that they bought inside the Ponderosa High School boundaries.

They live in an area dubbed “the Serrano finger” by locals, a peninsula that juts northwest into Serrano from Bass Lake, consisting of roughly 350 homes off Penniman Drive and Greenview Drive.

Using demographic data from SchoolWorks, Phemester concluded that, on average, her neighborhood generates 10 new high school students each year.

“You can’t tell me that 10 kids per year are going to crush the system,” she said. “There’s more kids than that absent every day.”

Pleasant Grove Middle School, which feeds Ponderosa High School, would also likely qualify for Brown’s 95-5 policy, she said, allowing a handful of students currently forced to attend Oak Ridge to stay with their class at Pondo.

Phemester insists she has nothing against Ponderosa, or any of the EDUHSD schools, pointing out that the other three traditional high schools in the district rank just behind Oak Ridge’s API scores every year.

“These are all great schools,” she said. “This whole thing is about friends, sports and transportation.”

El Dorado Hills kids, including hers, grow up playing sports in Community Services District leagues that provide a strong bond. “These kids could go to any El Dorado Hills elementary school or middle school and know lots of other kids, but they won’t know anyone at Pondo,” she said. “The social implication of losing your friends in the ninth grade is huge.”

Phemester’s not shy about admitting her role in picking her children’s friends. “Like it or not, it’s a parents’ job,” she said. “Kids totally influence each other. We know that, so we encourage the ones we like … with play-dates and such, and discourage the others.”

“But that only works when they’re young,” she added. “At ninth grade you can’t pick their friends any more and you can’t really shelter them; you can only hope they have the tools to say no, and part of that is having friends with the same values.”

Her son enjoys a clutch of solid level-headed friends that she’s worked hard to foster, and will fight to retain. “Face it, there’s a lot of scary stuff going on in every high school.”

Then there are the logistical concerns. Phemester runs a busy software consulting firm in the business park. Her husband works a stricter shift in Folsom. She doesn’t see how they’d handle sports and extracurriculars in Shingle Springs. “We’re just not up there.”

Rather than have their children attend high school in Shingle Springs, the family would move, most likely to Folsom, she said.

Ghost town neighborhoods
They’re not the only ones. “Our neighborhood is becoming a ghost town over this,” Phemester said. “People learn where their kids would have to go to high school and move.”

She cites several families that have come and gone. Local real estate agent Janice Bothwell’s situation, which goes back three-plus years, stands out.

Like Phemester, Bothwell didn’t know she had moved outside the Oak Ridge boundaries, but assumed that because her older son had graduated from Oak Ridge her daughter would be allowed to transfer. Not so.

She tried to sell the house but got no takers. She ended up renting it to her older son and moving into an apartment near Oak Ridge with her daughter.

A district official apparently found the move suspect, and went to great lengths to confirm that Bothwell’s daughter no longer resided in Serrano, including unannounced visits and drive-bys of both the Serrano house and the apartment, sometimes with advance requests for gate codes and open drapes, presumably, she said, to look inside the house.

Frustrated and stressed, Bothwell hired an attorney. The matter was soon dropped, with an apology from the official, she said. Her daughter is now a thriving junior at Oak Ridge but the costs piled up and she eventually lost the Serrano house, she said.

Phemester also has past drama over what she calls her “Bermuda Triangle” neighborhood. Her problems started with little league, which uses high school boundaries, and wanted her son to play in Cameron Park.

She battled little league officials all the way to headquarters in Williamsport, refusing an individual waiver along the way, holding out for a boundary change, which she eventually won.

Two days after that victory she learned that the Rescue school district wanted to move her son from Lake View to Jackson elementary school to balance enrollment. She fought and won that battle too, but then saw the bus route changed. Neighborhood children are now first on and last off, for an average bus ride of 40 minutes each way.

Phemester said she detected a definite anti-Serrano bias during her Little League and middle school battles, , “Like we’re uppity or something.”

“We’re not uppity. We’re middle class,” she said. “My husband and I go to work every day and work hard, just like people everywhere, and we want the best for our kids just like they do.”

Unlike “them,” Serrano residents pay an annual school Mello Roos assessment of 44 cents per square foot of house, which directs $880 per year for a 2,000 square foot house, or $1,320 for 3,000 square feet, to three local school districts.

David Tierney is Phemester’s neighbor. He researched the Mello Roos formation documents and found that the high school district gets 38 percent of the assessment, which currently amounts to roughly $1.7 million per year, and exceeds $20 million in total over the past 20 years.

Phemester laments that his neighborhood her been used to solve a myriad of boundary problems, “schools, Little Leagues … bus routes,” always to the residents’ detriment. “You want our money but we’re always the first one moved.”

With Union Mine High School under-populated and overall enrollments declinging, a fifth conventional public high school in the county now appears at least 20 years away. Tierney worries that El Dorado Hills’ families will be further impacted, resulting in more “neighborhoods like Blackstone sending their kids to Union Mine, and parts of Serrano being diverted to Ponderosa.”

Meanwhile, Serrano residents continue to wonder why the EDUHSD administration has been so rigid about its transfer policy.

“The lengths they went to to keep my daughter from attending the school my son graduated from, in the community I live and work in … I just don’t understand it,” said Bothwell.

Neither does freshman board member Kevin Brown, who said, “We have the strictest intra-district transfer policy in the region, and no one can tell me why.”

Superintendent Hoffman tried to explain. “There is a clear intra-district transfer process and we follow it as closely as any district around, making sure we’re as fair as we can,” he said. “Our policies work very well in keeping our schools filled.”

The policy states simply that student residence should be the primary determinant of the high school attended, with exceptions limited to student safety issues or siblings actively attending a different high school.

Parents employed at another school are also granted transfers for their children, an exception that irks Brown given the otherwise restrictive transfer policies.

“The bottom line is all of our schools are great schools,” said Hoffman. “There are plenty of examples of kids ending up in a different school based on their residence and it working out great for the kids.”

He assured the Mountain Democrat that he hears the concerns of the Serrano parents, which were presented to the board in May, and promised “to put together a process to take a look at it in the fall.”

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76 Comments for “Serrano residents question Oak Ridge boundaries”


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  1. As someone that transferred from Oak Ridge to Ponderosa, these Serrano parents are missing a great opportunity to have their kids go to a better high school.

    • I do not think anyone is saying they do not like Pondo, they are saying it is not convenient to drive there. If they lived near Pondo and was told to go to Oak Ridge, I am sure they would have a concern there too. Gas/time is expensive, and if you have other kids at other schools, it is almost impossible to juggle driving in so many directions.

    • Natalie,

      You missed the biggest point of the entire article. Those kids in eastern Serrano will go to school in El Dorado Hills and develop friendships from K-8 only to be put in a school where they know no one starting as a freshman in high school. Why subject them to starting over with their friendships at high school? It’s not like they are moving to a new neighborhood. All the schools are good, but this conversation does not involve the quality of the schools. It deals with why the high school district would subject around 10 kids per year from eastern Serrano to start over at a school none of their friends attend. If Oak Ridge is under capacity, the only reason I can think of the board not allowing the Oak Ridge zone to include all of Serrano must involve some type of personal issue on the part of the superintendent or several board members.

      • Joe, have you attended school board meetings and raised the point of personal issues on the part of the sup and board members? What was the response?

  2. Seems like the 95-5 policy makes good sense for both the schools and the students.

  3. Rodney Stanhope

    I was sent this article and after reading it my first thought was that Geez People in El Dorado Hills are some whiny little….. Upity is right! I have since talked to a few different sources and was (Wrong) and shocked to discover the deeper issue! While I disagree with the mentioned people using “I bought my house because of where my kid will go to school” & then claiming it’s only about keeping friends together… Since when you bought your house you had no idea who your kids friends would be… BUT I guess I have been out of school too long! When I graduated 8th grade at Pinewood it was simple we all went to El Dorado! Proud Class of 85′ – I always thought that you went to a specific school and that whole school went to the same High School?? WTH is with this boundary stuff? That is totally lame and yes I agree Unfair – I will be at the meeting and am 100% behind this 95-5 concept! Keep up the fight! I with you on this one! See you learn something everyday! Oh and congratulations to Ron for Spearheading this! You’ll make a great Supervisor!

  4. When the boundaries were changed back in 05/06, certain assumptions were made at the time which drove the boundary decision. Real estate trends have shifted significantly since then, so it seems very reasonable that the Board would consider a policy change. I’m all for changes that could have a positive impact on children in any community throughout the district knowing that the Serrano community is only one of several County wide who could benefit from a 95-5 policy. There seems to be a growing perception that the current Board has historically been unreasonable and unwilling to partner with various communities to address these matters, so their willingness to re-evaluate current policies could have a positive impact on how in touch people feel the current Board is with what matters that district residents care about.

  5. I’m in agreement with Mr. Brown’s 95/5 policy. As I read this, it seems to be a select few that would be granted into their local high school countywide, but is not allowed to by a standing policy that needs reviewing. We must put the children’s needs first.

  6. I like to commend Village Life for taking a good detailed look at this issue. Also, thank you, Phemester family, for being our voice.

  7. I have been following this debate for sometime and think it is critical for the Board to evaluate the merits of the 95-5 policy. High school is a critical time in a young persons life and as a parent, I would wantt o be able to leverage the parent and community relationships I had forged in my childrens’ first 8 years to see them through the next 4 years. Our focus should be what is in the best interest of our young people and we should not default to boundary decisions made six years ago.

  8. As a resident of EDH, a parent, and an employee of the County, I encourage the Board to evaluate the merits of the 95-5 policy.

  9. I’m curious how many of these families moved into these neighborhoods without knowing which high school their children would attend. Did the district line move after they moved in? Or did they move knowing full well their children would go to Ponderosa but were willing to take on a fight to change this?

    The article states that about 10 children per year are affected. Should the district board spend time on these 10 children or is their time better spent trying to figure what to do should Gov. Brown’s tax initiative fail in November?

    BTW, Measure Q is a district-wide bond initiative – it is not focused on Oak Ridge as the mention in this article might lead one to believe.

    • Curious, fair questions. The results are mixed. There are some residents who purchased vacant lots while the boundary was still Oakridge (and did so because Oakridge was the school at the time) and later learned about the change, and others who purchased knowing what the school lines were hoping that the previous decision, at some point, would be reconsidered. Whatever the situation may be, I would argue that since there is such a small impact on the numbers, this policy affords a quick bandaid fix for a larger problem in the District, and that is a poor decision to build the newest high school in the District far away from where all of the growth has and will continue to take place. I agree that there are more important matters for the Board to consider, however, they’ve chosen to dig their heels in on this matter when it should be an easy decision, supported most recently by the latest School Works data. Please note that this is a district wide initiative, not a Serrano or El Dorado Hills initiative as the article suggests. There happens to be a vocal group in the El Dorado Hills community, but word about the initiative is starting to reach other parts of the District, and support will continue to grow. The point here is that all groups supporting this matter are not interested in a policy that only benefits a particular community, but a change that benefits families in all communities that EDU high schools serve.

    • We were told by our Real Estate Agent that our Elem School was Oak Meadow, and come to find out it was LakeView… Now that my daughter is going into the 10 grade, she is at Pondo.. She loves it there, however, my son going into 8th grade at Marina, says he must get into OakRidge. I pay my HOA dues every month to Serrano, and we better get this boundary line changed soon. All the District cares about is the almighty dollar. NOT our children..

      • This is a lesson that all need to learn. We rented for a while when we first moved here. At that point, we were locked into schools and did not want to make our kids move again. When it came time to buy, we had one kid going into 8th and one in sixth. We loved many of the neighborhoods in the Rescue school district and before we looked over there, I called both Rescue and Buckeye. I was told that Rescue would have allowed my 8th grader to stay at Rolling Hills since it was his last year, but my they would not release my sixth grader. At that point, we just took half of EDH out of our home search. After doing research, I learned that Seranno is a web of crazy boundries. The best advice I received from my realtor was once you see a place you are interested in, call the districts and confirm. I documented each call with the name of the person I spoke with, date, time etc and filed it with my home papers. The realtors can tell you what the closests schools are, but unless they call, they do not know for sure.

        As for those that were changed after the fact, the children should be allowed to continue on with the intended path, or have a choice.

  10. When it comes down to it, we elect School Board members to focus on what is best for kids. Unfortunately, with all of the politics involved, that does not always happen. Although I am not personally affected by this, it makes no sense to tell a handful of students each year that they cannot continue onto high school with their classmates, even though they live in their neighborhood and have been attending school with them for over 8 years. I know Ponderosa is a great school, but this is about doing what is best for kids. And with all of the struggles high school chidlren are going through socially these days, it should be our job to make the transition as easy as possible on them. I strongly urge the Board to evaluate the merits of the 95-5 policy.

  11. The 95/5 rule should be passed by the district, this is a d

  12. The 95/5 rule should be passed by the district. This is a district wide problem where a VERY small group of children have to leave their friends and classmates that they have been with since kindergarten when they hit high school. We are very fortunate that we have outstanding schools in the district, but that does not outweigh the emotional damage that can be caused at this critical time in their lives. I seriously doubt that if the board members felt that their children’s emotional well being was at risk they would not be doing the same thing as these parents. I believe that only Kevin Brown actually has a high school student currently enrolled in the district … Please correct me if I am wrong.

  13. Bothwell is a real estate agent who made assumptions about high school attendance rules rather than finding out the facts.

    Phemester also sounds as though she didn’t do her research. She doesn’t just have a problem with the high school district but also has complaints about Rescue Union. Everyone is out to get her.

    • I think we should focus on what this article is about. It is not about Catie or others. It is about our kids who are affected. I’m not going to argue about why the decision was made 6 years ago (I’m sure there were others) but let’s move on and do what is right for the kids and the community as a whole. Let’s have a solution and that solution is the 95/5 rule.

      • Here is the definition of the 95-5 rule as stated in the articel…

        The so-called “95-5” policy would apply in middle schools where at least 95 percent of the students live in one high school district. The five percent who live outside the district would be allowed to transfer, as long as the target school is under capacity.

        What happens if the school is over capacity? People who think they will get in to that school becuse of the 95-5 rull will not and then it will be another fight. Do we change it to 90-10? I just think we will continue to set ourselves up for failure if there is not a firm stance. When we moved here, we did not get the school three blocks from our house because it was full. We were sent to another school in the same district. I just think if we tweak a rule that ends in “as long as the target school haas capacity” then we are setting ourselves up for future problems.

        • I agree. I think this is a short term solution we have now. I’m all for a longer term solution (e.g. changing boundaries). Thoughts?

    • Janice Bothwell

      I guess maybe I did make that assumption, but my son attended Oak Ridge and wrestled and also played football while he was attending there. His grades began to slid so I pulled him out of Oak Ridge and placed him on independent studies for a semester. I re-registered him back at Oak Ridge and not a word was said to me by anyone that he should be at Pondo??
      Why were we not allowed for my daughter Ally to go to Oak Ridge?? Not to mention, she was shifted to 5 different elementary schools here in EDH die to school boundary changes due to the opening of Lake View elementary school Her jumping from one elementary to another became a family joke, it was so ridiculous. I wasn’t about to make her go through that again. She was begging me daily to make them let her stay with her friends and go to Oak Ridge.

  14. EDH mom, I cannot speak for anyone elses situation, but as I stated above, my realtor told me if the schools were critical, to call before writing an offer to confirm which schools my kids would go to. I did that and documented the calls. If after I go through all this and they decide to change the boundaries, then they would have a fight with me.

  15. Tiverbrook, you obviously did your research when making an EDH home purchase as did I. I don’t believe that Bothwell or Phemester did the research with their school districts.

    As far as I can tell from this story and the responses, there weren’t any existing homes that were affected by the boundary change in 2005.

  16. When we purchased our lot/home in 2005 we were told there would be a community elementary school going in across the street off Penniman and our kids would be going to school at Oakridge, less than 2 miles down the hill, not Ponderosa, 8 miles up the hill on a busy freeway. Both of these were determining factors for the purchase of our home. We moved to this area from the Bay area for the sole purpose of finding a nice community with great schools to raise a family, as we did not yet have children. We love EDH but are very frustrated by the boundary issues. The elementary school our daughter will enter next year is 6 miles away on the other side of town. We pass several schools to get there, one being less than 2 miles from our home. 10 kids per year may not seem like a big deal to some people but it’s a huge deal for our little pocket of kids who are bused all over town, out of town, and separated from their friends at very critical ages. As a teacher myself, I’ve attended many board meetings in the district I am employed in and know the huge job school boards face but I cannot understand why they are so adamant on this topic. The way the whole town is divided into two districts is also beyond me, such a waste of funds, but that is an entirely different matter!

  17. SC..Can I ask who told you about the boundaries? Not to harp, but it is so important to contact the schools directly. I agree that we have too many school districts in this town of less that 40,000 people. If we were to take a couple of superintendents out of the mix and consolidate the bus routes, then the districts could save some money.

    Back to the topic on hand, without knowing the facts, I am sure there are other neighborhoods that have the same issue. Where it may be 10 from yours, there could be numerous from others. I can see where the break the rules for some, why not other, would apply and cause problems. From the parent of a child at Oak Ridge who could not get the schedule needed due to staffing limitations, I am not as supportive of those who fall outside the boundaries. I did the research beforehand and limited where I would look to ensure my kids were where I wanted them to be. The homes on Latrobe were amazing, but once I heard they were part of Union Mine, they were not an option. I have nothing against Pondo or Union Mine, but we moved here, rented and wanted to stay in the same district we rented in. We did not chose our rental for the school district, we just like the house. Once we were in the school dstrict, we were going to make sure our kids stayed. I am sorry that you are having to go through all of this and wish you well.

    • Tiverbrook,

      We moved into the “Serrano finger” in late 2004 and at the time it was zoned for Oak Ridge. I checked with the district office (as you seem to be so adamantly advocating) prior to signing on the dotted line. A lot of my neighbors who were the first ones in the neighborhood did the same thing. It wasn’t until the following year that they rezoned us for Ponderosa. So, yes, I did my research. And yes, I believe the people up there have every bit as much right to attend Oak Ridge as your kids. The worst thing districts can do to a kid is uproot him/her from all of their friends/relationships. If your kid goes to an elementary school, the friends they meet there should continue on with your kid through high school. That should be of paramount importance. The rule should be that 100% of the kids at a given elementary school should funnel into one and only one middle school AND 100% of the kids at a given middle school should funnel into one and only one high school.

      • If you missed what I said in a previous post, here it is:

        If after I go through all this and they decide to change the boundaries, then they would have a fight with me.

        If you moved in and confirmed that you were one school and then they switched you, then you should fight. I am saying it is up to the parents to do the leg work. If you move into a neighborhood knowing that they will go to a differernt school or did not do the leg work, then there is nothing that can be done. That cannot be pushed back onto the district.

        • I simply don’t agree with your suggestion. You are advocating people should get to go to a school based on how well they researched the districts prior to moving to a house. That is entirely impractical and arbitrary because you have no idea how each family’s situation played out.

          I think it could be as easy as this…

          1) Your kid is enrolled into an elementary school based on your address.
          2) As long as you don’t move, your kid is enrolled into a middle school simply based on the elementary school they attended
          3) As long as you don’t move, your kid is enrolled into a high school simply based on the middle school they attended

          Does anyone have a legitimate reason why the above methodology can’t be implemented?

          • 1. Because we have 3 different school districts serving our community.
            2. Our community is growing and changing and what works one year won’t work 5 years later.
            3. Because clearly the high schools can’t fit all the students that would feed into them in your scenario, thus the current discussion.

          • Yes, yes, I know those issues. Those issues were created by the administrations of the districts themselves. Those issues can be fixed through ballot measures. Don’t get me started on the bloat of the administration in this county. The simple fact that there are 14 school districts in this county with 14 sets of administration when the combined enrollment of all 14 districts is smaller than Folsom-Cordova, smaller than Elk Grove Unified, way smaller than Sacramento Unified… makes our county a poster child for pure administrative bloat/greed.

            Although there certainly doesn’t need to be three districts in EDH, they could peacefully coexist if they were intelligent. With current and projected enrollments, there is absolutely no reason why 100% of Marina and Rolling Hills students would not be able to funnel into Oak Ridge. Right now Oak Ridge takes over 99% of the students from those two middle schools. I don’t know why you believe that Oak Ridge “clearly” can’t support taking the remaining few. It is currently sitting at under 94% capacity.

            Give me a break. People need to look at the actual numbers rather than take the party line bullet points the administration feeds to everyone.

            People should go talk to a real superintendent like Steve Ladd, who runs Elk Grove Unified, and ask him exactly why we need 14 highly paid superintendents up here when we have, as a county, about 50% of the enrollment of his school district alone. He’d probably laugh himself silly.

      • When you got rezoned, what was the discussion at school board meetings? How many people were in attendance putting forth the arguments and discussions we’re hearing here? What was the response given by the district?

        • The discussion was that there almost was no discussion. I have attended several Rescue Union as well as El Dorado High School district board meetings. When the boards get to the public comment section of these meetings they do not provide adequate time for responses to their agenda. Not only that, but they generally act dismissively to commenters and sometimes are downright hostile when certain subjects (e.g., rezoning) are brought up. Many of these board members focus on policies and decisions that seem to benefit lightly populated areas of the county to the direct detriment of the heavily populated El Dorado Hills. For example, was there any basis in reality with the decision to build Union Mine where it is? I fail to see why they wouldn’t add the newest schools near the population boom areas rather than in the middle of nowhere. It’s also frustrating that before this last election cycle the biggest tax base for the entire county (EDH) had little representation on any board that managed our schools. Almost sounds like someone should have started a modern day No Taxation Without Representation campaign.

        • Yes, very little discussion is allowed. People have tried to bring up these bandaid issues and they are usually summarily dismissed at the board meetings. We definitely need fresh board members that have kids in the districts, then at least they have a shoe in the game. Some board members have been around forever and have lost touch. Each district is like a fiefdom and they don’t want to combine for fear of losing power. This bureaucratic mess needs to be dealt with. The problem is the boards are quite autonomous. Only ballot measures would force them to change their structure.

    • I was told by the DO, I did my homework. The scheduling issues due to staff limitations have very little to do with boundaries and everything to do with the state of our education system as it pertains to class sizes and state and federal funding. Staff get cut to save funds, kids suffer. As I stated before, I am a teacher and have been through this year after year, that is politics. Our 10 kids have very little impact on the overall scheduling of Oak Ridge. Plus, we pay more than our fair share into melaruse and the other bonds that make this community an awesome place to live. We should not then be shuffled up to Shingle Springs for school and sports. It’s an entirely different community and it just doesn’t make sense.

  18. Have students who have applied for a transfer via the district’s existing Open Enrollment policy been turned down when the requested school was under capacity?

    Should residents in the “Serrano Finger” get precedent over students in Blackstone?

  19. EDH Dad – my thought is that it is on the ownness of the parents to see that they are in a home that feeds into a school they want there kids to go to. A very good question from Oak Ridge, why should Serrano folks get in and not Blackstone. I understand the 95-5 rule but those kids would sit on a bus for 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to school. There will be reasoning for all, which is why I would assume that the district is so strict about transfers. You let one in, then you need to let them all in.

    • I believe that the 95-5 rule will help black stone as well since it will allow them to stay with their friends from Camardo springs at Pondo. Again, while this article is focused on EDH, this same issue is happening at union mine and el dorado as well … This is a district issue, not an EDH issue

      • Blackstone is a mess. They have kids going to Brooks for elementary school, Camerado for middle school and Union Mine for high school. They were up front when we looked at those homes and we walked away. I loved that community, but knowing that there would be a drastic change between elementary school and middle school and again between middle and high school had me walking away immediately.

  20. Gary – I agree with EVERYTHING you have said. The school districts in this county are a complete mess. The solution is not in passing Governor Brown’s tax initiative, which will RAISE all of our taxes….again. We would save millions of dollars just by combining school districts and getting rid of all of the high-paid administrations!! I too, am a teacher, and what I have witnessed in the county is absolutely horrible! It is awful that a family even has to research what school district that they would be in when they move to a small town like El Dorado Hills. The fact that there are 3 possible high schools that you could go to depending on what street (not neighborhood) you decide to buy on is just wrong. At least ALL of Blackstone is going to the same high school (even though it is insane that they have to drive 30 minutes up the freeway)! Serrano has a line drawn right through the center of it!!! I do not think that it is weird at all that a family would move to any given neighborhood and assume that all of the kids in that neighborhood would be attending all of the same schools from elementary to high school. I think that the 95-5 rule is an excellent “band-aid” that would solve the current problem for the less that 5% of students that are being forced to other high schools throughout the district. I would, however, hope to see a permanent boundary change that would solve these problems definitely!! Neighborhoods and communities should be kept together. That is what this whole thing is about!!!

    • I’m not a fan of the system, but if we get rid of all 3 sups, who make about $150k each, we save $450,000. The combined budgets for the districts is over $60 million. IMO, the solution is returning control of the schools to the community as it was pre-Prop 13.

      Would a boundary change work if all the empty homes in Serrano and throughout EDH were occupied? I’m guessing the line was drawn where it was because OR can’t handle all those kids at 100% occupancy.

      The real question is how the decision was made to build Union Mines instead of another school at this end of the district where the growth has been.

      • If “the administration” was only the superintendents we would be so lucky. Unfortunately, there are dozens of positions in administration: transportation, curriculum, human resources, etc, etc. Combining districts saves way more than a couple superintendent salaries. They are just the tip of the iceberg.

        Here’s another one of my myriad of reasons why I despise the people in charge of these districts…

        The district administrations go on and on about having to seperately spend the money allocated to teachers, administration, and facilities (buildings).

        For example, say voters passed a ballot measure which allocated $10 million for a new school, so the money is ear marked and just sitting there. Meanwhile, enrollments don’t continue to expand so they decide to delay in building the school. At the same time they run into a budget crisis with the cost of paying teachers and so they pink slip a bunch and increase class sizes. Yet they have all this money to build a school that is not needed, and it’s just sitting there. This happens… a lot.

        A person with common sense would probably say: “That’s insane, just reallocate that money to teachers so you can stop pink slipping them and get class sizes under control.” The administrators would then proceed to tell you: “Sorry, we can’t touch that money… it’s only for a new school.”

        Well, here’s an idea that they would never tell you or consider. Why can’t the board organize another ballot initiative to let the voters vote to reallocate that money where it’s needed – to teachers. Tell the voters: “Hey, we know you voted for bond money for a new school back in 2004. Well that was when we thought we would need that money for a new school. But a funny thing happened… the housing market imploded soon after the money was approved and allocated. Now we are here 8 years later and won’t be needing that school for years. So how about voting to reallocate the funds that are just sitting there to be used for desperately needed teachers. It will save jobs and lower class sizes all in one fell swoop.”

        Haha, you think there is a snowball’s chance in hell that the administration would do something like that? No way. They take common sense… and burn it with a torch. There is so much administrative/bureaucratic garbage going on that, in my opinion, the only way to stop it is to tear it all down and start over from scratch. If the El Dorado county school districts’ administrations were running private sector companies, they would be long since bankrupt and selling the furniture out from under themselves.

        If only there were a majority of people with common sense on these boards, but I guess that’s simply too much too ask for.

        Anyway, I’m all for the 95-5 idea… and the cynic in me therefore believes the board will be against it because of some convoluted reason.

        • You sound like you’ve thought this through better than I have.

          How many positions could be cut in a merger and what would the savings be? How would the various union groups respond? How would this effect their contracts now in place? What would be the net effect on the state funding forumlas for the $ the districts receive? Would it be a net positive or a loss in revenue? How would transportation and food costs change? What’s the cost of a special election and where would those dollars come from? What’s the likelihood your initiative would pass?

          I’m a parent and not a supporter of the current system, I think it’s rotten to the core, but I see the problem at the state level. I want control returned to us at the local level as it was pre-Prop 13. The people I know in the districts, teachers, admins, staff, are bright people and work hard for our kids. Their hands are tied to a great degree by a bureaucracy beyond their control.

          (Sorry if this got of the topic of 95/5 – which seems reasonable to me for schools operating under capacity).

          • I have reached out to the Buckeye superintendent regarding the bus system. I have a child at Oak Ridge and one at Rolling Hills. For those that do not know this, Oak Ridge has a 7:30 and an 8:30 start. Some kids have a first period (7:30) and some start at second period (8:30). There is only one high school bus in the morning, so if your child starts at 8:30 and takes the bus, they will sit around for over an hour before school starts. In order for my child to catch the bus, he would have to leave at 6:20 in the morning, to catch the 6:40 bus to arrived around 7:15.

            The reason I contacted Buckeye is because my middle school student walks one block to the middle school bus stop and is picked up around 7:10 and dropped off at Rolling Hills by 7:30. I tried to get my older child on that bus as it made more sense for scheduling and safety. With all the budget cutbacks, I suggested that they look at sharing the bussing system. The high school busses have very few stops and it requires kids to stand out in the dark as early as 6am. If they consolidated districts, we could have less busses running at a fuller capacity. Because of the high school buss schedule, I refuse to use them in the morning. They actually make me look forward to the day that my teenager can drive. I did not think I would ever say that.

          • I believe if the electorate were educated to the issue it would pass hands down. Who would vote against retaining teachers and lowering class sizes using money that has already been allocated in the education system?

            There is no additional cost associated with a special election because you simply would target it for a given general election (just need to get the requisite signatures to put it on the ballot).

            State funding is done based on a formula that includes many factors, including the size of the district, the amount of property taxes collected in the district, historical spending patterns, among other items. The state does not have a policy for down-funding what a district normally receives based on local extra funding measures. That would be counterintuitive and would otherwise be a disincentive to raise educational money locally. So reallocation of local funds should not cause a change in state funding.

            This would not be an increase/decrease in total revenue, just a better way, in my opinion, to spend the money we already have that is just sitting around collecting dust.

            As far as union buy off, transportation costs, and other such things… reallocation of funds is a district-by-district issue and entirely different than the issue of district combinations. So unions, transportation costs, and other intra-district costs would be largely unaffected. If anything, unions would get the benefit of a smaller number of their members getting pink slipped each year.

            The net positive benefits as well as the hurdles for district combining deserves its own discussion topic altogether as that’s definitely a more complex, though worthwhile, endeavor.

          • So Gary, is this the platform for your school board campaign? I’m sure you’d get a lot of support.

          • Oak Ridge…..I actually replied to you below (I hit the wrong Reply button). There is a place you can go to get a lot of these questions answered on a merger!

  21. My mother always said “Don’t let a mechanic who doesn’t own a car work on your engine!” Why people would elect high school board members who do not have kids in high school is beyond me!! These old district boundry decisions are what happens! Kevin Brown, who appears to be the only member with a child in high school, has a workable solution in 95/5 and we should elect more people like him so he is not fighting our battles alone. My kids will eventually go to Pondo, which is a great school, but I understand the Serrano parents frustrations – however, the article makes them appear not only frustrated – but entitled and whiney. It appears the “Serrano Finger” is being flipped at the other schools not called Oak Ridge….

    • Oak Ridge……I AGREE!! Gary should run!! ……most people don’t know, but if you go to http://www.edcoe.org, click on “Superintendant’s Office,” on the left click “What’s New,” then scroll down and find the link that says “School District Reorganization (powerpoint presentation)”……if people are interested in seeing the benefits of cutting back and combining districts, the work has already been done!!! It is right there, but for some reason no one will talk about it or even discuss doing it! …..AGAIN – the 95/5 rule is a great idea!

  22. The kids in the “Serrano Finger” are the ones that lose in the current scenario. Their parents pay all the mello roos taxes for Serrano and the kids spend all their years from k-8 building friendships in schools far away from them near the Promontory and then hit high school and go the opposite direction to Pondorosa. Regardless of how good the schools are there is no continuation of friendships. This is very unhealthy for them as they are forced to uproot and enter into an entirely new environment at a school where they have no friends. You would have compassion if you could remember your Jr. High and High School years and how devastated you would be to leave all your lifelong friends behind and enter a new school. The 95/5 plan is fair and makes sense. Thank you Catie Phemester for fighting for our kids.

  23. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have heard complaints ut had no idea. I am in full support of the 95/5 rule. It’s all about what’s best for the kids.

  24. The people that live in the “Serrano Finger” do not sound whiny to me!!! They (along with the rest of Serrano) pay more taxes than anyone else in EDH, for the high school district, yet their kids are always the ones selected to trek across town to go to school. There are currently 25 out of 738 students attending Marina Village (spanded through grades 6-8) that are districted for Ponderosa, while every other student of the school is districted for Oakridge. Also, there are 6 out of 921 students at Rollinghills (spanded through grades 6-8) that are districted for Pondo, while everyone else is districted for Oakridge!! Sending 31 kids out of a total of 1,659 students to another high school because of some “strict boundary code” that can’t be broken is completely insane!! No one can tell me that if their child was one of those 31 kids that they would not be livid. It is appalling to me that the district would even allow this to happen, and they wonder why people would “move to apartments” or walk away from their homes and these “ghost town” neighborhoods would start to exist in our area! Parents fight for their kids and in this case, THEY SHOULD!! It is not whiny – it is simply wanting the best school experience for your child without them feeling uprooted and ripped away from everyone they know!!

  25. EDH Resident….You left out Blackstone. These kids go to Brooks and are swicthed to Camerado for middle school. My only issue with this is for the people who moved in these pockets knowing it was a problem or did not do the research. I think the home values are actually less in these pockets because of the schools.

    • Tiverbrook……It is hard to be frustrated at people about “not doing research” because a lot of people DID do research. Although not the case for the Blackstone community, boundary lines for the high school and for the elementary/middle schools have changed over the years AFTER people moved into their homes believing that they were going to a particular school. Like was said earlier, the “Serrano Finger” was originally in the Oak Ridge district! Homes began to be built up there in 2004 and lines were moved in 2005 and the new boundaries enacted in 2006. All of the people who bought homes in 2004 and 2005 were in fact in the Oak Ridge boundary line. Unless you are constantly online, making phone calls to district offices, or attending board meetings it is not unlikely that people continued to move into those homes in 2006 believing that it was still Oak Ridge. Newspapers reported that all of Serrano went to Oakrigdge, real estate agents believed it to be true, and the home builders themselves continued to sell homes by telling new buyers this. I also know that the boundary lines for Rescue and Buckeye have changed over the years in Serrano with people moving into homes believing that their kids were going to Oakmeadow (a Serrano School less than two miles from their home) and then being sent a letter in the mail a year or two years later (after their kids had already started school) and were told that their kids had to start attending Lakeview the next year (now a 6 mile drive OUTSIDE of their neighborhood). People in the whole High School district have very legitimate reason to be upset with the way that things have been handled……. all the way up through Placerville. The people who live between Union Mine and El Dorado High School have the same issues with their middle schools being over 95% feeders to one high school and less than 5% being sent to another school once they hit high school. It is not just an EDH issue – it is an entire district issue – but to say that the people who live in upper Serrano should have done a better job researching is unfair in a lot of circumstances. And, you are right, all of these neighborhoods throughout the district that are effected by this are completely devalued. If the board would straighten things out so that neighborhoods and communities were not being torn apart at such a late age in these kids lives then there wouldn’t be a problem and people would not be so frustrated!

  26. EDH Resident….I have been very consistant on my posts. If you do the research and they change the boundaries, then you have been wronged. Fight for it. If you did not do the research or you knew when you moved there that is was a problem that you would address later, then the ownness is on you and not the school board. I live in the middle of Serrano and I knew just in that area that some kids go to Marina. I made sure before I put in an offer that my address kept my kids at their current school. We had just moved here from another state a couple years earlier and I did not want my kids to move again. I do not know how the folks got in this situation. I would assume it was a mix of scenarios, some can be blamed on the school district and some has the responsibility pushed back on the home owner.

    As for the 95/5 rule, I raise the question that I posed earlier. People move into these gray area homes with the assumption they fall under the 95/5 rule. But the rule states that the 95-5 rule applies when there is capacity. So we come up to a year where there is not enough room and now people are mad because their kid is sent to another school. Don’t you think it is risky to have a solution that is not 100%, because the time will come when this is a problem again.

    • Tiverbrook….. I agree with you completely! I believe at this time the 95/5 is only supposed to be temporary with a more permanent fix down the road. With student populations over the next few years, all enrollments are projected to go down, not up. So, if this is true, it would solve the immediate problem with this small number of students that are currently in middle school. Like was said in an earlier post, this is a district issue, not just an EDH issue. I have personally spoken with people who have been going through this same mess up the hill between El Dorado High and Union Mine. Their middle schools are set up the same way ours are down here and people have walked away from their homes, rented apartments, etc. just to make sure their kids can stay with their friends through the end of high school…… and those schools aren’t even close to maximum capacity! So why would the board be so rigid as to not allow transfers between the two schools? It just doesn’t make sense! It’s the same district, so they still get their money!! Like EDH Dad said below, there are a couple of board members who have not been supportive of redrawing lines so that 100% of all middle schools in the district feed into one high school. There is an election this year and we will be getting the word out of who to vote for that actually supports aligning the middle schools to the high schools so that we no longer have this problem. Currently, Brown and Todd White sit on the board and they have been very supportive of this cause. Luckily, their positions are safe and they are not up for re-election this year! The hope is that 95/5 is a temporary, but an immediate “band-aid” that will lead to a more permanent solution over the next few years!

  27. I agree that 95/5 is temporary fix. Ideally, the EDUHSD Board would support a policy that ensures that the boundaries of feeder middle schools like Marina and Rolling Hills overlap 100% with the local high school boundary. When there’s already 95%+ overlap, it would be very sensible to close the gap. The reason that 95/5 was offered as an interim solution is that the Board’s majority hasn’t supported the concept of adjusting boundaries again. . .they’ve felt that the work done in 2005 was exhaustive, and they’ve expressed no appetite to take that on again. Hopefully they’ll recognize sooner than later that the principle of synchronizing feeder middle school boundaries with the local high school is a prudent, more permanent solution.

    A note on the Serrano Mello Roos tax: this is different from Measure Q and is not a tax the rest of the District residents pay (a couple of small developments do pay into it, but by and large it is a Serrano tax). It’s called the Community Facilities District (CFD) No. 1 tax. The tax was instituted 20 years ago to help fund the construction of new elementary, middle and high schools in EDH to anticipate the demands of the 4,000+ home Serrano development. The elementary and middle schools were built; the high school was not. Building a second high school in EDH was an explicit purpose of the tax. . .most of the tax proceeds allotted to EDUHSD have been used to improve Oak Ridge, which has obviously served to accommodate a lot of Serrano students. But the reality is that no second high school in EDH is anywhere on the horizon, because there aren’t enough students district-wide to demand one (thanks to Union Mine). So if you’re one of the 4,000 Serrano taxpayers who continue to pay $1.7 million every year to EDUHSD for a new high school promised 20 years ago. . .is it time to ask for a refund?

    • The boundaries can’t match because at full home occupancy Oak Ridge can’t support all the students. Keep in mind Parker has more planned development in Serrano near Oak RIdge has dozens of undeveloped lots within the Oak Ridge boundary within the custom home area, and also owns development propert on the east slope of Ridgeview.

      If I recall, there was to be another high school built out Latrobe beyond the business park. Not sure what happened there, but I’m sure people would be screaming just as loudly if their kids were being sent there and their kids’ friends to Oak Ridge.

      Where does your $1.7m figure come from? Is that the % of total Meel Roos $ ear marked for a high school? Where is this spelled out? Have any Mello Roos $ been spent on Oak Ridge?

      I am actively involved in our schools and interact regularly with administration, teachers, staff ond school board members. Being a school board member is thankless. These folks are volunteers who put in many hours beyond the public meetings. Most do it for the right reason and try hard, but they sure take a lot of arrows. Not a single new candidate ran against the Buckeye incumbents in the last election. Is anyone here interested in running? I doubt it.

      • The undeveloped lots are considered when the School Works does it’s numbers every 2 years. While 95-5 is not a solution, it is a temporary district wide patch for the few pockets of kids that are torn away from their friends ath the high school level.

  28. The tax data is reported by the El Dorado Schools Financing Authority. The total Mello Roos tax revenue for 2011/12 was $4.5 million: $1.7m for EDUHSD; $2.2m for Buckeye; and $555k for Rescue. Of the $20.7m collected for EDUHSD in the past 20 years, about $15m has been spent on Oak Ridge improvements, $3m on Pondo improvements, and $2m on Bass Lake Site Acquisition.

    Granted, holding any elective office, particularly an unpaid one, is no picnic. Agreed all of the current Board members have given of themselves over the years and the job can be thankless. I don’t think this issue necessarily needs to equate to a referendum on any current member, although I do think there will be new candidates that will run and this will be a key issue for them.

    As far as whether the boundaries can in fact overlap because Oak Ridge would be above capacity at full buildout of Parker’s and other approved future developments: The District’s Facilities Master Plan and annual Demographic Studies take into consideration all of the anticipated developments that will affect student enrollment over the next 10 years. The current MP assumes 800 new homes built in the Oak Ridge boundary in the next 10 years. Even with these anticipated developments, the enrollment of Oak Ridge over the next 10 years is projected to be flat, in fact declining by 10% by 2021/2022 from the current level. So I’m not convinced that the feeder middle school and high school boundaries can’t overlap.

  29. I have heard of the school district issues and, to me, it is a shame that any of this is an issue. The boundary lines should be changed so that there are no kids throughout the district that have to be seperated from their peers when they hit highschool. I fully support the 95/5 rule and hope that the board is wise enough to pass it!

  30. The 95/5 rule should PASS! This whole thing seems completely ridiculous and it has such an easy fix. Although a permanent boundary change should be seriously considered, the board could solve the current problem immediately with the 95/5 rule. Change obviously needs to come to the districts in this area and it will only happen if people stand up and say something!!!

  31. I am in Favor of the 95-5 Proposal! This ugently must pass…a huge deal in the real estate industry for El Dorado Hills…

  32. Superintendent Hoffman said ““to put together a process to take a look at it in the fall.”. Sir you have had 6 years to put together a process. When will you act? Frankly, we are paying additional taxes (i.e. mello roos) to support the schools and you are using Serrano to pilfer funds to areas that takes too long to get our kids home? What happens if a kid misses the bus? Will you pick them up? What if the bus breaks down (happened several times this past year) are the teachers going to become bus drivers and pick them up? Most likely, you guys will say too bad, and the kids will suffer.

    KIDS FIRST, policies second!!!

    • Pilfering of funds? According to EDH Dad (above), “of the $20.7m collected in Mello Roos for EDUHSD in the past 20 years, about $15m has been spent on Oak Ridge improvements, $3m on Pondo improvements, and $2m on Bass Lake Site Acquisition.”

      Of that $15 million, how much came from the families concerned about school boundaries?

      What has been “pilfered.” Seems to me the money has been spent as it was designed to be, but please enlighten me.

      This issue affects 10 Serrano kids per year (and I guess several others less vocal in Blackstone and other areas around the district). Most of us think the district’s priorities focusing on the other thousands of kids are correctly placed – especially given the chance that things will hit the fan when Gov Brown’s tax initiative fails in Nov. When it does, the list of things we’ll all be complaining about will be much longer and much more important than the social benefits of 10 kids staying with their friends.

      • Yes, pilfered… 3M that should have been spent to upgrade Oak Ridge to accommodate the growing population in and around that high school.

        AS another point, the district built in the wrong places and families are made to pay the price, this is just wrong. 94/6 passed as it should have, now we need to change the board out to make better decisions to better support our community. (oh, when will they break ground on the school across from Penniman?)

  33. Serrano Fingerlings lol!!!!

  34. I heard from the builders( Shea & Standard Pacific) that rezoning has been done & all the Serrano residents are eligible to go to Oak Ridge high school, is this correct?

    Can someone confirm, Thanks!!

    • That information is incorrect. There are no boundary changes at this point in time. A policy was passed to allow children attending Marina and Rolling Hills that were not transfers to go to Oak Ridge, but we are still working towards a final resolution.

  35. Folks ,

    Just checking any updates on policy changes with regard to Oakridge/ zoning , My son is finishing middle school next year , just checking if he will be eligible to go to Oakridge.

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