You funded this swank LASD Retreat

1.6 LAEF donations consumed...or 8.1 GG parcel tax payments...gone
Written by lalahpolitico

Rotary members’ eyebrows were raised at a recent Los Altos Rotary luncheon when the event speaker — the Director of the Hakone Foundation in Saratoga — mentioned that a recent “customer” was the Los Altos School District. There was an LASD retreat held there this summer.


Exterior of the Lower House beneath an old oak

Superintendent Jeff Baier and Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum, Sandra McGonagle, huddled with the District’s nine principles on Tuesday, August 2, 2017 at the cushy Lower House building at Hakone Gardens for their all day LASD retreat.

Hakone Pond

No one is disputing the need for this LASD meeting / LASD retreat on Aug. 2. But  $1,873– an excessive sum–was spent on rental and food.  And it was spent outside LASD boundaries!

This Zen garden is just outside the Lower House

Our government agencies and local non-profits are expected to spend money locally. It is somewhere between treason and a faux pas…to send money to other locales. For example local MV-LA-LAH organizations I know, won’t consider renting at the new Elks building on ElCamino for an event…because it is technically in Palo Alto.

At the Hakone Lower House…an example continental breakfast, $19 per person. Lovely view of Zen Garden. Lunch is $24 a person…a bento box.

Some Measures of the LASD Retreat Extravagance

It would take 8.4 taxpayers’ Measure GG parcel tax payments ($223) to pay for the $1873 LASD retreat.

Kiss your hard-earned money good-bye.

It would take 1.6 parents’ suggested LAEF donations ($1200) to pay for the $1873 LASD retreat.



The circle denotes the building LASD rented August 2. It includes views of lovely gardens, etc.

Cheap (er) Alternatives Passed Over?

LASD Board Room?

1.Either the LASD’s Board room at Covington School and the ILearn Studio next door to the board room can easily hold a 11 person business meeting. These rooms are quite pleasant and very business-like.

LASD Board Room Los Altos School District

Here the LASD board room was set up for a 8 person City-School Lands meeting in 2013(?). The regular semi-circle for trustees is in place in the back. There are 3+ rows for the public in the foreground.

PRICE: FREE  $0 to LASD, compared to the $1400 Hakone building

Lalahpolitico: Ironically LASD charges non-profits for use of LASD facilities. Bullis Charter School has occupancy of its two campuses – on Egan and on Blach – only during the school year. So when then BCS parent community produces its free summer camp at Egan for low-income children, the non-profit Bullis Booster Camp pays rent to LASD.

“…On top of all the [parent] volunteer hours, the [Bullis Booster summer] camp relies on sponsors in order to provide the food, the clothes, the supplies and the money to run the camp, with support coming from the Los Altos Community Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Los Altos as well as companies including Linden Tree Books and LuLu’s Mexican Food. Part of the money goes towards renting the space from the Los Altos School District to host the camp, Yang said.”

Here is the LASD Board Room set up for the 14+person Superintendent’s Task Force on Enrollment Growth (2012?). After 10 or so meetings, it concluded the District needed 2 new sites for 2 new schools.


The above quote is from Mountain View Voice, July 28, 2017, Free Summer Camp helps fight brain drain.  There are some interesting public comments after the MVVoice article.

Neutra House?

Neutra House has an intimate outdoor patio in the rear

Neutra house backyard patio

2.  Neutra House, City of Los Altos,  is $35 an hour rental price for local non-profits.

Your business meeting could be at Neutra House

The Neutra House can be rented thru the City of Los Altos Recreation Dept. For local non-profit organizations, the 8 hour fee is $280. Here is a meeting of the City Taskforce on the new Hillview Community Center Project. Seating for 14+ here.

PRICE: for the 8 hour meeting, it would have been $280, compared to the $1400 Hakone building.

Garden House?

Garden House Los Altos

Garden House exterior. Juliana Lee, realtor in background. []. It is in Shoup park and the building’s windows look out mainly at rustic, wild greenery. Redwoods are nearby.

3. Garden House at Shoup Park, City of Los Altos,  is $110 an hour.

The City of Los Altos Garden House can be rented thru the Recreation Dept. There is no discount for non-profits. It is quite a large room. Excess space for a 11 person meeting…but relatively cheap!

PRICE: for the 8 hour meeting, it would have been $880, compared to the $1400 Hakone building

Why did this happen?
Did LASD procrastinate again?

Perhaps both Neutra House and Garden House were booked for Aug. 2? But how could the LASD’s own Board Room and iLearn Studio be booked?  And it is the summer wedding season, so Hidden Villa’s Dana Center in Los Altos Hills may have been booked. [LASD has used the Dana Center in the past. Lalahpolitico attended a training session for newly elected Board members in 2017, wherein the newbies got in depth training about conforming to the Brown Act and about government transparency.]

But maybe the unnecessarily expensive Hakone LASD retreat is just another small symptom of LASD’s chronic trouble with planning ahead…

Unable to plan facilities for student enrollment growth. It was a big surprise.

Unable to adopt a plan to move 6th grade to the middle school model after “studying” it repeatedly for nearly a decade. The math program remains 2nd rate.

Unable,  3 years after Measure N $150 m bond passage, to find additional land for a 10th site.

Unable to plan a range of approaches to using LASD’s existing land for  a Measure N 10th site, just in case there is no economically feasible new land.

Unable to move ahead with prioritizing Measure N renewal projects at existing schools.   [A piddling $275,000 was spent out of the operating budget this summer on small repair jobs…painting and flooring…]





About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.