Foster City was always supposed to have a high school. In the last few years there has been wide speculation about a charter high school being built in the empty lot next to the PJCC. From what I’ve read, this idea only serves the best interests of parents with young children and people who want to boost the property value of their homes, but my main bone to pick is with the parents who have a rather misinformed interest instead.
Glancing at the Absolutely Foster City Blog, I couldn’t help but feel upset about the comments on a post mentioning the downfall of the Foster City High School project in 2009. Even though I know these comments are not a full representation of the views held by all parents in town, I see this as not only unnecessary worrying over the absence of a high school but skepticism of our local high school district. In defense of every school in the San Mateo Union High School District, I want to reassure the skeptics out there and tell them what the last four years (besides what I’ve said in my last post) have meant to me and others.
I first thought a high school here would be great, only for the reason of not splitting up with most of my friends from middle school. If we build a secondary school just for the kids here, they’re actually missing out on a great opportunity: socialization. By confining our kids to a bubble until college, they are never pushed into situations in which they must actually use their social skills to make friends and work with new people, because, believe or not, there is a world outside of Foster City. I have met amazing and friendly people from Hillsborough and San Mateo at the same time I was getting to know more people I went to Bowditch with. Although I go to school with mostly people I’ve known since kindergarten, I still feel as if going to school with the same exact people can get old, but I do admit that watching ourselves grow up has been memorable. So isn’t socializing with new people a part of life? Why withhold that experience from these kids?
“Foster City High School could have been such a great place for our local kids to get an education,” posted “CM” on the blog. Placing all our academically strong kids into one school doesn’t make it the best thing that ever happened in town. Many others also overlook the fact that it could take years to build up the reputation of the school and the quality of the teachers; there is no guarantee that a high school here will be fantastic right off the bat. Will this charter school automatically boast a built-in high school experience as well? Nothing’s a sure thing, but I do know that each high school in the district has great theater programs, clubs, sports, dance, music programs, and other extra-curricular activities accessible and appealing to all students. Oh, and San Mateo High has an incredible biotechnology program. It’s really all about what kids takes advantage of, because a high school here won’t readily hand it to them.
What really caught my attention was one comment by that read “I cannot put my children’s education in jeopardy;” this person then goes on to say how the local high schools are “not up to [her] expectation.” Gee, the district has some big shoes to fill, or are we filling our own since the majority of us from Foster City go to school in San Mateo? I know a number of people who have parents who felt the same way as the commenter and have moved to Palo Alto for the schools there, and they’re doing great. I also know a number of people from Hillsborough that could have gone to prestigious private schools, but chose a school in San Mateo instead. In Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics, the author along with his arsenal of statistical figures proves that there is no academic benefit to the student for switching to a new and seemingly outstanding school. To be brutally honest, there’s nothing wrong with the any of the schools here, and to say putting kids in these schools is jeopardizing their education is profound. I can rattle off where I know people are going to college next year from schools around the district (*cough* Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern), but I’m not. If people do not believe their child will not be able to succeed in any of the SMUHSD schools, then they are leaving out and underestimating their student’s own drive and self-awareness to rise above any type of circumstances to do well. Success comes from being an academically motivated individual consistently from the beginning, not from going to a statistically phenomenal school, unless we’re talking about prestigious universities.
So please, do your research online, visit, talk to parents who have or have had kids go to these high schools, and let your kid shadow during classes. Every school in the SMUHSD has great opportunities to offer and great reputations in the Bay Area. To say that any of them are not good enough for your child is not something I’m willing to believe in.