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Dublin High School Senior Koji Chan on Tuesday’s Emotional School Board Meeting (Opinion)

May 27, 2017

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter to the editor was received from Koji Chan, Dublin High School Class of 2017 and incoming UC Berkeley freshman. I was in the audience with my wife when Koji made a statement to the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees during Tuesday evening’s Board Meeting regarding the proposed Zeiss location for a second comprehensive high school. The behavior of some members of the audience, in particular several parents sitting directly in front of me, was disrespectful and disappointing. There have been valid criticisms of how some Board members behaved during the meeting; multiple members of the audience, when this student spoke, were guilty of equally bad behavior. If you have an opinion you’d like to share with the community using this forum please email me at James Morehead – Founder]

With a 3 – 2 vote on Tuesday night, the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to not approve a non-binding contract regarding the Zeiss property (to house a second comprehensive high school). The 120 day review period would have cost the district $100,000 to then decide if they wanted to fully commit to a purchase agreement. Voting down this proposal was both a huge success and a huge failure. The lobbying and opinions voiced truly had an impact on the decision that was made Tuesday night, but the behavior and the amount of disrespect shown was unbelievable.

I have never seen people disrespected and attacked as I did last night. The esteemed board members have dedicated their lives to improve education and were rewarded with verbal harassment and childish behavior. Not everyone acted this way, but a lot did. Imagine your child going up and presenting a project that they worked tirelessly on. He/she goes to present this project and is met with “boos” and “shouts”. I am not a parent, but I can only imagine that this would not be tolerated. Imagine your child consistently told by a teacher to not clap as they need to finish all the presentations in a set amount of time. When your child consistently continues to clap or disrupt the class, I would imagine that this would not be tolerated as a parent. I sat for six hours at this Board Meeting; however, there were consistent disruptions in the meeting and attacks against the Board Members personally.


It is one thing to critique work but is another to attack them personally. To say that the Board of Trustees don’t care about the students and their safety is outrageous is a bit extreme. For one, why would they be on the board, if they did not care? Why would they take the harassment that was given to them last night? It definitely is not because they like to be attacked, but for their passion to ensure that every student becomes a lifelong learner. The board members have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, but because the results were unfavorable, accusations were made against the board. It was not the School Board’s fault that there is simply no space to put the desired second high school that would fit the requirements set by the law and the requirements demanded by the people. It was not the School Board’s fault when The Wave was built. The Wave was built by the City (completely unrelated) and voted by the people to build approximately 10 years ago.

In addition to the attacks on the Board Members, it is almost ironic that I was put into an awkward situation that made me feel unsafe to voice my opinion. The whole point of not having the school by Santa Rita Jail is that the community will not feel safe in that setting. To laugh at what I had to say, as a high school student, is surreal to me. It made people feel that I was not safe to voice my opinion. Some saw how outrageous that treatment was and came up to me to apologize on their behalf. One even walked me to a police officer to ensure that I was not confronted by anyone. It is ironic to think that the people trying to keep high school students safe, made one feel unsafe in the process. I get that frustration was a factor but it is no excuse.

I took the time out of my busy schedule, as a second semester senior, to speak on an issue that does not apply to me. I went to support and help fight against the Zeiss building. Rather than being rude to the board and only say why the building should not be there I said the reality of the situation and offered a reasonable and appealing solution. If you call that off topic, I am sorry I was looking for a solution, a more appealing option compared to the Zeiss building, rather than repeating that there is a problem eighty times. I do not need apologies or sympathy for the way I was treated but I do ask that this does not happen again. Although you may disagree with the board, but they deserve the same respect that I deserved (that was sadly not given). The fact in the matter that it is sad to think that a student has to point this out to the adults who have their emotions clouding their judgments.

Rather than staying closed minded, I challenge you to be open to new concepts and ideas. Be open to change. Listen to understand. Be a part of the solution rather than the problem. The meeting made it clear that all of the sites on East Dublin would not work except one, potentially two. But if you do not want a school half the size of Dublin High School or even a fourth, you would realize that there is no reasonable place to put it. Logically the only reasonable size plot was the Zeiss Campus but that was clearly not an option and I agree that it should not be an option.

So, now you are left with one option. Utilize what the district has now. Dublin High School has the ability to house all of the students that will be coming to high school. I understand that 4,400-5,000 students sounds like a lot of students, and it is. It begs the question how will it work and how will it affect learning. Teacher ratio can still the same as it is today and maybe even lower with the construction of more buildings. Portables are a temporary option and I know that no one wants their kids studying in portables long-term. The permanent solution is to add permanent buildings until the capacity of the school is above the amount of expected students no matter what number that is. There is definitely the land to expand DHS and it is more cost effective to expand on existing land rather than wasting precious money on buying expensive land. Another thing that would need to happen is that the bus system should be utilized much more and the parking lot would need to be improved to accommodate more cars. We could build another floor to increase the amount of spots on campus.

I understand there is hesitation on having a school with a population of 4,000-5,000 students. Countless schools do this while having less land than what DHS has, even some of the best schools in the state. In addition, while visiting UC San Diego, they told me something that applied to their campus and applies to DHS. They said that “you can make a big school feel small but you cannot make a small school feel big.” Dublin High utilizes FMP and Gael Period to make the school feel smaller and there are plenty of other ways to do this. But it is impossible to take a small school and make it feel big if the school size is only a miniscule 13 acres.

I leave you with a video of our school to highlight it. It was created by our Award Winning Video Production Program.

– Koji Chan, Dublin High School Class of 2017 

  1. Lisa Carhart permalink
    May 27, 2017 1:57 pm

    I’m proud of you, Koji.

  2. gregtomlinson permalink
    May 27, 2017 3:14 pm

    Koji, I’m proud of you for taking the time to speak and express your thoughtful comments. I was sitting right behind you when you spoke and was appalled at how you were treated. I served on the Board of Trustees for eight years (08-16) and I worked constantly on the high school issue, especially over the last couple of years. While I think I was unjustifiably attacked at times as well, I was an elected trustee and I can handle it. It’s “water off a duck’s back” in my mind but you, as a student, should not have to endure this. Whether people agreed with your comments or not, the proper protocol is polite applause and respect for you taking the time to be engaged. Unfortunately, our society is becoming more coarse and people think they have the right to act like that. It’s a sad commentary. Like you, I think DHS is a fantastic educational experience at which both of my children have received a fantastic, rich education. While I was no fan of the Zeiss proposal, there are better solutions to this issue. Thank you for being engaged and taking the time to speak. Please keep it up in college and I wish you continued success in the future.

  3. Mike Lemas permalink
    May 27, 2017 8:37 pm


    You are very fortunate to have been put in this situation at a young age. Wrestling has been a perfect metaphor for many things that you will encounter in life.

    This specific metaphor is about dirty, cheating wrestlers. You will face them, they will punch you, poke your eyes, talk trash to you, and shove you after the whistle. They can’t beat you with good wrestling so they have to cross the lines of respect and rules to get you off your game. Your job is to stand ready to wrestle, look them in the eye, clap your hands and get back to battle with a clear head against a dirty opponent. You can only control the things in your power, the things outside of that control are a waste of energy.

    Your time as a competitor on the mat is over. Wrestling means nothing, but the lessons you have learned will follow you forever.

    I am proud of you for embracing the lessons you have learned, and carrying yourself with the highest level of respect and honor.

    Let em boo you. It’s more fun that way 🙂

  4. Michael Utsumi permalink
    May 28, 2017 9:58 pm

    Koji, when you approached me with an opportunity to provide your own statement that reflected your own experience from this public meeting, I couldn’t have been more pleased. First, as Chair of the DHS School Site Council, I have appreciated all of your contributions to our organization this year. Second, I realize that this is certainly not the first time that you have elected to speak in public to defend the merits of Dublin High School. Finally, I want to commend your courage – even in the face of hecklers to state your case. To check the tape, you did not advocate for Zeiss as the second HS site. Instead, you extolled the benefits of matriculating as a student at Dublin High. The reaction from some in the audience immediately told me that they were not listening to your cogent message. And, it told me that it was easier to criticize any other comment – even from another current student. And, that was sad. Your future is bright at UCB and beyond. Thank you for who you are who you will become. DHS is proud of you!

  5. Jackson Wang permalink
    May 30, 2017 11:52 pm

    Hello Koji,

    Thank you for providing your views on this very prickly situation. First, allow me to identify myself just as you have — my name is Jackson and I have lived in Dublin for almost 6 years. Like you, I got a quality education (I went to Lowell HS in San Francisco) and also went to UC Berkeley. I have been following the growth and development of Dublin for quite some time, probably before you internalized these issues on your own.

    Second, I do think that the personal attacks are a bit unfortunate, and various parties on both sides (some parents, some board members) should feel embarrassed over their behavior. However, let us also consider that you probably also think like and want to be treated like an adult. This also means that you should have already known that going into an incendiary situation would probably result in some blowback. I would not have attacked you if I was at the board meeting, but I can promise you that I would have had very pointed and difficult counter arguments for you to consider. Part of the problem here is that booing is one way for a crowd of people to express instant disapproval over something that is said or done. You see it in sports arenas and you see it even in other family-oriented activities. I’m not saying that this is great behavior (but I don’t find it awful either) and something that we should celebrate, but let’s also be honest here — you are about to become (or maybe you already are 18) a grown ass adult attending one of the best universities in the world. Hopefully this opportunity and privilege comes with the mental fortitude to handle defeat, disapproving remarks, and yes, even the occasional heckling. Of course I wouldn’t expect anyone to boo a 8-year old, but a 17-yr old is different. On the other hand, I also do see your point particularly about the nasty personal attacks, which clearly are unnecessary by any measure.

    I sincerely disagree with some of your points. First, a high school of 4,000-5,000 is really the exception, not the norm. There is only one high school in the Bay Area that has this level of enrollment — James Logan in Union City. It has a student body size of 4,000 but has a campus size of 64 acres (!). This means than it has 60% more land area compared to the 40 acres that Dublin HS sits on. There is simply no way to expand Dublin HS to properly support a student body of 4,000 students, let alone 5,000 or more. Second, there are over 3,500 public high schools in California. Only 10 have enrollment larger than 4,000 and half them actually include grades K-12. There are fewer than 40 high schools in the entire United States with more than 4,000 students. So your assertion that “countless schools do this with less” is objectively wrong on both the “countless” and “with less” parts.

    Nevermind the current projections that estimate the number of high school students by 2030-35 to be around 6,000 or more. 2035 sounds like a long time from now, but I can tell you that’s what I thought 19 years ago and here I am now — watching newborn babies in 1998 (when I graduated HS) graduate from high school themselves now. Even if we think that we can cram 4,000+ students into an expanded Dublin HS, there are several downstream issues that I don’t think you have properly considered:

    1. Some resources simply cannot be scaled up as easily. For example, the recreational areas such as the baseball and football fields would have to be shared by a much larger student body. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that some of these rec areas would have to be used to expand the school. Clearly the physical economics would rapidly decline in this scenario. What about the fact that more students will want to join athletic teams? Would they have to compete even more just for the right to use the campus facilities? Talk about a logistical nightmare, to say the least!
    2. What about all the residents that live in East Dublin, like my family? We actually, per household pay considerably more in property taxes than others located in other areas of Dublin (this is by nature of having more new homes here as well as generally more expensive homes). While I recognize this is by personal choice, do we not deserve to have a second high school that is more centrally located? I have several friends who spend 30-45 minutes each weekday shuttling their kids to Dublin HS. This is incredibly difficult and taxing for any family. Just imagine what the situation will be like if we have 1,500-2,500 additional high school students commuting from East Dublin to Dublin HS. I highly doubt our public infrastructure (roads, parking in some cases) could properly support this. You did mention that some parts of the public infrastructure would need to be improved but the problem with bus service is that it would still take a long time to get to Dublin HS from the east side of Dublin (think stops plus traffic).
    3. Expanding Dublin HS to support 80-100% more students would cause many buildings/facilities to be unavailable for potentially many years. Is this the experience we want for current and prospective students in those years? While even more portables can be used, it isn’t just about the physical classrooms, but also about the non-classroom buildings and facilities that would be negatively affected for quite some time.

    You mentioned and painted the Dublin school board as if they completely care and are not possibly influenced by other powers. Are you seriously thinking that this is the only possible scenario? I’m not saying that all members don’t care, but you have to surely admit that it is possible some care more than others. Some might be influenced by developers, or perhaps some have vested interests in seeing a particular outcome that may not be beneficial to the residents of East Dublin. The comments made by Megan Rouse and Dan Cunningham appeared to completely ignore that the Zeiss site should have never been in consideration. If they had properly read the California Department of Education’s Guide to School Site Analysis and Development, they would have known that the general guidelines for a proper high school site would be 30 acres + 1 acre per 100 students. While many high schools don’t completely meet these guidelines, expanding the current Dublin HS would make the problem considerably worse. Only building a completely new HS would even begin to solve the problem that we have today. At least you agree with many parents and residents that 13 acres is a complete slap in the face. But wait — isn’t that why so many residents/families are angry in the first place? That is, the Zeiss site should not have ever been a choice to begin with. It is insulting and disrespectful to residents of East Dublin to even suggest this as a possible solution.

    I am a student of economics and finance. I get that Zeiss was attractive because of the incredible cost savings relative to other options. However, remember that Dublin residents voted to spend $283m on Dublin schools, with the expectation that most of it go to building a second high school. Perhaps in your plea for parents/families to come up with solutions (and not just complain about the problem or Zeiss), you should be open-minded yourself and think about why the more expensive options (including ones that haven’t been thought of yet) makes actually more sense in the long run. I also have one bit of advice for you in this case — don’t believe everything you hear from the school board. There is enough money to buy the land elsewhere and build on it. Even the DiManto sites (A and B) could work, despite the condemnation process that would be required. Although I have no evidence to back this up, I bet that residents would vote for additional money to be spent (via new measures levied on homeowners) if funding came up somewhat short.

    It is getiing late but I wanted to share this part of my opinion first so that readers can also consider my comments relative to yours.

    Editors: I spent the last few hours writing this and can expand more on this if you like. Thank you for allowing me to express my opinions as well.


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