Friday, July 15, 2016

@SVHSDragons @SVUSD1 #SonomaValley College Readiness Going Up.

It's a day of sorrow, and for the acknowledgment of tragedy for Sonoma Valley's school district. But it's important to remember that great work is being done overall in our public schools.
Per Person Income vs. College Readiness, California Counties.
Sources and methods available here.

PDF version available here.

In particular, this year has been a strong one for SVUSD, because both governmental and commercial measures indicate our schools are having increasing levels of success.  For instance, US News & World Report found that Sonoma Valley's College Readiness Index, at 36.7, is now exceeded by only three Napa-Sonoma area schools: Maria Carrillo, Casa Grande, and Roseland University Prep.

This result is confirmed by State measures of performance, as the graph on the right shows. In general, Sonoma County rates poorly given what's expected for a county of its wealth. It is one of the clearest and worst under performers.

But Sonoma Valley is different.  SVUSD does 40% better on preparing students for college than the rest of Sonoma County. Sonoma Valley now outperforms Napa as well. SVUSD deserves a lot of credit for turning in such a strong result.

One of the best things about working for the past couple of years with the District's trustees, our very strong Superintendent, and so many dedicated principals and teachers, is that it gives some context concerning the regular and sustained progress being made.

Friday, July 1, 2016

@eloisanews, nice article on #Sonoma grad rates ...

Eloísa Ruano González
image available at @eloisanews
So, I don't personally know Eloísa Ruano González. I do read her articles via the Press Democrat from time to time, though.  Her writing caught my eye earlier this year regarding Cloverdale High; recently it was a piece about graduation rates in Sonoma County overall. I'm typically favorably disposed towards education writers, particularly those that focus on the interplay between education and economics, and so I'm very supportive of Eloísa for focusing on statistics for the different parts of Sonoma County.

Of course, a well researched article on an important subject often makes people want more of the same, and I thus wonder whether an article on the County's A-G graduation rate might now be a good idea, too. For those who find education jargon impenetrable, that's the difference between whether a graduate has or has not met the college entry requirements for the University of California ("UC") or for the California State University ("CSU"). The technical requirements of A-G completion are complicated, but can (very roughly) be boiled down to passing the second semester of Algebra II with a C- or better.

Most parents and voters think that a graduate's a graduate, and that anyone receiving their diploma is ready for college, but that's not necessarily the case.  And that's where Sonoma County seems to have trouble, because while the statewide rate for A-G is 43.4%, in Sonoma County it's only 33.7% (for my friends and neighbors reading this post, Sonoma Valley High's rate is 47.2%).  I feel like I'd really like to see our educators explain the overall rate of preparation for college being achieved by Sonoma County's high school graduates to a reporter like Eloísa ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What Do Bubbles Look Like, Pt. 3.

Today, I'm revisiting a post from last November, and a followup from March of this year. I had blogged about a property for sale on Austin Avenue, in the Prestwood neighborhood of Sonoma. The asking price was $2,295,000; the house was a little under 1,900 square feet. There was some disbelief at the listing, given the property had sold in November of 2010 for $407,500. But it duly sold for $2 million. 

Zillow advertisement, May 24, 2016.
image available at 
I'd speculated that this market could continue for another summer, and perhaps even two. Today is just a small update; I was browsing Zillow for unrelated reasons and saw the image at the right. 348 Patten, which had sold for $725,000 in November of 2013, is now at $2.8 million; Zillow estimates the house is for sale for about $994 per square foot.  To put that in perspective, the most expensive zip code in the USA (10007, also know as Tribeca, New York) has prices per square foot of about $2,829 (yes, the source is Business Insider, but bear with me).  Atherton, at #2, is $1,669 per square foot, and there are four more above $1,000 (33109, Fisher Island in Miami, $1,586; 92662, Balboa Island in Orange County, $1,443; 90401, Downtown Santa Monica, $1,304; and 02108, Beacon Hill in Boston, $1,290). The next on the list is actually below 348 Patten, and that 92118, Coronado, in San Diego, at a mere $866 per square foot. 

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US)
Multiple Series
retrieved from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis [FRED]
May 23, 2016, available at
The one thing that all those locations have in common is access to an extraordinary job market; whether it's downtown Manhattan, Palo Alto, Miami Metro, The OC, LA's Westside, or Greater Boston, there is a nexus of price and productivity evident in each instance. Sonoma, though, is much different; the economy is orders of magnitude less intense.  Perhaps the most striking contrast is the property Zillow listed immediately below; a George Ranch home, 4,500 square feet, on 8 acres, with 5 bathrooms, for (only?) $2.3 million. 

I've turned from time to time to the graph on the right as an illustration of where markets have been moving since June of 2009. Since I first posted this graph, the situation has actually gotten more extreme. I continue to think that prices may hold up through the summer, but expecting real estate to continue to appreciate along this trend line increasingly strains credulity.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Regarding Roundabouts.

A brief post today, about what can be a surprisingly vigorous debate.  Speaking with Ron Willis on Thursday, we discussed Sonoma Valley's issues with affordable housing, which turned into a conversation about traffic congestion.  The two are more closely linked than they may at first appear. As many are aware, the traffic problems Sonoma experiences are exacerbated by so many employees of local businesses who cannot afford to reside in the community they serve, and must commute 90 minutes or more (a topic that has come up on this blog before) to find affordable housing for their families.  Reform of local housing policy could help unlock the consequent roadway snarls.

Ron and I also touched on the physical layout of Sonoma's roadways, noting that increasing capacity isn't really consistent with the previously expressed preferences of local voters, but that roadway improvements have made a difference in mitigating congestion. We agreed that a nice example was the construction of a roundabout by the County of Sonoma on Arnold Drive, a project that was, at times, controversial.

The intersection had been a notorious problem for years.  One of the nice features of Google Maps is that it contains a time series of photographs of the roadway. The earliest images (from 2007) actually show two CHP officers trying (in vain) to clear the traffic backup -- Google's Maps service allows users to see just how bad the situation was prior to the County's efforts.

While the cost of the project surprised some (~$2 million), and was considered larger than expected, it eliminated the daily backup of twenty to thirty cars turning right onto Agua Caliente Boulevard that frustrated so many drivers, and that disjointedly interrupted the otherwise rural tenor of Sonoma Valley with a mess of cars more reminiscent of the MacArthur Maze. The improvement has since received wide acclaim. Advancing the map from Google to 2015 illustrates the complete transformation of the intersection and the restoration of the pastoral character of the area.

Arnold Drive Roundabout, 2015.
Image available at
The takeaway, for me, is that persistent efforts to improve the quality of Sonoma Valley's infrastructure is a key part of the strategy necessary to address Sonoma's affordable housing crisis. The evidence shows that the situation continues to worsen, and indeed to become more extreme as the months pass. Perhaps the roundabout solution points the way to other ideas that might help resolve the situation, with Sonoma borrowing even more ideas from the Garden City movement than just Ebenezer Howard's traffic innovations.