Opposition against the Northgate petition swelled Thursday night in Concord as residents in The Crossings pledged to fight the plan, which would knock them out of the attendance area of Foothill Middle and Northgate High schools.

Dozens of Crossings residents skipped their Valentine's Day celebrations to hear Ruth Carver, creator of the petition, speak at the housing association clubhouse. The Walnut Creek woman and Northgate High parent urged the crowd to support the petition. Mt. Diablo school board member Paul Strange, whose own Crystyl Ranch home would be forced out of Northgate's boundary if the plan succeeds, told them to fight it.

Afterward, Crossings resident Neil Simmons said he wants to protect his property values and the right to send his kids to Northgate.

"It left me feeling we need to oppose her 100 percent," Simmons said. "It's definitely us versus them."

The Cowell Housing Association represents owners of 1,100 houses in the Walnut Country housing division, known casually as "The Crossings." The association board will consider a formal position on the matter before county school officials make a decision, said Don Berger, acting president of the homeowners group.

Carver started the petition drive in the fall and now calls her group Walnut Creek Schools Together Now. She said she lost faith in the Mt. Diablo school district administration after seeing continual problems at Northgate, such as overcrowding and strings of substitutes filling in where a full-time teacher should have been.

In January, she filed a petition with nearly 3,000 signatures asking county school officials to give Walnut Creek and Acalanes school districts control of Northgate and its feeder schools. The "transfer of territory" would:

  • Take homes within the Walnut Creek city limit and the attendance boundary of Bancroft, Valle Verde, Walnut Acres elementary schools from the Mt. Diablo school district and make them part of the Walnut Creek School District

  • Make Foothill Middle School in the Mt. Diablo school district part of the Walnut Creek School District

  • Make Northgate High part of the Acalanes Union High School District

  • Changes the size, revenue and debt for each of the three districts involved

    Crossings residents currently send their children to Highlands Elementary School and to Foothill and Northgate. The petition's wording excludes the Crossings from the new extended boundary of the Walnut Creek and Acalanes school districts. However the nearby Lime Ridge development in Concord, which sends students to Valle Verde, would be part of the transfer.

    Crossings residents say they resent conflicting messages from petition supporters.

    Carver created two different maps, one that suggests the Crossings could be part of the transfer to the Acalanes school district.

    "You have a map that does not match the petition," said Elizabeth Wadsworth, a Crossings resident who started an opposition group called Save Our Schools.

    Lisa Broughton said she signed a petition at the Walnut Creek Farmer's Market after the woman gathering signatures told her the Crossings would be part of the migration to the Acalanes school district.

    "It was misleading," Broughton said.

    Carver said those who signed should have read the petition. She also said the majority of people understood what they had signed.

    "People weren't confused," Carver said. "Nobody asked about that."

    County lawyers working on behalf of the office of education deemed the petition legally valid on Jan. 31, meaning that the description adequately described the land to be transferred.

    But Mary Ann Mason, an attorney for Contra Costa County who reviewed the petition, said the maps were not considered as part of the analysis.

    "What may or may not have been shown on the map doesn't count for purposes of this determination," Mason said.

    A hearing on the petition could occur within the next month if the registrar of voters verifies enough valid signatures on the petition.

    Shirley Dang covers education. Reach her at 925-977-8418 or sdang@bayareanewsgroup.com.