Edition 1 – November 2017


Dear Castilleja Families and Friends,

We hope this message finds you well as you head off for Thanksgiving break, the winter holidays come into focus, and the mad dash to the end of the year gets underway.

This is the first in what will be a series of monthly messages in which I share the latest news about the many activities that support our vision for Castilleja’s future. As the Associate Head of School, I have been deeply involved in furthering this vision including overseeing the Conditional Use Permit and Master Planning process.

Reading the Signs of the Times

Castilleja School’s mission to provide young women with educational opportunities and to develop confident and capable female leaders has always been an important one. In the last couple of years our mission feels especially salient, as the current climate and news cycle underscore how underrepresented women are at the top in virtually every industry and sector.

Access to a high-quality education for girls with a focus on the skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century economy is essential to closing this gap. Every year Castilleja receives far more applications from deserving students than we are able to accept, sadly forcing us to turn away many bright and eager girls. With the goal of empowering more girls with the skills, empathy, and confidence to be tomorrow’s leaders, Castilleja is seeking permission from the City of Palo Alto to increase enrollment by 25 students per year over four years, for a total of up to 540 students (our current enrollment is 438), and upgrade our campus to create learning spaces designed to better support today’s educational needs.

Those closely following Castilleja’s plans know all too well that our proposal to modernize our campus and gradually add students has been met in some quarters with opposition, including the posting of lawn signs critical of the school. These signs visually convey a negative and one-sided message that we felt was unfair to the school, our mission, and our planning process. After much discussion and consideration, and after receiving numerous requests from students, parents, and other members of the community for a visible way to demonstrate their support and add their voices to the conversation, we decided to respond with our own, more positive lawn signs supporting the school’s mission. Just before Halloween we delivered 150 Castilleja lawn signs to school parents and other members of the Palo Alto community. After nearly a year of reflection, this felt like an important response in support of our community and our vision for the future.

We are thrilled to have received so many requests for a visible way for our advocates to show their support, and believe the signs will help balance out this discussion. Nevertheless, we know there are likely those who will have questions about this process:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Signs? The school created the lawn signs in response to an outpouring of requests from parents and other members of the Castilleja family who asked for a way to visibly demonstrate their support for the school as a response to the critical signs that were painting a negative and one-sided picture of Castilleja’s future plans.

Why Now? Some of our students have been discouraged by the negativity they must pass everyday as they arrive for school. Our supporters, particularly parents, felt it was time to act and add our voices to the conversation.

How Long will they be up?  We feel that having signs up supporting the school while opposition signs continue to be displayed is an important component of participating in this conversation.

Castilleja was founded 110 years ago to equalize educational opportunities for women, and we remain committed to this important mission. We’re gratified neighbors and supporters are willing to literally put a stake in the ground and display their support. We view it as a hopeful sign for our school and for a more inclusive future. Please visit to learn more about the variety of ways to voice your support.

We hope you find time to relax over the holiday season and enjoy time with friends and loved ones.

Thank you,

Kathy Layendecker
Associate Head of School
Finance and Operations