About Us

It was the fall of 1979, and families were looking for an alternative to the public school options on the Peninsula.

Proposition 13 had recently been passed, cutting school budgets significantly. Founders Phil Bliss and Herman Ohme saw a need for student services that were not being met in the post Prop 13 world and began working as advocates for families with students who were experiencing difficulty and dissatisfaction in the public school system or those who had undiagnosed learning differences. 

Typical of a Silicon Valley start-up, Mid-Pen got its start in the living room of Herman's Palo Alto home, where the first three Mid-Peninsula students took their lesson. Herman and Phil quickly realized there was a need for a public school alternative and leased space at the then-closed Cubberley High School in Palo Alto. By the end of the 1979-1980 academic year, the school had 40 students and one graduate.

Because Prop 13 caused many public school districts to abandon their summer school programs, Mid-Pen experienced a very high enrollment for summer school that first summer, which translated into an increased enrollment for the fall. The school quickly grew, with graduating classes of between 30 and 40 students. Over the next two decades, the school moved to several different sites that it leased from the Palo Alto Unified School District. In 2000, facing the non-renewal of it its lease, the school undertook it first capital campaign, raising $2 million in just a matter of months to purchase and renovate our current home on Willow Road in Menlo Park, moving in on January 31, 2001.

College Prep, Less Stress

The 21st century’s proverbial “race to nowhere” has shifted the emphasis from learning to arbitrary notions of “rigor.” Competitiveness has replaced collaboration, and anxiety has replaced self-confidence. For 40 years, Mid-Peninsula High School has successfully inspired students along their individual paths to college in a supportive manner that de-emphasizes stress and emphasizes a love of learning.  

Access to Co-Curricular Programs

Smaller schools are sometimes limited in their ability to provide mainstream programs for students interested in sports, arts, or music. At Mid-Pen, we provide all students with these opportunities by offering competitive no-cut athletics and comprehensive arts, music, and drama programs, inviting students to play a significant role in the life of their school.

Creative and Adaptive Approach

When high schools teach without considering the various stimulating ways to engage students, and the many ways in which students learn, the results are disinterested students rather than critical thinkers and problem solvers. We provide a collaborative, creative environment that challenges and stimulates students in their classes, relationships, and activities.

Small School, Big Benefits

Large public high schools fail to support a diverse student population and have become a one-size-fits-all proposition—kids who don’t fit the “one-size” get lost in the shuffle. At Mid-Pen, our students are afforded close relationships with their teachers and each other in a close-knit environment that would not be possible in a larger school. We are committed to providing students with individualized attention that empowers them to realize their full potential as learners and people.

Diversity Leads to Educational Excellence

When schools prioritize diversity and inclusivity, the result is an enriched school culture. Moreover, diverse perspectives bring about deeper understanding and closer connections in the classroom. Our campus serves an intentionally diverse student body where students thrive academically and socially by virtue of the richness that surrounds them.

Core: The Heart of Our Program

Every Mid-Peninsula student is assigned a Core Teacher, who serves as academic advisor, guidance counselor, advocate, community builder, and family contact. Core meets every day, giving students an opportunity to set goals, understand and develop their unique learning styles, strategize with their teachers about progress toward graduation and college, think about life beyond Mid-Pen, and obtain support, counsel, information, and referrals. Think of Core Teachers as your student’s partner in learning.


Mid-Pen's campus is designed so our students can enjoy the outdoors as well as the indoors while studying. The school is the physical embodiment of its educational philosophy: a student-centered community. The bright, open building encourages students to work and share time together in a warm friendly atmosphere. 

With its curved walls, high ceilings, and light-filled spaces, our campus is a welcoming place with an unmistakable imprint of the young people who inhabit it. The hallways double as galleries for student work in various media: sketching, painting, silkscreen, and multi-media. One of the most prominent examples of this is the Mid-Pen mascot—a striking dragon water sculpture that adorns the school's entrance—which was created by a student artist. 

The Enrichment Center-classrooms—designed for interaction—are at the building's physical and figurative heart in which students gather, pursue research, and work independently or in groups. A few steps in either direction leads to the modern, well-appointed gymnasium- used for athletics and community gatherings-and the studio arts rooms. Adjoining the building are attractive outdoor spaces including green fields, patios, and other areas for learning, recreation, and relaxing.