Thu10022014

News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Transitional kindergarten faces possible closing

The Los Altos School District's transitional kindergarten program may be among those on the choppingblock as officials face cuts to balance their 2001-2002 budget.

The program at Loyola School, created to ease students who may not be ready for the normal kindergarten curriculum into the system, will likely be recommended for elimination, said Superintendent Marge Gratiot.

"We are proceeding with the assumption that we will not have transitional kindergarten (next year)," said Gratiot, who will recommend cuts to the district's budget review committee. Committee recommendations then go to the board of trustees for approval.

The possible cut does not sit well with parents of the 15 students currently in the program.

"I think it's given (my son) Cole a lot of confidence," said parent Sandra Limbach. "It's also taught him a lot of stuff I don't even remember learning in kindergarten."

She said instructor Jenni Taylor has created an atmosphere that allows students to learn about such subjects as ecology, social awareness and manners. Gratiot said Taylor would likely be moved to a kindergarten class if the district cancels the program.

Gratiot said she doesn't see the class as a top priority, because parents have the option of keeping their children in preschool for an extra year, or holding them back in the traditional kindergarten class. If transitional kindergarten were kept, she said another much-needed class would face the budget ax.

"It's not a reflection of the value of the program," Gratiot said.

However, Limbach and other traditional kindergarten parents said the program should be kept because it fills the middle ground between preschool and traditional kindergarten.

Some parents don't want to pay the costs of another year at preschool. Others worry about putting their children in a traditional kindergarten class before they are ready. Doing so might adversely affect their children's self-esteem, parents said.

Furthermore, "preschool is a play environment," Limbach said. "Transitional kindergarten is more structured and educational."

Two parents of current TK children used the public forum of the March 5 LASD Board of Trustees Meeting to advocate retention of the program.

Janice Palomo said, "The district might save money now cutting the transitional kindergarten; but it will spend that and more for special education, aides, etc., as time goes on."

"What can I do to save the program?" said Beth Hopwood. "It is worth it to me ... parents would pay."

In a letter to the editor, parents Amanda and Denis Brotzel said an extra year of regular kindergarten could hurt these students throughout their primary school years.

"It may mean (teachers) have to increase their class size and possibly have children amongst the class that are not really ready to be there," the Brotzels wrote.

"Of even more concern is that larger classes with perhaps more than 20 children in a classroom will reduce the attention that can be given to each child and therefore the overall quality of education. And, of course, this will have a knock-on effect through the higher grades."

But Gratiot summed up transitional kindergarten this way: "This is truly an extra program - we can educate the children without it."

The district is forced to make cuts because of the significant pay increases it gave teachers last year. Officials are increasing pay a total of 12 percent over this year and next, but Gratiot indicated district teachers had been underpaid.

"Their salaries are comparable to other school districts," as a result of the new contract, Gratiot said.

While the district expects the amount of state money to increase, state funding typically covers only 60 percent of the budget, Gratiot said. The district must handle the remainder. Meanwhile, salaries account for 85 percent of the budget. On top of the salary increase, the district stands to lose $400,000 in lease revenues from tenants at Covington as it moves to reopen the school. The district needs about $3 million to balance the budget for next year, but about $1 million of that can be made up through staffing adjustments, said Randy Kenyon, associate superintendent in charge of business services.

Changes could mean bumping up class sizes at the kindergarten level to 24 students, which would cost the district half of its class-size state funding - from $900 to $450 per child. However, officials said the balance would still be larger than complying with the 20-student maximum under class-size criteria.

Gratiot said the budget review committee would make recommendations for cuts to the board of trustees in April.

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