Mon09222014

News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Economy begins to turn around for Los Altos School District


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

Los Altos School District officials are reviewing the costs associated with introducing the full-day kindergarten program, currently offered at Gardner Bullis School, above, at all district schools.

Los Altos School District officials are preparing for the possibility of sunnier days ahead, financially speaking.

Rising property-tax projections and the passage of Proposition 30 may freeze any additional educational cuts, providing a spark of optimism after years of budget tightening.

Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, informed the Board of Trustees of potential uses for excess funds, should they begin to trickle in.

“We need to be looking at our current and future obligations and commitments and make sure we begin setting aside funds to meet these commitments and obligations before we start making any new expenditures,” he said.

Spending decisions usually involve a balancing act among competing items in order to provide the “best result,” he added.

Kenyon advised the board to consider retiree health benefits, employee compensation, debt reduction, assets preservation and the expiration of the district’s six-year parcel tax in 2017.

He said it is also important to factor in potential “landmines” such as state budget cuts, pension system funding, possible repeal of flexibility provisions in the state budget and changes in the state funding system.

Prioritizing programs

Trustees identified which programs they wanted to examine for reinstatement down the line – PTA relief, Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) relief, capital needs, employee compensation, increased technology specialist time on campuses and a full-time kindergarten program.

At the Jan. 25 board meeting, Kenyon itemized estimated funding for the programs, including priorities, target costs and timelines for potential goals. Specifics will be discussed at a later date.

• Currently the local PTAs provide nearly $600,000 of the district’s annual budget. The trustees expressed interest in relieving that burden. Kenyon proposed the goal of reducing the PTAs’ contribution to $100,000 by the 2015-2016 school year.

“That will give them the chance at the local level to fund the programs they want to fund,” he said.

• Kenyon shared that LAEF officials have indicated that they would like to decrease their contribution for K-3 classroom-size reduction. The group currently provides $900,000 annually for this purpose.

“This is just a start to the discussion,” he said. “This would allow them to focus most of their fundraising on program enrichment.”

• Trustees also expressed a desire to increase employee compensation to keep pace with inflation. Kenyon said it is difficult to plan ahead in that area, because employee contributions are subject to collective bargaining. He added that an across-the-board increase of 1 percent would cost the district approximately $300,000 annually.

• Another major area that should be addressed is facilities upkeep, Kenyon said. He suggested setting aside approximately $200,000 a year for major maintenance or replacement of facilities.

“Funds are needed to preserve assets and extend useful lives,” he said.

Another facilities goal would be to earmark funds for new portables, Kenyon added. In the past, new-developer fees covered the costs, but recently those fees have proven insufficient. He said the board should consider allocating $300,000 annually for new portables.

• Kenyon said it is a “high priority” of teachers and principals to increase the time technology specialists spend at each school. He recommended upping their time to 30 hours per week at each campus. The board could integrate the specialists’ salaries, approximately $105,000 for this year, in the current year’s budget.

• The trustees inquired about the cost of introducing a full-day kindergarten program in all district schools. Currently, the district offers the program for all schools at one location, Gardner Bullis School.

If the board implements the roll out by the 2014-2015 school year, it would be a one-time cost of $350,000 for additional facilities and an ongoing cost of $230,000 annually for additional staff, Kenyon reported.

Kenyon said the total cost of all the suggested items – PTA relief, LAEF relief, capital needs, employee compensation, increased technology specialist time on campuses and full-time kindergarten program – could run $15 million through 2018. He emphasized that he offered the information for the purpose of encouraging the board to weigh the importance of each goal against its financials impact.

“I want you to begin discussing priorities,” Kenyon told the trustees. “We are going to start planning for next year, and you should consider this information.”

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