Sun10262014

News

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

A flyer is being distributed across Los Altos that looks like it is from the Los Altos Town Crier but was neither created nor distributed by the community’s weekly newspaper. The flyer, pictured at right, is being distributed by workers from Pyrami...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

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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Disagreement over document locks out BCS teachers from Blach

It looks like another year of discord between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District.

            After district officials made it clear last week that charter school administrators would need to sign a Facilities Use Agreement (FUA) before gaining access to the shared facilities on Blach Intermediate School campus, tensions erupted. An FUA is similar to a lease, with stipulations outlining how the signee may use the space.

            Objecting to the district’s restrictions in the FUA, charter school officials refused to sign the document. The district responded by changing the locks on the new facilities at Blach, barring charter school teachers and staff from preparing for the school year, scheduled to begin Aug. 21.

New restrictions

            When the district extended its final facilities offer to the charter school in April, the district attached a draft FUA to the document. The district sent charter school officials an amended FUA July 19, with additions reflecting various aspects of the final offer.

            The district’s FUA limits the number of students allowed on both the Egan Junior High and Blach campuses on a daily basis, citing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). District officials determined that Blach could house no more than 146 students charter school students each day and capped the Egan population at 496.

            Doug Smith, president of the district board of trustees, said the district’s FUA was not an attempt to throw a monkey wrench in the charter school’s operations.

            “CEQA is what keeps everybody good neighbors,” Smith said. “It is what ensures that a school site doesn’t create an unfair burden on everyone who lives in that community.”

            One of the additions to the July FUA draft requires charter school Superintendent Wanny Hersey to certify compliance to FUA restrictions in writing “under the penalty of perjury.”

            “Certifying the agreement shouldn’t be a hard thing to do – it’s just saying that you are following the terms,” Smith said.

            Another portion of the FUA proposes to limit the Blach facilities to fourth-through eighth-grade Bullis Charter School students.

            Smith said the district sought to bar younger grades from housing their program at Blach for safety reasons.

            “We’ve got seventh- and eighth-graders (on the Blach campus),” he said. “We are not set up at that facility for young children. There are state requirements for young children (gated fences, age-appropriate toilets, play structures). We did not duplicate all that expense – the district has to construct an offer that makes some sense.”

            Two other additions to the July FUA – a nearly 100 percent increase in pro-rata share costs ($208,000) and language that would prevent litigation over the final offer – were removed after district trustees re-evaluated their stance, Smith said.

Strained relations

            Although charter school officials received the district’s amended FUA July 19, Smith said they did not respond with changes to the document until July 31 – the day before Bullis Charter School administrators were slated to receive keys to the Blach campus.

            Smith and District Superintendent Jeff Baier were scheduled to present at an Aug. 6 charter school meeting the findings of the district’s Enrollment Task Force and emphasize the necessity of working together to pass a bond to secure additional campuses to accommodate student growth. With communications so strained, however, the two parties could not agree on a time or place to meet.

            A day before the meeting, the charter school noticed it as occurring 6 p.m. at Blach, while the district posted a closed session at the same time at Egan.

            Smith attended the beginning of the charter school’s meeting, held in the Blach gym, to address the board during the public comments session. Smith registered his disappointment that the two groups could not come to terms on the meeting, which he said was supposed to be a “first step.”

            “We have a short-term problem of being locked out,” countered Ken Moore, chairman of the Bullis Charter School board. “At the same time, you want us to help with a bond measure for the future. It’s hard for us to reconcile the two situations.”

            Charter school board members questioned the need for FUA, noting that there hasn’t been one in the past few years. Board member Janet Medlin said the charter school had requested a meeting to hammer out the 2013-2014 facilities agreement since April.

            Medlin deemed the FUA “not conducive to the air of cooperation.”

“Neither are the lawsuits,” Smith shot back.

            “You are going to seek bond support from Bullis Charter School families and yet you are telling those taxpayers ‘Vote for my bond’ while you are keeping facilities from my kids,” Medlin said.

            Charter school board member John Phelps characterized the district’s acts as “hostile” toward the charter school.

            “Why all the hostile acts and hostile words?” he asked. “When will that stop so that there is a sincere effort to solve this problem once and for all? Do you really want to walk out on 650 kids?”

Parking lot meeting

            Later that evening, a subset of district and charter school board members met in the Egan parking lot in an attempt to reach to an agreement, Smith and Phelps said.

            Smith said the two groups proposed a verbal agreement that the charter school would sign the FUA, followed by a public process in which the district would address charter school’s concerns.

            Phelps challenged Smith’s version of the exchange, claiming that the district got it wrong.

            “I think they are overstating what was a discussion in a parking lot that was initiated over a text,” Phelps said. “I’m concerned that this district is in such a rush to point a gun at the head of the charter school to get a signed agreement.”

            Phelps questioned whether the district’s terms were realistic, suggesting that another lawsuit would result if the charter school signed the agreement and subsequently violated the terms.

            “The FUA they are imposing unilaterally is attempting to interfere in the curriculum,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the terms the district is asking for are absurd. They know those things are illegal, and they know we will be in immediate breach of those terms. You can imagine where that will go.”

            Phelps said he has never been asked to sign a document first and talk about the issues surrounding it later.

            “Let’s sit down and discuss terms before we sign an agreement,” he said. “Let’s get teachers in class today.”

            It is unclear whether the board members from the district and the charter school have continued to communicate regarding the FUA.

Protesting the lockout

            The Blach lockout prompted protests from Bullis Charter School parents at the Los Altos School District offices Thursday.

            “Locking our teachers out is absolutely outrageous,” said parent Tanya Raschke. “We cannot stand by and watch LASD bully our teachers and students in order to push their own political agenda. The facilities belong to the taxpayers, not the district. They have no right to change the locks and refuse to give our teachers the keys.”

            More than 20 charter school parents proffered signs to express their outrage and frustration over the lockout.

            After two Bullis Charter School protesters met with Baier and Smith, demonstration organizer Martha McClatchie said she would meet with charter school board members to communicate her concerns. She added that both sides must sit down and resolve their problems.

            “We can continue to express our feelings to both boards that unless they sit down and talk together, nothing is going to happen,” McClatchie said.

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