Sun04192015

News

Car breaks through glass door, closes Trader Joe’s for the day

Car breaks through glass door, closes Trader Joe’s for the day

Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Trader Joe's employees survey the damage after a car smashed through the glass doorway earlier today.

Trader Joe’s on Homestead Road is closed for the remainder of the day (April 17) after a car barreled through the glas...

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Schools

Pinewood student writes book about living with autism

Pinewood student writes book about living with autism


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Pinewood School senior Georgia Lyon wrote and illustrated “How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl” in 2013.

Although first published under a pseudonym, Pinewood School student Georgia Lyon is stepping out to ...

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Community

Sale offers opportunity to 'discover' jewels, fight cancer

Sale offers opportunity to 'discover' jewels, fight cancer

Volunteers and staff at the American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop in downtown Los Altos urge shoppers to "Be A Gem, Buy A Jewel" during the shop's special sale this Friday (April 17) and Saturday (April 18).

The sale is an opportunity to find Mot...

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Comment

Editorial: Let's assume not to presume

Two recent downtown Los Altos stories offer lessons in the drawbacks of jumping to conclusions.

A few months back, the Town Crier published an article on Ladera Autoworks on First Street closing its doors. That part was true, but the reason was not....

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Special Sections

Fitness focus: No holds barred for Los Altos sisters

Fitness focus: No holds barred for Los Altos sisters


Photos Courtesy of Barre 3
Gillian Brotherson, kneeling at left, guides studio instructors through a workout at barre3 Los Altos.

Health is all about balance. That’s what two Los Altos natives learned as they navigated work, motherhood and welln...

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Business

Steinway gallery brings pianos, musicians to downtown Los Altos

Steinway gallery brings pianos, musicians to downtown Los Altos


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Chrissy Huang, manager of Steinway Piano Gallery in Los Altos, showcases Steinway & Sons’ signature instruments. The gallery plans to host concerts with performers tickling the ivories.

A new downtown Los Altos bus...

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Books

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff


The idea that there may have a female pope at one time in history has generated much speculation throughout the centuries. “Pope Joan” (Crown, 1996) by Donna Woolfolk Cross, does not answer the question; rather, the author has created a detai...

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People

GREG STAHLER

GREG STAHLER

Greg Stahler died unexpecdly in his home in Belmont on March 26, 2015. (He was born in Mountain View on June 23, 1972). He will really be missed by three beautiful young children, Haley 7, Hannah 5, and Tyler 3, and his wife Kathryn. He will also b...

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Travel

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers


Natalie Elefant/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Natalie Elefant noted the vibrant street performances as a traveler in Cuba.

The U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba late last year, enabling Americans to import $100 worth of cig...

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Stepping Out

'Those Darn Squirrels' invading Mountain View

'Those Darn Squirrels' invading Mountain View


Courtesy of Lyn Flaim Healy/ Spotlight Moments Photography
Noelle Merino stars in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Those Darn Squirrels.”

The Peninsula Youth Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of “Those Darn Squirrels” is scheduled Friday and Saturda...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm


/Town Crier It’s not all cute and cuddly for teens participating in the eight-week Animal Husbandry Apprenticeship program at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Mia Mosing of Palo Alto, left, and Sophia Jackson of Los Altos clean the pigpens – one of...

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Inside Mountain View

Home for disabled youth yields greener pastures

Home for disabled youth yields greener pastures


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Green Pastures staff member JP Mercada, below right, helps Tommy, who lives at the group home, sort through papers and organize his room.

Tucked in the corner of a quiet residential cul-de-sac in Mountain View, Green Pastur...

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Disagreement over document locks BCS teachers out of Blach


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School supporters protest the Los Altos School District’s decision to lock teachers out of Blach Intermediate School last week.

Another school year opens with discord between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District.

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

Objecting to some 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.

Latest action

As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, Bullis Charter School officials had posted online a signed version of the FUA, amended to address the charter school’s concerns with the original document.

According to John Phelps, Bullis Charter School board member, the signed FUA was posted “to communicate with our parents about some of the details regarding the Facilities Use Agreement. We believe issues around the FUA are pretty straightforward and shouldn’t have warranted the Los Altos School District’s incredibly hostile and unhelpful political maneuver.”

With the ball now in the district’s court, Doug Smith, president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, said the district does not agree with the charter school’s changes.

“They are trying to force their version of events into the public eye,” Smith said of charter school officials. “By signing their copy, they are trying to prove to the county (Office of Education) that they have signed the document. The version they signed does not reflect anything the district can agree to.”

The district posted and sent to the charter school its own signed copy of the FUA Monday, reverting to the original document attached to the final offer in April. The district requested the charter school sign that document, Smith said, then the charter school’s objections and the district’s proposed additions to the FUA could be communicated and negotiated in a public forum.

“The whole conversation process is going to be public,” he said. “If we are behaving badly, people are going to see it.”

Smith said that since Bullis officials posted the signed version and the district briefly responded, there has been no further communication between the two groups.

New restrictions

When the district extended its final facilities offer to the charter school in April, it 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 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. District officials determined that Blach could house no more than 146 charter school students each day and capped the Egan population at 496.

Smith 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,” he 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 programs 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 added.

Strained relations

Although charter school officials received the district’s amended FUA July 19, Smith said they did not respond with changes 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 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 at an Aug. 6 charter school meeting. 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 posted it as scheduled 6 p.m. at Blach, while the district posted a closed session for the same time at Egan.

Smith attended the beginning of the charter school’s meeting, held in the Blach gym, to address its board during the public comments session. He registered disappointment that the two groups could not come to terms on the meeting, which he said was intended as 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 the FUA, noting that there A day before the meeting, the charter school posted it as scheduled 6 p.m. at Blach, while the district posted a closed session for the same time at Egan.

Smith attended the beginning of the charter school’s meeting, held in the Blach gym, to address its board during the public comments session. He registered disappointment that the two groups could not come to terms on the meeting, which he said was intended as 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 the 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.

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 unofficially in the Egan parking lot in an attempt to reach an agreement, Smith and Phelps said.

Smith said the two groups proposed a verbal agreement that the charter school would sign the original FUA attached to the final offer in April, followed by a public process in which the district would address the 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.”

Protesting the lockout

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

“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.

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

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