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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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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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