Mon09152014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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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

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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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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