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News

Downtown green park pops up again in August

Downtown green park pops up again in August


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Third Street Green debuts Aug. 3 on the 300 block of State Street in downtown Los Altos.

Another temporary park is poised to pop up in downtown Los Altos this summer.

According to Brooke Ray Smith, community developme...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


ft, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.

Tia Geri can’t wait to bring her new golden retriev...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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