Sun11232014

Letters to the Editor

Residents receive solid return on investment

In a recent advertisement in the Town Crier (May 28), a local group questioned what Los Altos School District residents receive in return for the taxes they pay. Because local voters approved these taxes, it is a fair question.

The simple answer is that the district delivers a first-rate educational program. It performs extremely well, and your children perform well in our schools, in high school and in college.

The fact is that the district has excellent schools. For the nine years I have served on the school board, the district has ranked in the top 1 percent in California and No. 1 overall in some years. We deliver on a principled approach to learning: (1) empower students, (2) ignite a passion for learning and (3) prepare each child to be a collaborative learner.

The Los Altos School District has a long track record of strong fiscal stewardship, monitored by the volunteer oversight of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Finance, and a history of budgeting excellence. Low administrative overhead and efficient use of facilities have yielded a cost per student that is actually lower than many neighboring districts.

One hundred percent of district schools rank high in Academic Performance Index targets and low in comparative spending per student. These per-student spending figures and excellent academic outcomes are what we expect from our local schools.

Furthermore, some of the numbers included in the advertisement were factually inaccurate. For example, the Menlo Park City School District has four parcel taxes amounting to $809 per year – higher than Los Altos – not one tax for $178 per parcel, a significant misstatement of the facts.

What do you get for your investment in our local public schools? Superb results from an efficiently run school district.

Thank you for your support in making all this possible

Mark Goines

Los Altos School District Board of Trustees

Animal shelter lacks effective cat sheltering

With little debate, the Los Altos City Council recently approved a five-year extension to the Animal Sheltering and Services Agreement with Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS).

For nearly one year, the PAAS low-cost spay/neuter clinic has been out of commission, unbeknownst to the council. PAAS lags behind every other animal shelter in Santa Clara County in adopting modern sheltering practices. It is the only shelter that still kills unadoptable but otherwise healthy cats surrendered by the public. Unadoptable cats are those that are too young (kittens) or too shy (they hiss and growl at strangers) – many a pet cat behaves this way in the stressful shelter environment.

The Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) and Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) proactively recruit, train and manage a pool of foster homes so that kittens are saved. SVACA currently has more than 50 kittens in foster care.

For adult cats, SVACA, HSSV, San Jose and Santa Clara County shelters all have Shelter Neuter-Return programs, which return healthy cats to their home territories. These programs are a win-win for the cat and the shelter.

Los Altos deserves these same lifesaving programs from its animal shelter. It’s time for PAAS to step up, learn how these programs work successfully at the other shelters and put them into practice.

Ivor Durham

Los Altos

Connie Urbanski, acting superintendent at Palo Alto Animal Services, responds: “(Durham is) referring to the Feral Freedom Program, adopted by the other shelters. ... We don’t believe in releasing a feral cat with no one to care for it.” Urbanski said feral cats attract wildlife, such as coyotes, which has resulted in domestic cats being killed. She noted that Palo Alto Animal Services also has a foster-care program.

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