Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 26, 2010

News Digest

Assembly: Becker zooms ahead in cash raised

Spurred by hefty contributions from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technologists, Josh Becker has taken a commanding fundraising lead over fellow Democrats Yoriko Kishimoto and Rich Gordon in the race for Ira Ruskin's seat in the 21st Assembly District.

Becker, a venture capitalist who focuses on green technology, raised $110,211 between Jan. 1 and March 17, new campaign finance data shows. Kishimoto and Gordon raised $32,897 and $28,629 over the same period, respectively.

Becker's strong fundraising in the latest reporting period further widened his lead over Kishimoto and Gordon. His ending cash is listed at $224,099, compared to Kishimoto's $92,457 and Gordon's $82,516.

The three will face off in the Democratic primary elections in June. Ruskin is termed out at the end of this year.

Becker's campaign chest was greatly bolstered by sizeable contributions from high-tech executives, including officials from Google, Cisco, Facebook and HP. The Menlo Park resident also received a flurry of quadruple-digit contributions from dozens of venture capitalists, lawyers and technologists, including ones his venture-capital firm, New Cycle Capital, has invested in.

Though most of his support came from outside Palo Alto, Becker also received $2,000 from local developer Jim Baer and $500 from former Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino.

Kishimoto, who served on the Palo Alto City Council for eight years before reaching her term limit last year, earned the bulk of her support from past and present Palo Alto officials, neighborhood leaders, environmentalists and family members. She also loaned $20,000 to her campaign just before the reporting deadline.

Gordon, a San Mateo County supervisor, received much of his support from Silicon Valley attorneys, construction companies and labor unions. Gordon also received $3,900 in contributions from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma's campaign and from the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.

High schools to add engineering, AP Chinese

An Advanced Placement (AP) Mandarin course and a class in engineering design are likely to be added to this fall's class selection at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

The school board Tuesday night reacted favorably to presentations about the new classes, indicating it will vote to approve them at its next meeting April 3.

Gunn teacher Bakari Holmes, who has developed an "engineering pathway" curriculum at the school that he plans to expand over the next several years, said the engineering design course will introduce ninth- and tenth-graders to the design process, research and analysis processes, global engineering standards and technical documentation.

Holmes' engineering program, so far offered just at Gunn, has received funding from Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE). Holmes' program is aligned with Project Lead the Way, a national organization that has worked with industry and other partners to boost learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Chinese language and culture course will offer advanced Mandarin to students who already have completed three years in the language. This year's enrollment in Mandarin 3 is 22 students at Paly and 20 at Gunn.

Paly World Languages Instructional Supervisor Kevin Duffy said the new Chinese course will be offered at both high schools if there is sufficient interest, noting that some "heritage" Mandarin speakers not currently enrolled in Mandarin 3 may come along to join the AP class.

In other business, the board voted to confer tenure, or "permanent status," on 36 teachers and administrators, including the principals of Jordan Middle School and Nixon Elementary School. The employees are about to complete their second "probationary year" and have been closely observed by their supervisors to ensure they meet or exceed a variety of "teaching performance standards."

The board also discussed the likely elimination of 12 full- and part-time staff positions, six of which are currently vacant.

The staff reductions, estimated to save about $410,000, are part of the fallout of a $3.8 million budget-cutting package approved by the board last month.

Thief steals Haiti-relief funds from Gunn High

Someone stole money earmarked for disaster-relief efforts in Haiti from a Gunn High School classroom last weekend, Palo Alto police Officer Marianna Villaescusa said.

Police are investigating the theft of $200, which had been donated by Gunn students, she said. Investigators believe the thief or thieves entered the classroom through an open window.

"They weren't sure if the window was locked because there was a substitute teacher in the classroom last," she said.

Villaescusa said the burglary occurred sometime between Friday (March 19) and Monday (March 22), when school administrators reported the theft.

Police have no suspects at this time, she said.

— Martin Sanchez

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