Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 10, 2012

News Digest

Palo Alto Sikhs try to raise awareness

Local Sikh philanthropist and entrepreneur Narinder Singh Kapany sees the Aug. 5 shooting in Wisconsin that left six Sikhs dead as part of a disturbing trend of violence against his religious group.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion from the Punjab region of Southeast Asia whose men traditionally wear turbans and long beards. Kapany said that Sikhs have increasingly been the victims of acts of violence since the Sept. 11 attacks, often because they're confused with Muslims.

Wade Michael Page, the alleged perpetrator of last weekend's shooting, had ties to white supremacist organizations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and other domestic extremists.

While Page's motives remain unknown, the New York-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 attacks or bias-related crimes against Sikhs since the Sept. 11 attacks.

In 2006, Iqbal Singh, a Sikh living in Santa Clara, was stabbed in the neck by a man with a steak knife who apparently believed Singh was a member of the Taliban. Instances of vandalism, arson, assault and murder have also occurred across the country.

"Right here in the Silicon Valley, there are 40 or 50 Sikhs running their own companies, hiring people and doing wonderful things for our country," Kapany said.

Kapany himself is credited with being one of the founders of fiber optics. He founded the Sikh Foundation, located in Palo Alto, in 1967 to advance the Sikh culture in the West.

"The only answer, quite frankly, is to get the people to learn what we're all about," he said of anti-Sikh sentiments. "Come to our temple. We welcome everyone. Meet with us, try to understand, and that's all we ask."

PiE announces 2012-13 fundraising goal

An independent, parent-led foundation that raises funds for Palo Alto's public schools announced a 2012-13 fundraising goal of $4.75 million.

Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE) will solicit contributions from parents, community members and businesses to support classroom aides; specialists in reading, math, science and the arts; student guidance; college and career counseling; and an array of electives.

Launched Tuesday, Aug. 7, the campaign will run through January with the resulting gift to the school district to be announced in March.

In 2011-12, PiE donated $4.4 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), comprising nearly 3 percent of the district's total operating budget of approximately $160 million. Of that amount, $2.35 million went to the district's 12 elementary schools and Young Fives program, $850,000 to the three middle schools and a combined $1.2 million to Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

"In the face of ongoing state budget cuts, donations to our schools through PiE have become a bedrock of support for PAUSD.

"Every student in the district benefits from PiE dollars, which are allocated on a per student basis to provide funding at each school," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

Last year PiE received donations from more than 4,600 school families and community members. Families received direct appeal letters in their back-to-school packets.

Since its inception in 2004-05, PiE has donated nearly $20 million to Palo Alto schools. Information is available at www.papie.org.

East Palo Alto selects new city manager

A former Redwood City deputy city manager who worked with under-served youth and families has been chosen as East Palo Alto's new city manager, the city announced on Friday, Aug. 3.

Magda Gonzalez, 48, will replace ML Gordon, who retired March 2. Police Chief Ronald Davis has served as interim city manager since then but chose not to apply for the permanent position. Gonzalez's selection follows an extensive six-month national search that attracted 78 applicants.

Gonzalez holds a bachelor's degree in social science from California State University, Sacramento, and a law degree from Santa Clara University Law School.

She has extensive experience in municipal government, working in executive-level positions, including as human-resources director, assistant city manager and deputy city manager, in the cities of Belmont, San Bruno and Redwood City. She was laid off from her position at Redwood City last year.

She grew up in Redwood City and graduated from Sequoia High School in 1981. She spent her teen years working at the Fair Oaks Community Center in the city's core Latino district. She also worked as the center's director.

Gonzalez is president-elect of the International Hispanic Network and is current conference-planning chairperson at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

She is the recipient of the 2008 "Rising Star Award" from the Municipal Managers Association of Northern California, Women's Leadership Summit, and a 2007 "Leadership Hall of Fame Inductee" for the Redwood City/San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce. She is married and has a 13-year-old son.

— Sue Dremann

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