Around TownLOST AND FOUND ... It took a nationwide manhunt, media exposure and the pluck of a conscientious Long Island teacher, but the story of the man who lost his camera during the Super Bowl is now set for a picture-perfect ending. Mary Ellen McFaul, a New York resident, accidentally took possession of the camera after its owner asked her to take a photo of him at the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. She snapped several pictures with both his camera and his phone, and in the post-game stadium craziness, the two were separated. After noticing she still had his camera, and no way to contact him, McFaul examined the photos on his camera for clues to his identity. One picture appeared to be a Palo Alto historic plaque, so she reached out to the Palo Alto Weekly in hopes of locating the camera's owner. She also created a YouTube video and set up a special email address in her effort to find the owner. McFaul also pitched a story to ABC's news affiliate in Chicago. There, the owner's son, Chris, saw the show and contacted McFaul to identify the camera's owner, his father, Tom (whose last name McFaul declined to provide out of concern for his privacy). She said she plans to meet Tom's brother, who lives in New York, to return the camera. "I spoke with Tom earlier, and he said he had just about given up hope and was very thankful that I pushed the story," McFaul wrote in a Feb. 15 email to Palo Alto Weekly. The Palo Alto plaque, it turned out, was in front of the famous HP Garage on Addison Avenue. Tom, who is not a Palo Altan after all, had simply taken a "geek tour" of Silicon Valley landmarks while visiting the area.
GOBBLING IT UP ... Gunn High School students don't have the luxury of their Paly counterparts of dashing across the street at lunchtime to enjoy the mouth-watering offerings of Town & Country Village restaurants. But Gunn students aren't exactly forced to chow on mystery meat either. The school recently added a delicatessen bar to its cafeteria, and students are apparently pleased with the new options, senior Gurpal Virdi reports. Installed at the end of January, the bar's offerings include veggie and meat sandwiches. The new deli-bar — made possible by parents and the school district's Food Services group — comes atop a recently installed salad bar. The school hopes the expanded menu will address the students' long-standing complaints about available food options at Gunn.
SPINNING WHEELS ... Palo Alto's effort to encourage students to walk and bike to school has been one of the school district's major success stories in the past decade thanks to a concerted effort by school officials, parents and city planners. Now, the city is looking to kick the city's Safe Routes to School program into a higher gear. The City Council plans to approve a $400,000 contract with the firm Alta Planning + Design (the same consultant working on the upgrade to the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan) at its Monday meeting. Most of the costs of expanding the Safe Routes program (a $660,000 effort that includes the new study) will be covered by a grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The county's Vehicle Emission Reductions Based at Schools (VERBS) program is providing $528,000 for the program while the city is funding $132,000. The expanded program is expected to supplement the "4 E's" that make up the program — education, encouragement, engineering and enforcement — with a fifth E: evaluation. The consultant is expected to help the city evaluate and update the bicycle-safety curriculum in local schools and evaluate the impact of the program on commute safety and congestion. The two-year project also involves creation of comprehensive "Walk and Roll to School" maps for every school in the district. "Walking and biking to PAUSD public schools have greatly increased in recent years, due mostly to successful education and encouragement programs," the city's Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez wrote in a report. "This project will build on those past successes and introduce new program elements." At the same time, the city plans to deploy bicycle and pedestrian counting stations to monitor seasonal commuting trends at schools and unveil a web-based carpool and trip-share tool, Rodriguez wrote.