In the latest Around Town column, news about children adding their voices to the protest against anti-Asian hate, the Palo Alto Adult School celebrating its centennial and the departure of an assistant city manager.
GROUNDED IN EDUCATION ... Like many adult schools in the U.S. born in the early 20th century, the Palo Alto Adult School's core focus was on prepping would-be American citizens for their naturalization test — a federally mandated process that has a hazy history since the early tests were orally conducted.
But the school's class schedule would gradually morph to better reflect the educational needs and wants of its local community. Whereas some adult schools continued to strengthen their GED programs, for example, Palo Alto Adult School, which hosts its curricula at Palo Alto High School, saw its most strongest programs in English as a Second Language and Parent education, which now has a 75-year standing.
"In Palo Alto, there's little need for high school completion for adults," said Kara Rosenberg, former principal, teacher and student of the adult school. "The community is pretty well educated."
Today, the school, first established by the city's school district in 1921, is a local learning emporium of diverse classes, ranging from woodworking and cooking to birdwatching and — one of its other most popular offerings — upholstery. With its eclectic mix of programs, the school also attracted notable local figures such as the late Dr. Herb Wong — a journalist and musician who taught a popular jazz course — and Linda Shiue, a former physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation who taught cooking at the adult school and now has a published cookbook, "Spice Box Kitchen."
"The school isn't just a second chance for many adults who didn't finish high school, or who need to develop a new career," said Rosenberg. "It expands their minds and gives them the ability to learn lots of different new things."
This year, the school celebrates its 100th anniversary right in the middle of a pandemic that has pushed learning environments to the virtual world.
The 2021 spring semester offers a more humble programming schedule of 82 classes. But in a typical year, the school has anywhere double the current number of programs with about 5,000 students enrolled each year, according to Dave Hoshiwara, who joined Palo Alto Adult School as its principal in 2017.
With the pandemic, the school also took a huge hit to its enrollment. About a third or a quarter of its usual student population have signed up this spring, Hoshiwara said. But as Santa Clara County's lockdown restrictions loosen, the school is eager to bring back a limited number of students to campus for a few classes, including upholstery which starts mid-April.
To celebrate its centennial anniversary, the school offered a few free introductory classes back in March. Hoshiwara hopes to have an in-person celebration later in the fall when the school anticipates to fully re-welcome students back to campus, barring the county doesn't backtrack its progress in mitigating the pandemic. And if the school's foreign language classes, which currently has a waiting list, are any indication of the adult's school's longstanding popularity — students are also eager to return.
"Everything is so different now that we're coming back out of shutdown," Hoshiwara said. "It would just be good to have students back in class."
THE 'LITTLEST MARCH' ... Rallying cries against anti-Asian hate echoed in Palo Alto for a second consecutive weekend on March 28, when community members came together for an afternoon march downtown.
The family-friendly event was geared toward local parents and children who wanted to stand against recent violence targeting people of Asian descent across the U.S. They gathered at the Emerson Street parking lot and spoke out as they walked down University Avenue. City Council members Eric Filseth, Lydia Kou, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka joined the demonstration, according to Kalee Whitehouse, who organized the event with Gloria Huang. Many brought homemade posters with handwritten messages, including ones that said "Protect Our Elders," "Stop Asian Hate" and "Racism = Ignorance."
They made their way to King Plaza outside City Hall where they were invited to bring a written peaceful wish for others to tie onto a tree and listen to speeches from locals, including Palo Alto High School sophomore Johannah Seah. "Fighting racism is more than a wish. It is an active decision daily to stand up for our community, to hold our systems accountable, to educate, to learn and to be anti-racist," she said.
View more photos from the event on our Facebook page.
A FINAL BOW ... Palo Alto has a new vacancy at the executive level of City Hall, with Assistant City Manager Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne departing last month after a decade of public service.
Hired as a library director in 2011, Ziesenhenne briefly served as the Community Services Department's interim director in 2018 before getting tapped by City Manager Ed Shikada to serve as his top lieutenant in 2019.
A popular presence whose unofficial duties included serving as a timekeeper for City Council members during the Zoom era, Ziesenhenne was honored March 8 with a special proclamation from the very council members whom she'd often had to interrupt during meetings when they exceeded their five-minute limit for comments. The proclamation credits Ziesenhenne with, among other milestones, completing the city's Library Bond Program, which involved renovating local libraries. The council also lauded her for using her "broad operational experience to improve strategic planning and create collaboration and communication within the City, particularly during the management of Citywide programs during the COVID-19 pandemic."
In her final words prior to her departure, Ziesenhenne said she is grateful for her time in Palo Alto. "This is the longest I've worked for any jurisdiction and I think it speaks to the community, it speaks to the quality of the staff and the environment that we are able to be a part of," she said.