Letters | November 5, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 5, 2010


The Cal Ave 'project'


After volunteering for 20 years as the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA) president and working with nearly every city department, no city investigator asked for my recollections of the five years leading up to "The Project" on California Avenue.

Having read the antics chronicled in the Executive Summary, it is revealing to read what was relayed to higher-ups.

That report has errors, omissions and gaping holes in the timeline, appearing by design, and in a manner making all upper management and one senior engineer look faultless while casting blame on other lower level employees (people deserving of support and even thanks, not chastisement).

If not for one conscientious employee, there would be no prior public notification at all.

The report exhibits a continuance of no leadership; an outrageous whitewashing of responsibility; no vision; no accountability; no conviction or courage; and no common sense from the top rungs of city management, on down.

This mentality results from years of weak, high-level city management covering one's posterior, where employees with good skills are in fact, kept down or pushed out. Former councilman John Barton warned of this. He was correct.

While a few departments are excellent (specifically Parks, Dept. of Homeland Security, and Community Services) one can safely surmise that no one is watching the city manager's store.

Nine well-meaning, but hands-off council members feed this problem. It would be a pleasure to see, for once, accurate reporting from the city manager's office, not excusing top brass when things go wrong.

Sadly, that appears unlikely with the current mindset of too many elected officials, and of the city's top managers.

Ronna Devincenzi

Formerly of CAADA

Palo Alto

School schedule shifts


As a parent of two children in Palo Alto public schools, I wanted to point out several aspects of the proposed calendar change that have been overlooked by district leadership and the media.

First, the comparisons cited by PAUSD to build its case for the new schedule do not provide a roadmap for how this proposal would impact Palo Alto families. Menlo-Atherton, one school often named as a parallel to PAUSD, is part of a high school-only district, so when it switched to an early start, the only students impacted were those already in high school.

Castilleja, a private school that is also referenced frequently by PAUSD, has a shorter first semester and its students don't start school until Aug. 26, but still take finals before the holidays. PAUSD students, in contrast, would need to start school Aug.16, effectively shutting many children out of enriching summer programs and camps, not to mention family vacations.

Second and perhaps more importantly, while pre-break finals may reduce stress for some high school juniors and seniors, I see this proposal as a 'low-hanging fruit' solution that doesn't address the more urgent question of how to better balance the learning environment for students across all grade levels of our district.

When Palo Alto students begin bringing home worksheets in kindergarten, have two to three hours of homework in middle school and survive high school through chronic sleep deprivation, it is clear that our high academic results are coming at a cost for the overall well-being of our children.

I hope the PAUSD school board and leadership will step back from the calendar process and start a deeper conversation about how we can help our children grow to be healthy, enthusiastic learners at all grade levels.

Victoria Thorp

Fulton Street

Palo Alto



Posted by Questioning, a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Ronna's letter is devastatingly on target. Weak top leadership with no vision, rather a focus on pushing the blame downhill to line staff when anything goes wrong. A cover your behind above all else mentality. Crafty, carefully scripted frame-up jobs in the guise of investigative reports, all designed to shift the blame away from the brass. Endless spin and snow jobs. Scant honesty, little integrity, zero courage.

That has been the culture of Palo Alto City Hall. When will it end?

Posted by Mama, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2010 at 8:13 am

Interesting how Ronna speaks of accountability and conviction of courage in regard to Cal Ave. Look in the mirror my dear.

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