Letters to the editor | August 31, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 31, 2018

Letters to the editor

Publish meeting notices more, not less, widely


I was sorry to read in your Aug. 24 edition that Palo Alto's city clerk decided unilaterally to stop publishing meeting notices in the Palo Alto Weekly after more than 30 years of doing so. If you believe a local bureaucrat changed a long-standing practice like that just to save $20,000, you probably haven't lived in Palo Alto very long.

The Palo Alto Weekly reaches more residents than the Daily Post and, by virtue of home delivery, is the most widely read of the two. If the city truly wants greater participation in civic affairs it should strive to publish as widely as possible.

It's also worth noting that this important advertising supports local journalism. That revenue helps to pay for the increasing cost of newsprint as well as salaries for reporters, editors and everyone else who makes the weekly newspaper possible. It also helps defray the exorbitant cost of doing business in this city.

It is perhaps even more troubling that neither Mayor Liz Kniss nor City Clerk Beth Minor could be bothered to return phone calls to the Weekly when asked about the decision. They owe residents an explanation.

Perhaps a better choice would have been to publish the notices in both the Daily Post and the Palo Alto Weekly. The extra cost of ensuring that more people know what's going on in city hall would be roughly the equivalent of the cost of retirement benefits for the new city manager. I can tell you which is more important to me.

Clay Lambert

Bryant Street, Palo Alto

A bad decision to switch advertising


This decision is ill-conceived. We who subscribe to the Palo Alto Weekly, or pick it up for free at the boxes, want to know when the upcoming city meetings will be held. We don't read the Post as much.

You've really got to be living under a rock (sorry, not nice) not to recognize how important the Weekly is to the population.

I'm truly surprised at the several incredibly bad opinions that have been reported by the City Council or a specific member.

Making a decison that might result in fewer residents attending the council meetings has many negative connotations, all of which make you look as if you are oblivious to your voters.

Gloria Pyszka

E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto

More transparency needed


As a 40-year neighbor of Castilleja School, I was a largely respectful supporter of the school for decades until three years ago when the school's disrespect for the truth and the law and the neighbors caused me to speak up.

I was initially heartened by Ms. Kauffman's guest opinion (Weekly, Aug. 24) until I read the same undercurrent of untruths, obfuscations and spin that had originally alarmed me three years ago.

The tone of Ms. Kauffman's guest opinion indicates she came forward to the city when she discovered the school's over-enrollment. She neglected to state, though, that she had been head of school for three years when this supposed reporting occurred, 12 years after the violations of the city's zoning code had begun. Neighbors have never seen any evidence of this reporting and only learned of over-enrollment at a neighborhood meeting when the school was asked directly about its current enrollment.

Castilleja has tried to say the over-enrollment was a result of believing that the average daily attendance or headcount on campus each day was what constituted enrollment. This is a complete falsehood; enrollment is defined as the total number of enrolled students by the school's Conditional Use Permit as well as the state education code.

Castilleja still exceeds its legally authorized enrollment of 415 students. Despite this, the school is asking for a 30 percent increase in its student population, destruction of two single-family homes and mature redwoods and oaks, demolition of most of the campus, construction of a commercial underground garage, six variances and a request to exceed the allowable floor area ratio. And only 25 percent of its students are from Palo Alto.

Castilleja needs to engage truthfully and respectfully with their neighbors in what could be a robust community building enterprise and a powerful lesson for their students.

Mary Sylvester

Melville Avenue, Palo Alto

No need to apologize, Castilleja


I appreciated Nanci Kauffman's letter published in last week's Weekly but was saddened to see the apologetic tone. Why Castilleja has to apologize for giving too many girls an outstanding educational experience is beyond my comprehension.

There is no nefarious motive here. Ms. Kauffman didn't cook the books for her personal financial gain. Prior to Ms. Kauffman becoming head of school, Castilleja had used the daily attendance method to measure their capacity numbers — a practice I've learned was common among the private schools in the Bay Area. Neighbors had not even noticed a traffic issue prior to the 2011 meeting with the city. There were no complaints about the school.

As a neighbor who lives just beyond the exit of the proposed garage, I don't have the slightest concern that the school will be diligent in their traffic control, just as they have been over the past eight years. As many neighbors have been attesting online in both the Palo Alto Weekly and the Nextdoor.com forums, the traffic around the school is amazingly orderly and unobtrusive.

I urge my fellow Palo Altans to get check it out for themselves — drive around Bryant, Kellogg and Emerson on a weekday morning. When you see the cheerful and respectful staff and student body filing into campus, consider getting behind this cause, supporting this world-class educational institution and championing the choice that our community has to send their daughters to an all-girls school.

Nancy Tuck

Melville Avenue, Palo Alto

In response to digital parenting article


Parents can download and install an excellent, free internet and computer filtering/control program called K9 BlueCoat for Windows or Mac computers. Easy to use and very customizable. Control which websites can be accessed or shut off internet access completely. Write down the password someplace safe so you can override the settings. Download from www1.k9webprotection.com.

Sue Kayton

Doris Drive, Menlo Park


6 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2018 at 7:31 am

Castilleja should be ashamed, not just sorry. Ms Tuck has only lived in the neighborhood for a few years and has no clue about the long history of deceit by the school. Neighbors have complained for more than 25 years.

Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Tuck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:00 pm

Actually, "JCP", it will be seven years in December that I've lived on Melville Avenue. And to quote Mary Sylvester's letter to the editor: "As a 40-year neighbor of Castilleja School, I was a largely respectful supporter of the school for decades until three years ago when the school's disrespect for the truth and the law and the neighbors caused me to speak up." So it would seem that Ms. Sylvester actually had no issue with traffic, nor any complaint about the school prior to three years ago. And three years ago, the school had already paid a fine to the city, undertaken significant traffic abatement efforts, reduced enrollment, and held over a dozen meetings with neighbors to discuss mutually accepted solutions to any new issues that had cropped up following Nanci Kauffman's admission of over-enrollment. You don't share your name, or your address, but if you are a neighbor, or even a resident of Palo Alto, I hope you will try to be part of the solution.

Like this comment
Posted by Huh.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2018 at 1:14 pm

The problem is that the school considers deceipt and bad faith to be trivial, surface problems that can be addressed with PR and retroactive pronouncements.

It’s current administration simply cannot be trusted.

To move forward, it needs new people who understand that honesty and good faith interactions themselves are helpful for the school’s relationship to its community. Chasing a reputation of good membership in the commmunity is one thing, but that is not the same as actually walking their espoused values and those of its community.

If the school had been acting in good faith and being honest for decades, do you think it’s surrounding community might be more likely to trust and work with the school to recognize and advance mutual goals?

The solution to the current problem is to hold the school to its use permit of four years ago. If it can be a good, honest citizen for a few years, it’s worth looking at how to help the school benefit its community more.

But if the school cannot break free of its addiction to deceipt, bad faith, and misleading communication to the public, it should be treated as a bad actor that has to be watched and monitored carefully to minimize and mitigate the damage it will inevitably bring.

Despite its current well-placed connections.

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