News Digest | April 2, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 2, 2021

News Digest

Ravenswood district to reopen schools April 12

The Ravenswood school board voted 5-0 on March 25 to start reopening schools on April 12, with some reluctance from Board President Mele Latu and Trustee Bronwyn Alexander.

Teachers will be required to return to work, but the four schools will have the flexibility to decide what kind of a model to implement, either livestreaming, a half-day of in-person instruction or a full day. Families will still have the option to keep their children at home for fully remote learning.

A previous study session on March 23 reflected an ongoing tension between teacher concerns and students and families who are desperate to get back to face-to-face learning. The majority of about 680 parents who responded to a survey want their children to go back to school, but there are not enough teachers willing to volunteer to teach in person to serve them all.

Superintendent Gina Sudaria advocated for a full reopening, citing improving public health conditions in San Mateo County and East Palo Alto and vaccination rates among staff. The district received priority from the county to get staff vaccinated, and 63% of employees have received at least their first vaccine shot.

Until the March 25 vote, Ravenswood was the only elementary school district in San Mateo County that hadn't reopened districtwide or approved a plan to do so, Sudaria said.

Ravenswood started slowly reopening schools for small groups of students in January. Only teachers who volunteered had to return.

The districtwide reopening will start on April 12 with a phased-in approach through May 5.

Man arrested in Baskin-Robbins robbery

A 30-year-old man has been nabbed for the March 22 robbery at the Palo Alto Baskin-Robbins store and is being held in connection with 12 additional alleged robberies in other cities.

The man was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service and the San Jose Police Department on Wednesday night in San Jose for other robberies, Palo Alto police said in a press release on March 26. Detectives have served an arrest warrant on him for the Palo Alto case.

On March 22, around 7 p.m., a robbery occurred at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at 2615 Middlefield Road. A man entered the business and ordered food. When the employee, a woman in her 20s, returned with the food, he pointed a black semi-automatic handgun at her, ordered her to open the cash register, and took cash.

Video surveillance showed he also stole money from the tip jar. He exited the store and was last seen driving southbound on Middlefield Road in a four-door sedan.

The suspect was later identified through a collaboration with local detectives and regional law enforcement agencies.

The San Jose Police Department and multiple Bay Area law enforcement agencies worked together for months to identify and apprehend the person responsible for six armed robberies of Subway stores in San Jose and seven additional armed robberies throughout the Bay Area, including in Milpitas, Fremont, Union City, Redwood City and Palo Alto, San Jose police said in a separate statement.

Siblings plead guilty to $4M theft of laptops

A former Stanford University employee and her brother have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to thefts of Apple MacBooks worth more than $4 million from Stanford University, federal prosecutors said on March 22.

Patricia Castaneda, 37, of San Carlos, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft. Her brother, Eric Castaneda, 36, of Redwood City, pleaded to conspiracy to transport property interstate, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.

The Castanedas are two of four individuals — including one who reportedly worked for Tesla in Palo Alto — who were charged and have taken plea deals; they took part in a crime operation that also involved an unnamed person from Folsom. The Folsom resident is alleged to have purchased hundreds of Apple MacBooks from the four defendants for sale to others outside of California, according to documents filed in court by the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of California.

Patricia Castaneda worked in the Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences, according to the documents. One of her responsibilities was to order Apple MacBooks for university faculty and staff. In 2009 or 2010, she allegedly began stealing MacBooks she ordered and sold them for cash.

The Castanedas are scheduled for sentencing on June 7. Patricia Castaneda faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Eric Castaneda faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences are at the court's discretion, prosecutors said.

—Sue Dremann


Posted by East Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2021 at 8:58 pm

East Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

Ronda White, president of the teachers union, urged the board to preserve flexibility for teachers as more schools reopen.
"Just for the record, teachers always have kids' best interests at heart, whether it appears or seems like that," White said. "We will continue to work with the district."
Really Ronda? Is keeping the kids at home in the best interest of the teachers or the students? I do not think this is in the best interest of the students, but for the teachers and especially Ronda's because it is easier, but it is not the best for the kids who are already at risk (as are most Ravenswood's students are.
It is so ridiculous that the most academically needy children still learning at home when the next neighborhoods are open. Every teacher and child should be back in April, and if the teachers do now want to, they can find another job.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 30, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Hey Ravenswood - your city is growing. Time to get on board and strut your stuff. That includes all of the expected requirements of a city. that is evolving and growing. You now have charter schools. Get it together for your youth.

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 30, 2021 at 10:59 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“Every teacher and child should be back in April, and if the teachers do now want to, they can find another job”
Let’s face facts here. It’s been a year out of the classroom and most teachers do not feel safe going back during a raging pandemic. This didn’t turn out to be a heart warming story where teachers were “the heroes of the pandemic” and ran in to the classrooms to monitor all the children while risking their health while potentially being exposed to a deadly pathogen. A reality check for everyone is that this Covid scenario isn’t the same as where you hear nice stories about teachers going the extra mile for children during regular times. The same old tired threat about teachers needing to risk themselves or “find a new job” is meaningless now. Teachers have worked remotely and kept educating children. The “fire all the teachers” out of spite nonsense won’t work as there already is a teacher shortage. So if you fire all the teachers, who will be there to provide the subsidized day care that everyone is clamoring for in the Fall when things can start to go back to normal? All of this because children can’t be dropped off at a building? It doesn’t matter if parents are frustrated, let’s get adults vaccinated and make it safe first!
Finally, the article states some stats about absenteeism and students not turning their assignments in. I don’t mean this against the Ravenswood school or their families as I see these kind of stats regarding distance learning across California. Why aren’t all parents making sure their children are logging into class in the morning even if they have to go to work? Why aren’t the parents checking to see if their children finished and submitted assignments when they get home from work? Why can’t the children be intrinsically motivated to complete their work? Why do they need a building or a teacher to stand over them so that they get their work done. Just do the work! I am getting very concerned about our future generations.

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