Letters to the Editor
Publication Date: Wednesday Mar 1, 1995

Letters to the Editor

Top priority: safe schools

Editor,

As superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District and principal of Gunn High School, we are writing to express our concern about a recent news article (Weekly, Feb. 8) which highlighted a letter sent to Gunn families in this community. The writer of the letter, an attorney representing two young women who were injured by a smoke bomb set by three Gunn seniors last June, used sensational tactics to paint a very misleading picture of one of our outstanding high schools. We believe it is important to provide more accurate information about Gunn as well as all schools in the district.

Safe schools are a top priority in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Each school has a well-defined discipline policy which is communicated to parents, teachers and students. This policy is enforced by all members of the school staff. We respond quickly to any incidents that occur as we did in the incident at Gunn. We also have the full cooperation of the Palo Alto Police Department at all times in helping us maintain safe campuses.

Gunn has earned national recognition for its high academic standards and record of academic success. Gunn ranked first in the county on the indicators of school quality established by the California State Department of Education. Students at both Gunn and Palo Alto High School regularly earn Scholastic Achievement Test scores that rank among the highest in the nation. In last year's American High School Math Exam, Gunn math students ranked No. 1 in California and No. 3 in the nation. Results for advanced placement exams each year represent similar achievement in all disciplines. Last year's class had 21 National Merit semi-finalists, 20 finalists, and 10 winners. More than 90 percent of our students go directly to college. Part of that success can be attributed to a safe and orderly school environment.

Gunn, along with all schools in Palo Alto, enjoys a high degree of community support and confidence. A recent community survey by Price Research indicated that support for PAUSD schools is the highest that their organization has ever encountered.

This community can be assured that when incidents occur on our campuses, we will continue to respond quickly and appropriately. More importantly, we work continually to establish a climate and culture in all our schools that ensure an environment in which our students can learn effectively. This is a commitment that we take very seriously.

James R. Brown
Superintendent, Palo Alto Unified School District
Chris Rich
Principal, Gunn High School
Churchill Avenue
Palo Alto

More blower poetry

Editor,

Leaf blower letters have regressed to rhyme (Letters, Feb. 8)--

Let my verse present the real issue this time.

I hate breathing fumes from cars, trucks and such.

Leaf blowers give off 11 times as much.*

I can deal with the noise, but rakes are the answer

So people who breathe have less chance of cancer.

(*A 1994 EPA study showed that a leaf blower motor pollutes at 11 times the rate of a car motor.)

Karen Hales
Mills Street
Menlo Park

Enjoying the good life

Editor,

Quite frankly, the criticism that Gentry magazine is elitist and less than profound (Weekly, Feb. 15) strikes me as one more example of the politically correct hypersensitivity of which we have a great deal too much on the Peninsula and elsewhere in Northern California. If we can have magazines for every conceivable interest group, including auto buffs, computer nerds, Chinese, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, academicians, motorboaters, retailers, financial analysts, and so on, why on earth should there not be a magazine targeted at the successful who wish to enjoy the good life on the Peninsula?

I am most certainly not among the socially prominent nor likely to be, but have found Gentry a refreshing and reliable source of information about prominent personalities of the Peninsula and the history of this wonderful area. I have also found its articles about restaurants and schools and the glimpses into some of the beautiful homes in this area of interest. It is such a relief to find a publication that does not feel it necessary to wallow in perpetual gloom, which seems to be the current predilection of most of our area publications.

Instead of brickbats, I think Elsie Floriani and Sloane Citron deserve encomiums for their courage in entering the difficult world of publishing and for having produced a magazine as attractive and stimulating as Gentry.

Cassius L. Kirk Jr.
University Drive
Menlo Park

Our own little Levittown?

Editor,

Elizabeth Howton's Notes & Comments column (Weekly, Feb. 17) struck a resounding note regarding College Terrace and the various developers' intent to make it into a Levittown or some such. Obviously, these people build on speculation for profit and have no aesthetic sense or sensibility about the neighborhood. We were attracted to the neighborhood 20-some years ago because of its unpretentious coziness and lack of ostentation. But so much of that seems to have vanished.

The City Council seems more willing to acquiesce to the developers' wants than to the local residents. As Elizabeth said, they come in to build to the maximum, and the result is what one would see in Los Angeles or other such areas, becoming merely bedroom communities with little concern for neighbors or for neighborliness. Too sad!

But, thanks, Elizabeth Howton for voicing what so many of us here in College Terrace have felt for several years now.

Tibby Simon
Oberlin Street
Palo Alto

Condescending to parents

Editor,

Michal Anne Plume's letter (Letters, Feb. 17) concerning the increasingly abysmal math standards at PAUSD schools should make all parents stop and ask, "Do we really need the 'new' new math that the district is determined to impose, regardless of parents' wishes?" PAUSD is all too willing to follow the Pied Piper of the newest trends in education, whether or not children stand to benefit from the latest, shiniest, unproven theories.

The district's unwillingness to accept input from parents who are seeking to ensure that all students have sound computational skills in math is a symptom of the district's attitude toward parents in general. Parents are fine as long as they're fund raising, working to get the bond issue passed or driving field trips. However, in every decision that really matters, parents are kept out of the loop. When parents seek to have an input into curriculum choices, or try to assure that their children are placed in appropriate classes, then the district says that phrase that I'm sure every parent in this district has heard at least once, "We're the professionals, and we know what's best for your child."

Unfortunately, the district's pervasive condescension toward parents sometimes crosses the line into absolute arrogance. After the outrageous mistreatment of our child last spring/summer, PAUSD was under investigation for more than four months by the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The U.S. Department of Education has temporarily suspended the investigation, awaiting the results of our state and federal lawsuits, and will consider the outcome of those suits in determining whether to impose sanctions against the district. PAUSD at this point in time stands in danger of having all of its federal funds cut off because of the district's stubborn resistance to laws enacted to protect the rights of students.

We want to urge all parents, not just parents justifiably concerned about the "feel-good-group" math issue, to assert your rights as parents to run the schools you pay so much to support. We would like to encourage voters to ask whether a district that can't even follow established federal law, and hence might lose all of its federal funding, should be trusted with more than $140 million of our local money. Voters, please start asking PAUSD questions--your money and your children's futures are at stake.

Katie and Joe Gray
Ramona Street
Palo Alto

Unpopular and divisive

Editor,

I am concerned that the Willows Traffic Committee still appears to be proceeding with its plan to implement Phase II of its unpopular and divisive traffic plan in our neighborhood. I have two issues with the process being used by this committee:

1. The invitation to attend a public meeting on Feb. 11 to discuss Phase II was not sent to all of the residents of the Willows. I happened to hear about it through a friend who received an invitation--I did not receive one, nor did any of my neighbors. This is not the first time this has happened and I am disturbed that the Willows Traffic Committee implies otherwise.

I'm a resident of East Palo Alto living in the Willows and I have many of the same concerns that other residents of the Willows have, such as speeding cars, crime and noise. I do not, however, agree with the solutions that the Willows Traffic Committee have imposed on us so far, such as stop signs, chokers and some of the traffic circles.

2. I don't feel that there is a good process by which those of us that are opposed to many of the devices installed so far can have our voices heard. Attending meetings sponsored by a group that advocates these devices has been very ineffective so far--they appear to be interested only in a debate about where to put which devices--not whether any devices are needed at all.

A survey was done by the Willows Traffic Committee several months ago. Again, this survey was not distributed to all residents of the Willows--I had to call to ask for a chance to fill out their survey. This survey contained many ambiguous questions and the results were interpreted many different ways.

I feel that its time to let a professional, unbiased organization survey all of the residents of the Willows, follow up on the survey and put this issue to rest.

Paul Schoemaker
East O'Keefe Street
East Palo Alto

Facts about fluoride

Editor,

Sodium silicofluoride was added to Palo Alto's drinking water in 1956. A great deal of information has come to light since then regarding the short- and long-term effects.

Last September I offered a portfolio of 175 studies and articles to the Palo Alto City Library. There was "no room" for the two-inch-thick folder.

After offering the same free portfolio to the Stanford Shopping Center Health Library I was told it would be looked at by a "content review committee made up of co-sponsoring agencies." Five months have passed and none of the portfolio material appears in the library.

There was no return call for my offer of free material for the Hoover Pavilion preschool group, and books and studies that I have sent to city government over the years have never been acknowledged.

If the city library had any references at all under fluoride or water fluoridation I would understand all of this, but there is nothing there either. The natural foods store on California street offered nothing also.

I am sure there are a few curious and hardy souls who would like to know what fluoride is up to. I am ready to place an ad in this newspaper to reach those who care.

Maureen Jones
Sierra Avenue
San Jose

Kudos to the cops

Editor,

This is a letter of appreciation to thank the Menlo Park Police Department and to commend them for a truly remarkable job.

I know that usually the complaints are heard, but I want to put in a word for the many silent residents whose experiences were positive.

My burglar alarm went off last weekend while I was away. According to my alarm company, the police were called, and within three minutes of the time they were dispatched, they arrived at my house!

I have spent several days trying to figure out what happened while I was away. Between the police records and my alarm company records I have pieced it together.

Someone had pried the lock on the front door of my house in Menlo Park (there were scratches on the new brass lock), and when the burglar opened the door, the alarm sounded. The police arrived three minutes later and secured my house. They went through each room, and checked everything to see that no one was still around. They were very careful with everything. There were a few stacks of books knocked over near the front of the house (probably by the intruder). The police even took care of my little house cat (she was a little scared, but just fine).

It was very reassuring to know that if I had been in the house and needed help, I would have been saved. Now I feel even safer, and I am very happy with my town and my police department.

It seems that more people should let them know when they do a good job (which is usual). They are surely criticized for few things that go wrong. It is really time to acknowledge the "Good Guys."

TM Vandenheede
Laurel Avenue
Menlo Park

Another noise source

Editor,

I hope that someone who reads this article can end the constant noise that we are being subjected to. The HVAC equipment at a very small dental building on Middlefield is on during non-business hours. Since February 1993, I have been deprived of sleep every morning (extremely early) during sleeping hours (they used to have it on all weekend and all night). They also have the HVAC on during holidays! There is no reason for the equipment to be on when they are closed for business.

The noise from this machine is extremely nerve-damaging, interruptive and very destructive healthwise. This is mentally and emotionally very detrimental. I have just as much right to a good night's sleep as these employees do. I have the right to peace and tranquility when the dental office is not in business. On my time off from work and on holidays, I have the right to enjoy my life. I work hard and need a good night's sleep.

I went to the Palo Alto Police Department and discussed the serious nature of the problem. The officer at the PAPD informed me that since it is a business the HVAC should not be on during non-business hours; and the noise is above what is acceptable (which is not the issue) I should call them every time it is on and they will issue a citation. I have repeatedly asked for their assistance for the past 24 months. This is noise pollution and a terrible waste of energy. I am being treated in a highly unprofessional manner.

I am appalled over the continued harassment by these employees. I am a very loving, caring and responsible human being and do not deserve this type of treatment. I hope that someone can render assistance.

L. Sundland
Channing Avenue
Palo Alto


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