Saturday, December 20, 2008


Alum Rock has been doing it for years with Adelante Dual Language Academy
L.U.C.H.A. School and Renaissance Academy.
Now the idea of small schools (a school which occupies the same campus as a large school, but operates independently) is catching on everywhere. Check out this article from the New York Times:

Friday, December 19, 2008


San Jose City Councilmember Nora Campos helps Santa pass out toys to waiting kids. Photo by Len Ramirez

Horace Cureton Elementary students excitedly lined up in their school cafeteria for a special treat on Friday. The day before Christmas break was exciting enough, but other joys awaited them: SANTA! PRESENTS!

Each of the 570 students at Cureton received a new, wrapped toy to play with courtesy of Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, City Councilmember Nora Campos, her staff, Toys for Tots and corporate sponsors BAE Systems and Target Stores, which contributed toys, cash and gift cards. Rolando Bonilla, Campos' press aide, explained that the entire District 5 staff came up with the idea after a recent brainstorming session on ways to give back to the community. Cureton was chosen because it is a school where there is a critical need this year. About 80% of the student body qualifies for the state's free school lunch program.


Another large audience attended Thursday's Alum Rock School Board meeting. Photo by Julie Ramirez

In a meeting that lasted until the midnight hour, Alum Rock trustees convened into a closed session with their newly hired lawyers to examine the severance deal previously granted to Superintendent Norma Martinez.

The trustees hired the law firm of Burke, Williams and Sorensen of Menlo Park to review, assess and analyze the severance agreement to see if it was legal and proper.

Earlier in the night, the school board faced criticism from members of the public still angry over the deal to give Martinez a $300, 000 "golden parachute" after she resigned.

"That's like winning the lottery," said community member Beth Johnson, "You don't deserve our trust."

Others demanded answeres, and resignations from trustees Frank Chavez and Patricia Potter, who are the only two trustees still on the board which approved the severance package. Trustee Gustavo Gonzales, who was elected board president tonight, voted against the December 2nd deal. Newly elected trustees Esau Herrera and Dolores Marquez were not on the board at the time when the package was approved 3 to 1.

"Chavez, you lost the respect of this community, Potter, you have no judgement," said neighbor AJ Sen, before demanding the two step down. Chavez and Potter did not immediately respond, and gave no indication that they would quit.

The board did approve the formation of a 16-member citizens advisory committee to assist in the search and hiring of a new superintendent. Interim Superintendent Jose Manzo will continue to serve until a new superintendent is hired, a process that could take four to five months.

Friday, December 12, 2008


First graders sing and dance onstage at Joseph George.

On the same night parents and teachers were telling the Board of Trustees what was wrong with the Alum Rock School District, hundreds of other community members were celebrating what's going right.
150 students showcased their talents in front of an audience of about 500 people in a first of its kind Visual and Performing Arts Showcase. Students from Linda Vista Elementary School joined Joseph George Middle School students on the George campus for a night of singing, dancing and instrumental performances.
Two stages (one outdoor) were in busy rotation to handle a wide variety of acts including a first-grade choir, a fourth and fifth-grade choir, elementary and middle school orchestras, a middle school mariachi group, an elementary bell choir and Hawaiian, line dance and hip hop dancing groups. The George library also showcased student art and photography walls. Parent volunteers also handed out free hot chocolate and cookies to the kids.
Ealier this year, Linda Vista and Joseph George became VAPA (visual and performing arts) campuses which strive to integrate art and music with traditional classroom subjects for a more well-rounded educational experience.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Deal or no deal? That's the question more than one hundred residents, parents and teachers wanted answered at a special school board meeting Wednesday night at the Alum Rock Youth Center gymnasium. The meeting was called late last week as a response to the public outcry over a recent board decision to give a $300,000 "golden parachute" severance package to superintendent Norma Martinez, who resigned.
"There is no severance agreement," said newly elected Trustee Esau Herrera as he held up an audio recording of the meeting. According to Herrera, who is an attorney, the previous board which approved the severance deal in a hastily called closed session meeting did not follow board policy or state law. "Nothing exists that is enforceable," he said of the severance package, "let someone else try to enforce it."
Dozens of speakers repeatedly asked Board President Frank Chavez to justify the agreement with Martinez but he provided no details. "It's not like we gave her a hundred million dollars," Chavez recently remarked to CBS 5 News. He also said people who criticized the deal were "way off base."
The board was not legally required to give Martinez any severance pay because she asked to step down for "personal reasons."
The severance package, which amounts to 18 month's salary for Martinez to walk away, was approved in a 3 to 1 vote on December 2nd, the last day before two newly elected trustees (Hererra and Dolores Marquez) were to take office. Trustees Chavez, Patricia Potter and outgoing member Lalo Morales voted in favor of it, while Trustee Gustavo Gonzales voted against it. Outgoing Trustee Tanya Freudenberger was absent due to illness.
Dozens of residents lined up to speak on the issue to the board. Some speakers called on Chavez and Potter to resign. Others noted how the severance package, which includes health care benefits to Martinez and her husband until age 65, comes at the worse possible time with state budget cuts to education looming. "If she wants to walk away, let her stand in the unemployment line with the rest of the people who got laid off," said one neighborhood activist.
"The people who are here tonight, don't represent the entire community," said board member Potter, a comment which drew astonishment, boos and hisses.
At the end of the four hour meeting, the Martinez severance was re-agendized until December 18th, when the board will seek advice from lawyers as to whether or not the deal is legal and proper.
Martinez did not attend the meeting because of illness but she was represented by Pat Souza, of the Association of California School Administrators. Souza told the board and community that Martinez believes the separation agreement with the Alum Rock School District was properly put together and valid. Souza also said Martinez asked the association's attorneys to review the agreement.
The board also voted unanimously to designate Deputy Superintendent Jose Manzo Interim Superintendent for the Alum Rock Union School District.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


It appears the Alum Rock school board gave Superintendent Norma Martinez the mother of all golden parachutes. Moments after Martinez asked to step down in a closed board session, a lame duck school board went into open session and voted 3-1(with one member absent) to give her a raise that boosted her severance package to almost 300 thousand dollars plus medical, etc. until she is 65. Parents are outraged that money is being wasted during these times with budget cuts looming. Word is Martinez wanted to step down because the current board has a majority that favors her. The new board coming in after November's election would be at odds with her and she read the writing on the wall.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm a parent in the district, and my wife is a PTA officer and sits on the Superintendent's Resource Council as a parent adviser/volunteer.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008


By Judy Thompson

Another first is taking place in Alum Rock Village! This coming Saturday, December 6th, Santa Claus is taking up residence in his own house in what is newly designated as the “East Pole”! His presence is part of the Alum Rock Village Business Association’s (ARVBA) third annual Light Up the Village holiday celebration from 12:00 Noon to 6:00 PM.

Around 1:00 PM, Santa will arrive at his house at 4300 Alum Rock Avenue in an antique car convoy after a mini-parade through the neighborhood. Neighbor Ray Fontaine has signed on as Santa’s chauffeur in his 1925 Model T touring car – top down. (Please keep your fingers crossed for a nice day!) East Foothill old car enthusiasts Rick Willson, Bob Sletten and Doug Moore will all be accompanying Santa and Ray in their own precious collector cars.

At “Santa’s House in the Village” Santa will see children from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. His house is at the east edge of the Village at the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and Millar Avenue. Don’t let its 4300 Alum Rock address fool you – it’s just one house removed from the 3100 block which is “the Village.”

Santa’s participation is just a small part of an all-afternoon community holiday celebration. Entertainment will be non-stop at the stage area on the sidewalks of the Village near the Planned Parenthood Clinic. Look for neighbor (and Channel 5 news personality) Len Ramirez to emcee a program of caroling, a hand bell choir, school bands, a youth choir and Mr. Andres Faz, a fabulous long-time professional classical guitarist.

The sidewalks will be festive with booths including Regional Medical Center’s ornament-making project for kids, various supportive neighborhood entrepreneurs and vendors. The trees will be beribboned, the shop windows will be lighted – it will be a lighthearted afternoon! Free refreshments will be served to kids.

Attendees of all ages will be invited to take part in the third annual free “bingo raffle” where they will take a bingo-type card to participating Village businesses to be stamped. The stamped cards become part of a drawing for numerous prizes donated by local businesses. The raffle will end around 3:00 PM with the drawing not long after.

The icing on the cake will be a lighting ceremony at the corner of Alum Rock and White Road. Folks will gather in the vicinity of Starbucks at around 4:45 PM. They will be serenaded by carolers from the James Lick choir, meet local dignitaries and enjoy a carol sing-along. James Lick’s huge pines behind the marquee will come to life with hundreds of colored lights. It will be an occasion which little kids will long remember.

Please come for the afternoon. Make a point of getting acquainted with our local businesses. Meet your neighbors and celebrate community! The Dr. Roberto Cruz – Alum Rock Library will also welcome visits during its concurrent holiday event. Look for parking at the James Lick High School lot and the City lot behind YSI and Planned Parenthood.