New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 8 - Section 1

August 3, 2003

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An exquisite alfresco
soiree in Mother
Nature's dining room

YSI Kestrel welcomes guests

James Lick High
Cross Country Team
pauses for a photo
Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
More
photos
are in
Section 2
Rustic plaque
thanks the
YSI Guild
YSI Thrift and Gift -
Ten years at 3151
Alum Rock Avenue

Newsletter Headlines

Shining a Light on JLHS - The Henningers and "Mr. K." talk with NNV
Reflections from a Young Lick Grad - Active in Anti-Smoking Campaign
Mud Pie with "Dirt" Featured at YSI Event in Alum Rock Park
A Good Time for a Good Cause: Tales from YSI Thrift & Gift by Meaghan Clawsie
Playful, Loving Kitty for Adoption, "Shadow" by Elizabeth Driedger
School Days at Linda Vista - Fifth-grader Ed gets in hot water by Ed Allegretti
School Days in the 1940's - Unlike Ed, she really did "pick prunes"  by Gerry Stasko
Notable Neighbors: Spaulding Norris by Kathleen Cahill & Trudi Burney, WCSV
NNV Newsmakers:
JLHS Valedictorians Guadalupe Bonilla, Brent Nichols and Carly Ramirez
Assemblyman Manny Diaz (D- San Jose) statement on the state budget
NNV Briefs
NNV will be on TV!
Our Green Cathedral Hosts Marriage Proposal - ARP setting for excellent surprise!
Yin and Yang - In Our Neighborhood?  Yang's lap beckons you
East Hills "Revival" - Not quite what you'd think!
East Side FISH - Serving those in need in seven zip codes by Joyce Baker
East Highlands Triangle to be Repainted - Volunteers and donations solicited
Woodpeckers - Alum Rock Park's Avian Carpenters by Dorothy "D.J." Johnson, YSI
Alum Rock Park Update by San Jose City Councilmember Chuck Reed
The Sheriffs, Part 2 by Ed Allegretti
You Dig It?
August Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
Could Salvia be your garden's salvation?
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What's going on at the old boarded-up buildings at White and Alum Rock?
Are those County guys ever going to finish work on the Miguelita Creek Bridge?
What were all the fire trucks doing on Chula Vista Drive on Saturday, July 19?
Does anyone know the name for the new youth center by Pala Middle School?
Why was a loud helicopter flying over East Highlands on Tuesday evening, July 29th?
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Shining a Light on James Lick High School

School offers exceptional opportunities for personal growth

Nella and Alan Henninger and the "legendary Mr. K." talk with NNV

If you have been following the last several editions of New Neighborhood Voice, you know that NNV took on the challenge of "shining a light" on James Lick High School with the intention of either confirming or clearing up some negative perceptions which dog our neighborhood high school. We promised to show the school's strengths as well as the weaknesses in hopes that the community discussion could help us all improve our public schools. NNV interviewed Principal Bernardo Olmos, Comet Family Resource Center Coordinator Mary Ann Andrade, and informally even the campus policeman, John Moore. We printed an article by a neighbor, Ahmad Abu-Shumays, who volunteered as a calculus tutor before he and his wife moved away. Next on the To-Do List was interviewing teachers and parents who sent their children to school at Lick.

NNV met with Nella and Alan Henninger one afternoon in July. They are uniquely qualified to comment on JLHS not only because they sent their son and daughter to the school, but because both are recently retired high school teachers. Nella finished up her final year at Lick this past June after a long career teaching freshman Integrated Science there. Alan made his career teaching Geography and History at Oak Grove High.

NNV set out to expose some big fat JLHS negatives which these educators could be expected to readily see and point out. After all, the school carries this burden of a reputation as a lackluster joke of a place with lots of immigrant kids and poor test scores, a campus of gangbangers and lowlifes, an unsafe place where knifings in the halls are routine and the last place one would send a kid for a good education.

The Henningers dispelled NNV's entire carpetbag of horrors! First off, they said, the students at Lick High are generally as well-behaved as those at any other high school and probably better behaved than kids at more-affluent schools. There is not a gang atmosphere or mentality at the school. There are not brawls and knifings being covered up. There are lots of recent immigrant students, but, as much as some of us don't want to believe it, those kids do know the value of education and they work very hard to learn. Lick addresses those kids with an excellent English as a Second Language (ESL) program. The Henningers wish all of our home-grown kids would appreciate education as much as the newcomers do.

Although they say that testing has its place, both agree that it doesn't measure personal achievement. "Education is not a group process," according to Alan, and thus individual accomplishment can't be measured by a one-size-fits-all test administered to the group. A school's test scores are essentially meaningless as far as the measure of the education available there is concerned. Students who "start a lap behind" understandably affect a school's averages in a negative way. Nella and Alan both see the importance of some sort of exit exam, but the way it's configured today isn't fair to disadvantaged kids or special education kids and it certainly doesn't reflect what high school kids should know after four years of school - since it's administered beginning in freshman year! Exit testing needs an overhaul and lots of fine-tuning at Lick and all California public high schools.

The Henningers would not have sent their children to Lick if it were not a safe place. Alan says that they probably could have worked out some way to have their kids attend a different district school, but they "chose Lick because of its small size, the excellent teaching staff and because for those who want it, (there are) exceptional opportunities for personal growth." He pointed out that the atmosphere in a smaller, less competitive school avoids the dog-eat-dog mentality of the larger, more vaunted high schools.

NNV figured that the Henningers would be flummoxed when challenged by the conundrum of the oddball kid who marches to a different drummer. Surely Lick wouldn't have the resources or savvy to do justice to that sort of student. On the contrary, they assured NNV that Lick is the school for the square peg sort of guy (or girl). It's small enough that such youngsters don't fall through the cracks as they might (and often do) in the big "name-brand" schools. Lick is used to dealing with kids one-on-one. They have programs in place to help troubled kids, wayward kids, poor kids and one-of-a-kind kids.

NNV was duty-bound to ask the question which inevitably pops up in conversations about Lick High School - "How can I take a chance with my kids' education by sending them to a school with low test scores when they can never go back and do it over again if they get a crummy education?" The Henningers pointed out that Lick has "excellent potential for those who seek it." If parents are worried that their students will goof off and waste four years of their lives, their kids could do that in any school of any standing. Nella pointed out that parents need to be involved in their children's school no matter where they attend. She mentioned an area family who sent their older son to a local prestigious private boys' school and their second son to Lick. Why? Because the family came to the realization that their second son could fare just as well with an education in his local school as son #1 did at a pricy prestige school and without the stress of the heated competition.

"Kids who go to James Lick can't get into a good university," is another frequent misapprehension shot down by Alan.  "Our kids were accepted by every college and university where they applied - but that's not true for their peers who opted out of the public schools and applied to the same schools where our kids were accepted."

Shree Karandikar, the advanced math teacher from Lick, joined the NNV interview mid-course bringing with him his son, Depak and Depak's young Brazilian wife. NNV asked Mr. K. what he would like the community to know about Lick High. He mentioned the same problem that Principal Olmos mentioned: that the "No Kid Left Behind" Act drains off such a large number of incoming freshmen that the school's enrollment goes down in such a significant way that all programs are affected. Fewer students = fewer programs = less opportunity for depth in any subject area.

NNV asked Mr. K. what he thought the rationale behind the NKLB Act might be since it is clearly counterproductive to low-scoring public schools. Without hesitation he suggested that the people who want to see a voucher system in place (where parents can use public funds to send their kids to the private school of their choice rather than supporting local public schools) are the same people who dreamed up this act. "By getting people used to the idea of choosing which school they go to, you get them used to the idea of disengagement" from the public school system. He believes that this trend is encouraged by the free enterprise system which sees a big bucks opportunity where $8,000 per student per year is the brass ring. The folks who would profit have complete disregard for a system which works remarkably well despite the constant barrage of criticism.

When asked his point of view on Lick High, young Depak, a graduate of a west side high school and San Jose State ventured that the school where his dad teaches is the victim of "stereotyping". He thinks that people in other parts of the city think of Lick and discount it because "It's so EastSide!"

Well, East Side we are and that's not going to change - ever. Lick High School's demographics are not going to change anytime soon either although the beginnings of some gentrification of the area around the school is evident in the improvements at Alum Rock Village and the growing pride-of-ownership home improvement trend creeping from house to house along the streets. The handsome new library branch which will be built across from the school and the great-looking marquee and new fencing at the school's signature corner will go a long way toward raising perceptions.

Shree Karandikar summed up by telling NNV that what he really wants our community to think about is the importance of "having faith in community schools." And, beyond that faith, support (both tangible and intangible) for Lick High and all our public schools will ensure that the American public school system, as maligned as it is, continues to be the envy of the world for turning out productive, resilient citizens who drive our magnificent economy.

NNV has hoped that this discourse on Lick High would inspire some parents or students to relate their poor experiences with the school to help the community understand why so many otherwise community-oriented people have turned their backs on the school. In the interest of balance, we offer this invitation again. All views are welcome. That's what NNV is all about. E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org or fax (408) 272-4040. 

Volunteer Calculus Tutor Needed at JLHS

Mr. Karandikar, the legendary math teacher at James Lick High School, is looking for a volunteer calculus tutor to work with ambitious and motivated youngsters beginning in September when school reopens. Ideally, volunteers would be retired scientists, engineers, mathematicians or others with a strong background in calculus who enjoy interacting with high school students.

Do you know of someone who might be interested? “Mr. K” can be contacted at KarandikarS@esuhsd.org. The tutoring is in his classroom at JLHS after school (2:15 – 4:15 PM) every Tuesday and Wednesday. For an idea of what this tutoring involves, click here to read Ahmad Abu-Shumays’ article on his experience as the tutor in Mr. Karandikar’s class in the June issue of New Neighborhood Voice.

Click here for the James Lick High School Web site. Click here for the East Side Union High School District Web site - and to find out more about our new ESUHSD Superintendent, Dr. Esperanza Zendejas.

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Reflections from a Young Lick Grad

Satisfied student active in anti-smoking campaign

Nohema Nunez is a 2000 graduate of Lick High School and works as a Medical Assistant at a clinic in the Alum Rock area. NNV asked her to comment on her alma mater for the newsletter.

Nohema was very active starting the City of San Jose's YLEAP (Youth Leadership, Employment and Advocacy Program) at Lick. The program features peer leadership and personal development in executing an anti-tobacco crusade throughout the school. "I was the one who organized the students to go out on sting assignments where they tried to get stores to sell them cigarettes. It was my first job!"

She was somewhat wistful about the many changes which have happened since she left the school. She feels that she would have benefited from more career counseling than was available when she needed it. She says there is now an excellent counselor who she would have enjoyed working with.

Nohema thinks that the new expanded Advanced Placement program is very exciting. A.P. classes didn't exist, per se, when she was at Lick. She took part in the A.P. Spanish Literature program, but it didn't have the structure of an actual class.

Nohema said she was quite satisfied with Lick High School and would not have preferred another school, but she would definitely have appreciated and enjoyed the wonderful improvements which have been implemented since she graduated. She thinks that today's Lick students are pretty darn lucky!

Click here to learn more about YLEAP.

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Mud Pie with "Dirt" Featured at YSI Event

Perfect alfresco dining in Alum Rock Park

The grassy lawn outside the Youth Science Institute's Alum Rock Park Nature Center was transformed into an elegant dining room for YSI's fiftieth anniversary party, "Dinner in the Dirt" on June 25th. The star attraction, Mother Nature, was in her best form and didn't disappoint the one hundred or so guests who found respite from the day's sweltering heat in the shade of the green-curtained hills. The Divine "Ms. N" held all yellow jackets and mosquitoes in abeyance for the event and fine-tuned the natural air-conditioning so that bare-shouldered ladies were comfortable all evening. Not a soul had to run shivering to her sun-warmed car - the usual scenario for a June dusk in San Jose. Not one chivalrous male had to drape his coat around his lady; as a matter of fact, most of the coats were left at home.

Round, linen-napped tables, each bearing an impressive assortment of crystal stemware, stretched across the meadow creating a perfect alfresco ballroom. One-of-a-kind centerpieces stood airily on each table, each with its own tiny living green grass lawn and leafy tree full of iridescent ladybugs and dragonflies.

As guests arrived in their coolest casual finery, uniformed wait staff circulated among the party-goers offering white wine cocktails and tasty hors d'oeuvres. Some YSI staff members wielded live Nature Center creatures and were ready to inform the guests about their ward or simply to allow a touch of a snake's soft belly. A teacher manned a table where bottle rockets were demonstrated - and guests were encouraged to send one aloft themselves. This was an occasion where adults were allowed to experience a bit of YSI's animal and science lore in the same way that they have watched their children enjoy them over the years.

Because the event depended on the glen's natural lighting, dinner guests had to be pulled away from their many pleasant conversations to dine before the sun set behind the park's western hills. As the happy group was being cajoled to take their places at their assigned tables, the girls' cross country team from James Lick High School and their coach, David Porter, chugged through the throng stopping just long enough for a photo of their beautifully radiant (and steamy) young faces. These neighborhood youngsters were reminders that the Youth Science Institute is in existence to familiarize our youth with the science and nature which surround them.

Dinner was prepared and served by the catering company, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme whose large dappled green truck was parked alongside the new YSI aviary. Though diners had a vegetarian choice, most chose the outstanding "dual entrée" - herb crusted lamb loin and halibut medallions with buerre blanc. Both were perfectly prepared and accompanied by very al dente haricots verts and crusty roasted baby red potatoes. P,S,R,&T managed to get everyone's plate served in a timely fashion and the food was comfortably warm even though served in challenging surroundings. The only appropriate dessert for an event billed as "Dinner in the Dirt," had to be mud pie, of course. The mocha ice cream confection was served with a "scoop of dirt" (fine chocolate cookie crumbs) - YSI's little reminder that this party was inspired by the "Wonderful Wednesday" outdoor suppers attended by little summer campers and their parents twenty-five years ago in the park.

A brief program emceed by Jan Hutchins honored YSI's "community partners," The City of San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services; Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department; Santa Clara Valley Water District and the YSI Guild. A history of the Guild's fundraising activities had the audience chuckling over the tiny rewards of the early fundraisers until their chuckles turned into gasps of amazement and applause when they learned that the YSI Thrift and Gift shop on Alum Rock Avenue now brings in about $100,000 annually! Longtime Guild leader, Milli Wright, accepted a rough-hewn plaque presented by YSI to the Guild to thank its volunteers for their years of work dedicated to raising funds to teach the children of the Santa Clara Valley the natural history of their home.

The light held out just long enough for the contented diners to find their way to their cars and form a long, slow, procession out of the park. It's a given that the imaginations of many of the folks in those cars were jumping ahead to future "dinners in the dirt" in Alum Rock Park. Next year perhaps?

Click here to see some photos from this event!  Read more about YSI Guild and the YSI Thrift & Gift Store in Meaghan Clawsie's story below.  Click here for the YSI Web site.

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New Neighborhood Voice Founding Sponsors

Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925, www.lifestyleprop.com

Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400

E.M.S. LLC, Environmental Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
A full service construction & demolition cleanup, hauling and recycling company

Eileen Parks, Windermere Silicon Valley Properties, (408) 251-5860
"When the follow through counts, call Eileen" - or e-mail Restatelady@aol.com 

Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408)-923-6666, www.keithbush.org 

MBA ARCHITECTS, Marvin Bamburg AIA, (408) 297-0288, www.MBA-Architects.net 
Residential, commercial, industrial, historic preservation & mixed use projects;  marvin@mba-architects.net 

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A Good Time for a Good Cause: 

Tales from the YSI Thrift & Gift Store

By Meaghan Clawsie (MC@NNVESJ.org

The Youth Science Institute (YSI) Thrift and Gift Store on Alum Rock Avenue, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, is the perfect place to go when you want to donate your old clothes, books, or household items to a good cause. All of the store's proceeds go directly to YSI, a South Bay-based nonprofit organization whose mission it is to educate children and teens about science and the environment through programs such as children's nature centers (including one in Alum Rock Park) and science-themed summer camps.

Besides benefiting YSI, the thrift and gift store is also a great resource for the entire community. Where else can you clothe your entire family for under $50, stock up on used housewares like tablecloths and dishes, pick up a copy of the latest John Grisham thriller for under a dollar, and finally come face to face with that vintage Bee Gees album you've been looking for, all in one place? It's true - despite the shop's modest size, it manages to stock an abundant variety of both common and not-so common merchandise, making it the ideal outlet for one-stop secondhand shopping.

But the fun to be had at the YSI Thrift and Gift Store doesn't end with the amazing bargains. One of the best things about the shop is how enjoyable it is to volunteer one's time there. Whether it's working in the back sorting and pricing the donated inventory, or whether it's manning the front registers and chatting up the store's regular customers, many of whom come in weekly, there's a unique combination of both gratification and amusement that all of the YSI volunteers describe when asked to explain what it is that keeps them coming back year after year to help out.

Many Longtime Volunteers

There are currently 129 volunteers on the YSI thrift shop roster, many of whom have been working at the store for years, according to YSI Guild President Gloria Williams. Of those volunteers, some work as little as once a month, while others donate their time on a weekly basis. Volunteers decide for themselves whether they'd like to work in the front of the store as a cashier, or in the back performing tasks such as merchandise intake and inventory management.

Amongst the store's many volunteers is Milli Wright, a charter member of the YSI Guild Board of Directors who has been working at the thrift and gift store since its inception. Milli enjoys donating her time to YSI for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the fun she has working side by side with the other volunteers, as well as the satisfaction she feels knowing she is doing something positive for her community. As Milli succinctly puts it, it's all about "having a good time working for a good cause."

Another reason Milli finds working at YSI so much fun is the exposure the volunteers get to all of the unique and wonderful donations that pass through the store. With so many affordable items around, from antique radios and vintage jewelry, to golf clubs and Barbie dolls, most of them can't resist the temptation to buy something when they show up for work. As a result, they rarely leave emptyhanded at the end of their shifts. One of Milli's favorite purchases from over the years is a lovely collection of old watering cans that she uses in her garden.

Processing New Merchandise

Another volunteer who has been with the store since its early beginnings is Ralph Libby, the shop's resident electronics guru. Whenever an electronic gadget such as a radio, a TV, or a camera is donated to the store, it is usually seen first by Ralph, who sorts it, prices it, and, if need be, fine tunes it before it is placed on the shop floor to be sold to the public. One of the things Ralph likes most about working at the shop is the fact that the wide variety of items that come his way and the varied number of tasks he's required to perform ensures that each day is never like any other.

In addition to being an electronics expert, Ralph is also very experienced at pricing donated merchandise. One of the things he has discovered over the years is that, while it's important to price things low enough that they're affordable, he also needs to make sure he doesn't accidentally overlook a priceless antique, or, conversely, erroneously mark up a common item that closely resembles a rare find.

For items Ralph is unsure how to price, he consults his electronics antique pricing guide, a huge catalog of thousands of electronic items along with their established fair market value. Another tactic Ralph employs when pricing his items is good old-fashioned competitive research. By going to Goodwill shops and seeing what they charge for particular goods, Ralph makes sure to charge just a little bit less in order to move his merchandise more quickly and ensure that his customers get the best possible deal.

Items from Near & Far

Interestingly, many of the shop's donations have come from a surprisingly wide region, a testament to the passion of the store's customers and volunteers. For instance, whenever Shirley Smith, one of the store's general managers, goes to southern California to visit, she never returns to San Jose without bearing bagfuls of donations that her relatives have saved up for her over the months.

When Gloria Williams found out her neighbor wouldn't be needing his old kitchen cabinets after a remodel, she personally loaded up a few pickup trucks' worth of the cabinets and hauled them down to the YSI shop herself so that they wouldn't go to waste.

But it's not just the volunteers who jump through hoops to help out the shop whenever they can. One of YSI's customers has been known to haul donations across multiple state lines when he comes across items in his travels that he feels are perfect for the store.

Strange & Memorable Donations

Along with selling typical thriftstore fare such as clothing, books, and housewares, the YSI store has also been known to stock a number of unexpected items, such as wedding dresses, antiquated film processing equipment, and special beer bottles designed for brewing one's own beer. Some of the more interesting donations the shop has received over the years include the following:

-- Once a decorated tin container was dropped off at the store with a sizable amount of money hidden in it. Since no one knew where the tin came from or how it got there, the money was donated to YSI.

-- Occasionally family photographs get mixed in with accumulated donations. Sometimes these photographs depict people in questionable clothing (or no clothing), and sometimes those people are shown in scandalous poses. What makes these photographs even more intriguing is that every once in a while the subjects in them are recognized.

-- Once a fast food chicken restaurant changed its name, so it donated box upon box of hats and shirts with its old name and logo printed on them to YSI. Even though this happened a long time ago, the store still has quite a number of them in stock.

-- Not everyone who drops off clothing at YSI remembers to clean out the pockets first. Because of this, some very strange, gross and unusual personal items have been found in pockets over the years. Once a little boy's suit was donated to the store with marijuana hidden inside of it. Another time, a woman dropped off a dress with a precious $100 bill inside it.

-- Some very old, perhaps very valuable works of art have been donated to the store at times.

-- A huge assortment of X-rated fortune cookies was once dropped off at YSI.

-- The donation that got the most laughs was a collection of several very large boxes containing an eye-opening assortment of sex-related items. Amongst other unmentionable things, the boxes contained whips, chains and other bondage gear, several x-rated movies and videos (some which were instructional in nature), bright red and gold stiletto heels in size 12, and extremely unusual (and large) undergarments, short leather skirts and halters. Some volunteers are still chuckling over this one.

Store Info & How to Help

The YSI Thrift and Gift store is located at 3151 Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose. Its hours of operation are 10AM to 4PM Tuesday - Saturday. Donations can be dropped off any time that the store is open. To volunteer at the store and join in the fun yourself, please drop in and ask to speak with one of the managers.

Click here for photos of YSI Thrift & Gift.

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Click here for Section 2 of the August 3, 2003 Newsletter

(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: JudyET@NNVESJ.org Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail and fax subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
To Subscribe: E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org with "Subscribe" in the Subject Line. 
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Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.
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Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 8/6/03.

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