New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 17 - Section 1

June 6, 2004 (June/July Edition)

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos




are in
Section 2
Joel Herrera
  ARP Ranger Jane
Lawson ready for
the PBS TV show
California Gold's
Huell Howser in
a grotto with Jane
  Spencer Olsson
Nitkey, Poet
  Mercury News
Reporter Pat
Lopes Harris


October, 2000, near
the entrance to
Alum Rock Park

And the Fire Danger
is already High in
the Park this year!

San Jose Firefighers at OSH
on Alum Rock Avenue for
Wildfire Awareness Week


A new Eastside
Farmers' Market
With lots of fruit
and vegetables
Nora Campos
was there

Newsletter Headlines

bulletNNV Takes a Break, This is the June/July Edition, Next Edition in Early August
bulletJoel Herrera Brings “Depth and Breadth of Leadership” to James Lick High School
bulletLick Librarian, Chris Evans: Positive Change, “James Lick has turned the corner”
bulletAn Open Letter to U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo - And a reminder from an NNV reader
bulletNew Photos of Old Fires Near and In Alum Rock Park
bulletTo Market to Market …… At Our Own Eastside Farmers’ Market
bulletPussy Willow - A poem by Spencer Olsson Nitkey
bulletAlum Rock Park Will “Star” on PBS! Watch Huell Howser and Ranger Jane Lawson
bulletTrains – in Alum Rock? Enjoy a free ride on June 23rd and exceptional public art
bulletNNV Newsmakers:
Sculptor Keith Bush, JLHS Teachers Susan Vieira and Mildred Llanos-Richards
bulletRecommended Budget: Countywide Service Reductions by Supervisor Pete McHugh
bulletNNV Briefs
bulletA Really Scary #64 Bus Story from An Anonymous NNV Reader
bulletWho Interviewed Whom? How NNV Got in The MN Guide
bulletCrime Alert in the East Highlands
bulletBluebirds Pack Up All Their Cares and Woes, Swallows swoop in
bulletA Parlor Meeting? – What the Heck’s a Parlor Meeting? For the Library?
bulletCounty Historical Heritage Commission Meets Again by Edward Allegretti
bulletNo Dinner in the Dirt on June 23rd, Un-Mark your calendar now!
bulletLinda Arietta Wows Hillcresters With Exquisite Floral Color Combos
bulletFunding Your Child's Education, Make your dollar stretch farther by Jason Papier
bulletA Tale of Two Birds by Dorothy "D.J." Johnson - YSI
bulletYou Dig It?
bulletJune/July Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
bulletA Sunny Threesome: Mixing colors, textures, and fragrances by Arvind Kumar
bulletFAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
bulletWhy aren’t there more Letters-to-the-Editor on the NNV letters page?
bulletRegarding NNV’s run-in with the touchy #64 bus driver – any mayhem to report?
bulletWhat’s the word on changes on the #64 bus line? Will our service be affected?
bulletWhat’s the buzz about Thai White Rock Café? Is it good?
bulletHow can I become a writer for NNV? I love to write but ...
bulletIs it true that there will be no NNV in July? Why not?
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NNV Takes a Break, Next Edition in Early August

This is the June/July edition

No NNV in July! Your editor needs a breather. This edition of New Neighborhood Voice is the June/July edition. It has at least two month's worth of photos. The next edition will be published during the first week of August.

Meanwhile, the Community Bulletin Board and the Letters to the Editor will be updated as new material comes in. If not having a new NNV to read in July causes you any anxiety, you could spend the month perusing all the archived NNV’s on our Web site. It’s all there, every word is there. Click here for the archives.

If you prefer to read NNV on paper, every back issue is available at the Alum Rock Library – in a box near the front door on a shelf with Chinese literature. They don’t circulate, however.

Have fun! Caio.

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Joel Herrera Brings “Depth and Breadth of Leadership” to James Lick High School

“We have our minds and hearts invested” in JLHS

Asks the community for “faith and partnership”

NNV interviewed Lick High School Director Joel Herrera early in May. The interview began in what used to be the principal’s office back when Lick had but one principal and several assistant principals. Nowadays, in order to demonstrate their co-equal status, the three co-directors, Herrera, Rick Esparza and Bill Rice, turn their back on the big office preferring to do their administrating from three small offices previously used by assistant principals and other staff.

As it happened, on the day of our interview, we played a bit of Musical Offices winding up in Mr. Herrera’s small cubby of a space after we had worn out our welcome in the already spoken for “big office.” We even toured what had been Herrera’s temporary office which was a simple desk parked in the hubbub of the school’s Career Center. It was obvious that these men have no time for one-upmanship when it comes to their offices. They have other challenges to meet.

Joel Herrera is an honest to goodness Eastsider. He grew up in the Capitol and Story area along with his five siblings. All six Herrera children have become involved in community service in one way or another. Although Joel started at San Jose State right after graduating from Overfelt High School, it would be many years and several careers later before he finished college and went into Education. Education truly is a “family thing” with the Herreras. Joel’s wife has taught with distinction for thirty years in the Alum Rock Union School District and their twenty-nine year old son, David, is an administrator at a school in East Palo Alto. His folks couldn’t be prouder.

NNV: Tell us about your background experience.

J.H.: This is my fourteenth year in education. I taught business and technology courses in the ESUHSD for ten years, then I left the district to become an administrator in the Oak Grove School District. In the OGSD, I was a middle school administrator, with some experience at the elementary level, too. After two years in Oak Grove, I returned to ESUHSD to help open up Evergreen Valley High School, my most recent assignment as an administrator (before coming to Lick).

NNV: Why do you think you were chosen for this challenge at Lick High School? Were you surprised to be tapped last January?

J. H.: Well, I believe I was chosen for the depth and breadth of my leadership experiences. I’ve had many leadership roles that have prepared me for this challenging assignment. In addition, I also have a skill-set that complements my administrative colleagues. I was chosen to be part of a team and, yes, I was quite surprised at the mid-year change. I was only at Evergreen Valley for 1.5 years! However, I must say that I became very excited after the news of the James Lick assignment settled in. I am from this community and I believe that is another reason I was chosen.

NNV: How is the Lick “director team” working out?

J.H.: Very well because Bill, Rick and I are a good match. We each bring a different skill set to the table.

NNV: We know that Bill Rice’s administrative roles include development of the curriculum and master schedule and Rick Esparza’s roles include discipline, school climate and facilities. What are your areas of focus?

J.H.: My degree and expertise are in Accounting so one of my tasks here is the budget. I also see to community relations and articulating with the middle schools which feed into our school.

NNV: How do you define the challenge at Lick?

J.H.: In a broad sense, it’s about how we are functioning as an organization. We have a challenging community to serve. However, our work is literally “cut out” for us by the School Assistance and Intervention Team (SAIT) which dictates the expectations for Lick under the rules of the No Child Left Behind Act. Our progress is constantly being evaluated. The focus of our administrative team is to carry out the prescribed SAIT programs.

NNV: Using these programs means that your team doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to deciding what approaches will be taken to restructure the school?

J.H.: Exactly! SAIT tells us, “Roll this wheel!”

NNV: Do you agree with Bill Rice and Rick Esparza that the three of you have brought a “new sense of purpose” to the students, staff and school?

J.H.: Yes! One of the hats I wear is that of the Student Activities Administrator and I’m “out there” with the students. I am getting plenty of feedback indicating that they appreciate the stepped-up discipline which results in a more serious academic culture. We have more students who buy into “Achievement and Success, Nothing Less” than who don’t. We now have the “teams” of the school working together - the teacher teams and the staff teams - because it’s up to the adults in kids’ environment to set the examples for them. We want to “recharge” the school.

NNV: What do you mean by “recharging”? Is it like recharging a battery?

J.H.: Yes; one of our missions is to rebuild the enthusiasm, pride and spirit which the students and staff have lacked in recent years.

NNV: Will upcoming district budget cuts affect Lick in major ways?

J.H.: Actually, Lick will not be impacted as much as the other high schools in the district because of our large numbers of disadvantaged and/or English learner students. Our school is granted more “categorical funds” than schools with more affluent demographics.

NNV: What else would you like the readers of New Neighborhood Voice to know?

J.H.: It’s really important for the community to have faith. We are extremely open to feedback. We want to be in partnership with the community and we want folks to know that we have our minds and hearts invested in bringing James Lick High School to the status it deserves. You can reach me at (408) 347-4559 or e-mail

Joel Herrera showed the same passionate resolve that Bill Rice and Rick Esparza showed in their respective interviews. The trio has been at Lick for just about four months and has another school year ahead of them to share their strength of will and purpose with the students and staff. It seems that ESUHSD Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas made wise choices in selecting three strong, conscientious leaders to set the example for the students and staff of Lick High School. Encouragement and enthusiasm from our community can help James Lick High School soar again.

Click here for a photo of Joel Herrera outside his office at JLHS.

NNV Note: In an NNV interview with several Lick students last month, there was an implication that Mr. Herrera was something of an unknown - to this particular group of kids, at least. However, during NNV’s recent interview with Joel Herrera, he clearly demonstrated a friendly familiarity with the bunches of students he encountered. He knew many of the youngsters by name and they enthusiastically greeted him by his!

James Lick's Bold Experiment

Meanwhile, in a May 30th opinion piece entitled "James Lick's Bold Experiment," the San Jose Mercury News editorialized, "In just four months, James Lick High School in San Jose will become a guinea pig for a radical educational experiment. More than half of incoming freshmen and 10th graders will take English and math -- and little else. That's three periods of English and two of math for a projected 60 percent of students who test two or more years behind grade level." Click here to read more about this "unprecedented, seismic shift in students' lives."

See our Letters to the Editor page for a "letter" from a James Lick graduating senior and think about what she might be saying if she had had to take a lot more English and math and fewer elective courses.

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Lick Librarian Cites Positive Changes

Chris Evans says, “James Lick has turned the corner”

Hoping to interview a Lick High School staffer who might have a good sense of the impact made by the new school administration, NNV talked with Librarian Chris Evans. Mr. Evans had been mentioned as a favorite of the four students in a May NNV interview. He has earned their trust and respect and he seems to have his fingers on the “pulse” of the student body.

He said: “Within two weeks of the arrival of the new administration team, there was a great improvement in discipline. Mandatory class attendance, required hall passes, Saturday School (for rule breakers) and punishment for insubordination were instituted. For many students these were policies which hadn’t existed for a number of years.”

There had been a lack of consistent discipline and “when kids know there are no consequences to their behavior, it spills over into the classroom.” The new administrators have made their emphasis on discipline. Most students are buying into the new school culture of “Achievement and Success, Nothing Less.” Mr. Evans hazards that enough students have embraced the new emphasis on academics to make it work.

Chris Evans wants the community to know that, “James Lick has turned the corner. Previous administrations worked diligently and the new administration has been given a specific charge with reemphasis on accountability. Teachers know and students know that more will be expected of them.”

NNV asked Mr. Evans his secret for getting along with students. “I don’t take kids too seriously!” was his candid answer. He and NNV had to agree that, after all, high school kids are just kids and, in not too many years, most of them will have survived the angst of their teenage years and evolved into responsible adults. The improvements in culture and discipline at James Lick will make that transition smoother.

Click here for a photo of Chris Evans in "his" library.

NNV Note: Chris Evans lives in our neighborhood. He had long taught English and History at Lick before deciding to take on the challenge of updating and improving the fifty-year-old school library. While working in the library with a temporary credential, he went back to school for three years to earn a Masters Degree in Library Science at San Jose State. The library is now a warm, bright, inviting room under Evans’ sure guidance. Since his championing of the Lick library, he has brought it into the twenty-first century by adding much needed computers, which, until five years ago, were not among the library’s resources.

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An Open Letter to U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy)

And a reminder from an NNV reader that we’re not alone in fighting this road

Mr. Pombo wants to impose a major thoroughfare on our neighborhood. NNV e-mailed this message twice in May in hopes of getting our objections on his radar screen. No response as of June 1.

Dear Representative Pombo –

We live in the neighborhood near the intersection of Alum Rock Avenue and Mt. Hamilton Road in San Jose. Ever since the San Jose Mercury News article in February 2003 revealed your plans for a six-lane freeway over the mountains into our neighborhood, we have been waiting for some acknowledgement that people live here and that we strenuously object to your plans.

We have carefully watched for more news or comment on the progress of the project and have apprised the readers of New Neighborhood Voice, a Web site and E-newsletter that we produce monthly. We monitor the newspapers here and on your side of the mountain and we’re aware that the latter editorially support your highway plans and your constituents have every expectation that the road will one day deliver them into our neighborhood.

Just about every article we’ve seen on the topic mentions that environmentalists, ranchers and the people at Lick Observatory oppose the project. Never have we seen any indication that you are aware that the people who live on lower Mt. Hamilton Road or in the East Highlands development or on Alum Rock Avenue object very strongly to the idea of giving over our historic and bucolic streets to play host to folks from Newman, Patterson, Tracy and Modesto who want to get quickly through the Alum Rock corridor to I-680.

NNV readers have contacted Representative Zoe Lofgren and have received her assurance that she is totally opposed to what is now referred to as “Pombo’s Road.” I believe that some readers have also contacted your office to state their objections to the road. I personally wrote a letter to the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly last year pointing out that the San Jose Country Club area is an honest-to-goodness neighborhood with worthy people who won’t let their neighborhood be usurped without a fight.

At one point, we read, there was still some discussion as to where the proposed west terminus for the road would be. Perhaps it would be somewhere other than the junction of Alum Rock Avenue and Mt. Hamilton Road. However, an article in the April 9, 2004 Pleasanton Weekly refers to “San Jose’s Alum Rock Avenue corridor where Pombo hopes the new freeway will be built.” That sounds as though the die has been cast even before the residents of East San Jose have had a chance to marshal their opposition.

Also in that article, the writer states, “The federal land use study will determine if the roadway can be built with a minimum of disruption to the open space areas north of the Lick Observatory in the largely barren Diablo Range, a concern of environmentalists.” Again, there is a total disconnect with the thousands of people and homes which would be sacrificed in order to bulldoze your road through our neighborhood and pave over narrow Alum Rock Avenue so it can funnel six lanes of traffic.

Another chilling revelation appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle of May 3, 2004. An article about you and your position as chair of the House Resources Committee paints you as a “powerful player on environmental issues” who would rewrite the Endangered Species Act because it “tramples on the rights of farmers, ranchers and other landowners.” This sends a message that you’ll tweak the law until environmentalists won’t have laws supporting their efforts to protect our open spaces and endangered species from a road through a pristine landscape.

Would you please be so kind as to reassure us and our readers that you are aware of our concerns and that you aren’t really planning to lay waste to our neighborhood? Will you please reassure us that you have just as much respect for us and our neighborhood as you do for your constituents and theirs? And, will you please be sure that upcoming land use studies take into consideration that the people of the “Alum Rock Corridor” don’t want your road in their neighborhood?

A little sensitivity and reassurance will go a long way.

Yours truly,

Judy Thompson, Editor
New Neighborhood Voice

cc: Representative Zoe Lofgren, San Jose Mercury News, Tri-Valley Herald, Pleasanton Weekly

Who else opposes Pombo’s Road?

Neighbor and NNV writer, Tim Schacher, reminds us that we are not alone in opposing this highway

Hello Judy,

Regarding Pombo and the freeway, you may want to add to the newsletter a couple of environmental groups already fighting Pombo. Like the Nature Conservancy. They are already purchasing lands and conservation easements behind Mt. Hamilton. They have a huge project back there.

Another way to fight is to buy the lands and conservation easements. Then many times they donate the lands to neighboring parks.

I know what you're going to say - eminent domain. But it makes it more difficult for Pombo.

Nature conservancy - Mt. Hamilton Project: Saving the Bay Area's Backyard. Click here for a map of their projects and here for the Mt. Hamilton Project.

Since 1998 they have safeguarded about 81,000 acres (or 300,000?, depending on which web page you read).

Then there is the Greenbelt Alliance ( They are also aware of Pombo: Click here for their link to a related article (updated link).

They have a person listed in the "alert_pombo" page who is collecting and/or coordinating volunteers. They say they are "joining with a coalition of environmental, transportation, and housing advocates to block Congressman Richard Pombo's proposal to build a 6-lane highway from Alum Rock Avenue in east San Jose to the 580/5 interchange south of Tracy.” Click here for more info (updated link).

Also, I've read that the "Trust for Public Land" buys up conservation easements from ranchers and so allowing them to continue ranching and preventing development. But I didn't locate anything about Pombo on their web site yet.


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New Photos of Old Fires Near and In Alum Rock Park

A picture is worth more words than we could ever write

It used to be said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We know from recent news events that a picture is now worth more words than anyone could ever write.

Click here for photos of the October 2000 fire near the Penitencia Creek entrance to Alum Rock Park - and to see how it looked the next morning. Now that you’ve seen the photos, click here to read a story about this fire. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.

Click here for a photo showing the results of a much larger fire in Alum Rock Park about 20 years ago – and to see how the burned area looks today.

Click here to see what the San Jose Fire Department and others did for Wildfire Awareness Week. Now it’s up to us. Click here to read what we need to do. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.

And, yes, that was smoke rising out of Alum Rock Park on Thursday evening, May 20th. A grassfire, possibly started by a tossed cigarette, burned about ¼ acre near the Penitencia Creek entrance. Fortunately, favorable wind conditions and quick response allowed the fire to be knocked down quickly.

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To Market to Market …… At Our Own Eastside Farmers’ Market

Make a Sunday outing at the Mexican Heritage Plaza part of your week

Well, hooray for the East Side. At last we have our own bona fide Sunday Farmers’ Market! No more will folks in our neighborhood have to wander off to someone else’s turf to find fresh local produce – at least not until late September when the Mexican Heritage Plaza Sunday Market finishes up its inaugural season.

The market had its grand opening Sunday, May 9th, and shared the plaza with scores of Latinas Contra Cancer who trooped in for brunch and entertainment following their Mothers Day Walk Against Cancer from St. James Park. The theme of the day was wholesome eating and fitness for health.

There were about twenty vendors offering luscious fruits and vegetables, baked goods and even shellfish. This being the month of May, cherries, cherries and cherries were in abundance. Perfume-sweet white peaches, nectarines, apricots and strawberries filled bins and baskets. Friendly sellers offered veggies familiar and exotic. There was Portuguese bread, Indian bread and Beckmann’s bread. There were flowers, kettle corn and mariachis. The market is expected to swell to as many as thirty-five vendors as the weeks go by.

The Mexican Heritage Plaza is an ideal site for the market. It has abundant free parking – even when hosting a large event such as the Latinas’ march as well as the market. And there is room for health workshops inside the gates to reinforce healthful choices and attitudes. The May offerings included workshops organized by the American Cancer Society, the Peninsula Stroke Organization, the American Lung Association and PRASAD Children’s Dental Health Program. All workshops are free, of course! Future Sundays will feature healthy food preparation demonstrations, fitness activities, music, dance and crafts.

The market will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM every Sunday through September 26th. The more the neighborhood supports it, the more it will grow and thrive. Stop by after church or make it a special Sunday excursion with Marks’ Hot Dogs for lunch and Farmers’ Market fruit for a healthful dessert. Allow some time to enjoy the gardens, sculptures, marvelous wrought iron gates and mosaics.

The Mexican Heritage Center is at 1700 Alum Rock Avenue at the corner of King Road.

Click here for photos of the Farmers' Market and the festivities.

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Click here for Section 2 of the June 6, 2004 Newsletter

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

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
To Subscribe: E-mail with "Subscribe" in the Subject line. 
To Unsubscribe: E-mail with "Unsubscribe" in the Subject line. 
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.

Copyright© 2004-2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/1/05.

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