New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 31 - Section 1

November 6, 2005

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos - More photos are in Section 2

Bill Rice


ARUESD Surplus


Dr. George Castro

And one of his


Ester Weger led
our tour of ...


Dr. Kai Inhken
at RMC

Campos at RMC


Calvary Cemetery

And a new sign
at Calvary


Leaves of
three, let it be



was there!

Logos Church on
Alum Rock Ave.


Are you feeling
more secure?


YSI supporter
Gil Decker

Opens house for
YSI Fundraiser


YSI Wildlife

In Alum
Rock Park

Lots of kids
were there


On-line Tutor
at our Library

Newsletter Headlines

bulletIt’s That Time Again - We're ready for our fourth year and we'd appreciate your support
bulletLick High School Dodges Major Bullet! Bill Rice Lost – Bill Rice Regained
bulletResponse to James Desmond's Missive on Pombo’s Road by Bill Zavlaris
bulletWhy I Am Voting For Proposition 74 by John S. Leyba
bulletHaven’t Decided How to Vote on Controversial Prop 73 on Parental Notification?
bulletThree New Ideas For ARUESD “Surplus” Property - Teacher housing?
bulletCommunity Health Partnership Implements Change from County Supervisor Pete McHugh
bulletDr. George Castro – The Ultimate Mentor – Volunteers For Our Community’s Kids
bulletNNV Tours Marguerite Terrace - Wow! You should see it … and they’d really like you to!
bulletRMC Institutes Specialized Cardiac Surgery Program by Ben Stephenson
bulletCalvary Cemetery, 1882 to the 21st Century, Part V - And another poem by Lara Gularte
bulletNNV Briefs
bulletRichard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Photo of the Month - Red Poison Oak
bulletRed Poison Oak - A Poem by Roger Abe
bulletGallons of Batter, Miles of Links Disappear at ARYC’s Annual Fundraiser
bulletOn Alum Rock Avenue: Venerable church will change hands – and congregations
bulletOn McKee Road: Security guy seen lurking among the palms
bullet“A Splendid Autumn Afternoon” at Deckers' Gorgeous Craftsman Home by Susanne Mulcahy
bulletYSI Wildlife Festival - Neighbors met critters, ate picnic fare, learned all sorts of neat stuff
bulletLive Homework Help Now Available On-line to Local Students
bulletEastside FISH Volunteers Provide Emergency Sustenance by Joyce Baker
bulletFriends of the Library Active at New Cruz/Alum Rock Branch by Joyce Baker
bulletBig December 3rd Faire Planned for James Lick High School
bulletLyndale Neighborhood “Pocket” Courted by City of San Jose - No recourse to annexation
bulletAREF Elects New Officers - Volunteers improve ARUESD schools
bulletGrievously Wounded Vietnam War Veteran Challenges Lick Students
bulletNewsmaker: Councilmember Campos Elected President of LOCC Latino Caucus
bulletNew Appointee to Fill Vacant ARUESD Board Post
bulletNakajima’s Band - Vibrant young Lick Music Director shapes high school musicians
bulletYou Dig It?
bulletNovember Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
bulletToyon Brings Good Cheer - Native lights up winter landscape by Arvind Kumar
bulletMaster Gardeners in Our Midst - Look for their green thumbs by Nella Henninger
bulletResisting the Deer - And preparing for the Christmas Bird Count by Schuster Thompson
bulletInaugural City Hall Rotunda Event Draws Arty VIPs - Acoustics leave much to be desired
bulletFAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
bulletWhat is the community consensus on the new library’s signage?
bulletDid the parking lot at our new library ever open?
bulletWhat’s the latest scoop on the poop at the new library?
bulletWHAT is the story on that house at Clareview Avenue and Alum Rock?
bulletDoes anyone know what the surveying crews were doing on Alum Rock?
bulletWhatever happened to the lost chocolate lab?
bulletWhat was the large column of black smoke in the east foothills early in October?
bulletWhat is all this yellow powder in the air? Is it what’s making my allergies worse?
bulletIs it true that we’re going to have a Costco Store closer to us on the East side?

Other Sections:  Letters to the Editor  Deer Resistant Plants  Community Bulletin Board  NNV Archives

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It’s That Time Again

We're ready for our fourth year and, like Public TV, we'd appreciate your support

But we promise there won't be any pledge breaks!

Whoa! Can you believe that New Neighborhood Voice has been your neighborhood voice for three whole years now? Next month's (December) edition will be the first one of our fourth year! As we said last year, it has been such a terrific "growth experience" (heh) and we are gearing up for another year of news grubbing, researching, meeting attending, writing, editing, picture taking, web site building and neighborhood cheerleading.

We hope you have enjoyed watching and helping the newsletter grow from a few pages to sometimes over thirty! As you probably know, we have enjoyed the support of fourteen area businesses who generously sponsor NNV. We hope they will all want to re-up and continue helping to sustain NNV. However, it is also time to ask for a little help from our on-line subscribers as well. We hope you can think of New Neighborhood Voice as being rather like public television or radio. Like those entities, NNV needs donations to survive. We create the newsletter as a community service, our wonderful (and much appreciated) writers and photographers all are unpaid volunteers - as are we.

We'd appreciate your support!
We’d appreciate any donation (even as little as $10 or $15 will help) and we try to make donating to NNV as painless as possible. No pledge breaks or drives!

E-mail subscriptions to NNV will continue to be free, of course, just as public TV and radio are, so donations are completely voluntary. We will continue to ask for a $10-$15 per year donation from our subscribers who need a mailed, paper copy every month.

Our plan is still to make just one annual appeal so we won't be asking again until this time next year - if we decide at that time to continue with the newsletter.

Mail Donations
It’s easy to make a donation - just make a check out to "New Neighborhood Voice" and mail it to us at 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127.

On-Line Donations - Secure Server
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If you prefer to donate on-line using your credit card or PayPal account, you can click on the button below and the transaction will be handled by a secure server. NNV is a Verified PayPal Member.

The PayPal secure server will be used for this transaction.  If you don't have a PayPal account, you can make a Credit Card donation and set up your own PayPal account at the same time.

If you want to read more before you donate, click here for our Donations Information page.

Here are some statistics for our first three years. NNV had:

• 31 editions (we plan to do ten editions this next year) - all archived on our Web site

• 14 "Special Alerts" to let readers know about important events between editions

• Well over 100 volunteer writers who contributed more than 300 stories or poems - not counting the ones we wrote

• So many photos on our web site that we can’t even begin to count them now, thanks to many volunteer photographers

Your comments, suggestions, Letters to the Editor and events for our Community Bulletin Board are all welcome at any time. Just e-mail Please put "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line if we can publish your message on our Letters page.

Thank you for your support.

Judy and Allan Thompson

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Lick High School Dodges Major Bullet! Bill Rice Lost – Bill Rice Regained

School/Community outrage reverses district’s decision

For about a week in October, Principal Bill Rice of James Lick High School was in utter limbo after East Side Union High School District interim superintendent, Bob Nunez, announced his decision to remove Bill from Lick and send him back to Independence High School, his previous posting. To Lick’s teachers, students, and parents the decision seemed swift, thoughtless and arbitrary. In actuality, Bill had prior knowledge of the possibility of transfer, but he thought that the district was heeding his preference to stay at Lick where he had been enjoying gratifying success in improving the troubled school.

On very short notice (about 24 hours) a meeting was arranged in the school library. Superintendent Nunez would meet with Lick teachers, parents, students and community members to explain his move. He said, however, that he would listen to the concerns of the Lick community.

The 6:30 PM meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd to the library. Mr. Nunez explained that he needed to move several principals to best meet the needs of the ESUHS district. According to Mr. Nunez, Bill Rice was needed back at Independence High where his many years of experience would qualify him as the best choice as head principal after the departure of the former leader there. He introduced an assistant principal from Oak Grove High School who he proposed would be a suitable new principal for Lick - now that Bill Rice had “fixed” the school’s problems.

The teachers, parents and students spoke passionately of their concerns. One after another, they told Mr. Nunez that it was Bill Rice who has changed Lick’s “culture of failure” to one of burgeoning academic success - and they assured him that the work is far from over. Mr. Nunez listened patiently, but he seemed far from convinced when he told the crowd that he would return in a week and a half to announce his final decision.

The community sent e-mails to Mr. Nunez and the district’s board of trustees imploring them to find some other way to adjust the administration problem in the district. “No Child Left Behind needs to include ‘No School Left Behind’” wrote one.

A few days later, the Mercury News editorialized in a piece titled “An error imposed on James Lick High.” The Merc agreed with Lick teachers who wrote to Mr. Nunez that “The James Lick community of students, parents and faculty deserves better treatment.” Nunez’ choice “shows disregard for the demoralizing impact on James Lick, just when it’s showing great promise” the newspaper opined.

Next came eloquent letters in the newspaper responding to the editorial. “To move Bill Rice from James Lick … would endanger the progress and momentum he has created and return James Lick to the widely held negative community stereotype,” wrote Nella and Alan Henninger, retired district teachers who live in the Lick community.

Lick faculty, students and parents set about organizing a demonstration at the next ESUHSD board of trustees meeting, but just as the planning was getting off the ground, Mr. Nunez called for another spur-of-the-moment meeting – again to be held in the school library. So, one night before the school board meeting, and about five days before Mr. Nunez’ date to reveal his final decision, there he was, facing the impatient crowd.

Speaking of the changes wrought by Bill Rice at Lick, Mr. Nunez asked rhetorically, “Is it worth changing what’s going on here?” As the crowd held its breath, Nunez emphatically answered himself, “No!” The assembled Lick community roared its appreciative response. It would be fair to say that there were many tears of joy.

“I’m so happy!” Bill Rice exclaimed unselfconsciously to the room full of his defenders and admirers. “This has been the worst-best week of my life. I had resigned myself to going to Independence. You won the day!” Indeed he had already had a meeting with the faculty and parents at Independence earlier that week.

It was that close!

Click here for photos from the meetings.

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Response to James Desmond's Missive on Pombo’s Road

Don’t replicate L.A.’s or Sacramento area’s mistakes

By Bill Zavlaris

This response is to James Desmond's missive in the October NNV about how the Pombo road must be built. I can't disagree with him more! As someone with a Master's Degree in Urban Planning and many years in various development positions, I think that the Pombo road through the Diablo Range is a horrible, short-sighted idea.

Disregarding the outrageous expense of such a road, the road would do two irreparable things to the Valley and especially the East Foothills. First it would open up and destroy the range as a much-needed greenbelt/buffer between the Santa Clara Valley and the San Joaquin Valley. The current semi-wilderness of the Diablo Range is one of the jewels of living in the south bay. Destroying this would do immense damage to our area's quality of life.

I am old enough to remember Caltrans' desire to run a highway up the bay from San Jose to San Francisco on bay-fill east of 101 and the equally horrid idea of running a freeway from Sausalito through western Marin County to Petaluma. Fortunately, more intelligent heads prevailed and southern San Francisco Bay and West Marin remain the regional jewels that all enjoy today. The Diablo range likewise should be preserved as both public and private open space. Hopefully, now that the myriad law suits have been overcome, the Santa Clara County Open Space District for the eastern side of the county can begin replicating the amazing success of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District which has saved so much of the Santa Cruz Mountains for all to enjoy.

Secondly, how on earth would dead-ending a new freeway help with our current transportation problems? Santa Clara County is trying every means possible not to replicate the mistakes of Los Angeles where low densities, multiple freeways (that are clogged up as soon as they are built) lead to an urban form that is both unhealthy and terribly wasteful of resources. We still have the chance to retain much of the beauty and quality of life of the Santa Clara Valley with intelligent growth and planning, not the sprawl of the past.

I would suggest Mr. Desmond take notice of how quickly the areas east of Sacramento (such as Roseville) are destroying the very qualities that draw people there in the first place. The sprawl currently being built along Interstate 80 from Sacramento to Roseville is a textbook example of what not to do! We don't need this type of solution replicated on a highway between Tracy and San Jose.

I can't urge strongly enough for a "No on Pombo's Road!"

Click here to read the New York Times editorial, "Pombo Time" (10/30/05) - if you get "The page cannot be displayed" when you try the New York Times link, put your cursor at the end of the "Address" in the Address Bar and hit Enter on your keyboard. Click here for the San Jose Mercury News editorial, "Earth needs protection from Pombo" (11/2/05).

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New Neighborhood Voice Founding Sponsors


Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925,
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A full service construction & demolition cleanup, hauling and recycling company


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"Our best product is peace of mind."

And We'd Like to Welcome Our New 2005 Sponsors


RAM REALTORS - "Serving you since 1965" in Alum Rock Village
Call us at (408) 259-4920 or E-mail Frank B. Morales or Cecilia Echavarria


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Robin Edwards, Inc., Engineering Contractor, (408) 244-4791
CA Lic. 762792 A&B, "Basements, retaining walls, and complex foundations"


Regional Medical Center of San Jose, 
225 North Jackson Avenue, San Jose, CA 95116-1691, 1-888-RMC-8881, Dedicated To Your Well Being.

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Why I Am Voting For Proposition 74

Time to “shake up” the system?

By John S. Leyba

My biggest complaint about Proposition 74, which changes the waiting period required for teachers to gain permanent status from two years to five years, is that it doesn’t go far enough in helping to reform this state’s educational system.

Prop 74 also makes it easier to fire teachers. For these reasons, the California Teachers Association and its allies are up in arms.

Then why are many of the best teachers I know supporting it? They see a system afflicted with rot, a slow decay where teachers have to commit a crime to be released for cause. (There is a process, but it is ridiculously onerous.) Some teachers, including here in Alum Rock and East Side, are just awful. But doing something about that is extremely costly. Termination-related lawsuits and grievances were the lions’ share of Alum Rock Union School District’s $815,000 in legal fees during a recent school year.

There is no greater responsibility in society than to teach and shape the future of that society. And there is no greater responsibility in a union organization than to preserve the integrity of the profession it purports to represent. All too often unions fail in this regard.

Of course, anyone who criticizes their operation is branded as anti-union. You can call me names too but that doesn’t change my philosophy about unions: They are essential in representing workers who have valuable, specialized skills best employed by only a few employers, employers who could take advantage of those skills and the added value they provide, while paying little for the privilege. Think about specialized automotive workers with 20 years of experience in a company town. Who else will they work for? Who else can they work for and do as well? Clearly there is economic incentive on the part of the company to exploit such talents and experience without rewarding it. Unions play a valuable role in mitigating such a situation.

Teachers, likewise, employ specialized skills, and teaching is hard work. But with my economics education, I have great difficulty believing that excellent teachers cannot find another gig nearby in a state with a thousand school districts, six million students in public schools, and almost a million more in private school. This is a case study in what should be a fluid, high-quality labor market.

But it is not.

Thirty years ago baseball players, who were in a take-it-or-leave it collective bargaining arrangement, began an experiment with free agency. Now baseball players are paid hundreds of times what they were just a generation ago (despite the fact that many of them are, in fact, on contract). Why is that? Is it because of competition? Is it because owners could reward each star as an individual and had to compete to keep him on the team?

Likewise, even if we loosen the rules a little, great teachers will be kept. One teacher who opposes Prop 74 lamented to me over email, “[Prop 74] could be especially scary because a lot of principals in this state are crazy!” Yes, that’s true. And in private industry “crazy” managers have to answer to their managers for things like profitability, company values, employee morale, and employee turnover. If the risks were lower for moving to another district or school, teachers would have a lot more flexibility in where they practice their craft.

Paradoxically, making it easier to fire teachers makes it easier to hire them, to take a risk on someone who might be a diamond in the rough, who might need a bit of coaching or employee development. As a case study, look at worker protections in Western Europe, specifically France and Germany. On the one hand, workers are well-paid. But on the other hand, no company wants to expand there or hire someone, because if a company makes the wrong hire, it will find itself hog-tied by regulations if it decides to release the person. So unemployment is high and the economy stagnant.

The difference between our educational system and German Industry is that our teachers are not nearly as well-paid. The many suffer for the sins of the few.

Now, instead, imagine a system where a principal is entrusted with building a teaching community by building a staff, where awesome teachers are paid what they’re worth (much more than now, that’s for sure) and the principal is not obligated to rehire those who are not getting the job done for their customers, the students and families. Imagine if a principal could pay more money to some teachers who take on extra students or do better work or mentor others. With more flexibility, it is true, many of the best teachers would flock to better schools where they could be paid more, and that would “leave behind” children (and colleagues) at schools where the bad principals are. I see this situation as finally exposing the inequities that are hidden by the present regime, the rot inside the walls.

Instead, on our present course, we underpay everyone and punish (and discourage) achievers from doing more for students who need the most help. See the Alum Rock Educator Association’s latest newsletter, which raps teachers who “break the contract,” which is code for staying after school, working long hours, and doing home visits. The message is cloaked in references to social justice and a quote from President Kennedy. Please, someone explain to me, how is it fair or socially just for the students to have to endure teachers doing only the minimum asked of them by contract? To misappropriate a quote from a president who asked Americans to give more of themselves and to go beyond the status quo, is shameless.

Teachers are increasingly accountable for not just what or how they teach students, but producing results. This trend disturbs me, because I would like to see teachers having the freedom to excel in their classrooms, and not be driven by the testing and API-score craze. But regardless of the measurements, if I were a teacher, I would be furious at horrible teachers “upstream” from me who push under-prepared students into my classroom. Where is the outrage among these professionals? Is it lost in their solidarity?

Taxpayers are asked time and again to throw more money at the problem, and indeed, not enough of the money we pay into the system gets to our kids in their classrooms or to their teachers. So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to shake up the system a little.

We are trying to train our kids for a global workforce, where every day their jobs will be on the line, where we have to compete relentlessly because there is no right to a job when competing with organizations halfway around the world. No one should have a right to a permanent job in the public employ either. Let’s demand more of ourselves and each other.

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Haven’t Decided How to Vote on Controversial Prop 73?

Here’s how NNV thinks about “Parental Notification” for teens seeking an abortion

According to a recent poll, about 40% of voters are planning to vote Yes on Proposition 73 and another 40% have made up their minds to vote No. For the remaining 20% we would like to present some food for thought.

Parents are right to think that, in an ideal world, children in trouble should come to them to discuss problems and work out rational solutions. Unfortunately, for many families, such trust and communication never develop. A law such as Proposition 73 will not suddenly guarantee family communication which needed to have started during the child’s earliest years.

In states that have mandatory notification of parents of girls under the age of 18 who are seeking an abortion, the result has sometimes been self-induced abortions by girls who don’t want their parents to know (for whatever reason, but you can surely conjure up a few as you recall your own headstrong teen years).

Some parents who find out that their daughter is pregnant and seeking an abortion are capable of violence against their child. Proposition 73 includes an “out” for girls who can’t tell their parents for fear of mayhem, but that loophole involves going to court and getting permission from a judge. Then and only then, can they arrange for an abortion without the knowledge of their parents. This does not seem to be a reasonable alternative because most teens are not sophisticated enough to find their way through the courts, and, of course, time is of the essence. An early abortion is enormously safer than one later in the course of a pregnancy.

A teenager who cannot discuss abortion with her parents needs counseling, not a trip to court.

Proposition 73 is not good law and warrants a NO vote.

Click here for the Campaign for Teen Safety.

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Three New Ideas For ARUESD “Surplus” Property

Teacher housing? Escuela Popular + Housing ? EMQ Children and Family Services?

Sell it? Lease it? Develop it?

Late in September, the board of trustees of the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District heard presentations by the City of San Jose’s Planning Department and Redevelopment Agency for surplus land at four parcels of ARUESD land. Proposals included developing recreational areas at Joseph George and Ocala Middle Schools and Chavez Elementary. For the large seven-acre site at the former Grandin Miller elementary school, they proposed a combined retail/housing/soccer field project.

At a board meeting early in October, three new conceptual proposals were heard from three different entities. Escuela Popular, teaming with Bridge Housing, would like to lease property at the Grandin Miller site (near King and Story Roads) so their charter school, which is now scattered over several locations throughout the city, could be put entirely under one roof in East San Jose. Bridge Housing, acting as the “fee developer” for Escuela Popular, would also build 80–90 rental apartments, 75-85 affordable townhomes and a public park on the site. At Chavez Elementary, they would build 90-100 “deeply affordable” rental homes. At Ocala Middle School, they would propose rental apartments, for-sale homes and a public park. They propose to lease the land from the school district via an 80-100 year lease. “This is a starting point in our dialogue,” spokesman Tom Earley emphasized. Their plan would “enhance the community and adjacent schools via quality design and development." The housing could provide local working families (including ARUESD staff and students) with quality affordable housing and school opportunities.

The Alum Rock Educational Foundation presentation by John Leyba emphasized that AREF is “the natural, best partner” for the school district because the organization was established in 1999 by the district to support the district. Their surplus land proposal would use Santa Clara School District’s “Casa del Maestro” as a model. This is an affordable rental housing development for new teachers created at one of the Santa Clara school sites. John pointed out that the campus at ARUESD’s Chavez Elementary which has barren, unused, fields and is near the center of the school district would easily support rental housing for teachers. “The land is not being used to its highest use if it is considered surplus,” he explained. A project such as this would mean “not selling out, rather it would mean ‘buying in’” for the district’s future. As to other surplus property, AREF counsels the district to not encumber the land. They suggest the district partner with the City or County to maintain maximum green space at all the schools and save the Miller property for future students. “Do not sell!” was AREF’s bottom line.

Roberto Favela represented EMQ Children and Family Services. The organization grew out of Eastfield Ming Quong whose mission is to keep families intact and transform lives – particularly those touched by mental illness. At this time EMQ has no facility on the East side and would like to move to the Grandin Miller site. They would be willing to make a market rate bid for at least five acres including the school buildings or would consider a long term lease with option to buy.

Final proposals are due by November 30th.

Next up, the ARUESD board of trustees will be counseled by land-use experts who will weigh the possibilities to help the district make the best, most considered, decision. A decision is expected next month.

Click here for photos from this meeting.

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Community Health Partnership Implements Change through Technology

Grant will automate and streamline appointment scheduling and referral process

From Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh, District 3

I am pleased to inform the community that on September 27, 2005, the Community Health Partnership (CHP) of Santa Clara County received a federal grant of $864,122 from the Healthy Communities Access Program (HCAP). The CHP is a network of public and community-based health clinics that provide primary care. In collaboration with the County’s Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System (SCVHHS), the CHP will leverage local dollars with the grant to improve systems and software at SCVHHS. These technology improvements will help the CHP meet its goals of improving access to health services and increasing the quality of medical care for uninsured and underinsured residents of Santa Clara County.

To improve access, the CHP plans to automate and streamline appointment scheduling and the referral process. In 2003, the CHP referred over 60,000 adult specialty care and over 13,000 pediatric specialty care patients to SCVHHS. These totals include referrals from within SCVHHS, community health clinics (CHCs), and other outside referrals. CHP representatives believe that this process change will create significant savings in administrative and clinic staff time, which may then be devoted to direct patient care. Electronic access will be improved by implementing a referral module that allows sharing of patient information and a scheduling system that provides access for CHCs to request, view and update appointments. CHCs will have staff training on the web-based system, emphasizing security measures for data sharing, as well as compliance with the Health Insurance Patient Accessibility and Accountability (HIPAA) standards.

To increase the quality of care, the CHP plans to review and update clinical practice guidelines. It believes that this will increase the accuracy of referrals from CHCs to SCVHHS adult and pediatric specialty care. Part of improving this process will include reviewing the current referral guidelines for the five most requested and heavily impacted adult specialty care services. The guidelines will be reviewed continuously to develop a long-term plan for how to continue regular updates, which will be completed via web-based access through the referral and appointment software.

I believe these goals are commendable. In our county alone, with a population of 1.68 million residents, there are an estimated 87,000 to 126,000 adults who do not have any type of health insurance. Latinos and Asians have the highest proportion of uninsured adults. My staff spoke with Christine Tyler, CHP Policy Director and learned that this grant will have a significant impact on patients. Ms. Tyler stated that the systems improvements through HCAP could impact many more patients than only those served by community health clinics. The standardization of clinical practice, new referral guidelines and the tracking system will also benefit SCVHHS patients. In response to the news of the grant, the CHP said it is very excited to have the opportunity and the financial resources to work collaboratively with the safety-net hospital system. It looks forward to improving access to specialty medical care for low-income patients served by community health centers.

I join my colleagues and community partners in their excitement. I am proud that a valuable community partner like the CHP received a federal grant of this magnitude. The work it does is invaluable in serving the underinsured and uninsured in Santa Clara County. I believe that working with the County’s health care system on this project will only fortify the existing relationship between these two entities. I look forward to the technological improvements made possible through this grant. I have no doubt that these changes will strengthen the health safety net and County-community partnership that is so vital in reaching our underserved populations.

Pete McHugh
Supervisor, District Three
Santa Clara County

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Dr. George Castro – The Ultimate Mentor – Volunteers For Our Community’s Kids

Got a plasma cutter you can donate? Can you lead a botany project? Make candles?

There is something truly wonderful going on in our community - another of those “well-kept Eastside secrets.” A most kind, generous, talented and erudite man has taken it upon himself to implement an after school science program at the Community Center at Joseph George Middle School. The program (“The Joseph George Science Discovery Workshop and Computer Studio”) is so marvelous that it’s hard to believe that someone cares so much about kids in our community that he personally volunteers his time every day - about thirty hours per week - for a variety of hands-on math, science and technology activities.

NNV visited Dr. George Castro in the Community Center on October 12th at the recommendation of ARUESD school board trustee, Tanya Freudenberger. As a matter of fact, Tanya has been extolling Dr. Castro and his program since it began last year. She and your editor spent nearly two hours learning about the various projects and concepts the youngsters are taught. We saw models of all sorts of wood projects the kids can choose to construct. Dr. Castro showed us the small motors they can use to propel their creations. We saw kids figuring out for themselves the absolute center of the wheels they were making – using a tiny square made just for the purpose.

We saw the kids take turns using a drill press to make the holes for axles. We saw kids sawing, sanding and painting. We saw finished tangrams, Chinese puzzles which the kids make to demonstrate the relationships of squares and triangles. Kids can also learn digital photography (including integrating text and pictures using Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop) and find out what they need to know to prepare for college.

Dr. Castro says there are about forty youngsters enrolled in the program. It’s free. Their parents have to enroll them. Not all of the kids come every day. About 15 kids were at work at the shop tables on the day we visited. There are hard and fast rules. Kids must stay at least an hour when they come in. They must stay in the workshop once they’ve arrived. But, generally, the kids are so enthusiastic about their time with Dr. Castro and his aides, that they are glued to their tables. Math and Science homework assistance and tutoring are also available to the kids.

Who is George Castro and why does he give of himself so generously and tirelessly? It seems he’s simply one of those rare people who realize they can make a difference by sharing their wisdom and expertise - and then they just do it! His resume is astonishing. A Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, he retired from SJSU in June of last year. He was there about ten years. He was an Associate Dean for Science Outreach and he “developed partnerships and programs with K-12 schools and community colleges to improve student achievement in math and science courses.” He partnered with ESUHSD to accomplish “systemic reform in the teaching of math and science so that all students have access to rigorous math and science courses.”

Dr. Castro was born in South-Central Los Angeles and by the time he was of junior high age, he was attending an “integrated” school which was actually segregated strictly along racial lines in a neighboring community. Mexicans and African Americans were guided along a simple “track” with the expectation that they would never need higher math or science for their eventual manual labor jobs. “White-Russians, Jews and Japanese,” he said, “were in college-track classes.” It was a fluke that initiated his first brush with algebra. He “got it” immediately and asked a counselor to let him enroll in his first algebra class. The skeptical counselor made the arrangements, but put George “on probation” demanding that he get passing grades – or go back to his old track. George was so angry with the counselor’s insulting demeanor that he developed a “just-you-wait-and-see” attitude and aced every college-track course he could get into.

He graduated from high school in 1956 and enrolled at UCLA “because tuition was free and the campus was close.” He majored in Chemistry and was a less-than-motivated student because he thought he would be drafted at any moment. However, fate came along and, even though he scarcely knew what “graduate work” meant, a mentor convinced him to enroll at UC Riverside. He earned a PhD in Physical Chemistry in 1965.

The rest of the George Castro resume reads like an exemplar: Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania, CalTech and IBM’s Almaden Research Center for 27 years. In 1995, he reentered academia at San Jose State in a position created for his special talents and interest in reforming math and science courses in our local school systems.

He “retired” last year and immediately jumped into the after school science program. He augments the after school challenge by involving Joseph George students in one-hour science projects during the school day to add a little hands-on experience to their meager science courses which, unfortunately, are being taught by long-term substitute teachers.

NNV asked Dr. Castro what message he would like to send to the readers of this newsletter. He told us that he would welcome our input and help. He could use some volunteers in the workshop. He could use some computer-savvy folks to help train kids (and parents sometimes) who are given old computers to take home – they need to know how to cope with the inevitable snafus to which computers are prone. He would love to have people who have a special skill or interest come in and share their specialty with the kids. Can you work with ten kids on a botany project? Can you show them how to make candles? Can you help kids with electronic projects? Can you donate a plasma cutter?

NNV can vouch for the good behavior of the after-school kids. They are all there because they want to be. The workshop is quiet and orderly. The kids are respectful and appreciative. The Joseph George campus is right in our neighborhood near the corner of Fleming and Mahoney. Maybe it’s even close enough for you to walk there – doing the right thing for the betterment of our community – and getting in your exercise at the same time!

Here’s an opportunity to not just “Let George do it” but to help George do it. You can call him on his cell phone at (408) 314-9111 or e-mail him at

Click here for photos of George Castro and the after school workshop.

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Click here for Section 2 of the November 2005 Newsletter

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

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Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
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Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 11/11/05.

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