LAHS Hosts 11th Science & Tech Week

Posted on November 3, 2016 by  
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water-rocketFrom learning the mechanics behind vacuum technology to discovering the mysteries of bioluminescence in the deep seas, Los Altos High School students were exposed to varied science and technology careers last week.

The school hosted its 11th annual Science & Technology Week, inviting speakers from more than 30 industries and academia to discuss their career paths with students. Speakers covered such topics as public health research, oceanography, plant reproduction, machine intelligence, computer science and socially minded innovation.

The objectives of the week included demonstrating the value of math and science education to encourage students to take more associated classes during high school, raising awareness of the variety of related career opportunities, highlighting the diverse backgrounds of professionals and prompting students to think creatively and join the ranks of innovative thinkers for the next generation.

The week kicked off Oct. 19 with keynote speaker Robert Baertsch, vice president of software engineering at skyTran.

In a presentation open to the entire community, Baertsch addressed how today’s traffic congestion and climate change challenges can be resolved with innovative and green technology like Personal Rapid Transit systems. Baertsch is responsible for skyTran’s software control systems and helped develop the company’s magnetic levitation wing and motor controls.

Students last week could select from among more than 25 presentations covering topics such as medicine, psychology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, environmental science, ecology, oceanography, engineering, art, math and space.

The Eagle Theater was packed during the Oct. 25 presentations, with students eager to hear the address by Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute.

Her presentation – “Life Beyond Earth?” – examined the possibilities of living beings beyond what is known on Earth. Her presentation ended with thoughtful questions from students, such as, “Are there other universes?” “Do we all exist in a computer simulation?” “What will extraterrestrials look like?” and “Should we be trying transmit into space to discover?”

For more information on Science & Technology Week, visit:


Eagles Sweep Spartans In Finale

Posted on November 1, 2016 by  
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eagles-sweep-spartansIt’s going to take more than a few broken toes to prevent Los Altos High’s Kat Mumm from playing volleyball – especially against rival Mountain View in the league finale.

The outside hitter played through the pain to help the Eagles sweep the Spartans Thursday.

Mumm came up with a big kill in the marathon first set that tied the score at 22, snapping a three-point run by Mountain View. The teams traded points until 24-all, when Kaitlyn Wong’s ace put the Eagles up one. Payton Shaffer answered with a kill for the Spartans and teammate Lauren Price followed with one of her own to give Mountain View a 26-25 lead.

Lauren Limbach’s kill down the middle tied it, but the Spartans got the lead back when Los Altos’ next serve landed in the net.

Again on the verge of winning, Mountain View couldn’t put the set away. Los Altos rattled off three straight points, starting with a spike by Hanadi Nassif, who totaled a match-high 17 kills. Setter Kate Carlson followed with an ace and the Eagles won when the Spartans’ next kill attempt went wide.

Los Altos led for most of the second set – by as many as six points – before Mountain View tied it at 17 on Aidan O’Leary’s kill. But the Eagles scored six of the next eight points (two on Limbach kills) to go up 23-19.

Eleonore Johansen, whose nine kills tied Shaffer for the team high, then scored off a block. That’s as close as the Spartans got. Mumm’s back-row kill made it 24-20 and after Los Altos was called for an illegal touch, Mountain View returned the favor to end the set.

The Spartans refused to surrender, however. They built a 15-9 advantage in the third set behind four points by Shaffer and stellar setting from her big sister Sam.

It wasn’t enough to hold off the resilient Eagles. They went on a 12-4 run to take the lead. Nassif contributed three kills – highlighted by a cross-court blast – along with an ace during that span.

Host Mountain View regrouped to tie the set at 23, but Limbach’s block for a point and a Spartan shot that went long ended it.


Los Altos HS Librarian & Author

Posted on October 28, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-librarianLos Altos High School librarian Gordon Jack is debuting his first young adult novel to the community Nov. 9 with an author event that promises to be fresh and fun, like the book itself.

Jack’s novel, “The Boomerang Effect” (2016, HarperCollins), chronicles the story of high school junior Lawrence, who finds himself in a spot of trouble and connects with a freshman mentor, Spencer, who helps Lawrence find his authentic self.

“It takes place during homecoming week, when someone is destroying the class floats,” Jack said of his book. “Everyone thinks Lawrence is responsible; he and Spencer work together to clear his name.”

As a librarian, Jack said students constantly ask him to recommend young adult novels that are funny.

“There are not a lot of young adult books for guys that are funny out there,” he said. “YA is a lot of paranormal fantasy, which are really popular with readers. You just don’t see as many funny books.”

Jack found that odd, because his son, now 14, became a reader thanks to comical series such as “Captain Underpants.” Jack said he wanted to create something with “that immature sensibility to it.”

“The Boomerang Effect” was three years in the making – including rewrites with an agent and subsequent rewrites after HarperCollins purchased the book.

“I have been writing for a long time,” Jack said. “When I was an English teacher, it was hard to write because you were always grading. When I made the transition to librarian, I had the weekends.”

Once ensconced in the library, Jack had time to read more young adult novels, which helped him understand the genre.  While Jack is surrounded by teens every day, he said his novel is not a depiction of Los Altos High. The Viking mascot is a nod to Palo Alto High, his alma mater.

“It’s meant to be entertaining and silly and funny,” he said.  Jack plans to continue the fun with an author event, scheduled 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

“I want the event to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of these author events, and I want to avoid the typical thing where the author does a reading.”

Jack invited a few Los Altos High seniors to help him make the event different. He will challenge the teens in a contest that tests their knowledge of pop culture, young adults and young adult literature. The event will include prizes and giveaways for the audience as well.

Because his intended audience is young adults, Jack hopes a crowd of young people attend – he really wants to make his book’s premiere a community event.

Ahead of its official Nov. 8 release, the novel is already receiving praise on, a book review website. The School Library Journal, a publication for school librarians, commended “The Boomerang Effect” as “highly recommended for YA readers looking for a novel with large doses of humor and a narrative rooted in personal growth and self-awareness.”

For more information on the Kepler’s event, visit:


Coaching with honor at LAHS

Posted on October 21, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-field-hockey-coachHer players and their parents have said it for years, and now the Central Coast Section has recognized Mary Donahue for the way she coaches the Los Altos High field hockey team.

The Los Altos resident has been named this year’s CCS Honor Coach for her sport. Criteria for selection include service to the sport, maintaining professional standards of conduct and being a role model and inspiration.

Los Altos players and their families said Donahue checks all the boxes.

“She’s an amazing coach,” said Tanya Matthew, a junior. “She always encourages us to do well and pushes us to do better.”

Although Donahue acknowledged, “I do like to win,” it’s the relationships – not the results – that matter most to her. The connections she’s made with players and parents keep her coming back year after year.

“It seems always to be a challenge for us to see winning results on the field, but we always have such a great group of girls on our LAHS team,” said Donahue, in her 10th season as coach. “I’ve been really lucky to have gotten to know them and their super nice, supportive families. It makes the coaching so worthwhile.”

As for the light shined on her by the CCS, Donahue said she is “really, really honored” to win the award. Many people who know her would deem it long overdue. Donahue tries to set a good example by treating the game – and those involved in it – with respect.

“I do truly believe in the positive coaching idea and assume the best from athletes, coaches and refs,” she said. “I think most folks are generally trying their best and are well intentioned in their actions, and try to treat them as such.”

As for the remaining few weeks, Donahue said the goal is to “improve and have a better second-half record than we had in the first half of league play. And this will sound dorky, but I also want the kids to enjoy the rest of the season.”


Fourth Annual History Week

Posted on January 15, 2016 by  
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Louis Pare, chief engineer at LockheedLos Altos High School is slated to present its fourth annual History Week with the theme “Environmentalism Then and Now: Empowering Student Actions.”

Scheduled Monday through Feb. 12, the week will include a wide range of speakers who will share their expertise on past and present environmental issues and preservation activities.

Students will learn about the science behind climate change from Zena Zendejas, program associate from Alliance for Climate Education, who will challenge them to “do one thing” during the week to protect the climate. Erik Distler from Green Sports Alliance will describe the history of the group’s work with the professional sports industry to promote environmentally friendly practices, from water conservation to minimizing game-day waste. Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, will discuss how business interests are threatening the state’s groundbreaking ban on single-use plastic bags.

Assistant History Professor Mikael Wolfe from Stanford University and Don Weden, former senior planner for Santa Clara County, will explore the history of environmentalism. Jeff Kirschner will share about how he founded Litterati, a social media campaign that tracks litter on Instagram. Environmental hip-hop artist AshEl Eldridge will demonstrate how he brings ecological activism to life through rap music.

Students, their families and local residents are invited to attend a community movie night in Eagle Theater. Paige Miller, communications manager at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, will moderate the event. Miller trained with Al Gore and specializes in communication about climate change issues. Following her short presentation, the theater will screen a feature film dramatizing the effects of global climate change.


Local Camp Promotes Speech & Debate

Posted on July 24, 2015 by  
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Speech and Debate TeamAfter a successful launch last year, the Mountain View Los Altos High School Speech and Debate Team held their second summer camp for middle schoolers last month.

Co-founded by James Naumovski from Los Altos High and Moira Huang from Mountain View High, the camp is designed to foster middle-school students’ interest in public speaking and debate and provide an introduction to the high schools’ debate program.

With the aim to inspire students to pursue speech and debate at a young age, high school volunteers taught 35 students from Blach Intermediate and Egan, Graham and Crittenden junior high schools at various experience levels the skills required for public speaking and debate.

After his experience competing nationally in speech and debate competitions, Naumovski said he found that many schools in the Midwest offered Speech and Debate classes, exposing students to strategies for crafting and delivering speeches.

The program has expanded since its inception – from 20 students last year to 35 this year.

With help from MVLA Speech and Debate directors Teri Young, Karen Keefer and Sharon Moerner, the student volunteers designed two separate curricula – one for students who had never been exposed to speech and debate and the other for more advanced students with prior experience.

The one-week schedule included two days devoted to introduction to public speaking and speech events, two days to formalized debate and the final day to full debate rounds to review and practice skills taught throughout the week. Activities ranged from a “readers’ theater” – an exercise that emphasizes enunciation, intonation and pacing in speech – to writing debate cases on whether PE ought to be compulsory. Camp participants learned a variety of skills to help them succeed in the diverse events available to high school speech and debate teams.

Alumni of the camp often participate in speech and debate competitions during the school year and many end up joining their respective school’s team and competing at local and national tournaments.


Los Altos Live! Set For This Saturday

Posted on April 22, 2015 by  
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Los Altos Live! talent showThe seventh annual Los Altos Live! talent show is scheduled 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Los Altos High School’s Eagle Theater, 201 Almond Ave.

Co-sponsored by the Los Altos Cultural Association and the Town Crier, the showcase will feature more than 75 performers in 20 different acts, ranging from dancers to jugglers, martial artists, singers and musicians.

The event is a fundraiser for Los Altos High students who attend Camp Diversity, a four-day retreat at which students, faculty and staff from participating high schools learn to value one another by breaking down the barriers of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other sources of division.

For more information, call 687-7740, email or visit


Smartest Public High Schools In The US

LAHS 2015

Los Altos was just ranked among the 50 smartest public high schools in the US.  Coming in at #43, Los Altos High School (LAHS) achieved a SAT composite range of 1980-2010, among other criteria used.

Sixty percent of LAHS students are involved in the AP curriculum. Additionally, the school has an extensive college-readiness program. The school encourages students who aren’t ready for college to get involved in an enriching gap-year program; LAHS even hosts a gap-year fair so students know their options.

Some people believe that the best high-school educations come from private schools, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Public schools can provide first-class global educations that prepare students for college and successful careers.

The experts at college data website Niche put together a list of the smartest public high schools in the US based primarily on state-assessment proficiency, the colleges that students go on to, AP enrollment and exam pass rates, graduation rates, and composite ACT and SAT scores. Because there isn’t a good 1-to-1 ratio for ACT to SAT score comparison, the SAT composite scores are expressed as a range.

Read more


Electron Microscope Opens New World

Posted on March 18, 2015 by  
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Biology Honors instructor assists studentStudents at Los Altos High School can now examine objects in a completely new way with the addition of an electron microscope to the school’s science department.

The electron microscope is capable of much higher magnification compared with the typical science classroom’s light microscope. The new device can magnify an object 20,000 times, while the light microscope can only increase it 400 times.

“This is a cutting-edge way to do observation,” said Greg Stoehr, head of the science department at Los Altos High. “It is allowing students to have a college-level experience in a public high school.”

Another perk of the equipment, Stoehr said, is that it is easy enough for anyone to use. An electron microscope typically requires a technician.

Stoehr said students in all science classes are using the microscope. Students in the forensics class can examine hair fibers, biology students can observe leaf structures and physics students can view the texture of an object and determine how it affects momentum.

“It’s a universal tool,” he said. “Most of the instruments we purchase for the school are class or subject based. But this microscope can be used in all classes.”

Light microscopes, the prevailing equipment used in most high school classrooms, are a “400-year-old technology,” said Stoehr, adding that they help magnify objects that are very small, “but you can’t distinguish them well.”

“The electron microscope allows students to look at things that they cannot get from a light microscope,” he said. “It opens up a new visual world for the students.”

The electron microscope is connected to a computer, enabling students to capture digitally the magnified objects. Mastering the microscope takes five minutes, Stoehr said.

Of the $1.5 million grant the foundation raised for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District last year, approximately 40 percent is tagged for discretionary spending. Funding for science program upgrades came from those funds, Roberts said.

In addition to providing students with a college-level experience, the new tools are preparing them for the next level of research and innovation, according to Stoehr.

“We are striving to give students the foundation support for a strong science background,” he said.


History Week Focuses On California

Posted on March 13, 2015 by  
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SCH_HistoryWeek_fmtLos Altos High School’s third annual History Week, with the theme “California on the World Stage,” drew a wide range of speakers to campus to address the state’s impact on the nation’s history, economy, society and culture.

Launched in 2013, History Week brings scholars, researchers, business professionals and civic leaders to the campus’ Eagle Theater for a weeklong examination of topics relating to a theme. Students collaborate with faculty and parent volunteers to organize and stage the week, which features an annual student poster contest with prizes. For each speaker, students research, write and provide speaker introductions.

Leslie Berlin, Ph.D., project historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University, addressed the history of Silicon Valley as the global epicenter of technology and described the unique factors that drove its evolution.

Students learned about California’s involvement in national struggles to end housing discrimination from Stanford Urban Studies program professor Michael Kahan, Ph.D., who shared local historic examples of discriminatory housing covenants and zoning policies.

F. Noel Perry, Silicon Valley philanthropist and founder of the clean-tech and alternative-energy think tank Next 10, outlined the most pressing environmental and financial challenges facing California and encouraged students to take part in improving the future.

In addition to presentations on California’s contributions to aerospace and earthquake science, this year’s History Week provided students with firsthand accounts of the state’s leadership role in the evolution of modern music and entertainment.


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