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 Goodreads.com, 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: keplers.com/event/gordon-jack


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.”


Exceeding Standards On Assessment tests

Posted on September 1, 2016 by  
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California Department of EducationLocal schools continued to score above the state and county averages on the California Department of Education’s assessment test.

The test – California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress – was administered in the spring to gauge students’ progress in learning new, more rigorous academic Common Core standards designed to prepare them for college and careers in the 21st century.

Students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors took the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy. Smarter Balanced tests comprise two parts.

First, students take a computer adaptive assessment, which bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of a student’s progress than a paper-and-pencil test. If a student answers a question correctly, he or she will then get a more difficult question. If the student answers it incorrectly, he or she will get an easier question.

Second, students complete a performance task that challenges their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting.

Combined, the two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the multiple-choice, paper-based tests they replaced.

Scores on the assessments fall into one of four achievement levels: Standard Exceeded, Standard Met, Standard Nearly Met or Standard Not Met.

All local schools had higher percentages of students meeting or exceeding standards in English Language Arts than the county (62 percent) and state (49 percent) averages. They also scored higher in Mathematics than state (55 percent) and county (37 percent) students.


MVLA Superintendent Jeff Harding said he is proud of the fact that students still continue to outscore the county and state levels. “We will keep an eye on it and determine the cause (of the lower averages),” he said. “One test in one year does not determine a trend.”

At the elementary and junior high school level, Bullis Charter School continues to earn the highest marks – with 96 percent of students meeting or exceeding English Language Arts standards and 97 percent meeting or exceeding in Mathematics assessments.

Students in the Los Altos School District also earned high scores. “I think our scores continue to be strong, but we are really focused on getting all students at the met and/or exceeded level,” said Superintendent Jeff Baier.

Officials from both districts said they plan to further analyze the test results and will tweak instruction where needed.

“This is only one indicator – more important is the work going on at the school sites,” Baier said. “Each of our schools is really digging into and looking into the success of each student.”

Throughout the county and state, an achievement gap continues to exist between Hispanic/Latino students and white/Asian students – which local school district data also reflect.

In MVLA, there was a 40 percentage-point difference between the number of Latino and white/Asian students who met or exceeded English Language Arts standards. In Mathematics, there was a 55 percentage-point gap.

In the Los Altos School District, there was a 26 percentage-point difference between the performance of Latinos and white/Asian students in English Language Arts and a 38 percentage-point difference in Mathematics.

County averages revealed a 47 percentage-point difference in English Language Arts between Latino and white/Asian students. Math results showed a 57 percentage-point gap.

“The achievement gap is pernicious and persistent, and we all need to work together to find solutions that help all groups rise, while narrowing the gap,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction.


MVLA Foundation’s Grant Sets Record

Posted on August 2, 2015 by  
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MVLA FoundationThe MVLA High School Foundation donated $1.5 million to the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District this year, the largest grant in the foundation’s 33-year history.

At the annual gifting dinner earlier this year, MVLA Foundation co-executive directors Laura Roberts and Margaret Gong and board President Mike Maciag presented the check to then-Superintendent Barry Groves and Susan Sweeley, president of the district’s board of trustees. Foundation board members, school district trustees, administrators, principals and volunteers attended the event.

“Thanks to incredible community and parent support, we’ve increased not just the amount of donations, but also the number of participating families and local businesses for the fourth consecutive year,” Roberts said. “All students benefit when foundation dollars provide reduced freshman class sizes, extended library hours, the latest science lab equipment and investments in Chromebooks and Learning in the Cloud.”

The MVLA Foundation continues to fund tutorial centers, the SIS online grading system, PSAT testing and College and Career Centers.

In addition to individual gifts from families of high school students, the foundation received support from local real estate agents, merchants and corporate sponsors.

“The generous support from the MVLA Foundation makes an enormous difference in our schools’ and teachers’ abilities to sustain academic excellence in our public high schools,” Groves said. “We have record numbers of students graduating and continuing on in colleges and careers of their choosing. Students tell me that they feel prepared for their future. This is attributable in large part to the many programs funded by the MVLA High School Foundation.”

For more information, call Laura Roberts at 940-4670, or visit: mvlafoundation.org


Schools Earn Gold Ribbon Status

Blach Intermediate School - Los AltosLos Altos High, Mountain View High and Blach Intermediate schools recently earned designation as California Gold Ribbon Schools.

Out of more than 2,600 middle and high schools statewide, the program selected 373 schools for the award. The Gold Ribbon Schools Program honors outstanding public schools that demonstrate exemplary achievements in implementing state standards in priority areas.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” said State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right – embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching and creating a positive school climate. … This award is a direct reflection of the dedication, hard work and vision of your school’s educational community.”

Data-driven instruction

The program recognized Blach for its Technology Infused Advanced Math Classes, designed to cover five years of Common Core math in three years.

“Our program stands out because of its emphasis on using technology and data-driven instruction,” the school’s application for the award stated. “This class does not look anything like the typical math class seen at middle and high schools.”

During class, Blach students work collaboratively on math concepts, problem-solving activities, writing prompts and calculations, all with an emphasis on the standards of mathematical practices. Students have access to either iPads or Chromebooks, and the teacher uses apps and online tools for individualization, practice, showing evidence of thinking, problem solving and note taking.

“Kids are highly engaged and committed to this intense level of math,” said Principal Sandra McGonagle in an email to the Town Crier. “We are very excited for this recognition.”

Laptop learning

Los Altos High was recognized for its Learning in the Cloud program, which gives students a one-to-one experience with learning via laptops.

“Launching a true one-to-one digital device program put Los Altos High on the leading edge of classroom use of digital technology,” said Galen Rosenberg, Los Altos High assistant principal. “We are confident that our students are experiencing the benefits of this technology as a learning tool. We are gathering data that will help us implement strategies that will make cloud learning and digital devices an even more effective part of our students’ classroom experience.”

Equal opportunity

The program honored Mountain View High for its Equal Opportunity Schools program, which identifies and supports first-generation students taking rigorous academic course loads. The number of courses taken has doubled in the past year.

“We have been working toward the goal of equal participation at Mountain View for so long and have witnessed the positive impact it has on all students – everyone on the campus has had a hand in realizing this vision,” said Paige Price, English teacher at Mountain View High.

Price said that to have reached such a benchmark and have it recognized at that level is “tremendously gratifying.” “It provides fuel for the hard work ahead to ensure that equal participation results in equal success,” she added.

An awards ceremony is scheduled May 29 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. For a complete list of Gold Ribbon Schools, visit cde.ca.gov and scroll down under “What’s New.”