Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
|JLHS Senior Yesenia Mendoza and her science teacher Daniel Porter||Children in
in Siaya, Kenya
NNV plans to skip the month of July. After seven editions, your editor needs a break to work on her garden (see the gardening tips in this edition)! We will continue to update the Bulletin Board and Letters to the Editor during the break - and send out Special Alerts if needed.
We plan to publish ten editions during the year so we'll be back with an edition in early August and our next break will probably be in December.
|James Lick High - "Low-Performing School" designation taints good school|
|Volunteering at JLHS: Preparing for Calculus Exams by Ahmad Abu-Shumays|
|James Lick High School Principal Responds by Bernardo Olmos|
|Thoughts on JLHS, Our Seven Children Attended Lick by Comfort Olsson|
|NNV Newsmakers: San Jose Councilmember Nora Campos|
|Jambo Rafikis! Report from Uganda and Kenya by Liesl Violante|
|The Sheriffs by Ed Allegretti
|Alum Rock Park - A Birder's Perspective by Dorothy "D.J." Johnson|
|Some Old Businesses by Ed Allegretti|
|You Dig It? New NNV Gardening Section
|FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
NNV met with James Lick High School principal, Bernardo Olmos, one afternoon in mid-May.
We discussed the perception problems which dog "low performing" schools such as Lick High. Mr. Olmos mentioned the well-meant, but decidedly counterproductive, program titled the "No Child Left Behind Act." Loosely, this program informs students in a school's attendance area that their neighborhood school is deemed to be a low performing school and gives them the option of transferring to a district school which has better test results. Obviously, if many high-achieving students opt out of their neighborhood high school, the deck is stacked against that school's ever improving its performance level. Mr. Olmos sadly pointed out that seventy to eighty potential 2003-2004 Lick students have decided to attend other ESUHSD schools such as Independence, Mt. Pleasant or the district's newest addition, Evergreen Valley High. Last school year, "only" about thirty-five students made the choice to transfer away.
A school's "low performing" status is determined by the results of state-wide testing. Lick has a fair number of disadvantaged students who are English learners, read below grade level and do not do well on tests. The averaged test results do not reflect the fact that there are many high-achieving students who take advantage of the school's ambitious academic offerings. It seems clear that rating schools based on the averaged "performance" of widely disparate groups of students doesn't produce a fair reflection of those schools' strengths. All that can be gleaned from such scores is that there are many students at the school who are not yet proficient in the areas being tested.
Mr. Olmos remains upbeat despite the challenges. He'd like to see programs which better address the underperforming students - he says that Lick does very well by its high performers and it should be known that they do.
Below is an article written for NNV by Ahmad Abu-Shumays, a retired Silicon Valley engineer/scientist and CalTech graduate. He writes of his experiences as a volunteer tutoring science and calculus at Lick and his perceptions of the capabilities of the students. And below that is an article written by Principal Olmos in response to Ahmad.
Click here to see the new James Lick High School marquee and other photos at the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the parking lot improvements. Also, see several Letters to the Editor written in response to NNV's Lick High School article in the May edition. Click here to see the James Lick High School Web site - it has lots of good information! Click here for the East Side Union High School District Web site.
I applaud your interest in James Lick High School and your motivation to undertake a worthy project to further enhance the standing of the school and its impact on the community. The mere fact you are giving attention to James Lick bodes well for the school. There is little doubt that a successful and well respected school can do a great deal to uplift the area by contributing to a higher quality of life for its students and their families and neighborhoods. This was my principal motivation for becoming a tutor at the high school.
I was privileged during the past three years to team up with a dedicated teacher, Mr. Shree Karandikar, to improve the scholastic achievement of students enrolled in science and calculus classes. Following my retirement in early 1999, I explored various ways of serving the community. Volunteering at James Lick was suggested to me by James Lick teacher Nella Henninger. The opportunity was especially appealing because it afforded a chance to interact with young people and to contribute to their learning process. The main goal of the tutoring program was to prepare Junior and Senior class students for the college entrance exam in calculus. In reality, the scope of the program was very much more than that. The program attracted a good number of students, usually 10-20, for a period of 2-3 hours twice a week. In fact, I was not the only volunteer in the classroom. The students' attendance was also voluntary on their part. They were quite eager to learn and very enthusiastic about improving their chances of passing the college entrance exam, or simply improving their standing in the various courses.
While I enjoyed the program immensely, and was particularly gratified by the improved test results students were able to achieve, I gained greater appreciation for the awesome task that educators and administrators face in fulfilling their mission. You are undoubtedly familiar with the budget constraints that school districts face, and the difficulty in attracting and keeping qualified and dedicated teachers. James Lick is not an exception in this respect. These constraints deny students the opportunity for a high quality educational experience, and undermine the basic mission of the school. Anything the community and local authorities can do to lessen these constraints will be a good investment in the future of James Lick High School and its neighborhood.
James Lick High School is representative of the East San Jose Community, combining students of Latin American, Asian American, African American and Anglo-Saxon origins in a harmonious student body. It was refreshing to see how well these students from the various ethnic and cultural backgrounds interacted with each other. Their differences were for the most part transparent, and they were respectful of the customs and traditions of each other. In fact, the gender differences were more pronounced than the ethnic differences. Although student enrollment is approximately evenly divided between girls and boys, the female students, in general, exhibited higher maturity and a stronger commitment to learning. Not surprisingly, they were more communicative and less inhibited about asking questions and seeking help. Invariably, there were 2-3 times more girls than boys attending the tutoring sessions. No doubt many more boys than girls were out for after-school sports activities.
While the overall academic performance of the school is below State standards, the students I interacted with were serious about learning, and they especially appreciated the tutoring program. Most of them possessed the mental capacity to grasp relatively advanced mathematics and science topics. Unfortunately, most have reached their junior or senior class with insufficient preparation in basic arithmetic, algebra and geometry to undertake the advanced classes. It would be very worthwhile to expand the tutoring program to include the younger students in their freshman and sophomore years. This undertaking would certainly require more resources from the school staff and the community.
Another important ingredient for a successful educational experience for the students was notably weak at James Lick. That is the active involvement of parents in school programs and in after school activities. During 3 years of tutoring at the school, I only encountered 3 or 4 instances when parents expressed interest or inquired about the performance of their children. The school staff needs to encourage parents to be more involved.
Yet another important factor requiring more attention by teachers and parents is to instill in the students an increased sense of self worth and confidence in their ability to learn and succeed. This aspect is perhaps more important than the perceived intellectual capacity of the students. Fundamentally, all students possess the mental potential for excelling in their studies and in their lives. They need consistent encouragement and recognition in order to sustain their progress. On several occasions, I recall being asked by students to counsel them on personal and family matters, totally unrelated to the calculus or science topics at hand. Attention to such basic needs in many instances was more valuable than addressing the academic topics.
I was deeply touched by the sincere outpouring of affection and respect shown to me by the students of James Lick prior to our departure from San Jose. Their appreciation of my contribution to the tutoring program was very touching and will be always remembered fondly. They also recognized the delicious cookies and refreshments that my wife Abaan prepared for them almost weekly. They often commented that "she is the best cooker in the world"! In retrospect, I believe that I derived even more joy and satisfaction from working with the students than I imagined possible at the outset of the program. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to encourage interested members of the East San Jose Community, especially retired folks like ourselves, to consider volunteering at James Lick in whatever capacity they can serve. I certainly intend to pursue similar endeavors in our new community.
Before concluding, I want to pay special kudos to Mr. Shree Karandikar for his love of teaching, his untiring dedication and sincere compassion to his students, and especially for hosting me in his classroom and giving me the opportunity to work with him during the past three years.
I have just read a letter from Ahmad Abu-Shumays to Judy and Allan Thompson of the "New Neighborhood Voice", an electronic newsletter serving the East Side San Jose neighborhood community. In this letter Ahmad addresses several issues which we find to be very critical for the James Lick High School community to be informed about. First he addressed the need for parent involvement, the abundance of academic interest of James Lick students, the dedicated staff, the need to maintain quality staff, the harmony that exists among different ethnic groups and how warm and caring our students are.
I would agree with Ahmad that we do have excellent qualities here at James Lick High School. One of our goals is to reach out to the community and build bridges to our parents and neighborhood. We welcome our community to join us in an effort to make this community the best it can possibly be. We can do this by joining hands with both community and school staff, to work towards this common goal: "provide our students with the best quality education in a safe and caring environment."
We currently have several Advanced Placement classes: AP-Biology, AP-Calculus, AP-History, AP-Computer Programming, AP Spanish. We also have honors classes: honors English I, honors English II, honors English III, honors English IV. To complement these high level classes we have a quality multi-media academy that focuses on television, broadcasting and communication. Our staff has also taken up the challenge of making our school more personal to our students. We are doing this by planning and designing a Small Learning Community for our freshman students. This SLC will connect our staff to our students and their parents in an effort to bring about higher student success.
Our staff also decided to design our school schedule to address student needs. We did this by designing a bell schedule that gives time for all students to go directly to any one of his/her teachers for extra help during our regular school day. Between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. all teachers are in their classrooms ready and willing to assist students in reaching their educational goals. We also have math and science recovery for students who need extra help in these two specific areas. Along with all of the aforementioned programs and opportunities for students, we have a bilingual tutoring program and a regular tutoring program for our students.
I would also like to mention that although we have a strong focus on academics, we also keep in mind other needs our students have. To this end, we have a Healthy Start Program that we call our Comet Resource Center. In this center we partnership with the County Office of Social Services and other state and federal funded programs to bring to our students and community services we cannot provide otherwise.
I am very pleased by the letter Ahmad wrote because it captures the quality of our students and staff as they really are and supports our vision of creating the best possible opportunities for our students.
Bernardo N. Olmos, James Lick High School Principal
NNV Note: The following article was written in response to NNV's request for input from readers whose children attended James Lick High School.
I am happy to echo Mrs. Collett's kind comments on James Lick High School. Our seven children all attended this school between late 1959 and 1964. All seven graduated from a university. Some went on to receive graduate degrees.
I blame deterioration in teaching standards in more recent years, in some part, to the opening of Oak Grove High School. There was a significant "brain drain" of some of the most outstanding teachers to this school. The English department is a case in point:
1. Mr. Naulty, a beloved but strict teacher with a great sense of humour, who once threw out of his classroom a particularly obnoxiously behaved student, including his desk!! The other students were delighted, of course.
2. Mr. Pasalaqua was a stickler for correctly formed sentences - and punctuation! It is visible in our older children's writing today.
3. Mr. Peters instilled a really deep love of the English language, and the tools to use it. Our eldest son, an attorney, is in the process of writing a novel in his "spare time", something he has wanted to do for a long time. He and his daughter - a recent graduate of the USC Film Studies programme - teamed up to write a required film script based on a part of his novel.
The AP English programme was also dropped at this time. It was deemed "unfair."
The French teacher, Mrs. Busch, was another great loss. Inspired by her teaching, our eldest daughter managed a year in France on the "Study Abroad" programme during her time as an undergraduate, and went to the Sorbonne as a graduate student. Until recently she taught French at a high school in St. Louis.
The teaching of Latin sadly came to an end after the death from cancer of Mr. Murphy. This was especially a sad shock to a middle daughter who was very devoted to him, and loved his teaching of Latin.
Mr. Culver, very fortunately, stayed at Lick. An excellent English teacher, he was very popular with our younger children. I understand that he is no longer teaching, but religiously attends all of his students' class reunions to their great delight.
A last word of thanks to Mr. Cementina who died recently after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. He was not only an outstanding coach, but a role model for girls and boys alike. He also left James Lick, but never forgot his Lick students. Our three boys all played football - not brilliantly but he always asked about each one by name when I ran into him at the grocery store. He was very popular with my husband, David. Mr. Cementina very much liked his football players to come to work for David on our small cattle ranch on Crothers Road on Saturdays. The work was heavy and they could handle it! They were, of course, friends of our boys. Years later several of them attended my husband's memorial service at Trinity Cathedral which touched us all deeply.
I also hope and believe that James Lick will rise again to new heights. I feel that a very good start has already been made.
NNV Note: Comfort Olsson was born in London, raised in East Anglia and educated in Brussels. A WWII "war bride," she married her husband, David, who was in the USAF and went on to be in the vanguard of hospital administration and eventually became president of what is now called the San Jose Medical Center. Comfort, a retired nurse, lives in the Country Club Heights town homes and is still a very active volunteer first grade teacher's aide at McCollum School and also volunteers at Eastside Fish.
District Five Councilmember Nora Campos has announced her engagement to be married. She and Neil Struthers "plan to be married by the end of the year," says she. NNV wishes Neil and Nora (not to be confused with Nick and Nora of detective fame, of course) all the best wishes for a long and happy union. NNV has long thought that Ms. Campos was much too winsome a young lady to remain single much longer. Apparently Neil, the CEO of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Council, agrees. Congratulations!
Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925, www.lifestyleprop.com
Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400
E.M.S. LLC, Environmental
Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
Windermere Silicon Valley
Properties, (408) 251-5860
Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408)-923-6666, www.keithbush.org
(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)
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