PAUSD expands summer school opportunities


The Palo Alto Unified School District is expanding its summer school program to serve students facing “adverse learning and social-emotional circumstances.”

Funds for the program come from Assembly Bill 86 signed by Governor Newsom in early March, funding expanded learning opportunities grants for districts like PAUSD in serving student groups including low-income students, English learners and foster youth. 

According to the final plan presented at last night’s board meeting, PAUSD’s high school program will span six weeks of summer, throughout which credit recovery courses will allow students with insufficient credits to recover two courses per three-week session. 

Additionally, “kick-start” courses that come with credit are intended to “help students lighten the regular school year course load,” according to the plans. A variety of uncredited courses not typically offered — from public speaking to Shakespeare and acting workshops — will also be offered.

The final plan outlines around $7.2 million of planned expenditures in order to carry out this expanded program. 

The district plans to extend the program to 2022, and says decisions for that “will be determined at a later date and will reflect the needs of the students based upon the coming school year.”

Students petition for academic and wellness reform following Mountain View High death


Note: Resources for persons feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can be found at the bottom of this story.

Students in the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District are petitioning for reform that they say will better ensure the district supports students’ mental health needs, initially prompted by the passing of a Mountain View High School junior earlier this month.

Broadly, students have called for decreased homework loads and other measures meant to alleviate academic stress, as well as a range of solutions to bolster the district’s mental health support.

The circumstances of the death that prompted the petition are not yet public, and students have since disassociated the petition with the passing itself. An original foreword to the petition assumed the cause of death to be suicide, and criticized the school for not properly addressing this most recent death as well as two others over the course of the past three years which were publicly confirmed to be suicides. 

In an interview, Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer stressed the importance of avoiding spreading rumors about the passing out of respect for the family’s privacy and grieving process.

“We certainly do know, though, that that we have lost students to suicide on the Mountain View High campus in the last few years,” Meyer said. “And it is certainly a reminder of how significant that loss is to young people.”

Mountain View senior Marina Reynaud, who created the collaborative document with over 250 signatures, backtracked from that a day after she started circulating the petition. She said that after receiving feedback from another Mountain View student, she decided to change the premise of the petition because it was not her intention to use the deaths to her “benefit” and amplify her own message.

A new foreword to the petition explicitly notes that it “is not intended to be attached to the recent deaths of our MVHS peers.”

“What we are trying to do however, is spread awareness to the administration on the amount of students who do or have dealt with mental health problems during their time in high school,” the foreword continues. “Mental health is a huge issue at Mountain View (and many other schools) that should be addressed.”


One of the most detailed action items on the petition — and a seemingly recurring talking point in the student mental health discussion — is a call for decreased homework loads.

“Teachers should give less homework: It would be beneficial to students’ stress levels if teachers were forced to only assign 30-45 minutes of homework per day,” the petition reads. “Then, the rest of the students’ time can be allotted for studying and extracurriculars.”

According to the 2019–2020 Mountain View student handbook, students in college preparatory and non–UC recognized honors classes can expect up to 2–3 hours of “focused, undistracted homework per week” in each class, which averages out to 36 minutes a night at the top end.

AP and UC-approved honors courses should generally assign 4–5 hours of homework weekly — an average of an hour a night at the top end — the handbook also states.

In an interview, Raynaud reaffirmed her assertion that homework needs to be further limited, but said that there’s more nuance than what’s written in the petition.

“I think sometimes there is homework that’s just kind of busy work that I do agree should [be limited],” Raynaud said. “But homework that is like reading a textbook or actually learning things, I think there’s really no way to shorten that. Especially for AP classes, there’s a certain amount of work you have to do.”

Mountain View junior Abbie Reese, who wrote about overwhelming amounts of homework and the pressure to take AP and honors courses on a widely circulated Instagram post with 700 likes, agreed that AP course loads are inevitably going to be difficult.

“In terms of homework, of course AP teachers have content they need to teach and … it is a harder course,” Reese said. “I think it does get a little iffy when it falls into the category of none of your students can get this done on time and most of them are reaching out to you and saying, ‘We don’t have enough time for this.’”

When asked why students would choose to take AP and honors classes if the college prep homework load is in line with what they see as reasonable, both Raynaud and Reese contended that students are pressured to take AP and honors courses that they can’t handle.

Students, Raynaud claimed, are primarily pressured by their parents and other students, but she also asserted that pressure from some teachers pushes students toward unbalanced course loads.

When asked, Raynaud couldn’t think of any specific school policies or recurring actions the school takes that explicitly encourage students to take courses they can’t handle, but said that it’s “small things” from teachers.

“Today, and I don’t think this was intentional to hurt someone, but my teacher was like, ‘Oh, fill out this form and tell me which AP tests you’re taking.’ And that was under the assumption that everyone in that class was taking an AP test,” Raynaud said.

Raynaud said that the question was posed in an AP class — but that she still thought the implication was harmful.

Reese said that she feels that some of her teachers, though certainly not all, encourage her to take AP and honors courses that she can handle academically, but not in the broader context of the other courses she takes and her own wellness.

She said that her academic counselor has generally done a good job of guiding her toward balanced course loads, and Raynaud suggested that the district hire more academic counselors so that each counselor has fewer students to work with, allowing them to make more individualized and better-informed recommendations to students when choosing courses.

Superintendent Meyer said that while she’s not aware of any policies at the district level specifically about encouraging moderation in course load, there has been conversation on the subject and academic counselors generally guide students toward balanced schedules.

“I do believe that all of our counseling departments do emphasize the importance of balance,” Meyer said. “And counsel students towards making sure that they have a variety of experiences that may include courses that aren’t AP and extracurriculars, and to make sure that they have time within their day.”

The petition also calls for teachers to “plan their schedules so that tests and projects don’t overlap”; implement a “growth mindset” grading system; and allow for more lenient late work policy, although the specifics of those items are unclear, and Raynaud wasn’t entirely certain what she’d want them to look like — some of those points weren’t written by her, as it’s a collaborative document.

“The conversation of balance has been constant,” Wellness Coordinator William Blair said. “Part of our course selection process includes a time management worksheet … that we give students [and] we encourage our teachers to have the conversations with the students about balance, and what’s an appropriate load. … The philosophy of having a balanced workload, I think, is something that we’ve been promoting.”

Meyer said that there has been discussion about limiting AP courses — a suggestion that Reese made — but no specific policy at the moment.

She noted that the district needs to both ensure that students don’t feel compelled to take AP courses but also support “perhaps the smaller number” of students who benefit from and excel in AP courses. She also said that it’s important that the district “open access” for students who aren’t in advanced AP courses at the moment.

Raynaud, for her part, said that she’s undecided on the idea of capping AP courses, because she suspects students might look to pile on other activities like clubs and volunteer organizations to make up for having fewer AP courses.

“I think it just kind of takes away the school part of the stress,” Raynaud said. “But I think … in the end, you’re just going to still be doing a bunch of things for college applications.”

Despite no concrete district-wide policy, the Mountain View student handbook “encourages students to consider the number of AP classes they enroll in, keeping in mind that real college courses frequently require self-directed study that can, at a student’s option, far exceed time specified here.”

The handbook suggests that students who find themselves spending significantly more time than the expected 4–5 hours a week on homework in an AP or honors course speak with their teachers “for help examining their study habits and strategies and for other resources.”

On the topic of homework, Meyer said that there’s research to do moving forward, specifically pertaining to whether homework is contributing to actual mastery of the subject, as opposed to being extra work that’s reinforcing content that’s already solidified.

“So there’s that question around, at what point are you having diminishing returns for homework, and is there a way to assess perhaps differently so students don’t feel compelled to … complete a task as opposed to master the subject?” Meyer said.

“I think we need to look at the stress that comes with feeling compelled to take a very full load of very challenging courses,” she added. “But at the same time, we also need to look within those courses to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do.”


Alongside the discussion surrounding homework and course loads, the mental health services that the school provides are also a dominant part of the petition and broader conversation.

The petition specifically calls for hiring more therapeutic counselors so that students “don’t have to be on a waiting list” and can “find a counselor that is a good fit for them instead of placing them with the counselor … available at the moment.”

Raynaud, who said she wasn’t completely familiar with the district’s existing infrastructure, also suggested hiring licensed psychotherapists to work in conjunction with the district’s existing support. 

Blair, the district’s wellness coordinator, said that in general, there aren’t any waitlists for the support services that the district offers.

In broad terms, the first step to accessing the district’s services is to fill out the district’s referral form, which can be done by the student in need, a friend, teacher or any other community member. 

“[The intake coordinator] meets with the student to kind of determine what the best support looks like,” Blair said. “Sometimes it’s academic counseling support, sometimes it’s support with social services or therapeutic mental health support. Sometimes it’s more at the administrative level, sometimes it’s about helping to foster communication with teachers and with family. So there’s a wide range of what the need may be.”

The district partners with CHAC, Uplift Family Services and Stanford Psychiatry to provide one-to-one counseling and therapeutic support with a general policy of providing short-term care for students, and later helping with the transition into more long-term care as needed.

Blair acknowledged that the district’s services might not always best serve students, and that the district is “happy to help” students find support elsewhere as needed.

“Almost across the board with all of our providers, we have increased services in the 2021 school year, and we’re expanding services as we hit [next year] as well,” Blair said, speaking of the district’s increased caseload capacity with its partners. “We’re building the infrastructure.”

“We have strong academic counseling, strong college and career counseling and strong therapeutic services,” Meyer said. “But there are the day-to-day stressors and the things that may not qualify you for clinical therapy, where you might need to go talk to someone and think it through and have someone objectively share support.”

Meyer said that the current model in some ways supports those “day-to-day” stressors, but that the district is still talking about the best way to support those needs.

Reese, who said she wasn’t entirely familiar with the support that the district provides in partnership with organizations like CHAC, suggested that the district offer therapeutic counseling services similar to the way it offers academic counselors, although she acknowledged it would take a significant amount of time and money.

Students would be paired with a wellness counselor for their four years in high school just as they are with academic counselors, which Reese contended could help remove some of the barriers like reluctance or lack of information that might prevent students from accessing support.

“I don’t know how well this would coincide with some of the other systems being proposed … But just as a baseline, every student would know exactly … who [to] you reach out to if you’re having a hard time,” Reese said.

Meyer said that the district this year shifted its academic counseling services to include more social emotional learning components, which in fact aligns partially with what Reese suggested.

“Our academic counselors have infused more social emotional support opportunities within their counseling yearly schedule,” Meyer said. “So that involves having time to talk to the students about their goals and and how it’s going with them — more of a check in and shifting away from only talking about what courses you need to graduate and be UC-ready, to really exploring what they’re interested in, what their strengths are and adding in that social emotional component.”

Blair said that many students do reach out to their academic counselors for mental health support, and Meyer added that many teachers, assistant principals and principals fill that role as well.

“I want to say … prior to needing that [clinical] support, our teachers do an excellent job of creating a welcoming environment within their classroom … recognizing that that relationship has to be built to optimize the environment and to optimize learning,” Meyer said.

Blair also cited student leadership classes, freshman orientation programs, academic counseling, tutorial centers and college and career centers all as being a part of broader “preventative” services that foster well being in the student body.

“My message is, if you have a need for support, please reach out, and we’ll do our best to get you connected with the appropriate support,” Blair said.


Although not included in Raynaud’s petition, a number of students have criticized what they say was a failure on the part of the district to properly address the death.

Reese, who was notified of the death the night prior by a mutual friend and said she was close to the student in middle school, felt that her teachers moved on from the death — as well as the two others in recent memory — far too quickly, and didn’t give students enough room to process it.

“I went through swinging back and forth between feeling numb and sad,” she said. “And then obviously, I had school the next day, and I was just kind of thrown back into a normal schedule. … And it was like, ‘I don’t really know how to process right now, because I feel like I need time to talk about what’s going on.’”

She said that while she thought one or two of her teachers addressed it well — including her first period teacher — the “vast majority” of the staff she interacted with “mentioned it in passing,” then carried on. She added that friends told her that some of their teachers had misgendered the student, which she found particularly frustrating.

As for what specifically she wanted from her teachers, Reese said that she would’ve liked more space to discuss and share feelings.

“This is kind of a weird comparison, but in my AP U.S. history class when [the Capitol insurrection happened], we were given time at the beginning of class to kind of discuss how that made us feel because a lot of us were getting really bad anxiety over it,” she said. “I think I’d like to see some of that — you know, a lot of us need some time to process, maybe share our thoughts to our teacher, get some more personal words.”

Meyer said that since being notified of the student’s death, the district has engaged in daily consultation with experts at Stanford University, the HEARD alliance, Kara and CHAC through Blair’s office to inform best policy.

“We rely very heavily on their guidance,” Blair said. “We’re following best practices set out by the professionals.”

After receiving news of the death, the district sent a message to the community notifying of the loss, and prepared a statement for first period teachers to read in their classes the next day. Blair said that teachers were encouraged to allow space for processing, and added that several support sessions were held for teachers who felt they needed additional guidance navigating the issue.

“Everybody grieves differently, and I think that’s really important,” Blair said. “Some students need the space to process and to talk, [and for] others, part of the grieving process is to not be in that space of processing.”

The school staffed the library with CHAC support staff to provide a space for students who needed additional processing, and also made available a Zoom link for similar support for remote students to “honor all responses to grief.”

Blair said that staff support meetings were also held for Los Altos High School teachers to prepare them should the topic come up in conversation, but Los Altos teachers were not instructed to read Meyer’s statement notifying of the death — which was in line with the expert consultation.

“I do have to say this feedback [about moving on too quickly] is really appreciated,” Meyer said. “Because we’re speaking to our advisors, but we want to make sure that the students have a voice in this as well. And if they’re telling us they need more, they need more.”


Moving forward, Meyer and Blair pledged to have continued conversations about the district’s role in supporting student mental health.

“It has been devastating to see our students mourning, our families mourning and our staff mourning,” Meyer said. “And to that end, we want to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to not only work to prevent any tragedies, but to support the students who are here and mourning with us.”

“It’s just heartbreaking,” Blair said. “We become educators because we love young people, and we love students, and we want them to thrive. … And it’s difficult watching our young people when they’re struggling. … We want to be there to help them through those struggles and through those challenges.”

Both Blair and Meyer expressed gratitude for the students who have reached out to them with suggestions moving forward, and encouraged students to continue to speak out.

“One of the things that we continue to plan with a more heightened urgency is to have a systemic way to reach out to students and to use their perspective and voice for district-wide improvement,” Meyer said. “One of the reasons that we recently reorganized the district office for the community outreach specialist was to have a systemic way to do that, and to honor the voices of those who are in the classroom all day and have a better vantage point than we do.”

The district recently appointed Los Altos English teacher Michelle Bissonnette to the new role of community outreach specialist, which will be responsible for communicating with and gathering feedback from the community to inform policy across the district.

Meyer said that, in the short term, she plans to share the feedback from students about where their stress comes from and what they think the district can do moving forward with teachers and the board — and to assess in those conversations how, or whether, the district should implement change.

“We knew before, but there certainly is an outcry,” Meyer said. “Students definitely have shared with us that the stress that they’re feeling within the day is very difficult. And so we have to honor and respect that voice and do what we can to support them.”

“It’s an ongoing collaboration,” Blair said. “It takes time, it takes thoughtfulness, it takes a concerted effort — and I think we are all committed to that. It’s the ongoing collaboration that I think will get us to where we want to be.”

Any person feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a crisis counselor, or text “HELLO” to 741741. The Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District’s student referral form can be found here in English, and here in Spanish.

Village Pantry: traditional American breakfast food, and a place to call home


Typical hobbies might include woodworking, gardening or maybe even starting a book club — but Julie Ogilvie is no weekend hobbyist. Wanting to start a hobby that could make a mark on the community, she and her husband, David Ogilvie, took ownership of the restaurant Village Pantry to give the Los Altos community a place to call home.

“We bought it for my wife to be productive and to have something in the community that she could say ‘Look, I did this,’” Mr. Ogilvie said.

Over 20 years later, Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvie still own and operate the cozy coffee shop, which was originally established in 1947. 

“I learned a lot from running this restaurant,” she said. “All [of] the customers teach me a lot. It feels like a home.” 

Customers also feel at home, as the restaurant is a popular gathering place for them to share stories in a warm and friendly environment. Dining at Village Pantry is like taking a walk down memory lane surrounded by cheerful and pleasant decorated interiors. The restaurant’s walls have over 20 years’ worth of photos and holiday greeting cards from previous customers.

“I think it’s [because] people want to say that ‘This is my place too,” Mr. Ogilvie said, in regard to why they decided to cover the walls with memorabilia. “They want to be remembered.”

Diane Chow, a Los Altos resident and familiar face at Village Pantry, was astonished that kids who have grown up going to the restaurant now bring their own children to relive Village Pantry memories. 

“They go there with their kids, and they like to point out the pictures on the wall,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘That’s me when I was a kid, having the famous Mickey Mouse chocolate pancake.’” 

Not only do customers create memories at Village Pantry, but Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvie have their own warm memories of running the restaurant, such as bonding with friends, filling the shop with “relaxing music” from the ’50s and “making people happy” — one of their many goals when running the shop. 

Some of the many family photos that adorn the walls of Village Pantry.

And people are indeed happy with their service –– longtime customer and Los Altos resident Phyllis Yamasaki said that dining with her husband at Village Pantry has consistently been their “weekend treat” for the past 13 years. The restaurant is also their spot for celebrating life’s biggest milestones like birthdays, Father’s Days and Sunday brunches with their family. 

“We fell in love with Julie and David and how welcoming they always are, and how they remembered our names right away,” Yamasaki said. “They started to know what our favorite dishes were.” 

Chow added that newcomers “automatically start to feel at home because somebody in there will start to talk to them.” Chow herself has made numerous friends that she continues to meet on a regular basis outside of Village Pantry. 

Yamaski added that it’s not just the environment that makes you feel at home, but the food too.

“The first bite of anything from Village Pantry, I know it’s homemade,” Yamasaki said. “I know I’m not eating something that was previously frozen.”

Walking into Village Pantry, customers are often greeted with the aroma of warm hashbrowns, freshly flipped pancakes and creamy hollandaise sauce on a classic eggs benedict. 

The Ogilvies also take pride in the fact that Mrs. Ogilvie shops for all of their ingredients personally, buying fresh veggies and fruits from local vendors in Los Altos. 

“It’s an old-style restaurant, it’s not a fancy place, [but] it guarantees decent food. That’s our goal,” Mr. Ogilvie said.

Mrs. Ogilvie is notable among her customers for her dedication and arriving at the coffee shop at 5:30 a.m. every day of the week to cook the majority of the food.

“Julie is a real trooper, [working] unbelievable hours to provide the quality of service that she does,” said Los Altos resident Larry Dorie, another regular at Village Pantry. “She’s an asset. She’s not in it to make a fast buck [and] she’s not in it to get rich. She really enjoys providing a service to customers and you can see that in her when you go there.”

But the Ogilvies were met with unparalleled challenges during the pandemic because a large group of their customers, who were seniors, could not visit the restaurant on a regular basis like they did prior to the pandemic. As a result, they faced a significant drop in revenue which forced them to work even harder to keep the business afloat. According to Mr. Ogilvie, Village Pantry only made it through the worst parts of the pandemic through the support of his other job.

The Ogilvies also said that they received help from customers who pitched in to prevent the restaurant’s closure; some customers went so far as to buying take-out on a daily basis to ensure that the restaurant could remain open.

“The restaurant is surviving because of the community,” Mr. Ogilvie said. 

Fast forwarding to May, under county guidelines, Village Pantry is now operating at 50% capacity for indoor dining, and the outdoor garden patio is open every day. The restaurant also offers a to-go system, in which customers can pick up orders without leaving their cars, giving the opportunity for the Ogilvies to connect with their patrons. 

“We now know our customers by their cars,” Mr. Ogilvie said. 

Mr. Ogilvie also noted that the customers’ excitement and love for Village Pantry is what “keeps us open.” 

“It’s our home away from home,” Yamasaki said. 

Village Pantry is open in Downtown Los Altos every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

PAUSD to offer vaccinations for students 12 and older this weekend, all vaccine-eligible students by fall semester


Sunday, May 16: Assistant Superintendent Lana Conaway said that the number of clinics the district hosts moving forward will be “based on need,” and that the district’s goal is to offer vaccinations for all students who are eligible.

The Palo Alto Unified School District will offer coronavirus vaccinations this weekend for students ages 12 and up following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the 12–15 age range. 

The 1000 doses will be available this weekend by appointment at Palo Alto High School’s Peery Center. By the upcoming fall semester, all vaccine-eligible students will have the option to receive their vaccines through this district-hosted program. 

Superintendent Don Austin at yesterday’s board meeting credited Assistant Superintendent Lana Conaway for setting up the district’s partnership with Safeway in vaccinating community members.

Proposed 2021–2022 PAUSD bell schedules face criticism


The Palo Alto Unified School District’s proposed bell schedules for secondary schools in the 2021–2022 school year came under fire at tonight’s board meeting, with many community members voicing concerns about the late end times.

Through the pandemic, PAUSD high school classes have begun at either 9 a.m., 9:40 a.m or 10 a.m. depending on the day, with the end time at 3:05 p.m. The need for a new bell schedule comes as a result of the state’s reversion to pre-pandemic standards for instructional minutes.

While the board is not ultimately tasked with approving schedule proposals, a bell schedule committee on the job includes over 30 students, parents, district staff members and local teachers union leaders. The committee is “on schedule” to finalize 2021–2022 bell schedules in the next couple of weeks, according to a May 7 Superintendent’s Update.

In the latest community survey regarding the new schedule sent on May 5, the committee offered two models of high school schedules, with both setting the start and end times at around 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to fall in line with the state’s requirements.

Speakers in the open forum section of tonight’s board meeting included Gunn junior Athina Chen, who focused on the potential impact of the proposed later end times on athletes.

“Athletes already have to leave school early anywhere from 2:30 to 3 for matches and games,” Chen said. “Any options for the schedules mean that athletes would miss an entire class period of either fourth or seventh period, twice a week during the season. Not to mention our multi-season athletes.” 

Gunn parent and bell schedule committee member Heidi Volkmar also spoke during the open forum.

“I know all the intricacies — from being on the bell committee — that go into that schedule,” Volkmar said. “But one thing that you have in your control that you can do though, as board members and the superintendent, is you can change the start time back to 8:30 … 8:30 is enough time for students to get that extra sleep.”

Gunn Student Board Representative Thomas Li urged the board to reconvene with bell schedule committee members, citing concerns about ending at 4 p.m. like the later end time preventing students from working after school jobs or caring for younger siblings whose schools in the district end at earlier times.

“I’m absolutely positive that the teachers, the parents, the students and everyone else on the committee would be willing to reconvene if it means that they can speak freely about the concerns regarding later start times,” Li said. “If this is going to be the bell schedule for the foreseeable future, let’s get this done right.”

Beyond satisfying local sweet tooths, Los Altos’ Sweet Shop is a community staple


Harry Logan is such a regular at the Sweet Shop on Los Altos Ave. that the register has a special key just to ring up his order: a ham and scrambled egg sandwich with a coffee au lait.

The Sweet Shop — which likely has many patrons with a sweeter tooth than Logan’s — strives to have “something for everyone,” although there are some clear favorites. The staff at the shop have largely concluded that the Sour Rainbow Belts and Sour Patch Kids are the most appealing to kids, while adults seem to have a more refined taste, preferring dark chocolate. 

Apart from candy, the Sweet Shop also sells savory items, such as the “Croissantwich” (a croissant with eggs and melted cheese), or the “Egg White Skinny” (a croissant with egg whites, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto and spinach).

Most of the recipes for the savory meals are made by Sandra Colunga, the store’s manager, and taste-tested by employees. Colunga, apparently, tries to come up with healthier food options to counterbalance the sweetness. 

Harry Logan sits on the Sweet Shop patio. (Carly Heltzel)

As Logan — a Los Altos resident of 51 years, who has frequented the shop almost every day for the past 11 years — could tell you, the property has changed hands many times through the years (he nostalgically recounted the story of when his son tried to pay for a Tootsie Roll at Foodland with a $100 bill, only to later be busted for stealing it from his mom’s purse). 

But despite the Sweet Shop’s relatively recent history, Logan said that it’s definitively the best shop that has been there, and by far the one he has visited most frequently.

Sitting in the quaint parlor for a few hours every morning and striking up conversations with anyone who is willing to hear his war stories or talk about their own hopes and dreams, the loyal customer perfectly embodies the heartwarming atmosphere of this community-oriented and historical local business.


Twelve years ago, Stacy Savides Sullivan and her family bought the unusual property — which sits in the middle of a residential area — after it had been on the market for four years, and renovated it before opening the doors in August of 2009. With the hope that it would once again become an active part of the community, the Sweet Shop was born.

“[Sullivan] saw the opportunity and said ‘What if we buy this property, fix it up, and bring it back to give something back to the community,’” Colunga said. “And part of that was because when she was in high school, when there would be a special occasion, she and her friends would ride their bikes here and get one piece of candy. So there was some history for her personally as well.”

Since its beginning, the Sweet Shop has consistently retained its high school employees for around three to four years, some even staying through their years at community college. One such worker, Dania Zavala, an employee of three years, said that she has stuck around because “the hours are great and the people are great.” 

The Sweet Shop as viewed from Los Altos Ave. (Emily McNally)

“[The customers] are all regulars for the most part, so we know them by name, and they’re just really nice and they take the time to actually learn our names,” Zavala said. “Because of that, it’s just like a neighborhood.”

The friendly neighborhood aspect and close proximity to school make the Sweet Shop a local hotspot for elementary and middle schoolers, with mayhem ensuing when minimum days roll around. 

“It’s fun — super fun — but it’s non-stop for a couple of hours,” Colunga said. “[On] minimum days often kids can get sandwiches and candy and the whole thing. It’s just full of kids and bicycles and chaos.”

Normally, even when she stations someone at the door to mediate the number of people in the shop, it quickly becomes “jam-packed” with candy flying everywhere, Colunga said. 


With its largest demographic of customers being local students, the Sweet Shop decided to give back to the community by donating 5% of its yearly proceeds to local schools.

“We’re trying to support schools, basically where the customers are coming from,” Colunga said. “So Egan, Santa Rita, Gunn, Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School.”

Every year, Sullivan reaches out to the schools to find out what they might specifically need, and the Sweet Shop donates funds to fulfill that need.

One year, as the Egan photography teacher had been taking her students on field trips to the Sweet Shop to take artsy photos of the candy, Sullivan and Colunga decided to donate money to buy the kids better equipment.

“It’s a good thing for us and it’s fun for them, and [the teacher’s] been doing this for years,” Colunga said, describing the field trips. “So we gave them some funds because they are in need of better equipment for photography in general.” 

As a family-friendly establishment, the Sweet Shop is also home to a little library, a mailbox-type neighborhood book swap which Colunga bought a few years ago and continues to maintain. She said she loves seeing grandparents take out picture books to read to their grandkids on the Sweet Shop patio, or elementary schoolers swapping out their old novels for new ones.

“It’s the most self-maintained thing I’ve ever had because you don’t really do anything,” Colunga said. “Once in a while we clean the cobwebs and straighten the books, but you rely on the community; they come and bring you books.”


As it shut down during the first lockdown in March, the Sweet Shop management has had to change operation to follow county safety standards, particularly tricky given the nature of the candy shop.

Being unable to use the inside of the store led to the end of people being able to pick and choose what they wanted from different jars, a highlight for many customers but there have been some benefits.

“Probably one of the best things that came from COVID was the amount of money we’re saving on candy because when we have the kids and it’s a crazy Friday afternoon, candy is flying on the floor because everyone’s so excited,” Colunga said. “Now, there is no wastage.”

Instead, the Sweet Shop now offers pre-bagged candy packets, which Colunga says they’ll likely stick to for the foreseeable future. 

Even without its free-flying candy, the Sweet Shop has remained a unique and charming locale embedded in the community it serves throughout the pandemic.

And as more and more people come across this endearing establishment, the Sweet Shop’s loyal clientele continues to grow.

“You don’t have to live right down the street, you know we have people from across town, and other towns because they’ve discovered it,” Colunga said. “It’s become their special little spot.”

Monday, May 10: A previous version of this article had incorrectly stated the name and ingredients of the “Egg White Skinny,” and misspelled Dania Zavala’s name. The errors have been corrected.

New Los Altos High School social studies building set to open in the fall


Construction of Los Altos High School’s new two-story classroom building and auxiliary gym is set for completion this summer, and both spaces will open for students in the fall.

The social studies department, which is currently housed in portables, will occupy the two-story building upon completion. Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen said that construction ideally will be completed by June, but may slip into July.

The project’s original timeline had set completion at around now — the spring of 2021 — but Mathiesen said that “some wet weather” in 2018 slowed construction.

He also said that the pandemic had no adverse impact on the project.

“It created some temporary challenges — once we got to interior work, there were limits on how many workers could be in an enclosed space [and] if there was a COVID-positive case, then any close contacts had to quarantine,” he said in an email. “COVID has created some shipping and supply chain challenges, but we are still on track for completion this summer.”

Administrative, counseling and office staff will occupy the portables left vacant by the social studies department to make way for the student services project — a two story building that will house administrative, counseling and wellness staff, as well as spaces for student leadership, a staff workroom and a student union space — which will require the demolition of the current administrative building and 100 wing.

Mathiesen said that demolition for the student services building will begin in late June or early July, meaning it’s possible that that could begin before the social studies building is completed; it’s all part of a “giant jigsaw puzzle,” he said.

Current plans set the timeline for construction of the student services building at about 20 months, spanning June 15, 2021, to Feb. 15, 2023.

Mountain View to pilot universal basic income program with surplus COVID-19 relief funds


The City of Mountain View is set to pilot a universal basic income program using $1 million of excess federal COVID-19 relief funds as part of a program proposed by Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga at the council’s April 27 meeting.

“We’ve been fortunate we haven’t faced the deficit that a lot of other cities have,” Abe-Koga said in an interview. “I thought this would be an opportunity to try and be innovative, and try something different.”

Through the American Rescue Plan — a $1.9 trillion stimulus act signed by President Biden in March — Mountain View is receiving $15 million over the next two years which leaves the city with $3 million in surplus with current budgetary projections. 

City staff previously asked the council to come up with suggestions for using these funds, Abe-Koga said, as the federal aid must be used by 2024.

Despite no plans being concrete, Abe-Koga said that a rough model of the program could be providing $500 per month to a set number of low-income individuals, likely chosen through a lottery system, for one to two years starting as early as this fall. The scale and details of the program are expected to develop in the next two months.

“I’ve always felt that the best way to help folks is to help them help themselves,” Abe-Koga said. “One of the concepts of UBI is to empower the individual to make choices to help them better their lives, so this idea of direct assistance was very appealing to me.”

The city council’s third quarter budget, which includes the UBI funding, will not be approved until its June 8 meeting; in the meantime, Abe-Koga said the council directed city staff to research the best approach to implement the program.

As the UBI discussion diverged from the April 27 meeting’s agenda and pre-distributed budget packet, the proposal has gone largely unnoticed so far, but Abe-Koga said the response from those who are aware of it –– including her fellow councilmembers –– has been only positive.

“Individuals who are aware of it, folks have been very positive,” Abe-Koga. “I haven’t actually heard any negative yet about it. I’m sure there will be.”

Last year, as mayor, Abe-Koga approved Mountain View’s COVID-19 rent relief program that provided direct financial assistance to low-income residents, but the money had a prescribed purpose rather than allowing recipients to use their discretion as UBI would; she said this gives her hope of community support for the UBI pilot as well.

A handful of nearby cities have implemented similar pilot programs including Oakland, Stockton, San Francisco and South San Francisco –– with all except the last being considerably larger than Mountain View. Abe-Koga said the idea of piloting a UBI program didn’t seem feasible until she heard about the recent program in South San Francisco.

And while figures as early as Martin Luther King Jr. have argued for guaranteed income as a way to uplift low-income individuals, Abe Koga said that she first seriously considered UBI while following Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign.

For technical assistance and help tracking the data of the pilot program to measure its success, the city has reached out to the national movement called Mayors for Guaranteed Income and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, respectively, anticipating that their prior experience will be of great help in the success of the program.

Noting the rarity of governments embracing novelty and saying that they tend to “wait for the stars to align,” Abe-Koga said she hopes there will be community interest and support to keep UBI programs going.

“In terms of [UBI] becoming permanent, yeah, hopefully,” Abe Koga said. “We need to see the results, but hopefully if there [are] positive results –– it sounds like and it looks like from these other cities that have done pilots that there are –– then we could be part of advocating for something nationwide.”

Pasallo, Bissonnette elegidos para nuevos puestos del distrito de MVLA


Esta historia fue escrita y reportada originalmente en inglés. Todas las citas son traducciones.

Click here to view the original article in English.

La maestra de inglés de la preparatoria de Los Altos, Michelle Bissonnette, y la subdirectora Perla Pasallo, han sido nombradas para nuevos roles en la oficina del distrito: Pasallo se desempeñará como directora de servicios estudiantiles y equidad, mientras que Bissonnette asumirá el papel de especialista en alcance comunitario. 

Ambos son puestos nuevos que caen bajo una gran reorganización del distrito aprobada por los fideicomisarios anoche. 

Bissonnette, una educadora veterana que ha enseñado inglés en Los Altos desde 1998 con la excepción de dos años trabajando en el Departamento de Educación, será ampliamente responsable de comunicarse y recopilar comentarios de la comunidad para compartir las políticas en todo el distrito. 

“Ser maestra es realmente algo que he hecho durante tanto tiempo que siempre sentiré que es parte de mi identidad,” dijo Bissonnette en una entrevista por correo electrónico. “La razón por la que estoy dispuesta a alejarme del salón de clases es porque creo que esta función será simplemente una extensión de mi capacidad para ayudar a los estudiantes y las familias; ayudará al distrito a desarrollar su capacidad para responder mejor a las necesidades de nuestros estudiantes, y por eso estamos todos aquí.”

Una descripción del distrito de la nueva posición de Bissonnette también enfatiza su papel en el apoyo a la superintendente en el “énfasis de las voces de los estudiantes, para el mejoramiento del distrito.” 

“Creo que si al final de mi tiempo en este puesto pudiera decir que ayudé a que algunas familias sintieran que sus voces y experiencias fueron valoradas y honradas, y que ayudé a desarrollar la capacidad del distrito para mejorar la vida de todos nuestros estudiantes, me sentiría muy satisfecha,” dijo Bissonnette. “Sé que es ambicioso, pero es lo que espero.”

Pasallo será responsable de apoyar y guiar los programas de asistencia en inglés del distrito, el departamento de educación especial y las iniciativas de equidad; un papel particularmente importante a manera de que el distrito implemente su plan de servicios de intervención temprana para abordar el número desproporcionado de estudiantes latinos identificados para la educación especial, como fue señalado por la superintendente Dra. Nellie Meyer.

Ella reportará directamente a Teri Faught, la superintendente adjunta de servicios educativos, que también fue recientemente nombrada.

“Quiero ayudar a crear e implementar programas que apoyarán a todos los estudiantes [en poder lograr] sus metas académicas,” dijo Pasallo en una entrevista por correo electrónico. “Especialmente los estudiantes que han tenido que luchar muchos desafíos para alcanzar sus logros. Dado que mi enfoque se centra en el asesoramiento académico, los estudiantes de segundo idioma y los estudiantes críticos, todos mis objetivos se centraran en identificar formas para apoyar a estos grupos y promover la equidad para nuestros estudiantes de color.”

Pasallo comenzó su relación con el distrito como terapeuta y administradora de casos especiales en Alta Vista High School en 1997, convirtiéndose en consejera y luego coordinadora del departamento en Los Altos cinco años después.

Comenzó su función actual como directora asistente en 2010.

“La ventaja [de asumir este nuevo rol] fue tener la oportunidad de promover un cambio que promoverá el rendimiento académico de los estudiantes y reducirá la brecha de oportunidades”, dijo Pasallo. “La verdadera dificultad fue la idea de dejar a mi familia y al increíble equipo administrativo de Los Altos High.”

Mountain View expands local gun control


The Mountain View City Council last night unanimously approved a city ordinance prohibiting possession of any firearm on all city property, the council’s latest step toward increasing local gun control. 

The city’s previous gun laws banned possession of a firearm in city parks, in certain public buildings and meetings; loaded firearms in public; and carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in public. 

This new ordinance will extend gun control across the board, which the council hopes will reduce the fear of gun violence or accidental endangerment among the public and city employees on city property.

To enforce the ordinance, police officers who observe violations will be permitted to use their discretion to either cite or arrest the individual, although they will not actively search for weapons on city property. Violations will be prosecuted as misdemeanors. 

Among many others during public comment during the April 13 council meeting when the ordinance was first presented, resident Tim MacKenzie commended the city for their efforts

“This is a way of taking action,” MacKenzie said. “And it is very good and inspiring to see action being taken.”

This action first started in September 2019, when city staff developed a list of potential gun control measures that the city council could consider adopting, including prohibiting firearms sales as a home occupation, implementing locational restrictions on firearms dealers, requiring safe storage of firearms and prohibiting possession of firearms on city property. 

The council, as seen last night, ultimately chose to move forward with the last option.

The safe storage requirements for firearms received praise during council discussion and public comment alike at the April 13 meeting, making it a potential next step forward for continued expansion of gun laws.

Public commenter Rachel Michelson described the safe storage laws in the cities of Saratoga and Sunnyvale as models to follow in the coming years, calling it the “next brave step” toward protecting people from firearm fatalities and injuries.

Many others voiced their support in an overwhelmingly positive wave of feedback.

“While many city ordinances can be quite dry, I found myself actually being moved by several parts of this one,” resident Don Veith said, going on to acknowledge several words that stood out to him during the presentation. “Unacceptable is the right word because we just have to stop accepting [gun violence]. I thank Mountain View for recognizing that this is an obligation.”