Newark: Nancy Thomas seeking re-election to school board

Newark Unified school board member Nancy Thomas has decided to seek re-election this November. Below is Thomas’ guest blog entry and announcement of her seeking a fourth term …

By Nancy Thomas

I’m reaching out to the Newark community in the wake of Superintendent Dave Marken’s resignation. I am deeply saddened by Dr. Marken’s departure. Under his leadership our district’s API scores have soared, eclipsing all other districts in Alameda County in the last round of state testing. He was voted the region’s Superintendent of the Year. For the first time in 12 years, we have not just one, but two schools reaching Distinguished School status. Many of our schools have reached the 800 API test score threshold signifying academic excellence.

We are being told that board members’ negative behavior is behind the superintendent’s resignation. To be clear, board members know how they should behave. We have agreed to our norms and protocols in multiple meetings, and have documented them in our Governance Team Handbook. Among other things, the message to the board by NEWMA was to “stay within your function and stop trying to personally fix problems.” They asked that we visit schools to “observe and learn,” not to openly criticize or question operations and activities, and that we honor confidentiality.

Not every board member has crossed the line. For NEWMA to paint us all with the same broad brush vote of no confidence is disheartening. I have filed my papers for re-election because I feel my experience and knowledge are more important than ever to the success and stability of the district in this period of transition.

If elected, I will continue to support the programs advanced by Dr. Marken. He has not shied away from courageous moves. He championed an A-G default curriculum to ensure students’ eligibility to enter the CSU/UC system. He has instituted a full-day kindergarten starting this year, and he wants to institute a middle school model for grades 6, 7, and 8 next year. His pursuit of a least restrictive environment for our special education preschool students is the right move.

While supporting the educational vision of district leadership, I have not shied away from challenging district leadership in other areas. We board members need to ensure the district’s fiscal solvency, and we must address issues such as the mishandling of funds that are brought to our attention.

For example, I supported massive cost-cutting when Newark was in real danger of being taken over by the State. It was painful. Jobs were lost. But it was the right thing to do. The board supported my request that sexual harassment training be required for all employees, not just management. I brought forward a whistleblower protection policy. Thanks to whistleblowers, several incidents of gifts of public funds have been corrected.

In closing, a big thank you to the many community members who have voiced their support and are encouraging me to run for re-election.


Ohlone College accredited for next six years

FREMONT — Ohlone College has earned eight commendations for displaying “academic quality and institutional effectiveness,” according to a report that reaffirms its accreditation for the next six years.

Ohlone’s accreditation, which will run until 2020, ensures that it remains eligible for state funding and that its students can receive financial aid and transfer their credits to other colleges.

The accreditation report also recommended several improvements for the Fremont community college.

“The college does meet or exceed standards,” said Eliza Chan, spokeswoman for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which reviews 117 campuses statewide. “However, the whole idea behind accreditation is to have continuous improvement.”

For more, click here.



Fremont electric scooter startup comes to ‘Innovation District’

FREMONT — The city’s strategy to attract cleantech companies to its growing “Innovation District” has begun yielding results, as another electric vehicle startup has moved to the area.

GenZe, an electric-powered scooter maker, moved last month from Palo Alto to south Fremont, where Tesla’s factory and other green companies have set up shop. “We wanted a lot of space and an area that’s encouraging for electric vehicles and innovation,” said GenZe CEO Vish Palekar. “We naturally landed in Fremont.”

GenZe has moved its headquarters near an 850-acre area where Fremont hopes to add up to 4,000 housing units, 12,000 jobs, shopping and entertainment, restaurants, hotel and convention facilities, and parks and open space. The zone is anchored by the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station, which will open late next year.

For more, click here.


Union City leader apologizes for breaking campaign law

UNION CITY — Gurnam “Gary” Singh, a Union City leader fined recently for breaking campaign contribution laws four years ago, has apologized.

Singh, a planning commissioner since 2006, also said he will not run for City Council in November.

“When I ran in 2010, I was inexperienced and was not aware at the time what we did was incorrect,” Singh said in a statement emailed to this newspaper. “Putting family over politics, we have paid the fine and are ready to move on (and) learn from our mistakes, and I promise that it will not happen again.”

Singh laundered campaign contributions during Singh’s failed 2010 City Council bid, the Fair Political Practices Commission announced three weeks ago.

Singh and Jo Ann Lew, a fellow planning commissioner and treasurer of the Gary Singh for City Council 2010 committee, waived their rights to a hearing and agreed to pay a total of $15,000, the state agency said.

“I want to apologize to my family, friends and supporters for the embarrassment this has caused,” Singh wrote. “I will continue to be involved in the city and do what I can do to help this city move forward.”


Newark Councilwoman Ana Apodaca will not seek re-election

NEWARK — Vice Mayor Ana Apodaca, a City Council member since 2005, has announced she will not seek re-election.

The two-term Newark councilwoman revealed her decision at a city meeting Thursday night, saying that recent “life-changing moments” have led her to reassess her priorities.

“It has been my complete honor to be a part of Newark’s City Council and my privilege to be entrusted by our citizens to represent them,” she said, reading from a written statement. “This has not been an easy decision.”

The councilwoman’s sister, Deborah Apodaca, died a year ago, and her father, Daniel Apodaca, died in May.

The loss of her family members played a major role in her decision, Apodaca said.

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Geico ad banner falls from plane, damages Fremont home gazebo

No such thing as bad publicity, right? Right?!

FREMONT — In 15 minutes, you could … accidentally stir up a lot of chaos in a sleepy neighborhood.

An advertising banner touting Geico insurance fell from a plane towing it Monday afternoon and subsequently blanketed a home, struck a set of power lines and damaged a gazebo in the city’s Centerville neighborhood, police said.

At 4:36 p.m., a resident on Castanos Street called to report that a massive banner had fallen from the sky and landed on a neighbor’s home on Jacinto Drive, police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said.

Arriving police and fire crews found a 45-foot-by-90-foot banner covering the house and also laying across a set of PG&E power lines.

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Fremont attic’s $50,000 ‘mystery’ painting

FREMONT — A lucrative piece of art history and a whiff of mystery apparently have been hiding for years in the Patterson House attic, where staffers recently discovered a nearly 90-year-old painting by a famous New York artist.

The portrait of a Patterson family in-law has been appraised at up to $50,000, said Christie Dentry, manager of the Patterson House.

The historic home is part of Ardenwood Historic Farm, a 205-acre Fremont park.

“We call it ‘The Mystery Painting,’” Dentry said. “At first, we didn’t know who was in the portrait, or who painted it.”

Dentry’s staffers soon found on the painting the signature of John Koch, an artist known for capturing New York City’s social scene in the mid-20th century.

But that raised more questions: How did one of Koch’s earliest known paintings end up 3,000 miles from the artist’s Manhattan home? And how is it connected to Fremont’s Patterson House, a 16-room Victorian-era mansion originally owned by 19th-century gold-miner-turned-farmer, George Washington Patterson?

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Fremont historic home might be saved, as Newark school house might be demolished

A year after three historic Newark and Fremont homes were put on sale for a dollar, a buyer has stepped forward to save one, as the others seem headed for demolition.

The Brown House, a two-story, three-room farm house built circa 1850, might be spared by a Southern California event planner who restores aged homes as a hobby.

Tom Gandolfo said he plans to move and restore the historic building, and display it for educational and historical purposes.

“I’m interested in the pioneering spirit of Americans moving West, working their way through the wilderness,” Gandolfo said. “It’s a very romantic notion and I’m driven by that.”

The two structures running out of time are Mowry’s Landing School, a one-room school house built in 1884 and later converted to a residence, and the Bettencourt House, a 19th-century home built in what is now Fremont.

The three buildings were moved 30 years ago to the Ardenwood Historic Farm Regional Preserve, but rising renovation estimates doomed the park district’s plan to convert them into a history exhibit.

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Fremont’s Innovation Center coming into view in Warm Springs

FREMONT — The shell of the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station has made conspicuous progress in recent months, slowly rising above a dusty field northeast of the Tesla factory.

That small step in the city’s complex Warm Springs development signifies something big: Fremont’s dream of creating an 850-acre Innovation Center is slowly becoming reality, after years of planning and negotiating among a daunting set of moving pieces.

“It’s so unique in the Bay Area to have a wealth of land to develop in a thoughtful way in proximity to BART,” said Kelly Kline, Fremont’s economic development director. “A project like this ensures our economic future by creating opportunities for a major employment center around transit.”

That vision has been focused in the city’s Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan, which council members will consider Tuesday night.

The plan envisions adding up to 4,000 housing units, 12,000 jobs, shopping and entertainment, restaurants, hotel and convention facilities, and parks and open space to an area anchored by Tesla and the new BART station. It also will offer office space tailored for biotech and solar-energy companies that already have clustered in the Warm Springs district, on Fremont’s southern edge.

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Fremont: Water district drought surcharge adopted

FREMONT — Starting this week, the Tri-City-area’s heaviest water users will pay more.

The Alameda County Water District has adopted a surcharge on bills customers pay every other month to fill a $15 million budget gap that agency leaders blame on the drought.

Residents of single-family homes now will fall into one of three separate rate structures for each two-month billing cycle based on a water unit of 748 gallons:

  • Use of 0-16 water units: zero surcharge.
  • Use of 16-30 water units: surcharge of $1.48 per unit.
  • Use of 31 or more water units: surcharge of $2 per unit.

A flat surcharge of 46 cents, regardless of water use, will be applied to residents in apartments and other multifamily residences, businesses, schools and government agencies.

The water district’s board of directors approved the drought surcharge last Thursday.

It took effect Monday, agency spokesman Frank Jahn said.