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May 3-9, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Hire Learning

Franklin-McKinley School District Supe Larry Aceves is set to retire from public duty this summer, but he may be leaving some controversy in his wake. Last week, Fly was tipped that Aceves' bio appeared on the website of the Mission Viejo-based Leadership Associates, a headhunting firm that specializes in finding candidates for various school districts in the northern part of the state. On the website, Aceves appeared as a partner. Meanwhile, guess who has been hired by the Franklin-McKinley district to help them replace Aceves? That's right, the Leadership Associates. On vacation when Fly called to inquire, Aceves was not available to answer the chicken or the egg question—Did he get the Leadership gig first, or did Franklin-McKinley hire the firm before he arrived? Nor would anyone involved with the story bite on that potentially explosive question. A call to Franklin-McKinley board member Buu Thai yielded the information that six applicants bid on assisting the district with their superintendent search; according to Thai, they all interviewed well, but the Leadership Associates were consistent with the district's values; Thai, saying she did not have the contract in front of her, guesses the district will pay the firm between $25,000 to $30,000. And, is there any concern that the boss is two-timing? "Larry was very up-front with us," says Thai. "He did tell us that when he was going to retire ... that he would be joining their [Leadership's] team as a part-time consultant. Currently, he hasn't done any work for Leadership Associates, and he hasn't done anything for the hiring process."

But the Hours Are Flexible

In his ongoing fight to save a plot of open space in Santa Clara, Kirk Vartan has discovered that crusading can be expensive. He ran into his first obstacle in November when he borrowed a friend's old newspaper delivery truck and plastered it with giant Save BAREC signs—in support of the 17-acre property that used to be a research farm owned by the University of California (Metro previously wrote about the political ties that helped this rare vestige of open space near Valley Fair Mall fall into the hands of developers in our October 19 cover story, "Secret Gardens"). Vartan belongs to a growing contingent of citizens who want to keep BAREC free of high-density housing that the city of Santa Clara and Palo Alto developer Summerhill Homes have planned for it. Fueled by Metro's coverage and increasing public interest in the issue, Vartan parked his elephant-size protest placard along Winchester Boulevard, which borders the vacant BAREC property. A few days later, a grumpy neighbor had it towed because it was blocking BAREC's chained driveway. That put Vartan out $480. The protest truck has been largely out of commission since the neighbor left a message on Vartan's answering machine (which he played for Metro) threatening to tow it again if he saw it anywhere near the property. The activist also found his car tires slashed earlier this month when he returned from a Santa Clara City Council meeting, resulting in $280 worth of damage. "I can't afford it anymore!" Vartan exclaims. He placed a donation jar on his Save BAREC booth at the Santa Clara farmers market to help ease the pain. The money isn't exactly flowing in, but the support is. Vartan and his fellow activists have gathered over 4,000 signatures to block the city's development efforts, and they held a feisty rally with 60 people earlier this month. Santa Clara officials are currently mulling over an environmental impact report for the planned housing development. Save BAREC leader Kathryn Mathewson says they've hired a San Francisco lawyer to dissect the report.

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