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Mump and circumstance

Original post made by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Jun 16, 2009

MOUNTAIN VIEW residents are normally an easygoing bunch. Rarely does something on the pages of the local newspaper get them too riled up.

It's true they take their schools seriously, as they should. And issues like, say, high speed rail are cause for concern. But compare that to Palo Alto, where residents held [Web Link angry protests] at the prospect of high speed rail running through their town.

That's why I was surprised at the visceral reaction to last week's Graduation Day coverage. Although our story covered both of the major regional schools -- Mountain View High and Los Altos High -- the photo coverage was only of Los Altos High, which touched a nerve with some readers.

Several phone calls were made about it, and since staff cutbacks at the ==I Voice== have reduced our ability to cover the phones, many had to content themselves with leaving voicemail messages. And man, did they leave them. Generally the messages were spitting mad and went as follows:

"Good friends of mine's children just graduated from Mountain View High School. I cannot believe on the front page of the ==I Mountain View Voice==, there's a picture of Los Altos High School. That is just so ==I tacky==!"

Or: "I wanna know why Los Altos is always in our ==I Voice==. It's the ==I Mountain View==, not Los Altos, ==I Voice==. And I resent the fact that you keep putting in Los Altos, where in the heck is our Mountain View students' pictures. And it's always Los Altos. Please, stop it! It just doesn't make sense, why we always have to have Los Altos."

There were others along those lines. One woman reached me in person Friday afternoon, and she too was beside herself with anger, calling our coverage "despicable."

I tried to explain that the graduation ceremonies at both schools were happening at the same time, and we only had one photographer available. I tried to explain that, even though Los Altos High has the words "Los Altos" in its name, we don't consider it to be only for that city, since half its student body lives in Mountain View. (According to the high school district, this year Los Altos High was 50 percent Mountain View residents, and Mountain View High was 48 percent Los Altos residents.)

I also noted that the story covered both schools. And I mentioned the other graduation events we covered this year (such as our [Web Link Alta Vista High School story]) whose ceremonies took place at Mountain View High.

She wasn't interested, saying basically that Los Altos has its school and we have ours. She said her piece and hung up.

There are two issues at play here, and the first -- the one where Los Altos has its school and we have ours -- doesn't trouble me too much, because I think it's misguided. And I bet the hundreds of Mountain View families whose kids are Eagles would agree with me.

But the second does have me troubled, because it follows a larger pattern that can be summarized as: Why don't you do all those things you used to do?

Last year the ==I Voice== ran every graduate's name in the paper. Why not this year?

Last year you ran several photos from both schools. Why not this year?

And why don't you guys answer the phone anymore?

Well, the answer is an unhappy one. As you probably heard, newspapers have hit hard times lately, and the ==I Voice== is no exception. Resources have dwindled, and the newsroom staff is asked to do more with less.

Last year we had two photographers available to us. This year we had only one.

Even so, next year is another chance, and I intend to make it up to these jilted readers. Which leads me to issue the following promise: Come next year, we'll do our best to take pictures of both high school graduation ceremonies.

Of course, this promise only applies if your ==I Mountain View Voice== hasn't shriveled up by then and blown away on a light wind. Then you can complain about the terrible lack of coverage at both schools. At least there will be parity.

Comments (8)

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Posted by Aaron Schuman
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 17, 2009 at 5:02 am

Do more with less: make more use of free lance photographers and writers.

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Posted by GSB
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 17, 2009 at 6:47 am

I was surprised as well that a photo of LAHS was featured instead of MVHS. I was more surprised that the Los Altos Town Crier did a great piece covering all the high schools and prominently featured pics of the high school graduations.

Mistakes and missteps happen. This one just hit too close to home.

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Posted by Nick Perry
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Nice write-up Don. Those angry calls and messages are from folks who don't seem to have a clear understanding of our city's high school situation/history. Which makes sense, given how confusing it is.


Mountain View High on Castro St. serves all of MV/LA.


Los Altos: Los Altos High Knights
Mountain View: Mountain View High Eagles


Most Los Altans: Los Altos High Knights
Most Mountain Viewers: MV High Eagles (on Castro St.)
Southern MV/LA*: Awalt High Spartans (on Truman Ave.)

*El Camino Real was the dividing line


MV/LA west of Miramonte/Shoreline: Los Altos High Eagles
MV/LA east of Miramonte/Shoreline: MV High Spartans (on Truman Ave.)

1982 was the last year there was a "real" Mtn. View High that was filled with mostly Mountain View residents and a "real" Los Altos High filled with mostly Los Altans. Awalt (today's MVHS) was a mix.

Back in 1982, the district made a choice to make the campuses of Awalt and Los Altos High equally shared by both the Mountain View and Los Altos/Hills communities.

Actually, it wasn't much of a choice...

The district was on the verge of being classified as racially segregated by the State in the late 1970s. One way or another, they needed to split the diverse population of Central/Northern Mountain View in half in order to integrate the campuses of Los Altos High and Awalt High. That, coupled with declining enrollment, led to the closure of old Mountain View High on Castro St. and the splitting of Mountain View in half so that our student population could be used to integrate Los Altos High, which otherwise would be around 80% White.

Our attendance boundaries do not at all match with the names of the high schools. The names are historic relics. In fact, there was talk of changing the names to reflect this new reality - but instead the district decided to mix old traditions. They took away Los Altos High's mascot and school colors and, to the chagrin of alumni, swapped in the mascot (Eagles) and colors (blue and gray) of that campus's former arch-rival, Mtn. View High. Then, they changed Awalt High's name to Mountain View High but kept the Spartan mascot.

You have to remember that at the time, Mountain View residents strongly alligned themselves with the colors blue and gray and the Eagle mascot...and had been doing so since the early 1900s. People were also a lot more rah-rah about high school sports and spirit at old Mtn. View High because it was such a long-time community institution. Transferring the colors/mascot to one campus and the name to another was meant to ease the pain and make Mountain Viewers feel allegiance toward both the ex-Awalt and Los Altos campuses. Can't say it worked too well judging from the reactions I've heard from alumni.

Which brings us to today. The symbolism of the colors/mascot at Los Altos High is lost on most residents of Mountain View today - leaving many to incorrectly assume that the Voice should care more about what happens at MV High. Nope - like Don says, that would be unfair to the 50% of Mountain Viewers whose neighborhoods have been assigned to Los Altos High for 27 years.

And if you want to get real nit-picky, the Los Altos campus is actually closer to the center of Mountain View and where most Mountain Viewers live. Conversely, despite the name, the current MVHS is *barely* inside MV's city limits (right on the border) in a part of town that is practically indistinguishable from Los Altos.

But I wish the Voice all the best in covering both of the city's high schools equally in the future!

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

USA is a registered user.

Some random thoughts:

* Aaron, so what are you doing next week?

* "MOUNTAIN VIEW residents are normally an easygoing bunch." Well, OK, that is probably true verses some other communities in the Bay Area. I am just glad that I am not the one having to deal with all those Polifrone article comments.

* GSB, sorry but the Voice was busy with more weighty topics than those that typically occur in the sleepy burg of Los Altos.

* This is a much better editorial than last month's Brain Day article. 'nough said.

* You should write an article / op-ed piece about the print news business. That could be an interesting inside look.

* Nick, that is a good, balanced, fact-based, dispassionate description of the history of the secondary education system in the greater Mountain View area, but a young guy like you needs to get out a little more often.

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2009 at 10:24 pm

USA is a registered user.

In last month's editorial comments, I made fun of Brain Day. I was wrong. At the time it looked stupid. When Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, a divining rod for stupid ideas, endorsed it, it pretty much sealed the deal.

As it turns out, it is not stupid. It is evil. Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by close reader
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2009 at 2:13 pm

For a second there thought we were going to see the slightest hint of humility out of USA.


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm

USA is a registered user.

Lack of humility when dealing with the forces of the Evil Brain Day Killer Cultists?

Curses! You got me there. Well played, sir. I am humbled.

Like this comment
Posted by "Just Think About It"
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

You do call yourself the "Mountain View Voice".............Seems you would concentrate on happenings in Mountain View ..................................Just Think About It...............

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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