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Parents Scramble After Private CV School Says it Will Close
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 11:11
Camelot School in Castro Valley will cease operations Friday.

By Amy Sylvestri
Castro Valley’s private Camelot School announced its abrupt closure late last week, giving parents just days to find alternative care for their kids and leaving the teaching staff without jobs.

The school, at 2330 Pomar Vista Ave., has been operating for more than 37 years, providing care and classes for children as young as 8 weeks old through kindergarten. More than 130 students are currently enrolled.

It will shut its doors after classes end this Friday. Parents were notified last Friday by an email from Camelot owner Georgina Armstrong who said the school is closing because the San Lorenzo School District, which owns the property, has not renewed the lease with Camelot.

The school district voted to begin the process of selling the property several months ago. Parents are angry that Armstrong didn’t notify them sooner and say the school even went so far as to ask parents for their fall 2015 enrollment.

“The district confirmed that the owner was aware of the lease ending,” said Ashley Mercier who explained that she and her fellow parents have been “scrambling” to find day care and classes for their kids. “If we’d known earlier, there wouldn’t be this panic. It’s horrible.”

Armstrong’s email said the school had looked into relocating or negotiating with the San Lorenzo School District, but that she ultimately decided to shut it down for the good of the children and staff.

Teachers at Camelot were also not informed about the closure until last Friday afternoon, a point which Mercier says has infuriated the parent group.

CV Man Wins National Motorcycle Competition
Thursday, 16 July 2015 11:50
Eric Jewell of Castro Valley with his 2007 Honda ST1300 motorcycle and his Iron Butt Rally 2015 trophy.

By Fred Zehnder


At 2 p.m. Sunday, Eric Jewell returned from Albuquerque, New Mexico, nudging his motorcycle onto the driveway of his Castro Valley home. There was a little something extra in one of the bike’s compartments – a heavy glass trophy.

Jewell had just completed – and won – the grueling 11-day, 11,000-mile Iron Butt Rally.

While most people have probably never heard of it, the appropriately-named event would seem to live up to its title as the “World’s Toughest Motorcycle Competition.”

“It’s the big deal in the long-distance riding community,” Jewell says.

All of those miles in so few days mean spending 18 to 20 hours a day on the bike’s hard seat and as little as four hours a night for sleep at what riders call the “Iron Butt Motel” – a park bench, a church lawn, a Walmart parking lot – or under an awning if it’s raining.

No consideration is given for bad weather, and this year Jewell got caught in late-night torrential rains in southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas.

The rally consists of checkpoints located around the U.S. In order to be considered a finisher of the event, riders must be present at each of the checkpoints within a two-hour window.

The locations are set, but the routes to get to each are up to the individual riders. This year’s rally began and ended in Albuquerque.

Riders gain extra points by visiting (and photographing) “bonus” locations. For Jewell, this year’s bonus was Old Faithful at Yellowstone, where he spent 30 long and important minutes waiting for the geyser to erupt.

Held every two years, this was Jewell’s ninth time to enter and his first time to win the national competition. The prize – the trophy...and a pat on the back.

Married with three kids, the 51-year-old Jewell now settles back into a more mundane existence as a part-time flight instructor at Hayward Airport who also teaches motorcycle safety to classes in San Francisco.

Local Pilot Provides Hope for Critically Ill Kids
Wednesday, 08 July 2015 12:15
Hope Flight Foundation founder and chief pilot Douglas Harding raises funds to transport children to the Bay Area from rural areas for medical treatments. He currently borrows this single engine plane for the flights.

By Linda Sandsmark


Families whose children have life-threatening illnesses experience enormous stress, both emotionally and financially. And if the family lives in a remote area, transportation to medical treatments may be next to impossible.

An extraordinary pilot saw that problem a few years ago and began providing free flights to Bay Area hospitals for critically ill children.

Douglas Harding borrows a single-engine Cessna 182 four-seat aircraft to fly children with cancer and other serious illnesses in from remote areas of California, Nevada and Oregon.

A flight instructor and part-time business pilot, Harding currently devotes much of his time to fund-raising to help transport  his young passengers. A small office at the Hayward Airport serves as his base.

“I just wanted to start using my flight skills to help people,” says Harding, who has been flying since he was 18. “If I can help out a child with a life-threatening illness,  it’s worthwhile. I just saw that there was a need.”

Most of the children served by Hope Flight Foundation live in remote areas where medical options are minimal. Harding and a co-pilot fly into the nearest small-town airport, pick up the child and a parent, and fly them to the designated hospital – usually Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital near Stanford, or U.C.S.F. Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. Once they are stable after treatment or surgery, they’re flown home.

Hope Flight has provided 82 such flights since 2008. Patients usually find them through doctor or hospital referrals, or by searching the internet.

Most of the families the Foundation helps are low-income, although some middle-class families also need help when the expense of major illness puts them in financial jeopardy.

Harding is founder and chief pilot for Hope Flight Foundation, a non-profit with a goal of one day buying its own aircraft -– a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air – which would have more room for family members and has a greater flight range. Its pressurized cabin would allow children with heart defects to fly, and it could accommodate a stretcher for children who are unable to sit up because of burns or body casts.

“We really want to get a bigger plane to help more kids and expand our service area to more states, including Arizona, Utah and Washington,” he says.

The Foundation is hosting an outdoor fundraiser from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 18,  on the lawn in front of the office, 20511 Skywest Dr., off West A St. in Hayward. Donations of $20 minimum per person include food, bottled water, soft drinks, and a chance to win a raffle prize. Donations are tax-deductible.

Hope Flight Foundation would welcome corporate sponsors, not only to help buy a bigger plane, but  to help pay for fuel. All members of the Foundation are volunteers, so fuel is the big expense.

To donate, receive more information, or to attend the July 18 fund-raiser, call Harding at 510-427-3956.  The Foundation may also be contacted by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or by mail at  P.O. Box 20505, Castro Valley 94546.

Supreme Court Rules Gays Have Right to Marry
Wednesday, 08 July 2015 12:06
Billy Bradford has been Castro Valley’s most vocal gay-rights advocate.

By Amy Sylvestri


On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and that all 50 states must recognize their unions.

The long-anticipated ruling grants gay couples “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

President Barack Obama called the ruling “a victory for America.”

Castro Valley’s most vocal gay-rights advocate, Billy Bradford, said the decision was a long time coming.

“It’s an amazing day, an incredible day,” said Bradford. “Here we are with marriage equality in all 50 states. On the Supreme Court building it says ‘Equal justice under the law,’ and that’s really all we were asking for.”

The debate about LGBTQ rights has been especially lively in Castro Valley. Bradford says the town used to be more conservative but has been more open-minded in recent years.

“I think Castro Valley has come around,” said Bradford.

Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring is the pastor of Hayward’s Eden Church of Christ and a married lesbian. She says that the religious arguments against same-sex marriage are not in keeping with the fundamentals of her faith.

“This is great news, especially for me as a faith leader,” said Nehring. “The idea in American democracy of equality and justice for all is really grounded in Judeo-Christian teachings –  that we are all children of God. That our born nature is good and we are equal in the eyes of God and worthy of enjoying the same benefits.”

But not everyone agrees with the legality and morality of same-sex marriage.

The four justices who cast dissenting votes each wrote their own arguments against the ruling, most saying that the Constitution does not address same-sex marriage, so a decision is not within the Supreme Court’s purview.

Castro Valley resident Stacy Spink, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, echoed that sentiment, accusing the justices of pandering to public opinion.

“Once again, the Supreme Court has affirmed a ‘right’ that does not even exist in the Constitution,” said Spink. “The enumerated separation of powers has once again been trampled by a court that seeks to create laws in the name of political correctness instead of its assigned function of interpreting the law.”

Spink believes homosexuality is a choice, and therefore not a protected civil right.

“Real civil rights arise from our traits that are truly immutable – our height, age, or skin color, to name a few,” said Spink.  “Homosexuality is merely a behavior.  Dr. King would likely be appalled that the mantle of ‘civil rights’ has been so misappropriated in the 21st century.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling will undoubtedly add an extra celebratory flair to next week’s Fifth Annual Castro Valley Pride event, which will be held Saturday, July 11, at the Castro Valley High School parking lot on Redwood Road.

Graduates Urged to ‘Remember the Good Times’ at CVHS
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 10:05
Some 700 seniors heard the nostalgic strains of the “Pomp and Circumstance March” as they received their diplomas last Tuesday evening at Castro Valley High School’s Trojan Stadium.

By Amy Sylvestri


The Castro Valley High Class of 2015 graduated last Tuesday as proud parents and friends looked on from the packed stands at Trojan Stadium.

Some 700 students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, flip their tassels, and take the next exciting step in their lives.

The CVHS band and orchestra played “Pomp and Circumstance” and the choir sang a medley of popular tunes to entertain the crowd.

Student body president Jenna Sparks said she was proud to have represented her fellow students during their senior year.

“The Class of 2015 is a diverse group of capable students,” said Sparks. “Our class is the future and Castro Valley High prepared us for the world out there.”

Sparks said she was looking out at a crowd of future doctors, teachers, and engineers and that the possibilities in front of them were endless.

“We should all be grateful that our paths crossed here,” said Sparks.

The students were congratulated by retiring superintendent Jim Negri, school board president John Barbieri, and CVHS Principal Blaine Torpey.

In their speeches, honor students Stephanie Huerta and Hannah YeEun Tak encouraged their fellow students to remember the good times at CVHS and to go out into the world with the confidence to accomplish anything.

It would have proved difficult for a single class valedictorian to give a speech, as over 90 students in the Class of 2015 received “highest honors” – a grade point average of 4.0 or higher. (Advanced placement classes are on a scale with an “A” being a 5.0 so the GPA can surpass what once was considered the perfect 4.0.)

Nearly 150 students had averages of 3.5 or higher, proving that the Class of 2015 made the most of their studies at CVHS.

Skate Park Dedicated to Harry Francis
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 11:35


Family members join Mary Ann Francis Saturday morning at the official unveiling of the Harry R. Francis Skate Park sign at Castro Valley’s Adobe Park.



The Harry R. Francis Skate Park was dedicated Saturday morning, named for the man who helped make it possible.

Harry Francis, who passed away in 2012, was remembered during the ceremony as a person who found countless ways to volunteer and serve the community.

A Castro Valley resident from 1947 on, he ran a furniture refinishing business which allowed him the flexibility to help out with school, scouting, church, and community groups. He was appointed to the Hayward Area Recreation and Parks District (HARD) board and was elected to the Castro Valley Sanitary (CVSAN) District Board of Directors.

When a constituent suggested establishing a skate park, Harry liked the idea and worked tirelessly to make it a reality. It required many meetings with HARD, school district and community members to balance the needs of all parties involved. The resulting skate park is popular with kids and adults alike.

In addition to his work at HARD and CVSan, Harry had been an Alameda County Fire Commissioner, member of the Hayward Area Historical Society, and PTA president for Baywood, Strobridge, and Hayward high schools. In his off hours, he fished and camped, played senior softball, coached little league, and was active in his church. A dedicated family man, he had three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren with his wife Mary Ann.

“It is quite an honor to our family to have a park in his name,” says  Mary Ann. “He worked hard for this community and he loved what he did.”



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