Portola Valley schools celebrate 150 years


By Marjorie Mader

Portola Valley School District's 150th birthday celebration -- an event for the entire community -- will bring alumni, students and teachers from across several decades to Portola Valley Town Center on Sunday, Oct. 2.

The celebration starts with a Portola Valley tradition: the "Zots to Tots Race" at 11:15 a.m., covering the expanse from Rossotti Field to Town Center, 2.5 miles way. A parade of decorated vintage cars with distinguished guests on board will lead runners to Town Center, 765 Portola Road. Welcoming them will be the incomparable Los Trancos Woods Marching Band.

Riding in vintage cars will be honorary event chairpersons Jean Lane, a longtime supporter of Portola Valley schools along with her late husband Bill Lane; Tony Rose, Portola Valley School fourth-grade teacher, then principal and superintendent from 1951 to 1964; and the oldest known alumni, Ed Jelich and Vivian Silva O'Neal .

Among the guests will be descendents, spanning three generations, of Portola Valley families who attended Portola Valley schools way back before the construction of the district's two current schools. The families include those of George Jelich, 1919-1927; Walter Jelich, 1921-1929; Ed Jelich, 1925-1933; Martin Ramies, 1933-1941; Joy Neal Ramies, 1940-1948; and Laura Ramies Mangini.

The picnic begins at noon on Town Center fields. Colored balloons will identify tables by the decades to help alumni and friends re-connect and share memories. Bring a picnic lunch or buy food and drinks from local vendors '" Bianchini's Market, the Lobster Shack, Webb Ranch (roasted corn), and Amigos Grill (Pilar's margaritas).

Portola Valley Girl Scout troops will run the "cakewalk" and crank out sno-cones. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts will sell snacks.

Portola Valley School memorabilia, collected over the years by families and in archives will be on display all afternoon in the Community Hall. In addition to historic photos and documents, viewers can watch some scenes from the past on film and DVD: Skip and Barbara Bogart, starring in their Portola Valley version of "Romeo and Juliet," and clips from legendary "Community Productions," written and staged by the late Barbara Schneiderman as fundraisers for the schools.

And there will be music, music, music -- something for everyone -- from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The Windy Hill Bluegrass Band, named after Portola Valley's signature backdrop, was started in 2008 by banjo player Ryan Breen of Portola Valley and another Menlo-Atherton graduate, Henry Warde, a mandlolinist. They reconnected with M-A classmate and bass player Kyle McCabe in 2009, and later, guitarist Thomas Wade and fiddler Johnny Campbell, who comes from a long line of fidders, joined up. Their story was featured in the Almanac on Sept. 14.

A perennial favorite is also performing: Portola Valley's Jim Pollock and Friends' Dixieland band. And banjo player Jeff Pollock is rounding up a collection of local musicians, including singer Jill Rochlitz Bloch, who grew up in Portola Valley for a performance

Also on the program: the "Acoustic Therapy" band, and the Corte Madera School Orchestra, led by music specialist Jason Braun.

At 2:30 p.m. the action shifts to the Historic Schoolhouse. A panel of seven community members will discuss education topics in the Portola Valley district: "What Was, What Is, What's Next?"

Anne Campbell, former superintendent of the Portola Valley district and now San Mateo County superintendent of schools, will be the moderator, and will lead a discussion with the audience after the panel discussion.

Participating on the panel are: Sally Stewart and Bob Bauer, former presidents of the Portola Valley School District board, and Bill Youstra, current board president; John Richards, a PVS graduate and Portola Valley Town Council member; Robin Toews, who was hired by Superintendent Tony Rose and taught 40 years in the district; Andrew Katz, PVS graduate and former president of the Portola Valley Schools Foundation; and Lauren Rosenthal, a recent PVS graduate, now pursuing a degree in marriage and family counseling.

Throughout the afternoon, children can scale the climbing wall, bounce in the bouncy house, whiz down dual slides, and visit the petting zoo.

This year's event combines the annual "Zotts to Tots Race" and Town Picnic, canceled in June because of rain, with the school district's 150th birthday celebration.

The town of Portola Valley and the Portola Valley School District are co-sponsoring the celebration. Some 50 community volunteers were involved in organizing the event.

The day's events

■ 11:15 a.m. Zotts to Tots Race, Rossotti Field to Portola Valley Town Center. Registration 10:15 a.m. at the field. $10 fee, includes race T-shirt.

■ Noon. Picnic begins at Portola Valley Town Center fields.

■ 2:30 p.m. Panel discussion: "What Was, What Is, What's Next" for Portola Valley School District. Moderator: Anne Campbell, San Mateo County superintendent of schools and former Portola Valley School superintendent.

Writing the book on the school district

Timeline: A look at the district's past

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