by , San Jose Mercury News
Saturday, March 19, 2011

When John Lents took over the principal's office at Duveneck Elementary School, one of the first things he noticed was the dreary entryway to the school.

"These entrance canopies are so dark," Lents said. The entryway was built at the same time as some of the other Palo Alto Unified District schools, such as Fairmeadow, El Carmelo and Greendell. They even shared the same building plan and materials. "You could walk through them and be at any place in the district."

It was a problem that needed a creative solution -- and he turned to the PTA for help.

Lents heard from the community that for years people discussed putting a mural in the entryway.

"I got the name of the muralist from the district, got together with last year's PTA president -- Lauren Barley -- and third-grade teacher Jen Piazza, put together a proposal and put it before the membership," Lents said. "The Duveneck PTA totally funded it."

The mural project was approved at the August membership meeting, Duveneck PTA President Kim Robins said.

The mural celebrates the legacy of the Duveneck family, which preserved Hidden Villa farm in Los Altos Hills and left it to the public.

"The Duvenecks were amazing people. They were early environmentalists, advocates for equal rights, and supporters of education," Lents said.

"The Duvenecks believed in bringing children of all races together," Piazza said. "We needed something to beautify Duveneck.

I was teaching summer school in 2007 at Juana Briones and I saw the mural there, and thought, 'That's what I want here (at Duveneck).'"

Morgan Bricca, who created the Juana Briones mural and two murals at Gunn High School, painted the mural at Duveneck in January during school hours. The project brought the community together.

"It was the focus of many positive common conversations," Piazza said.

The mural can be seen outside the Duveneck office and on the artist's website.

In other art news, Susan Usman, PTA Council vice president of community outreach, and Ellen Shell, vice president of membership, are putting together a slide show of student art and projects.

The slide show will be shown in conjunction with the "Unlocking Levers to Creativity" PTA Council Parent Education presentation on Feb. 15.

"We are going to show at least 60 projects," Shell said. "We are gathering them from the district office, which has so much beautiful art on display, and from the unit PTAs."

School Matters is happy to hear your feedback. Please e-mail comments to schoolmatters@paloaltopta.org to reach Preeva Tramiel.

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