Valley People (April 5, 2017)

by AVA News Service, April 5, 2017

ATTENTION GOAT ROPERS! On Saturday, April 22, AV Foodshed will be hosting the 3rd Annual Anderson Valley Goat Festival—a day of family fun, food, and live music. For that day we will once again be sharing the Fairgrounds with The Unity Club's Spring Wildflower Show. You can check out <www.avfoodshed.com> for a schedule of events and workshops. As in previous years there will be a goat parade (best dressed goat wins a prize), a berria tasting contest, cheesemaking, and the celebrity goat milking competition, where local human celebrities will be participating in this udder challenge. Mark Devine says No experience necessary.

KATHY BAILEY on Hendy Woods: “Now that the park is open again after all the storms, Hendy Woods Community will begin paying the Day Use fee for local people on the Second Sunday of every month, beginning next Sunday, April 9. This offer covers folks from Yorkville, Boonville, Philo, Navarro, Comptche, and Elk. The Day Use Area is completely cleaned up and looks great. Some of the trails in Big Hendy Grove are closed or using a bit of a work around but wildflowers and trees are blooming and it’s glorious. If it’s rainy or windy it would probably be best to stay out of the groves until things stabilize. The term ‘widow-maker’ exists for a reason!”

JUST ABOUT the last sizable piece of open, flat, plenty of water, acreage on The Valley floor has sold, and that would be the former Unicorn School’s 16 acres on the east side of Ray’s Road, Philo. Grapes? Rumor says Yes, but we live in hope.

THE UKIAH CO-OP has so mightily prospered that is dispenses grants for this and that good local cause, including $3500 to the Anderson Valley Senior Center “to provide food for local seniors.” They all look pretty well fed to me, but a few more tamales won’t hurt.

AN UNHINGED young man appeared in Philo Sunday morning near Lemons Market. He was barefoot and shouting in incoherent, Tourettes-like bursts and he jumped in and out of the roadbed. A CHP officer soon appeared to gently talk the man down and on into the back of the CHP cruiser, assuring the patient, “You’ll do better in Ukiah.”

ADD LOOK-ALIKES: Olie Erickson and Buster Posey.

YOU’RE almost an old timer if you remember when Anne Johnston ran the Philo Cafe. You are definitely an old timer if you remember Paul and Vera Titus at the Cafe.

STELLA TOTTEN-DAY, daughter of Bob Day and Linnea Totten of the Anderson Valley, has graduated from UC Irvine (2014) and is in her second year of graduate school on her way to becoming a school psychologist. I know this because, as her mom and I were cooling our heels in the long, long wait for the disappeared school board to re-appear, mom filled me in. As a high school student Stella occasionally wrote for the paper and, as the years flew by, we wondered how Stella was doing, not that we ever doubted she would do well. Next year Stella, wisely forgoing journalism for work with a future, “will do a full year of internship and then it will be off to full-time grown-up work,” her mom tells us. “She works as a substitute teacher, does practicum hours and takes classes 3 nights a week at CSULA. This next month or so will cement where she will do her internship for next year and then I think she will be relieved to have the final chapter of her education planned.”

WE NEED a Boonville High School alumni association. With computers, and someone to operate them, it should be fairly simple keeping track of our grads, many of whom have gone on to varying degrees of illustriousness.

THE CLOSED SESSION THAT ATE THE SCHOOL BOARD. Ever get lured into a snipe hunt when you were a kid? You stand over a gopher hole with a bag waiting to catch the mythical snipe until you figure out you been gulled. About a dozen of us got sniped last Monday night.

AT LAST MONDAY’S Boonville school board meeting, the agenda said the board would emerge from closed session at 7pm. At 7:45 the board was still deep in what I am unreliably informed is the dismissal of high school principal, Keri St. Jeor, who is apparently intending to sue the district for some version of wrongful termination. (I wonder if St. Jeor knows he had the legal right to have his matter heard in open session?)

THE BOARD finally re-appeared a little before ten, meaning they kept the few people interested in other agenda items waiting for three hours for the public part of the meeting. There was no announcement out of closed session regarding the fate of St. Jeor.

I WENT HOME at 7:45, having spent many lifetimes waiting for comparable school-related Godots, and not inclined to add another. But in all the years of odd school board behavior I've seen, this rude disregard for public meeting etiquette was the wackiest. Just surmising here, but there were two lawyers in the room, one for St. Jeor, one for the school district, which undoubtedly accounts for the endless closed session and the lawyerly contempt for the public.

ALL THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS of Mendocino County are represented by an office of attorneys out of Santa Rosa. They’re on a hefty annual retainer to offer dial-up advice to school boards and school administrators, whose faith in lawyers rivals that of the great Christian martyrs. The Santa Rosa bandits occasionally condescend to appear in public, typically running up costs reimbursed out of school funds by spending the night in a B&B and eating school book money.

AN INDIVIDUAL PARENT or line employee of a school district pays for an attorney out of his own pocket, meaning he’s already at a big disadvantage going in to any dispute with his employing school district.

THE SANTA ROSA-BASED law firm began life representing deep pocket school districts apart from school funding before easing themselves into public funding.

USED TO BE when a local school district had some sort of legal prob, the County dispatched one of its lawyers from the County Counsel’s office, another dependable fount of errant legal advice, but at least it was free. Frank Zotter, one of Mendo’s great comic figures, was often dispatched to Boonville from the County Counsel’s office to sort out Community Services District and Boonville school matters, invariably plucking on the one hand, but on the other “legal” opinions out of mid-air which, with everyone deferring to the lawyer, would invariably complicate local matters further. Zotter, naturally, now works for the Santa Rosa firm representing the school districts of Mendocino and several other unsuspecting counties on the Northcoast. School districts are a great big money pot for these people.

I WROTE individually to the Boonville school board, four of whom — Kerri Sanchez, Eric Arbanovella, Natalie Matson, and Dick Browning promptly responded. Trustee Wynne Crisman did not.

“MY FRIENDS,” I began, “If you notice a public meeting for 7pm, then disappear for the evening into closed session never to re-appear, it is not only uniquely rude but probably a violation of the public meeting statutes. The lawyers involved are paid to be there, the public (and you) aren't, and they, the lawyers and their clients, could just as well meet with the board president as representative of the district and the representative of the sacrificial principal, St. Jeor, somewhere other than a public school board meeting. Are you re-scheduling the rest of Tuesday evening's agenda?”

ERIC ARBANOVELLA, one of the trustees, wrote tactfully back: “Thanks for tactfully yelling at the Board about Monday night's meeting. I believe a formal response is forthcoming if not already in your hands. Regarding your concern about violation of public meeting laws, I briefly reviewed Open and Public IV: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act (attached) as well as the law's text to determine what legal obligation school boards have to stick to the published schedule. While I can't speak for the Board, as its Clerk, I feel obligated to provide my layperson's understanding of the situation.

I believe that the law does mandate that the Board publish the starting time of special Board meetings and commence meetings at those times, but I did not find any further legal obligations cited regarding adherence to other times in the agenda. Monday night's public meeting started as it should have at 6 PM. The agenda provided for public comment regarding closed session before closed session started, and the Board did receive public comments regarding the items on closed session at that time. As such, I believe the Board fulfilled its legal obligations Monday night. If my understanding of the law is incorrect, I'd appreciate being told so that I can ensure that this is taught comprehensively to future Boards. However, I think the most important point is that decency demanded that we do something other than what we did Monday night. As Clerk, I should minimally have had the foresight during closed session to ask the Board to stop the proceedings and to send a runner to the open session meeting room in order to alert those waiting that we were going to run over based on the agenda we were given, but I was too preoccupied. At the end of Monday night's meeting, I asked that the Board review all this at the next regular meeting and put policies in place to prevent it from happening again. I will do what I can as an individual Board member to make sure that this gets fixed and stays fixed. To that end, at the next regular Board meeting, I will also offer my resignation from the position of Clerk and revert to being a regular Board member, and I will also apologize publicly at that time for my role in mishandling Monday night's meeting. “— Eric Arbanovella

DOESN’T SEEM like a ‘decency’ issue so much as a common courtesy issue, but no need to pursue Talmudic-quality linguistic disputes where a quick (free) consultation with Miss Manners would suffice.

BOARD CHAIR Dick Browning wrote an apology on behalf of the school board: “Dear Attendees of the March 27 Special School Board meeting, “I’m writing to apologize for keeping you waiting for more than two hours at the most recent school board meeting. In hindsight we made several errors in judgment and as board president I take full responsibility. The meeting began at 6pm and almost immediately went into closed session. The issue we discussed was fraught with legal, practical and emotional challenges, and we wanted to ensure a fair process. In our effort to do so we did not respect the public’s time. We will not make this mistake again.

At our next regular board meeting, we will review our governance handbook and update it to include a procedure that limits closed sessions when they threaten to go past their allotted time. Place accept my sincere apology.”

BTW the vote on St. Jeor was 3-1-1. Browning, Sanchez, Arbanovella voting to axe the principal at the end of the school year, Matson abstaining, Crisman voting to retain St. Jeor.

IN OTHER school news, our Now you seem ‘em, Now you don’t school board has approved the purchase of two modular classrooms to replace the rancid pair festering in front of the Elementary School, which are apparently so fetid mysterious growths have oozed from the walls and unknown mushrooms are growing out of the floor and their locked to keep human-type beings out of them. However, the school board, at their meeting on April 18th, will consider “tiny houses on wheels” rather than mods. Whatever kind of structure is placed on the school grounds, and as suggested to me the other night by Sid Fraser, let’s hope they’re placed in a way that doesn’t defile the entire Elementary School vista as the old two do now. The mushroom modulars will soon be taken down and hauled outtahere.

COUPLE MORE school beefs before we move on and leave the poor things in closed session peace: I couldn’t make out the overhead projected board agenda even from a foot away, and the recorded board notes were mostly unintelligible.

THEY'LL BE PLANTING banana trees any day now: Yorkville reported 6.6 inches of rain in March of 2017, bringing their season total, thus far, to 80.2 inches.

10.36" October
 6.76" November
 9.92" December
24.92" January
21.64" February
 6.60" March

 

PREPARATION FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES

Please join us Sunday April 9th, 4:00 - 5:30p.m. at Lauren’s Restaurant

This month we will begin taking the first steps in creating an Anderson Valley Village, so we can chart our way forward to Aging in Place. Come be a founder.

THAT SMALL PLANE flying low and slow over The Valley on Sunday is partially explained by Paul McCarthy of MSP: “Our pal Derek over at Fotomendo called our attention to this plane flying grid patterns over Anderson Valley Sunday. It was doing the same thing by Point Arena. The plane comes back registered to GCA Air LLC out of Danbury, Connecticut — a long way from home. We have no idea what it's mapping (or looking for). But if you're paranoid - they're watching you! (A commenter suggested the plane may be chartered by an on-line mapping software company for Microsoft or Google.)

ROADWAY REPAIRS from Fish Rock Road to Yorkville will begin Monday, April 3. One-way traffic control will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Motorists should anticipate 5-minute delays. (Caltrans)

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