- GJ Blasts PA Schools
- Ukiah Costco Delays
- Apparent Suicide
- Forgivable Loan on Shaky Ground
- Starhawk's Honorarium
- Catch of the Day
- Water Conservation Goals Unmet
- Electric-vehicle Stations
- Borodin/Cohen Concerts
THE GRAND JURY'S blast at the management of the Point Arena School District is long overdue. (It's reprinted below.) Susan Rush of Manchester has been making these complaints for years, and in much greater and irrefutable detail. Her reward? Insults and ridicule from Point Arena's oafish school board and the series of incompetents functioning as adminstrators and teachers.
ACTING DA KEITH FAULDER, back in '06, verified Ms. Rush's complaints that the PA school board had violated the Brown Act and had written to the school board a “demand to correct.” Unfortunately, and without going into the office politics of the DA's office at the time, Faulder's successor, the elected DA, Meredith Lintott, unaccountably withdrew the letter, but probably as a shot at Faulder who'd run against her.
WHEN ELECTED PEOPLE flout the law, especially when they do it as blatantly as the Point Arena school board, it ought to be taken seriously by greater authority, but for some reason Mendocino County authority ignores these violations, apparently regarding them as trivial.
POINT ARENA pays its school superintendent twice as much as she should be getting, and even more than that monarch of the featherbed, Paul Tichinin, pulled down for doing absolutely, verifiably nothing for many years as superintendent of the County schools.
YOU COULD ALMOST overlook the edu-swindles common in Mendocino County if “our nation's future” emerged after 12 years of schooling able to read, write and do basic math. But they can't.
IN JUNE OF 2010 we wrote about that 2006 failure to even try to enforce the obvious Brown Act violations which occurred when the Point Arena School Board terminated their last decent educational official: Matt Murray.
“MENDOCINO COUNTY is very bad at complying with the Brown Act. We are aware of only two (2) such investigations by the Mendocino County District Attorney's office in the last 20 years. In one case in the 90s, DA Susan Massini looked into allegations that three supervisors drove together in the same car to Sacramento for a Department of Forestry meeting, thus constituting a public meeting quorum albeit a rolling one without much space for the interested public to observe from. Massini concluded that there had been no “intent to violate” the Open Meetings Act and no further action was taken. In a more recent case, then-Interim DA Beth Norman, in 2005, asked then-Assistant DA Keith Faulder to investigate a Brown Act violation by the Point Arena Unified School District involving the District’s underhanded dismissal of Point Arena Elementary Principal Matt Murray. Faulder’s investigation resulted in a mild “correct and cure” order to the fog belt school district which, via their high priced Santa Rosa attorney, they contested, as another large hunk of education money otherwise destined for the instruction of the young vanished into the private pockets of professional obfuscators. But that case was dropped the month following current DA Meredith Lintott’s election, and a few weeks after Lintott fired Faulder for running against her.
SOME PUBLIC AGENCIES do take the state’s open meetings requirements seriously and try to comply with Brown Act requirements, cumbersome as they can sometimes be. But not only is enforcement nearly non-existent, but closed session is routinely abused — especially by school boards — to hide their palsy walsy personnel practices from public view. Other “exceptions” to the Brown Act (not to mention court rulings that allow public agencies to declare controversial matters to be “privileged communications”) routinely abused are “pending litigation,” property negotiations, and labor negotiations. Lots of stuff can be slid into closed session under these vague categories if a board or agency really wants to deliberate in secret.
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GRAND JURY REPORT ON: POINT ARENA SCHOOLS
April 21, 2015
The Grand Jury investigated numerous complaints associated with the Point Arena Joint Union High School (High School). The Grand Jury found that the School District drug testing policy was not correctly implemented by the District Superintendent. The District Superintendent also invalidated all students’ math exit exam results due to allegations of cheating by just three students.
It was reported that a negative work environment was the cause of an exodus of over 40 percent of certificated employees. The Grand Jury found that a lack of transparency in lottery fund allocations added to this problem.
The District Superintendent’s salary of $145,000 is exorbitant for a district of its size. The District School Board violated the Brown Act on numerous occasions, in various ways, and in the presence of the Grand Jury. The District School Board published incomplete meeting minutes and also held their meetings at inconvenient times for the working public.
The Grand Jury received complaints from citizens concerning the High School. The complaints regarded working conditions at the High School and the operations and conduct of the District Administration including the District School Board.
The Grand Jury interviewed many citizens, active and retired employees of the School District, attended District School Board meetings, reviewed minutes (audio, paper, and electronic copies) and did on-line document research. The Grand Jury also referred to the California Education Code and the California Government Code regarding the Brown Act.
Drug testing on the girl’s volleyball team was administered by the District Superintendent with all team members present. Both positive and negative results were disclosed publicly in front of team members as well as a reporter from the local newspaper. A positive result was later found to be incorrect.
Since the above event, a revised drug policy has been established and a Mendocino Youth Project counselor has been contracted to administer the drug policy and provide counseling services.
The High School Principal of 13 years left the school district at the end of 2012-13. The current District Superintendent became the acting Principal while remaining as the Superintendent.
During a State mandated exit exam in 2013-14, it was alleged three students cheated on the math portion. Because the alleged cheating students could not be identified, the District Superintendent/acting Principal invalidated that portion of the exam for all students. This action placed the High School in the School Improvement Program. Over 40 percent of certificated staff left the High School at the end of school year 2013-14.
Interviewees indicated the new administration had created a negative work environment and there was a lack of an identifiable chain of command. For school year 2013-14, the High School received $24,600 in lottery funds. This varies annually as lottery money fluctuates.
Prior to school year 2013-14, the High School Principal (in collaboration with teachers) determined the use of lottery funds for classroom needs. Teachers that were interviewed are no longer aware of how lottery funds are being distributed.
When interviewed, the District Superintendent was unaware of the amount of lottery funds received or how they were disbursed.
Reduction in force notifications (pink slips) were handed out by the District Superintendent in front of students and other staff.
School Board —
Prior to the High School Principal leaving in 2013, during an open session of a District School Board meeting, the Superintendent remarked that unless the District School Board matched the compensation offered by another school district, the Superintendent would leave prior to the end of the Superintendent’s contract. The District School Board complied and raised the salary to $145,000. This is the highest salary paid in Mendocino County in districts of a similar student population.
District School Board minutes are not representational of actual occurrences during board meetings. In meetings attended by the Grand Jury, the Grand Jury observed behaviors that were not civil or appropriate for public meetings. The audio recordings are difficult to understand because of background noise, those speaking are unidentified, and only one microphone is used.
The time of District School Board meetings was changed from 6:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Many interviewees indicated that this time change made it very difficult for the working public to attend.
The Grand Jury observed the District School Board did not have available the required copies of agenda items to be discussed during the public portion of the meeting. (California Government Code §54954.1)
The District School Board does not consistently report out at the end of closed sessions the decisions made and votes taken. (California Government Code §54957.1)
Parents and teachers reported that District School Board meetings were held without adequate notice. (California Government Code §54954.2)
In an open District School Board meeting, with students present, a board member used profanity. It was reported by multiple individuals that this has happened on numerous occasions.
The Grand Jury was present at a District School Board meeting when a visiting presenter’s report was given on a potential nutrition program for the District. During the presentation, the above mentioned board member stated he would rather have a “Big Mac and Fries.”
The Independent Coast Observer newspaper reported that according to a, “… Staff Attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., there was a Brown Act violation by the board for failure to consider public comment on agenda items ‘before and during’ the discussion of the items and the board taking action.”
District School Board meeting attendees reported that Brown Act violations are common.
Point Arena Union High School and Arena Union Elementary School are in two separate districts with one governing board. Point Arena Union High School’s tax revenue per student is approximately $25,000 annually and Arena Union Elementary School’s is approximately $9,000 per student annually. The two schools have different geographic areas from which revenue is accumulated.
By directive of the State Board of Education, both the Arena Union Elementary School and the Point Arena Union High School are combined for budgeting purposes only. The revenues of the two schools are combined in a single account but the expenditures are accounted for separately.
F1. The District Superintendent failed to follow the established drug testing policy to take reasonable steps to assure the confidentiality of student drug testing results. [Board Policy 5131.61(b)] This caused embarrassment to the student and exposed the school district to potential legal action.
F2. When three students were alleged to have cheated on an exit exam; the Superintendent invalidated the math portion of the exam for all students. This punished all of the students by requiring them to retake the exam as well as placing the High School in the School Improvement Program.
F3. The negative work environment at the High School caused over 40 percent of the certificated staff to terminate their employment.
F4. The previous principal worked with the teachers in allocating lottery funds; this is no longer the procedure. The current Principal/Superintendent was unaware of either the amount of lottery funds or their distribution.
F5. The Grand Jury determined the confidentiality of personnel matters was breached when the District Superintendent handed out reduction in force notifications publicly causing both embarrassment and low morale.
F6. District School Board meeting audio recordings are difficult to understand due to inadequate equipment and the lack of identification of those speaking.
F7. Attendance by the working public, and their opportunity to have input, is curtailed by the current District School Board meetings being held at an inconvenient time.
F8. A District School Board member using profanity during a public District School Board meeting is never acceptable.
F9. The Grand Jury heard the same Board member ridicule a visiting presenter’s report on nutrition, causing embarrassment to both the presenter and those in attendance.
F10. It is critically important to continue maintaining separate balance sheets for each school since they have a combined budget.
F11. There are multiple Brown Act violations during District School Board meetings that can be remedied with education, training, and a desire to act professionally.
The Grand Jury recommends that:
R1. the school administration follow the established drug testing policy. (F1)
R2. academic testing be monitored more closely to reduce the risk of cheating. (F2)
R3. the administration work together with all employees to create a more positive work environment.(F3)
R4. the use of lottery funds be transparent to all staff. (F4)
R5. personnel issues, including reduction in force notifications, be handled confidentially. (F5) R6. the District Board President ask all speakers to identify themselves. (F6) R7. the District Board utilize more than one microphone and place them in better locations. (F6)
R8. the District Board meetings be held at a convenient time for the working public. (F7)
R9. all speakers and program presenters be respected and treated with courtesy. (F8, F9)
R10. the District Board members who use profanity be reprimanded and asked to remove themselves from the room. (F8, F9)
R11. the School District continue to use separate balance sheets for Point Arena Union High School and Arena Union Elementary School. (F10)
R12. all District Board members and Administrators receive Brown Act training annually. (F11)
Responses Required from—
Pursuant to Penal Code §933.05, responses are required from the following individuals:
RR1. Superintendent, Point Arena School District
RR2. Superintendent, Mendocino County Office of Education Pursuant to Penal Code §933.05, responses are required from the following governing body:
RR3. Point Arena District School Board
The governing bodies indicated above should be aware that the comment or response of the governing body must be conducted subject to the notice, agenda and open meeting requirements of the Brown Act.
ANOTHER BIG BOX FOR UKIAH
The most frequently asked questions about the Ukiah Costco project are:
- When is Costco coming?
- When is Costco coming?
- What’s taking so long?
This much-anticipated project is now more than four years in the making and, when there is so much support for this development, it can be hard to understand why it’s taking so long.
The primary reason for delays is lawsuits. A Davis-based attorney filed a lawsuit in May of 2014 on behalf of two Ukiah Food Max employees and “Ukiah Citizens for Safety First.” The lawsuit asserts that the City of Ukiah failed to adequately evaluate and address the environmental impacts resulting from the development.
The two local plaintiffs wrote a letter to the editor in March stating that they both “think Costco would be a great addition to Ukiah,” but that proposed traffic “improvements did not even take into account the added traffic from the Costco store to include the likely expansion of Walmart.”
This concern is not justified. The proposed highway and road improvements will safely accommodate not only traffic generated by Costco, but expected traffic increases from future development through the year 2030.
Though the plaintiffs’ letter to the editor only addresses traffic concerns, the actual lawsuit they filed alleges unmitigated impacts to air quality, energy usage, noise and more. While the courts will ultimately decide this question, the City believes that the Environmental Impact Report certified for the Costco store adequately and extensively considered the impacts from traffic and to air quality, noise, energy use, and all of the other potential impacts of the project.
An earlier lawsuit by the same attorney and plaintiffs challenged the sale and purchase agreement between Costco and the City; that lawsuit was later dropped.
The Costco project has been reviewed and supported by each of the following independent boards and commissions:
- Design Review Board
- Ukiah Oversight Board, comprised of representatives from the City, the County, special districts, the county superintendent of education, and the Mendocino Community College
- Ukiah Planning Commission
- Ukiah City Council
Furthermore, numerous public hearings have been held over a period of more than two years to receive input from the community. Every official comment and concern about the project has been mitigated and/or responded to.
So when is Costco coming? A judge’s ruling in the lawsuit is expected in May. A ruling in favor of the City of Ukiah means we move forward; a new store could be open as early as 2016.
Further delays mean further delays. The City believes that Costco remains committed to Ukiah, and City staff, with the support and direction from the City Council, will press on.
For additional information about this project and more, please go to www.cityofukiah.com and click on the “Projects and News” tab.
A UKIAH MAN WAS FOUND DEAD after apparently committing suicide on Highway 20 near Redwood Valley, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported.
MSCO Lt. Jason Caudillo said a passerby reported that a man was down along Highway 20 near the exit to Redwood Valley around 6:30 p.m. May 2.
When MCSO deputies and California Highway Patrol officers responded, the deceased man was found outside his vehicle, a maroon Ford F-150 pick-up truck.
The man, identified as Terrence F. Heth, 73, of Ukiah, appears to have died of self-inflicted wounds, though Caudillo said the official cause of his death is pending the results of an autopsy and toxicology results.
OUR SOURCES say the "forgivable loan" to buy Fort Bragg's Old Coast Hotel is not the done deal Mayor Turner and his allies seem to assume it is. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is federal money with its origins at HUD routed through a state agency. It probably requires endless sign-offs by platoons of anon bureaucrats who will issue the check only after a long list of conditions have been met. It will be a while before any money flows Fort Bragg's way, if it flows at all. All this and any litigation against the deal would have to be cleared up before the Ortner Management Group, the private business who will operate the nebulous mental health program proposed for Old Coast, gets this latest big gift of public funds.
KZYX is a sponsor of the Not So Simple Living Fair, but the station is not involved in a financial capacity. While we do provide on-air publicity, we don't determine who the speakers are nor do we negotiate their fees. That is the purview of the organizers of NSSLF.
For your convenience, I've cc'd some of the principals there; perhaps they can give you that information. Rest assured, your hard earned membership dollars are not going to pay Starhawk's honorarium.
Mary [Aigner], KZYX Program Director
ED NOTE: I'm much relieved.
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Just to be clear, we aren't a sponsor of that event. It's a trade — they get some underwriting and we set up a table. We are not involved in any decision making.
John Coate, Excutive Director, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, General Manager, KZYX & KZYZ
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 5, 2015
JOSE ARAGON, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JOHNNY GREEN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
VERNON KNAPP SR., Willits. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JULIE LEGENDRE, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, child abuse with injury, child endangerment.
ANTONIO MACIAS, Ukiah. Fighting, probation revocation.
DEBORAH MCOSKER, Ukiah. Possession of drug paraphernalia, probation revocation.
REMO MCOSKER, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
PABLO MORA, Ukiah. Failure to register. (Frequent flyer.)
DAVID PHILLEO, Scotts Valley/Ukiah. Drunk in public.
MARGARITO RUIZ, Ukiah. DUI with priors.
ANDREW SHIRLEY, Fort Bragg. Petty theft, suspended license, trespassing.
AMANDA SNOW, Clearlake/Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
CALIFORNIA FELL FAR SHORT OF WATER-SAVING TARGET IN MARCH
SACRAMENTO — Californians conserved little water in March and local officials were not aggressive in cracking down on waste, state regulators reported Tuesday as they considered tough measures to force savings amid a continuing drought.
The State Water Resources Control Board received the update as it considers sweeping mandatory emergency regulations to protect water supplies in the parched state.
Gov. Jerry Brown has argued that the voluntary targets in place since early 2014 were insufficient and that Californians needed a jolt to take conservation seriously.
A survey of local water departments released at the start of the two-day meeting shows water use fell less than 4 percent in March compared with the same month in 2013. Overall savings have been only about 9 percent since last summer, even though Brown set a voluntary 20 percent target.
The water board on Tuesday began considering new regulations to step it up. The rules would bar cities from using drinking-quality water on street median grass and encourage homeowners to let lawns go brown to meet local mandatory water reduction targets.
Those conservation targets are among the most contentious provisions of the proposed rules. The board plans to order each city to cut water use by as much as 36 percent compared to 2013, the year before the governor declared a drought emergency, and has rejected calls to create easier targets for communities in drier areas or for cities that have been conserving since before the drought.
Some local water departments call the proposal unrealistic and unfair. They say achieving steep cuts could cause declining property values, restrictions on filling pools and washing cars and higher water bills.
An economic analysis of the water board's proposal commissioned by the board estimated that private water utilities and local water departments would lose a total of about $1 billion in revenue through lost water sales if they meet the board's targets. They will eventually charge higher rates to make up the revenue, the report said.
The board sees lush lawns and verdant landscapes as first on the chopping block to meet conservation targets, but some are fighting their depiction as villains in the drought.
Keith Harbeck, of the California Pool and Spa Association, told the board Tuesday that it is destructive to turn industries into symbols of water waste, including almond growers, water bottlers and golf courses.
"Finger-pointing has been particularly painful because folks pick whatever is symbolic," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the board. "It's a collective issue that we must all rise to."
Board officials said they expect to start seeing water savings as soon as June and are willing to add restrictions and penalties for agencies that lag.
Brown said last week he would push for legislation authorizing fines of up to $10,000 for extreme water wasters. Another tool, tiered pricing in which the price rises as water use goes up, is in question after a court struck down water rates designed to encourage conservation in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.
(— Fenit Nirappil, Courtesy, AP)
COMMUNITY FORUMS for Plug-In Electric Vehicle Charging Stations to be Held in Point Arena, Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Willits and Boonville
The Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG), as the Regional Transportation Planning Agency, is seeking public input on the location of plug-in electric vehicle charging stations in Mendocino County.
Five community forums will be held countywide. The meetings are an opportunity to review display maps, get answers to your questions, and provide your comments and feedback about proposed plug-in electric vehicle charging stations in your community.
The dates, time and locations of the community forums are:
- Tues., May 26 in Point Arena at the Point Arena City Hall, 4:00 to 5:45 p.m.
- Wed., May 27 in Ukiah at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Tues., June 2 in Fort Bragg at the Fort Bragg Town Hall, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Wed., June 3 in Willits at Willits City Council Chambers, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Wed., June 10 in Boonville at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
All members of the community are encouraged to attend and comment on the proposed locations of plug-in electric vehicle charging stations.
For more information, please see the Mendocino County Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Regional Readiness Plan available for viewing or download at www.mendocinocog.org.
Anyone unable to attend is encouraged to submit their input by emailing Consultant-Facilitator Sue Haun of Strategies by Design at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Forum in Boonville Regarding Plug-In Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG), as the Regional Transportation Planning Agency, is hosting a community forum. The forum will be held on Wednesday, June 10 at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 14400 Highway 128, Boonville.
The forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a welcome by Consultant-Facilitator Sue Haun, Strategies by Design, and a presentation of the proposed plug-in electric vehicle charging stations in Mendocino County. Community input and discussion regarding the proposed plug-in electric vehicle charging stations, particularly in the Yorkville, Boonville and Navarro areas will follow from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
All members of the community are encouraged to attend and join the discussion. The meeting is an opportunity to review display maps, get answers to your questions, and provide your comments and feedback about proposed plug-in electric vehicle charging stations in your community.
For more information, please see the Mendocino County Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Regional Readiness Plan available for viewing or download at www.mendocinocog.org.
Anyone unable to attend is encouraged to submit their input by emailing Sue Haun at email@example.com.
BORODIN & SOLOIST JEREMY COHEN
by Karen Rifkin
Although Russian romantic composer Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was a distinguished scientist with academic obligations allowing him to concentrate on his musical compositions only during his summer holiday, he managed to create a large body of musical work including the opera "Prince Igor," completed posthumously by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov; his orchestral tone poem, "In the Steppes of Central Asia," and his Symphony No. 2 in B minor which will be performed by the Ukiah Symphony on May 16th and 17th at Mendocino College Center Theater.
“Borodin was the most Russian of Russian composers, dark and fiery; he utilized old melodies and old scales,” says symphony director Les Pfutzenreuter. “His music brings to mind old czarist Russia with its ringing Kremlin bells and people bustling about, freezing, in their furry hats.”
Symphony No. 2 is Borodin’s most important large-scale work and when he attempted to make changes to it, Franz Liszt, with whom he played fourhanded piano arrangements, said, “Heaven forbid! Do not touch it; alter nothing. Your artistic instinct is such that you need not fear to be original.”
The originally planned Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Opus 30, by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), considered to be the most technically difficult piece in the standard piano concerto repertoire, will be put on hold until piano soloist Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi recovers from an arm injury.
“Because Lawrence worked so hard learning this piece, I didn’t want to bring in another pianist; he will return to Ukiah to perform this virtuoso solo when his injury has healed,” says Pfutzenreuter.
In a lesson in learning on how to adapt to change quickly, the orchestra has begun rehearsals with violin soloist Jeremy Cohen to perform tango compositions “Al Colon” by Jeremy Cohen, “La Cumparsita” by G.H. Matos Rodriguez, “Gallo Ciego” by Augustin Bardi and Cohen’s very own Americana, “Jeremy’s Hot Fiddle Soup,” a song that according to Pfutzenreuter is “a barn-burning crowd pleaser guaranteed to bring the house down."
Cohen’s electrifying jazz violin performances have earned him nationwide accolades. Classically trained by Itzhak Perlman and Anne Crowden, his eclectic style reflects his respect for a wide range of violinists from Perlman and Fritz Kreisler to Joe Venuti and Eddie South.
Tickets for performances at the Mendocino College Center Theater on May 16th at 8:00 p.m. and May 17th at 3:00 p.m. are available at www.brownpapertickets.com, Mendocino Book Company at 102 South School St. in Ukiah and Mail Center, Etc. at 207A North Cloverdale Blvd. in Cloverdale. Prices are: $25/adults, $20 for seniors, and $5 for 18 and under or ASB cardholders. For more information, call 707 462-0236.
Concert sponsors are: "In Memory of Dr. Hugh Curtis," Pacific Redwood Medical Group and Selzer Realty/Realty World.