Schools get ranked
State education officials handed out a report card Tuesday -- along with carrots and sticks -- to all public elementary and high schools with more than 100 students.
Schools received their 1999 Academic Performance Index (API) reports based on last spring's Stanford 9/Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results. The report gives each school a number between 200 and 1,000.
The statewide target of 800, adopted by the State Board of Education in November, represents a high level of student performance. Approximately 12 percent of the schools received an API of 800 or more, including three Humboldt County schools -- Jacoby Creek, Sunny Brae Middle and Freshwater.
The median score for Humboldt County elementary schools is an API of 677 compared to 629 statewide. Middle schools scored 682 vs. 633 statewide. Local high schools scored 694 compared to the statewide API of 621.
The API report is the cornerstone of the Public Schools Accountability Act, signed by Gov. Gray Davis in April, which authorized the establishment of the first statewide accountability system for public schools. The system includes the API along with programs to reward high-performing schools and help under-performing schools.
Schools received two rankings with their score. Scores are ranked statewide in 10 groups of equal size from one (lowest) to 10 (highest). A second ranking compares each school's 1999 API scores to other schools with similar characteristics.
Arcata High School was the only high school in the county that received a 10 ranking, the top 10 percent when compared to all state schools. AHS also received a 9 compared to a group of 100 similar schools. Fortuna High scored an 8 statewide but rose to 10 when compared to similar schools.
"We are telling people to be cautious about the `similar schools' comparison," said Janet Frost, administrative assistant for county schools. "A lot goes into that: socioeconomic data as measured by free and reduced-price meals, ethnicity, English language learners, number of fully certificated teachers, average class size."
The results are posted on the Internet at http://www.cde.ca.gov/psaa, are available from individual schools or from the Humboldt County Office of Education by calling 445-7030.
Each school also received a growth target of 5 percent of the distance between its 1999 API and the statewide performance target of 800. The 2000 API reports are scheduled to be released next fall providing new API scores based on the spring 2000 Stanford 9 tests.
Rare public inquiry set
A "coroner's inquest" -- a public inquiry by a panel of 12 jurors that has not been used in Humboldt County since the 1970s -- has been set for March 6 to investigate the shooting death of a parolee by an unnamed Eureka police officer.
"A coroner's inquest is very rare," said Terry Francke, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, by telephone from his office in Sacramento Monday.
What is also rare is that the officer's name has been withheld from the press for more than four weeks.
"It's something police departments do as a matter of courtesy to the officer, but never for more than a day or two," Francke said. "The identity of who fired a shot is a matter of public record."
Harold Hans "Joey" Johannsen Jr. was fatally wounded Dec. 26 outside WinCo Foods in Eureka. Police Chief Arnie Millsap said the officer responded to a call from residents who reported someone was trying to force his way into their home.
District Attorney Terry Farmer announced at a press conference Friday that his office has concluded that the officer did not commit a crime. Millsap agreed, saying all indications are that the shooting "was justified," but he would release few details.
Johannsen was a suspect in recent department investigations for offenses ranging from auto theft, possession of illegal weapons, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools and resisting arrest. He had a stolen handgun on him at the time of the incident, Millsap said.
The jury commissioner will give Coroner Frank Jager a list of potential jurors to make up a panel of 12. The panel will hear from witnesses and will make recommendations. However, those recommendations are not binding.
The hearing officer for the inquest will be Robert Hickcock, an attorney and former investigator for the district attorney's office. Hickcock has recently conducted two other police-related investigations: one was of former Sheriff Dave Renner, who is currently serving time in prison, and the other, a case involving missing court documents.
"The jury will be similar to a grand jury," said Jager. "The jury listens and also has the chance to ask questions."
Jager said San Francisco is the only entity to use inquests with regularity. Los Angeles and San Diego once used inquests regularly, but have ceased to do so in recent years.
The Journal has filed a request under the California Public Records Act with the city attorney of Eureka asking for the release of the officer's name.
Botanical Garden prez resigns
Pat Dillman, who owns a garden shop called Sun Rain Time in Eureka, resigned as president of the Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation at the Jan. 18 board meeting.
Dillman, who took over as president two months ago, told the Journal, "I accepted the post on two conditions -- that there be an outside audit and that the boundaries of the foundation's 44.5-acre site be clarified. Neither has happened and I can't in good conscience continue."
Dillman, who has been involved in the organization for nine years, said she felt that as president and a member of the board, "I wanted to see just where the money is, where it is going, and where it has been," she said, and an audit would have provided that information.
Larry Moss, who succeeded Dillman as president, said an outside audit is scheduled for the end of the year and a professional survey performed a year ago is on file.
"The board is definitely moving ahead," he said.
The foundation is in the process of raising $5 million for Phase I of a public gardens project adjacent to College of the Redwoods. It received an anonymous in-kind pledge of $1 million last year toward that goal. Ground may be broken as early as July if fund-raising efforts are successful.
Emergency room patients needing to have a broken arm set at Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna may be shipped to its sister hospital, St. Joseph's, in Eureka.
Following a site inspection Jan. 14, the state Department of Health Services Licensing and Certification Program instructed Redwood Memorial that it could perform only life-threatening emergency surgery until it completes remodeling the emergency room.
"The hospital is unable to perform elective surgery the new operating room is open and fully functional," said Geri Sleeth, health facilities evaluation nurse, by telephone from Santa Rosa.
"The hospital is able to handle all life-threatening surgical cases if necessary," she added.
The new operating room is expected to be reopened by the end of the week. According to a spokesperson for the hospital, a few patients decided to wait for elective surgery until the construction was finished and some patients were transferred to Eureka for more immediate attention.
PALCO appeal denied
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Pacific Lumber Co.'s appeal of a court decision denying the company's attempt to recover nearly $700,000 in legal fees and court costs from the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville.
Scotia-based PL won a 1995 federal court fight with EPIC over the company's plans to remove dead, dying or diseased trees from the Headwaters Forest. The U.S. District Court and later a federal appeals court refused to force EPIC to reimburse PL for legal expenses.
Paul Mason, EPIC executive director, said in a press release last week, "A tremendous chill would have settled over public interest lawsuits nationwide" had PL succeeded.
Disaster good news?
In a speech Jan. 19, Commerce Secretary William Daley declared a commercial fishery failure in the West Coast groundfish industry.
Those who fish for lingcod, sablefish and a wide variety of rockfishes already know that the stocks have seriously declined. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release, catches for the entire industry have gone from a 20-year average of about 74,000 tons to under 36,000 tons last year. This year's projected haul is about 27,000 tons.
Some fishery biologists say this is a direct result of overfishing and contend that the catch-all nature of drag net fishing captures too many fish, young and old, small and large. Whether this is true, the secretary's official determination states that the causes of the failure are "undetermined but probably natural.
"Factors that may have contributed to the decline include changes in ocean condition, low productivity and five El Niño events since 1982," according to the release. Under the terms of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, if the federal government finds the fishermen are not at fault, funds can be made available for disaster relief.
"Our challenge now is to minimize economic and social impacts on fishing communities while protecting and rebuilding groundfish stocks," Secretary Daley said.
It is likely the federal funds will be used to buy out boats and licences to reduce the number of nets pulling in fish and to retrain fishermen whose jobs have been lost. When the New England cod and Northwest salmon fisheries were determined to be disasters, funds were also used for economic diversification and for grants for fisheries research with fishermen taking part in data collection and habitat restoration work.
Education forums set
Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin has scheduled a series of five forums throughout the district to gather input on a revision of the state's master plan for education. Elementary and high school teachers, administrators, parents and students will serve on each seven-member panel.
"Each person will be given time to present ideas on how the master plan should be constructed from their particular perspective," said Barbara Ellis, field representative for Strom-Martin.
Members of the audience will have time for questions and answers and will have the ability to deliver comments as well. The information will be included in a report to the Joint Committee for the Master Plan for Education, of which Strom-Martin is a member.
The first forum is 4:30-6:30 p.m. March 2 at the Humboldt County Office of Education. The second will be the next day in Del Norte.
New micro-radio rules OK'd
In a move that will open the airwaves to hundreds of new radio stations, the Federal Communication Commission voted Jan. 20 to begin a new round of licensing for non-commercial, low-power "micro-radio" FM stations broadcasting at 100 watts or less. The move came despite intense lobbying by the radio industry trade group, the National Association of Broadcasters.
"This will bring many new voices to the airwaves that have not had an outlet for expression, and it happens at a time when the radio business has consolidated in very dramatic fashion," said FCC Chairman William E. Kennard in an interview with The New York Times.
Local radio pirates have been broadcasting outside the FCC regulations at 94.9 FM in Arcata since April 1999. It is unlikely that the FCC decision will have much effect on their operation.
"I don't know that much about the new rules," said 94.9 program director Tea, "but from what I've heard at the meetings we've had, I'd say the consensus is that if it means we have to follow FCC regulations we are not interested in applying for (a license)."
In fact the Arcata station cannot apply for licensing due to provisions laid out in a recent FCC press release. The commission said unlicensed stations could apply only if they had "voluntarily ceased engaging in unlicensed operations no later than Feb. 26, 1999, without specific direction from the FCC, or that they had ceased engaging in unlicensed operations within 24 hours of being advised by the commission to do so."
Last July the Arcata radio pirates were asked by FCC representatives to cease broadcasting. They refused. (See Journal story Dec. 2.)
Ribbon cut on new facility
Federal, state and local officials were on hand to cut the ribbon on a new office building in Mad River Business Park in Arcata Jan. 21.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is sharing the new 25,000 square-foot leased building with Redwood National Park, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Geological Survey.
The building will provide office and meeting space for approximately 100 federal workers. U.S. Fish and Wildlife has a staff of 30; the National Marine Fishers Service operates with 15 biologists; the National Park Service will move 10 employees from Arcata and Orick into the building; and U.S. Geological Survey will have three employees there.
Coastal Care Center Inc. built the multi-agency facility, at a cost of about $2.1 million, as well as the adjacent building which houses the Arcata Chamber of Commerce.
A visitor center operated by the chamber is open six days a week. The center will open as an official California Welcome Center April 6, offering statewide visitor information and featuring locally made gifts, arts and crafts and food products.