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Resolved, unresolved

by   JUDY HODGSON


Stories, especially big ones, have a life cycle. Sometimes it takes years for the threads of a story to be followed, the issues resolved. Sometimes they never are.

Recently we learned of some final chapters in the case of Michael Shaddix, a former Sunny Brae Middle School teacher who pleaded guilty last year to felony child abuse against two former students, under 13 years old at the time of the offenses nearly a decade ago. You may recall Shaddix served about six months in jail and was released in November. He will never teach again and was ordered by the court not to be alone with children other than his own.

But there are at least two more chapters to the Shaddix story. One, last year state law was changed. Previously, once a student passed 18, they could no longer file a civil suit against a teacher for child abuse and molestation, or against a school district, due to the statute of limitations in such cases. (As the O.J. Simpson trials taught us, sometimes a 12-0 jury decision required by a criminal case is impossible to obtain. Civil cases are another matter.) Realizing the trauma caused to a child by such abuse and the time required to recover, the state increased that age to 26, a law that Gov. Davis signed in February 1999. The Shaddix case was one of four used to convince the Legislature that this law was needed.

And we reported yet another chapter to the Shaddix story last week. Based on a complaint filed by the parent of one of the girls, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing voted to recommend a disciplinary 30-day suspension for former Arcata Superintendent David Hochman. According to testimony in the Shaddix trial, which ended in a mistrial followed by a plea bargain, two parents and three teachers went to Hochman with their suspicions of improper behavior by Shaddix toward the young girls; Hochman failed to investigate or even ask Shaddix about the allegations.

Hochman has since been hired by the Fortuna Union Elementary School Board as superintendent. He has the right to appeal in court, but if the suspension stands, it would certainly cause a major disruption in that district, especially at the start of a school year.

Another major story plodding along is access to health care. As we reported last week, the Arcata Family Health Center, a physicians' group, will be breaking up, a victim of the changing health care scene. The operation was purchased by St. Joseph Health System two years ago along with several other groups. St. Joseph is opting out of its contract and the doctors can't afford to take it back. The physicians -- and their 12,000 patients -- will be forced to relocate.

And finally, one of the biggest stories of this year is certainly unresolved --coalition of community members who continue to push for the ouster of Eureka City Manager Harvey Rose, as if that is somehow going to restore harmony on that council.

I am writing this before Tuesday's meeting, but word on the street is he's finished. I have been labeled a Rose defender because of my May 25 editorial, which I hardly thought was an endorsement. All I said was Rose isn't the issue, the City Council is the issue and so is its inability to manage city managers and terminate them in a civilized way. If you're going to fire him, do it at contract renewal time to insure an orderly and less costly transition. (Gosh, sort of like Arcata just did.)

Unless, of course, Rose did something particularly severe to demand his immediate ouster. Did he?

Councilman Jim Gupton is the key, the one who changed his publicly stated position since February when Rose's contract was renewed. Gupton is no longer returning Journal calls. I can only assume his action, or change of heart, is related to the November ballot.

I hope Eurekans can learn more before they are ready to vote.


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