Oct. 3, 2002
Changes in store for charter schools
by BOB DORAN
A bill signed into law Sunday by Gov. Gray Davis will have a major impact on charter schools operating in Humboldt County. The Charter Schools Operation Bill, written by Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno, makes a number of changes in the 10-year-old set of regulations governing charter schools.
Of interest to several Humboldt County schools is a provision that alters the ability of a school district to charter a school or schools operating outside the boundaries of the district, known as "satellite schools."
"We're still trying to understand what this law means to our campus," said John Schmidt, director of the Arcata campus of Big Lagoon Charter School, a satellite school that may be affected by the revised law. "It looks like a very big change in the background regulations for charter schools. And it may mean some big changes for our school."
The changes will not happen overnight. While the bill takes effect Jan. 1, existing charter schools have until 2005 to make new arrangements.
California was one of the first states to allow charter schools -- so-called because each has a governing document, or charter, that lays out educational goals. While they allow for innovative approaches not always possible in the mainstream educational system, charter schools have proven controversial -- some teach religion even though they receive public funds, while others have been set up by businesses as a scam to capture public funds.
At this point there is not a lot of oversight of charter schools at the county level. That will change under the new regulations, according to Susan Grinsell, assistant superintendent for business for the Humboldt County Office of Education.
"There are additional reporting requirements for financial information," said Grinsell. "Some of the charters will be conducting business a little differently."
Grinsell also suggested that a school like the Arcata campus of Big Lagoon could potentially petition for a charter directly from the county.
"This bill is a thoughtful solution," said Gary Larson, spokesman for California Network of Educational Charters, a lobbying and advocacy organization for charter schools, in a call from Sacramento. Larson's group had initially opposed the bill, pushing for less restrictive provisions on satellites and for a "grandfather" clause that would allow existing schools to operate under the old rules.
Ultimately, the group accepted a compromise bill, one without the grandfather clause. While the bill more closely regulates charter schools, it could also increase their availability.
"(The bill) allows the county offices of education and the state board of education to be primary authorizers of charter schools," said Larson. "It allows access to alternatives for communities whose school districts lack the capacity to oversee charter schools, and to communities that lie in districts that are hostile to the very notion of choice in public education."
by ANDREW EDWARDS
Kuma, a 10-week old black Australian shepherd-mix, was in a bad situation. The children in the house were allowed to kick and throw him around, and eventually inflicted a large wound on his side. When the family decided to move from Eureka, neighbors who had been aware of the abuse asked to take him -- even though they already had one dog and didn't have room for another. The next day they were walking the puppy, whose name means "little bear" in Japanese, when a neighbor, Gail Holder, saw them.
"I immediately walked up to them and said `What a beautiful dog, but what's wrong with his side?'"
Holder is founder and chief of K9 Angels, a group dedicated to helping dogs like Kuma who have been abused.
K9 Angels took Kuma in, patched him up, got him neutered and paid for his first exam and shots. The organization even attempted, with no success, to track down the litter he had come from. Eventually, he was adopted into a home in Eureka.
Their methods are direct and personal. "It's a revolutionary approach to the idea of animal control," Holder said.
Remember "neighborhood watch"? A program that presupposed that law enforcement can't be everywhere all the time and taught citizens to be alert? K9 Angels adopts a similar approach aimed at protecting canines.
While Holder started the group last February, the well-publicized cases of animal abuse and neglect in Eureka this spring and summer have added a sense or urgency.
"The animal community is community business," Holder said in a recent interview. "It's a huge public health and safety issue."
The idea is to empower individual community members to be an "angel" in their neighborhoods by looking after the welfare of animals and rallying neighbors to the cause.
"Rather than being a rescue organization (that actively seizes abused animals) we're trying to implement a concept of neighborhood networking, community-based animal control," Holder said.
For example, the group has raised money from the community for spay and neutering at veterinary clinics; discussed with neighbors methods for preventing dogs from getting loose (such as installing a running line or repairing a fence); and planned rummage sales to help pay for operations on injured pets. They have also run ads in papers to place puppies and met with applicants to determine their suitability. Generally, they try to handle situations like the one Kuma was in without having to involve over-worked and under-funded animal control authorities.
Their focus is twofold: making sure dogs are taken care of and ensuring they are not allowed to breed and add to the over-population problem.
Holder said that the idea has already taken off in Eureka with nearly 30 people acting as "angels." [See photo below]
The idea has also drawn wide support from the animal care community.
"I'm very much in support of community-based solutions like Gail is working on," said Kathleen Kistler, president of the Sequoia Humane Society. "It's going to take all of us to solve these problems."
Shannon Miranda of Miranda's Rescue in Fortuna agreed.
"I think it's a great idea," Miranda said. "We need more truly supportive rescue groups in the community."
Holder, who is a paralegal, set up a similar organization when she was going to school in Southern California last year.
Persons interested in becoming a K9 Angel or in getting information on how to deal with animal problems in their neighborhood can contact Holder at K9angels@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rumble of logging trucks and roar of chainsaws could still be heard this week, as Pacific Lumber Co. studiously ignored a court order that apparently tells the company to halt its logging operations.
"It's ridiculous," said Cynthia Elkins of the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center, which is contesting a state plan governing PL's logging for the next 100 years. "They're acting as if they have a choice in the matter. It's completely crazy. Judges don't like to be ignored."
Elkins said EPIC is planning to submit a motion to hold PL in contempt of court.
Meantime, Pacific Lumber Co. President Robert Manne, Robert Hight, director of the California Department of Fish and Game, and Ross D. Johnson, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, submitted a two-page statement to the court Tuesday arguing that the ongoing logging was perfectly legal.
Judge John Golden started the controversy when he issued a "stay" on the company's logging after the CDF failed to turn over several hundred pages of documents and lost several others.
Golden said that "no party to this proceeding shall take any action whose validity depends on the validity of any said approvals."
All of the logging that Pacific Lumber does in Humboldt County is based on those approvals, so it's crystal clear, in Elkins' mind at least, that PL is on the wrong side of the law.
The judge issued a clarification of his original order last Friday, stating, in effect, that when he said no he meant no. But he also exempted six pending timber harvest plans from his ruling, calling these "relief so as to allow real parties to complete their harvesting plans for the year 2002 and have a profitable year."
PL, which has argued that the stay applies to future timber harvest plans, not current operations, seized on that concession as evidence that its logging has been legal all along.
Thus Golden's "clarification," seen as a victory by environmentalists when it was issued, appears to have muddied the water even more.
As yet neither party has filed a motion to sort things out. Meanwhile, as of press time, logging continued in full swing -- at a rate of 200 logging trucks worth a day, according to an EPIC estimate.
Sometimes no news is not good news.
Humboldt County business leaders and now a gubernatorial candidate are waiting impatiently for a breakthrough in the legal battle between Caltrans and Pacific Bell over access fees for the utility giant's incomplete fiber optic project linking Eureka with Ukiah.
It looks like everyone will have to wait a while longer, probably until next year.
Lawyers for Pacific Bell and Caltrans met with U. S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney in San Francisco Friday, but nothing new came from the meeting. They did not discuss setting up an escrow account, an idea first touted by Chris Crawford of the local Redwood Technology Consortium, nor did they come any closer to solving the dispute.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon last week said Gov. Gray Davis should order Caltrans to issue the permits if Pacific Bell would agree to pay the fees -- estimated to be between $2 million and $3 million -- into an escrow account. Once the court case is resolved, the fees would either be given to Caltrans or returned to Pacific Bell.
The Friday meeting was strictly procedural, a case management conference where the lawyers set two dates to meet with the judge again. In February, they will gather for an informal meeting where the merits of the case will be discussed with a neutral observer. Another case management conference was set for March 14, and again it will not be a hearing where the judge will make a ruling.
That does not mean the two sides could not come to an agreement out of court. Pressure from area business and education leaders, who consider the fiber optic line critical, seems to be having some effect. This week SBC Pacific Bell, as the company is now called (SBC being the new parent organization), is sending the head of its public communications team to Humboldt County to explain the company's position with interest groups and the press.
Meantime, the Eureka Chamber of Commerce is asking local businesses to contact the organization to provide information about how the lack of a fiber optic system in Humboldt County has affected them.
"No one is recognizing that this region is being held hostage," said J Warren Hockaday, executive director of the chamber.
Representatives of Friends of the Eel River told the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the loss of water on the river is an ecological disaster that could make salmon extinct.
Pat Higgins, a fisheries biologist from Arcata, said the county is on the cusp of losing species along the Eel River.
"We are now at the end of this river if we don't (alter) our course. Pretty soon that river will be lost to fish."
The environmental group released a study predicting significant economic gains if water were restored to the river.
About 100 years ago, the Potter Valley Project began diverting up to 88 percent of the water on the upper Eel River to the Russian River basin. The diversion, aimed at providing Sonoma County with additional water, led to the collapse of fisheries along the Eel River. Aside from a lack of water, the main culprit was a dam that blocked access to 100 miles of spawning habitat in the headwaters.
Returning water to the Eel would restore salmon and steelhead runs, which were historically greater than 500,000 fish per year, according to the study. In comparison, estimates made in the late 1980s totaled roughly 31,000 fish. A survey taken this year and last found only 955 chinook, 311 steelhead and four coho.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is trying to sell off the Potter Valley Project because it is no longer economically viable. Friends of the Eel River wants the dam taken down. However, the project's license does not expire for 20 years and the Sonoma County Water Agency is applying for more water.
The report says the project's economic cost is $8 million annually: $5 million from losses to the fishery and $2 to $3 million that could be brought in from recreational rafting.
A labor dispute that has shut down 29 West Coast ports has spread to Humboldt County.
Longshoreman on Monday were supposed to load more than 6,000 tons of pulp from a Samoa warehouse onto the Bergen Arrow, a 600-foot cargo ship. But the 40 dockworkers on hand were unable to do the work because of a lockout ordered by the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and sea terminal operators.
The lockout will remain in effect, officials with the association say, until the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union agrees to extend a contract that expired July 1.
Although the lockout is targeted at the larger ports of Los Angeles and Oakland, a lengthy shut down could deliver a blow to Humboldt County's lethargic harbor industry.
The epic fish kill on the Klamath River last week seems to have died down. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, with the emergency water deliveries made to the river over the past week the rate of fish fatalities has dropped significantly.
It remains uncertain, however, what will happen once the increased flows authorized by the federal government end. The additional deliveries were only approved for two weeks.
The death toll in the fish kill, the largest in years, is estimated to be around 30,000 salmon.
Humboldt State University's Vice President of Academic Affairs, Charlotte Stokes, has resigned. She will leave at the end of this year after three years at the university.
According to a letter to faculty from HSU's President Rollin Richmond, Stokes asked to leave her position in order to take care of personal concerns. She will return to the faculty of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences next August.
Dean of Undergraduate Studies Richard Vrem will serve as the interim vice president until a new one is selected.
Richmond said that a national search for qualified applicants to fill the post would begin as soon as possible.
The Arcata City Council hopes to fill two vacancies on the Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission. The terms both expire in June 2006.
The seven-member commission reviews city contracts and investments for the purpose of seeking nuclear-free alternatives in order to guarantee compliance with the requirements of the Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Act. The commission also maintains a database of nuclear weapons contractors, advises the council on legislative or regulatory actions that may be needed, coordinates the observation of Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission Day every August and educates the public about nuclear weapons and weapons related waste.
For more information contact City Hall at 822-5953.
Residents of Ferndale will know on Nov. 12 whether the city's business license fee will double.
If voters approve, the fee will increase from $48 to $96. It will be the first business license fee hike since 1987.
The fee hike must be approved by more than 50 percent of Ferndale voters.
The increase did not make it onto the Nov. 5 general election ballot because city officials were unable to meet the deadline.
Steve Anderson, candidate for the 5th Ward for the Eureka City Council, has officially dropped out of the race, leaving Mike Jones the only candidate.
The seat is held by Cherie Arkley, who is running for mayor.
Anderson, 33, said joining the council would take too much time away from his job and family. Anderson is a manager at Costco and the father of a 4-year-old daughter.
Anderson's name will remain on the ballot. Should he win the council seat he would have to resign. Whoever is elected mayor in November would appoint Anderson's replacement subject to council approval.
Anderson is the third candidate to decide not to run for the 5th Ward. Joel Agnew and Lance Madsen both stated their desire to run for the council, but neither filed their nomination papers. Agnew instead opted to run for mayor, while Madsen withdrew entirely.
Fire restrictions on the Six Rivers National Forest for roads and trails north and west of Highway 199 have been lifted.
The restrictions, which included a ban on campfires, was put in place in August because of the Shelly Creek and Biscuit fires. The lifting of the restrictions only affects areas in California. Fire restrictions remain in effect on the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon.
Forest Service officials say hikers should exercise caution when using any of the Six Rivers National Forest's trails, as some are damaged or have debris on them. Additionally, there may be charred trees and stumps along trails and spots where logs and branches are still burning.
Forty-five elementary, middle school and high school teachers will be the beneficiaries of a $650,000 federal grant to help them get more training in American history.
The three-year program for fifth and eighth grade teachers, as well as 11th and 12th grade teachers, will be taught at Humboldt State University. The hope is to give teachers a better understanding of how to teach American history.
Upon completion of the program, teachers will receive 24 units of graduate history work.
For more information contact humboldtcountyhistory @hotmail.com
Fortuna has become one of the first communities in California to be placed under a "recycling diversion compliance order."
The state's Integrated Waste Management Act required cities to divert 50 percent of their waste from landfills by 2000. The law was amended in 2000 to give municipalities more time to meet the requirement, aimed at increasing recycling.
State officials will work with Fortuna officials to create a compliance schedule, detailing actions and a schedule that Fortuna must take to meet its diversion goal.
Cities that fail to meet their goals can be fined upwards of $10,000 a day.
Fortuna is hoping to meet its 2006 deadline for diverting 50 percent of its general wastes.
Gov. Gray Davis has signed into law a bill aimed in part at helping the North Coast's beleaguered groundfishing industry.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, will allow the state to participate in any federal groundfish vessel or permit buyback program.
A buyback program for groundfish is vital if there is going to be an economically sound fishery for rockfish and sole in the future, Strom-Martin said.
What if you held an election and not enough people ran? That's what Rio Dell voters are facing this November. Only two candidates are running for three City Council seats.
Mayor Jay Parrish and Councilwoman Julie Woodall are both seeking re-election. Councilman Rich Ghilarducci chose not to run.
To make sure the council gets a quorum, the vacancy will be filled by appointment. Several people have already submitted their names, and the applications will be accepted until Nov. 1.
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