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December 2, 1999


Ending 'social promotion'

Local dish owners still waiting

Services set for cabbie

Reward posted for poacher

Tax bills in the mail

Rambunctious rats rally

Q&A on Y2K

Ending `social promotion'

Some parents are receiving written warnings that their child is not performing up to grade level and might not advance to the next grade on schedule next year and some of them are not particularly happy about it.

The notices may be traced to the nationwide push for higher academic standards and a February 1998 presidential directive.

"Students are often passed from grade to grade regardless of whether they have mastered required material and are academically prepared to do the work at the next level," said President Clinton in a memo to the secretary of education.

"This practice is called `social promotion.' For many students, the ultimate consequence is that they fall further and further behind, and leave school ill equipped for college and lacking the skills needed for employment. This situation is unacceptable for students, teachers, employers, and taxpayers," he wrote.

In California, the result was Assembly Bill 1626, signed into law in September of last year, setting new guidelines.

Delaine Easton, state superintendent of public instruction, told school districts to begin basing promotion and retention policies on measurable results, such as the STAR tests, and minimum levels of proficiency adopted by the State Board of Education.

"Throughout the county many schools are going to be notifying parents about this time of year if a child doesn't seem to be quite up to their grade level standard," said Janet Frost, spokesperson for the Humboldt County Office of Education.

The legislation requires parents to be notified "early in the school year" if a student may be retained. Some schools may be sending out notices a little later, after the Christmas break, Frost said, but many have already began.

McKinleyville Union Elementary School District Superintendent Alan Jorgensen said that in his district the assessment was made using a combination of test scores, grades and input from the teachers.

"I believe there are districts in the state who are just using the STAR test," he said, "but many of the districts in Humboldt County don't want to rely just on a STAR test which really is not aligned to our curriculum or even to the standards of the state."

Jorgensen says that by letting parents know early in the year, students will have a chance to seek remedial assistance in time to bring themselves up to grade levels. Every effort will be made to avoid retention where it seems unwarranted. The thing that concerns him the most is the shift in who decides a child's fate.

"What the Legislature has really done whether we, the public, like it or not is say that the final decision on retention does not lie with what the parent may say. It lies with what the school says and that's the mandate of AB 1626."

Local dish owners still waiting

Satellite dish owners who have been waiting years for the chance to view local television news and weather will now have that opportunity thanks to a bill signed earlier this week by President Clinton but not in Humboldt County.

The Satellite Television Home Viewers Act makes it legal for satellite dish companies to deliver local television stations to local markets allowing them to compete on an equal footing with cable companies. The two largest signal delivery companies immediately began broadcasting local stations in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, according to James E. Scott, editor of Satellite TV Week in Fortuna, the new legislation will not affect local dish owners.

"There's a problem and that problem is available band width. The law does not require national satellite companies to deliver all local TV signals back to local markets. They will have to pick and choose," Scott said.

"Direct TV and Dish Network, the two competing small dish platforms, do not have enough space to deliver to all markets. Projections are with current technology, the best that small dish companies can do is provide the service in roughly 50 percent of the country.

"We are in the other 50 percent. Eureka is way way down the list."

There was a rider attached to the original bill that provided $1.25 billion in government guaranteed loans for companies who want to send up new satellites to service the smaller markets, however it was eliminated before passage. The Senate has promised to reconsider it by April of next year.

"There's no guarantee it's going to pass and even if it does, someone has to build and launch the satellites," Scott said.

Rural dish owners who lived so far from local station transmitters that they cannot receive a clear signal had been allowed to sign up for packages that brought them signals from the major networks. But local broadcasters successfully challenged the deals in court fearing the potential loss of viewers.

Some big dish owners will once again have the right to pick up "local" stations, but it's more likely that they will see weather reports and news from New York City or Atlanta than from Humboldt County.

Services set for cabbie

Randy Collenberg, 47, a local cab driver and popular columnist for the Arcata Eye and McKinleyville Press newspapers, died in a car accident Nov. 26 in Lassen County.

Also killed were Collenberg's wife, Dannette, 31, and the driver of the vehicle, Janice Bradbury, 57, the family's baby-sitter. Hospitalized and later released were the couple's three sons, David, 18, Zachary, 10 and Benjamin, 5.

According to a California Highway Patrol report, the van, which was not equipped with snow tires or chains, hit an icy patch on State Route 44 west of Susanville. Randy Collenberg and Bradbury were ejected from the vehicle. It has not yet been determined whether they were wearing seatbelts. The three boys were wearing seatbelts and so was Dannette Collenberg, however she was in the right front passenger seat and that side of the vehicle took the brunt of the crash.

Both newspapers published Collenberg's last column posthumously this week which included letters he had received from fans around the world. He had a popular website where he posted his columns, called "Cab. No. 10, The West Coast Cabbie," and a book by the same name that was due for release soon.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Arcata. Memorial contributions can be made to the Collenberg Boys' Trust Fund, c/o Coast Central Credit Union, 1551 Giuntoli Lane, Arcata 95521.

Reward posted for poacher

The illegal shooting death of a radio-tagged mountain lion in the Bald Hills has prompted a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the poacher. The California Department of Fish and Game pays informants through the CalTip program, however the National Park Service has offered the $1,000 reward.

Illegally killing a mountain lion that has been tagged does not carry a stiffer punishment, however the potential $10,800 fine plus up to a year in jail serves to deter poachers.

The 2-year-old male lion was part of a scientific project focusing on habits, territories and population of the animals in the Redwood National Park area. Eight lions have been tagged, studied and equipped with radio collars so far.

Anyone with information can call 464-6101, ext. 5050, or the CalTip program at (888) 334-2258.

Tax bills in the mail

Despite a minor Y2K delay, property tax bills will be delivered this week throughout Humboldt County. Due to the late mailing, the last day to pay has been extended to Dec. 30.

The county has converted from a mainframe computer system to a PC-server system, hopefully quelling any future delays.

People who purchased property after Aug. 1 should contact the former owners and request the tax bills from them, or they can obtain a copy of the bill from the Tax Collector's office. Failure to receive a tax bill does not excuse late fees, and it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to request a bill if not received.

Tax payers are urged to mail in their payments. The office is open weekdays 10-noon and 1-5 p.m. to accept payments.

Rambunctious Rats Rally

The Humboldt County Health Department is notifying area residents of an increasing rat population brought on by pleasant autumnal weather and the abundance of natural food sources. However, with the approach of winter rains and the reduction in food sources, the rats are looking for alternative, indoor accommodations.

The Health Department is offering tips to prevent the roaming rats from finding food and shelter in your home or lot:

1. Remove or trim excessive brush so that ornamental shrubbery is at least 18 inches off the ground.

2. Organize lumber and wood piles, elevating 18 inches.

3. Building foundation vents should be screened with 1/4 inch mesh or smaller.

4. Haul junk/debris to an approved dump site.

5. Don't leave pet food out.

6. Remove fallen fruit or unharvested vegetables.

7. Install rat guards on bird feeders.

8. Rodent proof your garbage cans with lids.

If you have any questions, please contact the Humboldt County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health at 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241.

Q&A on Y2K

QUESTION: Will my tax refund check be delayed by the millennium bug?

ANSWER: No. The IRS has modified its computer system so it will not mistake the year 2000 for 1900, and IRS officials anticipate no serious disruptions in service, the Associated Press reported. IRS spokesman Paul Cosgrave spoke at a joint House hearing with other federal government bureaus to assure Congress there would be no major delays to American taxpayers seeking refunds.

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