North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

February 8, 2001

Accountability $$ -- for some

Former supervisor to sign book

School exit exam delay

Pepper spray case to trial?

Freshwater plan approved

Marriage equality protest

Strom-Martin in 2006?

Art from Pelican Bay

Accountability $$ -- for some

School accountability is finally paying off. The Governor's Performance Awards were announced two weeks ago by the California Department of Education. Twenty-six Humboldt County schools met Academic Performance Index (API) targets and will receive a total of $577,725. That's the good news.

The bad news is the amount is well below what was anticipated and some schools got nothing.

Gov. Gray Davis had previously announced schools would receive about $150 per student. But since 67 percent of California schools met their performance targets, the award pie had to be cut into $63 per-student slices.

API growth targets are based on scores for the statewide STAR test. While students in all 81 county schools took the STAR test, the CDE did not calculate APIs for continuation schools, alternative schools or schools where fewer than 100 pupils had valid scores.

Jefferson School in Eureka did not fall into any of those categories, still the school did not receive a performance award.

"The school met its growth target," explained Eureka City Schools Assistant Superintendent Bob Munther. "But -- after the fact -- the state changed the regulation. They set a 15 percent limit on parent exemptions."

Parents are allowed to exempt students from taking the STAR test. Some objected to the state requirement that limited English-proficient students had to take the test.

"They didn't think that was fair," Munther said.

For 25 percent of Jefferson's students, English is their second language. While it was not necessarily the same kids, 25 percent of the students declined take the STAR test using parental waivers.

In January the state set a 15-percent limit on exemptions. Schools with more than 15 percent of the students opting out on STAR testing had their scores invalidated.

According to Pat McCabe, a state education department official, out of 7,000 California schools that received API ratings, 70 had their scores invalidated by the 15 percent rule.

"I'm sure that each of those schools feels like they're getting screwed," he said in a phone interview from Sacramento. "We have to protect the integrity of the program."

Having a score invalidated deals a double blow. In addition to missing out on money this cycle, the school will be ineligible next year since growth targets are based on scores from the previous year.

The Eureka City Schools School Board held a public hearing Feb. 7 to discuss filing for a waiver of the 15 percent rule. But according to McCabe, it's unlikely that one will be granted.

"It doesn't seem reasonable that the state board would waive their own rules," he said.

How much did your school get from the Governor's Performance Awards?

Alice Birney, $21,402; Bloomfield, $15,640; Cutten, $17,096; Dow's Prairie, $29,950; Ferndale Elementary, $23,302; Fortuna Elementary, $20,895; Grant, $15,007; Hydesville, $10,194; Lafayette, $22,858; Lincoln, $15,767; Marshall, $20,832; McKinleyville Middle School, $30,393; Morris, $27,037; Pacific Union, $37,232; Pine Hill, $19,629; Redway, $22,225; South Bay, $15,197; South Fork High, $21,845; South Fortuna $26,467; Stanwood Murphy, $21,592; Sunny Brae Middle, $20,325; Sunset, $18,553; Toddy Thomas, $18,679; Washington, $23,302; Winship Junior High, $27,987; Zane Junior High, $34,319.

This week's test question? Calculate the amount of money Humboldt County schools would have received had the governor carried through with his $150 plan. Show your work.

Former supervisor to sign book

[book cover]Sara Mitchell Parsons, who served as 3rd District supervisor for Humboldt County from 1977-1984, will visit the North Coast for a book-signing event at the Humboldt County Library Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 5-7 p.m. and at the Arcata Library Feb. 14, from 1-3 p.m.

She will discuss her career as an activist on the Atlanta School Board during the tumultuous 1960s and sign copies of "From Southern Wrongs to Civil Rights, the Memoir of a White Civil Rights Activist."

Parsons, a white upper-class suburban housewife, was elected to the Atlanta Board of Education in 1961 and became one of the South's first white elected officials who openly advocated racial equality.

The Parsons memoir chronicles "her own evolution as a political freethinker and incipient feminist who no longer acquiesced to her husband's old-fashioned presumption of wifely subservience," writes David J. Garrow in a forward to the book. (The couple later divorced.)

In addition to publicly denouncing the school system's second-class treatment of all-black schools, Parsons was critical of white racial practices in Atlanta's churches and the money spent on high school football. By the mid-1960s Parsons turned her attention to the antipoverty movement.

Parsons' 1968 decision to marry Tom Parsons, a Humboldt State University professor, brought her to Humboldt County where she continued her social activism with the League of Women Voters and other community groups. She served one term as a supervisor and in 1986, returned after 18 years to Atlanta.

School exit exam delay

Implementation of the state's controversial high school exit exam may be delayed one year.

Last week the Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to support the delay, which is backed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin but not Gov. Gray Davis.

If the measure passes and is signed by the governor, the class of 2004 -- this year's high school freshmen -- will be off the hook, although they may still serve as guinea pigs as educators fine tune the test.

Those students sitting in 9th grade classes today, the class of 2005, will likely be the first affected by the test of mathematics, English and language arts proficiency.

Nancy Frost, administrative assistant to Humboldt County Superintendent Louis Bucher, said the delay is due to problems with the test and state officials fear lawsuits unless changes are made.

"They need to set adequate criteria for testing and cut levels (pass/fail)," Frost said. "What I am hearing is that the test may be overly difficult."

Davis, who has promoted the exam as a key component of his educational reform, believes the delay is premature and there is still time to prepare the class of 2004, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.

Pepper spray case to trial?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal last week unanimously declined to hear an appeal by Humboldt County and the city of Eureka and let stand an earlier ruling by three of its judges sending the pepper spray case back to trial.

The lawsuit was filed by Earth First activists whose eyelids were swabbed with liquid pepper spray during three demonstrations in 1997.

During the 1998 civil trial, charges against Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis and Chief Deputy Gary Philp were dismissed by District Court Judge Vaughn Walker. The trial against the city and county ended in a hung jury and was headed for retrial when Walker dismissed the entire case, ruling no reasonable juror would conclude that deputies used excessive force.

Walker was overturned and the unanimous Appeal Court panel of three ordered a new trial. The panel also ruled that Walker erred in dismissing Lewis and Philp as defendants.

The county and city have the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, returning to Walker's court for a new hearing or settling with the plaintiffs. In 1998 the plaintiffs offered to drop claims for monetary damages if the Sheriff's Department would admit wrongdoing and ban the manual application of pepper spray used in the 1997 incidents.

Freshwater plan approved

The Freshwater moratorium, a temporary halt to logging by Pacific Lumber Co. in the Freshwater watershed imposed by the California Department of Forestry in January 1999, came to an end last week as CDF declared it had received enough of the required watershed analysis to approve a timber harvest plan.

THP 1-00-253 HUM, approved Feb. 1, proposes to cut some 83 acres of land in the watershed. It has caused a stir among Freshwater residents and logging protesters because of what some perceive as a broken promise on CDF's part. In a letter dated Jan. 21, 1999, CDF informed PL that it would not allow any logging in that watershed until a Phase II Watershed Analysis, an in-depth study of the sources of environmental damage and how the company will avoid it, is completed.

That letter is now moot, said Dean Lucke, CDF assistant deputy director for forest practice. Lucke, who signed the letter, maintained that the requirements of PL's Habitat Conservation Plan and information submitted by PL make a Watershed Analysis less important.

PL spokesperson Mary Bullwinkel said that the "pertinent parts" of the analysis have been completed and made public and the remaining parts will follow within a week anyway. Concentrating on the analysis misses the point, she said, because the company's conservation plan requires the company to fix situations in the watershed, actually speeding the area's recovery.

"We came to the conclusion that letting this plan go before the analysis was done would not be of significant impact," Lucke said.

Residents of Freshwater watershed have not reached the same conclusion. Al Cook, spokesman for the Freshwater Working Group, said that increased logging by PL over the last 10 years has caused sediment to collect in the stream and increased flooding -- all with CDF approval.

"CDF is taking the tack that this is going to be neutral for the watershed, but they have been taking that tack for years and it has gotten us into the mess we're in," Cook said.

"It's pretty clearly illegal," said Paul Mason, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville. Mason said the plan's problem was not the watershed analysis, although that "played in as part of the overall context." The specific problem for CDF and PL was going to be the unwillingness of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to support approval.

Under the new set of Forest Practice Rules adopted last summer, Mason said, timber harvest plans are required to comply with water quality standards, and the water quality board has sent two letters stating it does not believe this plan does that.

"Somebody's going to sue on this plan," he said. PL has agreed not to harvest any trees until after a preliminary injunction hearing has occurred.

Marriage equality protest

Leah Adams is in love and wants to get married. The Humboldt State University senior met her fiancé in botany class and their friendship blossomed. That was more than a year ago and Adams said this love is "the most amazing experience of my life."

So what's the problem?

"Well, it would have been nice if it had been a man because I wouldn't have had to organize a protest," she said.

Adams and her partner, Natalee Webb, are planning a Valentine's Day protest against the current prohibition on same-sex marriages. They and other supporters of gay rights will stand in line at the county marriage license counter in Eureka from 1 to 2 p.m. and ask for their licenses.

It's part of a statewide protest being organized by the group Marriage Equality.

"We're not planning on being confrontational," she said, "just standing in line like everyone else. When we get denied we'll get back in line. I'm just trying to make a point. Maybe people will talk about it over dinner."

Strom-Martin in 2006?

Virginia Strom-Martin, 1st District assemblymember, is making some long-range plans.

The Santa Rosa resident and five-year assemblymember has formed a campaign to raise funds for the 2006 2nd District Senate race. That seat held by Wesley Chesbro will be vacated when he is forced out of office by term limits, assuming he is re-elected in 2004.

Strom-Martin will leave office herself in next year due to term limits. Robin Boyer Stewart, Strom-Martin's chief of staff, said that she is considering taking over the helm of an educational or environmental institute in the interim.

In other news, Strom-Martin has been appointed chair of both the Assembly Education Committee and the Women's Legislative Caucus.

Her education agenda focuses on the needs of those students and schools who are worst served by the education system. The agenda focuses on the needs of low-achieving students, attracting quality teachers, early childhood education, accountability and assessment programs, and promoting vocational training.

The goal of the plan is to help those who need it most. Strom-Martin said in a phone interview from Sacramento that the worst-performing schools in the state have not been able to improve for several reasons, chief among them teaching staff.

"The students' opportunity to learn is diminished because of lower qualified teachers. Troubled schools have the highest percentage of teachers with emergency credentials and credential waivers, for instance. I've visited some, and they need help," she said.

The Women's Caucus may help her shepherd those things that "really work" through the Legislature. About a quarter of legislators are female and members of the caucus, and they carry significant clout. Last year they were able to force passage of a child-care package by threatening to withhold their votes from the governor's budget. Plans for this year include a focus on the issues surrounding women in prison.

Art from Pelican Bay

[art by Pelican Bay prisoner]"We get this stereotype of prisoners: They're violent, they're monsters, there's nothing redeemable about them. It is important for us as a society to remember that the people we've locked up and dehumanized are in fact people," said Rahula Janowski of Bar None, an Arcata-based prisoner support and prison abolition group.

To further the consciousness of prisoners as people, Bar None has decorated the walls of Muddy Waters coffeeshop in Arcata with art by prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison.

Sascha Marini came up with the idea when Bar None the was formed in 1999.

"We get prisoners from all over to submit writings, artwork, poetry, political writings -- a wide range of stuff," Marini said. They decided to focus on visual art because it was the most tangible.

Marini said it's especially important for people in this area to be conscious of prisoners because we live in the vicinity of the largest "supermax" in the state, a maximum security prison designed to contain the most dangerous members of society.

Within Pelican Bay, in Crescent City, is a separate, smaller prison called the Secure Housing Unit that holds what correctional officials term "the worst of the worst" -- those who have been found to be violent or gang-affiliated once they are sent to prison.

Those labels are misleading, Janowski said, but it is on these people that the show focuses, hence the title: "The Human Face of the Worst of the Worst."

Some of the drawings -- all completed with just a ball-point pen without its plastic casing -- show anger or frustration at prison life. But many show cultural heritage and identity, such as an African king or a Mayan temple, and other images, including animals and women.

-- News reported by Bob Doran, Arno Holschuh, Judy Hodsgson


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