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July 27, 2000


Credential suspension?

Council reverses reversal

Health center 'not viable'

Theater in escrow

Credential suspension?

David Hochman, superintendent of Fortuna Union Elementary School District, may have his teaching credential suspended for 30 days following disciplinary action taken last week in Sacramento by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

"How rare is such an action? In 1998-99 we had in excess of 300,000 employed credential holders in California -- principals, teachers, nurses and librarians. Of the 300,000, less than 300 (had disciplinary action taken against them)," said Barbara J. Moore, staff counsel for the commission, in a telephone interview.

"Although one case is too many, that percentage is testimony to how clean the teaching profession is," she added.

Hochman said Tuesday he had not seen the letter recommending suspension and he may appeal. He has 30 days from the date of the letter mailed last week to file an appeal in Superior Court. If no appeal is filed, the 30-day suspension goes into effect during which time Hochman may not perform duties and may not receive pay.

"Of course I'm disappointed that the commission would take such action," he said, and declined further comment.

The action stems from his tenure as principal and later superintendent of Sunny Brae Middle School in Arcata, especially the years 1989-92. According to testimony in the 1998-99 trial of teacher Michael Shaddix, who spent most of last year in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of felony child abuse, Hochman was informed by two parents and three teachers of their suspicions regarding improper behavior on the part of Shaddix toward two female students, who were 11 to 13 at the time. (Hochman denied in a 1998 interview any awareness of allegations until the girls were in high school.) Hochman's failure to investigate or take action was the basis for the complaint filed with the commission.

During the sentencing of Shaddix last year, Judge Dale Reinholtsen was particularly critical of the school administration. "It was incredible that the administration did not ask questions," Reinholtsen said. "The administration looked the other way. Even when Mrs. Shaddix called the mother (of one of the victims) to tell her to `keep your daughter away,' the result was for the administration to call a meeting with Michael and Michelle Shaddix. The subject was to criticize Mrs. Shaddix for making the call," not to investigate allegations.

County Schools Superintendent Louis Bucher, who was notified Monday, said he could recall only one other instance of a credential being suspended in a disciplinary action during his tenure.

Council reverses reversal

Will Eurekans get a chance to vote on the Balloon Tract -- or not? That question is still unanswered following last week's Eureka City Council session.

The council voted to table a motion that would have placed the advisory initiative on the November ballot, in essence, reversing an earlier vote. But still in effect is the council's order to its staff to proceed with the purchase of the property, leaving more than a few citizens confused.

"I know it's confusing. a way we did reverse ourselves," said Council member Maxine Hunter-Meeks. At the meeting two weeks earlier the council voted to accept a donation of $2 million, plus up to $1 million for clean-up costs, from Council member Cherie Arkley and her husband, Rob Arkley, to purchase a 30-acre parcel at the elbow of Highway 101 from the current owner, Union Pacific. The property was the center of a controversy last year when the retail giant, Wal-Mart, attempted -- and failed -- to locate a store there.

But the council also voted to place an advisory initiative on the November ballot, which is unusual for a land-use issue. It was that vote that was tabled last week leaving the measure in limbo.

"I got home and decided, well, we already voted to accept it, why do we need a vote?" Hunter-Meeks said Tuesday. "So when Jim Gupton made a motion to table it, I thought, why not?" (Council member Jack McKellar also voted aye.)

Connie Miller, who, along with Gupton, is running for re-election, said this week she will try again to get the ballot measure revived. "What I am hearing is that people want it on the ballot," Miller said. Hunter-Meeks said she wouldn't mind going forward with the vote but didn't see the need.

"We certainly appreciate the Arkleys' gift, for heaven's sake, but we already voted. It's like doing things twice," said Hunter-Meeks. "But if it comes up again, I'm not against it."

What Hunter-Meeks does want to see, however, are more details about the total cost of the project. She specifically mentioned the cost of maintaining the portion of the property that may become a public park. Environmental cleanup of the land is estimated to be $600,000, well under the $1 million available from the Arkleys.

Gupton, who made the motion to table the public vote, was unavailable for comment. He said during the council session he had lingering concerns with the legality of the proposed transaction and an attorney had advised him regarding potential problems. He declined to publicly name the attorney.

Health center `not viable'

St. Joseph Health System is cutting ties with several Humboldt County physician groups. Eureka Family Practice, which serves 15,000 clients, has already terminated its contract and resumed ownership. Arcata Family Health Center will not fare as well. The clinic's 12,000 patients will soon have to find somewhere else to go.   [data has been corrected]

"Like many hospitals and health care systems across the nation, St. Joseph Health System is restructuring the medical practices it owns and operates in order to focus on providing hospital services in this health care environment of ever-increasing regulations and budgetary constraints," said St. Joseph Hospital officials in a press release issued this week.

Hospital officials confirmed they are in negotiation to end the contractual relationship with the Arcata Family Health Center physicians.

"Both SJH and AFHC agree that the clinic is not financially viable as it is currently structured and the AFHC physicians have decided it is not feasible to continue practicing together as a medical group," said Mike Purvis, president and CEO of SJHS-Humboldt County.

The physicians -- Bruce Kessler, Peggy Grossman, Joseph Carroll, Leslie Foote, Michael Willet -- are individually making plans to continue their practices in this area.

"More information will be available when negotiations have been completed and patients will be notified at the earliest possible date. Everyone involved is committed to the continuity of patient care and making the change as smooth as possible," said Purvis.

Five physician groups entered into partnership with SJHS at different times and each contract will expire at a different time, according to Dr. Eric Leiberman of the Center for Women's Health Care. CWHC's contract with SJHS does not expire for another 16 months.

"We have been notified by the hospital that they would like to divest themselves of us, but they do have a contract and no plans have been made," he said.

St. Joseph's contract with Health Care Medical Associates, with offices in Eureka and McKinleyville, expires Aug. 1.

"We have reached agreement on the major deal points," said Purvis. The result should be similar to what happened with EFP -- transitioning ownership of the clinic back to the control of the physicians.

"My expectation is that they will continue to practice as a group," Purvis said. "It restores clinic operations to physician direction and control. I think time has demonstrated that that works better than having hospitals trying to own physician practices."

Leiberman said that the results of divestment will not be favorable for anyone concerned.

"There will be less accessibility to care. Basically there has been a war between the hospitals, and one that has not benefited either the public or the hospitals. We have hospitals competing for services. For example we now have two obstetrical units in Eureka (and) we have one cardiac service in Arcata and another in Eureka.

"The motivation for the hospital's purchase of the clinics was to provide a health plan that would give the public more options and to give some options to the indigent population who often had no options. This was supposed to be a partial answer, but obviously it is not going to be an answer. The problems that were there (when we entered into the agreement) are still here, except now they are probably worse because no other constructive action has been taken.

"The basic trend you will find throughout the area is toward more mid-level practitioners and less physicians. The bottom line is that it will be harder for physicians in this community to remain economically viable and it is going to be much harder for patients to see a doctor."

Theater in escrow

The campaign to save the Eureka Theater is one step closer to its goal, but it still has a long way to go.

In April the Journal reported that Eureka businessman Rob Arkley was in negotiation with George Mann II, the theater's owner. The property is now in escrow for an agreed purchase price of $325,000, with $45,000 down and a three-year note.

Arkley said his intent was to buy the theater and turn it over to the Humboldt Arts Council as a gift, but according to Debbie Goodwin, HAC executive director, it is a gift the HAC is not in a position to accept.

"We think it's a great idea and will fill a community need, but the Arts Council's board of directors, being very responsible, said, `We need to finish what we started here.'"

The HAC has completed restoration of the historic Carnegie Library building -- the Morris Graves Museum of Art opened at the beginning of the year -- but they are still in the midst of raising $2 million for maintenance and operations.

Fundraiser Sally Arnot sits on the board of both the Humboldt Arts Council and the newly formed non-profit, Eureka Concert and Film Center. She has been offering "advice and counsel" to the theater committee, her first priority is the HAC and she has declined to head up the theater fund drive.

Arnot said architect John Ash has looked at the building and is preparing an estimate. Her "ballpark guess" is that the project will cost more than $1 million.

According to the Eureka Center for Film and Concerts' mission statement, the plan is to restore the 1,700-seat facility "for symphony and chamber music, ballet, touring concert performances, theater, classic films, web casts and other educational endeavors. The center will provide an atmosphere to develop talent, celebrate diversity and creativity and will provide a venue for public performances for generations to come."

Those who would like to see what the theater looks like inside will have an opportunity Aug. 5, during Arts Alive! The Eureka Concert and Film Center will show a video in the theater lobby on the proposed restoration.



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