North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

November 22, 2001

Budget crunch, education cuts - HSU, county schools hard hit; CR spared

Wild, wacky weather

HSU's lawsuit blues

County schools trustee sought

Runners at nationals

Battling against fear

Electric police car

Temporary manager

Budget crunch, education cuts

HSU, county schools hard hit; CR spared

Faced with plummeting revenues following the state's dramatic economic downturn, the state's budget is heading toward a deficit. Gov. Davis is proposing deep cut in expenditures in the middle of the budget year and one of the big losers is education.

All levels of education would be affected by the governor's plan, which calls for roughly 1 percent budget cuts. According to the proposal, Humboldt State University would lose $700,000 and Humboldt K-12 schools would have to trim $1.6 million.

"We're facing a real belt-tightening of a couple of notches across the campus," said Sean Kearns, spokesman for HSU. He said the cuts probably would result in "larger class sizes, hiring freezes and other aspects of the budget equation."

The impact will be even more severe for the county's elementary and high schools, said Louis Bucher, county superintendent of schools. Bucher said the schools are preparing to take "a pretty good hit."

"The problem with trying to take cuts this year is the district may have already spent money that the governor is now saying isn't there," Bucher said. "That will present a hardship for many schools. If they happen to have a savings account to draw from, it will be OK. But if they haven't, they'll have to take other measures."

That means it's a bad year for new textbooks, equipment and field trips. Teachers operate under contract, so most will enjoy basically the same working conditions until that contract expires. Custodial staff and instructional aides may have their hours reduced, however, Bucher said.

It also means that schools will lose money slated for energy-saving measures. "Each school site, even tiny schools like Maple Creek, was supposed to get $14,000." That money is now gone, he said.

The proposed cuts in the 2001-2002 fiscal year will require legislative approval. The Legislature is likely to be called back for a special session to deal with the budget crisis and that is the time to try and minimize the damage, Bucher said.

"We will be lobbying for those programs that are closest to the students and will impact the quality of their education," he said.

The prospect for next year's budget is even grimmer. Bucher said he has been told that schools should prepare for cuts of between 5 and 15 percent. Those numbers could potentially trigger the scaling back or even closure of some programs.

"At the moment, we're looking with greater optimism that that might not happen," he said.

One bright note in the budget gloom is the College of the Redwoods. Community colleges, including CR, were spared the governor's proposed budget cuts. Statewide, the community college system lost just $5 million, compared to $20 million for the California State University system and $843.5 million for elementary and high school education.

CR spokesperson Paul DeMark said community colleges had been spared because of the awareness raised by a campaign started when the governor tried to cut their budget earlier this year. CR lost about $340,000 during those cuts, but got almost a quarter of the money reinstated after heavy lobbying.

"Because of that campaign, the governor is aware of our funding needs," he said.

Wild, wacky weather

Early risers got a pleasant surprise Sunday morning when the thermometer took a freakishly quick jump.

At 5 a.m. the temperature at the National Weather Service's Woodley Island station was a cool 46 degrees. At 6 a.m., the mercury had climbed to 60 degrees.

What caused the coastal hot flash?

"Before we get a weather system on the North Coast, we get a south air flow bringing warm air up from the Bay area," said Jeff Tonkin, a meteorologist with the weather service. "It's not that abnormal."

By Monday the front of the storm had hit with winds knocking out power, downing trees and pushing vehicles around on slick streets.

HSU's lawsuit blues

A major portion of the city of Arcata's lawsuit against Humboldt State University over the school's proposed building plans was dismissed early this month by Judge J. Michael Brown. But he ruled that he will allow one aspect of the case to proceed.

And in an unrelated matter, three professors announced they are suing the university over discriminatory practices in the Native American Studies program.

Arcata's lawsuit is over proposed construction of a Behavioral and Social Sciences building, a five-story structure to be perched on a hilltop at the southwest edge of campus. Residents of the surrounding houses have registered an array of complaints about the plan, ranging from an increase in traffic to perceived damage to Arcata appearance.

The city's lawsuit, filed in response to neighbors' concerns, alleges that the environmental review for the building is out of date. The building originally had been planned for construction in the early 1990s, but a state budget crisis forced the university to delay the project. The environmental documents date back to 1993 and the city claims the university should redo the studies because the project has changed substantially and has a different funding source.

Brown ruled that the environmental studies were not automatically obsolete just because the university halted the project in early '90s while seeking new funding sources. But he also said that if the project itself had changed, new environmental studies would be required. That left the door open for the city to continue the lawsuit.

The project has changed, according to Arcata Mayor Connie Stewart.

"There have been changes to the height of the building. There are other buildings on campus that are now supposed to be demolished, and the building is now going to be used for a public purpose because of the Native American Studies Center there," she said.

An HSU spokesman said in a statement released Nov. 16 that the university is "confident it can demonstrate the project is materially the same as it has always been," and that it "looks forward to a resolution of the case." HSU is again seeking additional funding for the building. The bond funding that had been secured last year was insufficient to cover any of the bids received for the building's construction.

The Native American Studies program, to be housed in the proposed BSS building, is at the heart of the second lawsuit. Three HSU professors announced last week that they had filed a lawsuit against HSU alleging discrimination, retaliation and discrimination.

Joseph Giovanetti, Kathleen Hill and Joseph Dupris claim their superiors in the fledgling Native American Studies program have systematically mistreated them. Specific allegations include falsification of police reports, destruction of records and a failure to promote or rehire the faculty.

"They're trying to supplant us, and we're the only native faculty in the program," Dupris said.

A university declined to comment on the discrimination charges, saying it would be inappropriate to talk about personnel issues and pending litigation.

County schools trustee sought

The Humboldt County Office of Education announced last week it will select a County Board of Education trustee in December.

The board controls the education office's policy and budget and can resolve disputes at the school board level. The board is composed of seven individuals representing different areas of Humboldt County.

Olen Fowler's recent resignation has opened the seat representing Area 6, an area that includes Blue Lake, Fieldbrook and parts of Arcata. Individuals interested in serving on the board should submit resumés and cover letters to the county education office by Nov. 30.

Applicants must reside in Area 6. Call 445-7030 for more information.

Runners at nationals

The Humboldt State University women's cross-country team may not have won, but when you consider the competition, a 14th place finish is an honor.

The runners competed in the NCAA Division II National Championships in Slippery Rock, Pa. last weekend. Top finishers for the team were Dolores Bergmann and Rachel Wiseman, placing 51st and 57th, respectively.

The event marked the third time a women's sports team from HSU has made it to the national championships this year. Both the softball and women's rugby teams already traveled to their respective championships.

Battling against fear

Aiding in the search for a constructive response to terrorist violence are three community forums being presented by Humboldt State University.

The forums begin Nov. 28 with "Attacks, Anxiety and Anthrax," a look at what has been learned from Sept. 11 terrorists attacks and the aftermath and how that knowledge can be used to become more active in the home, school and workplace. Future topics include the geopolitics of Central Asia, the role of religion in terrorism and how our education is responding to the crisis.

The series is sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and HSU's College of Arts, Sciences and the Humanities. See this week's calendar for details or call 826-4788.

Electric police car

It may not be built for exciting car chases, but it will still work for hauling you down to the station.

Trinidad is going to become the first city in the state to use an electric patrol car. With a top speed of 25 miles per hour, the car can't go much faster than a bicycle policeman, but the car has a major advantage: The two-seat design allows the Trinidad police force to transport a suspect.

The car should arrive in December of this year. It is the latest in a series of developments at the tiny police department. Trinidad has a new chief, Floyd Stokes, and two new officers.

Temporary manager

The city of Rio Dell has selected an interim city manager to fill the position left vacant by Loretta Nickolaus when she became Humboldt County's new administrative officer.

Jim Stretch of Ferndale will begin as interim city manger Nov. 26. Stretch, who had served as Humboldt County's assistant administrative officer for 15 years, made it clear he does not plan on applying for the permanent position.

While the council is recruiting, Stretch will have his hands full. Rio Dell is in the process of replacing its water source, a pair of barely functioning wells, with a permanent water source from the Eel River.


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