Education

Friday, December 8, 2017

UPDATE: Draft Interdistrict Transfer Policy Set to Go Before School Boards

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 3:23 PM

A draft policy on open enrollment is set to go before local school boards next week. - THINKSTOCK
  • THINKSTOCK
  • A draft policy on open enrollment is set to go before local school boards next week.
Editor’s note: This story was updated from a version posted this morning to include additional information and text of the draft proposal.

Humboldt County’s long-standing tradition of allowing parents to choose where their children go to school will likely see some changes next year under a tentative agreement reached by area superintendents this week.

Office of Education Superintendent Chris Hartley said the draft set to go before most — if not all — the county’s school boards next week “embraces the concept of open enrollment” but includes the addition of strict timelines parents would need to meet to register in schools located outside their home districts.

While the process is currently open all year, under the draft agreement reached Dec. 6 parents or guardians would need to make a transfer request during an “enrollment window” of Dec. 1 to Feb. 1.

(For the 2018-19 school year, the last day to apply will be Sept. 1.)

The home district would then have up to 10 days after the Feb. 1 deadline to approve or deny requests and forward any approvals on to the district of choice, which has until mid-February to accept transfers.

But there is a caveat in the draft agreement that allows home districts to deny a request if a parent or guardian “does not participate in a DOR Reasonable Enrollment Information Activities, absent good cause.”

Those reasonable activities include: “a discussion with school administration/designee, orientation meeting, site visitation, or informational literature.”

Parents can appeal a denial to the county Board of Education.

The basic idea, Hartley said on Thursday, is to strike a balance between preserving school choice and giving districts the ability to better plan for staffing and other needs by knowing how many students to expect in their classrooms.

For example, state education code requires districts to notify employees about potential staff reductions in March, a decision that depends heavily on how many kids are expected to walk through the doors the following year.

“Folks are trying to use some common sense here with this thing and make it accessible to parents who are looking to utilize an interdistrict transfer,” Hartley said, emphasizing the specifics were still be worked out.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

NoHum School Board Censures Trustee Amid Resignation Calls

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Arcata High School - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Arcata High School
Four members of the Northern Humboldt Union School board voted to publicly reprimand fellow trustee Jennifer Knight last night, saying her unacceptable behavior over the last two years left them with no other choice.

Board President Colleen Toste told Knight that if she had violated one board policy or bylaw here or there perhaps that could be apologized away, but she has instead continued a pattern of unbecoming conduct despite interventions from other trustees, administrators and staff.

“I can’t allow our district to continue this way,” Toste said.


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Monday, November 13, 2017

NoHum Trustee Faces Censure Over Conduct

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Arcata High School - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Arcata High School
He’s a popular Arcata High basketball coach lauded for setting high standards on and off the court. She’s a social worker and mother of four who volunteered to serve on a Northern Humboldt Union High School District athletic committee. Both became the target of a single trustee who questioned whether they were qualified for those roles during a school board meeting last month.

The reasons appear to circle back to a complaint filed by Trustee Jennifer Knight’s sister after her son failed to make the Arcata High School varsity basketball team last year.

Now Knight is facing a formal reprimand by her fellow board members for what a five-page resolution of censure describes — at times in detail — as an extensive pattern of unacceptable conduct, which includes being disrespectful to parents and staff and using her position to push her sister’s grievance.

Knight canceled a scheduled interview with the Journal last week, noting she believed it was “best to first engage with the Board resolution process,” adding later via email that she was looking to move forward and continue her work with the district.

“In my effort to provide a safe place for all to be heard, I regret that I may have inadvertently gotten overheated and my demeanor was not deemed appropriate,” said Knight, a student development advisor at College of the Redwoods, before the board agenda came out.

Meanwhile, the district is taking rumors of a recall effort seriously enough that staff asked the elections office for a cost estimate, which came back at $7,500 to $9,000 if it was held in conjunction with the June primary.

Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders said no recall paperwork had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

According to the resolution, Knight is said to have violated 10 board bylaws and policies that require trustees to act in an ethical manner, make decisions in the best interest of the district and the public and to abstain from voting when a conflict of interest arises.

The resolution states that the board “wishes to condemn Ms. Knight’s actions in the strongest possible terms available to it as a governing body” and specifically directs Knight “to abstain from voting on any and all matters which pertain to her personal or familial interests, including matters which relate to her sister’s complaint filed in December 2016, and to conduct herself in a manner becoming a representative of this community.”

While the issue has reportedly been ongoing for about two years, Knight’s conduct came to a head Oct. 10, when she attempted to block the reappointment of popular Arcata High varsity basketball Coach Ryan Bisio as well as JV Coach Graham Johnson by pulling their names from a routine list of hires.

Knight then stunned the room by publicly excoriating parent volunteer Carolyn Perkins at length, calling her “unfit” to serve on a school committee, distributing as “evidence” a nearly year-old personal email from Perkins that Knight somehow obtained that references concerns about her sister’s complaint.

“I hope you never have to experience something comparable in your life, because it was wretched,” Perkins told the board that night in an emotional statement.

She was later appointed to the committee after a second vote because the board failed to take public comment amid the confusion.

Superintendent Roger MacDonald also had some strong words at the meeting, saying he was “concerned about what’s going to happen tomorrow after we have disparaged people in the community that have chosen to come forward and support our schools.” He also noted Perkins and a fellow parent whose appointment’s Knight tried to block were the first to volunteer for the athletics board in six years.

In fact, the athletics committee almost failed to materialize after two trustees — Brian Lovell and Dana Silvernale — abstained with Knight dissenting on the first vote until the point was raised that the board had failed to follow policy and conducted a second round.

Both coaches were also later approved after a special meeting on Oct. 16, when dozens of speakers lined up to support them amid calls for Knight’s resignation or for the board to at least gain a grip on her behavior.

Trustee Brian Gerving, who brought the discussion of a censure to his fellow board members at the Oct. 16 meeting, said he has concerns about what the coaches were put through, regardless of how the situation turned out.

He said Knight’s actions are not only eroding public trust in the district and the board, but set a bad example for students and staff, noting other incidents have “bubbled up over time” involving her and the Arcata basketball program.

“This was definitely the most egregious case,” Gerving said.

In a later interview, MacDonald added that “this is not a surprise and did not come out of the blue," noting that he, past superintendents and other board members have all tried to intervene with Knight without success.

“It’s a distraction from educating our kids,” the superintendent said. “It causes our staff members to wonder. It’s been said, ‘Who’s next?’ I’ve heard that from teachers, from coaches. I’ve heard that from administrators, ‘Who’s next? Who’s going to be the next person there a perceived problem with.’”

The 6 p.m. board meeting takes place Tuesday at the McKinleyville High School library, 1300 Murray Road.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stanford Project Looking For Humboldt Voices

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:42 AM

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • wikimedia commons
Across the vast swaths of California, there are different tells — certain turns of phrase or inflections used in everyday conversation — that can reveal quite a bit about where a person was raised.

From the, like totally, stereotypical rising lilt of Valley Girl speak (along with the gratuitous use of the word “like”) to the reference style many in this far-flung corner of the Golden State embrace — using simply “101” in describing our local highway — the way we talk can speak volumes.

Interspersed with those linguistic influences, the places we grow up help shape the lens through which we see the world.

Arriving this week to explore those facets of Humboldt County are a group of researchers from Stanford University. In town until Sept. 21, they want to hear what lifelong Humboldt County residents have to say about their community and the rest of California — as well as how they say it.


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Sunday, August 27, 2017

TL;DR: Why You Need to Join the Conversation in This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Aug 27, 2017 at 10:27 AM

ILLUSTRATION BY ERIC MUELLER
  • Illustration by Eric Mueller
Busy week? We get it. So in the event that you haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and dive into last week’s cover package, here’s a brief primer to get you caught up and, hopefully, convince you to take a look at the full story.

When Humboldt State University students left campus last spring, a cloud hung over Arcata. It still does. The April 15 stabbing death of HSU sophomore David Josiah Lawson at an off-campus party remains unsolved and many of the feelings unveiled in the aftermath of the killing remain unresolved. Lawson's death — and the protests, vigils and demonstrations that followed — brought into painful focus that racial tensions are very much a part of life in Humboldt County, on campus and off. The 19-year-old's death also started conversations about how to make our community more inclusive and equitable, and how to ensure that students who come here looking for an education are welcomed, supported and safe. In an effort to continue those conversations, we reached out to some community leaders and asked them to weigh in. You'll find their responses printed below, in their entirety. But we'd also like to hear from you. So, please, join the conversation online at www.northcoastjournal.com or send us an email, letters@northcoastjournal.com.

Here’s a glimpse at what five people had to say:

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cutten to Pay ECS $260K Over Interdistrict Fracas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 2:35 PM

districtoffice1.jpg
The Cutten School District has agreed to pay Eureka City Schools $260,000 to avoid a potential lawsuit over failing to report all interdistrict transfers for several years, according to a settlement announced by ECS today.

An estimated 25 percent of Cutten students — and 74 percent of that district’s interdistrict transfers — come from ECS, which is supposed to be notified.

“I am pleased they recognized the situation as serious and worked with us to allow the continuous placement of students already attending a Cutten school,” ECS Superintendent Fred Van Vleck says in the release.


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Friday, June 9, 2017

HSU Axes Pepsi Contract

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 5:00 PM

The athletics department gets about $58,000 in sponsorship funds from HSU's contract with PepsiCo, which give the multi-billion-dollar company "pouring rights" on campus.
  • The athletics department gets about $58,000 in sponsorship funds from HSU's contract with PepsiCo, which give the multi-billion-dollar company "pouring rights" on campus.

Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher has decided to sever the school’s ties with PepsiCo after some students came forward opposing its ongoing 40-year relationship with the multi-billion-dollar company.

Under the contract, PepsiCo gave HSU about $58,000 in sponsorship funds for athletic scholarships and scoreboard maintenance in exchange for “pouring rights” guaranteeing Pepsi 80 percent of on-campus food and beverage retail space. With the five-year contract slated to expire June 30 and up for renewal, students urged administrators end the school’s relationship with the soft drink giant — which owns a host of multi-billion-dollar subsidiaries, including Quaker, Cheetos, Doritos, Gatorade and Tropicana.

Specifically, students argued that partnering with PepsiCo wasn’t in line with the school’s stated commitment to promoting social and environmental justice. Additionally, they said the contract denies local businesses the opportunity to sell their products on campus.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tensions Escalate During Saturday Protest in Arcata

Posted By on Sun, May 7, 2017 at 3:04 PM

For the second consecutive day, protesters descended on the Arcata Plaza on Saturday to demand justice in the killing of David Josiah Lawson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • For the second consecutive day, protesters descended on the Arcata Plaza on Saturday to demand justice in the killing of David Josiah Lawson.

Arcata has been quiet today after protesters' chants echoed through the city's streets for two consecutive days, demanding justice for slain Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson.

More than 100 people descended on the Arcata Plaza yesterday, where they chanted and waved signs before moving on to the Union Town Shopping Center. At the shopping center, which houses Safeway and CVS, the protesters blocked the entrances and exits, refusing to let cars pass unless they first agreed to call the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request further investigation into Lawson's killing.

The protest — which came after more than 100 students and community members marched through the streets Friday night — turned tense at times, when some motorists took exception to not being allowed to leave or enter the parking lot. Ultimately, Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said protesters remained peaceful.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Peaceful Protest in Arcata Demands 'Justice for Josiah'

Posted By on Sat, May 6, 2017 at 9:14 AM

More than 100 people gathered in Arcata to demand "justice for Josiah" Lawson after a judge ruled there isn't enough evidence to hold his accused killer to stand trial. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • More than 100 people gathered in Arcata to demand "justice for Josiah" Lawson after a judge ruled there isn't enough evidence to hold his accused killer to stand trial.

More than 100 people marched through Arcata last night to demand justice for slain Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson and urge law enforcement to continue its investigation.

Chants of “justice for Josiah” and “no justice, no peace,” echoed off downtown buildings and through on-campus apartments as the group marched for more than two hours. At several rallying points, speakers urged those in attendance — mostly students with some community members sprinkled in — to call the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office to urge a thorough and continued investigation.

Earlier in the day yesterday, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge ruled police had not found enough evidence to hold Lawson’s accused killer, 23-year-old Kyle Zoellner, to stand trial on a murder charge. Zoellner was released from jail yesterday, though he could be recharged in the case if the investigation yields new and credible witness statements or forensic evidence linking Zoellner to the stabbing.

Last night, someone had posted some fliers on campus proclaiming, “murderer on the loose!!!” and “Don’t trust this man,” with a picture of Zoellner. The case has been racially charged from the beginning — Zoellner is white and Lawson was black, and there have been allegations that the stabbing was racially motivated, though no evidence was presented during Zoellner’s five-day preliminary hearing to support that.

The protest last night remained peaceful, though marchers did block off the exits of the Safeway shopping center for about 10 minutes, refusing to let cars leave. The group plans to protest again today at the Arcata Farmers Market.

Local photographer Mark McKenna was at the march last night and shares the following slideshow of scenes from the protest. For more on Friday's court decision, see past Journal coverage here and for more on Lawson's killing see this week's Journal cover story here.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

HSU Athletics May Tie University to Pepsi Contract

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 8:55 AM

The athletics department gets about $58,000 in sponsorship funds from HSU's contract with PepsiCo, which give the multi-billion-dollar company "pouring rights" on campus.
  • The athletics department gets about $58,000 in sponsorship funds from HSU's contract with PepsiCo, which give the multi-billion-dollar company "pouring rights" on campus.
Meredeth Garrott walked up to the front of the room. All administrators, students and community member’s eyes fell on the environmental science major as she read aloud the Humboldt State University graduation pledge. She said if the students are held to the pledge, then the institution that teaches them should be, as well, and partnering with PepsiCo is a violation of that pledge.

“I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work,” she read.

For the first time, HSU had a public meeting about its contract with PepsiCo which is up for renewal on June 30. If university administration renews the contract with the multi-billion-dollar company, it will be the third five-year contract in a row.

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