Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pedroia ends rookie year in top ten

Dustin Pedroia of Woodland batted 1 for 3 in a loss to the Twins today. The Red Sox rookie finished with a .317 batting average, good enough to place him 10th on the list of American League leaders in that category. Dustin had 168 hits, 38 of them doubles and eight of them home runs.

The loss gave the Red Sox a 96-66 record to end the season. The team finished first place in the Eastern Division, edging the Wild Card Yankees by two games. Boston hosts the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 3 to begin post-season play.

Many Boston fans will be wearing Yawkee Way's popular "Pedroia the Destroya" shirts in the drive for the pennant. Dustin is among the top candidates for American League Rookie of the Year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

School district hiring practice not a "mistake"

According to an article in today's Daily Democrat, Lee School teacher Jorge Jimenez' contract was not renewed. The report stated, "Upon the advice of veteran teachers at Lee, Jimenez immediately hired a lawyer through the California Teachers Association who discovered an error in his contract with the school district. The contract Jimenez signed for the 2007-08 academic year had wrongly classified him as a temporary teacher, a mistake that had made his dismissal easier for the district to carry out, he said."

Let me make this perfectly clear: That was not a mistake. That is their practice. WJUSD routinely hires "temporary" teachers under the wrong EdCode. The superintendent's office knowingly and falsely hires new teachers under CA EdCode Section 44920 as "Temporary Leave Replacements." Hiring teachers as a temporary employee allows them to give all those new teachers pink slips in March without any explanation.

The extra little trick they pull is that they orally promise that the temporary status will be changed to probationary status within a certain amount of time. This, they claim, is the period they need to figure out the number of teachers on leave who will be returning. This would be a good ploy except that new teachers hired far exceed the number of teachers on leave. For example, in 05-06 there was a grand total of six 1.00 FTEs on leave in the district.

Each March, there's a mass exodus of new teachers to pick up their pink slips at the principal's office. Then, in the summer, the teachers they want back will be rehired as temporary teachers again. A limited number of new teachers do get on the probationary track for tenureship.

I'm aware of this because this happened to me. My case was a little different than Jorge's - I know exactly why I wasn't rehired. My contract was not renewed because a tenured teacher without teaching experience in my subject matter "bumped" me. This, a year after the same teacher passed on the position that eventually was offered to me (yes... I was actually sought-after and recruited from a tenured position in another district and yes... I received excellent reviews). But that's another story.

Bottom line: The teacher that bumped me was NOT on the list of teachers on leave and I was NOT on the list of new teachers hired to replace a teacher on leave... yet they hired me under 44920 as a "Temporary Leave Replacement."

The CTA attorney working on my behalf discovered the EdCode work-around the district was trying to use. She was confident I could get my job back for the following year (07-08, this year) but why would I work for them again? I feel for young teachers like Jorge because they're struggling to get their foot in the door. School districts should embrace, support and retain new teachers... not use loopholes in the EdCode to send the message that "you're fired" each March.

Click the title of this post to link to Jorge's story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gay-Straight Alliance Network includes county schools


A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation, and work to end homophobia. Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual,transgender, or questioning (GLBTQ). In addition to support, some GSAs work on educating themselves and the broader school community about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. They may bring in outside speakers, organize a "Pride Week" or participate in the Day of Silence (a day when participants remain silent all day as a way of acknowledging the silence induced by homophobia in our society).

The GSA Network was founded in 1998 to empower youth activists to start GSA clubs and fight homophobia and transphobia in schools. GSA Network began working with 40 GSA clubs in the Bay Area in 1998, then quickly expanded to become a statewide organization by 2001. In the past six years, GSA Network has:

• Grown the network of GSA clubs in California from 40 clubs to over 400 clubs;
• Provided training and support to over 5,000 youth activists and organizers across the state;
• Played a leadership role in organizing for the passage of AB 537: The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity);
• Achieved a critical victory as plaintiff in the first lawsuit filed under AB 537; the three-year settlement agreement required the Visalia schools to enact sweeping reforms including mandatory teacher and student trainings.

According to gsanetwork.org, the following are Yolo County public schools that have Gay-Straight Alliances and clubs:

Davis Senior High School, Davis
Emerson Junior High, Davis
Francis Ellen Watkins Harper Junior High, Davis
Holmes Junior High, Davis
Martin Luther King High School, Davis
River City High School, West Sacramento
Winters High School, Winters
Pioneer High School, Woodland
Woodland Senior High School, Woodland

From the Pioneer High School (PHS) GSA Web page: "People join GSA for many reasons. Some members are what GSAs call 'straight allies' - students who are not gay, but wish to put a stop to the harassment that gay students face each day. Some members are gay or lesbian and want a place where they can feel comfortable being who they are. Some members do not want to discuss their preferences at all, and that’s fine, too. The thing we have in common is that we enjoy being around other open-minded people who want to make the school a better place."

You may link to the PHS Web page by clicking on the title of this post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That dog-gone park

Woodland's planned Dog Park was an issue discussed in the Acorn Poll. Here are the facts:

THE CONCEPT
• Originated with 500 signatures of people asking for a park
• Several existing park sites were considered
• Public process established the park at the community center site

THE LAND
• Two acres, undeveloped, are part of the original 40 acre community center site
• Parcel is already owned by the City of Woodland, no new land will be bought
• Originally purchased for ~$100K an acre through developer's fees

THE CONSTRUCTION
• Bid is $327,750 plus 10% contingency (not to exceed $360,526)
• Partially paid for by a combination of city management fees and dedicated Measure E funds (~$134K) that need to be spent by March 8
• The remaining $226,526 will come from the general fund
• According to the city manager, typical park improvements cost ~$200K per acre (for turf, irrigation, walkways)
• There are possible engineering savings up to $11K
• A parking lot is not included, the Dog Park is a stand-alone project

SUMMARY
• According to the city manager - a typical two-acre park construction project will cost ~$400K, so the fenced Dog Park will cost ~$40K less than a similar park in another northern California city.
• Construction costs will be between $316,750 to $360,526
• Total Dog Park cost (including the original ~$200K for the land) will be between $516,750 and $560,526 (approx.)

NOTES
• Discussion of the $400K per acre value is irrelevant since the city will not be selling it
• Discussion about a "$1.2M price tag" did not accurately reflect true project costs

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Acorn Poll: Most important issue currently facing Woodland





Instead of throwing a straw up into the wind to see where it blows, I thought I'd toss an acorn up to see where it plops. This is an interactive poll that may be left untallied, but hopefully will guide The Woodland Journal to the most interesting topics about our community. That said, let's entertain the first Acorn Poll question:

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE CURRENTLY FACING WOODLAND?

To get the acorn tumbling, here are some suggestions:

• Dog Park construction at Community Center
• Storm drain system funding alternatives
• General Plan update (county or city)
• Downtown Specific Plan revisions
• Growth to the new Urban Limit Line
• City control of Fairgrounds property if vacated
• Sign ordinance interpretation
• Soccer fields vs. Softball fields
• City of Trees: Woodland vs. Sacramento
• City government restructure
• School district policies
• Emiment domain
• Gang control
• Graffiti

Don't see what you had in mind? Please comment on what you think is today's most important issue facing us Woodlanders.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Todd Haaby and Sola Via play WOH


Sola Via is a creation of the American melting pot captured by Todd Haaby, a group that pays homage to the Latin sounds of flamenco with reinvented sounds. Sola Via's outstanding collection entwines fiery flamenco, Spanish guitar, South American tempos and the contemporary sounds of rock guitar.

With some very talented musicians at his side (Milo Estrada on acoustic guitar, Michael Fields on percussions, Michael Summers on drums, brother Robert Haaby on bass guitar), Haaby's sultry mix of world music accentuated by his percussive guitar offers a unique and signature style.

For almost two decades, Haaby has been immersing himself in the study of flamenco and distilling his unique sound. His exploratory approach to music began when he received a guitar at the age of sixteen. Completely addicted, he was consumed night and day with the instrument and within two years he was invited to play on stage with the world renowned Phil Driscoll. In 1992 Haaby saw the Gipsy Kings live in concert. "At that moment, I was completely captivated by the international sounds and knew that was the direction I wanted to pursue musically," says Haaby.

TODD HAABY WITH SOLA VIA
September 22 at 7:30 pm
Woodland Opera House, 340 2nd Street
Reserved seats are $20 each (12 and under are free)
Tickets are available at the WOH Box Office or by calling (530) 666-9617

To sample some of the music, click the title of this post and go to toddhaabymusic.com

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities of Trees






As if River City, Capital City, The Big Tomato and Camelia City weren't enough, Sacramento has laid claim to California's "City of Trees." This is not news as Sacramento has earned Tree City USA honors from the Arbor Day Foundation for 30 years (tied with Burbank). Davis has made the list 29 years, Woodland 7, and West Sacramento 1. View the complete list by clicking the title of this story.

Sacramento has a long history as a horticultural showcase. The fervor of tree-planting was evident when the city was only six years old. "Our citizens have a mania for planting trees. There is hardly a street in the suburbs that in a few years will not be beautifully shaded by rows of cottonwood and locust trees," reported the Daily Democratic State Journal in 1855. The "City Beautiful" movement of the early 1900s allowed Sacramento to keep pace with other cities across the U.S. that were constructing tree-lined boulevards and city parks in urban designs.

Sacramento also claims to have more trees per capita than any other city in the world - including Paris, France - according to NPR. The city is implementing a 40-year plan to double the city's tree canopy as part of The Greenprint, previously called the Sacramento Regional Urban Forest Framework. The Greenprint is a call to action and a plan of work for each of the 28 local governments in our six-county region to adopt tree canopy goals, policies and ordinances, best management practices, and community involvement strategies. The Sacramento Tree Foundation reports that the County of Yolo, City of West Sacramento, City of Davis and City of Woodland have signed on to the project.

Currently, the Urban Forest Services of the City of Sacramento's Park and Recreation Department provides care to more than 150,000 city street and park trees that comprise their urban forest. The service also operates the city plant nursery, growing new trees. Trees are Sacramento’s crowning glory, especially valuable with our region's hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Trees are a part of community infrastructure and vital to personal and environmental health.

So what do you think? We are "officially" The City of Trees - can Woodland share the title with our neighbors across the river?

For a related story, click on the "Woodland Tree Foundation" link at right to connect to a great blog called "Puttin' the 'Wood' back in Woodland" at InsideWoodland.com.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pedroia leads Rookie of the Year field

Dustin Pedroia of Woodland has gone from local hero to national phenom this season. MLB.com puts him atop the group of strong candidates for the AL Rookie of the Year honors.

MLB.com writer Tom Singer said, "He hasn't been as flashy, or followed as wide a hype trail, as some of his peers. But the little guy has carried a big stick since mid-June, has surprising range and a vacuum for a glove, and is a hard-nosed fundamental player who has helped rewrite the Red Sox culture. He has become a rock at a position that had been a Boston quagmire for years."

Unquestionably, Dustin is on the short list of many experts and fans of baseball. Will he finish the season with a flourish to top teammates Daisuke Matsuzaka (P) and Hideki Okajima (P), or Delmon Young (OF, Devil Rays), Reggie Willits (OF, Angels), Brian Bannister (P, Royals), Billy Butler (DH, Royals), Alex Gordon (3B, Royals), Jeremy Guthrie (P, Orioles), Akinori Iwamura (3B, Devil Rays) and Rafael Perez (P, Indians)?

A look at his numbers in the last ten games reveal a .370 batting average during that time. His average for the year is .327 putting him sixth among the top ten AL batters. He has 35 doubles and .991 fielding percentage. As usual, you can click on Woodland's original "Pedroia Watch" under "Links of Local Interest" at right. A click on the title of this story will take you to the MLB.com story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grand Jury adds Web site, frequent reporting

From the new Yolo County Web site: "The Grand Jury is an arm of the judicial system, but acts as an entirely independent body. In Yolo County, the Superior Court impanels nineteen jurors. California grand juries are unique as their primary responsibility is to investigate civil matters. Juries act as oversight bodies for county and city governments and also have responsibilities in certain criminal matters. Superior Court Judges, the District Attorney, County Counsel and the State Attorney General act as advisors to the Grand Jury."

The site also includes links to the last three years of Final Reports. This year, the Grand Jury will release reports as they complete them. They "will not wait until the end of the year to release them all at once," according to a reliable source.

There is also a link to the Citizen's Complaint Form. When sufficient information is submitted, complaints may be investigated. The name of the person filing the complaint and the nature of the complaint itself are kept strictly confidential unless a waiver is signed.

Like other juries, members represent a cross-section of the community. There are only a few minimum qualifications that a juror must possess (Penal Code 893):

• Be a citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or older who shall have been a resident of the State and of the County for one year immediately before being selected
• Be in possession of his or her natural faculties of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment, and of fair character, and
• Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language.

There are other desirable characteristics for a Grand Juror including:

• Good health
• An open mind with a concern for the positions and views of others
• The ability to work with others
• An interest in community affairs
• Possess investigative skills and an ability to write reports, and
• A general knowledge of local government.

To access the new Yolo County Grand Jury Web site, just click the title of this story.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Worst of Yolo County

It is once again time for the Daily Democrat's annual "Best of Woodland Advertisers" campaign, a.k.a. "Best of Yolo County 2007." Well... since the editor stole a Woodland Journal story ("Is it any wonder," the 7 Wonders of Woodland blog) without any credit, I thought I'd harpoon his annual stroke-fest with "The Worst of Yolo County 2007." The idea came to me through a tip that the Democrat no longer has a category for "Best Drugstore." Funny... the winner over the past seven years no longer advertises with the paper. Coincidence?

Here are the categories for "Worst of Yolo County 2007:"

MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION
Worst newspaper___
Worst cable provider___
Worst cell phone service___
Worst blog___ (bring it on!)

GOVERNMENT
Worst tax___
Worst tax proposal___
Worst public records access___
Worst community design____
Worst public building____
Worst road or intersection___
Worst bridge___
Worst round-about___
Worst street light(s)___
Worst public water___
Worst storm drain system___
Worst public skate park___
Worst school district___
Worst expense for a consultant___
Worst action taken by a council or board___
Worst action taken by a commission___
Worst action taken by a department___
Worst public art___
Worst Web site___
Worst search for a smell___

EATERIES AND DRINKERIES
Worst taco truck___
Worst pizza parlor___
Worst hamburger joint___
Worst saloon___
Worst coffee___
Worst "food" at the fair___

PROFESSIONAL
Worst hospital___
Worst cattle inseminator___
Worst tomato grader___
Worst artificial rock-trimmed stucco building with fake-tower design___

RETAIL
Worst gas prices___
Worst food prices___
Worst customer service___
Worst auto plaza___
Worst shopping center or mall___
Worst thrift store___
Worst door-to-door product___
Worst store front___

OTHER
Worst yard___
Worst event___

Please place votes through your comments. You don't have to vote for all of them... and what the heck, come up with your own (because I know you will).

New city manager answers tough questions


Last month I asked Woodland's new city manager Mark Deven if he would answer a few questions from The Woodland Journal advisory group. He said he would be happy to answer questions. I then emailed the following questions to him (his answers are at the end):


QUESTIONS FROM THE WOODLAND JOURNAL

Knowing that you are new to the community, what do you think are Woodland's best assets? From that same perspective, what is it about Woodland that should be changed?

You saw, up-close, how the City of Anaheim benefited from tourism. What do you see as Woodland's economic base and what things can you do to protect it? What ideas do you have to spur economic development in other areas?

What's more important to maintain in tight budget periods, infrastructure repairs or services?

The City of Concord established itself as a pioneer of funding public art projects. Do you think that a public art program is a good way to mitigate the growth and urbanization of Woodland? What do you think of the current draft of the Art in Public Places ordinance?

How do you extract the best solutions for the community when moderating council members who challenge staff with tough questions and those who simply follow staff's recommendations?

What are some strategies you would implement to create better communication between the city council and the public?

How do you rationalize that historic downtown Woodland evolved from 1853 to about 2000 without design guidelines, yet there are now design guidelines that may be interpreted as restricting free enterprise and promoting false history?

Do you think downtown merchants and investors should receive incentives to revitalize the historic downtown?

What are your favorite professional sports teams?

Do you see the General Plan and the Downtown Specific Plan as living documents that should be regularly revised? The Downtown Specific Plan is now almost five years old. Is this something you plan to work on immediately?

What is your experience with eminent domain? Is this something that should only be done in rare instances?

Should Woodland take advantage of the new urban limits and grow towards Sacramento and the airport? If so, should the new area be considered an opportunity for interesting and unique architecture or should the trend of artificial rock-trimmed stucco buildings with quasi-towers continue to be the norm?

If the Yolo County Fairgrounds moves, should the in-fill be mostly preserved open-space, residential tracts or commercial development?

What are your five and ten year goals for Woodland?

Were you able to negotiate a week, or so, up at Camp Packer Creek as part of your compensation package?

How will you hold city staff responsible for carrying out the direction of the city council?

How will you assure the community that city staff will be available to answer questions, apply regulations consistently, and generally operate with the highest ethics and standards possible?

Is it too hot for you, yet?

ANSWERS FROM MARK DEVEN

"These are very good questions. Most are policy level issues that require me to work with the City Council and our employees before I can fully answer. These issues are more appropriately addressed through the process of working with elected officials and other stakeholders in public meetings and similar forums. Therefore, the answers I am comfortable responding to are listed below:

Favorite professional sports teams: Oakland A's, San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks.

Too hot for me yet? No."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More experts on education

Last week I editorialized about the complaints directed at Woodland High School's lunchtime and passing period policies. This week I'd like to address two other recent opinion pieces published in the Daily Democrat.

First, WJUSD Boardmember Jesse Ortiz responded yesterday to comments made by Editor Jim Smith in his Aug. 31 column. Smith said that he felt "dirty, disgusted with myself and ashamed of my bigotry" when he quoted Ortiz as saying, "It's important to have teachers who look like the students they are going to be teaching." Could the shame come from taking Ortiz' words out of context? Fortunately Ortiz was able to set the record straight. Ortiz simply advocates that district teacher hiring should reflect the community in which we live.

Smith also used a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, a sure-fire trick to get readers to side with your opinion. But Dr. King never suggested that Americans be "color blind" as the editor insinuated our schools should be. California teachers are trained to see cultural differences and embrace them as part of their curricula. If you want an example of colorblindness, just look at state testing that results in achievement gaps between student sub-groups. Teachers are now asked to solve the problem of biased, noninclusive testing.

It would be a sad country if our schools were colorblind. Diversity should always be celebrated. We should all be comfortable with differences in heritage, religion, skin color and gender. That is the best lesson our schools can provide, not learning how to memorize incongruous facts and figures.

Second, an editorial published Aug. 28 tried to explain why Yolo County shouldn't have any "highly qualified" teaching interns. The opinion stated that interns are not "highly qualified" and that they are labeled such to get federal funding. Absent in the article was the definition of "highly qualified." Of course, including that would mean there would be nothing to write about. The term "highly qualified" comes from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

NCLB requires that all teachers hired to teach core academic subjects must be “highly qualified.” NCLB defines core academic subject areas as: English, reading/language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics/government, economics, arts, history, and geography. A “highly qualified” teacher is one who has: (1) a bachelor's degree; (2) a state credential or have an Intern Certificate/Credential for no more than three years, and (3) demonstrated core academic subject matter competence.

New teachers have several options to demonstrate subject matter competence – through tests, programs or college majors. The only way they can teach is to be "highly qualified." New teachers may, in fact, be participating in a state internship program – totally different than NCLB mandates. Interns are also different than student teachers who are performing part of their teacher program requirements and are not credentialled teachers.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Woodland stink solved

WOODLAND BIOMASS POWER LTD.
1786 EAST KENTUCKY AVE.

I feel like this is the story of the Emporer's New Clothes. Is there something about the owner of this company, THERMO ECOTEK CORP., that we can't say, "There's that north wind blowin' the biomass stink again." The city can't figure it out, the local paper doesn't know and rexroad.com today has a poll that doesn't even list WBP as an option.

Click the title of this story to access the YOLO-SOLANO AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT DISTRICT TITLE V OPERATING PERMIT
Permit Number: F-97-04. Look under "Significant Emissions Unit Information" and give us your opinion.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Storm drain losing by 700 with 1700 left to count

It seems the procrastination in counting the Storm Drain Enterprise Fund ballots has led to only a partial tally of the property owner election. To make matters worse, an inadvertent power failure at council chambers also blackened the scheduled announcement of the results.

As of tonight, a reliable source indicated that the proposal is failing by about 700 votes with about 1,700 left to count.

By last week's ballot deadline, the city had received 6,187 envelopes from Woodland residents, some of which contained more than one ballot. The City Clerk estimated the total number of votes was around 6,400, or 45% of the roughly 14,200 ballots that were mailed to property owners.

So with only about 26% of the votes yet to count, it appears the 700 vote lead for those opposed to the proposal will prevail. Please note that the projected failure was reported first at The Woodland Journal.