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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Davis Talks the Talk on Global Warming

But Other Cities Like Berkeley are walking the walk.

In an effort to help fight global warming, the city of Davis has vowed to stop selling or using disposable water bottles at city events or city concession stands.

One idea was to sell reusable water bottles with the city logo on one side and instructions on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the other side.

Even City Councilmember Don Saylor seemed to acknowledge it was symbolic:
"In some ways, this resolution will be largely symbolic, a way for the public to see us doing something... It's a way to get the word out. Every small thing makes a difference."
One intriguing aspect that I would like to see the city do is what they did at the Whole Earth Festival--in addition to no disposable cups, they also charged a deposit on all plates and cups so that people would return them for them to be composted. No reason that the city as a whole cannot adopt those policies and not just for city sponsored events.

However, you will forgive me if I say that I have grown tired of this city council's rhetoric on global warming.

Last spring, there was a long and lengthy debate over whether a new housing development ought to be required to install solar panels on the roofs. Such an endeavor would add a large cost of perhaps $20,000 to the property, but that would have a very real impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Much more than say, banning the city from using disposable cups.

Along those lines this week, the City of Berkeley put Davis in its place and showed Davis who was the boss and the leader in terms of environmental thinking. I know there is a natural resentment in Davis to anything Berkeley. My only response to that is to get over it.

According to an article yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle,
"Berkeley is set to become the first city in the nation to help thousands of its residents generate solar power without having to put money up front - attempting to surmount one of the biggest hurdles for people who don't have enough cash to go green.

The City Council will vote Nov. 6 on a plan for the city to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property. Over two decades, the taxes would be the same or less than what property owners would save on their electric bills, officials say."
Now officials in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and some state agencies are looking into the plan. Where is Davis on this list?
"This is how Berkeley's program would work:

A property owner would hire a city-approved solar installer, who would determine the best solar system for the property, depending on energy use. Most residential solar panel systems in the city cost from $15,000 to $20,000.

The city would pay the contractor for the system and its installation, minus any applicable state and federal rebates, and would add an assessment to the property owner's tax bill to pay for the system.

The extra tax would include administrative fees and interest, which would be lower than what the property owner could obtain on his own, because the city would secure low-interest bonds and loans, officials say. The tax would stay with the property even if the owner sold, although the owner would have to leave the solar panels.

The property owner would save money on monthly Pacific Gas & Electric bill because electricity generated by the solar panels would partly replace electricity delivered by the utility. After the assessment expired, the solar panels - of a simple technology that requires little or no maintenance - would continue to partly replace PG&E electricity.

Bates' chief of staff, Cisco DeVries, came up with the idea about eight months ago when he was looking for ways the city could meet its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under a measure that Berkeley voters approved last year. Measure G mandates that the city cut its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050...

If the plan succeeds, Berkeley would be about 10 percent closer to its Measure G target, Burroughs said. Solar panels shouldn't be a tough sell in Berkeley, he said, which already has more solar systems per capita than any other Northern California city."
I actually think that is a conservative guess as to how much the taxpayer/ ratepayer might save on electricity. For instance, I know someone who installed solar panels, and now does not have an electricity bill from PG&E. That is probably not realistic for some, but the amount of cost mitigated by solar panels would make sense over the long term. However, many people do not have a 20 year or even 10 year interest, the city of course does.

This is something that the city of Davis ought to look into if they are serious about moving being symbolic measures and wish to help lead the way toward green energy and reductions of greenhouse gases.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, October 26, 2007

Analysis: Clear Choices for Davis Voters on Valley Oak in School Board Election

Back on October 19, 2007, ironically the same day that the Davis Enterprise ran a front page story detailing envelope stuffing in the classroom, Bob Dunning in his column declared, "Valley Oak the biggest issue in schools race."

There is no doubt that this blog has devoted considerable time to covering Valley Oak. Indeed, if we look at the labels (along the side bar of the People's Vanguard of Davis blog) we notice that Valley Oak has 46 mentions. That is just more than the Yolo County General Plan (43) and just under Target (48).

Whether that makes it the most important issue overall in Davis facing the schools is debatable, but one thing about the issue of Valley Oak, is that it is one of the very few issues in which you can see clear and distinct lines between the candidates on the issue of Valley Oak. Listening to candidates debates, there was a sense that the differences between these candidates were simply in their real world experiences.

However, the Valley Oak issue, is different. The Valley Oak charter school process is moving on. They are currently circulating a petition to establish a starter school.

The school will be founded on three pillars:
  • the maintenance of a successful neighborhood program
  • a system of cooperative school governance that encourages innovation, effectiveness and efficiency
  • the utilization of education technology for bridging the digital divide for students and their families
According to a recent release:
"We are asking parents who are 'meaningfully interested' in having their children attend the school described in the charter to sign the petition. If you are one of those parents, or know a parent who may be interested, petitions will be available to sign at a number of locations. "

"Petitions can also be found at tables at Valley Oak Elementary near the bike racks and MPR during the week of Monday, October 29th through Friday, November 2nd (Conference Week) from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 1:30 to 5 p.m."
The full charter is available here.

The Valley Oak Charter School is an issue that strongly divides the candidates.

Joe Spector who has extensively campaigned on keeping Valley Oak open, strongly supports the charter initiative.

He was recently quoted in the Davis Enterprise:
"The charter school is forward-looking in its development of a magnet school program for career/technology... The charter school provides educational opportunity for the neighborhood students. The school presents an attractive education alternative for parents who live nearby, or work in our community. So we are likely to bring new students to our district who can benefit from our programs and help create district enrollment growth... [The Valley Oak staff] is highly dedicated and successful in teaching and addressing all students' issues, including English language learners, GATE (Gifted And Talented Education), and special education."
Bob Schelen has said that keeping Valley Oak open was one of the reasons he got into the school board race to begin with.

Back in August, Mr. Schelen told the Vanguard:
"I think that the closing of Valley was a mistake. I think that it should have stayed open. It’s the only elementary school in the core area or the downtown area and it has a strong historical significance."
He added:
"I think the idea of a charter school is an excellent one and it’s very unique to have a teacher’s association anywhere in the state support the idea of charter schools. They’re very controversial and with good reason. However, in this case, the Davis Teacher’s Association is looking to put together the proposal for the charter school. When you have the teacher’s association saying this is what we want to do—then that idea excites me. And I would work as hard as I could to find a way that we could do the charter school..."
Richard Harris has expressed concerns about a Charter at Valley Oak. He stopped short in the recent Davis Enterprise of out right opposing it.
"The burden of proof is on the charter school proponents to show how the school district's budget and programs will not be negatively impacted by opening a charter school."

"I take very seriously the responsibility to look at the specific proposal and assess its fiscal and program impacts on the district as a whole... To do any less is an abdication of the fiduciary responsibility of a board of education trustee.

"The troubling factor is the charter school adoption process itself. The community is being forced into a discussion and decision on the creation of a new magnet school through the very narrow lens and timetable of this singular proposal driven by one small group of parents and teachers.

"As a board member, I'll always welcome the opportunity to discuss creation of magnet schools or innovative programs to serve varying student interests or educational goals, but this current process feels like a shotgun marriage."
Finally, Susan Lovenburg supported the decision to close Valley Oak made by the Best Uses of Schools Task Force.

She told us in August:
"I closely followed the work of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force and publicly supported their recommendation to close Valley Oak as a K-6 campus. Though I initially sought to maintain nine campuses, I came to believe that the decision to close best serves the students of Valley Oak and the District as a whole, not just financially but educationally. It was a heart-wrenching and difficult decision for me as an individual, for the Task Force, and for the Board - and I understand that it is one the families of Valley Oak find difficult to accept - but it has been made and it is time to look forward."
On the Charter issue she seems supportive of charter schools in general.

On the Valley Oak charter school, she told us in August:
"With regard to the proposed charter school, legislation requires that a well-written charter with a good educational plan, sound finances, and commitment from sufficient teachers and families with students to participate, must be approved by the Board. It is my hope that the planners of the charter school are looking carefully at new approaches and new strategies for addressing the needs of low socioeconomic income and English Language Learners, rather than simply trying to preserve the existing Valley Oak program."
She more recently told the Davis Enterprise:
"Organizers of the Valley Oak charter program are preparing a petition that must include a sound educational program, a plan for successful implementation which includes measurable student outcomes, and signatures from parents interested in having their students attend... This petition will be submitted to the district, and staff will evaluate its merits prior to submission to the school board for consideration. If approved, the district will have continuing oversight of the charter school."

"I will work with district staff and charter petitioners to understand the goals of the charter school and its potential relationship to the district, both programmatically and financially, and do my best to see that the charter school realizes its own potential by successfully serving our students."
From these statements there seems to be key differences between the candidates on the issue of Valley Oak and the continuing issue of whether it should stay open. The voters of Davis have a clear choice depending on where they stand on the issue of Valley Oak.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, October 25, 2007


After nearly a week of silence on the matter, Don Winters, campaign Manager for Joe Spector's School Board Campaign came forward last night and released a statement both admitting to using class time to stuff approximately 300 campaign envelopes for Joe Spector and resigning as campaign manager for Joe Spector's campaign.

On Friday of last week, the Davis Enterprise reported that former School Board Member BJ Kline had accused Don Winters, a teacher at Davis High, of using instructional time to stuff campaign envelopes. The Vanguard on Saturday, based on conversations with several students, reported that those students claimed that this had never happened. However, during the course of the week, it became more clear that the students I spoke with had in fact not been in the class in question, the first period Economics Class. And those denials turned out to be wrong. Other information received by the Vanguard about this matter has been incorrect as well. Thus the Vanguard's reporting on this matter has been inaccurate.

According to statements released to the press by both Joe Spector and Don Winters, Joe Spector was unaware of the nature of the incident and only became aware in the last day and a half.

However it was becoming increasingly clear to both Joe Spector and Don Winters that this issue would not only not subside, but that it would distract from the key issues of the campaign. Key issues faced by the next district in the next few years.

The heat was turned up on Tuesday by Davis Enterprise Bob Dunning. Bob Dunning in this case strongly and correctly called Don Winters to task for his vague and evasive answers.
Winters, responding to my short e-mail that asked simply "What happened or didn't happen?" never got around to answering the question of whether students used class time to stuff envelopes for the Spector campaign.

In his e-mail, Winters wrote: "I guess what the highly educated voter in Davis will have to decide is not so much 'did it happen,' but does it matter?"

It matters, Don, it matters.

Added Winters: "One would have to wonder how much larger the headline and how much bigger the photo on the front page of Davis' only paper would have been if I robbed a bank to level the financial playing field of lobbyists, attorneys, developers and out-of-town special interest groups contributing to Joe's opponent(s)?"

Is he hinting that stuffing envelopes during class time might be justifiable to level the playing field in this campaign? If so, my answer would be "no."

So, after all this, we're left with two simple questions. First, did it happen? And second, as Don Winters asks, does it matter?

I guess that's for you, the voters, to decide.
What follows is the full statements from both Joe Spector and Don Winters.

Joe Spector's Statement:
Over the past week, I have been asked to comment on a parent complaint against my campaign manager, Don Winters, who is a teacher at Davis High School.

Because the complaint related to his duties as a teacher, the complaint became a personnel matter to be resolved by the school administrator. So, up to this point,
it would have been inappropriate for me to comment on the personnel process.

As of today, the school personnel issue has been resolved and Don Winters has given me explicit permission to discuss this matter.

As I understand the situation, Don used classroom time to have students do campaign work. Specifically, the concern relates to a part of a class period when some students worked on envelopes that would be used on behalf of my campaign.

Don has acknowledged that the activity occurred for about ten minutes during the end of a class period. He understands that this violates a school policy prohibiting students from working on particular, ballot – related activity during school instructional time. He also knows that I have established an internal policy prohibiting campaign work during class time. Don acknowledges that he broke these rules. He has resolved this issue with the high school principal.

As a result of this breach of policy, Don has submitted his resignation from my campaign, which I have accepted.

Don has been a tireless advocate for students and teachers. I hope that this incident will not detract from his important contributions to our community.

I am very sorry that this situation has taken attention away from the important issues that I am trying to promote in this campaign. I look forward to returning to the key issues of this school board race.


Joe Spector
Candidate for Davis School Board

Don Winter's Statement:
Effective Wednesday, October 24th, I resign as manager of Joe Spector’s Board of Education campaign. I accept full responsibility for a mistake in judgment I made last week in allowing my students in the final 10 minutes of one class at Davis High School to prepare 300 campaign flyers for mailing. I regret this action. I have met with the high school principal and have accepted appropriate disciplinary action. I apologize today to Joe Spector and to our campaign team, neither of whom had any prior knowledge of this activity. I also offer my sincere regrets to my students and to the Davis community.

By resigning from Joe’s campaign, I hope to bring this matter to a close. I believe Joe’s candidacy is vital to the interests of our school district and to the education of our children.

Joe Spector’s campaign is focused on important issues needing a strong voice and a champion on the school board. I fully support Joe’s effort to win a seat on the Davis Board of Education this November 6th.


Don Winters
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Commentary: Council Goes Forward with Examining Housing on the Lewis Property

The Lewis Property, Cannery Park, has been a tricky issue for the city and also for progressives to deal with. There are actually three different mindsets for what and how to develop that property, with progressives at times split between two of them.

The issue has come up for consideration and also has been tabled because the Council wanted to consider it jointly due to its proximity to Covell Village. Some on the side of developers, those on the side of the council majority would like to see the Lewis Property considered in conjunction with Covell Village.

On the other hand, progressives are opposed to any development in the near future on the Covell Village site but differ on what to do on the Lewis Property.

Mayor Sue Greenwald has long advocated for this property, which is currently zoned as high tech and light industrial to remain so. She argues that Davis needs to develop its own industry and business to avoid becoming just another bedroom town. She says we have enough housing but would like to see new high tech companies that can hire people directly out of college to stay in Davis and get work in the high tech field.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek said that the current proposal from the Lewis property owners is not one he would vote on. However, he believes that proposal will change in the future. His key focus was to avoid allowing the Lewis Property to be tied to Covell Village.

Councilmember Heystek argued that any such discussion of developing Lewis and Covell jointly flies in the face of the citizens' will that was expressed in the Measure X election in November 2005. The voters of Davis voted strongly against the wholesale loss of peripheral agricultural land. A city staff-promoted concept plan that envisions the joint development of the Lewis and Covell sites would most probably trigger a Measure J vote, reopening a discussion that we just had less than two years ago. This is not what Davis needs.

While I sympathesize with the arguments that Mayor Sue Greenwald makes here, as I have studied the issue, I have become firmly in the camp of Councilmember Lamar Heystek.

First of all, developing the Lewis Property does not require any sort of Measure J vote. And I think even in properties that are not controversial, a Measure J vote will be time consuming and costly. As such we need to look into developing areas first that do not require a Measure J vote.

Second, Davis is in need of housing. The question is where is the best place to put it. While I am not opposed to densification, I often think that densification results in loss of character of core areas of the town. If it is not done well, densification could make our problems worse rather than better. Therefore, I wish to look for housing sites first where we do not need to build four and five story buildings in the core of town, altering the site and landscape inalterably.

Third, unlike a lot of properties that are under consideration, Lewis Property is already paved and it is just sitting there. There is no agriculture there. We are not talking about paving over prime agricultural land.

Fourth and finally, while I like the idea in concept of a high tech zone in Davis, I do not see it as viable at this point in time and furthermore I am less than sure I would want it where Lewis property is. I think a better area for high tech development would be along Second Street out along I-80.

Last the night the agenda item to explore residential development on the Lewis Property was passed with a 4-1 vote, Mayor Sue Greenwald the only dissenting vote. Councilmember Heystek was able to limit the community feedback about the Lewis Property to that specific site rather than any sort of joint study with the Covell Property. This will hopefully go a long way towards an avoidance of developing these parcels jointly.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting with help from Simon Efrein

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Senses Magazine: New Magazine Has International Flavor and a Local Presence

A new international magazine based in Sacramento is now on newsstands. Senses magazine is the brainchild of Tata Monfared and Marci Landgraf, both of Sacramento.

A quarterly, Senses has just completed its first year of publication featuring photo essays, interviews, and travel features. Local writers Elisabeth Sherwin, Robert Clark Young and Claire St. John have written about John Lescroart, Narci David and Lydia Mondavi.

The work of Professor Suad Joseph of UC Davis also has been highlighted.

Local and international artists and their works are featured in each issue. The founder, editor-in-chief and creative director is Landgraf whose special talent is bringing gorgeous photo essays to each issue by showcasing art, fashion and jewelry.

"It's been a remarkable year as a start-up business and magazine," she said. "And we are only getting stronger thanks to our staff, contributors, and our unique brand that celebrates the beauty of life in its many forms."

Past issues of the magazine have featured travel pieces focusing on South Africa and Dubai.

The magazine, although published in Sacramento, is designed to be an international read and is distributed in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, London, Toronto, Vancouver and Dubai.

The publisher, Monfared of TM4 Media, said the magazine's goal is to explore beauty and build bridges between cultures.

"By taking advantage of our family's international business experience and our cultural ties to many parts of the world, I believe we're helping to make Senses a valuable resource," said Monfared.

You can find Senses at Newsbeat and Border's Books & Music in Davis as well as at major newsstands and international airports.

School Board Candidates Discuss Key Issues At Diversity Forum

The first question asked pertained to the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) discriminate against boys who are gay or atheist. Our school district has a non-discrimination policy. Because of the school's "Limited Open Forum" policy, our former superintendent believed we are required to send out recruitment letters on behalf of the BSA and other nonprofit youth groups. In the past, the disclaimer (copied below) has been sent out attached to the flyer. However, it has more often than not been a problem to get the correct disclaimer sent out, to have it sent out stapled on the flyer rather than printed on the back, or to have it included at all. How would you resolve this issue?

Distribution of Information from the Boy (Cub) Scouts of America

As a service to parents, the Davis Joint Unified School District customarily allows local youth groups to use school-home communication channels. When the school district allows some non-profit youth groups this service, the district creates what the law terms a "limited open forum." Under the first amendment rights of the constitution this means that all local, non-profit youth groups must be offered the equal opportunity to use those school-home communication channels.

The local DJUSD policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of race/ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, mental disability, physical disability, physical condition, family structure, religion, political beliefs or age. The national policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) does not allow persons who express themselves as atheist or gay to participate in the BSA. In that way, the BSA's national policy is inconsistent with the local school district's policy. However, the First Amendment rights of the constitution supercede any local school district policy. Therefore, the school district does allow BSA (and Cub Scouts) to use the school's home-school communication channels.

Joe Spector: “It’s my understanding that this is about rules of non-discrimination and freedom of speech. I studied this in law-school. There are groups out there that spread hate and discrimination, but we know that freedom of speech is very important. There can’t be hate speech allowed.” Joe offered some recommendations suggesting that, “we as a community need to educate ourselves and look at policies that discriminate towards some groups,” and have a clearer understanding of what we need to do.

Bob Schelen: “If you’re a good solider it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. If you’re a good Boy Scout it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.” Bob said that although this may be a management issue the correct disclaimer does need to be stapled on a flyer, so that parents see it. He further stated public schools should not allow discriminatory practices at all and that he is bothered with the policy on the national level.

Susan Lovenburg: Susan sad that it’s her understanding that federal law provides an open forum. “My understanding is that federal law, which provides additional funding to our schools, specifically protects the ability of the Boy Scouts and other groups to distribute their messages through our school to home channels. I also know that the current Board recently reviewed the distribution policy and made changes to the language of the disclaimer.” She believes that the work was appropriate and does not need to be revisited.

She further stated that it’s her understanding that a mistake was made this year in distributing flyers with the old version of the disclaimer rather than the new, stating that “mistakes happen, but we need to be sure we learn from them and don’t repeat them.”

Richard Harris: Richard believes that the school board has set a good policy and come up with a good disclaimer. He too stated that the policy on a national level is abhorrent, but made it clear that he knows people involved with the Boy Scouts at a local level who are doing a great job. He expressed hope that with the new superintendent this issue will be resolved. “We just have to put the disclaimer on and do it the right way.”

The next question pertained to the boycott of the STAR exam which took place in Spring, of 2007. The question was asked:

In Spring 2007, some parents boycotted the STAR exam in protest of suspension rates, in-house and otherwise, that are at least twice as high among Black and Latino students as they are among White and Asian students. When surveyed in 2004 and then again in 2006, a majority (50-80%) of Black and Latino students at Davis High and substantial (20-50%) proportion of White and Asian students surveyed believed that Black and Latino students were disciplined more harshly for the same behavior and had their behavior monitored more closely by school officials. 2002/2003 was first and last time in-house suspension rates were measured (at BECA’s request) for 7th through 12th graders. Unduplicated rates showed that 4.7% of White students, 19.2% of Black students, 14.9% of Latino students, 2.1% of Asian students, and 3.4% of Native American students were sent to in-house suspension at least once. How did you feel about the parents' boycott? After several years of DJUSD boards and administrations knowing about these same data, if you’re elected, how can students and parents have confidence that these data, which suggest double standards of behavior, will change for the better, and when should they expect results?

Joe Spector: Joe said that he is an educator and works “within the system.” He has spent much of his time educating students to take the exam, since it prepares them for higher education. However, he understands that, “there is a time when people with courage no longer tolerate injustice.”

He reflected on a time when he was a member of the negotiating team and there was a potential boycott of teachers. Parents felt that something had to change.

He offered two suggestions.

Joe said that a number of issues relate to problems, so when students are referred to the office to meet with the vice principal the process needs to be improved so that the results are more evenhanded. The conferences with students, parents, teachers, and administrators need to have more sensitivity. Administrators need this training.

He further added that students can be best helped by training them to discuss problems in a calm and collective way to work through the problems.

Bob Schelen: Bob said that he understood the frustration that led to the boycott. He was hesitant to support the boycott of the STAR Test, since if there are not enough students that take the test then the school doesn’t get proper funding. He said that if schools are, “not doing well it makes sense to help them do better to score higher so that schools can get more money.” He believes that the STAR Tests are culturally biased and that the key answer is that we have to treat all students equally and have those policies in place that ensure this.

Susan Lovenburg: Susan said that the school board needs to look at policies in place since many are outdated. She further added that data needs to be collected on an ongoing basis to see if the problem is still going on. She added that we need to look at suspension to see if it’s working. Is suspension working? What is the underlying cause? While she supports automatic suspension for drug and alcohol related issues, she said that when kids challenge authority and are suspended we need to look at communication and how kids get frustrated and let that dictate their behavior. Furthermore, she added that rather than a one time effort we need to look at an ongoing solutions to address this issue.

Richard Harris: “I think a boycott was a manifestation of the frustration with the administration. If I am on the board and I am setting policy, I am not going to tolerate double standards. There is no reason for it to be different.” He said that he has always been concerned about suspensions, because we’re taking kids out of the environment that is going to help them. If kids are a harm to themselves or to others that is different, but it never has made any sense to take a kid out of a learning environment.

In what ways, if any, does a racially/ethnically diverse teaching staff - because of its diversity - impact children's educational success? Are there ways that teacher racial/ethnic diversity impacts White children as well? Not including high housing costs in Davis and the relatively poor salary and benefits package that DJUSD offers, what obstacles exist in hiring a more diverse group of teachers? What remedies do you recommend to remedy those

Joe Spector: Joe stated that it’s a question about modeling and mentoring. He stated that working in Davis he has noticed that male teachers are the most rare but also, the most sought out. He has talked to teachers outside of Davis who have expressed that they feel that there is little diversity in Davis, so showing them that we support them while addressing issues of high housing costs, poor salary and benefits, we can address the issue of having a more diverse teaching staff.

Bob Schelen: Bob believes that racially or ethnically diverse teaching staff will serve as role models. He further added that all students would be able to have them as role models not just minority students. He believes that a diverse teaching staff would show students that authority figures can be people of different ethnicities. He pushed for a community discussion on the issue stating that, “it is going to be a difficult discussion, but must take place in order to have a more diverse teaching staff.”

Susan Lovenburg: Most positive impact is that students have the opportunity to see teachers from diverse backgrounds as teachers. She stated that she grew up on military bases where people came in all colors and families were often multi-racial and multi-cultural. She further added that these differences were simply unremarkable within our context.

Richard Harris: Richard said that he is probably the person that grew up in the least diverse system having grown up in Sacramento. He believes that the way the district will be successful is to make sure that the teaching staff is diverse. "We have to have more parents who would be willing to come and participate. Just like a business."

If Valley Oak closes, as a Board member, how, if at all, would you document and publicize, as a means of public accountability and the protection of vulnerable learners’ educations, the educational impact on especially English Learners because of this decision? How will you attempt to ensure that all ELs, especially those from Valley Oak, receive the level of educational services recommended in the UC Davis research report and recommendations?

Joe Spector: “The school that we know right now will close at the end of the year. I’ve been supporting it from the very beginning. I’ve been handing out Valley Oak charter information; because I think it is critical. Now is the time for sign ups.”

Joe expressed concern about the impact it will have on children, not just adults. “If we lose the school they will be separated from friends, adults they know and trust, and from their community that knows their language.”

He said that if we build trust with families and provide long-term training for teachers we can address some of the concerns.

Bob Schelen: Bob believes that the report was excellent. He stated that “we need to look at them [recommendations] and implement them sooner rather than later." He further made it clear that he is a strong supporter of the Valley Oak charter proposal saying that as a school board member he would make sure that it happens.

Susan Lovenburg: Success for any student starts with learning core curriculum. Our classroom teachers, specialist teachers and paraeducators need the tools to evaluate achievement data and the techniques to address diverse learning needs within the classroom.
With respect to the closure of Valley Oak, we must make timely and effective program and boundary decisions, so that everyone understands the choices available to them.

Richard Harris: "The English learners will be put into situations where their needs are met. When we are presented with the charter if we are on the board then we will have a full analysis by the school district staff. The study that UC Davis did was remarkable."

---Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald sitting in for Doug Paul Davis

Monday, October 22, 2007

Davis Council Approves Plans to Expand Varsity Theater

The city council unanimously approved the idea of adding a second screen to the Varsity Theater on Tuesday. The theater was originally configured for a second screen, and all council members agreed that it was a good idea to continue down that route.

Since the Varsity turned into a revenue generator for the city against original predictions, there was little opposition at the meeting to the idea that downtown could be given another screen to draw people into the downtown business area at night.

Since the Varsity had it’s grand re-opening in April of 2006, it has had about 3,252 average monthly viewers. In it’s first nine months, the Varsity raked in roughly 50-60% of comparable Sacramento theaters. In the last seven months, it has been more along the lines of 70-80% of those numbers.

The tenants of the Varsity appeared during the council meeting to express their satisfaction at running the theater, and would like to continue to do so with the addition of a second screen. With another screen, it is predicted it will bring more people (about 56,500 annually) into downtown, as well as allowing more new independent films to release sooner in Davis.

Some have expressed concern about the cost of the project which is listed at $750,000. People wondered how the city could afford that money for a project like this. However, it is important to understand that this money did not come from the general fund. Instead it comes from the Redevelopment Agency.

There are separate types of monies that are available to municipal governments. Redevelopment money could not go to pay for Fire Fighters. In fact, Councilmember Lamar Heystek noted that absence of the Fire Department as evidence that this was not a general fund budget issue.

According to the city's website, the City of Davis Redevelopment Agency's purpose is the elimination of "blight" from the downtown Core, Olive Drive, and South Davis sub-areas. It does this through a variety of means but mainly the acquisition of property or partnerships with property owners in efforts to improve property.

One of the reasons the Varsity Theater was an alluring target for Redevelopment Money is that the city would recoup its expense in a variety of ways.

There are several different options as to the aesthetic nature of the possible renovations, in particular where the path to the second screen will be located. Councilman Don Saylor was not very warm to the idea of a tunnel leading to the second screen, expressly stating that it would be “plug-ugly” and that he hopes it is not the architectural choice for the renovations.

As far as the timeline, once details are worked out with the architect and then a plan for approval comes before the council in about 6 months, another 9 months or so of construction will be required.

Contrary to the reporting in the Davis Enterprise, the City Council for the most part was very pleased with the project. According to the Davis Enterprise,
"Some, however, had reservations."
There were a few reservations sort of, but the vast majority of the meeting was very positive. And some of the items that were mentioned in the Enterprise were actually jokes, for instance,
"Councilman Lamar Heystek said he was disappointed the Varsity didn't screen a Dutch film that he and his girlfriend — both of whom speak Dutch — were disappointed to miss.

"When you think about foreign films, think about the Netherlands and the dozens of Dutch people you could be reaching," Heystek said."
I do not understand why that was reported in the paper.

The council was actually very excited about this project.

Mayor Sue Greenwald said:
“It’s been a dream of mine to bring independent film to Davis since I first moved here 18 years ago…so for me this is the culmination of 2 decades of work, its been a spectacular success. Almost every other college town has an independent film theater, it was a major gap in our cultural offerings, and now we have one and its one of the nicest.”
Jon Fenske, one of the managers of the Varsity Theater, said a few words to the council.
“Receipts are up over 20% this year, and we expect to continue to grow next year, it usually takes a theater about three years to get established. The studios we deal with think our numbers are fantastic and winning the trust and the faith of the studios is a key component to this business… A second screen is much more than doubling our film offerings, which is a negligible increase in operating costs. There is also the timing effect, which is huge.”
The timing effect refers to the ability to show new arthouse films the weekend that they open. With only one screen, the Varsity sometimes shows a movie long after its release date due to commitments to other films. “You want to grab the film while its hot”, Fenske said.

I am happy that the Varsity will be getting a second screen. An art theater is always the one that has the best movies, and it is much more of a community landmark than the Regal theaters in downtown. I hope the council continues with this project and allows the Varsity to become the premier theater in Davis to see great movies.

---Simon Efrein

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Concilio of Yolo County Hosts their 24th Annual Awards and Recognition Dinner

Last night was the 24th Annual Awards Concilio Recognition Dinner held on the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland. Honored were numerous community leaders for their community service and dedication to the welfare of Yolo County citizens.

However, most importantly and the highlight of the evening was the award of 14 high school students from seven Yolo County High Schools. Each of these students came before the full capacity audience and gave a simple speech telling about who they are, what they aspired to do in life, where they are applying for college, what obstacles they have had to overcome, and finally what advice they would give to their peers.

Every year it seems that some of these students, all of them Chicano/ Latino have had to overcome amazing obstacles in order to get to where they are. They are often the children of immigrants. Often the first people in their families who will go to college. And, some of them have had to deal with amazing adversity such as the loss of their parents.

If you have never seen this awards ceremony, you have certainly missed out. There is rarely a dry eye in the audience by the end of the evening.

The proceeds from this event put on by Rick Gonzales, Jr. and the Yolo County Concilio go to 75 scholarships to help disadvantage students go to college.

The adult awards were given to Monika Diaz for Yolo County High School Student Recognition Award. Marc Hicks and Marshall McKay received Board of Directors Recognition. Polita Gonzales and Ron Pina received the Education Award. Art Pimentel of the Woodland City Council received the Elected Official Award. Lydia Medina received the Business Award. Raquel Quiros of CommuniCare Health Centers won the Community Award. Marina Ramirez and my dear friend Mel Trujillo posthumously won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Rosa Garcia won the Pilar Andrade Award and Malaquias Montoya won the Rick Gonzales, Sr. Award.

Two students won from each high school. From Davis High: Amanda Lopez-Lara and Gilberto Ramirez. From Delta High: Sara Ann Ruiz and Daniel Arceo. From Esparto High: Ramona Torres and Miguel Molina. From Pioneer High: Margarita Orozco and Michael Singh. From River City High: Sheyla Valdez and Angel Diaz. From Winter High: Araceli Hernandez and Donald Garcia. From Woodland High Luz Toscano and Marvin Padilla.

For those who missed it, this is definitely an event you want to catch next year.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting