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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday Notes from the Underbelly

Davis to Woodland Bike Path in the Works

The County Board of Supervisors this week announced that funding was secured for a Davis-Woodland Bikepathway.

According to the staff report:
"Bids were opened October 31, 2007 and a construction contract to add 4’ bike lanes on County Road 99 between 27 and 29 was awarded to Central Valley Engineering and Paving in November 2007. Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2008 as weather allows, and to be completed after 45 working days."

"Funding for major road improvement projects comes primarily from state and federal sources. This funding is generally awarded on a competitive, project specific basis. The discretionary revenue received by the Road Fund generally covers only the annual cost to maintain the County’s 794 road miles, with the remainder available to meet match funding requirements.

An application was submitted to SACOG for the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding Program on December 3, 2007. $1.6 million was requested for the widening of the County Road 29 segment.

A pre-application letter was submitted to SACOG on November 16, 2007 for $600,000 of SACOG Community Design Funds to improve County Road 99 between County Road 25A for bicyclists."
Supervisors Mariko Yamada and Matt Rexroad have led the way on this.

According to Supervisor Rexroad on his blog,
"My mission in January will be to focus on the dedicated bike path between Woodland and Davis. This information will be part of the discussion."
From the map it appears there will be dedicated four foot bike paths on both sides of the roads. While this is clearly an improvement over the existing road conditions and in fact I have enjoyed using such bike paths on some of the county roads.

That said, I would really prefer a separate bike path such as they have along Russell Blvd as it heads out to Winters (I never quite why the path suddenly stops halfway there). That way bicyclists would be separate from motorists who are traveling in excess of 60 mph along these roads.

As I said, the current plan is certainly an improvement, but if we are spending over $2 million at least in outside source money already, why not go the rest of the way for maximum safety and convenience for bicyclists?

I Object

Look at the two pictures above. One is from the Davis Enterprise website. The other is a scanned copy of yesterday's newspaper. Anyone notice a difference between the two pictures? Apparently some of the Vanguard's readers do. And, despite the appearances on this blog, the one on the right is much larger than the one on the left.

Before I get the sanctimonious and self-importance complaints again, I want to stress that while I find this absolutely hilarious, my objection is that they didn't also crop the picture on the left a bit more.

Donate to the 22nd Annual Holiday Meal

from Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac

The Davis Food Co-op is hosting the 22nd annual Holiday Meal on Monday, Dec. 24, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Veterans' Memorial Center, and we need some help. Groups like Davis Community Meals and STEAC report a continuing demand for their services. Last year, the Holiday Meal served a full nutritious dinner, free of charge, to more than 800 people.

We appreciate the support we have received in the past from local businesses and individuals. Please help us continue this Davis tradition with your financial donation. Donors who contribute will have their names listed at the meal, and those who donate $50 or more will be acknowledged also in our pre- and post-event advertising. All donations of any amount are appreciated.

Please take a moment to write a check and send it to: Holiday Meal, Davis Food Co-op, 620 G St., Davis. If you wish, you may leave your contribution at the Co-op as well. For more information, just call the Co-op at 758-2667 and speak to Seth Larsen or e-mail him at

Thanks for your help.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 07, 2007

On the Brink of Battle Over Valley Oak A New Hope For Reconciliation Emerges

I think everyone in the room was anticipating a big showdown, perhaps something ugly, certainly something heated.

In fact, I flash back to the original Valley Oak meeting, when the decision was made to close the school, because it sheds light on the contrast of styles. At that time it was Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore's first meeting and he sat back and allowed his staff to make their presentations, to set the tone for the meeting, and then he made some comments.

Flash forward to last night, new Superintendent James Hammond was first to speak. All week long we had read in the papers the staff report, the lawyer's report, and we were prepared for the worst. But James Hammond took control of this meeting. Instead of having staff present their report, instead of allowing them to set the tone for the meeting, something very different happened.

James Hammond spoke in very general terms and then suggested that they had options, that they did not have to make a decision this evening. And that gave Board President Jim Provenza, in his last meeting, the opening that he needed. And he suggested that if it were possible that the district could meet with the petitioners and that they could hash out their differences.

So instead of conflict from the start, the tone was set that compromise and reconciliation was a possibility and the rest of the board to their credit followed this lead.

Outgoing member Keltie Jones said that if we were going to do this, the best opportunity to succeed would be to work out the differences together. And she acknowledge that many of the issues were small things, although some were large things.

Mike Egan, one of the drafters of the petition, was asked his feelings and he said from the start that they had wanted to sit down and talk through the differences.

According to law, they have 60 from the date they submitted the petition to make a decision on the petition. That would put the 60th day at January 4. However, by mutual consent they can extend that another 30 days. Mr. Egan was not unwilling to extend that deadline but suggested he would also like to see progress.

Should the school board reject the charter proposal there is ample recourse for the petitioners. First, it would go to the county board of education and then the state.

Gina Daleiden also made a good suggestion that each of the board members express their concerns to the district and the petitioners so that these issues can ultimately be addressed.

Tim Taylor was very agreeable to that suggestion and also agreeable to the idea of working out the differences because a rush decision would leave a lot of unhappy people and probably a number of unresolved questions.

For Tim Taylor as for Gina Daleiden the number of students who would attend and if few attended, the viability of the program given the size was the biggest concern.

Julie Cuetara, a parent, PTA president, and school mascot, addressed this point very well later on. First of all, this was not a reason that they could deny the charter. She also pointed out that the state law only required them to gather half the petitions for the projected students. The general belief was that students would come eventually, however, Ms. Cuetara also suggested that they gathered those petitions in a short period of time and she felt that she could collect 400 or 500 if needed.

Sheila Allen wanted to see some of the details such as special education and fiscal services fleshed out. She wanted to see MOU's (Memorandum of Understanding) not necessarily signed, but at least general points spelled out.

Jim Provenza spoke last. He was appreciative of the work of James Hammond and suggested that he will work in good faith. He thanked the Charter School Proponents for their good and hard work and then spoke in general terms about some of the key programs at Valley Oak. He wanted to preserve the uniqueness of the school, he talked about how special and effective the EL program is, and he urged creativity and cooperation on both sides and suggested that this flexibility can keep this unique school open. He said this is not about lawyers or administrators or even board members, but rather about kids in a school.

James Hammond really took the lead here and suggested good faith efforts to come to an agreement. Such efforts that did not seem possible this week given the tone of the reports coming from staff.

Fred Buderi, one of the leaders from the Davis OPEN group spoke during public comment about his concern about the tone of the staff report but also emphatically said he was very encouraged by comments from the board and superintendent, particularly about having good faith discussions.

Freddie Oakley, the Yolo County Clerk/ Recorder, also spoke during public comment, she gave an impassioned speech about duty, morality, and values. She emphatically told the board and the district to do the right thing (keep Valley Oak open and approve the petition) but also to do it with due diligence.

However, I come back to Superintendent James Hammond now. Because during the course of this week, really just since Sunday, the rhetoric was increasing and Fred Buderi was exactly right, the tone of the staff reports were very negative and divisive.

People on the blog even suggested that the Superintendent had not said anything. They suggested that this was very telling. It is actually fairly typical that his staff draft staff reports, not the Superintendent himself. However, once James Hammond came forward and took the lead on this issue, the tone and rhetoric changed.

There was no doubt during this meeting who was in control, who had set the tone, and who was not very happy about it. A number of people remarked to me about Associate Superintendent Ginni Davis, the author of the resolution. Her body language was atrocious. To the point where people who did not know who she was, were very angry at her and asked me who that was. She was literally writhing in her seat during the time in which James Hammond spoke and difused the situation. She was clearly not happy. Frankly her body language, probably off-camera from those at home, bordered on insubordination.

Staff was used to running the show under previous administrations, but there was no doubt who ran this show. The entire course of this debate changed in the first five minutes, when James Hammond instead allowing the staff report to be presented per the usual, instead, talked about options that the board had to either approve, reject, take no action, or allow staff and charter petitioners to work it out.

Now that the tone has been set and the gauntlet thrown down by the Dr. Hammond that these will occur in good faith, we can sit back and watch to see it unfold. However, one thing I take away from this is how important a strong and confident leader is to this entire process. It was a subtle manner in which Dr. Hammond seized control of this but it is a model that all Superintendents, Chiefs of Staff, City Managers, etc. should look at when their boards are on the brink of a divisive and heated discussion. For the first time, I see why the board decided that James Hammond was the guy for this job, and for the first time, I hope that maybe, just maybe, things are going to get better.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Charter School Drafters Respond to District Staff's Resolution

As we now know, the Davis Joint Unified School District attorneys have issued an additional 20 page legal opinion attacking the Valley Oak Charter Petition.

Bill Storm, science teacher and proponent of Valley Oak Charter School told the Davis Enterprise yesterday:
"The draft resolution severely distorts both our proposal and the requirements of the Charter Schools Act and makes serious errors of fact in denying the petition... We continue to be willing to work with the district in resolving any legitimate issues. Such work would require that all parties act swiftly and in good faith... f the Davis school board acts to deny the charter, we are confident that the charter will be authorized through the appeal process outlined in the Charter Schools Act... We have made presentations, provided drafts of the educational plan, governance design and budget presentations (to the district), and have repeatedly requested meaningful dialogue and feedback. Instead, last Friday (the district) posted a draft resolution to deny the petition for the Valley Oak Charter School."
Mr. Storm has sent the Vanguard a lengthy response to the resolution which is also posted on the Valley Oak Charter web page.

In response to the assertion by district that:
"The petitions submitted fail to affirm that the Charter was attached to the petition at the time of execution of the petition by the signatory as required by Education Code section 47605(a)(3)."
The Valley Oak drafters contend:
"47605(a)(3) provides that

'A petition shall include a prominent statement that a signature on the petition means that the parent or guardian is meaningfully interested in having his or her child, or ward, attend the charter school, or in the case of a teacher's signature, means that the teacher is meaningfully interested in teaching at the charter school. The proposed charter shall be attached to the petition.'

In fact, the signature pages were attached, and the signature page included a statement that it was attached to the petition."
Second in response to the charge that they failed to claim they would not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of sexual orientation:
"This “finding” is a misstatement of the law and is factually untrue. The sections of the Charter School Act that are cited specifically require that the charter school shall be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, shall not charge tuition, and shall not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. VOCS Charter, page 60, DOES make those assurances and specifically references the relevant code sections. The Charter School Act does not anywhere mention the issue of discrimination against pupils on the basis of sexual orientation. By raising this issue, the drafters of the resolution apparently seek to imply that the school will discriminate against pupils on that basis. Such an implication is shameful."
Many of the other objections to the district resolution can be summarized as follows.

There are several things that the district claims that the charter does not do, that the charter petitioners claim they do.

For example the district claims:
"The proposed Charter does not contain a reasonably comprehensive description of measurable pupil outcomes. The Charter does not identify specific pupil outcome goals in the subject matter areas of Reading and Language Arts, Mathematics, History and Social Science, Science, or Health and Nutrition."
The charter petitioners respond:
"Presented finding is not factual. The VOCS document employs district assessment protocols. For the district to say the charter does not contain a “reasonably comprehensive description of measurable pupil outcomes” is an indictment of its own practice. “Specific pupil outcome goals” in the content areas specified are indeed detailed in the VOCS Charter, pages 40 to 41, thus this finding has no basis in fact."
There are a number of such claims and counter-claims through this exchange. Part of the problem at this point may be the definition of "reasonable" and whether that adds enough subjectivity to enable the district to legitimately reject the petition.

Another example of this claim is found in response three by the district:
"The proposed Charter does not contain a reasonably comprehensive description of the charter school’s methods to assess pupil progress. The Charter does not identify which assessment instruments will be used in all core areas, except English language acquisition. The Charter does not describe specific interventions for any core areas, except English language acquisition, or identify the criteria for placing students in an intervention program."
Once again the petitioners respond by arguing that they do indeed address this point:
"Presented finding is not factual. Each item the resolution says is deficient is indeed detailed in the charter. Refer to pages 40 and 41 in the charter. Specific interventions are detailed in the VOCS Charter, pages 29 through 32. Assessments (STAR, BEAR, salmon/blue cards, etc) are identified in both primary and intermediate grade level sections as well as in the MSO portion. Specific assessments in each content area will be dictated by the publisher's tests for each textbook adoption. Present adoptions are listed by publisher's name in the grade level sections."
There are also a number of objections that the charter petition is not required by law to contain some provisos.

One example was the sexual orientation claim by the district, here is another example.
"The proposed Charter does not contain a reasonably comprehensive description of dispute resolution procedures. The proposed dispute resolution process fails to expressly exempt revocation proceedings from the dispute resolution process. The District cannot be compelled through the charter granting process to submit to disputes to binding arbitration or relinquish its right to seek resolution of disputes through legal process. The proposal that the District pay the costs of arbitration is unsound by removing financial incentives for the charter school to resolve disputes without recourse to arbitration."
The petitioners respond:
"Presented finding is not factual. There is no requirement that the charter contain any notice that revocation proceedings be exempt from a dispute resolution process. The dispute resolution mechanism provides arbitration before a neutral third party arbitrator. By raising this issue it is grasping at straws."
In response to claim that the Charter does not provide a preference of District residents immediately after pupils currently attending the charter school and
"unlawfully grants priority preferences to: students residing within the Valley Oak attendance area, children of Valley Oak School employees, and siblings of students enrolled in the District or the charter school. The description of the public random drawing process in the event of over enrollment is ambiguous, incomplete, and fails to admit students entitled to an attendance preference ahead of other students."
According to the petitioners, once again this finding is not factual.
"Ed Code specifically permits enrollment preferences to neighborhood students in charter schools. Refer to Section 47605 (d)(2). Also, the paragraph is internally contradictory. It initially says preferences are unlawful, and then later says we fail to admit students from a preferred attendance area. If the district is not happy with how we state how preference will be designated and how the attendance lottery will be run, those issues are easily negotiated."
The school board itself will hear tonight what ought to be a bitterly contentious meeting. This is unfortunate.

Vanguard Commentary

It is the opinion of the Vanguard that the initial resolution response was inappropriate, unnecessary, incendiary, and inflammatory.

As we suggested on Monday, most of the findings are subjective and nitpicky. The entire response seems to be bent on breaking on the will of the petitioners rather than addressing gaping holes in the charter petition. Much more could have accomplished with a meeting to flesh out concerns and tighten up language if so needed.

At this point the Vanguard is extremely disappointed in the district staff. While for the time being, the new Superintendent, who has not been involved in this process, is likely unfamiliar with Charter Law, gets a pass from us, we will be VERY closely watching how he responds to this situation and whether he can act to be a voice of reason toward resolution on the one hand or on the other hand help the existing staff to pile on in their apparent attempt to torpedo the Valley School Charter Program.

Additionally, this now becomes a burden for the outgoing school board. The Vanguard will particularly look toward three board members who will be staying: Sheila Allen, Gina Daleiden, and Tim Taylor to provide the necessary guidance and leadership to avoid what appears at this point to be almost inevitably a lengthy and destructive legal show that will only harm the students in this school district.

Make no mistake, this district is on the brink and only strong leadership from the school board and new superintendent can avoid metaphorical bloodshed from occurring. It is our hope that cooler heads will prevail in this and that the board can be the voice of reason and compromise, because quite frankly there does not seem to be a huge gap in the opinions here. However, if lines are drawn in the sand, this could become contentious, bitter and ugly. Again, it is our hope that this be avoided.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Proposition 92 Divides Teaching Community and Sets Stage for Bloody Battle in February

A measure that would cut fees for Community College students and guarantee funding levels for community colleges would seem to be an issue everyone in the teaching community could get behind.

The cost of Community Colleges has risen sharply in recent decades and Proposition 92 would lower the fees from the current $20 per unit to $15 per unit. It would also set aside a percentage of the state's budget for community colleges.

However, the measure has divided the state's two largest teachers' unions. The California Federation of Teachers is the biggest financial backer of Proposition 92. Meanwhile, the largest teachers' association in the state, CTA, is a strong opponent.

Why? Because the measure would tinker with the basic funding formula for Proposition 98. Proposition 98 was passed by the voters in 1988 to lock in K-12 money at 40 percent of the states general fund. The CTA and other opponents fear that by locking in money for community college funding, money would be taken away from the K-12 schools. The CTA claims to support more money for community colleges, however they oppose the manner in which Proposition 92 would accomplish this.

Scott Lay, a Davis resident and president of the Community College League of California is a strong backer of the measure. In a November interview with the Sacramento Bee he said:
"Everybody loves community colleges right now. I've never heard so many people say community colleges need more money. We've tried for 20 years to play the game in Sacramento, and what it has meant is fewer Californians being able to go to college."

"There's a sincere debate about the future of higher education. We are trying to have a system that will be accessible and affordable and the other universities have a different agenda, talking about their fee increases and executive pay this week. ... We believe we are going the direction the people want."
Meanwhile the ruling bodies of California's two-tiered four year college system have also opposed the measure--the CSU Board of Trustee and the University of California Regents.

Each of them apparent are fearful that more money for community colleges translates into less money for them.

Spokesman Paul Browning from CSU told the Sacramento Bee:
"The CSU is worried that the passage of the proposition could mean leaner times by shrinking the pool of discretionary money available for higher education from Sacramento, which of course would impact CSU."
The sad part of this fight is that there seems a real need for more consistent and reliable support for community colleges. Community Colleges represent a crucial avenue by which students are prepared for four-year colleges in addition to provisions of workplace skills and other key skills that can be applied directly to vocations.

On the Yes on Proposition 92 website, they quote Marco Realmonte, President of the Cabrillo Student Senate:
“Lowering the fees will allow thousands of California students who have a difficult time paying for college in the face of unpredictable fee increases and high housing costs. In 2003, more than 300,000 students were forced to drop out when fees increased to $26. This initiative means stability for students like me. It’s important for every student to have the ability to go to college.”
Unfortunately, the budget realities in this state are such that anytime you feed Peter, you do so at the expense of Paul.

The reality though is that education is a necessity not a luxury.

Matt Mahood, President & CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber is quoted saying:
“In order to keep California’s competitive edge over the next 20 years, almost 40 percent of the workforce will need to be college educated. Unfortunately, today we are well below that percentage. Our community college system is this region's lynchpin to ensuring we produce the highly skilled workers required to meet the demands of the next technological era. Passing the Community College Initiative will offer more affordable and accessible academic and vocational education for both recent high school graduates and those returning to school. And the initiative does this without raising taxes.”
It is of course that last sentence that sparks the controversy here because in order to provide money to Community Colleges without raising taxes, it has to take money from somewhere else.

What would be nice is if the educational community could come together and figure out some sort of solution here. As it stands, we are looking at a bloody battle that no one will really win as it pits one part of our educational system against another.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

County Takes On Appeal of Cell Tower Issue in NW Quadrant

According to the staff report, in May of 2007, an application was submitted to construct and operate a cell tower north of Covell Blvd between County Road 99 and State Route 113. The tower would be roughly 120 feet high.

The County Planning Commission approved the conditional use permit for the construction and operation of the facility northwest of Davis.

According to the Staff Report:
"The Planning Commission approved the project with a 3-2 vote at the September 13, 2007 hearing, with additions to the Conditions of Approval to include an eight-foot sound wall. The Planning Commission’s approval was based on findings that the project is consistent with the requirements set forth in the Yolo County Wireless Communication Facility Conditional Use Permit Review Criteria (Yolo County Code Section 8-2.2417) and related local ordinance requirements. Three nearby landowners subsequently appealed the project on September 28, 2007. One of the landowners has since withdrawn his name from the appeal."
The appeal has three components based on CEQA issues: aesthetics, noise, and land use conflicts. The Planning Commission had originally ruled that the project would have less than significant impact on the environment. Nearby landowners are claiming that this ruling fails to identify potentially significant impacts from aesthetics and noise. The Office of County Counsel believes that these impacts were in fact adequately discussed and that Planning Commission had carried out their duties properly.

Nevertheless, staff recommends denial of the conditional use permit and reevaluation on January 15, 2008.
"Community opposition has increased since the Planning Commission granted the requested conditional use permit. Among other things, many residents and property owners have expressed aesthetic concerns about the proposed tower - a 110-foot tall structure in an otherwise flat, agricultural area that would be easily visible to nearby residents. In addition, staff is not persuaded that the applicant has meaningfully evaluated alternative sites and system designs that could be visually less intrusive. However, as with any appeal of a Planning Commission decision, the Board of Supervisors reviews the entire matter independently and can consider issues not specifically raised by the appellants."
A number of the property owners in the Northwest Quadrant protested that the cell tower location would interfere with the best use of their property. According to one resident, at least six neighboring property owners protest this location.

Residents also suggest that there are alternative locations for the tower that were under-explored. One such location would be the Sutter Davis Hospital that has apparently offered a location on their property, within the city of Davis limits. This location would accomplish the same coverage as the other location, apparently without the kinds of objections that are currently occurring in the Northwest Quadrant.

The bottom line in this issue appears to be that one property owner has offered up his or her property for the construction of the tower and the neighbors are objecting. The Board of Supervisors meets today to discuss this issue.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 03, 2007

District Staff Drafts Resolution Against Charter School At Valley Oak

A District Staff drafted resolution would deny the Valley Oak charter based on three of the criteria fleshed out into nineteen separate points--many of which seem nitpicky at best.

First they argue, "the petition does not contain the number of signatures required by law." This is perplexing at first given that they acquired over 200 signatures but were only required to get a 150.

What the district is claiming here is:
"The petitions submitted fail to affirm that the Charter was attached to the petition at the time of execution of the petition by the signatory as required by Education Code section 47605(a)(3)."
Likewise the second reason:
"The Charter does not contain an affirmation that the charter school shall be nonsectarian in its programs, employment practices, and all other operations, and not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of sexual orientation."
On page 53 of the charter they appear cover most of that:
"There shall be no admission criteria, testing, or other evaluation required of any applicant. Valley Oak Charter School shall not charge an application fee nor shall it charge tuition. Valley Oak Charter School shall be nonsectarian in its admission and enrollment policies and shall not discriminate against any student on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability."
Although they do not appear to cover sexual orientation of (elementary school) children in it. This would again appear to be something that could be amended rather easily and certainly should not be a cause for rejection.

The third section would appear to be most serious laying out 16 points suggesting that the "petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all of the elements prescribed by law."

Even these sixteen points also appear at times to be subjective and nitpicky.

A link to the charter school section of California Education Code Appears here.

The resolution can be found here.

Jeff Hudson reporting for the Davis Enterprise spoke to Ginni Davis, associate superintendent for educational services:

"'the district staff has experience and are very willing to consider a charter process and petition based on sound educational practices that would offer students an innovative option not already provided by the district, which is the spirit of the reason for charters to be formed.'

She added, 'We are only allowed to respond to the charter petition as written and submitted at this time.'

'We understand the emotional impact of consolidating Valley Oak Elementary to Korematsu Elementary has been difficult for the Valley Oak families,' Davis added. 'The district is open to working with the charter group in the future if the school board determines that we should go in that direction.'

Davis also referenced the rapid timeline for discussion. Supporters of the proposed Valley Oak Charter turned in their petition (with the signatures of the parents of 201 children, and 19 teachers) on Nov. 5. Under state law, the Davis school district then had 30 days to hold a public hearing about the charter petition, and 60 days (until Jan. 4 in this case) to either approve or deny the charter petition.

The Davis school board held the required public hearing Nov. 15 (10 days after the petition was filed) and could vote on the charter petition as early as Thursday (31 days after the petition was filed).

'This fast timeline has not given us the opportunity to work more collaboratively to align interests and concerns,' Davis said.

Describing the legal opinion expected to be released Monday, Davis said 'our attorney is completing his analysis, with input from staff, to address more specifically each concern and legal issue' raised by the proposed resolution on the school board agenda."
Supporters of the Valley Oak Charter take exception to some of these comments.

Bill Storm, science teacher at Valley Oak and one of the drafters of the petition told the Vanguard yesterday:
"Considering that the organizers will not have the opportunity to meet until tomorrow evening to discuss events surrounding the charter, it would be inappropriate for me to respond substantively. Obviously, we’re disappointed that the staff should take such a position, but it is anything but a surprise given the tactics we’ve been seeing from district staff since before the November 15 hearing designed to suppress our progress. If there had ever been any concern regarding the delivery of services to students, the staff has had ample opportunity to weigh in on any issues whatsoever, particularly since last July, and there has been no such interest. The staff’s drafting of a resolution seems to give their recommendation the appearance of inevitability, and it is anything but that. The district’s goal has been, from the start, to close Valley Oak in order to open another school in a preferred neighborhood, and no one should be surprised that their agenda has not changed."
Don Winters, a Davis High School teacher and a Valley Oak proponent was equally outspoken:
"It is not surprising to even the casual observer of the process taken by DJUSD officials to close Valley Oak School that the district administration would take the position it did to recommend denial of the charter to the board of education. What we have in this community in a nutshell... are school leaders who proceed to build a new elementary school when one is not needed, promote a fiscal emergency where one does not exist, and select a school for closure based on the least amount of "push-back" from the impacted community. "
He continued:
"Now we have a district leadership who will spend tens of thousands of our tax dollars to hire legal experts to give the "fine tooth comb approach" to a charter school proposal which could provide a quality education for the young people in core area of town as well as the greater community. "
As others have suggested, each of the points in the resolution is qualified under the guise of not "reasonably comprehensive." Most of the points are actually covered to some degree or another, and therefore "reasonably comprehensive" has become a subjective argument posed by the school district. Ginni Davis has suggested that the school district would be supportive of the charter, however, Bill Storm's statement indicates that they had ample opportunity to have such involvement over the past six months and opted to not participate. This would suggest that this was not foisted on them at the last moment as Ms. Davis describes. Most of these points appear to be correctable in a simple and rapid manner if it is the District's true interest to negotiation rather than to kill this effort.

At this point, I think the most telling statement is that the staff drafted a resolution opposing the charter rather than a staff report that the board itself could take up, respond to, question, and then pick their own direction. To me this again suggests that the district staff is bent on killing this effort, demoralizing the petitioners, and hoping that this resolution goes away.

Furthermore, there would seem to be a strategic nature to this effort. By waiting until after this meeting, Board President Jim Provenza, the strongest proponent of Valley Oak on the board along with Sheila Allen would be off the board (along with Keltie Jones a strong opponent of Valley Oak) and they would be replaced by two board members who are more likely to be critics of the charter school proposal.

We shall see how this works out at the Thursday meeting, but at this point, I continue to remain deeply skeptical of district staff and their intentions on this.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Commentary: Early Primary Leads to Uncertain Role for California in Presidential Elections

Interesting article in this morning's Sacramento Bee on the impact of the early February Primary in California.

The belief is that while the Presidential Candidates are not treating California like they are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, California is reaping some rewards from the move.

The Sacramento Bee says:
"As candidates enter the thick of primary season, most are saving their serious campaign efforts for states holding January elections such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

That's largely because California's Feb. 5 primary date is no longer unique – or all that early. More than 20 other states followed suit by scheduling their elections for the same day, and six states leapfrogged California altogether by holding their contests in January.

Some political analysts believe the nearly two dozen "Super Tuesday" states may simply validate nominees chosen by early state voters as the field shrinks throughout January."
We are not seeing Candidates coming to the state fair or going to the local farmer's markets in search of votes. None of the candidates have aired campaign ads in the state's big media markets.

They quote a Republican consultant and California adviser to Mitt Romney:
"The governor was correct that it would make California more relevant, and it has, but the state is still in a second-tier category with the rest of the country... What moving us up has done is saved us from being completely irrelevant, which the state has been in the past."
And that's the bottom line--California is not a battleground at this point but it is also not irrelevant.

According to the article, California has been the fourth most visited state in the nation. There were appearances by all of the candidates at the Democratic State Convention earlier this year and by several of the Republican candidates at the Republican State Convention.

However, for the most part, California is viewed as a state in which to raise money rather than a state in which to court votes.
"When Schwarzenegger signed legislation to move the primary date, he bemoaned that candidates previously "collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions, and then they left as quickly as possible. I'm happy to say that those days are over."
Political strategists say the governor was partly correct. Candidates have made more public appearances, shaken more hands and answered more media questions. But almost every public event has been associated with a fundraiser, still a major reason candidates flock to California."
There was an ulterior motive by the state Democratic leaders in moving the state up in the primary season. State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata have pushed for a change in term limit laws and the February election gives them enough time to pass the law and run for re-election.

My own view of the primary system is rather mixed. On the one hand, I am not completely convinced that a system in which small states that are somewhat national outliers are decisive by-and-large in selecting the party nominees for President is a good one.

On the other hand, I am also not convinced, at least in most cases, that the party nominee would have been significantly different under a previous system.

The reason for this is that if you take primaries out of the equation and look at the who the party nominees are you find that they are usually the ones with the best campaign organization, the best ability to raise money, and generally the most accomplished or biggest name in the race. The Republican front runner has always won. The Democrats have elected some people who might have surprised you at the time, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton. But then you have to ask yourself, did the primary season cause this, or did these people end up as the best known, most money, etc. And I have a hard time arguing otherwise even in the case of Jimmy Carter. Neither Dukakis nor Clinton ran against strong fields, they were clearly the strongest in a weak field.

Nevertheless the prospect of having the nominees determined by early February, does not seem conducive to a healthy system, where the two main nominees will essentially battle it out for nine months until long after everyone but the most partisan of partisans care anymore.

We would be far better off with rotating regional primaries starting in March or April. Finish the primaries by the end of June, have the party conventions in late July or August, and leave a few months for the horse race to finish up.

At the end of the day as well, the attempts to change term limits in time for election seems like a transparent power grab move and as I have stated here in the past, does not solve the real problems posed by term limits, rather they shuffled the chairs on the deck so to speak. Meantime, changing the rules midstream may have a huge impact locally on our elections. The Assembly race has been going on for nearly a year already and the candidates have probably raised a combined 6 or 7 hundred thousand. Assemblywoman Lois Wolk is without a primary challenge if the State Senate seat is indeed open, so she is waiting back to see what happens with the term limit rules. Neither Mayor Christopher Cabaldon nor Supervisor Mariko Yamada have that luxury, so they have been going all-out for a seat that there is a chance will not be open two months from now. I do not see this as a wise decision by the California Democratic Leadership. In fact, just the opposite.

At the end of the day, I doubt most people are going to be satisfied with the Presidential nominee process or the fact that voting starts in just over a month.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting