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March 3, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2010 7B COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE Community shouldn't give up on Greenville High WHERE I STAND KEST PORTER CURRICULUM DIRECTOR PLUMAS UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT The Plumas Unified School District board of trustees and Superintendent Glenn Harris have been criticized recently for not promising to spend more money immediately to add administrative time and more classes to Greenville High School. Across the district we have students who struggle, stu- dents who do well, and stu- dents who excel. PUSD is re- sponsible for meeting the needs of each one. Our board members and administrators struggle to make the most of our funds while protecting the district from the terrible fi- nancial problems we have dealt with in the past when we spent more than we should have. I recall a state representa- tive sitting in our board meet- ings and rescinding the board's actions when we lost the authority to govern our- selves in the early '90s. More recently, Superintendent Michael Chelotti suffered per- sonalhealth problems from the stress of saving us from fi- nancial decisions made before he took over. He was forced to sign devastating layoffs year after year until we were final- ly on sound financial footing. In both cases, decisions were made because we wanted to help with immediate issues even though the financial fu - ture looked bleak. Both times, people asked later why we weren't more careful; why had we been so foolish with our finances when we Could see the problems it would cause in the future? Now, with Superintendent Harris at the helm, he has led us to create and follow a strategic plan so the issues of most concern across the district are dealt with systematically and with more focus than I have ever seen in my career. He is leading us there with- out endangering our financial future. That, I believe, is a very good thing. Unfortunate- ly, there is another problem brewing in Indian Valley. I know from 23 years of liv- ing in Indian Valley that it is a remarkable place. People in Indian Valley have an inde- pendent "can-do" spirit that comes to the fore in times of need, whether it is a neigh- bor's house that burned or the school that is struggling. As Indian Valley's popula- tion has decreased (the schools are less than half the size they were when I arrived), our high school has struggled to main- tain a high-quality, compre- hensive program. Parents stood up recently and said clearly that Greenville High School has some problems that need to be corrected. The timing was a bit ironic, as this January U.S. News and World Report de- clared Greenville High School one of the top high schools in the United States, earning a bronze medal (us- news.com/highschools). In- deed, until 2005, GHS typically had the highest standardized test scores in the district. Regardless, the current con- cerns shared by parents, stu- dents and teachers are clear and troubling: They have a hard time reaching their prin- cipal and feel a lack of leader- ship, some students have study hall for lack of available relevant classes, and they are concerned about the num- ber of students who are not succeeding. Several of my Indian Valley neighbors have complained that we have always been the overlooked stepchild of a dis- trict that does not care. That seems like an odd complaint when you consider that PUSD spends about $5,500 per high school student in Chester, Quincy and Portola high Greenville High School. That figure includes funds spent solely at the GHS cam- pus and does not include the cost of all of our district-level services. While that important fact was explained at both the community meeting and the board meeting, it was left out of the recent articles in our newspaper. Although anyone can un- derstand that a smaller school requires more funding per student, demanding that even more money be redirected to Greenville High does not seem reasonable, t believe we--the community members of Indi- an Valley--need to be part of the solution, supporting our high school as the community in Taylorsville has done for its tiny school for years. I will get back to that in a moment. Right now, it is important to know that the school and dis- trict administration heard the community's concerns and are taking action. Superinten- dent Harris is not putting par- ents off for another year, as our Indian Valley Record headlines Feb. 17 claimed. What Superintendent Glenn Harris did not do is make quick political promises to ap- pease the audience. That is not his style. What he did do was gather the necessary in- formation, he met with the people who could help and he supported principal Laura Blesse in resolving each issue. Actions are being taken on three levels. First, with Superintendent Harris' backing, principal Laura Blesse took immediate steps to resolve these issues for this year's students and parents. Within three days of the school and board meet- ings, Mrs. Blesse announced in the GHS Weekly Newsletter and the newspaper that ad- ministrative hours had been extended from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make it easier for parents to meet with her and vice schools, but spends more thaa rJopoJ Brian Johnson. $8,500 per student at  8healsooffered to meet later than 5 by appointment and suggested times when parents could drop in. In addition, Mrs. Blesse in- stituted monthly meetings specifically to address parent concerns. The first meeting was held Tuesday evening, Feb. 23. At next month's meet- ing she will report on what has been done to address those concerns. Please do give Mrs. Blesse a call and work with her on any concerns you have. Mrs. Blesse then went to each student who had a study hall class and offered to make arrangements to enroll them in One of seven FRC online classes that would allow them to earn college credit during their study hall period. She also began work on an intervention plan to support struggling students in their quest to be ready to pursue any career after graduation. Mrs. Blesse next announced to teachers that assignments must be reviewed and re- turned to students within 72 hours, with the exception of large quarter-long projects. Let her know if you do not see those efforts improving your student's education. Finally, Mrs. Blesse put in place a series of meetings be- tween Greenville High's coun- selor, Mrs. Barrett, each stu- dent, and his or her parents. These meetings will begin with seniors and progress through each class to seventh grade, ensuring that families understand exactly where their students are on their path to graduation and preparation for their post- secondary goals. On the second level, while the aforementioned immedi- ate needs are being addressed, planning is taking place for next school year. Specific plans and budgets are being established to ensure these is- sues do not become problems in the future. |rd level is one Harris has described several times in re- cent meetings. In the long run, we need to consider what we, the residents of Plumas Coun- ty, want for our students and explore ways we can provide it. If we really want all the same classes as bigger high schools, including wood shop, auto shop, drama, various computer classes, etc.--all taught as traditional classes-- then we probably need to look at sending all the kids in the county to one large combined high school. On the other hand, if we ac- cept that we are a small com- munity and we want our stu- dents to be well prepared in our home community to go to any university or pursue any career, then we need to find other ways to offer classes. Some are already available via computer. There are sure- ly other creative ways to offer options. That brings me back to you. We have a group of people who are addressing the GHS issues by encouraging parents to splinter off from GHS to create a charter school, even though they have not outlined how they would provide any- where near the funding per student that PUSD currently provides. As they pull students away, that would reduce the re- sources available to GHS even further. I suggest that, in- stead, we put our efforts into improving what we already have. GHS has highly committed teachers. Travis Rubke teach- es science all day (sometimes arriving before 4 a.m.) and comes back in the evening to tutor. Dan Brown is available daily before and after school to tutor. Jim Norman inspires young musicians year after year by putting in a great deal of extra time. Those are just three exam- ples, not a complete list. How- ever, as the school gets small- er, it gets harder and harder for teachers to cover every base by themselves. Mike Chelotti used to talk about creating a cadre of vol- unteers who would supple- ment the work of our teachers by sharing their expertise with our high school students. I think he was right; people in Indian Valley are the key to this dilemma. We could pull together and provide help to our high school in many ways that would make GHS highly effec- tive once again. Bill Gimple is a perfect example of a person with skills who has been will- ing to donate his time to sup- port our students. He and Sue Weber put in untold hours organizing the science fair and then support- ing students in participating. There are others, but we have not organized to provide systematic support for our students. If the rest of us put in a little time tutoring, aiding and sup- porting students in a variety of ways, all Greenville High School students could gradu- ate well prepared to go to any university or pursue any career they choose. By modeling this approach to solving our problem, our students will see they do not have to be helpless victims, but people with the power to shape their world with the re- sources they have. That is part of what makes Indian Valley and the young adults it produces so remarkable. Please become part of the solution and let Mrs. Blesse know you are willing to do- nate a small portion of your time and skills. You and I have the power to make GHS stronger, or we can splinter off in various direc- tions and hasten its demise. Let's choose strength. Don't give up on Greenville High School. Perhaps the most im- portant comment from the re- cent meetings was Judy Gim- ple's when she called out ,'Don't underestimate Indian Valley!" Agency should address social and economic issues WHERE I STAND SHARON THRALL CHAIR, PLUMAS COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS To: Randy Moore Regional Forester Vallejo, CA Dear Mr. Moore, The Plumas County Board of Supervisors would like to thank you for meeting with representatives of our county along with many other repre- sentatives from Northern Cali- fornia last December in Sacra- mento to discuss forest man- agement issues. Plumas County's land base has over 70 percent federal land that is administered by the United States Forest Service. Historically, this was a win/win situation for both the county and the Forest Service due to the sustainable forest management program that was implemented at a steady pace and generated enough re- ceipts so that the county could retain a viable economic base, maintain roads, support schools and enhance recre- ation opportunities. It is important that we re- vive the commitment made to rural forested counties bythe United States Congress when the national forest lands were reserved many years ago. Addressing social and eco- nomic sustainability in land management planning and evaluating those very contri- butions to the plan area are stated in the Forest Service. Manual (Section 1920 Land Management Planning) and must be considered to the fullest extent in all future for- est management planning, along with coordination be- tween county, state and feder- al governments. Currently our national forests are overgrown and prone to catastrophic wildfire thus jeopardizing clean air, wildlife habitat, important wa- tersheds for the state of Cali- fornia, and human life and property. Economic sustainability for rural communities that lie within the federal forested lands have also been jeopar- dized by mill closures due to the lack of harvested forest products, ongoing litigation and, most recently, a national recession. The closure of mills and co- generation plants with their infrastructure to process both lumber and biomass are likely to not be replaced once they are gone. We cannot afford to lose any more economic pro- ducing infrastructure in Northern California. The Obama Administration continues to work on a jobs program. Our national forests are waiting to be thinned and restored. Our critical water- shed needs protection from catastrophic fires to continue to produce an abundant and clean water supply for the peo- ple of California. There are plenty of jobs to be created in this effort. Tradi- tional logging methods along with new, innovative pilot pro- jects can further help the na- tion pull out of this recession. In closing, we ask that the Forest Service renew its com- mitment to and coordination efforts with rural counties such as ours by working together to address overall forest health, economics and sustainability; by producing a new forest man- agement plan that will address these critical needs. We look forward to contin- ued dialogue and meetings with you over the coming year to advance solutions to the problems we face on our na- tional forest lands and in our forest communities. LETTERS to th.e EDITOR Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an address and a phone number. Wepublish only one letter per week, per person and only one letter per person,- per month regarding the same ubje, We f19 not pubJJb third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words. The ed- itor will cut any letter in excess of 300 words.The deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. (Deadlines may change due to holidays.) Letters may be taken to any of Feather Publishing's offices, sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-mailed at mail@plumasnews.com Give him Shelters They can kill us, but they can't eat us. It's against the law." Those words are'attrib- uted to Private Lattie Tipton as spoken to Audie Murphy in the heat of battle during the Second World War. You may hear this expression used even today as a means of consola- tion during times of trouble. Personally I don't find much consolation in that ex- pression. The fact is that they probably can eat us, but maybe not all at once. And it probably is against the law ... at least while food prices stay below home prices. But food prices are moving up rapidly and real estate has plummet- ed, so we might not have much time. The fact is that many folks in this country are being eat- en alive by debt with mort- gages that are higher than the value of their homes and a treadmill of credit card inter- est rates designed to outpace an Olympic sprinter. Mary Shelters, who is an at- torney living in Indian Valley, is publishing a series of arti- cles in the Feather Publishing papers that puts that Audie Murphy metaphor into practi- cal terms for the many people who find themselvesunder water financially. There may actually be a life raft within reach. I find her articles more than just a good read and I compli- ment the newspaper for run- ning her series. I think she has hit on a pertinent and timely topic. She is definitely an advocate for victims of the current economic downturn and may have the legal means to prevent some folks from be- ing devoured by the ravenous monster called debt. Ralph Higgins Quincy Overwhelmed Recently I was honored at the last Greenville High School basketball game for my community service. Russell Crouch, the basketball coach, instigated and arranged for this tribute and I was over- whelmed. I thought he was just going to recognize me as a former "old" coach. I certainly fit that bill. I want to thank Russell for his thoughtfulness. I didn't even say thank you that night. I was so flustered and didn't think I had time as the presen- tation was at halftime of the J.V. game. I really appreciated that the basketball teams let this happen at their last game. With so many people in this valley doing community ser- vice, I was probably the least of them to be honored. I couldn't believe the support given me from my friends and family. Thank you so much. Also I want to congratulate the varsity and junior varsity basketball teams. I never have watched teams playing with such heart and perseverance. They, their coach, their par- ents and the community have to be so proud. Doti McDowell Greenville With or without you Everyone has heard about Greenville High School. First student population declined because of the local economy, which led to fewer classes be- ing offered. Now the vast ma- jority of students leaving do so to get a better education elsewhere, Christian and charter schools have seen an influx of students roughly equal to the loss of students suffered at GHS. What do the teachers union and PUSD expect to happen next? Do they expect to fall into some kind of a status quo where the fact,that GHS offers a badly abbreviated curricu- lum and no library are accept- ed? Do they expect some kind of miracle to occur? Voters were generous enough to approve yet another tax; the funds raised are to be spent on capital improve- ments of schools only, Does anyone expect the voters to be happy about the fact we are about to spend $300,000 on the lighting of a football field for a school with no library which d.9_e_s ng.t _l!_av_e enough tu- dents to field a football team? PUSD and teachers union, we deserve better and we shall have it, with or without you. Jan De Boer Indian Valley R_EADEKS INQUIRE What is the status of school libraries in Greenville? Questions abounded in Greenville last week about the school libraries. Were the Greenville school li- braries really closed, and if so, were other pchool li- braries in the county closed as well? Answers provided by Plumas Unified School Dis- trict Curriculum Director Kest Porter and Greenville principal Laura Blesse point- ed to the school site councils, vhose members decide how best to support students with the money allotted. School site councils are made up of parents, teach- ers, staff members and inter- ested residents. At the high school level, students also participate on the council. Some school site councils chose library time, Porter said, and others opted for al- ternative ways to support students. There has not been a li- brary at Greenville High School for several years, ac- cording to Blesse. High school students and teachers have access to li- brary books during class time or for research projects, though books are not checked out on an individual basis. The elementary school li- brary was open for holf of the last school year, and it will be open for the remain- der of this school year. Do you have an inquiring mind? Is there something you've always wondered about? Or maybe you've heard a recent rumor? Send your questions to dfragno. li@plumasnews.com with the subject line "Readers in- quire" and we'll track down the answer for you.