Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Opinion

Merriam-Webster has declared that the word of 2022 is “gaslighting,” and that’s incredibly appropriate considering what Tom Jordan, tribal administrator of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, is trying to pull on the town of Lucerne and the county at large.

With one fell swoop, this self-appointed expert on everything — in partnership with a rogue Lake County Office of Education staffer, Ana Santana — managed to hornswaggle the state into giving the tribe millions of dollars for a project Jordan doesn’t have the least clue how to carry out — turning the Lucerne Hotel into a gigantic homeless shelter, the biggest in the county, in the midst of a town that has one of the county’s smallest, poorest populations.

Why the state gave him money is anyone’s guess, other than he was using the tribe’s name to convince them at a time when Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is throwing money at the homeless situation with little emphasis on accountability or positive outcomes.

There are many issues with Jordan’s scheme, but perhaps most disgusting is Jordan’s arrogant dismissal of community concerns or any community input on the idea, which will need vast cooperation and financing to get off the ground, much less to survive.

Hinting that some imaginary entitlements exist he has already suggested he will fight the zoning and planning processes that such a project would necessarily require. He has yet to entertain a pre-planning meeting with the county, though he’s already been told that there are zoning issues.

But is this about a homeless youth housing facility, or as some of Lake County News’ readers are already suggesting, something else entirely — such as a gambit to force a casino or some other undesirable use into our community?

“Oh, gosh, our shelter failed,” I can imagine Jordan saying, patting his forehead with a hanky. “Now, we’ll spend those millions to turn it into a secondary casino to the $700 million casino we want to build in Vallejo.”

Or is it a plan for this Lakeport-area tribe to move its government offices into the building, part of Jordan’s ultimate vanity project in controlling the last of Lake County’s great resorts?

It’s anyone’s guess. And I suspect we’ll be waiting a long time for Tom Jordan — who it must be stressed is not a tribal member — to tell us the truth.

The description of the project sounds like a 19th century workhouse, something Charles Dickens would have written about warming the stone-cold heart of Ebenezer Scrooge as he walked past it in a dreary, coal-clouded London winter.

People who I know and trust, who are housing advocates who have reviewed the plan, call it poorly thought out, with the potential to become an unmitigated disaster for Lucerne and its residents.

Until Lake County News contacted them, the Lake County Office of Education, the plan's “primary partner” who was supposed to run the shelter, knew nothing about it. Nor did dozens of other “secondary” partners also were named in that grant.

All of those who we have contacted so far didn’t know about the plan, and certainly didn’t give it any support, while others read their names in disbelief. Some reached out to tell us “no, not us” or in one case, “Holy Toledo!”

Some of the notable organizations and agencies in that group include Lake County Probation, Lake Family Resource Center, Woodland Community College, Lake County Tribal Health and the Lake County Gleaners.

On Thursday afternoon, the Red Cross, a national level organization, contacted us to say they also had nothing to do with it.

We expect to hear from more of these “partners” before we’re done checking.

You could wonder whether the grant application’s audacious claims of unicorn partnerships, and the fact that they are categorically false, is burning bridges, not building them.

And how could any plan succeed without substantial input from the Lucerne school superintendent, the Northshore Fire chief, the sheriff and a host of other officials, much less the community? As disrespectful as that is on a government to government basis, contemplate the real world consequences for the neighborhood.

This is a clear case of planning to ask for forgiveness, not permission, or simply using the tribe’s name, and the Sword of Damocles that is a threat of being called a racist, over the head of anyone who questions it.

Already, Jordan’s fawning, sycophantic supporters appear to be starting a campaign of character assassination of anyone challenging their plan. I’d love to back up a dump truck full of his nonsense into their neighborhood. Their stupidity won’t get far.

This, it must be emphasized, is not about a tribe. This is about two bureaucrats who rubbed their heads together and sparked a nightmare. It’s a bad idea, no matter who is suggesting it. And it's unconscionable for the state of California to throw money at it when it’s clearly based on fiction, upon fiction, upon fiction.

Does this have something to do with Jordan’s involvement with the local Democratic party? Is this why a Democratic governor’s administration doesn’t question it?

More troubling still, our county legislators — Mike McGuire and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry — have remained silent when we’ve asked them about this thorny situation. They’ve stepped up when the county was in peril before, why do they stay silent now when Lucerne needs them?

Perhaps most shocking, we’re now getting word that many of Scotts Valley’s 300-plus tribal members had no idea about this plan or what is being done in their name.

That tribe reportedly has just seven homeless youth that would even qualify for such housing as the grant would cover. Now, they’re supposed to be responsible for running a 75,000 square foot historic building for dozens of individuals who aren’t members of their tribe? Yet, it’s our understanding that tribes currently have the ability already to house homeless youth. So what gives?

Our attempt to get a comment from the tribal chair, listed online by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as Shawn Davis — the tribe’s own website doesn’t list council members, and mostly likely for this very reason — was unsuccessful, so that leaves Jordan to speak for the tribe. And that’s probably why the tribe at large isn’t getting the message. Or wasn’t, until the article came out.

Despite all of this, the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency indicated it intends to go through with giving Scotts Valley the $5.2 million, without so much as a lead agency to run this project.

There’s that old saying about the dog that catches the car. In this case, Tom Jordan and Ana Santana caught the car.

The entire situation is outrageous. But then, anyone who is familiar with Tom Jordan’s history of bluster and bamboozlement shouldn’t be surprised.

Case in point, the sudden and complete destruction of the Lake County Community Action Agency in 2011, an agency whose board he chaired.

That year, the agency board discovered an estimated $100,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, which precipitated a financial crisis that closed the agency’s many important services, caused layoffs and ultimately resulted in its equipment and furniture being auctioned off in October 2011.

No one, including Jordan and other board members — tasked with oversight of the agency — could give clear answers of just how it all happened, but in hindsight, it’s become clearer.

The Lake County Community Action Agency was like the victim on Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” — many people were responsible for its death. But unlike that victim, the agency didn’t deserve its fate.

Those two stories also have in common that no one took the fall for the final act.

Jordan went on to be the executive director of the Lake County First 5 Commission. When he left that job, his daughter, Sorhna Li Jordan — who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for county assessor-recorder — took over his job at First 5. Within months, however, she was terminated by the county Health Services director.

She now works as Scotts Valley’s chief financial officer, according to the grant documents, and will have a role in oversight, despite her statement to me that it wasn’t her project.

And in November, Scotts Valley environmental director and chief operations officer, Terre Logsdon, was hired as the county’s new grant-funded climate resiliency officer. One wonders what behind-the-scenes lobbying for Scotts Valley is taking place by Logsdon, now ensconced in the County Administrative Office.

The Lucerne Area Town Hall asked Jordan for information, but he didn’t respond until after the town hall finally issued its agenda earlier this week, which included a discussion of the plan and a proposed resolution condemning it.

Andrew Beath of the Malibu-based Earthways Foundation, a pal of former Supervisor Denise Rushing’s, purchased the Lucerne Hotel from the county as part of its predetermined sale process — one that we have long had evidence didn’t follow proper county procedure — in order for Rushing and her other buddies to carry out some wackadoodle plan about a permaculture college.

I wouldn’t think a real permaculture college would rip out native plants and otherwise destroy the landscape, but what do I know? It’s not like Rushing stuck around to actually see the results of her goofy ideas. She was at least consistent in that aspect.

Beath is now refusing to let the Lucerne Area Town Hall at the building, which it has done for months, because he claims they don’t know the whole story of the sale. Uh huh.

Meanwhile, Jordan suddenly asked to be on the town hall’s agenda in January — expected to be well after the close of escrow, which we have been told closes at the end of this month. Community members attending that meeting should be sure to take with them a shovel to dig through the load of hogwash he’ll try to feed them.

District 3 Supervisor Eddie Crandell, who is becoming mostly known for his consistent failure districtwide to respond to community concerns — such as the potential for catastrophic levee failure in Upper Lake — has refused to respond to questions about the Lucerne Hotel plan for weeks.

Or, I should say, he was refusing until Wednesday night, when based on the town hall bylaws he appears to have overstepped himself and sent out a notice canceling the town hall’s Thursday meeting and saying the town hall won’t meet again until January. Again, after the reported close of escrow.

Nice of him to so willingly carry water for Jordan. So rarely does Crandell show initiative on any other matter.

Crandell is now letting County Counsel Anita Grant cover his behind for his actions. Grant claims he didn’t overstep himself, which is a classic case of an attorney saying the sky is black when it’s blue. The bylaws are very clear, that the town hall chair has the authority for setting meeting times, locations and dates, while the district supervisor has no official role in bylaws Crandell himself voted to approve on Oct. 18.

But we have to remember, Grant protects the supervisors and the county, not the community. She’s the one making sure the foxes can get in and out of the hen house without getting pecked by angry chickens.

The town hall attempted to meet on Thursday night. About 20 people, of all ages, showed up to stand on the steps in front of the building to discuss their concerns. However, only two board members showed up to the meeting, meaning no quorum was present and so business couldn’t be conducted.

It looked like Beath, Jordan and Crandell got their way.

But, not yet.

The town hall is now working to secure another meeting location going forward and plans to hold an emergency meeting to put its concerns on record before escrow closes.

Jordan’s plan fits nicely with what appears to be the county of Lake’s plan to turn the entire Northshore into a sacrifice zone.

The Board of Supervisors, led by the nose by then-County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson, took the Lucerne Hotel away from the community in a way that hasn’t been seen in any other community, making it difficult for community groups to take possession of it without millions of dollars at their fingertips. It was based on greed, to make sure she got her big, fat retirement.

It’s scandalous. I cannot imagine such a thing happening in other communities, like Clearlake, Kelseyville, Lakeport or Middletown.

Yet it happened here. And unincorporated communities need to beware, because if it’s happening here, it can happen anywhere.

As I personally informed the Lake County Board of Education at its Wednesday meeting, Jordan and Santana’s grant looks like a badly mashed up eighth grade term paper, with plenty of aspirations but no understanding of real world consequences. They clearly needed to have a “partner” like LCOE to pick up the tab on the millions of dollars they don’t have to pull this off.

In addition, Santana, who committed LCOE to operating this shelter, needs to be thoroughly investigated with a view toward termination. We have many questions regarding her possible use of government time for personal ends, and have served the Board of Education with a public records act request to ascertain what was going on.

The Board of Education also needs to understand that if it doesn’t take action to condemn this matter soon, it will be too late, escrow will have closed, they will look complicit and liable through their own inaction.

“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” said Elie Wiesel, who as a boy was held as a prisoner at Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated in April 1945 by men including my grandfather, who recounted for me in vivid detail that day and the price paid to keep our governments free and responsive to the people.

Lake County cannot afford any more of Tom Jordan’s wildly inappropriate, unstudied, damaging and egotistical projects.

He’s an embarrassment to the community and the tribe. He needs to go.

The community of Lucerne’s plea to the Scotts Valley tribe is this: Don’t do this. Don’t let Jordan do this in your name.

If you want to partner on a plan for economic development and use of the building for a hotel, conference center and restaurant — which the county of Lake itself has said is the highest and best use — there could be success on all sides.

What is being proposed on your behalf, in your name, will bring destruction to us and infamy to us all. There is no good ending to this story as Jordan and Santana have written it.

You have the power to write a different ending, to do the right thing, to build meaningful partnerships.

The question is: Will you?

Elizabeth Larson is the editor and publisher of Lake County News, and a proud resident of Lucerne, California.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David S. McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — In October, Paulene Raffaelli, our bus driver on route No. 1, was headed back to the bus barn after dropping off her last student when she came across a brush fire next to the road.

Nobody was around and the fire was freely burning not far from the base of Mount Konocti.

Paulene immediately sprang into action. She stopped her bus and grabbed the fire extinguisher that each bus is required to carry. She was able to get the fire out with the extinguisher, and then another motorist stopped and used water they had on hand to douse the area.

Honestly, they may have just stopped the next big fire here in Lake County.

Paulene is a great example of the awesome people working at Kelseyville Unified and throughout Lake County schools. She represents one of the many employees who make up our “classified” staff — those who support students without using a teaching credential.

Our teachers get a lot of well-deserved credit for their amazing contributions, and I’ll keep throwing plenty of kudos their way.

But today, I’d like to talk about the employees behind the scenes who keep our schools running day in, day out, year in, year out, while the teachers work their magic in the classrooms.

Bus drivers and transportation

Many students start and end their school day with our bus drivers, who safely transport kids to school, rain or shine. Our drivers help set the tone for the day and without them, some kids wouldn’t get to school on time (or at all).

We also have other great employees in the Transportation Department. Our transportation secretary, Jessica Lorenzen, does an amazing job of keeping track of the bus passes and making sure everyone is transported to and from their correct locations. She helps keep the whole department rolling (no pun intended).

And our district mechanic, Gerald Sarver, keeps our buses and all district vehicles safe and maintained according to California Highway Patrol regulations. When called upon, he can also jump behind the wheel to drive a bus.

Skilled maintenance and groundskeepers

Those buses drop students off at well-maintained campuses thanks to our maintenance and grounds crew.

It’s hard to describe the variety and complexity of projects required to keep district facilities in good working order. Not only do our crew members take care of existing buildings and grounds through repairs and maintenance, they also perform alterations and new construction in accordance with local, state, and federal standards.

Thanks to the Maintenance Department, we can provide safe, efficient, and clean learning environments for students and staff.

Not only that — our crew makes sure indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and fields are in great shape, so the whole community can enjoy them.

We are lucky to have a skilled and hard-working team that takes such pride in their work.

Custodians

And who keeps those campuses and district facilities clean? That would be our custodians. Not to be gross, but have you ever thought about all the ways that hundreds of students could make a campus dirty?

Well, our day and night custodians can tell you. Yet, each morning when students and staff arrive, they are greeted with clean classrooms, gyms, cafeterias, restrooms, and offices.

Thanks to our custodians, we start each day with empty garbage cans, litter-free outdoor areas, and great-smelling disinfected surfaces, making all of our school sites and departments great places to work, teach, and learn.

Secretaries and clerks

Once the day is in full swing, it’s often up to our school secretaries to keep things running smoothly. I think they’d agree that “other duties as assigned” might be their main responsibility.

They complete all sorts of clerical tasks, but that’s just the start of it. They reassure sick kids while they’re waiting to be picked up, they smooth ruffled feathers when people arrive in a bad mood, they call parents when students forget their lunch or PE clothes, and they help their principal hold down the fort.

If you went to school at Kelseyville Elementary in the last couple of decades, you know Pat McGrath. She’s a fixture. Having a familiar face in the office year after year provides a stable, reliable environment and that’s good for everyone.

Aides (instructional, special needs, noon duty, language and more!)

Our aides work with students one-on-one and in small groups. Like secretaries, they also spend a lot of time on other duties as assigned, from providing extra support on difficult instructional concepts to helping students through the process of losing their first baby tooth.

Our special needs aides work with students with disabilities to support them and help them gain skills in all sorts of areas.

Campus monitors

When it comes to keeping kids safe and on track, our campus monitors are essential. They keep an eye out to prevent problems and address little issues so they don’t become big issues.

They report problems right away. Having an extra set of eyes on students is so helpful. Our administrators really appreciate the work they do.

Food service workers

When it comes to our most important need–basic health–our food service workers take care of business. They make sure students have healthy meals so they can concentrate on learning.

Our schools provide breakfast and lunch and our food service workers nourish students with more than just food–they nourish kids with kindness, putting smiles on student faces every day.

Nurses

Nurses also keep kids healthy. During the pandemic, our nurses went way beyond the call of duty. Now that things have mellowed a little, they’re able to focus on health and wellness overall.

This can mean everything from taking a student’s temperature to assessing whether a student should be referred to a physician for more follow-up.

Technology analysts

While the IT Department isn’t a health-related department, they do improve our mental health every day.

Have you ever had a computer problem at a crucial moment? Imagine having 30 little faces looking up at a screen that suddenly goes blank (if you’re over 50 years old, think of a chalkboard where everything is suddenly erased).

At Kelseyville Unified, our two-person technology team fields calls all day every day to keep everyone productive (and less stressed).

In October, the IT Department received 330 help tickets, with an average response time of five hours and an average ticket close time of two days. Of those 330 tickets, 165 were completed by our incredible network analyst, Josh Crook.

Library clerk

Information doesn’t just come in the form of technology — sometimes it comes in books! Our library clerks introduce students to all the wonderful resources available in our libraries, opening up whole new worlds of information.

Registration staff

And before students can appreciate any of the wonderful services above, they have to get registered to attend school in our district.

For the 2022-23 school year, our Welcome Center staff handled more than 330 new student enrollments, presenting each new Kelseyville Unified family with a friendly introduction to our district.

Without classified workers, schools would come unglued. I wish I could mention everyone by name. They all deserve to be recognized. They keep our district running and provide tremendous support to students and faculty.

If you get the chance, be sure to thank these unsung heroes. And if any of these jobs sound like a good fit for you, you can view local job openings at EdJoin.org.

Dr. David S. McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

Dr. Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

Last month, the Department of Education released student test results that confirmed what we all feared: the COVID-19 pandemic had devastating consequences on reading and math scores for students in every state across almost every demographic.

Konocti Unified School District was no exception — our students didn’t perform well. Unfortunately, this continues a trend that began even before the pandemic.

In truth, COVID simply revealed more of what we already knew: our kids’ scores reflect a lack of access to the kinds of resources and support available elsewhere. We have structural challenges (like limited internet access) and social challenges (like limited employment and health care).

We’re not here to make excuses or bury our heads in the sand. We understand the problems we face and we’re working hard to address them, but we cannot be successful unless schools and families work together.

For the last two years, everyone was isolated and relationships suffered. Schools and families did not have the opportunities to connect. Just like kids are relearning how to get along with each other and engage in learning, schools and families also need to relearn how to work together.

As a school administrator, I don’t expect you, as a parent, to agree with everything your child’s school does. I even understand the need for you to come in and blow off some steam when you’re frustrated. But then, I need you to roll up your sleeves and work with us to help your child thrive.

When parents and educators speak with a single voice about the value of education, it makes a huge difference. If schools say one thing and parents say another, kids will choose their favorite option. If we work together, we can instill a passion for learning that will allow our students to soar.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique challenges facing our community and school district.

Staffing

First, we’re navigating our way through a severe teacher shortage. This is another statewide (and nationwide) problem, but one that’s hitting Lake County hard. As a rural area, recruiting can be difficult, especially attracting top talent from outside the area. Most California school districts partner with nearby universities to funnel recent graduates into the teaching profession and into their schools, but we don’t have that option. Right now, many of our teachers are in the process of getting their teaching credential. Either they’re on a short-term waiver while they apply to a credentialing program or they’re in a program,teaching and going to school at the same time.

Social and economic challenges

Second, although our community has some wonderful upsides, including its natural beauty and slower pace of life, it also has its fair share of social and economic challenges that make it harder to recover from the pandemic as compared to wealthier communities. It’s no wonder that so many local students are struggling with their mental and physical health.

Growing enrollment

Third, while most California school districts have shrinking enrollment, our enrollment is growing — and fast. That puts a lot of strain on an already overburdened system, making the first two challenges even tougher.

The good news is that we’re on the path to overcoming these obstacles. I’m excited to share some of our plans and progress.

Recruitment and retention

To combat the teacher shortage, we’re focusing on both recruitment and retention. To attract new teachers to the district, we offer the best benefits package in the county. We’ve also become much more strategic in our search, reaching out to teachers from communities across the country that are similar to Lake County but may not pay as well as we do.

To retain our teaching staff, we offer ongoing support from our wonderful classified staff, professional development and training opportunities, and in-classroom mentorship. This is especially helpful for our newest teachers who are often passionate, homegrown locals who simply need a little extra support while they finish their credential and find their footing in the classroom.

Teaching is an incredible career, but it isn’t easy, even for our veteran teachers, so we are always looking for outside-the-box ways to show our teachers how much we value them. For example, to make it easier for our teachers to remain in the workforce, we are in the process of developing a day care program for employees.

Community partnerships and extra support

With all the social and economic barriers we have to overcome, it can sometimes feel like other communities are going over hills while we’re climbing a mountain. To make an impact in this area, KUSD offers a number of programs and initiatives to support students both inside and outside the classroom.

We start by making sure students have enough to eat by providing breakfast and lunch (and snacks). In addition to academic support, we offer a multitiered system to support students socially, emotionally, and physically so they can engage in learning.

We also partner with community providers to meet students’ needs. Healthy Start provides kids with free clothing, and local health care providers offer medical and behavioral health care via an on-site clinic. We’re leaning into health and wellness because we believe that when kids feel better, they do better.

Academic programs

To do better academically, students need to feel supported based on their individual skill and level of progress. To that end, we’ve implemented a corrective reading program to help our third through seventh graders catch up. We’re training our math teachers to make the subject more fun and hands-on, so it’s easier to grasp. Our goal is always to have the latest and most appropriate tools and resources to teach.

There’s no sugarcoating the fact that we’re not where we want to be with test scores. Even so, we’ve made progress through the pandemic. We have more staff with more training. There are better plans in place to measure our progress and we’re establishing the structural and foundational elements needed to succeed down the road. That’s the sign of a good team — that we’re never happy where we are.

I know we can improve test scores — especially when schools and families work together. In fact, I think we’re already on our way. Like I always say, we’re getting better at getting better.

Dr. Becky Salato is superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District.

I would like to bring to the community’s attention a current large-scale cannabis processing permit application up for review with the Lake County Planning Department and expected to go to the Lake County Planning Commission later this month.

The UP 21-29 Adobe Creek Processing Facility, owned by 2CW Productions Inc., is seeking approval for a commercial cannabis processing operation located at 4820 Loasa Road, Kelseyville CA on APN 008-038-50.

The proposed operation would utilize the properties existing facilities along with 10 modular frozen harvest storage units totaling a whopping 124,279 square foot commercial cannabis processing compound.

This facility will be 495 feet from the property line shared with the Kelseyville Unified School District where classroom instruction to our community day school students occurs.

This facility will be 495 feet from the property line shared with the Kelseyville Unified School District where baseball, softball, basketball, tennis and racquet ball fields/courts exist.

This facility will be 495 feet from where any given day you will find children and adults playing, practicing, exercising and congregating.

This facility will be 495 feet from the property line shared where Pop Warner youth football and cheerleading practices occur.

This facility will be 495 feet from the property line where Kelseyville Unified hosts high school baseball games and tennis matches.

This facility will be 495 feet away from where Kelseyville Little League hosts softball games and baseball games.

This facility will be 528 feet away from the American Legion Hall where community members host barbecues, weddings, baby showers, dances and celebrations of all sorts.

This facility will be 26 feet (directly across the street ) from a large residential area where Gaddy Ln., Connie Ln, Gunn St., Willow Ave, Park Ave, Hobbs St. and 2ndSt are all located.

This facility will be 26 feet (directly across the street) from Kelseyville's First Baptist Church.

This facility will be 1,584 feet away from Main Street, Kelseyville.

If you are wondering how far 495 feet is, it's less than two football fields.

Current county ordinance prohibits cultivation or sales of cannabis within 1,000 feet of public use land, religious places of worship or school sites. However, this proposed project falls in a “gray area” where no ordinances currently exist.

I implore you to consider, if a cannabis cultivation or cannabis sale site cannot operate at this location, why should a processing facility be permitted to?

This facility will be in the heart of downtown Kelseyville. Is this the optics we want for our small-town community? Do you think a large-scale cannabis facility belongs downtown in ANY town in Lake County?

I don't care where you are from, if an ounce of you has hesitation about a large-scale processing facility in the heart of your community, I urge you to write your concerns in an email to Andrew Amelung at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For questions about this application please call the Lake County Planning Department at 707-263-2221.

Allison Panella is a concerned parent and coach of Kelseyville, California. She also is a member of the Kelseyville Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Citizens Caring for Clearlake volunteers cleaning up trash at Borax Lake in Clearlake, California, on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of Dave Sena.

On Nov. 3, I had the pleasure of spending the day with a group of unsung heroes cleaning up the shoreline of Borax Lake.

This day was in the planning for over a year by a small group of residents that realized the drought and low lake level presented the opportunity of a lifetime to clean up the littered Borax Lake shoreline.

Barbara Christwitz of Citizens Caring for Clearlake contacted me one day and said that Calpine had reached out to her and wanted to send some volunteers to help.

I rounded up my good friends Ann and Dave to help. Ann had inspired me a couple of years ago to start doing something about the endless littering and dumping that occurs on Sulphur Bank Drive along Borax Lake.

I have been coming to Clear Lake since the early 1990s and my wife Christy grew up in Nice and went to Upper Lake High School.

I remember the first time I visited Clear Lake. We drove over Mt. Saint Helena and as we drove into Lower Lake, I remember thinking this looks like a place from another time. I had not seen a Fosters Freeze since I was a kid. I was drawn to the natural beauty of the lake, local wildlife, excellent fishing and relaxed pace of life.

As we drove onto Sulphur Bank Drive, I witnessed what looked like a sprawling landfill. There was litter, tires, appliances and abandoned vehicles everywhere.

For years I drove by this travesty lamenting the seeming lack of concern about the problem. Several years ago, I noticed things were starting to look much better in the area. Ann informed me that there was a group of concerned citizens cleaning up the area. I decided to join the cause.

Borax Lake in Clearlake, California. Photo courtesy of Dave Sena.

A group of about a dozen volunteers spent the day picking up over two tons of litter, tires, appliances, used hypodermic needles and trash along the shoreline of Borax Lake.

We managed to clean up the entire shoreline in a day, leaving only a handful of piles of larger items which we hauled away in the next few days.

My plea to those that continue to litter and dump their unwanted belongings in this area is this. The Borax Lake area is a special place with an important history and all of us that live here bear responsibility to future generations to keep it pristine.

These are challenging times and going to the landfill can be costly. Littering and dumping is not the answer.

The items we hauled away included tires, TVs, appliances, scrap metal, cans and bottles, all of which are recyclable items that can be taken to the local landfill for free.

Citizens Caring for Clearlake will provide landfill vouchers for those that cannot afford to pay the landfill fees for other items.

I invite you to join the group of volunteers who work tirelessly to keep this area looking beautiful.

You can contact Barbara of Citizens Caring for Clearlake at 707-995-0940 to volunteer and to obtain landfill vouchers.

I assure you that it will be a fulfilling and rewarding endeavor.

Dave Sena lives in Clearlake, California.


Citizens Caring for Clearlake volunteers at Borax Lake in Clearlake, California, on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of Dave Sena.

Tim Gill. Courtesy photo.
Learning a new language is challenging and bridging two cultures can be confusing.

In the Konocti Unified School District, we have a significant number of English learners and Spanish-speaking families who face these hurdles every day.

Because we want every student to succeed, our goal is to help English-learner students learn enough English to fully participate in school. And for this to happen, we need to be able to communicate effectively with families, so students get the support they need at school and at home. When students are proficient in English, it increases their chances of success now and later in life.

This is where our wonderful team of bilingual family liaisons comes in. Marissa Ornelas of Pomo Elementary, Erika Suarez of Lower Lake High School, Karen Santana of Lower Lake Elementary, Liliana Garcia of Konocti Education Center and East Lake School, Vanesa Lozano of Lower Lake High School and Mayra Pantoja of Burns Valley Elementary are invaluable in connecting school staff with families and students. I'm grateful for our liaisons every single day.

Broadly speaking, they provide academic, social, and emotional support to Spanish-speaking students and other English learners. These students represent about 25 percent of our student body — that’s one in four students.

More specifically, our liaisons help Spanish-speaking students communicate and learn, and that starts with academics. In the classroom, liaisons provide a critical link between teachers and students, translating and answering questions so they can talk with one another. Sometimes the most powerful support they provide is simply to lend an ear, which can make all the difference to a student struggling to keep up.

In addition to classroom work our liaisons are trained administrators of the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, or ELPAC, and as such, they oversee more than 1,000 crucial tests every year.

In short, our liaisons are a vital part of the education we provide to English learners here at KUSD. Without their presence in our schools, a quarter of our students and families would struggle with basic communications with the district.

When I asked a few of them recently about why they do this work and what it means to them, I loved their responses, so I’ll share a few here.

Liliana Garcia said, “The most rewarding part of my job is building a relationship with students. I want to be the person I didn’t have growing up in school.”

Karen Santana has similar motivations. “My goal is to help students like I’ve been helped,” she told me.

Erika Suarez said, “Families and students have become part of my family. My favorite thing is seeing students graduate.”

Our newest liaison, Vanesa Lozano, said, “I take pride and joy in what I do, and appreciate all the trust families give me. The best part of my job is making the education process easy for El parents.”

Marissa Ornelas, our longest serving liaison, feels much the same way. “The best part of coming to work is helping the parents and children. I love my children. I want to be the person parents can identify with.”

In addition to helping students excel in the classroom, liaisons make life easier for KUSD families.

Just because a student is proficient in English doesn’t mean their parents are. In fact, while a quarter of our students are Spanish speakers, about 36% of KUSD families speak Spanish at home.

For Spanish-speaking parents and guardians to successfully interact with English-speaking administrators, teachers, and staff, they sometimes need help from our liaisons.

When a Spanish-speaking parent comes to school to speak with their child’s teacher, for example, a liaison can translate the conversation, ensuring smooth communication.

Our liaisons also work with Spanish-speaking families to discuss their student’s English language proficiency, translate individualized education programs for special education students, and participate in parent-teacher organization meetings.

Each month, we host District English Learner Advisory Committee meetings. They're an opportunity for parents of English-learner students to engage with KUSD around their student’s education, district events, and important English-learner issues. Our liaisons are essential during these meetings, making our time with parents and families more productive and efficient for everyone.

While I’ve been speaking specifically about our bilingual family liaisons, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Patty Voss. In addition to her many other responsibilities, Patty serves as the liaison between the bilingual family liaisons and our district office. In addition to performing much of the same amazing work as our liaisons, Patty coordinates all KUSD English-learner services. Patty has been with KUSD for more than 30 years and is universally loved and respected for her work with our students and their families.

In summary, if you're not a Spanish speaker or the parent of an English learner, you might not get the chance to know these educators, so I wanted to share just how lucky we are to have them.

Whether they work with your kids or not, our liaisons make our school district and community better. And for that, they deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

Tim Gill is director of instructional support services for the Konocti Unified School District.

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