Letters to the Editor

May 18, 2012


To the Editor:

Michelle Kolbeck is not “neutral” on Unification; she is determined to fight any change in the status quo! And, she is attempting to pit the teachers against the classified staff. Perhaps she believes the people of Santa Paula aren’t smart enough to vote for good people to run a new District or perhaps it is because she is trying to protect her own turf and ego. Shame on her!

During last week’s California State Board of Education hearing on Unification, Michelle Kolbeck said “without a comprehensive study of the effects of combining districts and protecting classified employees for two years, we can only assume that we will be cutting classroom positions”. Ms. Kolbeck knows full well that additional State dollars will be provided to the new District. These additional dollars have been documented and confirmed by the study done for her school board by School Services consulting firm and by the study performed by the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools and again by the report prepared by the California State Board of Education. I guess Ms. Kolbeck just doesn’t like the answer that the all three studies came up with – that there will be more State money for Santa Paula Schools with Unification!

State law protects all classified positions for two years. The same number of teachers will be needed in the classrooms. A responsible new unified school board will eliminate unnecessary existing administrative bureaucracy and expenditures to ensure that teacher student ratios are maintained. If taking 5 people to Sacramento to read a statement prepared by their lawyer and already submitted to the State Board of Education is an example of prudent spending, in a time when classified jobs have been cut, there is something drastically wrong with the existing SPESD Board’s priorities. 

During Ms. Kolbeck’s 14-year tenure on the SPESD Board, we have seen a revolving door of Superintendents, contract payoffs, lawsuits, unnecessary and enormous legal bills, near bankruptcy and poor judgment. At a minimum, just cutting the taxpayer paid perks, such as the meeting stipend and free or low cost medical, dental and vision care for the member and their respective families for one school board is a large savings. Similarly, the cost savings from having only one Superintendent and one District Office is also significant. 

Unification is good for Santa Paula. Wasting taxpayer money on two Boards, two Superintendents and all their associated benefits and perks is not in the best interest of our kids. A coordinated calendar for elementary, middle and high schools is good for our families. Unification provides a way to cut administrative costs and protect programs for students and the valuable teachers and classified staff who serve them. Unification is good for our kids and our future!

Ginger Gherardi

Santa Paula

Re: S.P. Chief Steve MacKinnon

To The Editor: 

On Monday, May 7, a large group attended the city council meeting in support of Mackinnon over the recent controversy of his temporary suspension by the city manager. Emotions were high and the reinstatement of the chief was their ultimate goal. It would be fair to say that only a few people spoke in favor of allowing the investigation to be completed and then concluding reinstatement or expulsion. It would be also fair to conclude that the majority were accepting of no less than complete and immediate reinstatement regardless of the outcome of the investigation. My question to those folks that demand an unconditional and immediate reinstatement of the chief is: Would you  handle your teenage children this way, as business owner would you allow your manager unmonitored rein of your business, as a school board member would you discount uncorroborated accusations of your superintendent without a thorough investigation? If the answer is no then no further reading is necessary. If your inclination is for this matter to have its necessary conclusion as your opinion then congratulations, and remember the next time an accusation is left uninvestigated due to public opinion then go back and overturn the verdict! If the city manager caves based on public opinion via the city council members pressure then I can only see a dismal future for the council members. Rules, regulations, policy and principles are the foundation to any civil society. I have advice for the collective members of this group: The next time you disagree with the “group” you will be ostracized like a featherless chicken in the chicken coop. If you base your decisions on principles rather than public opinion, peer pressure, or societal prerequisites then you’re screwed! These are the inherit downsides of agreeing with a group without having full facts related to the issues at hand such as the reason for the allegations against MacKinnon. For their sake I hope he comes up innocent of the charges because if ultimately sufficient evidence is uncovered by the independent investigators, that film on their face won’t smell good and probably not taste good either! Maybe some people didn’t like the description of “mob mentality”, very well then. What was the purpose of the group’s intent during the Public Comment portion of the city council meeting but immediate reinstatement? Where was the rationality of a proper investigation? Some asked: “Why this matter wasn’t kept private and behind closed doors?” Well hello that’s exactly the direction the city manager had taken this issue before the vast public outcry! My final concern with this episode in the “public square”: If one runs contrary to public opinion or “peer pressure” at large should one be concerned of retaliation if one of the group’s member is a professional member of the community, a life safety member of the community or a business member of the community, this is a statement and a question! Fortunately, my conduct is based on principles and not popularity!

Andrew F. Castaneda

Santa Paula

Good for Santa Paula

To the Editor:

I have been a Santa Paula elementary school trustee for several years and while the District has a neutral position on the issue, I personally support Unification. I attended the hearing in Sacramento when the California State Board of Education approved placing the measure for unification on the ballot. 

I ran for trustee because I have a passion for our community’s youth and I know that a good education is vital for their futures. Unification of Santa Paula’s Elementary and High School Districts will provide additional funds that will be used in the classroom to prepare our kids to navigate an increasingly complex world. We owe this to them. I also know that well educated younger generations will make Santa Paula a stronger and more vibrant community. Unification is good for our kids and good for Santa Paula.

Tim Hicks 

Santa Paula

Help the Aviary!

To the Editor:

Do you have good memories of visiting the peacocks and other birds at Steckel Park? Did you go as a kid? Did you take your kids? Grandkids? A group of citizens refused to accept the County’s plans to demolish the Steckel Park Aviary when it was announced last fall. Because the Aviary was in need of more repairs than were budgeted, the County thought demolition was the only option. Guess what. They underestimated the passion that we Santa Paulans have for our historical and community assets. We formed the Friends of the Steckel Park Aviary and have been meeting with County officials for the past several months. The County only has a portion of the money needed for the repairs and the Friends of the Steckel Park Aviary have committed to raising the rest. Can you imagine Steckel Park without the rustic charm of the Aviary? What a terrible thought. Don’t let this iconic structure become only a memory.  

There are several ways you can help. A BBQ chicken dinner fundraiser will be held on June 7. Dinner tickets are $8 each. The SP Fire Fighters Association will be preparing the delicious dinners. Diners must pre-purchase dinner tickets. These can be purchased at the Santa Paula Times office on Main Street and the Best of VC Marketplace on 10th Street or by calling 340-3345.  

Monetary donations are also being sought. Will you help? The Aviary needs your support. Send checks payable to: Santa Paula Community Fund, 1354 Mariposa Dr., Santa Paula, CA 93060.

Donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be sent to you. You can also visit us on Facebook “Save the Steckel Park Aviary.” For  more information, call 340-3345.   

Everyone I speak to passionately tells me how much they have enjoyed the Aviary over the years, and many are still visiting it regularly. It is important that all who are thinking of making donations follow through and do it. We can’t let this one-of-a-kind community asset be lost.  

Cathy Wilson Fernandez

Santa Paula

Kids first!

To the Editor:

During last week’s California State Board of Education hearing on Unification, Michelle Kolbeck raised the concern about the exclusion of Santa Paula’s three other independent school districts – Briggs, Mupu and Santa Clara from the unification plan. “If the idea behind unification is to save money and establish common goals and visions for the community how can it make sense to leave these districts out of the effort,” said Ms. Kolbeck.

The Briggs, Mupu and Santa Clara school districts are distinctly rural in nature, small, are not located within Santa Paula city limits, have low-cost administrative systems, are well-managed and have strong parent and alumni support. The trustees of these districts asked to be excluded from the unification plan and the State Board of Education approved that exclusion a year ago. The outlying districts can elect to merge with the new Unified District at any time.

It is good for Santa Paula to have a choice of schools. Competition can stimulate change for the better. Santa Paula students can currently choose to attend Briggs, Santa Clara and Mupu schools as well as Santa Paula’s parochial schools, Charter school, and neighboring city schools in Ventura and Ojai and Fillmore or elect home-schooling. A choice of schools makes Santa Paula a more attractive community than if there were only one school option. A Unified District that is successful in increasing the achievement level of all students and the number of high school graduates will attract more students and families.

Unification is not just about money. It’s about working together to use resources wisely to develop a better program so that our kids are well-served and families choose Santa Paula schools for their kids.

Unification – Kids First!

Carl and Cathy Barringer

Santa Paula

Meeting the legal standard

To the Editor:

An important discrepancy in the wording and  interpretation of Wally Bobkiewitz’s  “contract letter” to Chief Mackinnon when he was hired now appears. Whatever Wally meant, and however the Chief interpreted it, they individually can best testify to their meanings and understandings, a valid “contract” takes two or more parties coming to a meeting of the minds. That is the legal standard. Now in today’s SP Times, May 16, Peggy Kelly quotes the “contract letter” as saying the following: ...”a city vehicle will be provided for your CITY use as well as in the performance of your duties”... (emphasis mine). But the phrase was previously reported in the VC Star, May 3, as follows: “a city vehicle will be provided for your PERSONAL USE (again, emphasis mine) as well as in the performance of your duties”.

Big significant difference if you factor in trips to Arizona for NON-city use. Further, whichever version is correct (will there be a third version?), Wally slaughtered the English language when he wrote either version. Obviously, the city does not have to give its Chief permission to use a city vehicle or police car in performance of official duties. That is a ridiculous construction. And normally the more important phrase is the one that comes BEFORE “as well as”, not after. “As well as” is subordinate to the first phrase and is an “add-on” sometimes use to expand or clarify the first phrase. It would be nice to see the correct version printed. Maybe this confusion accounts for some of the Chief’s “confusion”.

A tempest in a teapot can spill an awful lot of tea. With the world and state collapsing around us from political malpractice and infantile fiscal management, our city has to endure this kind of self-inflicted wound? I give up.

Richard Main

Santa Paula

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