THE ANDERSON VALLEY Unified School District isn't so unified lately. Bad feeling among the district's administrators has upset staff and is beginning to seep into the community. A single-sheet student paper’s lead item is called, “HutchinsGate,” and demands Superintendent Hutchins’ removal. (We understand the embattled superintendent is applying for positions outside the county.)
THE TURMOIL at the top began earlier in the year when first-year high school principal Keri St. Jeor was informed his contract would not be renewed. Lengthy closed sessions of the school board followed, but no public explanation has yet been offered as to why the Superintendent and the school board are unhappy with St. Jeor. The school board itself has recently lost one of its trustees, Eric Arbanovella, to resignation. His letter concluded with this rather despairing sentence: "I can’t do this anymore."
AND everything got worse. Wednesday's Sheriff's Log contained this item: "Assault, 5/17/2017. 12:18pm. 12300 AV Way. Boonville. RP [reporting party] held against her will in Office of Superintendent."
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL principal, Katherine Reddick, said she had been held against her will in Superintendent Michelle Hutchins' office by Ms. Hutchins. She called the Sheriff’s Department to report her detention, and a deputy took her statement by telephone.
AS police protocols dictate, the report will be forwarded to the District Attorney to decide if the complaint warrants further action.
SUPERINTENDENT HUTCHINS wrote to the AVA Thursday morning:
"No violence. I wanted to talk with her. She was refusing. I stood at my door and asked her to stay and talk. She interpreted it as I was blocking her way out. I moved out of the way to allow her to leave."
ON HER PART, Ms. Reddick has offered the following version of events:
"The incident took place around 11:15 AM on Wednesday, May 17. We had just ended a leadership meeting and I was asked to stay behind. I had already stood to leave but waited behind until everyone had exited and the door was closed.
"Immediately, Michelle [Superintendent Hutchins] began yelling. I said I wasn't going to remain while she verbally attacked me. Because of previous issues, I asked that all her angry communications are done in writing. She yelled and pointed, 'Sit your butt in that chair.' I told her I felt unsafe and needed to leave. She yelled again ,'I'm your boss and I demand you sit in that chair. 'I'm ordering you.'
"I began walking towards the door but remained on the opposite side of the conference table as it gave me a safe distance from her increasingly aggressive mannerisms. She ran for the door and spread both her arms and legs, blocking the doorway and making it impossible for me to exit. I yelled for help and asked her to get out of my way. She refused.
"I saw the door knob behind her and reached across her waist and pushed it until the door opened. I yelled 'Is anyone seeing this?' Her arms remained spread across the top of the doorway. I was able to maneuver around her once the door was open.
"There were several other staff members in the office who can confirm either seeing or at least hearing the incident as it occurred.
"This has not been the first time I experienced her verbal aggression and threatening mannerisms; but it was the first time I experienced an actual physical attack or been imprisoned by her against my will.
"As a result, I left briefly to recuperate as much as possible before continuing my work day. I filed a police report and believe no school district employee should have to experience such violence in their workplace.
"Today [Thursday], I haven't heard from any school board member, so maybe she hasn't quite represented the incident accurately to them. Ms. Hutchins emailed me twice today and I replied both times, copying the board members. I later discovered those emails were deleted. Apparently, board members never received the communications between us today or they certainly would have called to ask for more information.
"Either way, I don't understand their silence over such a significant incident. "
Katherine Reddick, PhD AVES, Principal, Boonville
ED NOTE: Ms. Reddick said Friday morning AV Unified's trustees had received her e-mail but had not yet acknowledged it.
CONTACTED by email, trustees Wynne Crisman and Kerri Sanchez responded similarly that the school board is certainly aware of events but is bound by confidentiality laws as to what they can discuss in public since it all involves protected personnel matters.
FROM HERE in the ava bunker, school matters are as they’ve always been — opaque. It’s distressing, to say the least, that adults, particularly adults charged with instructing children, can’t work out their differences without going to lawyers, especially lawyers like the ones who allegedly serve AV Unified and who are paid out of tax money that’s supposed to go to classrooms.
A SPECIAL meeting of the Anderson Valley school board was called for Tuesday afternoon, 4:30, at the district office, the results of which are too late for this week’s print edition but will be available on-line Thursday morning at www.theava.com. The meeting has been called to at least partly discuss the recent turmoil.
THERE ARE four trustees still standing: Natalie Matson; Kerri Sanchez; Wynne Crisman, and Dick Browning. Eric Arbanovella resigned recently. Browning is on vacation in Italy. (You might say Browning is always on vacation in Italy, but I should talk.) The Tuesday emergency session will probably be devoted to what the Circle People call “venting,” meaning a kind of group unburdening.
SINCE UNELECTED distant persons at a tax-funded legal combine based in Santa Rosa decide what can be discussed in Boonville, no school functionary can talk about much of anything, and so the hurry-up meeting seems to be pointless. This is all clearly headed for the courts with the Santa Rosa lawyers enjoying big pay days all the way there.
JUST SAYIN,’ but back in the day, when so-called rednecks comprised the Boonville school board, candor prevailed including, one memorable night, a gripping discussion of whether or not a certain teacher was a “lez bean,” followed by a longer discussion of what exactly a “lez bean” was. Being new to the community, and not fully informed myself, I kept my mouth shut.
ALSO back in the day our school scandals were far more vivid. One day, the superintendent/principal, who habitually locked himself in his office with a fifth of whiskey even on low stress days, locked himself away with two fifths, and the whole place got wayyyyyy outtahand, complete with kids running around on the roof squirting hoses down the vents. As I recall, they sent a couple of people over from the County Office to restore order, neither of whom had been within shouting distance of anyone under the age of fifty in years.
THE BOONVILLE SCHOOLS seem orderly, and our three administrators seem, as they say, on-task. Heck, as soon as the little savages learn to read, which most of them do by the sixth grade, the rest is up to them anyway. We're all autodidacts, pretty much, especially in this country. Doesn't seem likely, but we hope the present tensions can be worked out without a gang of lawyers making it worse.
A READER passes along another breathless paean to jive juice. He comments: “Wow. I did not realize the snowpack was so awful on the towering peaks of the Anderson valley this winter”: Changing Times For Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
COMING RIGHT UP! Saturday June 3, The Swingin' Boonville Big Band is playing at Lauren's in Boonville. Dinner is served from 5-9 PM; the band plays from 9 – 11 PM. Dance floor bigger than one would expect; tables are moved around after dinner. Tickets $5, all proceeds benefit the A.V. Adult Education Department. Friendly door dragon. Beer\wine bar open late.
DOWN AT the Navarro General Store you’ve got Guy Kephart on the grill, and anybody who’s sampled Guy’s dogs and burgers always come back for more.
EVERYONE in the collective Anderson Valley opposition to the Blackbird Farm Use Permit Application should give themselves a good pat on the back. The Major Use Permit Application U_2013_008 has been withdrawn as Blackbird Farm was either unable or unwilling to provide "acceptable" documentation and response to County (and the locals’) concerns. The LA-based, charter school-funded ridgetop outdoors youth camp had hoped, and still may hope, to build accommodations for, brace for this figure: 292 transient occupants. In other words, a hotel/spa, larger than any in Mendocino County, accessed along remote narrow country lanes often impassable in the rainy months. This does not mean, though, that expansion is not going to be sought. In fact Blackbird has already applied for and paid the fees on a new Use Permit that will carry a U_2017_??? number. Apparently this new application will not be made public until it is "complete" and if I have it right that means that the County has also completed their assessment and established mitigation requirements. Hopefully this time the County will address cumulative impacts to nature, roads, neighbors, and emergency services and require an Environmental Impact Report that does so. (— David Severn)
A SMALL EARTHQUAKE, magnitude 2.0, hit downtown Boonville at about 2pm Friday. The single jolt originated about 8 miles under Boonville and did no damage but was certainly felt locally.
RAINFALL, THIS YEAR & LAST YEAR
Cumulative rainfall for October 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017. The previous year’s cumulative values for the same period are included for comparison. Rainfall values are in inches.
2016-17* | 2015-16* | Location 64.44, 34.13, Boonville RAWS 62.12, 46.56, Covelo Eel River Rngr Stn 57.14, 45.10, Covelo 9ENE RAWS 62.09, 50.79, Ft Bragg 5N 69.69, 58.14, Ft Bragg 13SE RAWS 47.24, 32.57, Lake Mendocino 91.15, 64.88, Laytonville 1N RAWS 107.72, 73.84, Leggett 64.95, 51.72, Potter Valley Power House 59.12, 35.88, Russian River Nr Cloverdale 51.57, 35.71, Ukiah Muni Airport 67.66, 51.60, Ukiah 4WSW 78.92, 58.72, Willits Ranger Station 84.84, 53.96, Yorkville * October through April
(Precipitation data courtesy of California Department of Water Resources, cooperative observers, and other cooperating agencies.)
AT THE LAST “Boonville Planners” meeting a week ago Monday, engineers from Sonoma County made some preliminary observations about what the Boonville Water District might look like — if it goes ahead.
THE ENGINEERS anticipate distributed sources, i.e., multiple wells all feeding into and pressurizing an integrated plumbing system. There will not be a separate pipe up to the storage tanks (tentatively to be sited on the hills above the Bradford Ranch south of town). Instead the pressurized system will pump water up the hill depending on water levels, usage and time of day. The tanks themselves are reserved for surge capacity or firefighting.
QUESTIONS about the boundaries of the envisioned water/sewage district remain, particularly whether or not a pipe should extend down Anderson Valley Way to the Elementary School, which is a couple of miles from Haehl Street. The engineers said the cost of extending the pipe to the Elementary School could be upwards of $2 million, which the school would have to finance.
THE HOMES along Anderson Valley Way? According to water system engineer Jack Locey,: “…the residential parcels would not be allowed to hook up unless they agreed to be annexed into the water system service area and paid associated annexation and connection fees. The fees would represent the costs associated of the annexation process and an appropriate share in the cost of developing the water system. Under the assumption that the school district was responsible for the cost of the main pipe along AV Way, it is likely that some portion of the connection fee would pass through the District to the school district due to their contribution to the system.”
IF THE EXTENDED Elementary School line is installed, there will be hydrants every 1000 feet whether the residents hook up or not. There's also some question about whether or not all property owners in the water district would be required to sign up or if they could opt out. (Given the truculent nature of Boonville property owners, “requiring” them to do anything is problematical.)
COMMUNITY SERVICES District Director Kirk Wilder said that he is a member of the Airport Estates Water District but he does not use their water, preferring to use his own wells, implying that there might be a third option where even if you have to hook up, you wouldn’t have to use or pay for the District’s water if you have your own source.
PLANNING continues. Estimates of the cost and proposed means of financing any prospective system are still months away. The CSD’s website (avcsd.org/watersewer.php) is being updated with relevant documents for both the water system, and the sewer system.
THE UPCOMING AV AMBULANCE MERGER with the Community Services District is moving along as planned. There is some chance that the merger could be effective as early as July 1, but it could also be delayed some number of months depending on how the transition plays out. There are a few straggling issues such as the fire department needing a "provider number" so they can receive Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursements, piddling as they are. This administrative process could take several months. Meanwhile, the existing Ambulance Service operation will continue in a reduced form to keep the reimbursements flowing as they transition to an fundraising foundation structure after the merger.
THE FIRE DEPARTMENT is in the process of procuring a brand new customized water tender for downtown Boonville which is expected to cost upwards of $200,000. The money will come from funds previously allocated for the purchase of a new fire engine but made available when the district bought a used truck from the State’s Office of Emergency Services for substantially less money. The saved money thus saved will be supplemented by strike-team reimbursements (Anderson Valley sends firefighters and equipment to distant catastrophes) and donations from the Volunteer Firefighters Association.
A READER NOTES: “I always associate abnormal warmth with earthquake weather. Went to the Mendo coast yesterday. The Navarro estuary is remarkably beautiful this time of year, the water a jewel-like green, the mouth still open (barely) to the ocean. Time to go canoeing. Here's a picture of Point Cabrillo from the Heeser headlands. You can't see it in this photo, but there was a single swim fin floating out there on the bay. An ominous implication.”
IF YOU wonder why so many up-market people were wandering around the Anderson Valley last weekend, they were in town to celebrate the famous pinot grape at our many wineries, hence all those heraldic purple banners you saw strung along 128. Reading a couple day’s worth of arrests, the DUI’s of people whose homes are in places like Laguna Beach, La Jolla and Sonoma numbered only a few among hundreds of the wine drinkers who were in Anderson Valley over the weekend.