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Valley People

EMIL SCHMITT, older brother of our Don Schmitt and father of the redoubtable Jennifer Schmitt, has died at age 86. Emil's wife, Donna and Don's wife, Sally, were roommates at Davis when the Schmitt brother were first beguiled by them, and both couple's went to remain cou­ples all their lives. Jennifer, who now lives in Napa County, also told us that her son, Jack Holman, who left Anderson Valley High School after his junior year, is living in Prague where he is about to sit for academic examinations in Czech!

GARRETT MEZZANATO, Anderson Valley's fine all-round athlete, has been named to the All-Redwood Empire Small School Baseball Team. Garrett, only a sophomore, is also a standout basketball player. Assum­ing AVHS fields a football team this season, Garrett, his mom Renee Lee reports, plans to turn out. If football locally collapses at the high school, as it tends to do annually ever since Dan Kuny was hounded out of his head coach position by, well, no need to disturb that par­ticular can of worms, Garrett will play futbol for Coach Steve Sparks.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY FOODSHED presents the Not So Simple Living Fair last weekend of July at the Boonville Fairgrounds. Unlike the Simple Living Work­shops of yesteryear which, it is probably unfair but irre­sistible to say, the Not So Simple Living Fair will be dominated by people who actually know what they're talking about. The old simple living events were heavy on organic chakra aligning, edible hemp hats, astrology workshops and, of course, bong ringing contests. Hippies having since gone extinct except for a single set aside preserve deep in Albion, the Not So Simple Living Fair will see “Hunting with Gary Johnson; farming with Doug Mosel; tree crops with Mark Albert and Pat Schafer; gardening with Sophia Bates; animal husbandry with Tamara Wilder and Jane Zeni; wood milling with David Pronsolino. In other words, practical instruction from experts.

WE WERE THRILLED, head to toe, the other day to receive an e-mail from none other than Glen Ricard, owner of Boonville's siamese slums, that combined fire trap and eyesore at Haehl Street and 128. Writing from, Little River's maestro of civic distress presented this terse message: “Shelia. Here are the parcel numbers for the properties we discussed yesterday. 029-140-32 & 029-140-34.” Nobody named Shelia here, but those parcel numbers partly comprise Ricard's Boonville holdings, the structures that should have been razed years ago because they constitute a multiplicity of haz­ards to that entire crowded neighborhood. Ricard could not get away with unmaintained structures in the village of Mendocino where he also owns property. Or even in Ukiah and Willits, Mendocino County's official No Aesthetics Communities. I took the opportunity pre­sented by Ricard's mis-directed e-mail to write back to him with an impertinent suggestion encouraging him to sell his Boonville property or lend it to the Boonville Fire Department for structure fire practice. I told Ricard how all of us in Boonville — except David Severn — want something done about his abandoned property. Severn, by the way, says he likes the look of it the way it is, but he's virtually alone in his opinion.

A LOCAL grape grower and vintner tells us that he's spent upwards of $150k on permit paperwork for the State Water Resources Control Board but is still in bureaucratic limbo. He says the agency is not only understaffed but remaining staff is grotesquely incom­petent, an opinion of State Water Resources he shares with other state agencies.

THE US Geological Survey (USGS) is again threatening to defund the Navarro River gaging station. In prior years Mendocino Redwoods has offered to pay part of the cost of monitoring river flow and so has Mendocino County. But the County is looking to cut every cost it can these days (except for its top bureaucrats and super­visors Colfax and Smith who indignantly refuse to even consider cutting their pay) and nobody really expects MRC to cover the whole cost at something like $25k per year. If the gage is turned off, Anderson Valley won’t have any way to tell if water can be diverted with mini­mum impact on fish and the general health of the river. There’s some talk about fund-raising among local grape and produce growers, but there’s not much momentum in that direction either.

CHARLIE PAGET-SEEKINS, Valley born and bred, will speak on his recent experiences in Haiti at 6pm, Fri­day, July 23rd at the Boonville Fire Station. Charlie's presentation will be accompanied by slides from ground zero of the catastrophe.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY VOLUNTEERS, rein­forced by CalFire, beat back a Thursday evening house fire at Highland Ranch, containing the early evening blaze to a bedroom of the 100-year-old main house. The ranch is now a resort. Way back it was the Ward Ranch, Charmian Blattner's childhood home. The fire is assumed to have started at an electrical outlet in an upstairs bedroom. Anderson Valley Fire Chief Colin Wilson said Tuesday that “inch thick redwood retarded the spread of the fire. The fire was discovered by people enjoying a barbecue outside the old structure. Chief Wil­son said, “They did all the right things. A person work­ing upstairs in the office walked out and they shut the door on the bedroom, confining the fire to the room it began in.” And, presumably, depriving it of oxygen. The barbecuers got water in through one of the bedroom's windows, and by the time local firefighters arrived — a twenty to thirty minute trip from Boonville and Philo into the west hills — they found only the bedroom on fire but the rest of the building uninvolved. “The resi­dents had laddered the roof,” the Chief said. “We could go right to work.” The Chief and his crew had water pouring on the fire by the time CalFire arrived with more water and a Caterpillar in case the blaze spread. Chief Wilson marveled at the construction of the stored ranch house. “The rafter and joists were hand-split so true that they looked like they'd been milled. No bag, no sag,” he said.

FROM THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL of Monday, July 18th, 1960: “Three escape injury in light plane crash. Earl Voorhees, Gualala businessman, and his two children walked away from a crash landing in the John Farrer apple orchard Friday with nothing more serious that a broken tooth for one of the children. Voorhees, who was piloting the plane, crashed in the orchard as he was attempting a landing at the Boonville airstrip. The light plane crashed nose up after hitting an air pocket and going out of control. His seven year old daughter, Kathy Lynn, lost a tooth, and Gary Earl, age 5, and Voorhees escaped injury.”

THE JOHN FARRER apple orchard? Would that be the late Buster and Velma Farrer's place on Anderson Valley Way, now home to dwarf olive trees? Or did the Farrers' own property closer to the then-dirt airstrip which has since become Boonville International?

THE CALIFORNIA Department of Education has released a list of “bad schools.” If your kid happens to be enrolled in a “bad school,” you can transfer him with a minimum of hassle. Trouble is, the list of “bad schools” is basically meaningless — as would be any list of “good schools” because 1. the State’s method simply allocates 10% of any given area to “bad” status; 2. The “good” and “bad” schools are heavily self-selected based on the educational, economic and social background of parents and 3. the ranking includes a numeric rating comparing a school’s test results to the previous year to calculate whether the school met a “growth target.” The idea of “growth targets” in small schools is particularly wacky because the academic ability of any given class year can vary widely from year to year. Meeting or not meeting a growth target based on a previous year’s test scores has nothing to do with the relative effectiveness of a school in whatever area the school happens to be located in.

OF ALL MENDO schools only the relatively advantaged Redwood Academy in Ukiah meets state standards at 829 for 2009, giving it a rank of 7 out of 10. Schools with scores of 800 or more are not assigned “growth tar­gets.”) Willits Charter School also ranks 7 out of 10 but has a score of 771.

SCHOOL PERFORMANCE ratings and student demo­graphics are, of course, mutually dependent. Mendo's worst schools are in Round Valley where overall scores are in the 500s and rankings are low. Round Valley's schools, before the drug and general low life lifestyles that became popular in the late 1960s were, by all accounts, quite good. Slob-ism has since become almost something of a parental norm in many areas of Mendo­cino County and, for that matter, much of the United States.

MOST MENDO elementary schools are in the middle range of the 700s. But these are comparisons, not meas­ures of actual achievement of any kind. Anderson Valley Elementary scores fairly high at 786 (with a middling rank of 5) and AV High is at 745 (Rank 6) with an over­all District average of 760.

SO, according to the state's meaningless methodology, the “bad” elementary schools in Mendocino County ended up being AV Elementary 786, Arena Union Ele­mentary 697, Fort Bragg Elementary 763, Mendocino Elementary 799, Round Valley Elementary 620, Calpella Elementary 675, Oak Manor Elementary 683, Willits Unified Elementary 762, and Laytonville Elementary 748, all of which are high enough to indicate that most of children enrolled in them are learning to read. But always feel free to transfer your kid to Marin Country Day.

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