Monday, January 25, 2016

Board of Supervisors Meeting re: State of Jefferson

VIA AMADOR DEMOCRATS: The Board of Supervisors will consider the fiscal impact and ballot language regarding the State of Jefferson declaration on the Tuesday, Jan. 26.  I have attached the agenda (as you will see, the item is early on the [closed] agenda), the fiscal analysis and the proposed ballot language to this email.

As you can see, the fiscal impact to the County is devastating.  This does not include the fiscal impact to the School District. I have received information from the School District that it currently receives 31% of its budget from the State of California.

I hope that many of you will come to the meeting on Tuesday or call your Supervisor, and ask that we spend no more time and money on this issue which obviously is not feasible for many reasons.

Thank you,
Caryl Callsen, Chair
Amador Co. Dem. Central Committee

Monday, January 18, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Success At Last

Well folks, we've finally surpassed the incredible standard of having an average of at least one mass shooting a day in 2015. Logical perhaps, since we now have more firearms than we have people.  The NRA must be so proud, not to mention rich. These two facts taken together do certainly give the lie to the nonsense that more guns make us safer, and still the dumb party continues to deny that gun violence and guns are related.  After all, it's not the gun's fault, right?

According to them, absolutely everyone should have some, and take them absolutely everywhere including school, church and their local saloons. What could possibly go wrong? And so [on December 3, 2015], in a fit of pure idiocy, the Senate voted to continue to allow suspected terrorists to buy guns and explosives legally in America, and this immediately following the disaster in San Bernardino, which was not, in fact, the only mass shooting that took place that day, though perhaps the only terrorist-inspired one.

Could anything be more ridiculous, or for that matter more evil, than to constantly work to brainwash the largely under-educated and under-informed, pumping them daily full of fear, hatred and gun nuttiness, all for profit and politically motivated demagoguery? What that always has and always will produce is rabble in search of rousers. And now they have found them, and they're actually running for president.

The comical aspect to all this of course is seeing the party leaders and major donors running around with their hair on fire trying to figure out how to stop the monsters that they themselves have created.  Definitely funny, is it not? We have a nice, timely suggestion for them. Do exactly what you and your political tools always advise for the victims of mass shootings. Pray, and ask the nation to join you. Granted, it doesn't appear to help much, but if you start praying more, perhaps you'll be preying less...on the weak minded, and ill informed, thereby destroying your party, and perhaps in the end our beautiful country. Hope it's not too late.

 Nora Coryell

“Every Student Succeeds Act” – A Dream or a Reality?

Guest Columnist Bob Laurent
Amador County’s District Three Board of Education Representative  
Having read about President Obama’s historic signing of the landmark K-12 education measure signed into law on December 10th, my first speculation would be that "Every Student Succeeds Act" will have no effect here.  This is because it largely implements and allows--on a national level--what California has already been pioneering in the last two to three years.  California has reduced emphasis on testing, changed to tests that are meaningful to teachers, increased flexibility in classrooms, and increased vocational, arts and life skills classes.  
For example, one of Amador’s high schools now has a modern culinary arts facility (the Rancheria made a significant contributions to this), and the other one has been approved to get one.  Instead of household stoves and ovens, they will have modern commercial cooking equipment. The old business classroom (think clerical workers) is being modernized, using the more innovative setups that successful tech companies like Google and Facebook are using.  This makes it usable for implementing computer graphics skills, such as animation and game design, as well as more traditional skills along with the 21st Century skills the students of Amador County need to compete in jobs that don't yet exist.  
Our students will soon have access to the University of the Pacific's online library, giving teachers more opportunities to use materials that go beyond textbooks. We also have a digital dropbox for sharing curriculum, ebooks, digital technology and Smartboard lessons.  Foreign language learning opportunities are increasing, in part due to more effective use of technology.  The arts classes are growing and new class offerings are planned.  Even though it takes years to “fix a leaky roof,” our students are receiving amazing opportunities.
Because of the new legislation at the national level, this will be more possible for kids elsewhere.  Amazingly, Amador has been at the leading edge, and visitors are starting to come to look at what's been done.  Our teachers jumped into the New California Standards with enthusiasm (with some exceptions, of course), and this has been conveyed to the students.  Discipline problems are decreasing, in spite of the occasional problem (like the pound of marijuana found in December.)  In terms of the opportunities for our kids, this is a great time to be on the board.  
If we can just fix a couple of pending headaches, and if enrollment growth seen this fall continues, we'll be the envy of rural school districts everywhere.
A lot of the credit goes to local advocate, Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti; as well as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson's leadership at the state level-- has also helped to make this possible.  California has already been moving away from “No Child Left Behind” for years.  Teachers who have been willing to put in extra time to learn the new approaches, especially those who have learned to train other teachers, deserve a lot of credit. Our amazing teachers are on the cutting edge, and continue to work on projects throughout the state, as well as here in Amador, to develop and implement curriculum. We've even had teachers help align the State Environmental Education Initiative Curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards.
The new "Every Student Succeeds Act" places more emphasis on alternative teaching methods and programs. For example, this year our Independence High School program switched to a partial project-based learning curriculum and is continuing with its development. I don't anticipate much more money, and I think oversight and assessment for program effectiveness will be streamlined, as best as possible, to what is already occurring here in California.

Ruth Gottstein
Volcano Press

(This 'guest' column recently ran in The Upcountry News, courtesy of Rick Torgerson.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

CA Budget & Policy Center: What we’re watching for in the Governor’s budget

California Budget Project
January 5, 2016
New on California Budget Bites
What We’re Watching for in the Governor’s Proposed Budget
Later this week, Governor Jerry Brown will release his proposed budget for 2016-17, the state fiscal year that begins this coming July 1. To highlight some of the key issues that we expect to shape this year’s budget debate, a new Budget Center blog post discusses five things that we’re looking for in the Governor’s proposal. This post examines what's at stake in how the Governor's proposal handles state revenue projections, sentencing policy and corrections spending, support for early care and education, and other issues that we expect will be central to lawmakers' work on a new state budget.

Read the post.