Thursday, June 30, 2016
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved unanimously a response by the county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury’s report on immunization in the county.
According to the grand jury report, the county has the fifth lowest rate of vaccination and the second highest rate of whooping cough in the state.
The grand jury made four recommendations to address the issue. They included DHHS working with the county office of education to develop and implement a plan which addresses lack of transportation as a barrier to receiving mandated vaccinations. It also recommended DHHS assuming vaccination data oversight for schools, provide a link to www.shotsforschool.org for education on vaccinations, and all schools providing vaccination information to parents.
In response, DHHS said on the issue of transportation, a survey was conducted and found while it was a barrier to vaccinations, it was not a major barrier. A transportation assistance program by the California Health and Disability Program also would help families that needed it.
All the other recommendations, according to DHHS, have been implemented by the department.
Supervisor Mark Lovelace, chair of the board, said he thought the grand jury did a good job in their report and agreed with the response. He felt more education would be needed convince those skeptical of vaccines to give their children the shots. Lovelace stressed the county was committed to getting as many children vaccinated as it could.
“We want to do all we can to ensure every child in Humboldt County is vaccinated,” he said. “We should not be 54th out of 58 counties.”
June 28, 2016
North Coast News
By Jeremy Chen
Hot off the presses, as they used to say before ebooks, comes a summer blockbuster that should be read by everyone in Selma. It's just 29 pages, but it's neither an easy read nor a fun read.
The Fresno County Grand Jury report on the Selma Unified School District is the newest take on old news -- the dismissal of a school superintendent and the subsequent recall of three school board members that took place last year.
Today, we are moving forward with three new trustees and a new superintendent, so maybe this is a good time to look back at how we got here.
The report, released a couple weeks ago, is a tale of abuse of power and small-town politics run amok.
Your reaction to the report likely will depend on which side you were on during last year's firing of Selma Unified Superintendent Mark Sutton and the recall of the three board members who voted for his dismissal.
To those who were outraged at Sutton's firing and its cost to the district -- which the Grand Jury estimated to be $432,955 -- the report validates the recall of John Lorona, Roger Orozco and Gilbert Lopez.
To those former trustees and their supporters, the 29 pages no doubt seem like another hit below the belt to three solid citizens simply doing what they thought necessary to make a school district better.
But the Grand Jury makes it clear: No matter how righteous your intentions, there are rules and policies that must be followed.
Dealing with district business as an individual, requesting work from administrators on weekends, demanding that personnel be disciplined, using binoculars to spy on janitors (really?), monitoring which district personnel have recall stickers on their cars, dropping in on classes unannounced -- those issues and more were listed in the report.
The Grand Jury was adamant: All that stuff is verboten if you are a school trustee. You take action as a team, not by yourself. You follow chain-of-command protocol. You don't create a culture of fear and intimidation. You don't abuse the workload of administrators.
Last week, I talked with Lanny Larson, foreman of the Fresno County Grand Jury.
Grand Jury rules do not allow him to go into details about the report at this time. However, I asked him if he thought the report was fair, and he said, "We would not have released a report if it was only giving one side."
Larson emphasized that the Grand Jury spent six months conducting interviews and studying documents and media accounts. The investigation was initiated from complaints that the school board had violated the Brown Act, which prevents elected bodies from meeting separately from scheduled meetings.
Moving ahead, the Grand Jury was optimistic that the system is working better now that it is being lead by a new superintendent and three new board members.
There are challenges, of course. The new board needs to make sure it doesn't repeat the abuses of power and violations of policy that were detailed in the report. It needs to act as a team, dealing with each other and the superintendent in a collegial manner.
The concerned citizens who organized and supported the recall must also remain diligent to make sure the new board acts with the best interests of the district and plays by the rules.
On a personal note, I have a request: Can we put away the overused phrase "for the kids"? It means nothing, since it can be used by both sides in disputes like a recall campaign.
Anything that makes our schools better, whether it is employee salaries and working conditions, safety, nutrition, extra-curricular activities, curriculum, field trips -- yes, even a school board that operates fairly and doesn't violate state and local policies -- can be considered "for the kids."
We all want our schools to be safe, offer quality education and prepare young people to be productive adults. Doing that takes everyone -- trustees, administrators, staff, students and parents -- playing on the same team.
So I'm asking, can't we all get along? Let's do it for the kids.
June 29, 2016
The Selma Enterprise
By Ken Robison
Napa County has undergone grand jury scrutiny for how well it maintains its many public buildings and come out with high marks.
It would seem that people can enter county buildings without fear of breathing toxic molds or being turned off by dirty carpets. For that matter, they don’t even have to bring a coat on a hot day to deal with an amped-up air conditioner.
“Buildings are attractive and clean and there is little, if any, sign of wear,” the grand jury report said. “Temperatures are comfortable and ventilation is adequate.”
Even restrooms and break areas were spotless when the grand jury did its inspections. The county Administration Building, Carithers building, Hall of Justice and other buildings were in top shape.
The grand jury also wanted to know how the county would handle its buildings in an emergency. The recovery from the August 2014 South Napa earthquake gave it the chance to see the county in action.
Napa County had 100,000 square feet of office space damaged in the quake and relocated more than 400 workers. Yet virtually all departments were operating only two days after the earthquake, the grand jury report said.
Some employees had offices moved to conference rooms, training rooms and rented space. In one case, the county made post-earthquake services readily available by moving workers to a folding table outside on the plaza, the report said.
The county swiftly identified the repairs needed and construction was underway within three months. Except at the heavily damaged historic courthouse and Hall of Justice, work was completed in little over a year.
Not only that, the county smartly used the recovery as an opportunity to perform building upgrades, the grand jury said. For example, it changed heating and air conditioning controls from pneumatic to digital.
The county used quake repairs as an opportunity to upgrade carpets and partitions and complete needed maintenance while buildings were vacant, the report said.
In particular, the grand jury credited county Public Works and Information Technology Services with doing a “masterful job of earthquake recovery.” In its grand jury response, the county Board of Supervisors agreed.
But the grand jury found a few faults. It said a contractor stopped doing regular inspections of the county’s 60 elevators after October 2015.
Maintenance contracts for heating and air conditioning equipment and emergency power generators also expired, the report said. Delays to bid new contracts place the reliable performance of critical systems at risk, it said.
The county response said Public Works in April awarded maintenance contracts for elevators and generators, in May awarded a contract for heating and air conditioning and in August expects to award a contract for fire alarms and sprinklers.
June 30, 2016
Napa Valley Register
By Barry Eberling