Tuesday, June 27, 2017
[Butte County] Grand Jury issues 10 final reports
Oroville >> The 2016-17 Butte County Grand Jury has submitted final reports on 10 subjects, including reviews of county voting systems and Thermalito schools.
The 19-member panel also looked at the county’s fire department restructuring plan, as well as the challenges facing smaller mosquito districts. The Grand Jury previously submitted interim reports on both subjects.
The full report was released Friday.
During a proceeding at Butte County Superior Court in Oroville, Presiding Judge Robert Glusman, before discharging the panel, commended jurors for the quality of their report, saying it was well crafted.
The jury’s foreperson, Jeff Talerico of Chico, thanked the court for its services and county counsel Bruce Alpert for his guidance. Talerico further said he was proud of the work of his fellow jurors. Members of the jury returned the compliments.
In the report’s preface, Talerico wrote that the replacement of jurors over the year posed challenges of continuity throughout the Grand Jury process. He recommended the court produce a public campaign to stoke citizen interest in serving on the Grand Jury.
After the jury was discharged, a new 19-member panel was selected for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The Grand Jury reviewed the Butte County Clerk-Recorder department before and after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, looking into the election responsibilities of the office.
And while the panel concluded that the department is well managed, it did have some recommendations.
Jurors, according to the report, found the majority of voting equipment is outdated. The equipment is about 10 years old, and replacements are recommended in the near future.
The Grand Jury found the replacement of voting equipment would be costly, but it would improve efficiencies in future elections.
Jurors also found that the department is understaffed. Given the responsibilities of the office, which administers federal, state, county and other local elections, it could use an additional staff member to protect the integrity of the election process.
Jurors also noted that information gathered during the 2016 election shed light on some local issues, including unlawful electioneering near polling places, absent precinct employes and a need for more “I Voted” stickers.
“Notwithstanding these deficits, the Butte County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters department shows a history of being well managed and is committed to improving and streamlining election processes,” according to the report. “The Grand Jury also acknowledges their hard work and diligence in ensuring the accuracy and security of the 2016 election.”
With changes in local funding formulas, testing and accountability systems in mind, the Grand Jury reviewed the Thermalito Union Elementary School District, looking into the needs of the district and formulating recommendations to improve academic achievement.
Jurors concluded that the district “serves its students with dignity, passion and strong sense of community,” according to the report. And while school officials face challenges such as low test scores compared to state results, the district “continues to seek solutions to effectively meet the challenging and diverse needs of its students.”
The Grand Jury noted the school district serves about 1,500 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. According to the report, students predominantly come from low-income backgrounds, with about 90 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches.
Further, about 20 percent of students are designated as English learners, according to the report. The primary languages are Hmong and Spanish.
Jurors found a need for more Hmong-English bilingual employees, and the panel recommended focusing on recruiting bilingual professionals.
The Grand Jury also found that students tested below statewide results in English and math, and it recommended that the district look at other similar schools experiencing academic growth to address its low test scores.
Further, jurors found the district should develop an outreach campaign to get parents more involved in school activities, according to the report.
“Parent involvement is critical for low-income and EL students,” according to the report. “The new accountability system pushes districts to actively create new ways to engage parents.”
June 23, 2017
Oroville Mercury Register
By Andre Byik