Casitas’ agricultural, large commercial, and institutional customers in the Ojai, Upper Ojai, and Meiners Oaks areas are being asked to halt all irrigation until 6 p.m. today due to a 30” main line water break that occured yesterday afternoon.
A contractor working in the Persimmon Hill neighborhood in Ojai hit Casitas’ main water line while digging around 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon. Casitas’ employees worked all night to repair the line break and were able to patch the line by 5:50 a.m. this morning.
It will take until 6:00 p.m. today to fully restore water service.
Nearly 200 large customers including farmers and schools had their meters turned off last night to protect the water distribution system and to maintain basic water service to residential customers.
By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai City Council voted to approve the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 Tuesday night. Modifications to the proposed documents included eliminating the idea of a Farmers’ Market tax or rent, granting the museum’s Ojai Visitors Center $500 to cover office supplies and expenses for its 22 volunteers that the establishment had previously been paying for out of its own pocket, and conceding to the Arts Commission the amount that group had requested instead of restricting them to same amount from last year’s budget, a difference of about $3,000. The newly adopted budget leaves Ojai City Council with a modest surplus of around $16,000.
“I’d just like to say for the press, in case you’re trying to figure out what the headline is tonight, it’s ‘$1.5 million for capital Improvements,’” joked city manager Rob Clark at the meeting.
“Well, Rob’s already taken my punch line,” bantered Public Works director Greg Grant. He explained that his department is in charge of maintaining various things across the city, including the streets, drains, landscaping, janitorial services, public parking lots, public facilities in parks, and the exteriors of the Police Station and Ojai Valley Museum. Much of the money spent in the Public Works department actually comes from grants. Upcoming projects for the department include the Fulton Street extension, street overlays on Aliso and Oak streets, renovating the tile in the Libbey Park fountain, re-striping Grand Avenue to allow for bike lanes on both sides, and more.
“One of the fortunate things we’re faced with is, at a city level, we have to operate with a balanced budget, unlike the state and federal government,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz. Ojai City Council members approved the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 unanimously.
The vote to approve the housing projects at Mallory Way was not unanimous, however, with Councilwoman Sue Horgan having recused herself from the vote, and Councilwoman Carol Smith voting to oppose the housing plan. The latest incarnation of the housing plan for 412 Mallory Way was drafted by Brian Cearnal of Santa Barbara and includes 30 Craftsman-style units — 23 new and seven renovated. The site has been in limbo for approximately 10 years, and has been home for years to a motor court. Cearnal made it clear to all present that his architecture firm worked hard to keep as much open space and greenery as they deemed possible — about 45 percent of the 3.58 acre lot —- even leaving one particular oak tree in the middle of a road that will curve around it, in typical Ojai fashion. The state law requires a certain percentage of the units be low income; in this case, five of the 30 units must be designated for “very low-income” tenants.
“This project is wrong, wrong, wrong,” insisted Ojai resident Dennis Leary during the time for public comments. “You (council members) are purposely and willfully ignoring your duty. That is the motor court! That is the predecessor to hotels, motels, whatever. Nothing stands in the way of making this a landmark. You don’t have to get the permission of the owner. It reveals your prejudice against the poor, and your prejudice against the law when it doesn’t suit you.”
“This has been a very emotional project, and I’m not in favor of development either,” sympathized Mayor Betsy Clapp. “But I have been through those units, and they’re blighted. They’re basically affordable slums. I think what has come before us is sensitive to the environment, and sensitive to the community.”
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, Ojai City Council approved a marketing service agreement with the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce and the formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District. The TBID will collect a fee of 1 percent of room rates in hotels, inns, etc. for a trial period of five years. The funds collected would be used to further market the city of Ojai, in theory bringing these same businesses more clientele. Local business owners Roberta Raye, Lauren Henry, Cathy Cluff, and a representative from the Ojai Valley Inn all spoke in favor of the proposed contracts.
“I supported the funding of this Visitor’s Bureau right from the inception. I think you have done an outstanding job, and this will allow you to do even better,” said Blatz.
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting is scheduled to take place July 10 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St. Visit ci.ojai.ca.us for more information and an agenda.
Cuts to teachers, class offerings continue as tax initiative looms
By Misty Volaski
Tuesday night, the Ojai Unified School District presented its budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
The ratified budget sits at almost $22 million, and is based on the assumption that California voters will pass a November ballot initiative that would raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent, and increase income taxes for residents making over $250,000 per year. Should the initiative fail, it will trigger $5.5 billion in cuts to public education across the state.
That means Ojai schools would lose $1,245,000 in the middle of the school year — on top of the $5 million-plus in cuts the OUSD has had to make since the 2007-2008 school year.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has said that, to balance their budgets, school districts would be given the option of shortening the school year by up to 15 days for both 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
As the OUSD has already shortened its school year by five days, that could mean up to a month less of school for local students.
“We just cannot take that on,” said Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent of business and administrative services. “That’s ideal for balancing the budget, but it’s not good for employees. And it’s not good for students … That is a significant educational impact … We are relying heavily on (the fact that) this November ballot will pass.”
The OUSD has been able to set aside some funding, in the event that the initiative doesn’t pass, or for “any necessary staffing changes during the fall due to changes in enrollment,” according to a report from Pusatere to OUSD board members. Some monies were anticipated, such an the $71,645 in unappropriated funds rolled over from the 2011-2012 school year. Others were not. Unexpected funds include the approximately $76,000 from a California block grant for mandated cost services. These include “Certain requirements the state puts on us — negotiations with the unions, scoliosis screenings, hearing and eye screenings, increased science requirements,” said Pusatere, “things they (the state) haven’t paid us for in years, but that we still keep doing.” The money offered isn’t enough to cover those services, however. Other unanticipated funds came from a 22.2 percent decrease in insurance costs for vision coverage. “Same medical eye services, we just went to a different provider,” said Pusatere. “We got guaranteed a four-year rate.”
Still, the cuts for the coming year are significant. Teachers have again agreed to a reduction of eight work days, while classified staff members have taken a reduction of nine; management has taken 10, and the superintendent, Hank Bangser, has taken 12.
Across the district, Ojai schools have lost the equivalent of 5.3 full-time teachers. Both Mira Monte and San Antonio elementary schools have lost one teacher. Matilija Junior High School has lost five class periods (the equivalent of one full-time teaching position). Nordhoff High School has lost the equivalent of two full-time teachers through the reduction of eight class periods (one math class, three science, one English, one history, one physical education, and its symphonic band). Nordhoff has also had $15,000 cut from its summer school offerings, and another $15,000 cut from its athletic program.
Classified staffing spending has been reduced by almost $25,000 through the reorganization of its transportation services, in addition to taking one additional work furlough day (for nine days, or $17,611).
Management costs have also been reduced by getting creative. Former Chaparral High School principal Marilyn Smith, who doubled as the director of elementary services, retired, but is coming back as a 40-percent employee working as director of special projects. Her former position will be filled by superintendent Bangser, who will be principal of Chaparral “with a teacher in charge,” said Pusatere.
The district is planning on spending $100,000 “to fund much-needed maintenance projects at the school sites,” according to the report from Pusatere to board members. After the meeting, Pusatere added, “This is just enough to handle repairs to keep classrooms open. This is just making sure they’re in good working condition — top priorities, like roofing. If we wanted to actually build or revamp the schools, we’d have to look at another bond.”
One positive for OUSD: the “100 for Ojai Schools” committee has already raised about $20,000 since it began raising funds a little over a month ago, said Pusatere. That money — which comes from donations contributed by local residents — can only be used for teachers. “It’s amazing, what they’ve done in such a short time,” enthused Pusatere. Visit 100forojaischools.com for more information and to donate.
Summing up OUSD’s situation, Pusatere said, “The November ballot — that is key.”
By Hanna Day
Most of the seniors at Nordhoff High School work on big projects before they graduate. Some write research papers; others complete volunteer projects, or design websites or models.
But Jennifer Volk wanted to go bigger than that. So she built a solar-powered car.
Advanced Placement physics teacher Ken Umholtz admitted that “it was kind of exciting” when Volk proposed to build a solar-powered vehicle for his class. Despite the difficulty, Umholtz was confident that Volk would “be able to pull it off,” considering her work from previous years at Nordhoff.
Learning how to build a car that does not run on fossil fuels was something that had always interested 17-year-old Volk. When asked about what inspired her to build a solar-powered car, Volk claimed that her parents’ interest in land sailing first inspired her. “My parents used to own a land sailor business,” said Volk, whose parents sold go-carts powered by wind, allowing them to “sail” across the land without the use of a motor.
She began to build the car in February (although only on the weekends, when she had the free time). It took her three months to finish it. Not only were her parents an inspiration, but they also helped her bring her design to life, Volk said. One of the hardest challenges she faced was collecting the necessary materials, especially the metal used for welding the car together. Volk said that her dad taught her how to weld, which was one of the most difficult tasks she faced.
“Welding (was) a new thing for me,” said Volk. “Other than that, it was pretty easy to build” once she had the materials and parts put together. Although Volk had some help from her dad with the more physically demanding tasks, the “design was all (her) idea.”
The car was built for her physics class project, but teacher Umholtz said that the research was “mostly her” and that he spent very little time helping her.
Dubbed the Manifolder, the car seats one, sports a cup holder, flashing lights and a speaker. It can move at a cool 13 miles an hour at its fastest, although it does have some trouble going uphill. “The cart is slow on hills,” Volk admitted, “but can hold a charge because wherever there are photons hitting the panels it is continuously charging.” The solar panels, located on top of the cart, charge the batteries.
The car was finished in time to be presented at Nordhoff’s annual Spring Showcase in May, where Umholtz demonstrated its efficiency by driving it. According to Umholtz, riding in the car “was a rush.”
“Umholtz was stunned,” said Volk of her teacher’s reaction. “I think my favorite day was rolling onto campus playing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ with my aviators on.”
After this summer, Volk intends to continue working in engineering in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Volk said that if she were to improve the car, she would add a more powerful motor so it can travel uphill more easily, and “another solar panel (to improve the battery life), an ignition switch, and a cage to protect the batteries.”
Umholtz emphasized Volk’s passion for physics. In his 34 years of teaching, Umholtz claimed that “Jennifer had the greatest interest in physics of any student I’ve taught” and that she is “an ideal kid .… a remarkable young woman.”
Christen Minnick also contributed to this report.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
This is my last column for the Ojai Valley News as publisher. Writing a final column is similar to standing in line at a wake. It is a very emotional time. You want to express exactly the right thought, yet almost anything you say seems forced and trite. The one notable exception to this is something I witnessed at a wake many years ago. An elderly gentlemen in the receiving line ahead of me uttered the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard at any group gathered to honor the dead. This wake was particularly tragic and poignant. A young man died while piloting a small plane. He left behind a young wife, and a 9-month-old daughter. At the wake, the young widow stood in the receiving line holding her baby in her arms as mourners shuffled by offering their sympathy. The young woman was, understandably, in shock. She stared straight ahead; oblivious to the comments of all those passing by. That turned out to be a blessing. As the line ahead of me moved closer to the family, the old gentleman shuffled up in his somber black suit, patted the young widow on the shoulder and announced in the voice of one who is hard of hearing, “We just want to offer our congratulations!” It was an unconscious slip of the tongue. Of course he meant to say “condolences.” I stood there, slack-jawed, and struggled to regain my composure. I guess there are worse things than being trite. Hopefully my comments will fall somewhere in between. I thank all of our readers and advertisers. The newspaper and Visitors Guide would not exist without your support. I do not know of any other smalltown newspaper in which readers take such an active role in voicing their views. Your letters to the editor, blog posts, guest editorials and “thumbs up, down” comments are always welcome. Please don’t ever stop letting us know what you think. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our staff. They work diligently to put out the best newspaper and quarterly Visitors Guide magazine that the community can support. I am proud of them and what they do. I want to say a special thank-you to my wife, Ava, who has, for the last two years, edited each and every one of my weekly columns, waited for me, and kept the home fires burning. Finally, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all those in the community who have welcomed me with genuine warmth. If I listed everyone by name, this column would run far beyond the space allotted for it. But those special people with whom I have shared laughter and good times know who they are. I will miss you a great deal, and will see you again when I return from time to time. When Ava and I first came to look at the community almost 12 years ago, I declared that this is the nicest small town I have ever visited. Living here for the last two years has only confirmed that. I have selected Tim Dewar as the publisher who will lead our growth. Because Tim has strong ties with Ojai and with the Ojai Valley News, I have every confidence that he will lead our publications in a positive direction. I ask that you support him as strongly as you have supported us in the past.
By Tiobe Barron
Nearly 1,000 out of every 100,000 births in Niger will result in the death of the mother, according to the CIA World Factbook. Niger’s infant mortality rate is the second highest in the world, at approximately 110 dead out of every 1,000 born.
Most people will read that statistic, maybe feel sorrow for a moment, and then they will get on with their lives.
Artist Leslie Clark and obstetrician Robert Skankey, M.D., aren’t most people.
Skankey, who has been practicing medicine in the Ojai Valley since 1969, has delivered well over 3,000 babies here (in 2009, Ojai’s population measured at 7,807). On June 23, Dr. Skankey received an award from Rotary International for work of a specific sort: the humanitarian kind. The “Service Above Self” award is given to only 100 people worldwide, it is their highest award for a single individual, and Skankey received it in honor of his work saving lives in Ethiopia, Mali, Brazil, Bolivia, Honduras, Tonga, and Niger.
“We all do things that are of value to someone else,” said Skankey in a recent phone interview.
Skankey became involved with Leslie Clark’s Nomad Foundation work about four years ago, when Clark approached Skankey after his Rotary lecture on his work in Africa, and reportedly told him, “I need you!”
Clark had been traveling to Niger over the last 20 years, first as an artist intrigued by the works of the Tuareg people, and returned repeatedly as an empowered human who recognized she could do something concrete to help the nomads with whose culture she had become very familiar.
“There is such political volatility in that region, we never know if we can go back. Now we go with armed guards. We’re still going, we’re not going to give up. There’s no one else doing it,” says Clark of her foundation’s work in Niger. “Everything we do now has a sustainability element to it. We give the people skills, something you can never take away from somebody.”
In 2009, Clark came to the decision that since it was exponentially more expensive working with nomadic people, as you spend money chasing them down to provide basic services, she would let them come to her, so to speak, and the Nomad Foundation established a health clinic on a point on the migratory route of the native nomadic people. The foundation was given a well on the site, and the clinic began providing health care, education and other services to the nomads in an area where they were already familiar and comfortable.
“There is only one doctor for every 40,000 people in that country, most of whom live in the city,” says Clark. “We’re able to treat people at the clinic, but not women who go into labor in another village. It became clear that it’s essential to get some way of helping them, to adapt to the experience there.”
Clark enlisted Skankey’s help to train the clinic’s nurse practitioner, Ali Hamada, as well as five local, highly respected, though mostly illiterate women, in basic midwifery. The midwives were all given cell phones in order that they might be able to reach Hamada at all times, just in case they needed to be walked through a particularly difficult situation. So far, around 50 babies have been delivered by the team, without a single woman lost to maternal death.
“We’re already beating the statistics!” says Clark. “Bob (Skankey) developed the program there, and he has just worked tirelessly … it’s absolutely amazing what he endures, his level of commitment.”
The duo is planning on returning to Niger this November, to train seven more women. The goal is to then train the present midwives in such a way that they will be able to train others themselves, even such basics as how to wash their hands, the amount of water a pregnant woman needs to drink, the nutrition needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy, and a basic birth plan.
“These are non-technical things, but so essential!” Clark says. “The ultimate goal is to create our programs in such a way that they can carry on without us.” Clark said she has been amazed by how these illiterate, but very capable and bright, women in Niger are rapidly learning to read blood pressure and basic medical reports, with the aid of graphics. The change has created the ability to track statistics in a region, which historically has not bothered recording patient information. And for the first time, it has become possible to appeal to the government of Niger to work with the Nomad Foundation to save the lives of these women and infants.
“The national government (of Niger) hasn’t been there yet, but we hope to develop better relations with them, because ultimately they should take it (the clinic’s work) over,” states Clark. “This (work) kind of took over my life. I feel blessed. It transformed my life as well, and it put me in touch with all kinds of wonderful people, like Bob.”
“The people are very happy people, the Tuaregs. It’s a very unique culture. They’ve lived the same way for thousands of years. And they’ve basically adapted to losing women to childbirth, and kids to various diseases, malaria, etc. They mostly live on millet, a grain, and milk from cattle or camels, many end up starving. The land is miserable there, hot, sandy. And yet they’re happy,” says Skankey. “It’s fascinating to be out there, they are beautiful people … What makes a life worth living is making a difference. It’s very gratifying. It’s no sacrifice, we get a lot out of it!”
Skankey and Clark are looking for help with their mission in Niger. For more information, visit nomadfoundation.org/help-dr-skankey-train-midwives-from-ojai-to-africa.
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UPDATE: After appearing in court on July 5, Amber Workman’s arraignment has been rescheduled for Nov. 13 at 9 a.m.
Ojai’s Amber Workman, 37, was arrested by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department June 27, 2012 on suspicion of grand theft — embezzlement. Between January 2007 and December 2009. Workman served as treasurer of the Ojai Eagles Youth Football League, a nonprofit organization for area kids ages 7 to 14. According to a Sheriff’s Department press release, Workman was responsible for the accounting of incoming funds and funds being paid out for items and services which benefitted the organization. Workman, authorities say, had access to the Eagles’ bank checking account as a signer on the account.
In 2010, the Ojai Eagles group was notified by the state of California that its nonprofit status was being suspended for failure to file tax returns from 2007 to 2009. The Eagles board reviewed bank statements from 2007 to 2009 and, according to police, found that Workman had obtained a debit card for the organization’s bank account and had begun using the account for personal use.
After a month of requests for explanations from Workman went unanswered, said current Eagles board president Jethro Todd, representatives from the Eagles contacted the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and requested an investigation into the possible embezzlement. “When the current treasurer took over for her,” Todd said, “he never received any paperwork from her (Workman), and didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He kept trying to contact her, but she never called back.” Once bank statements were acquired, Todd said, “It was way over our heads, we didn’t know what to do with them, so we turned them over to the police department.”
After an extensive investigation by Ojai detectives, according to the press release, it was determined that Workman had embezzled between $35,000 and $49,000 beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009.
Todd, who took over as president in 2010, emphasized that none of the current board members were on the Eagles board while Workman was treasurer. “The people that are here now had no involvement in this (incident). We aren’t on a witch hunt, we’re not trying to bring somebody down for personal reasons.” He added that the Eagles are now caught up on their taxes and maintain their tax-exempt status. “We’re just moving forward. Since her (Workman’s) departure, we’ve got new equipment, our tax-exempt status is up to date, we’re in good standing with (our) governing body. We’re still accepting registrations for the coming season.”
Workman was arrested Wednesday for alleged embezzlement and booked into the Ventura County Pre-trial Detention Facility on $30,000 bail. She was released from custody on June 28 and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, July 5 at 8:15 a.m.
By Monica Lara
The Superior Court of Ventura County firmly set July 25 as the new date for the competency trial for an Ojai Valley teen facing murder charges.
Superior Court Judge James Cloninger granted the motion for continuance or postponement, filed by the Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney. The date was extended from the original July 12 date to accommodate a discovery motion also filed by Haney. The discovery motion would compel the defense to release information pertaining to a psychological examination of defendant Alex Medina, 17. “It would be unjust for me to deny the people sufficient time to go over evidence,” Cloninger said at the hearing Tuesday morning.
The information — notes used by the defense-appointed psychologist Donald Hoagland — is expected to be part of the report compiled by the prosecution-appointed doctor, psychologist Susan Ashley. She was appointed to perform an additional assessment of Medina last week.
The court will be discussing the scope of the discovery motion Haney filed to gain Hoagland’s notes on Monday.
Medina is being charged with first-degree murder and additional felony offenses. He was taken into custody at age 14, suspected in the stabbing and killing of Seth Scarminach, 16, in April 2009. Scarminach was pronounced dead at the scene in Meiners Oaks. The incident was suspected of being gang-related, according to reports by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
The competency trial is to decide if Medina can ably assist his lawyers, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, during his criminal trial, where he would be tried as an adult. The criminal proceedings have been suspended while competency is being determined.
The defense, represented by Bramson on Tuesday, was looking to hold the July 12 date, set last week, since Ashley claimed she could provide the counsels with her report on that day when she took the stand last week.
“I don’t see reason for continuance,” Bramson said. “It doesn’t seem good cause if she can get the report to us by then.”
Haney responded that he believed the time for discovery and assessment as good cause, and Cloninger agreed.
“We are just asking for the 30 days,” Haney said.
After discussing a series of schedule conflicts for witnesses, Cloninger ruled firmly that the witnesses would have to appear if they could not make everyone happy.
“I’d like to calendar the trial for when it will be least disruptive for everyone, but the tail is not going to wag the dog. Witnesses will not dictate the schedule.”
By Misty Volaski
For kids in Ojai’s public schools, going green is becoming a way of life. During the last few years, the Ojai Unified School District has teamed up with Food for Thought and other members of the community to take a more proactive approach to becoming better stewards of the environment — and of themselves.
The biggest effort to date has been a district-wide push to get each school certified as a “green school,” a goal that was finally achieved in the 2011-2012 school year.
“Marleen Luckman researched about a dozen programs for us, and found one we felt would be the best bet for Ojai,” said FFT executive director Lori Hamor. Luckman, in charge of FFT’s green operations and teacher support, settled on Green Ribbon Schools.
The national program gives a series of flexible Earth-friendly cornerstones to help teachers and administrators develop projects that work best for their individual schools. “The Green Ribbons Schools website is really set up for educators to visit and come up with ideas, so they’re not scratching their heads thinking, ‘Wow, there’s all this emphasis on going green, but what should we do?’ It gives them ideas based on what’s been done at other schools, and what works,” said Hamor.
With Ojai schools strapped for cash, and teachers strapped for time, seeking the Green Ribbon Schools certification made sense. It takes into account the locally available resources and environment, allowing schools to use what’s around them and expand what they’re already doing into projects that are educational, good for the environment, and good for students’ health.
Thanks to a grant from Food for Thought, Ojai schools began training teachers — members of the aptly dubbed Green Team — a few years back to use the Green Ribbon program and website in ways that worked for them.
For both Meiners Oaks Elementary School and Nordhoff High School, for example, their proximity to the Ojai Meadows Preserve allowed them to use the 58-acre wetland for a variety of projects. Students planted trees, went on bird-watching expeditions, and learned about how watersheds help filter water and provide habitat for a variety of species. San Antonio Elementary School took a field trip to the Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula to learn about beneficial insects for sustainable gardening, solar power, and using sheep to keep weeds out of fields.
Food for Thought had already established gardens at each school site, allowing teachers to implement projects like fruit and vegetable tasting days and to develop composting sites. Other projects included bringing reusable water bottles, reducing electricity usage, and cleaning up trash.
“So many exciting initiatives have been implemented in the area of health and nutrition and better eating habits,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. Both Hamor and Bangser gave credit to Luckman for her work in helping coordinate the projects, and developing handbooks now available at each school to make project development easier.
Bangser also gave credit to OUSD director of nutrition services Suzanne Lugotoff and transportation-site operations Eric Ordway for their numerous contributions to the effort.
Out of the 600 schools participating in the program nationwide, the Ojai schools are the only ones that have achieved certification in all four cornerstones on the Green Ribbon website: Eco-Campus, Nature Adventure, Health and Fitness and Natural Classrooms.
Meiners Oaks Elementary, in particular, stands out on the Green Ribbon Schools website as the model school featured on the site’s home page. This year, Meiners Oaks took top honors in the 2012 Earth Month Challenge, a national contest. In fact, they won two out of the four categories in the contest — in Recycling and Nature Adventure.
The kids won not only the distinction of being the only public school to take first place in the contest, they also won a Kidz Sort Recycling Bin from Busch Systems ($895 value) and 60 REI Naglene reusable water bottles ($500 value).
“I am extremely proud of what Meiners Oaks has done as an award-winning school,” said Bangser. “And the person who deserves a huge amount of credit for that is Janis Duncan, a sixth-grade teacher (and site project coordinator).”
“Meiners Oaks was able to get a lot of parent participation and student interaction,” Luckman added. Luckman also gave kudos to Duncan, who organized an assembly at the end of the year so that the students could share the things they had done and learned.
“I was on the verge of tears like five times!” she recalled. “To learn how many kids were picking up trash on the campus, how excited they were — it was so inspiring. I’ve been supporting the teachers in their efforts for the last few years, and it’s trickling down. The students are carrying those (lessons) with them.”
Hamor agreed. “The exciting thing about this is, the kids can take their enthusiasm with them as they go up (in grades). They can take these lessons with them to Matilija, and Nordhoff.”
The OUSD schools’ projects included:
¥ Meiners Oaks Elementary School: Daily eco-friendly awareness campaigns, nature education in the Ojai Meadows Preserve, farm-to-table education, Gardening Club
¥Mira Monte Elementary School: Walk or bike to school Wednesdays, watershed education field trip, gardening and tasting vegetables, recycle-reduce-reuse program
¥ San Antonio Elementary School: Recycling Club, planting oak trees, morning fitness program, field trip to Limoneira Ranch ecotour
¥ Summit Elementary School: Recycling Club, on-campus garden, farm-to-table education, plant and animal education
¥ Topa Topa Elementary School: Composting, Garden Club, Fit Kids Club, seedling planting in the Ojai Meadows Preserve
¥ Matilija Junior High School: Recycling program, beach cleanup, exercise and nutrition projects, native garden habitat
¥ Nordhoff High School: organic vegetable garden, native plant garden, Ojai Meadows Preserve restoration history tour, healthy lifestyles assessment, Ventura River water quality ecotour
For more information or to get involved, visit greenribbonschools.org and foodforthoughtojai.org.
Ojai’s police budget explained
By Tiobe Barron
As the date approaches to approve the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013, there still seems to be a less-than-crystal-clear understanding of specific items for which the Ojai City Council is paying.
“We’re getting really close to 50 percent of our budget going to the Police Department,” said Mayor Betsy Clapp at the June 12 regular Ojai City Council meeting.
At the same meeting, city manager Rob Clark was quick to point out, “At the surface, you can look at these figures, but there’s a lot more when you get into the details.”
As it stands, the proposed budget dedicated $2.9 million out of approximately $7 million to the Police Department, which is contracted out from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. A face-value look at the document might confuse one further: There is a line item listed as “salary,” for $49,500; $59,090 for “Special Enforcement Unit;” $2.5 million titled only “Ventura County Sheriff’s Department;” and $130 for training and education.
“The $2.5 million, that’s the contract personnel,” said Ojai Police Chief Capt. Dave Kenney. “We have one city employee, the dispatcher and administrative assistant, Tina. That’s the ‘salary.’ I believe a portion of that goes to pensions as well.”
According to Kenney, that money covers two police cars, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at a minimum. Having two deputies round the clock actually means having about 10 per day (Corrected to 10 per week. See Kenney’s comment below)., to cover the various shifts; and this is in addition to the sergeant, who performs supervisory duties, and three other deputies from the county, who patrol unincorporated areas like Mira Monte and Oak View. For special events and holidays, like the Fourth of July, the amount of coverage increases, including foot patrol and bike patrol officers. Additionally, the contract the city of Ojai has with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department covers the vehicles, fuel, half of the captain’s position, half of the detective’s salary, and more. It also gives the city access to things like SWAT, air units, K-9 units, bomb squads, etc.
“The benefit to the city is really economy of scale. It’s much cheaper for the city to contract with the county rather than trying to build up their own department from scratch,” said Kenney in a recent phone interview. “It’s a win-win, for the most part. It enables the county to have a base station in town rather than having to drive up from Ventura, and Ojai has input on how its police force conducts business in Ojai. There is a tremendous liability with police work, and the liability belongs to the Sheriff’s Department, not the city.”
Kenney also dispelled the persistent myth that Ojai is used as training grounds for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. According to Kenney, deputies assigned to Ojai usually come from serving at the Ventura County Jail, and are expected to stay in Ojai for a minimum of six months. (Corrected to several years. See Kenney’s comment below).
“We like them to stay for a period of time so they get to know the people, establish rapport, get to know the community, so they can actually be effective,” Kenney explained. He believes the main benefits to the deputies working the Ojai beat is the experience with traffic enforcement, writing traffic collision reports, and working with radars; work that, in Ventura County, usually falls under the jurisdiction of the California Highway Patrol.
Ojai City Council meets again Tuesday, June 26, at 7 p.m. to discuss and finalize the 2012-2013 budget. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Competency trial date may be pushed back
By Monica Lara
On Wednesday, Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger granted his consent to appoint a doctor to assess murder suspect Alex Medina before his July 12 competency trial begins.
However, when the prosecution-appointed doctor, psychologist Susan Ashley, took the stand Wednesday, her time frame for returning her report bordered the time needed for the lawyers to be adequately prepared for the trial. And since the witnesses must be allowed time to do their jobs, the date could be changed later on down the road, according to Cloninger.
“I am much more interested in the evidence, and gathering good quality information to provide to the jury,” Cloninger asserted at the hearing.
Ashley will be the third doctor to perform a psychological assessment on Medina to develop an opinion on his mental status for his competency trial. The competency trial will decide if Medina can ably assist his lawyers, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, during his criminal trial, where he would be tried as an adult. The criminal proceedings have been suspended while competency is being determined.
Medina is being charged with first-degree murder and additional felony offenses. He was taken into custody at age 14, suspected in the stabbing and killing of Seth Scarminach, age 16, in April 2009. Scarminach was pronounced dead at the scene at the 2400 block of Maricopa Highway in Meiners Oaks. According to reports from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the incident may be gang related.
Ashley is expected to examine Medina with several psychological tests that she has determined should be performed, based on the report made by the defense-appointed doctor, psychologist Donald Hoagland.
While on the stand yesterday, Ashley was questioned by the defense attorneys and the prosecution, Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney, to determine the exam’s relevancy and scope.
Wippert objected to the exam, claiming it did not meet several requirements as stated in People v. Baqleh, which would delay the trial further if attempted to be met.
“The people have not done anything to slow down the competency trial,” responded Haney, because he received Hoagland’s 33-page report last week, which is part of Ashley’s assessment. “We are working at lightning speed.”
“I am shortening time,” Cloninger ruled to continue with questioning Ashley.
Cloninger also ruled to allow observers during Ashley’s examination. Wippert argued for Medina’s counsel to be present during the exam, since he is a minor, and to assure the questions are not incriminating. “We would be just a fly on the wall to watch and listen,” Wippert said.
The court established that this was OK, as long as observers are in a separate space, such as an observation room — “as long as it does not interfere with Dr. Ashley,” Cloninger said.
The exam is set for the end of the month.
By Amber Lennon
British transplant and filmmaker Karina Duffy didn’t set out to change the world, but after six years of filming indigenous communities around the globe, her purpose became very clear — to show just how connected we all are. Guided by a string of serendipitous events and a winning raffle ticket for a trip to Australia, Ojai resident Duffy first began filming indigenous Maori elders in New Zealand. As an accidental byproduct, her pain over a recent breakup started to heal miraculously. “They were just dancing and every time I got next to the big drummers, my heart was being healed,” says Duffy. “Those tribal drums brought me back to my roots and to my ancestors and gave me the inner strength to carry on.”
Intoxicated by the profound love and connectedness she experienced with the Maoris, Duffy committed herself to “telling the story of oneness and how the ancient ones really bring you back to the core of who you are.” Hence the title of the film, “Tahi — The Human Journey,” uses the Maori word for unity, Òtahi,Ó to demonstrate that humanity’s similarities outweigh the differences.
Duffy’s career in the entertainment industry began at age 16, when she got a job working at a state-of-the-art recording studio in Manchester, England. Soon she was running her own branch of the studio, working with well-known bands like Oasis and KC & The Sunshine Band. She says she can’t recall when her passion for film started because she’s been filming with her own video camera since she was a child. “Behind the camera, that’s where I’m most comfortable, most at home,” she coos with her British accent.
She went on to attend film school and eventually landed a high-profile job in Los Angeles, raising money for corporate film companies. However, living the quintessential Malibu lifestyle, complete with expensive cars and homes, left her desperately hungry for something she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Finally, her experience with the indigenous Maoris showed her what she and the western world are missing: connection.
Armed with her newfound purpose, Duffy set off around the world, filming more than 20 indigenous communities in Africa, India, Australia, South America and the South Pacific islands. She observed all manner of human debasement, poverty, disease and hunger, but these Third World tribes also seemed happier than most westerners. “They didn’t have the same social issues, such as homelessness and depression,” she says. “Tribal communities think about the collective whole, not just the individual, and they all have such big love for each other.”
To take action against the practical problems facing tribes around the globe, such as lack of clean water and disease, Duffy created Tahi Global. This nonprofit organization will be partially funded by proceeds from the film. Duffy explains, “I want people to feel like they can do something about problems (the tribes) face, and by purchasing tickets at the cinema, they will know that a percentage goes directly to helping the faces they see in the film.”
“Tahi” is now in post-production status, teetering on completion once funding goals are met. Riding the wave of the American economic crisis, Duffy had to sell all of her properties and assets to invest in “Tahi.” Eventually she moved to Ojai and says that “the sense of community here is the closest thing to tribal living” she has seen in the west.
On June 30 from 4 to 9 p.m., Casa de la Luna, 710 S. La Luna Ave., will host a fund raising event with live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, music and an opportunity to view the “Tahi” trailer, followed by a question-and-answer session with Duffy and other film crew members. To find out more about the upcoming event and to watch the “Tahi” trailer, visit tahithehumanjourney.com or mindstormproductions.com.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
The headline in The New York Times, “Obama’s immigration move wins support in battleground states” says it all. Last week, the president outlined a new program that offers a temporary reprieve from deportation for some illegal immigrants. Under the new plan, illegal immigrants will no longer be deported if they were in the United States before they turned 16, are younger than 30, have no criminal record, are attending high school or hold a high school diploma, or have served honorably in the military. Those eligible can then apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed indefinitely.
The president touted this announcement as “the right thing to do.” If that is the case, then why did he wait three and a half years until just before the election to put the program into place? The last time I saw such a blatantly calculated political move dressed up as “the right thing to do,” I was in high school. That was when the former mayor of my hometown, facing a very close political race, came down front during the invitational hymn to join the local Methodist Church Ñ- two days before the election. God may work in mysterious ways, but even the minister had to look askance at the timing on that one.
Controlling illegal immigration is a major problem in this country, and has been for several years. As is typical, those in Congress ignored the issue and kicked the can down the road until the problem multiplied. The Obama administration has aggressively pursued deportation, and the economy has forced others to leave the United States, but there are still millions of aliens here illegally. When the economy tanked, the additional crush of people looking for social and medical services brought the problem into sharp relief.
But Congress could not decide what to do. Nature abhors a vacuum. In politics, those vacuums are frequently filled by stupidity. When states like Arizona and Alabama became impatient with the federal government’s inaction, they took it upon themselves to pass extremely restrictive and impractical immigration laws. For instance, under Alabama’s statute, it is unlawful to offer a ride to an illegal immigrant. The geniuses that came up with this plan evidently envisioned that if you were driving down the highway and came upon a mother and small children standing beside a broken-down car, you would demand to see proper identification before you would offer them a ride to the next service station for assistance. I’m sorry, but asking regular citizens to become the secret police is a little extreme for me. But that is the law as it now stands until overturned. There are many court challenges to the law already, with more sure to come. That means poor states like Alabama will squander millions of dollars in court fighting over a badly flawed law instead using that money for something worthwhile, like education or infrastructure.
President Obama’s directive is a very astute political move. It will energize the Hispanic vote for the Democrats, which is crucial in a tight race. The real beauty of it is that it also hamstrings his opponent. If Mr. Romney supports the program, he looks weak on immigration, which is a no-no in conservative circles. If he vigorously opposes it, he looks insensitive to those affected by the proposal; they had little or no control on how they came to be in America, and have shown themselves to be productive while here. Who wants to fight that in an election year? The fact that the plan really does nothing to address the immigration issue is secondary. The Democrats are not doing this to solve a problem; they are doing this to win in November.
Joining the church two days before the race probably helped the mayor of my hometown win his election. The president’s immigration move will probably do the same for him.
Something didn’t sit right with an alert Ojai Gas employee Tuesday morning who suspected the fraudulent use of a credit card at the Maricopa Highway station formerly known as Unocal 76.
In about three minutes of being dispatched, sheriff’s deputies arrived as the two suspects — Brandie Lynn Cox and Jason Piel — were attempting to leave, according to Ojai Police Chief Dave Kenney.
Piel, a fugitive out of Kansas City, Mo, reportedly gave the deputies a fictitious name because he is wanted for violation of parole pertaining to first-degree sodomy of a child under the age of 14.
Evidence was collected at the scene confirming that Cox, an Ojai resident, attempted to use another person’s credit card without permission, Sgt. Steve Arthur stated in a press release Wednesday. Police suspect that Piel and Cox are responsible for other financial crimes in Camarillo and Santa Barbara, according to the report.
Piel was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and on the out-of-state fugitive warrant. Cox was booked on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, identity theft and forgery.
An investigation to determine additional victims is ongoing.
By Monica Lara
A competency trial is slated to begin July 12 for an Ojai Valley teen facing murder charges, after the Superior Court of Ventura County determined at Monday’s appearance that an additional psychological assessment is reasonable beforehand.
The competency trial will determine whether defendant Alex Medina, 17, is capable of assisting his attorneys, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, during his defense in his criminal trial, where he would be tried as an adult. The criminal proceedings have been suspended while competency is being determined.
The burden rests on the defense in the competency trial to prove Medina is at least 51 percent incompetent to stand trial as an adult, according to Wippert.
“We set the trial and hopefully it will stick. It’s been a long time coming,” Wippert said after the hearing on Monday. “We are confident that people will see what we see; that he is a child with no business being in an adult courtroom.”
The competency hearing is estimated to take about 10 days, according to both the defendant’s counsel and Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney.
There are various outcomes for Medina if found incompetent, including more mental health assessments and the possibility of arguing other ways to try him, such as in juvenile court. Although Medina would remain in custody, the criminal trial would be postponed until a reassessment determining his competency had been restored.
Medina, of Mira Monte, is being charged with first-degree murder and multiple additional felony charges. He was arrested at age 14 for allegedly stabbing and killing Seth Scarminach, age 16, in April 2009. Scarminach was pronounced dead at the scene after the stabbing occurred during an unsupervised party in the 2400 block of the Maricopa Highway in Meiners Oaks. The incident is suspected to have been gang related, according to reports by Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Since Medina was taken into custody three years ago, the defense lawyers argued to move this part of the process along at the Monday’s appearance, for fear his competency might decline.
Haney filed a motion for continuance, or postponement, of the competency trial, however, in order to bring in the additional doctor to assess Medina. Haney filed an order of discovery so the doctor can analyze all the data involved in a prior assessment by psychologist Donald Hoagland, the defense-appointed doctor, as well.
The expected prosecution-appointed doctor, psychologist Susan Ashley, will be providing counsel to the prosecution regarding Hoagland’s assessment.
“I am simply incapable of outlining the details,” Haney said in the hearing. “I need to consult with an expert.”
The district attorney’s office received Hoagland’s thorough 33-page assessment near the end of last week, according to Haney. The discovery motion will compel the defense to release additional materials Hoagland used to arrive at his findings, as well.
Monday was the first time the defense found out about the prosecution’s motion to compel Medina to assessment by Ashley, according to Wippert.
“This is a young man whose mental stability is getting worse since he has been in juvenile hall for a long time,” Wippert said at the hearing.
The defense attorneys raised doubts about Medina’s competency early on in the case. Ashley would be the third doctor to assess Medina.
Superior Court Judge James Cloninger is allowing a continuance in the case, giving the prosecution an opportunity to put Ashley on the stand Wednesday, and giving the defense the opportunity to have a say in determining the scope of the testing she would use to assess Medina.
Although the competency hearing is being applied in context of a criminal trial in this case, it is authorized by rules of civil proceedings, as was done in People v. Baqleh.
Haney argued the motion was in compliance with the case cited, which established that the court has authority to compel the defendant to do a prosecution-appointed evaluation in competency proceedings.
“It’s a reasonable thing to ask for,” Cloninger said at the hearing.
The court is also waiting to receive a report from psychologist John Lewis, the first court-appointed doctor who assessed Medina.
By Hanna Day
Family and friends gathered at the Ojai Valley Community Stadium last Friday to celebrate this year’s Nordhoff High School Class of 2012. The commencement ceremony was marked by traditional speeches, beach balls, and musical performances by the students, as well as heartfelt messages extended to retiring principal Dan Musick.
Ranger of the Class and Senior Class President Diana Hernandez first welcomed family and friends to the graduation, and said that her peers have “matured together as a class.” In between musical performances, this year’s valedictorians, Nick Perkins and Allen Colborn, addressed their fellow students with messages of encouragement.
Both Perkins and Colborn are interested in majoring in the sciences after Nordhoff. Both gave thanks for that to their influential teachers, Ken Umholtz, John Hoj, and Rene Nakao-Mauch.
Nakao-Mauch, a mathematics teacher at Nordhoff, said that the valedictorians are “extremely intelligent” and that they have “creative minds that can take them far in their disciplines.”
Colborn will attend U.C. Berkeley and plans to study mechanical engineering, although he may also pursue computer science. Both he and Perkins claimed in their graduation speeches that Advanced Placement Physics influenced their interest in engineering. Outside of academics, Colborn said he enjoyed playing varsity baseball, and plans to continue playing sports in college. Aside from academics, he was involved with the Interact Club for two years, played with the Chess Club, and was a peer tutor during his time at Nordhoff. Colborn also emphasized “continuous personal development” after graduation. “Nordhoff prepared us for the next chapter in our lives,” said Colborn. After high school, he added, students need to learn how to become “independent, responsible people.” He, like his co-valedictorian, said that principal Musick will be “a man that will surely be missed in the Nordhoff community upon his retirement.”
After a musical performance by Dane Whitman, Perkins then spoke. Perkins will attend Stanford University to study human biology. When asked about why he wants to enter this specific field, he said, “AP Physics made me interested in nano-technology and engineering.” Academics, however, are not the only thing Perkins excelled in during his time at Nordhoff; he also enjoyed “playing and watching football.” He loved seeing how “the community pours out to the school” during the football games. Perkins also played basketball and tennis during his four years at Nordhoff. “Academics is not the only thing our school offers,” Perkins emphasized. Sports and other programs have created “a close bond and camaraderie” within the graduating class. Perkins said that he will also miss other aspects of Nordhoff’s culture, such as the rallies and Musick reminding students to get to class on time. “I am going to miss Mr. Musick,” said Perkins.
In his commencement address, Perkins spoke about “the diversity of the students at this school” who are “extremely gifted at whatever they do.” He praised Nordhoff for its diverse programs, and commended his classmates for being “engaged and participating in so many programs.” He encouraged his fellow graduates to mold “hard work and passion into something that loves and inspires us,” and also pointed out that “if you put the hard work in, you’ll find a way to be successful.” At the end of his speech Perkins thanked Musick “for all the passion, dedication, and hard work (he) poured into the school.” He acknowledged that, “It’s an honor to speak at (his) last commencement ceremony.”
Throughout the ceremony, students wielded yellow flowers with personal hand-written messages for Musick, which were handed to him after the recessional. This year marks the end of Musick’s 37-career at Nordhoff. “It’s just starting to click in,” Musick said in his last address to the students. Musick gave seven points of advice to the graduates, all encouraging this year’s class to be optimistic in whatever they do after graduation. “Optimism attracts, pessimism repels,” said Musick in his presentation. “Avoid complacency and choose to be happy.” Former teacher and current assistant principal Greg Bayless will take over MusickÕs position.
After the speeches and musical selections, the diplomas were handed to the students by Bayless and dean of student services Dave Monson amid loud cheers and bellowing air horns. Faculty and staff wished the class the best of luck in their future endeavors. Musick called this year’s class a group of “sweet children” who are “outgoing, friendly, focused, and (sometimes) exasperating.”
Bill Ansell, one of two senior class advisers, called these seniors “a spectacular group” of kids. Francie Nelson, the other senior class adviser, wished the class of 2012 “good luck” and “a good life.”
By Misty Volaski
Thursday, June 14 marked a huge day for the Matilija Junior High School eighth-graders. The 251 graduating students officially left grammar school behind as family and friends watched on the school’s packed athletic field.
Principal Emily Mostovoy told spectators Thursday that the graduates “walked through our doors as children two years ago, and today they leave us as young adults.” They’re a sharp group, too, she added. “Over 50 percent of this class is being recognized for their academic achievements, attendance, honor roll and character traits. The class of 2012 has many students who have won community recognition for their poetry, artistic abilities and geography skills. We even have a student who out of 11 million students nationwide competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee!”
Mostovoy said she’ll remember this set of eighth-graders not only because this was her last year as principal (she’s moving on to the districtwide position of director of special education and student services), but also because of the students’ strong characters.
“There’s loyalty, there’s school spirit, and academic and personal achievements,” she said. “This (was) one of the best classes that I’ve gotten to experience here at Matilija. They are really warm and supportive of each other, and love to give back to the community, too.”
When thinking back on her years at Matilija, Mostovoy added, “It does make me choke up actually! It’s been an absolutely amazing five years É I really believe that every student I came in contact with, every parent, staff member and colleague, has been such big part of making me who I am today. I just feel so honored to have had this privilege.”
This year’s graduating Eagles and their parents were characterized by a willingness to give back, Mostovoy said. She cited the perfect example: the Schoolyard Habitat, a native plant garden next to the gym where only weeds and dirt once stood. Parents helped to raise fund and get grants for the start-up money, and every student contributed something to the effort. “Every student planted something, and had a specific role in making that garden possible,” said Mostovoy. “And for the promoting class, they have trees they planted that they can come back to. That’s really something special.” Other community members pitched in too Ñ everyone from local Rotarians and artists to Realtors.
This year, the school also received an anonymous donation of $10,000 to install five Promethean white boards (“smart” boards), and had other parents working on a grant for a classroom set of Nooks. “This year we saw so many people in our community come together to help fill in the budget gap,” said Mostovoy.
Ojai Unified School District lost 281 years of experience when the school bell signaling summer vacation rang last week, as eight teachers, one principal, one data specialist and two school office managers retired.
The newly minted retirees have from 11 to 32 years with the School District and will be missed, according to colleagues, board members and a student who got in line to publicly thank them at a packed school board meeting and reception June 5.
ÒI would like to thank all of you for many, many years of support,Ó said Nordhoff High School principal Dan Musick, who has been with OUSD for more than 31 years. ÒIt has been so good to be able to work with you.Ó He thanked his wife, Carol, for all of her support, and said he is looking forward to celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary in a couple of months.
MusickÕs successor, Nordhoff teacher Greg Bayless, marveled at a recent student assembly where the unsolicited ovation from Nordhoff students Òcould not have been written into a movie. It sums up the impact he has had.Ó Bayless said that when Nordhoff was being reviewed for accreditation 15 years ago, former students were asked to write about their high school experiences. ÒAll the kids were writing about Dan Musick,Ó Bayless said. ÒIt was a tremendous testament to the kind of teacher you were, one I wish I had had, exactly the kind of principal I would want my sons to have.”
It was then MusickÕs turn to thank John Slade, who is retiring after 11 years with the school district, teaching and leading the NHS theater department. Musick praised Slade, also a professional actor, for being a Òcaring, empathetic teacher who pulls the best out of his students.Ó
Slade recalled that a student performance of ÒFlight 93 on 9/11,Ó shortly after he began teaching at Nordhoff, Òwas one of the most powerful experiences in theater I have ever had.Ó
Music teacher Laurel Denne has had a parade of farewells this spring, including one of her last student concerts at which many former music students joined the stage with her current crop of musicians to play the traditional ÒEagle Summit March.Ó
ÒThat was my way to go out!Ó Denne said.
ÒAs long as I am superintendent, we will have some kind of K-12 music program,Ó said superintendent Hank Bangser, who thanked Denne for Òbeing the kind of person she is and for the role she has played in our school district.Ó
Cheryl Ring, a resource specialist teacher at Mira Monte Elementary School, was an inspiration to OUSD Board Member Pauline Mercado when she worked at the School District. ÒYou taught me what it meant to be a special education teacher,Ó Mercado said. ÒBecause of people like you, we are able to serve that diverse learner. Thank you so much.Ó
ÒSheÕs our rock, our go-to person,Ó said Bangser of Gail Cox, the student information data specialist who also served 15 years as an instructional aide at Matilija Junior High School and Nordhoff High School. Her Òpositive, reassuring outlookÓ will be missed, he said.
ÒWhen you do a job you love with people you enjoy,Ó time is nothing, Cox said of her 28 years with the School District.
ÒBarbara has had 14 great years at Topa Topa,Ó mostly teaching fourth grade and also serving as a fourth-grade curriculum coordinator for the last 10 years, said the elementary school’s principal, John LeSuer. ÒIÕve watched her develop mission projects and gold rush days. She loves outdoor education and takes her class to the meadow every year. Barb is a treasure to work with at Topa Topa.Ó
Patricia Essick Òis one of the hardest workers I have ever seen,Ó said LeSuer of the teacher who has spent the last 28 years teaching kindergarten, first, second and fourth grades at Topa Topa. ÒShe does things that really stand out. She is creative, organized and involves every student in the classroom.Ó
ÒAmy Dennis is the heartbeat of San Antonio and now we need a transplant,Ó said San Antonio Elementary School principal Theresa Dutter. ÒShe is so caring and has brought a lot of people through challenging times.Ó
ÒYou are the best school secretary I have ever had,Ó said one San Antonio student seated in the front row at the school board meeting.
Dennis, who has been with the district for 16 years, described her time in the district as a Ògreat experience.Ó
ÒMy life is totally blessed,Ó said Pam Phillips, after hearing all the tributes to her for her 32 years teaching in Ojai.
The Ojai native has Òhigh ethical standards,Ó said Mira Monte Elementary School principal Kathy White. ÒMira Monte students are lucky to have such a highly ethical person as Pam.Ó
With Cecilia Hickok Òleaving the nest, there is a gaping hole at Meiners Oaks,Ó said principal Dawn Damianos of the 26-year veteran teacher. ÒWe will miss her dedication. She has high standards for students and herself.Ó
ÒIÕm not retiring, IÕm just changing careers,Ó Hickok said, adding that she is Òvery blessedÓ to have worked with Damianos at the elementary school.
ÒYou really care for your students,Ó Damianos told Meiners Oaks Elementary’s Sarah Hyman, as the 30-year teacher was honored by the Ojai Education Foundation earlier in the evening as an Educator of the Year. ÒThey love hearing your laughter.Ó
An office manager at Meiners Oaks for 19 of her 20 years with the School District, Foster is Òa great person to have in the front office,Ó said Damianos.
ÒIÕm really looking forward to my next chapter,Ó said Foster.
By Michele Ball
When state and federal budget cuts suddenly creep into our communities and lives, the results can become highly personal.
For longtime Ventura resident, Al Miller, the battle is on to keep his 37-year-old daughter in a small but resourceful environment close to home. Miller’s daughter, Amy, is one of six developmentally disabled residents currently benefitting from the services offered through a group home on La Luna Avenue in Meiners Oaks. The future of the home is uncertain, leaving parents and loved ones of the residents worried.
“The Ojai Valley has been a very special place for me and for Amy because it is where my heart is,” Miller explained. “I am in Ojai once or twice a week visiting Amy and buying groceries for the home.” Miller’s longtime connection with Ojai dates back to the 1970s, when he collaborated with Fred Hall, who provided Ojai with the local arts, entertainment and news on KOVA-FM.
“It is fitting that Amy should reside in a place of special nurturance and affinity for humanity,” he said.
Miller and his wife made the decision to place their daughter in a group home due to concerns about her future health and welfare in the event something should happen to them. “Amy’s mother died of cancer,” he stated. “This underscored the whole idea of why she was placed in the home from the beginning,” he said.
The La Luna home was purchased in 2002 with services offered through Arc of Ventura County. Funding for the facility is dwindling at a growing rate, threatening its future and the future of those who benefit from its assistance. According to Arc chief operating officer, Patty Schulz, reimbursements rates to community-based vendors such as Arc have become stagnant over the past 25 years.
“Unfortunately, the Arc is forced to make decisions about operations,” she said.
“In December 2011, we closed an after-school program in Simi Valley, and determined we could not continue to operate the La Luna group home.”
Miller expressed his concern over cuts to entities such as Arc. “Things are really hurting for those who can’t speak for themselves,” he stated.
But, according to Miller, there is still a glimmer of hope. The assistant manager of the home, Bill Hubby, is working toward overseeing the facility himself. However, Miller added, it takes a minimum of $60,000 in a bank account over the first 90 days to qualify for licensing. “An anonymous donor has given $20,000 toward the acquisition and they would like to see that matched,” he said. “We need another $40,000.”
Families and appropriate governing agencies have been notified of Arc’s decision to discontinue operating the La Luna home with specific goals in seeking a solution, Schulz said.
One of the top priorities is to keep residents in the home with a similar support system, she explained. In addition, the association would work to make the transition from Arc’s operation of the home to a new vendor as seamless as possible, with the home remaining dedicated to those with developmental disabilities in perpetuity.
“And finally,” she concluded, “we wish to support the outstanding staff at La Luna in their personal career choices through this transition.”
Fund raising efforts are under way, according to Miller, though local resources can donate directly to Arc by designating funds directly to the home.
By Tiobe Barron
Chaparral High School, Ojai’s only alternative-continuation campus, matriculated its class of 2012 on June 13. According to its website, Chaparral High School’s mission is “to graduate a healthy, responsible, and culturally literate citizen prepared to enter the work force, college, and a changing society.”
This year’s graduating class had 38 students, including 13 adult students. Marilyn Smith, principal of Chaparral high, says this year was distinguished by more community volunteers teaching elective classes than any previous year. Those electives included film studies, video production, studio art, knitting, Reins of H.O.P.E. (a horse therapy program), and Brain Gym, a unique offering taught by Cari Cody. Brain Gym aims to unite body and mind through yoga, stretches, and teaching students pressure points that help with focus and stress management.
Melanie Martinez and Meagan Hoyt are two Chaparral students who graduated early.
Says principal Smith, “Meagan is a student who took advantage of every thing Chaparral had to offer: self-paced program, electives taught by community members, and field trips to the Reagan Library and the Rubicon Theatre. She even volunteered at Topa Topa Elementary School once a week as a kindergarten aide. She also was our office aide. She is a special young lady.”
Hoyt explained that she began her high school career at Nordhoff, but did not do well. She fell behind in her credits, and a suspension early in her freshman year resulted in having her off-campus privileges revoked before she was able to enjoy them. Hoyt entered Chaparral High School as a junior, but had the credits of a sophomore. At 17 years old, she was not only able to catch up, but get ahead.
“I really like that they (Chaparral staff) always inform you of your progress, they tell you how many credits you have, what you need. They are always there to answer your questions. They went above and beyond,” said Hoyt in a recent phone interview. She also mentioned appreciating the trust bestowed when she was allowed off-campus to volunteer at Topa Topa Elementary School, an experience she calls a fun, great job experience. Hoyt may not know which career path she wants to embark on, but she is currently enrolled at Ventura College, and is grateful for the opportunities Chaparral afforded that otherwise would have been lost to her.
“I love Chaparral! I’m so glad I got to go there,” Hoyt professed.
See page B8 for a list of Chaparral graduates, as well as photos from both Chaparral’s and Weil Tennis Academy’s commencement ceremonies.
By Tiobe Barron
Different departments, coalitions and commissions are vying for city funds as Ojai City Council reviews its 2012-2013 budget and prepares to make some tough decisions about what to cut, and from where.
“Arts should be the last thing we cut,” said Arts Commission Vice Chair Christine Golden at the June 12 Ojai City Council meeting. “When times get tough, art holds the key to the heart.” The Arts Commission is requesting an additional $3,000 for an education program. “We want to do something to draw people from far and wide to learn about modern art. We already have the program all planned out,” Golden said. “Right now, Ventura is taking a lot of the glory away from Ojai.”
One option that is on the table as a way for Ojai City Council to manage money on this year’s budget is by freezing a now-vacant part-time position within the Recreation Department. This is not an option that pleases everyone, however.
“It’s about getting people together to solve our problems, and I just don’t get the sense that that’s the way it’s handled,” said Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Randy Haney. “We’re talking about a department that, over the last six years, has already been raped and pillaged.” Haney proposed that better candidates for cuts were the Arts Commission, the Community Development Department, and the Stop the Trucks! Coalition.
“I don’t think we should use public funds for a private matter,” stated Haney. “We should let the private entities duke it out themselves.”
Howard Smith, of the Stop the Trucks! Coalition, came before Ojai City Council and requested a “contingency fund” for legal fees to the tune of $18,000. Smith emphasized that the coalition is comprised of volunteers, and all money goes to covering legal costs.
“There is a great deception being pulled off on the public by Ojai Quarry,” said Smith. “The very fact that we have a contingency fund scares the opposition.”
By comparison, the grand total of funds requested by the Art Commission total the same amount.
“When we’re looking at the overall budget of the city, we are stressed,” said city manager Rob Clark. “We realized that, over the years, we haven’t kept up with our infrastructure needs, and the loss of the Redevelopment Agency has spilled over to our general fund.”
In the hope of addressing some of those infrastructure needs, City Council also held a vote by property owners in the Arcade Plaza for a 1 percent increase in annual property assessments in order to fund maintenance of the Arcade Plaza. According to city documents, the Plaza Maintenance Assessment District has been operating at a deficit since 2006. The increase passed, with 74 percent of the property owners in favor of the increase.
In terms of maintenance, City Council members also reviewed the Exterior Lighting Ordinance, and received a presentation by Scott Kardel of the International Dark-Sky Association. Two Ojai residents, George Berg and Gail Topping, paid for Kardel to come out from Arizona to advise Ojai City Council on light pollution, energy efficiency, and why Ojai should become the fourth “dark sky” city in the world.
“Our mission (at IDSA) is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible choices,” said Kardel. “Harsh lighting conditions can lead to serious problems. It does more than hurt the view.”
“It’s not something that’s decorative or cute; it’s vital,” insisted Topping. “We’re behind this ordinance, whatever form it takes.”
The trolley route was one of the last items the Ojai City Council addressed at the regular meeting Tuesday night, before the meeting ran over the time limit and the remaining agenda items were carried over to the next meeting. The trolley route is now being modified to service the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Jay Simmons, a 30-year resident of Ojai and current trolley operator, expressed the concern that the new route, with only one trolley on the weekends, will mean it only services Whispering Oaks once every two hours.
“It’s quite a hardship,” said Simmons.
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting is scheduled to take place June 26 at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Ventura St.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I have had several tough jobs in my life. I have baled hay in 100-degree heat. I have cut and ground metal all summer in a steel mill. I have dug a foundation for a house in rocky soil using only a pick and shovel. But I have never been a parent, the toughest job of all.
While my daddy died when I was still young, he had a great influence on me. I looked up to him for guidance, discipline and love. He delivered plenty of all three. He taught me many valuable lessons, one of the most important being to give respect to others, no matter what their race, religion or sex. My daddy was a very hard worker. He drove a bulldozer for a construction company all day, and worked on his farm raising cattle in the evenings and on weekends. He was a perfect role model for what a work ethic should be. But no matter how tired he was when he came home, he always had the energy to play a game of catch. He taught me to tie my shoes and hit a fastball. He taught me how to bait a hook and clean a fish.
He taught me that while we were not rich, I was more fortunate than a lot of people. At Christmas, we would often go visit families in the community who didn’t have a lot. We would take food for the adults, and a few toys for their kids. He wanted my sister and me to see how little some people had, and to appreciate a warm bed and plenty of food. He also wanted to bring a little Christmas to children who might not have had one otherwise.
He was my toughest critic. He was not easy on me, especially when he felt that I had not given my best. Daddy was not one for subtlety. He could be harsh and demanding. His criticism stung, and it sometimes hurt my feelings. But I learned that he was not being unkind; he was trying to make me a better person by not allowing me to give less than my best effort.
It was the same with discipline. Daddy had high standards. If you chose not to obey him, you were flirting with getting your butt whipped. He wore these thin little belts that did not look very menacing, but he wielded them like a Jedi master. If the crime was serious enough, I was told to “go to the bedroom, think about what I’d done, and wait for Daddy to come in with his belt.”
I know now that he was making sure his temper had cooled down so that he did not hit me in anger. But the psychological effect of sitting around waiting to be punished was usually worse than the actual whipping.
Afterward, he would sit down on the bed. I would go to him and he would hug me, and tell me how much he loved me. He would tell me that he hated punishing me, but that I had to learn to behave. My daddy was demonstrably affectionate at a time when many other men of his generation were not affectionate towards their sons. I always knew I was loved.
While I did not know him for very long, my daddy has had a lasting impact on my life. I was very lucky to have him. I look at so many young men today who have no male role model in their lives, and my heart goes out to them. Today, our prisons are full of young men who never had a strong male influence to help mold them into productive and happy men. It is a shame, and a major problem for our society. And it seems to be getting worse instead of better.
I salute all the men who have taken on the toughest job of all, and have risen to the challenge of making their sons and daughters useful members of society. We are all better for it.
Happy Father’s Day.
By Misty Volaski
The struggle for a healthier Ventura River watershed is continuing this summer, as the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board moves forward with its studies of the nutrients entering the river and how they’re affecting wildlife. The goal is to bring the watershed into compliance with state and federal clean water regulations by instituting a total maximum daily load) Ñ essentially, a plan for limiting the amount of pollutants allowed to enter the watershed.
The watershed is “not meeting water quality standards for algae, for biostimulatory substances, and dissolved oxygen,” said Jenny Newman, a senior environmental scientist with the LARWQCB.
“These (TMDLs) support beneficial uses related to the habitat which are now impaired,” said Samuel Unger, executive officer with the LARWQCB.
When asked whether any of these substances in the river could be potentially dangerous to humans, Newman said, “There are species of algae that are toxic É but we don’t have any in our region.” Nevertheless, the board will be making sure of this in its studies this summer. The aim of their efforts are, she noted, “To protect critical habitat for steelhead trout and other aquatic wildlife.”
The board’s plan for the river, when its specifics are determined, could affect a range of people and organizations Ñ private residents with septic tanks, owners of horse and cattle ranches, the city of Ojai, the county of Ventura, the Ojai Valley Sanitation District (and, by extension, all of its customers), and others.
“We will release documents for public comment on our website É at the end of July,” said Unger. “We haven’t completed our analysis yet.”
The May 30 meeting at Ventura’s City Hall got that analytical process started. A federal mandate requires a TMDL plan for all at-risk bodies of water to be adopted by March 2013. However, changes wouldn’t be required immediately, Unger and Newman explained. “This board has adopted probably close to 50 TMDLs,” Unger said. “Implementation plans run from three to 25 years.”
Due to the amount of data that LARWQCB has yet to collect, Unger and Newman were hesitant to point to specific regulations that may be instituted for the Ventura River watershed in the coming years. However, representatives from other organizations, like the Ojai Valley Sanitation District and city of Ojai, said the guidelines could be as simple as requiring public education or as large as multimillion-dollar upgrades to the OVSD’s treatment plant just off Highway 33 near Ventura Avenue. As a precaution, said OVSD general manager Jeff Palmer in May, the OVSD board has set aside money “to try to soften the impact if it comes.” He noted Wednesday that the board has a subcommittee “that provides oversight and guidance on the whole river nutrient assessment question.” Along with the LARWQCB, the sanitation officials “have been having a really good attentive dialogue É where we are, what are some possible options and alternatives that the regional board may present. We’ve had some very enlightening and direct conversations with them.” On the board’s agenda for its regular Monday meeting is an item requesting that the board approve an agreement to acquire the consulting services of Larry Walker Associates “in an amount not to exceed $28,077.”
According to Palmer, emissions from the OVSD treatment plant are 90 percent cleaner today than in 1996, when the Ventura River was first flagged as polluted. “We take measurements weekly and quarterly,” he said. “Our tests from 1994 and 1995 show that in terms of effluent Ñ what goes out of the plant Ñ it’s 90 percent cleaner. We’re very proud of that.”
Also taking a proactive approach to the coming TMDL plan are some of the area’s local ranchers, like Sue Gruber of Oso Ranch in the Meiners Oaks river bottom area. After meeting with county officials, Gruber built a special barn to prevent the manure from her 60 horses from getting into the Ventura River. “It has a roof, concrete floors and concrete stem walls,” she said, adding that she uses her own dump truck to haul away the waste about once a week, to organic farmers in the area. “You’re allowed to put it in your pastures and rototill it in. That’s all the county requires É but I wanted to be very careful.”
The city of Ojai is also taking steps to prevent pollutants from entering the watershed, said Greg Grant, Ojai’s Public Works director and city engineer. On the city’s list: public education cautioning over-fertilization of residents’ yards, using doggy bags to pick up dog waste in public areas, promoting responsible livestock manure practices, and the installation of trash excluders on the city’s storm drains. “We’ll do that before the rainy season,” Grant explained, adding that City Council had already built the $6,000 expense for the excluders into its budgets. The excluders catch trash, but will not clog the drains should a heavy rain hit the area.
The LARWQCB will release documents of its findings at the end of July on its website, waterboards.ca.gov/rwqcb4, under “total maximum daily loads.”
By Misty Volaski
British wine critic Michael Broadbent could have been describing the Ojai Wine Festival when he said, “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”
Sunday’s 26th annual event found roughly 4,300 people at Lake Casitas enjoying food, wine, beer, music and products from a variety of vendors. Music was supplied by Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries and Sergeant Pepper, and attendees got the opportunity to taste offerings from 60 California wineries and 15 premium beers and microbrews. In the VIP tent, ticket-holders could also taste Spicebox Whisky and dine on appetizers from Sakura Ojai, Cabot Cheese and La Piu Bella Tavola.
The event is organized by the Rotary Club of Ojai-West, which had about 85 volunteers on site to keep things running according to plan. “Judging by the feel of it, we did as good as we did last year,” said executive director Angela May, who along with her chairman husband, David, has organized the festival for the past four years. “David is a key player! I couldn’t do this without him. This takes a huge amount of effort. I work continuously on this for about 10 months out of the year.”
She added that her time is well spent. Rotary Club of Ojai-West uses the proceeds from the Ojai Wine Festival for a large number of projects, including its high school scholarships, the Lake Casitas Floating Classroom, Ojai Rotary Community Park maintenance, and the Dictionaries in the Classroom project, as well as international projects like helping provide clean drinking water in Third World countries and fighting polio. The Floating Classroom is a pontoon boat which takes local school children onto Lake Casitas for a fun, hands-on environmental lesson. Dictionaries in the Classroom provides every third-grader in the Ojai Unified School District with a dictionary mini-encyclopedia and lesson plans for teachers.
May said she and the Rotary volunteers were happy with the outcome of Sunday’s festival. “Every year, we try to make it better. We made the flow of the ticketing area better and the VIP tent bigger. We were really pleased! And the venue is what really makes it,” May said. “It’s so beautiful and relaxing, people just enjoy being there. Then you add music, beer and wine, and it’s just a really fun event.”
Coming up next for the Rotary Club of Ojai-West is its Concerts in the Park, held every Wednesday night in the Libbey Park gazebo from 7:30 to 9 p.m. starting July 11. The concerts feature the Ojai Band and are free. Find out more about the Concerts in the Park and other Rotary projects at rotaryojaiwest.org.
By Marianne Ratcliff
The Ojai Education Foundation honored 15 Educators of the Year at the June 5 school board meeting, packed with family members, friends and colleagues of the honorees, chosen by their peers in the Ojai Unified School District.
The principal of each school praised the Educators of the Year and quoted colleagues’ comments about them. The OEF presented each educator with a certificate for the Ojai Valley Inn, donated by the inn, and a plaque.
“These educators’ work is so important,” said OEF President Deborah Johnson. “The OEF is grateful for all they do for the children of the Ojai Unified School District and the entire community.”
Nordhoff High School
Cheri Reams makes dreams come true for the special-education students with whom she works as an instructional assistant at Nordhoff High School. On prom night, she lines up dates, photos, cars Ñ- the works.
“She goes way beyond what her job description is,” said Nordhoff High School principal Dan Musick. “The love she brings to the job is obvious to all.”
Bronwen Cull-Michels teaches English, leadership, English language development and Advancement Via Individual Determination, a program for students who are the first in their families planning to attend college. “She bleeds blue and gold,” Musick said, noting Cull-Michels has “turned the high school into a place where it’s cool to have school spirit.” Cull-Michels said that compliment meant a lot coming from the principal, aka “Mr. Ranger.” “It’s easy to go to work when you have someone who loves the school as much as Mr. Musick does,” she said.
Matilija Junior High School
Arlene Gagnon has been Matilija Junior High School’s librarian for 10 years, said principal Emily Mostovoy. “You’ve got to love her,” Mostovoy said. “She is always motivated and brings positive energy. She constantly ensures we have great literature in our library and runs our scrip program that allows us to purchase new books. Any time you walk by the library, it is filled with students working on projects, checking out books. The library is always used and it’s not just because of the books and computers,” Mostovoy said. “It is because of all she brings to the kids.” Gagnon also works as a female locker room supervisor, so she is a positive role model to students not only in the library, but schoolwide, Mostovoy added.
Steve Gard, a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher and department chairman, excels inside and outside his classroom, Mostovoy said. He turned an area outside of his classroom into a garden and “has turned the detention room into something absolutely positive.”
Meiners Oaks Elementary
Sarah Hyman, who teaches second and third grades at Meiners Oaks School, is retiring after a 30-year teaching career. “You really care for your students,” said Meiners Oaks School principal Dawn Damianos. “They love hearing your laughter. You are fun and funny.” Sue Foster, office manager at Meiners Oaks School for 19 years and who has been with the district for 20 years, is also retiring. “It has been an interesting 20 years with the district and I’m ready for my next chapter,” Foster said. “She is a great person to have in the front office,” Damianos said.
Mira Monte Elementary
Karen Oswald starts her workday at 7 a.m. at Mira Monte Elementary School, watching over children in the before-school program. When school starts, she helps out in the junior kindergarten class and when school is over, ferries students across the street as a crossing guard.
The mother of two Mira Monte students, Oswald “will always do whatever is asked,” said Mira Monte School principal Kathy White.
Pam Phillips, who has taught mostly the first grade for the past 32 years, is retiring. “Whether you are 6 or 64, when Pam Phillips speaks, you listen,” said White. “Pam is dedicated, trustworthy, has amazing classroom management skills and is a true master teacher.”
San Antonio Elementary
Ashley Brown, a playground supervisor at San Antonio School and mother of a San Antonio student, is “always offering ways to help out,” said San Antonio principal Theresa Dutter. “Her enthusiasm and general kindness have made her very, very valued. We are a richer and safer campus for having you here.”
Laurel Brown, a primary-grade specialist, is “very knowledgeable,” Dutter said, always keeping her students “going in the right direction.”
Kim Eck wears many hats at Summit School, most notably the one of beloved child whisperer. When she is not singing to children, teaching them academic and life lessons, leading Art Trek, working on crafts and inventing games in the PTO-sponsored after-school programs, she watches over the students at lunch recess and serves as an instructional assistant.
The mother of three Summit School alumni, Eck has been a constant for many years at the school. “It is just wonderful to have you there,” said Dutter, who is principal of Summit and San Antonio schools.
Isabelle Turpin, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at Summit School, “has a special way of honoring the challenges and strengths of her students,” Dutter said. She noted the specific language the veteran teacher uses with her students, addressing them as “friends.” Her gifts as a teacher are evident outside her classroom in the morning, Dutter said, where parents gather and linger as the learning begins the moment the students line up to enter the classroom.
Topa Topa Elementary
Topa Topa School principal John LeSuer said it is hard to find all the words to describe teacher Rosie Lotts. “She is hard-working, organized, kind, one of the kindest people there is. She is calm and quiet with her students.”
Maribel Robles, an assistant in special education, has worked at Topa Topa School for 11 years. “She is compassionate and puts students first,” LeSuer said. “She is incredibly loyal and professional, committed to the health and safety of the kids. The students just excel under her guidance. If I think of something that has to be done, Maribel has already done it,” he said.
Gail Cox, the school district’s student information data specialist, is retiring after 28 years with the district. Laurel Meisch, director of fiscal services, described Cox as “someone who is always there for us, all the principals depend on her,” a fact illustrated by principals in the audience who mouthed in unison: “Don’t go, Gail!”
“There isn’t a day goes by that people will say, ‘We have a problem,’ and the response is, ‘Gail has already handled it,’” said superintendent Hank Bangser.
The OEF is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in Ojai’s public schools. Its website is ojaief.org.
By Chris Wilson
Like many Ojai residents, Paulette Mahurin is an animal lover.
Two months after arriving in Ojai with her husband, Terry, 15 years ago, she rescued a dog that had ticks. One of those ticks bit Mahurin and gave her Lyme disease.
“It was terrible,” Mahurin recalls. “It caused chronic fatigue and damaged my heart valves. I was exhausted all the time. But it afforded me the chance to write.”
Forced into retirement from her career as a nurse practitioner, Mahurin rediscovered her passion for writing. As she began to feel better, she signed on to Deb Norton’s “Freeing the Writer” course and found the inspiration to begin writing a novel.
Now, six years later, she’s completed and published her first book, titled “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.”
The historical novel is set in 1895 in a small Nevada mining town and tells the story of a lesbian couple and the impact they felt when news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment in London reached them over the telegraph lines. Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor after it was revealed that he was having sex with another man. Mahurin returns to the theme of Wilde’s imprisonment throughout the novel.
“It’s a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing,” Mahurin noted.
The story developed from a writing prompt in Norton’s class where students take an old photograph and develop a mystery around it.
Norton called Mahurin’s first novel “surefooted and unflinching.”
“Compassionate and confident, Mahurin allows Mildred’s story to burn through on the page with all its inherent outrage and tenacious, abiding love,” Norton wrote. “Here is a character we can champion Ñ flawed, striving, surviving Ñ and fully embrace in her awkward, beautiful navigation of a world that resists her in every way.”
Mahurin has also received glowing reviews from other locals, including William Fox, Ph.D., Debbie Godfrey and Helen Allen and Lynne Doherty of the Lavender Livingroom Newsletter. The novel will also be featured in an upcoming article in Nurseweek, the nation’s largest nursing industry magazine, Mahurin said.
On July 7 at 2 p.m. Leslie Paxton and Sasha Heslip will read from the book at the Ojai Art Center.
Released in March, the novel has been selling at Made in Ojai and at the Best of VC Marketplace in Santa Paula. It is also available on Amazon.com in paperback and as a digital Kindle download.
All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support Ventura County’s first no-kill animal shelter SPARC, Mahurin said.
St. Joseph’s Health and Retirement Center is hosting its 40th annual barbecue fundraiser on June 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. Traditionally an all-volunteer project, this event is for the direct benefit of the residents of St. Joseph’s, who are elderly, sick and/or disabled. The center has been a part of the Ojai Valley since 1956.
The June 24 event will find attendees surrounded by gardens and orange groves as they enjoy a barbecue, drinks, music and dancing. Also on the lineup of festivities: a cake wheel where participants can win baked goods, a silent auction, and a raffle.
“One year,” recalls longtime event organizer Judy Beckett, “in the ’70s, the grand raffle prize was ‘beef on the hoof.’ Brother Michael of St. Joseph’s remembers they had to build a corral on the grounds to hold the grand raffle prize until the winner could take it. Members of the winning family still live in Ojai.” This year, the raffle prizes include an iPad 2, a commemorative quilt, and a Nook Color.
The barbecue “provides an opportunity for friends to have a good time and for the community to see what St. Joseph’s offers,” said Larry Beckett, event co-chairman. “Many people are amazed by the beauty and welcoming spirit.” The menu includes tri-tip and chicken, salad, beans, garlic bread, fruit and strawberry shortcake. Wine, beer and soft drinks will be sold separately.
Barbecue tickets for adults are $18 if purchased by June 18, or $20 at the door; for children younger than 12, tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20 (winners need not be present).
Order raffle and meal tickets by calling 646-1466, Ext. 51505; or mail a check noting the number of adults and children and how many raffle tickets you are purchasing to St. Joseph’s Health and Retirement Center, 2464 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023, Attention: Elizabeth. For more information, call the Becketts at 646-7053.
Members of the Ojai Valley Lions Club will pull double duty Saturday, June 16. First, they’ll head to the Ojai Meadows Preserve to help construct a bridge, and then will move on to Sarzotti Park to host a family night that will include a barbecue and outdoor movie screening.
The day will begin early for the Ojai Lions, when a number of the members will meet to construct a bridge to be lifted by crane and placed in the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy Ojai Meadows Preserve on Maricopa Highway, next to Nordhoff High School. This construction project came about as a result of OVLC executive director Greg Gamble attending a Lions Club meeting to discuss the bridge (to be funded by OVLC) and ask for help. The Lions Club board members felt this was a project that could benefit the community, and agreed to help with labor and planning and to contact resources to assist with obtaining materials. As a result, Lions Club President Jay MacArthur and Construction Chair Dave Hunt convinced several other companies Ñ including Con-sol Enterprises, which donated a portion of the welding and painting of the steel frame, and Specialty Crane, which will be donating the crane Ñ to join the effort by supplying some materials and labor at cost.
Once the bridge is built and is in place, it will allow Ojai Valley residents and all who traverse the Meadows Preserve to explore more areas, because they will easily be able to get to the other side of a ravine that now cuts through part of it and limits exploration of the entire preserve. Lions Club members said they are happy to assist the OVLC in its desire to expand access of the area. A grand opening of the bridge will be held June 30.
Also on June 16, Ojai Valley Lions Club members will present the first of four “Free Movie Night” events at Sarzotti Park on Park Road. In honor of Father’s Day, “Daddy Day Care” will be shown at 8 p.m. on a 27-foot outdoor screen behind the gym. Prior to the start of the movie, the Lions Club will host a barbecue of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, water and snacks for $1 each. Ventura County Fire Department will also be present starting at 6 p.m., with trucks and hoses and allow the kids to interact with them and learn about firefighting equipment. Further increasing the night’s festivities, the city of Oxnard, in conjunction with its City Corps and Police Activity League, is providing free train rides on the train and track that they will bring to the park.
Attendees should bring chairs and blankets (no alcohol or dogs are allowed). Donations to help cover the cost of the movie will be appreciated. Call 646-5581, Ext. 390, with questions.
By Lenny Roberts
A 44-year-old Ventura woman was killed Tuesday morning following a single-vehicle traffic accident on the northbound Ojai Freeway just north of Shell Road, according to CHP Officer Steve Reid. The woman, whose name has not been released pending notification of family, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Reid said the victim was driving a 2010 Toyota SUV in the No. 2 lane before she crossed the No. 1 lane and struck the center divider. Her vehicle then crossed both northbound lanes, left the freeway, went down the dirt embankment and into a tree. Reid said the information provided is based on “direct evaluation of the physical evidence,” not eyewitness accounts.
A Saturday evening crash in the Lake Nacimiento area also took the life of an Oak View man, according to the Templeton, Calif. CHP office.
Scott Kenton, 42, was driving his 1989 Ford F-250 on Gage Irving Drive at about 6:30 p.m. “For reasons not yet determined,” stated the report, Kenton lost control of his pickup truck as he drove down a hill and then veered off the roadway into a dirt and grass field before rolling over on its right side. Kenton’s truck, the report continued, then became airborne as it rolled over down a nearly vertical 10-foot-high embankment. The truck landed back on the highway where it rolled over, crossed the road and struck several trees. Kenton, who was not wearing a seat belt according to the report, was ejected at some point and succumbed to his injuries.
Two occupants riding inside the cab of the pickup truck were also unrestrained but not ejected. Chel Bustamonte, 37, sustained a leg injury and lacerations, and Harley Kenton, 4, sustained a possible broken wrist. The fourth passenger, Mark Pulido, 37, was riding in the uncovered bed of the truck, but was ejected prior to the vehicle rolling over, the report stated. Pulido sustained minor lacerations.
All four were from Oak View.
CLICK TO READ CHP REPORT>>>>CHP-Kenton
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I am curious to see what New York hopes to accomplish by proposing a ban on super-sized soft drinks. If approved, New York will prohibit the sale of drinks sweetened with sugar that contain more than 16 ounces which are served in restaurants, ballparks, movie theaters, and by street cart vendors. I am also interested to see if any other large cities, or even states, follow suit. I can sense that there are those in this state who are already drooling at the prospect of imposing a similar ban.
The idea behind the ban is to curb obesity, especially among youth. Youthful obesity is a major problem in this country, and is getting worse. Obesity contributes to juvenile diabetes, whose rate of growth in this country is alarming, with 15,000 new cases diagnosed each year in those less than 20 years of age. Health effects of diabetes can be severe, including kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack and stroke. If obesity trends are not reversed, the life expectancy of upcoming generations could actually be lower than previous generations.
I like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is intelligent, effective and honest Ñ three attributes not associated with many politicians these days. But this proposed ban is stupid. Why? There are so many reasons. Yes, soft drinks are calorie-laden. A 16-ounce non-diet soft drink contains anywhere from 150 to 200 calories. These are empty calories, with little or no nutritional value. But merely limiting the size of sugary drinks is not really addressing the problem.
If reducing obesity is your goal, why target one particular contributing cause and not others? I need to lose weight, too. But I do not drink a lot of soft drinks, and when I do, I drink the diet variety. This ban would have no effect on people who are overweight, but for whom soft drinks are not a factor. What good is limiting people to a soft drink serving of 16 ounces if they super-size the rest of their meal? You accomplish nothing.
The proposed ban is a flagrant example of government overreach by the “nanny state.” Soft drinks are not healthy, but they are legal. Government has no business trying to moderate their use by attempting to take the place of parental guidance, or in the case of adults, self-control.
This is simply another case of arrogant politicians placating misguided crusaders with a feel-good proposal that does nothing to actually solve the problem, then standing around basking in their own self-congratulatory glow. Could we please place a ban on that?
The 26th annual Ojai Wine Festival will take place Sunday, June 10, from 1 to 5 p.m. on the scenic shores of Lake Casitas. From its humble beginnings in 1987 the event has grown into a leading regional event attracting nearly 5,000 people from throughout the Central Coast and Southern California. The annual event is a major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Ojai-West; a nonprofit organization that helps fund many humanitarian and community projects, including the environmental science-based educational Lake Casitas boat tours for Ojai public schools.
“You can’t beat the combination of fantastic wine, beer, food, live music, dancing and fun in such a beautiful shady setting on the shores of Lake Casitas,” boasted Robert Beeby, president of the Rotary Club of Ojai-West. Guests may dine and drink wine on tables throughout the site or picnic on a grassy knoll overlooking the stage and Lake Casitas. Not a wine lover? Beer lovers can enjoy tasting a great selection of 20 domestic and import beers. Purchase a VIP ticket for the exclusive VIP Lounge to enjoy early noon entry, fine wines by the glass from Le Vigne Winery, Nicora Wines and Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery, all from Paso Robles, and Silver Wines of Santa Barbara, or enjoy three superior Belgian beers by the glass sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden or Leffe, and nosh on free hors d’oeuvres served by Sakura Ojai Japanese Restaurant, La Piu Bella Tavola Italian Catering and Cabot Cheese in a shaded setting by the lake. Full ticket price information is available at the festival’s website, ojaiwinefestival.com.
“Last year had a record-breaking 64 wineries who poured over 250 diverse wines,” says Wine Festival executive director Angela May. “Our selection of wineries is looking impressive for this year. Tickets are limited and we advise buying tickets online now. Photos, maps, and information from last year’s event can be found at the festival’s website.”
Visitors can look forward to listening, dancing, and singing along to the music of Beatles tribute band, Sergeant Pepper, plus Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries, a 1950sÐ1960s rock Ôn’ roll show band. The festival will also feature an assortment of arts and crafts vendors selling their wares. Small children can play in the park’s play area and free boat rides on Lake Casitas will again be available to all attendees. More than 100 volunteers guarantee a well-run and safe festival.
In addition, a free hourly shuttle will be available from downtown Ojai to the Ojai Wine Festival, sponsored by Roadrunner Shuttle and Limousine Service.
The free shuttle runs continuously, starting at 11:15 a.m. with the last shuttle departing from the lake at 5:45 p.m. It takes approximately one hour to complete a loop. Note that times of the free shuttle are approximate and it may be running earlier or later, depending on traffic.
The free shuttle will take the Ojai Trolley route, with the following schedule:
¥ Departing from Lake Casitas Recreation Area Event Site on the hour
¥ Departing from Ojai Park & Ride at 25 minutes past the hour
¥ Departing from Lomita Avenue and El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks at 33 minutes past the hour
¥ Departing from Fiero Drive and Rice Road at 37 minutes past the hour
¥ Arrives back at Lake Casitas at 45 minutes past the hour
Home-to-lake pickups for Ojai residents are also available for $15 per group of up to three people; call 389-8196, Ext. 1, for a reservation, or e-mail Paul Pena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hanna Day
On Tuesday night awards and scholarships were announced at Nordhoff High School. Many of them were kept secret until Awards Night, when students, parents and faculty come together to recognize those who won scholarships and awards. Many of these scholarships were earned by the graduating class of 2012, but students in other grades received awards as well. Students were also recognized for other achievements, such as academic letters, tutor recognition and Boys and Girls State nominations. Teachers may also receive awards, such as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, which was won by Bronwen Cull-Michaels. This year’s co-valedictorians are Nicholas Perkins and Allen Colborn.
Nordhoff’s faculty and staff are proud of the students’ achievements. Brittney Simonds, Nordhoff’s College and Career Center counselor, says, “The class of 2012 is a special group of students. They did everything asked of them and it shows by the amount of awards and scholarships they won. I am very proud of the hardworking senior class and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”
Incoming principal Greg Bayless agreed with Simonds’ assertion. “These students are so deserving and appreciative — – the recipients work incredibly hard for many years and it is always such a tragedy to think that the results of their hard work and talent might be limited by financial constraints in their difficulties paying for college,” he said. “The Ojai community’s generosity in awarding scholarships is making college a real possibility for many excellent students.”
The scholarships do not reflect those given by the colleges and universities, but rather those given to students by the community. The total amount of scholarships won this year is $153,650, which is around $13,000 more than scholarships won in 2011.
Scholarship award winners for 2012 include:
• Diamonds in the Rough (George Thompson), $100 each: Joshua Vaughan, Nicholas Gross, Tania Enriquez Chavez, Jared Culver, Elizabeth Lopez, James McKamey, Marissa Iniguez, Jose Sanchez, Omar Uribe and Samuel Singer
• Channel Islands Masonic Lodge No. 214 Scholarship, $500: Emily Heath
• Rotary Club of Ojai-West ($9,000 total): Wade Nomura District Governor Scholarship, $2,000, Elsa Fraki; Service Above Self Scholarships, $1,000 each, Diana Hernandez, Hailey Johnson, Camille Mendoza, Tanner Plott, Amanda Landis, Jessica Slaght and Kortney Whaley
• Jackie Malone Memorial Scholarship, $1,000 each: Jessica Slaght and Kortney Whaley
• Ojai Valley Board of Realtors Scholarship, $1,000: Taylor Cook
• Optimist Club of Ojai Scholarship, $700 each: Hailey White-Johnson and Marissa Iniguez
• Rotary Club of Ojai Educational Foundation Scholarships ($56,000 total): Eleanor Rupp Memorial Scholarship, $3,000, Kortney Whaley; Godfrey and Jeanette Jacobs Memorial Scholarship, $3,000, Sky Biblin; Canterberry-McCurley Scholarship, $3,000 each, Tearney Lopez, Mariela Ponce-Calderon, Holly Johnson, Jessica Slaght, Amanda Landis and Kiara Robles; Armand and Florence Amado Memorial Scholarship, $3,000, Hailey White-Johnson; Ted Fauvre Memorial Scholarship, $3,000, Diana Hernandez; Terry J. Hanrahan Memorial Scholarship,$3,000, Emily Hall; Shari Skinner Memorial Scholarship, $3,000, Jeffrey Molloy; Rotary General College Scholarships, $3,000 each, Emily Bergstorm, Dane Whitman, Zelda Grove and Geneva Miller; Carl Huntsinger Career and Technical Education Scholarship, $2,000, Jesus Rocha; Canterberry-McCurley Career and Technical Education Scholarship, $2,000 each, Emily Heath and Sarah Heath; Dr. Youssef and Patricia Mawardy Career and Technical Education Scholarship, $2,000, Sandra Hernandez.
• Delleen R. Enge “Worthy Student” Memorial Scholarship, $1,000: Jesus Rocha
• Ventura County Community Foundation Scholarships: Dennis S. Ford Memorial Scholarship, $1,000, Tearney Lopez; Judge John and Agnes McFarlane Scholarship Fund, $5,000, Sky Biblin, and $2,500, Emily Heath; William & Cynthia Fairburn Memorial Scholarship, $2,000, Taylor Cook, Emily Hall, and Amanda Landis; Berenice Barnard Music Specialist Scholarship Fund, $1,000 each, Emily Hall and Amanda Landis; Berenice Barnard Music Education Scholarship Fund, $600, Emily Hall; Orfalea Scholarship Fund, $2,500 each, Sarah Heath and Emily Hall; S.A.G.E. Scholarship, $2,000, Diana Hernandez; Community Folk Art Scholarship Fund, $500, Jessica Slaght; Young Artists Scholarship Fund, $2,500, Amanda Landis
• Deno Lepas Memorial Scholarship, $500: Reece Moniot
• Ojai Valley Woman’s Club Scholarships, $1,500 each: Tearney Lopez and Hailey White-Johnson
• Nordhoffian Scholarships, $300 each: Camille Mendoza and Tanner Plott
• Ojai Valley Mexican Fiesta Scholarships: $600 each annually, Monica Calderon, Camillle Mendoza and Diana Hernandez, and $300 annually, Jesus Rocha and Jimmy Ojeda Pedraza
• Ojai Valley Lions Club Student Scholarships, $2,000 each: Duncan Rains, Hailey White-Johnson, Jeffrey Molloy and Lyliana Chavez
• Oak View Women’s Club Scholarships, $750 each: Mariela Ponce-Calderon, Emily Heath and Sarah Heath
• Pay It Forward Scholarships, $500 each: Marissa Iniquez and Sarah Heath
• Bliss’s Jump Start Scholarships, $500 each: Jennifer Volk, Stephanie Cox, Jimmy Ojeda Pedraza, Kathleen Nestingen, Jesus Rocha, Alexandria Thorp, Noemi Garcia, Kiara Robles, Alexandra Morales and Morgan Bruce
• Ojai Federation of Teachers Scholarships, $300 each: Camille Mendoza, Tanner Plott and Nicholas Perkins
• Ventura Elks Lodge “Most Valuable Student” Scholarships: $2,050, Jessica Slaght; $1,000, Amanda Landis; $750, Jeffrey Molloy
• Mugu Crows Memorial Scholarships, $1,000 each: Jeffery Molloy and Jennifer Volk
• Interact Club Scholarships, $50 each: Jessica Slaght, Camille Mendoza and Amanda Landis
• California School Employees Association-Ojai Chapter 333 Scholarship, $200: Kiara Robles
• Ken Reeves Scholarship, $500: Sarah Heath
• Nordhoff Parent Association Scholarships, $500 each: Sky Biblin and Hailey White-Johnson
• Emb Family Scholarship, $20,000: Zelda Grove ($10,000 per year for two years)
• William Boone Education Foundation Scholarship, $2,500: Hailey White-Johnson
• Rikki Horne and Rudy Petersdorf Prize, $1,000: Dane Whitman
By Linda Harmon
The public is invited to come celebrate three community projects June 14 at Ojai’s City Hall with a joint reception mounted by the city of Ojai, the Libbey Bowl Foundation, and the Ojai Garden Club.
The reception will celebrate the newly re-landscaped City Hall entrance, the reconfiguration of the city’s permanent art collection, and the exhibition of Fred Rothenberg’s ÒLibbey Bowl at Ojai City Hall — Photos on Aluminum,” a fund-raising exhibition for the Libbey Bowl Foundation.
All three projects were made possible with many hours of volunteer energy, enthusiasm and talent.
The celebration itself is being coordinated by Barbara Hirsch, Ojai Arts Commission chair and Garden Club member; Christine Golden, Ojai Arts Commission vice-chair; and Libbey Bowl manager Beth Sutherland.
According to all those involved, it was perfect timing to hold the joint celebration with the spring improvements to Ojai City Hall’s entrance.
As attendees arrive they will pass though the completed entrance garden, the gift of the Ojai Garden Club, and watch the official ribbon cutting ceremony. The new garden was designed not only to greet visitors but also to provide an attractive backdrop for the newly restored Otto and Vivika Heino tile mural, adjacent to the entrance doors.
As reception guests move into City Hall chambers they can view the newly refurbished galleries and highlighted artwork and enjoy wine and refreshments.
ÒIt is with great pride that we announce the completion of this milestone,” said Golden. ÒThe city owns a treasure trove of art by Ojai artistswho have achieved national and worldwide acclaim. We are proud to showcase the city’s newest acquisitions and it is a bonus to be able to present Rothenberg’s work and his stunning lenticular print of Libbey Bowlat our gala reception.”
The Rothenberg exhibit will be hanging in the City Gallery, which houses rotating shows of local artists. This exhibit marks the one-year anniversary of Libbey Bowl’s debut.
ÒThis remarkable collection of photographs chronicles the Ôlast gasp’ and Ôfirst blast’ of Ojai’s beloved amphitheater,” said Sutherland.
According to Sutherland, the Rothenbergs generously came forward to document these events, and have again stepped forward, donating the proceeds of sales from this exhibit to support the nonprofit Libbey Bowl Foundation.
“Libbey Bowl at City Hall —- Photos on Aluminum” features 20 photographs printed on aluminum, with nine of the photographs available as a limited edition, a single reprint going into the permanent archives of the Ojai Valley Museum. The remaining 11 exhibited images will also be available for purchase.
The entire exhibit may be previewed at www.fredrothenberg.com and reserved for purchase before the event.
In the city’s permanent gallery visitors can view the diverse collection of work in a variety of media including oil, watercolor, photography, pottery, and sculpture.
Both galleries have undergone significant renovations over several years and this event marks the last milestone, the re-hanging of the permanent collection. This transformation has also allowed the debut of three new acquisitions — ÒA Little Ranch in Upper Ojai” by Gayel Childress, ÒUntitled” by Alberta Fins, and ÒSundowner” by Michael Dvortcsak — along with three previously acquired photos of Horace Bristol, “Car and Tent with Stove,” ÒApplying for Relief” and ÒPea Pickers.”
The city collection continues to be built under the auspices of the city’s Arts Commission with priority given to artists who create, exhibit or perform locally, and who express the cultural vitality and innovation within our community. Many of these artists, such as Bristol, Beatrice Wood, and the Heinos, have garnered worldwide attention for the Ojai cultural community.
Join the city, members of the Garden Club, and supporters of the Libbey Bowl Foundation in this festive evening celebrating all that makes Ojai special: a place for fine art, great performances, and community involvement. The public reception will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Chris T. Wilson
Pedal power swept through Ojai over the weekend as hundreds of cyclists rolled into downtown for the ninth annual Ojai Valley Century bike ride.
About 825 cyclists registered for the ride at the just-opened Mob Shop bike shop on Ojai Avenue, next to the Ojai Valley Museum. All Century routes began and ended in the newly opened shopÕs parking lot.
Riders chose between five routes of varying lengths and terrain challenges. Options for Century riders included a ‘half metric,’ approximately 30 miles; a Òmetric,Ó which is about 62 miles or 100 kilometers; two full 100-mile ‘century’ routes; and a ‘double metric’ 124 mile-200 kilometer route.
All the routes included tours of the Ojai Valley and went in various directions. Some riders enjoyed pedaling past Lake Casitas over Highway 150 to Carpinteria, back down the coast to Ventura and up the Ojai Valley Trail; others rode to and from Rose Valley on Maricopa Highway; and still others went to Santa Paula and back over Highway 150 through the Upper Ojai Valley and down the winding Dennison Grade.
Event organizers reported two ambulance rides from minor accidents during the ride. One rider crashed on Casitas Pass, and another slipped on a gravelly shoulder near Carpinteria, said Steve Berkel of Ojai Valley Rides, Inc.
“All in all, this has been a really great ride,”Berkel said. “And the Mob Shop is looking great.”
Workers scrambled Friday to ready the new Mob Shop bike shop at the site of a former service station, on the corner of North Ventura Street and Ojai Avenue. Friday at 6 p.m., when the shop opened its doors and Century riders began to register in the parking lot, a window washer was still scrubbing windows as workers folded apparel, swept floors and aligned shiny new bicycles.
Both Tim Rhone and Greg Prinz, partners with Kelly Pasco and John Lamar in the bike shop relocation venture, praised the success of the Century ride and their opening weekend.
“The support from the community was amazing this weekend,” Rhone said. “The event went off really well and we were super happy to host the Ojai Valley Century and kick off our opening this way.”
Rhone said a grand opening celebration is in the works for later this summer and will be announced in the coming weeks.
Prinz, whose engineering and project management skills were put to the test since work on the shop began in late December 2011, said he is relieved to be open and ready to begin the next phase of business in the bike shop.
“Just the sheer volume of work that had to be done was unbelievable, “Prinz said. ÒWe were on a tight budget and had to do a lot of the work ourselves. But we couldnÕt have anticipated or hoped for a better welcoming to downtown than to have 800 people walking through our store this weekend.Ó
In addition to being a full-service bicycle sales and repair shop, the Mob Shop will also offer a large fleet of rental bikes and will work to advocate cycle commuting, safety and cycling infrastructure in Ojai, said Pasco.
“A lot of people think it’s going to be hard to make changes to our roads to encourage more bike riders downtown,” Pasco said late Friday. “But really all you have to do is ask. It’s good for the community, and it’s good for businesses downtown.”
To learn more about the Ojai Valley Century, visit ojaivalleycentury.org; find additional details about the Mob Shop at themobshop.com.
Bill Rosen never really meant to get into junior high school education; his aim was to become a high school English teacher. But a miscommunication with the L.A. Unified School District led to him to a position at Dana Junior High School in San Pedro.
“I thought I was applying for a high school (job),” he recalled with a laugh. “They said, ‘Well, we’re offering you this job now,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll take it!’”
He quickly found that he loved working with middle school-aged kids. “When I got there, I thought, wow, this is great! I found I really liked working with kids that age, where the concrete was still a bit damp, still moldable,” he said. “The other thing is, there’s an intensity of emotions É I love being with kids that are sometimes kinda’ crazy — I just love that.”
This fall, Rosen will join the Matilija Junior High School administrative team as its new principal. He is taking over for Emily Mostovoy, four-year principal, who was promoted to district director of special education and student services.
Originally a Southern California resident, Rosen has taught and been an assistant principal in Washington at the junior high, high school and community college levels. He spent 17 years in the classroom before deciding to move into an administrative position a few years back. “I held off purposely,” he said. “I wanted to have great times with my kids, to spend summers together.” In 2006, he accepted the position of assistant principal at Ridgetop Junior High School in Silverdale, Wash.
As his kids left the house for college, Rosen and his wife started to think about moving back to their Southern California roots. Both sides of their families were in the area, he said, so it made sense to come back south.
In an e-mail announcement to OUSD employees last Thursday, superintendent Hank Bangser said, “Bill was the first choice of the five members of the Matilija principal search advisory committee which I chaired.” Tuesday morning, Bangser emphasized that the five-person hiring committee Ñ assistant principal Javier Ramirez, Parent-Teacher Organization President Sunday Ulrich, and teachers Brent Muth and Carol Paquette Ñ all felt Rosen was the right choice for Matilija out of the approximately 20 applicants. “He was by far the top choice of the committee,” Bangser said. “He has an exemplary background. He has a 23-year career É he wanted to be a principal, believed he was ready, and he absolutely, unequivocally is (ready), according to everyone I spoke to in that district (Central Kilsap School District in Silverdale, Wash.).”
Rosen said he feels capable of handling the budgetary challenges the Ojai Unified School District is currently facing. “Per capita, we have a pretty similar kind of situation” in Washington, Rosen said. “We have furlough days, cuts in staff hours, cuts in supplies, 1.9 percent cut in salaries. We’re also suffering from declining enrollment É things are pretty tough in both places.” There are other similarities, although Ridgetop was a seventh- through ninth-grade school, said Bangser. “They have almost the same number of students per grade as Matilija, they just have one more grade.”
Rosen said he’ll bring his philosophy of being “friendly, fair and consistent” to Matilija. “You don’t have to be the mean guy (school should be) a friendly, fun, inviting place to explore and inquire. I want to create a school climate where everybody matters, where everybody has a place, where parents feel good about putting their kids É Where teachers and support staff know the kids by name, smile at them, ask them how they’re doing — where kids feel like they belong.” He added that he’ll be doing a lot of listening when he starts at Matilija. “I don’t know what the prescription is because I don’t know what the diagnosis is. I’ll be sitting down with the outgoing principal, the leadership team at Matilija, with the parents and teachers.”
For more information on Matilija’s 2012-2013 school year, visit ojai.k12.ca.us/matilija.
Nordhoff High School’s student newspaper took third place in the sweepstakes division of the 2012 Tri-County Journalism Educator’s Association Write-Off competition on May 18 at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.
Competing against journalism students from schools in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Nordhoff’s students recorded the program’s best finish ever.
The event required students to choose a specific discipline Ñ- such as news writing or features writing or page design or feature photography Ñ then attend and take notes at a 70-minute presentation with students from other schools. After that, students had 90 minutes to produce a story.
Three Ranger reporters, all juniors, earned trophies for their work at the Write-Off. Emily deCordova took third place for her critical review article on the new art museum on the CLU campus. Jessica Shauer took second place in the news photography division, and Samuel Reining took second place for his editorial cartoon in which he satirized the fact that the medical profession in this country is often unwilling to recognize the field experience of military veterans when they return home and apply for jobs.
“I am very proud of these three students and all the students who accepted the challenge to go and compete that day,” said Nordhoff’s newspaper faculty moderator Ted Cotti. “I’m hoping each of them will consider returning to the staff next year and continue to contribute and help mentor our new staff members.”
This year’s Nordhoff newspaper staff has published six editions. Its final edition of the year comes out June 11.
The 26th annual Ojai Wine Festival will take place this Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. on the scenic shores of Lake Casitas. From its humble beginnings in 1987 the event has grown into a leading regional event attracting nearly 5,000 people from throughout the Central Coast and Southern California. The annual event is a major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Ojai-West; a nonprofit organization that helps fund many humanitarian and community projects, including the environmental science-based educational Lake Casitas boat tours for Ojai public schools.
ÒYou canÕt beat the combination of fantastic wine, beer, food, live music, dancing and fun in such a beautiful shady setting on the shores of Lake Casitas,Ó boasted Robert Beeby, president of the Rotary Club of Ojai-West. Guests may dine and drink wine on tables throughout the site or picnic on a grassy knoll overlooking the stage and Lake Casitas. Not a wine lover? Beer lovers can enjoy tasting a great selection of 20 domestic and import beers. Purchase a VIP ticket for the exclusive VIP Lounge to enjoy early noon entry, fine wines by the glass from Le Vigne Winery, Nicora Wines and Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery, all from Paso Robles, and Silver Wines of Santa Barbara, or enjoy three superior Belgian beers by the glass sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden or Leffe, and nosh on free hors dÕoeuvres served by Sakura Ojai Japanese Restaurant, La Piu Bella Tavola Italian Catering and Cabot Cheese in a shaded setting by the lake. Full ticket price information is available at the festivalÕs website, ojaiwinefestival.com.
ÒLast year had a record-breaking 64 wineries who poured over 250 diverse wines,Ó says Wine Festival executive director Angela May. ÒOur selection of wineries is looking impressive for this year. Tickets are limited and we advise buying tickets online now. Photos, maps, and information from last yearÕs event can be found at the festivalÕs website.Ó
Visitors can look forward to listening, dancing, and singing along to the music of Beatles tribute band, Sergeant Pepper, plus Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries, a 1950sÐ1960s rock ÔnÕ roll show band. The festival will also feature an assortment of arts and crafts vendors selling their wares. Small children can play in the parkÕs play area and free boat rides on Lake Casitas will again be available to all attendees. More than 100 volunteers guarantee a well-run and safe festival.
In addition, a free hourly shuttle will be available from downtown Ojai to the Ojai Wine Festival, sponsored by Roadrunner Shuttle and Limousine Service.
The free shuttle runs continuously, starting at 11:15 a.m. with the last shuttle departing from the lake at 5:45 p.m. It takes approximately one hour to complete a loop. Note that times of the free shuttle are approximate and it may be running earlier or later, depending on traffic.
The free shuttle will take the Ojai Trolley route, with the following schedule:
¥ Departing from Lake Casitas Recreation Area Event Site on the hour
¥ Departing from Ojai Park & Ride at 25 minutes past the hour
¥ Departing from Lomita Avenue and El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks at 33 minutes past the hour
¥ Departing from Fiero Drive and Rice Road at 37 minutes past the hour
¥ Arrives back at Lake Casitas at 45 minutes past the hour
Home-to-lake pickups for Ojai residents are also available for $15 per group of up to three people; call 389-8196, Ext. 1, for a reservation, or e-mail Paul Pena at email@example.com.
By Logan Hall
Marijuana growers in the mountains above Ojai took a hit last week after Ventura County Sheriff’s Department narcotics officers cleared out a large pot farm in Los Padres National Forest.
According to VCSD officials, 22,478 pot plants were eradicated after the department’s air unit flew over a large area of forest and spotted the grow operation. Reports say that it took officials five hours to eradicate marijuana plants from two separate sites that were less than a half mile apart. According to Sgt. Mike Horne, Narcotics Unit supervisor, the growers had fled the area prior to the arrival of investigators. The growers did, however, leave signs that they were in it for the long haul.
“There was a kitchen that they had made that was stocked with a lot of food,” said Horne. “We find kitchens like that all the time when we find these sites, but this one was different. They had a plastic chest of drawers and they were using dimension lumber. Usually they just cut wood from trees to use.”
Horne stated that evidence was found that indicated that there were at least two people in charge of the two sites. “We found two sleeping bags at each site,” he said. “Typically, two guys could probably handle both sites. They’ll kind of migrate between the two. It’s hard to say though. It’s quite possible that there could have been two guys at each site.”
According to a Sheriff’s Department press release, the largest plants were about 2 feet tall and the street value for all plants eradicated is estimated at $88 million. No weapons were found, but Horne and his team discovered irrigation systems and other cultivation-related materials that can be harmful to the area.
“We found miles of irrigation lines,” he said. “They ran for unbelievable distances. We don’t have the funding to remove everything from the site though.”
Horne said that the negative effects that a grow operation can have on the environment are big reasons to continue searching for illegal marijuana farms.
“It ainÕt about the weed,” he said. “We generally find hundreds of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides at these sites. They just absolutely destroy the area. To me, that’s the worst part of it.”
Staying vigilant and constantly putting pressure on growers is a top priority for Horne and his team.
“Market disruption is one of our main goals,” he said. “If we can make it hard for them by damaging their infrastructure when we take their plants, we can get them to quit doing it in our county. If they can’t make money or they go to jail, we win.”
The VCSD Narcotics Unit is just getting started. According to Horne, the prime time for pot growers to cultivate is usually between now and September, giving officers several months to put a dent in this year’s marijuana cultivations. Although the department works hard to rid the mountains of marijuana growers, Horne says the community still needs to beware, but also be aware of suspicious activities. “There are people up there with guns protecting multimillion-dollar operations,” he said. “We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had any grower-public confrontations. People need to be aware of anything that looks shady. If you see guys carrying farm equipment in the backcountry or anyone that really looks out of place, all you need to do is make an anonymous phone call.”
Call the Crime Stoppers hot line at (800) 222-8477 to report suspicious activity.