Categories
Santa Barbara News Press

Teacher Complains School Punishing Him for Politics

S.B. High instructor says he’s being wrongfully moved to new campus for comments in classroom about election

A Santa Barbara High School government teacher says he is being wrongfully transferred for expressing his conservative viewpoints in class.

Wes Ratelle, who has taught at the school for 11 years, is scheduled after this week to move to Dos Pueblos High School, where he would teach U.S. history, career choices and driver education.

A student’s complaint to parents following a class discussion about the presidential election led to the action, he said.

Wes Ratelle AP government teacher at SBHS faces a job transfer. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS
Wes Ratelle AP government teacher at SBHS faces a job transfer. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

“I think it’s because I’m a white Protestant conservative,” said Mr. Ratelle, 37, adding that he thinks his honesty enhances students’ education. “They know Ratelle is not trying to B.S. you . . . If you already know a person’s political bias and they share both sides, there’s no hidden agenda there. . . . There’s no deception.”

The case raised the question of whether it is appropriate for a teacher to express his or her political views in the classroom.

According to the Santa Barbara school district board policy, teachers are prohibited from “promoting any partisan point of view” when discussing controversial topics.

“The teacher should help students separate fact from opinion and warn them against drawing conclusions from insufficient data,” it reads.

About 100 people — students, parents and teachers — have signed a petition supporting Mr. Ratelle.

Santa Barbara High School Principal Kristine Robertson declined to comment, citing the district’s policy of keeping personnel matters confidential.

Interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis dismissed the teacher’s claims.

“He’s just trying to divert attention from the real problem,” said Mr. Sarvis, who cited district policy in declining to elaborate on what the “real problem” is.

Mr. Ratelle is asking that the district take 30 days to investigate the veracity of the complaints, instead of transferring him after Friday.

“I have a degree in political science,” he said. “I’m basically being bumped down.”

Mr. Ratelle, the head coach of the school’s mock-trial team for eight years, would swap places with a Dos Pueblos teacher.

The current complaint is not the first against Mr. Ratelle.

In the week after last year’s presidential election, a student complained about the views he expressed in a class discussion touching on the ability of President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry to appeal to voters in the middle.

Mr. Ratelle said he told the class that Mr. Bush had done a better job of finding that middle ground, and that Mr. Kerry was too far left of center to appeal to a large cross-section of Americans.

After vehemently disagreeing, a student in the class told parents, who wrote a note to the principal, Mr. Ratelle said.

He said he makes no secret of his political viewpoints, but is careful to ensure that both sides are addressed in his college-level class.

He said he’s registered to vote as a Democrat. “I am considered more of a conservative in the classroom, especially when it comes to ethics and morality.”

He said the school’s Advanced Placement government teacher for the junior class is known to be more liberal.

“The students just know when they are juniors they get a more liberal teacher and when they are seniors they get a more conservative teacher,” he said.

Often, the two teachers will debate one another in front of students on hot topics, such as whether the state should allow teachers to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms. That teacher also signed the petition supporting Mr. Ratelle.

The other complaint filed this year had nothing to do with his political beliefs, Mr. Ratelle said. In that complaint, a student disagreed with Mr. Ratelle’s zero-tolerance policy for handing in extra-credit assignments after the deadline. But that student, Nick Martin, said he thinks the transfer is heavy-handed, and his father has since withdrawn the complaint.

“He’s a good teacher,” Nick said. “His class is exciting.”

Other students seemed to agree.

“In the past, students have found offense,” said Lizzie Collector, who describes herself as a mild liberal. “But in my class there hasn’t been any comment by him I found offensive. If it’s based on whether or not he should be voicing his opinion, he’s certainly not trying to change anybody else’s opinion.”

“How the district is handling it is just ridiculous,” said Raad Mobrem, who is also a student in the AP government class. “You don’t just take a man’s job and totally swap it around and his whole lifestyle” without a thorough investigation.

Ann Lippincott, associate director of the teacher education program at UCSB, said she doesn’t think it is always inappropriate for a teacher to express his or her political view point.

“It depends,” she said.

“Ultimately what we want is students — especially 12th-grade government students who are able to vote and be drafted — to engage in critical thinking. . . . The teacher needs to create space for multiple perspectives and multiple points of view.”

STEVE MALONE / NEWS-PRESS PHOTO

Categories
Santa Barbara News Press

A new path for autistic kids

Before the school year started, 6-year-old Kevin Bowen used to stare into space when his mother asked him questions, like “Do you want to read this book or that book?” Now he knows that all questions require some sort of response — even if it’s just a nod.

Kevin accomplished this key social development step in a new class for children with autism begun in September in the Goleta elementary school district. The class at Kellogg School has six kids, but more are on the way.

Student Brandon Geise gets help printing from foster grandparent Carol Rowland. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS
Student Brandon Geise gets help printing from foster grandparent Carol Rowland. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

Last year, district officials identified 17 children ages 3 to 5, with varying degrees of the disorder, expected to begin kindergarten in the next three years. (Four started this year.) That number surpassed by two the total number of autistic students attending schools in the entire elementary district.

The numbers aren’t as high in Santa Barbara, where 12 students have been identified. But at Cleveland Elementary, two children are enrolled in a similar program begun this year.

The numbers reflect a larger phenomenon in the United States, where one in 160 children is now diagnosed with varying degrees of the disability, a brain disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact socially. That compares with one in 2,500 in the mid- to late 1980s, said Dr. Lynn Koegel, the clinical director of the Autism Research and Training Center at UCSB. With the mushrooming numbers has come increased media attention, and still unproven theories about a cause, such as prenatal exposure to certain medications and inoculations for measles, mumps and rubella.

The Goleta class provides one-on-one teaching to each of the kids, and it is expensive. The cost to the district is $165,000 out of a $29 million budget. With five district-funded teachers and aides for the six students, it amounts to about $27,000 per student annually, compared to the roughly $5,000 for most other students. (UCSB also funds one student teacher.)

But because Goleta Union enjoys a rare funding status related to the high property tax revenue generated within the district and its declining enrollment, it is better off financially than the vast majority of California school districts.

Goleta school officials traveled extensively to study model programs before setting up their own this year.

As a result, parents of students with the disorder have a “middle ground” option. Last year, parents could send them to either the “special day classes” for all students with developmental disabilities — such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy — or the regular classroom, where they would be watched over by an instructional aide.

In the special classroom in Goleta, the students ponder not only traditional subjects but learn social skills that other children pick up more easily.

One second-grade student who used to spit at the wall or “cuss out” classmates when they tried to talk to him has learned to say “no” when the head teacher, Brent Elder, asks him if he feels like talking.

“I’ll say ‘OK, then keep it cool and if you do we’ll talk about it,’ ” Mr. Elder said.

Autistic children “are not as concerned with social conformities,” said Dr. Koegel. “A (successful) teacher’s not going to say, ‘If you don’t do your homework, you can’t go to recess.’ A child with autism might say, ‘Fine.’ ”

Also, such children often need either more or less sensory input than others.

A student whose sensory needs are underactivated might crave deep-pressure rubbing occasionally throughout the day; a hypersensitive student might be unable to focus on anything but the feeling of the seam on the toe of his sock. Nearly half of people with autism are hypersensitive to noise.

“For them, the (school) bell ringing might seem like the sound of a dentist’s drill or a jet plane taking off,” said Helen Bird, who works with special education students in Goleta as an inclusion specialist.

In the Goleta class, the five boys and one girl take a daily “sensory break,” with an occupational therapist squeezing the hands and heads of some children or rubbing their arms and legs with a plastic brush. One child who has a need for oral input will receive a specially made rubber toy to chew on, providing an alternative to chewing on his hands.

Parents and educators seem to be pleased with the progress of the Goleta class.

Kevin’s mother, Terri Bowen, has noticed marked improvements in his writing skills.

“He’s now working on forming letters and numbers,” she said.

Some of the kids in the class spend up to half the day with “typically developing” kids. Dr. Koegel said that research in this past year suggests moving them toward full inclusion.

“Our end goal in life is to not have them in segregated settings,” said Dr. Koegel, who heads an inclusion program in the 500-student Montecito Elementary School for the eight children there with varying degrees of the disorder. “You want them to have jobs.”

Regular students, she said, also benefit.

“The typical kids are absolutely wonderful with kids with autism,” said Dr. Koegel, who was careful to credit the Goleta district for responding to parents’ requests. “There are several kids in each class who want to sit and help. It really makes your heart soar.”

Goleta parent Tambra Boydston can attest to that.

Her fifth-grade daughter, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, has been in the regular classroom since kindergarten and sometimes gets nudged in the right direction by nearby students.

“Once in a while they’ll notice she’s not quite focused. She’ll be staring out the window during reading and a kid will point where they are in the book,” she said.

Now, her daughter enjoys sleepovers and birthday parties with a circle of friends. But Ms. Boydston doesn’t necessarily credit the full-on regular classroom experience for her daughter’s social success.

“That’s who she is,” she said. “One thing that made it tough to diagnose her is she wanted to be cuddled. There are some that are that way.”

Mr. Elder said the goal of his Goleta class is to eventually integrate the students. But for now the structured environment is better for most of them.

“With autism, the world is chaotic,” he said. “Routine and sameness provide comfort in a world they have a hard time understanding.”

In the classroom, the most important asset is a teacher’s patience, a trait for which 24-year-old Mr. Elder is well known.

On a daily basis, one 5-year-old used to scream “No!” repeatedly and run around the room when he didn’t want to do an assignment, like learning how to count. Now, he knows to simply say “I’m not ready” when he needs a break before starting such a task.

The most severely affected student in the class is extremely withdrawn, and Mr. Elder can often spend 10 minutes sitting face-to-face with the boy, coaxing him to put on his shoes.

“Stand up,” he said evenly to the boy on a recent school day. The child was softly singing and muttering to himself while holding his ear and looking at his raised hand. “Pick up your shoe, please. Stand up. Hand me your shoe, please. Pull (the Velcro) off. Nice job.”

WHAT IS AUTISM?

Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterized by three distinctive behaviors and is generally apparent in children by the age of three.

Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and sometimes exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. The behaviors can range from mild to disabling.

Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally susceptible to sensations such as sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual sensitivities may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged.

There is no cure for autism, but symptoms often lessen with treatment and with age.

— Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health

STEVE MALONE / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

Carol Rowland, one of the “foster grandparents” in a Kellogg School program for students with autism, helps Kevin Bowen complete a class project. Kevin is one of six students in the class.

Jenny Wolfrom, an instructional assistant, works with student Jordan Frank as he examines an “emotion card” during a one-on-one activity at Kellogg School.

Categories
Santa Barbara News Press Shifting Paradigms

Christmas Unwrapped

Christmas Unwrapped: Not everyone can enjoy the day with family and friends

Traditionally, Christmas is known as a day of traveling, eating, unwinding and unwrapping. But not everyone in Santa Barbara is experiencing a traditional Christmas Day.

Today, as thousands indulge in the joys of tearing paper, laughing children, sentimental music and hot cider, others in Santa Barbara will march to the beat of a different drummer boy.

They will wait for emergency calls at a fire station, serve food at a swanky hotel in Montecito, counsel dangerous inmates in the Santa Barbara County Jail or lie dying in a hospice.

A SB County jail inmate holds the Christmas cards from wife and daughter. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS
A SB County jail inmate holds the Christmas cards from wife and daughter. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

Some, like Scott and Bonnie Bosler of Visalia, would have celebrated in the conventional way were it not for a life-altering tragedy.

Their son, 17-year-old Brad Bosler, drowned in June while trying to save a friend. As a result, Brad’s parents and two sisters today will serve meals to the homeless at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on East Yanonali Street.

“Our son was a big-hearted guy; he had a real giving heart, a real servant’s heart,” said Scott Bosler, whose son went to Mexico several times to build homes for the indigent. “We just weren’t ready to do what we’ve done traditionally during the Christmas season. . . . We wanted to do something he would have done.”

Brad was rafting in a canal near Porterville when a companion got caught in a whirlpool. Brad, a star athlete who hoped to become a firefighter, jumped in to save him.

“He wanted to be a hero,” Mr. Bosler said of his son’s professional aspirations. “He got to be what he wanted to be.”

Brad likely would have looked up to Jack Franklin, a Santa Barbara firefighter who is working the Christmas shift today.

As often happens on this day at the Carrillo Street station near State Street, Mr. Franklin and his company will eat a prime rib meal with dozens of family members in the garage that normally houses the engines.

“Generally it’s a zoo,” he said. “There are a lot of kids running around, with all their Christmas toys — remote controls on the floor where the engines (normally) park. But you drop everything when you have a call.”

And it happens.

Mr. Franklin, a fire engineer and former paramedic, has eaten holiday dinners in the front seat of a speeding ambulance.

“For the most part, it’s a lot of medical emergencies,” he said. “On holidays we’re (often) taking grandpa to the hospital because he’s having a heart attack. It’s a little bit too much excitement . . . with the whole family there.”

Sometimes, the fire station doesn’t need a chef. One Christmas, a family whose child nearly died of sudden infant death syndrome before being saved by firefighters brought a ham dinner to a small local station manned by three people.

“They brought a meal for like 25,” said Battalion Chief Chris Blair, who also works today. “We had ham sandwiches for weeks.”

As good as that meal may have been, its extravagance surely paled in comparison to the six-course dinner that will be served to hundreds tonight at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Montecito, where a good night’s rest costs anywhere from $600 to $2,500.

The dinner, to be enjoyed in a renowned dining room with sweeping ocean views, will cost $120 a plate. And Rubin Cosio, the hotel’s food and beverage director, has the unenviable task of ensuring that the yuletide feast is worth every penny.

But he said he’s not worried.

“It’s only high-pressure if you don’t plan it correctly,” he said.

The hotel’s staff is making a special effort to see that each guest’s needs are tended to.

For instance, a “very senior manager” of a Fortune 500 company with a penchant for the $900-a-bottle Patr|ó|n Platinum tequila will find one waiting in his room, accompanied by two glasses with ice on the side.

“Some just like it straight up,” Mr. Cosio said. “It’s not anything you would make a margarita with.”

The hotel festivities, which include a $90 buffet, will be heavily attended by the L.A. elite who “just want to get away from their hurried lives” — executives, for instance, from CBS, NBC, Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios.

As the roughly 500 well-heeled folks wine and dine in Montecito, about 850 convicts will simply dine in the Santa Barbara County Jail, on Calle Real near Turnpike Road.

The inmates will eat a turkey dinner, attend services and sing Christmas carols.

Throughout the day, the Rev. Ivan Vorster, a 30-year pastor at the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Santa Barbara, will visit single cells, sitting face to face with some men who are “extremely dangerous.”

The Rev. Vorster isn’t scared, and not just because he will be accompanied by a guard.

“They are generally very respectful,” he said. “There’s a longing for their loved ones, for home. . . . (Talking with them) is declaring that somebody cares.”

One inmate, a young man who said he’s in for stealing, said he will give a sermon of his own.

“I feel like I’ve been called to preach the word,” the man said while hanging out with fellow inmates in the drug-treatment section of the jail, a less restrictive area that civilians can enter. “There are tools in here to better your life. You just have to use them.”

A few miles away, at a hospice on Calle de los Amigos near Hope Ranch, a 56-year-old literary agent from New York City is dying of a rare lung disease.

Al Lowman, whose list of clients includes singer Diana Ross, former Teen People magazine editor Christina Ferrari and folk singer Judy Collins, said he will spend Christmas Day resting at the Serenity House. The small facility accommodates six patients who expect to have less than six months to live.

“Growing up, my heart was not into (Christmas), but it is this year,” said Mr. Lowman, who was recently visited by Ms. Ross, hospice staff members said.

A talkative man, Mr. Lowman is upbeat even though his only son will not be able to visit him this year.

“I love living, and I love dying,” he said.

Mr. Lowman spends much time on the phone, doing business. He just finished editing the manuscript for Ms. Collins’ still-untitled book about creativity.

But he is not bed-ridden. Mr. Lowman sits in a chair, paces about the room and even kneels on the floor to call up on his computer the cover of Ms. Collins’ book — a painting she did herself.

To him, the Serenity House is aptly named.

“I’m having a holiday in the heart,” he said, mouse in hand, looking over his shoulder. “I’ve never been happier.”

Categories
Santa Barbara News Press

Journalist Claims Neoconservatives Direct the Country

Journalist Seymour Hersh addresses the audience at UCSB Campbell Hall on Sunday afternoon, talking mainly about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and the war in Iraq.

The war in Iraq was not about oil; it was the product of a long-held philosophy held dear by a small group of “neoconservatives” who think the war is necessary to improve America’s standing in the world, said a top investigative journalist who spoke at UCSB on Sunday.

Seymour Hersh, the reporter who revealed the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqi soldiers were tortured, humiliated and forced to take sexually explicit photos, brought his thoughts about the Iraq war to a capacity crowd of about 900 people.

Mr. Hersh, 67, spoke swiftly and apparently without notes, weaving together countless facts and stories in a relatively informal way that sometimes derailed his train of thought, leading to off-the-cuff quips that delighted his sympathetic audience.

But he made clear his opposition to the policies of President Bush. His message was serious and even somber at times.

“The war is unwinnable,” said Mr. Hersh, who is touring to — as he put it — “pimp” his newest book, “Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.”

“The hatred for us is so acute,” he said.

Mr. Hersh’s book covers much of the same ground he covered for three years for the New Yorker, making the case, for instance, that the abuses at Abu Ghraib followed standard operating procedures established at Guantanamo, and that the case underscores a systemic problem that began at the top.

The Pentagon has called his reporting, which uses many unnamed sources, “outlandish” and “conspiratorial.”

Though he talked about the prison scandal, he often broadened the scope of the discussion by deriding the logic that led to the war.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the prominent neoconservatives — who Mr. Hersh said includes Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz — were able to convince Mr. Bush that crushing the Iraqi regime was the only way to win the war on terror, he said.

“It’s utopian, it’s idealistic,” said Mr. Hersh, who referred to the group as “zealots” and “cultists.”

“And it’s completely, utterly wrong,” he said.

As for the Nov. 2 presidential election, Mr. Hersh described Sen. John Kerry as the better choice, but he said “it’s going to be a very hard four years” no matter who wins.

He criticized Mr. Kerry both on his claim he that can achieve victory in Iraq and on his seemingly “unlikable” demeanor.

“But so what?” he said. “We don’t have to be fussy.”

Mr. Hersh, who received a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, criticized the mainstream media for going easy on both the Abu Ghraib story and the Bush administration.

“The failure of the press is something we’re going to have to figure out” how to change, he said.

Mr. Hersh said the prison scandal was engendered largely by the administration’s panic about the nascent insurgency earlier in the war. One idea, he said, was to “squeeze the prison population” for information.

“It morphed into madness quickly,” he said.

In a lighter moment, after losing his train of thought, someone in the audience blurted out that his points are interesting even if his points are unconnected.

He replied, “that’s how starved you are” for information.

After the lecture, a long line of people waited for Mr. Hersh to sign their books.

“He gives us the news we ought to be hearing,” said Chuck Bazerman, a UCSB professor who heard the lecture.

Kate McDermott of Camarillo was struck by the fact that “nine neoconservatives could take over the country.”

“It’s scary as hell,” she said.

Categories
Santa Barbara News Press

More to Stress Over in Longer SAT

Scott Fleming, an incoming junior at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, is feeling anxious about a new Scholastic Aptitude test, or SAT, that includes a 25-minute essay.

“I’m not sure what the grading scale is going to be on it,” he said. “It seems really subjective.”

Sara Monteabaro, junior class president of San Marcos High School, doesn’t like the sound of it, either.

“How one writes doesn’t always reflect how smart or intelligent” one is, she e-mailed the News-Press.

But like it or not, essay questions are coming this school year to an SAT test near you. Seen by many as the gateway to the university of one’s choice, SATs are already a stressful reality for students.

Katelyn Paulsen, student in Kaplan SAT prep class and junior at Buena High School in Ventura, studies assignment. LEN WOOD/NEWS-PRESS
Katelyn Paulson of Ventura is spending many of her summer hours at Kaplan test Prep and Admissions in Goleta, studying for the new SAT exam. LEN WOOD/NEWS-PRESS

Because it’s a period of transition, this year’s juniors have the choice of taking either the current test, the new test, or both. The current test will be offered from October through January. The new test debuts in March.

But the choice is misleading to those hoping to attend a University of California campus — the system will accept only the new test. Other schools, including USC, Stanford, Westmont College and Santa Clara University, will accept either test.

Besides an essay, the new test will add multiple-choice grammar questions and advanced algebra problems. It will eliminate analogies and quantitative comparisons. It will tack 45 minutes onto the three hours students currently have to take it. The top score will jump from 1,600 to 2,400.

The test was changed largely in response to criticism from the former head of the University of California system, who in 2001 made national headlines by questioning its usefulness. Then-president Richard Atkinson threatened to scrap the UC system’s reliance on the SAT, charging that it did not adequately reflect what was being taught in the classroom. It was unfair to some students, he said.

Mr. Atkinson’s arguments came amid widespread concern about the dip in enrollment of Latino and black students at UC Berkeley in the wake of California banning affirmative action in 1996.

“We should also adopt a more comprehensive, ‘holistic’ admissions process that takes a range of factors into consideration, from the quality of a student’s high school to the opportunities available to that student,” he wrote in an editorial for the Sacramento Bee.

With its esoteric analogies, the current SAT resembles an “old-fashioned IQ test which isn’t clearly tied to some kind of curriculum,” said Rebecca Zwick, a professor at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UCSB.

By changing the test, the SAT’s owner — The College Board — brought it closer to the structure of the high-school exit exam, which is designed to test strictly what is learned in the classroom, she said.

But Ms. Zwick — the editor of a book named “Rethinking the SAT” — doesn’t think the new test will erase any ethnic inequities inherent in the old test.

In fact, “increasing the level of the math content might lead to greater differences,” she said.

In Santa Barbara, where 44 percent of the high school students are Latino, educators don’t expect the new test to significantly help or hurt the local student population.

“test taking is test taking,” said Mike Couch, interim principal of Dos Pueblos High School. “Statistically, you will end up with the same curve.”

The UC system, he said, is still looking to accept the top 12.5 percent of the state’s students.

Nonetheless, many individuals will be affected: Up to 50 percent of the district’s high school students typically take the SAT, although fewer than 20 percent of Santa Barbara’s students go on to attend four-year colleges, Mr. Couch said.

Meanwhile, most students are unaware of the changes, said Sara, the junior-class president at San Marcos school.

“I think it will be explained once school starts again, but for now, we as students are in the dark,” she wrote.

Still, the companies that provide SAT coaching — such as Kaplan and the Princeton Review — are experiencing unprecedented spikes in enrollment.

“This year Kaplan as a whole has seen the biggest enrollment in the history of the company,” said Krista Plaisted, Kaplan’s director of SAT programs for California. “We’ve seen a 78 percent increase in enrollment (in one year).”

Officials at both companies declined to provide local statistics, citing competitive reasons.

For the essay component, instructors at the Princeton Review are telling students to keep in mind the overwhelmed graders.

Kaplan SAT prep class instructor Sarah Loebman talks to students  LEN WOOD/NEWS-PRESS
Kaplan SAT prep class instructor Sarah Loebman talks to students LEN WOOD/NEWS-PRESS

“They are going to be going through blocks and blocks of essays, all on the same subject,” said Katie Cabanatuan, director of Goleta’s Princeton Review. “The essays are being scored in about one to two minutes.”

Thus, presentation is key. Essays should be neatly written and broken down into about five paragraphs, she said. Students are encouraged to write long.

“They feel like if you have a lot to say, then you must know what you’re talking about,” she said. “It’s not an essay you’d want to turn into your AP English teacher.”

One thing that won’t change is the test’s attempts to trick the taker.

“The grammar kind of works against your ear,” she said. “A lot of things we hear every day are grammatically incorrect, but you don’t realize it.”

While Kaplan is advising students to take both tests, saying it can’t hurt to try twice, the Princeton Review advises taking it once, saying there is no point in stressing out about two exams.

At the end of the day, despite all the confusion and pressure, some students seem to be taking the dilemma in stride.

“I’ll basically just go with the flow,” said Travis Ahlstrom, a junior at Dos Pueblos. “I will talk to my counselor.”

ABOUT THE SAT

When and where:

The current SAT can be taken at Santa Barbara High School on Oct. 9 , Nov. 6, Dec. 4 and Jan. 22. The new SAT can be taken at San Marcos High School on March 12, May 7 and June 4.

Cost: $29.50 for the current test. The price for the new test hasn’t been established.

Register: First-time takers must register online through www.collegeboard.com, or through the mail by requesting that a registration bulletin be mailed to them. To do so, call SAT customer service at (609) 771-7600. Second-time takers can register over the phone.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS

1.

An example of an essay question that would be on the new SAT:

Consider carefully the following statements and the assignment below it.

“Everything comes if a man will only wait.”

— Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

— William Jennings Bryan, Memoirs

Assignment:

Do you agree that persistence is the major factor in success, and that talent, genius, and education play, at best, secondary roles? In an essay, support your position by discussing an example (or examples) from literature, science and technology, the arts, current events, or your own experience or observation.

2.

An example of the multiple-choice grammar question that will be added to the “writing” section of the test:

The vast majority of New Yorkers who drink decaffeinated nonfat cappuccinos prefer chocolate for dessert.

Which word is incorrect?

a) of

b) who

c) prefer

d) for

e) no error

3. An example of an analogy question that will be eliminated from the test:

Iron : Wrinkle

(A) bleach : color

(B) mow : lawn

(C) sweep : broom

(D) cook : food

(E) build : model

(Answers: 2. C; 3. A)

Categories
Colorful Characters Featured Other Freelance

Prostitution Vigilante Van Cruises Minneapolis Neighborhoods Looking for Johns

(Note: This was a story that was published on Aug. 7, 1999 in The Alley, a monthly newspaper covering the Lake Street area, an impoverished section of Minneapolis.)

 

Linda Kolkind isn’t afraid of the riff raff near her house on 12th and Lake, and she refuses to be cooped up inside because of it.

“This is where I live. I can have a garden if I so please.”

Highlighted with benches and a pool with goldfish, her award-winning garden blossoms with tulips, daffodils, and irises every spring. All this stands in stark contrast to the chain-link fence surrounding the garden, the Lake Street neighborhood surrounding the chain-link fence, and the menacing sign slapped against her stucco-walled house: Beware of Dog.

But her defiantly sown garden isn’t the half of it.

Kolkind sits in the driver’s seat of a rusty van parked in the street adjacent to her home. The van’s side, rear, and hood are spray-painted with graffiti. “Prostitution: the world’s oldest oppression,” “Real men don’t have to pay,” and “Down with Johns!” are some of the spray-painted messages. Kolkind, the owner of the van and founder of the Southside Prostitution Task Force, is evidently amused by the attention the van attracts.

She grins, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Quite the van, huh! It’s a moving billboard. Volunteers did the artwork. The thing’s literally held together with duct tape. It breaks down every other day.”

The Southside Prostitution Task Force – founded in 1992 – consists of about 20 members. Its primary focus is to work in conjunction with larger organizations like Pride and Restoration Justice, which provide rehab for prostitutes. Unlike the larger organizations, the Southside Prostitution Task Force takes a grass-roots, on-the-street approach.

“Most organizations want larger numbers – they don’t like to do this one person at a time. We will. Because we, being residents of this area, have been violated one person at a time,” she says.

In addition, the task force attempts to suffocate the prostitution business by hampering the demand side.

She tells me to get ready to witness the harassment of some johns. I get into the van, and she starts it up.

As we troll slowly down Lake Street, people walking on the sidewalk turn their heads toward the eyesore of a vehicle. Since it’s the middle of the afternoon, the van is especially visible. Some people frown. Others smile and shake their heads. One man at a bus stop gives us the thumbs up. Another man, smoking a cigarette and talking to a woman on a street corner, stops talking to the woman to look at the van. He holds his hands up and follows the van a few paces, strutting, as if to say, “Lay off!” or, “Wanna make something of it?”

“That guy’s what they call an entrepreneur,” she explains. “She wants drugs and money. He has both, so he gives her both, in exchange for sex.”

Designed to be visually upsetting to men that are interested in soliciting sex, the van’s graffiti has a tactical purpose.

“Prostitution thrives on the fact that these men think they’re anonymous. With this van, we try to undermine that by letting johns know they’re being watched.”

In the future, Kolkind wants to watch the johns more intensely. Her vision includes a new van equipped with a laptop, so she can immediately send the license plate numbers of johns to the DMV. That way, the DMV can immediately send her the addresses of the johns, so she can “spook them out a little bit.”

“For instance, we thought it would be nice to go have lunch inside the van right outside a john’s house and not say a word. And people will say, ‘why is that van here?’”

Seven years ago, Linda Kolkind considered herself a passive neighborhood victim of prostitution. Back then, prostitutes and their customers were no less visible than the Powderhorn and Phillips stores, houses, and bars on whose property they did business.

“Not only were they lingering around our neighborhood, they were having sex in our driveways.”

During this period, Kolkind, a mother, wife, and collector for a bank, laid blame upon the women who sauntered in her neighborhood. Then, a murder completely changed her outlook.

“There was a certain woman who was always hanging around here. She was maybe 40. Always getting into and out of people’s cars with various men late at night. I would scream and yell at her, and she would scream and yell back.”

The bitter feud lasted over six months but ended abruptly.

On September 23, 1992, a team of squad cars pulled into the parking lot of a dry cleaning store across the street from her house. Inside the building, someone had found a naked woman’s body stuffed into a stairwell. She had been stabbed repeatedly. That night, after talking to some neighbors, Kolkind learned the name of her rival for the first time: Linda Marie Priebe, the victim.

“My life was absolutely turned inside out because of it,” she said.

After Kolkind went to the funeral, she realized something had to be done.

“Many people tell me they go through all kinds of measures to ‘get the whores’ off the property. They swear at them, they throw eggs and stones at them. And now, I tell them, ‘it’s fine to act out, but you gotta find the right targets.’”

The targets, she says, are the males who can typically best afford the tricks. Most of these men, she says, are white and drive in from the suburbs. This is especially the case with establishments known as saunas.

Six months after the death of Priebe, Kolkind attended a neighborhood meeting dedicated to the closing down of a sauna in Powderhorn called A-Spa. “I had a lot to say at the meeting, because, after what I’d seen, I thought that I knew a lot about prostitution.”

This being the case, the meeting inspired Kolkind to start and lead the Southside Prostitution Task Force, which was solely devised to run the neighborhood sauna out of business.

“I thought this would be easy – thought it wouldn’t take us more than six months. But the police were less than enthusiastic until we let them know we were persistent.”

Two years later, Kolkind and the task force persuaded the police to investigate and charge Susie Kotts, the owner of the A-Spa.

Since then, Kolkind has quit her job, purchased a van, closed down six other saunas, and profoundly cleaned up Lake Street and the surrounding areas. At the same time, the former A-Spa is now back in business in the alley by the intersection of Lake Street and 17th Avenue. The sign by the door now reads “Healing Arts Spa.” The only vehicle in the parking lot is a new looking minivan.

“You really don’t see beaters in the parking lots of these places,” she says.

To reiterate her point, she drives the van to another sauna called the Delux Spa. The van stops next to the Spa’s parking lot.

“There’s the Johnnies,” she chuckles, nodding towards the cars in the lot. The small lot actually seems more like a large driveway. The five vehicles in the lot have taken the only five available spots. None of the cars looks more than two years old.

“We’ll toy with them a little – make ‘em squirm.”

She parks the van right in the front and points to the neon-green “open” sign.

“See that? In a couple of minutes, the light will turn off,” she predicts. Kolkind speculates that this is because there is some sort of agreement between the owner of the spa and the owner of the auto body shop across the street, as the Spa has no windows.

Suddenly Kolkind fumbles around for a notepad. “There’s one right now!”

An elderly white man exits the spa, looking both ways before stepping onto the sidewalk like a kid looks both ways to cross the street. He spots the van, looks at the ground, and limps towards his white car, parked right in front of the van. Linda pushes up her glasses while jotting down his license plate, which has a handicapped sign on it.

“Older white male, possibly 60 to 65. Short and bald. Nice car – Whittaker Buick.” While writing, she shakes her head. “It’s all about classism, racism, the haves and the have-nots.”

She finishes jotting down the information as he drives away.

“In a few days, he’ll receive a message from the police saying he was spotted by the spa. I sure hope his wife does not read his mail!” said Kolkind.

Naturally, such zealous behavior has awarded her some enemies. Once, a man banged on the window of the van while at a stoplight, threatening to “take her out.”

“Before we really cleaned up the area last summer, I was scared. But now they’ve moved to the Bloomington (Avenue) area. They’re like cockroaches – they go to where it is dark. So now (their anger) has settled to a quiet rage.”

Kolkind’s own intolerance has done no such thing. Until the Prostitution Task Force rids the area of its last john, it seems clear Kolkind’s own rage will remain loud and quite visible.

Categories
Oakland Tribune / Argus

Blaze at Hair Salon Possible Homicide-Suicide Attempt

Girl, Father Badly Hurt in Newark: Police Consider Blaze at Hair Salon Possible Homicide-Suicide Attempt

NEWARK — A day after a fire at a hair salon severely injured a man and his 7-year-old daughter, police are investigating the possibility that the 51-year-old man set the fire intentionally in an attempt to kill them both.

“Talk about ghoulish and hideous,” Newark police Capt. Lance Morrison said Wednesday. “Right around Christmastime. It just doesn’t add up. All the officers at the scene were shaking their heads.”

Ching Chi, a Fremont resident with a significant criminal record, suffered second- and third-degree burns to about 80 percent of his body, police said. He was listed in critical condition Wednesday.

His daughter also suffered burns and from smoke inhalation. She was transferred to intensive care at Shriners Hospital in Sacramento and was reported in critical condition. Her condition Wednesday was unavailable.

“The percentage of her body damaged by the fire wasn’t as high as the father’s, but the burns she did sustain were very significant,” Morrison
said.

About 1:50 a.m. Tuesday, Newark police and fire personnel responded to alarms from the businesses flanking World Hair Design in a shopping center near Highway 84 anchored by a Raley’s grocery store.

Three fire engines, almost a dozen firefighters and two ambulances responded to the blaze, fire officials said.

When they arrived, plumes of smoke were billowing from the hair salon, at 6263 Jarvis Ave. Two neighboring businesses, Sweet Zone and Venus Bakery, also sustained damage and were closed Wednesday.

Friends and nearby merchants say Chi once co-owned the hair salon with 34- year-old Kyung Choi, the mother of their 7-year-old daughter. Choi still owns the business. A friend of Choi’s said the couple broke up more than a year ago.

By 1999, they had been together for more than 10 years and were living together in Union City, according to court records. Choi now lives in Newark.

It is unclear whether they ever were formally married, police said. The couple shared custody of the daughter, who was staying with her father Monday night, police said.

The couple’s relationship was troubled.

In November 2002, Chi was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and spousal abuse — both felonies — after attacking Choi with a hammer in the salon, Morrison said. She suffered traumatic injuries. A friend of Choi’s said he wrapped the hammer in a towel and bludgeoned her several times, leaving defensive bruises on her arm and elsewhere.

In July 1999, Chi was placed on three years’ probation for possessing two unlicensed, loaded handguns, according to court records.

On Wednesday, friends of the former couple said Chi was trying to get back at his ex-girlfriend for breaking up with him and taking control of the business by destroying himself, their daughter and the store.

“I can definitely say that that’s one of the things we are looking at,” Morrison said, though he added, “There’s a myriad of potential
circumstances.”

Police said a petroleum-based substance was found in the building after the fire was extinguished but had no more details.

Glass shards litter the floor of the scorched store, its windows covered with newspapers. Sheetrock was sheared off at least one of the bowed-out walls, a fire official said.

Categories
Oakland Tribune / Argus

Board President Abruptly Quits Amid Conflict-of-Interest Questions

Board President Abruptly Quits: McDonald cites family reasons; she faced conflict-of-interest questions from
fellow trustees

NEWARK — School board President Eileen McDonald announced her resignation Tuesday, abruptly ending 13 years of service to the district.

McDonald’s resignation, effective July 1, came almost three months after some of her colleagues on the board raised conflict-of-interest questions regarding the district and the travel agency she owns. The board has no more meetings scheduled in June.

For years, the school district has been a customer of the Travel Store and has paid the business $66,379 during the past four years, according to an Argus investigation in May.

McDonald said Tuesday night that their misgivings only partially influenced her decision to leave.

“It’s time to spend some time with my family,” she said, adding that she will be spending a lot of time in Los Angeles visiting relatives.

McDonald, 53, chose to resign effective July 1 to help the board avoid spending money for a special election.

If she had waited until August, the district would not have been able to fill the vacancy by putting an election on the less-expensive November ballot.

“You try to go out with a little class,” she said.

In March, Trustee Janice Schaefer mentioned concerns — shared by other board members — about the Travel Store at a meeting, but refrained from discussing the issue in public afterward. Sources say this was to avoid impugning the entire district before residents voted on a June 3 parcel tax, which lost by a wide margin.

McDonald has seen some pivotal moments at the district, including the voters’ passage of a $66 million facilities bond in 1997. She has worked with three superintendents — Ruben Petersen, Jerry Trout and Ken Sherer, who will retire June 30.

After her announcement at the beginning of the meeting, McDonald sat in the audience for a while before leaving in the middle of the meeting.

Trustee Ray Rodriguez offered kind words.

“I appreciate the years you’ve given to the community,” he said. “We’re better off because of you.”

None of the other trustees followed suit.

Just before McDonald left the building, Carol Viegelmann, who retired after this year as principal of Kennedy Elementary School, told McDonald the announcement surprised her.

But Sherer said he had known that McDonald’s “commitment to her family” would cause her to resign soon.

“She is a bubbly person,” he said. “She always brought life to a meeting.”

McDonald said it is time for her to move out of the public arena.

“No matter what you do, there is always something people can question,” she said. “The more you are out in the public eye, the more of you there is to show.

“I cried during the pledge, because I knew it was my last time,” she said. “I said ‘I pledge allegiance,’ and then I cried for the rest.”

Categories
Oakland Tribune / Argus

School Board President’s Travel Agency Took Payments From School District

Board Probes Conflict Issue: In past 4 years, district has paid $66,379 to board President Eileen McDonald’s Travel Store
NEWARK — School board trustees are questioning the district’s longtime practice of doing business with board President Eileen McDonald’s travel agency, about a week after The Argus began investigating the issue.

In a 2-2 vote, with McDonald abstaining, the board Tuesday failed to pass a normally routine bill warrant that included a $92 check to the Travel Store, an agency owned and operated by McDonald. Passage requires a majority vote.

The board then voted to approve the rest of the items on the warrant, a monthly mass of checks that requires board approval.

Trustees also agreed to seek legal counsel and schedule a workshop on the matter.

During the past four years, the district has paid $66,379 to the Travel Store, according to documents obtained by The Argus. District staff members said attaining information from previous years is difficult because the district changed its financial software four years ago.

McDonald on Tuesday cited several reasons why she feels there is no conflict of interest. For example, she does not profit on the transactions, she said. For years, airlines have been cutting travel-agent commissions, and most airlines eliminated commissions altogether after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Still, some of her colleagues are questioning whether doing business with McDonald’s agency is appropriate.

“As a matter of record, I have misgivings about this,” Trustee Janice Schaefer said. “This looks as if there is an impropriety.”

Schaefer and Trustee Charlie Mensinger voted against approving the original warrant. Trustees Ray Rodriguez and Nancy Thomas voted for it.

In 1995, attorneys opined that the arrangement “does not appear to be a legal conflict of interest,” but it “may result in the appearance of impropriety.”

However, McDonald — who has served on the board since 1990 — must “abstain from votes regarding the payment of her warrants,” according to the attorneys, Gregory Dannis and Claudia Madrigal. According to district minutes, McDonald has not always abstained.

On Aug. 20, 2002, for instance, all five board members approved a bill warrant that included two checks to the Travel Store totalling $2,417,
according to the minutes.

One check paid for a trip to Santa Barbara, taken by then-high school principal Patty Christa, administrator Mike Pittner and teachers James Proffitt and Tanh Huynh.

The other check paid for a flight from Denver for renowned author and literacy expert Ellin Keene, who came to the district to train literacy
coordinators and teachers, a literacy coordinator said.

California law stipulates that elected officials “shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity.”

Wes Stewart, assistant superintendent of business, said because the district never signed a contract with McDonald, there doesn’t appear to be a legal conflict of interest.

“But I’m not a lawyer,” he added.

Government code 1090 also stipulates that elected officials shall not “be purchasers at any sale or vendors at any purchase made by them in their official capacity.”

In statements of economic interests — forms that elected officials are required to file — McDonald has checked the “no reportable interests” box in both 1999 and 2003. District staff members could not locate other forms.

Officials at the Fair Political Practices Commission would not comment about the specifics of the case.

McDonald could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but an employee at the Travel Store relayed a message from her:

“She didn’t understand the concerns the other (board) members had since there has been a legal opinion on file for years stating that there was no conflict of interest,” she said. “Maybe (board members) who had concerns about conflict of interest could have checked with the superintendent’s office about that or talked to her directly. But no one talked to her about it.”

On Tuesday, Schaefer pulled the item off the consent calendar — a cluster of items passed simultaneously — so the board could discuss the matter. McDonald said at the meeting she intended to pull the item herself.

The board then voted to seek legal counsel and schedule a workshop on the matter. A workshop date has not been set.

“The governmental codes are very complicated, and it is critical that we have constant workshops on the interpretation of those codes,” Superintendent Ken Sherer said Wednesday. “Board members as well as most educators are here to serve kids and we do not have a lot of training in the legal areas. … (Workshops) keep us out of emotional conflict.”

McDonald said she has stopped doing business with the district because the district sometimes does not reimburse her in a timely fashion.

The check in question had to do with a $92 charge to change the name of a ticket holder. McDonald told the board she used a credit card to pay the fee months ago, but was not reimbursed. After she called Stewart to ask where her check was, he agreed to process the check and put it on the bill warrant, he said.

Somehow, though, the check was issued twice. One check was canceled and the other went before the board for authorization Tuesday. McDonald said she was doing a favor for the district, because most travel agencies insist on payment before a trip is taken.

But that did not convince several trustees.

Thomas requested the board seek advice from legal counsel, which staff members have agreed to do. McDonald then stated, “We have a legal document already,” referring to the attorney’s letter.

“My understanding is that’s about eight years’ old,” Thomas said.

“But the law hasn’t changed,” McDonald replied.

Rodriguez later made a motion to approve the original bill warrants, but trustees were hesitant to second it.

When business manager Stewart offered the opinion that the board would be abiding by the spirit of the law so long as McDonald recused herself, Thomas seconded the motion.

“I would never, never vote on an issue because of monetary gain,” McDonald said. “I say that from my heart.”

Categories
Oakland Tribune / Argus

FRAUD ALLEGATION: Former head of Newark chamber is arrested

Copley to be arraigned in embezzlement case on Monday

NEWARK — John Copley, the former head of the Chamber of Commerce who resigned under pressure in September, was arrested Friday on suspicion of grand theft and embezzlement from the chamber, police said.

Copley, 39, who was arrested after a nearly four-month investigation, was being held at Santa Rita county jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday afternoon, a jail official said.

Although police would not say how much money is involved, one official said it could be between $15,000 and $50,000.

“The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will review the investigation to determine the appropriate charges to be filed,” police Lt. Tom Milner said.

Bail was set at $50,000, Milner said.

Copley, who police say has been living in San Jose, had not been released as of 7 p.m. Friday, a jail official said.

Copley surrendered voluntarily at the Newark Police Station, where he was arrested at noon, Milner said.

Police began investigating the finances of the chamber in October 2002 when chamber officials realized there was a money shortage.

The chamber — which, according to a balance sheet obtained by ANG Newspapers had $144,000 in cash assets in May 2000 — was more than $4,000 in debt as of last month, said then-chairwoman Gwen Helbush. In addition, the organization owes at least two years’ worth of federal and state taxes, she said.

Copley’s arrest can start the healing process at the chamber, said police Capt. Mark Yokoyama, who has been appointed to serve as the chamber’s temporary spokesman.

“It allows us to put closure to a very sad part of chamber history,” he said. “And it now allows us to move in and bring back the chamber to the higher status it deserves to be at.”

The arrest, he added, may allow the chamber to reclaim some of the funds it has lost.

“Hopefully, through the court process, there will be some sort of restitution offered,” he said.

Another chamber member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “I’m told (police) were so careful because they wanted to make this thing stick. … I’m ecstatic.”

Copley could not be reached for comment. Two days before his resignation, he said he had not done anything illegal.

“If I was doing something wrong or illegal with all this coming up, I would have been out of here and gone,” he said.

Shortly after Copley started working at the chamber on April 1, 2000, he changed his title from executive director to president and chief executive officer. The bylaws were rewritten, listing the president/CEO — Copley — as the treasurer.

In June 2002, disgruntled chamber members began sending mass e-mails containing concerns about various issues, including money, Copley’s title as treasurer and his successful drive to change the name of the chamber to the North Silicon Valley Newark Chamber of Commerce.

On Jan. 15, members voted to change the name back to the Newark Chamber of Commerce. They also passed a new set of bylaws that create a separate treasurer position.

The next day, the chamber accepted the city’s offer of up to $30,000, plus a year of free rent of a city-owned building — amounting to more than$25,000 — on several conditions, including the resignation of its six executive board members.

Copley has been working for two months at the Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Community Center in San Jose.