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In the News - Friday, April 27, 2012

This week's front page



WUSD board votes not to

rescind its health benefits

 In the same 4-3 split decision of the February 8 vote to approve health benefits, the Woodlake Unified School District trustees voted not to rescind the previously approved benefit packages for trustees. The item to rescind was placed on the April 25 agenda as a response to the public outpouring of anti-board sentiment directed toward those who would use school funds, tens of thousands of dollars annually, for personal health care packages.
   The Wednesday evening meeting site was moved to the Performing Arts Building on the Woodlake High School campus to accommodate more than 150 members of the public who attended the emotionally charged meeting. A separate item, the resignation of Tim Hire, superintendent, was also taken up in closed session.
   But it was the health benefits issue that generated the community interest. There were impassioned pleas from supporters for and against offered during the public comment period.
   At the end of the discussion, a motion to rescind was made by trustee Edmund Pena and seconded by trustee Kent Owen, but it did not carry. Those voting in favor of rescinding health insurance benefits for WUSD board members were: Pena, Owen, and Richard Rochin; those voting against rescinding were Helen Renteria, George Sanchez, Ralph Chapman, and Joe Hallmeyer.
   Several members of the audience were incensed by the outcome of the vote and stated that a recall of certain board members was all there was left to do.
  “The people in the district will do what they feel they have to do,” said Kent Owen, a trustee from Three Rivers. “But this issue will have to be in the background for the board because we must take care of our business and keep the district running smoothly.”
   The next order of business for the unified board is to replace Superintendent Hire. Hire’s last day on the job is June 30; on July 1 he starts his new job as the Exeter Schools superintendent.

3R outdoor store

to open next week

  It’s an idea that’s been in the works for several seasons now. Stock a local outlet with outdoor gear and outfit visitors so they may experience the best hiking and camping that the nearby national parks have to offer.
   That’s been the dream of John Uhlir, who moved here several years ago from the L.A. area, to be closer to the hiking, backpacking, and camping that he enjoys every chance he can get away. Now John’s dream can be fulfilled by the opening Tuesday, May 1, of Sequoia Outdoor Sports.
  “We’ll take it slow at first to see what trips work within the parameters of our park permit,” Uhlir said. “But we envision a store where visitors, especially Europeans and those who can’t bring all the gear on their trip, can be totally outfitted for a day hike or multi-day trips into the backcountry.”
   To make the idea a reality John had to find some knowledgeable guides who could manage the retail outlet on a daily basis and help plan trips ranging anywhere from a weekend to a week or two. Carolyn Pistilli and Chris Allensworth, both veterans of Bearpaw High Sierra Camp and long on backcountry experience, have been hired to run the day-to-day operations.
   In addition to serving visitors and locals who might want hiking tips or to rent camping gear, the store located in the riverfront building at 41881 Sierra Drive (between the Chevron station and Cort Gallery) will stock lots of accessories like hats, poles, sunscreen, clothing items, maps, and just about everything necessary for a high-country adventure.
  “We plan to cater to all levels of hikers and campers from the novice to the expert so stop by and give us a try,” John took the time to say, although he had one foot already out the door on his way to his most recent backpacking trip – a three-day expedition to Panther Creek on the Middle Fork Trail. “Hope to see you soon at Sequoia Outdoor Sports.”

Mail thefts reported

  In one of her final acts before she retired as the Three Rivers postmaster, Lori Ontiveros had the unpleasant task of investigating the theft of mail on Friday, April 20. The thefts occurred from several mailboxes located along Sierra Drive at Sunset Drive.
   Missing mail was discovered by the shoulder of the state highway by a woman who walks that route each morning. She told investigators that she did not notice the mail being there on the previous day so the mail was removed from the boxes since that time.
   None of the half dozen residents whose addresses were on the mail could think of anything that might have been taken. One woman was expecting a debit card so she said she would verify if the bank had mailed the card.
  “If you have a rural route mailbox it is critical to pick-up your mail as soon as possible,” said Lori. “Mail thieves are looking for checks, credit cards, and debit cards, and once they find them they will try to run up charges or make withdrawals from your bank accounts.”
   It’s also been proven that identity thieves routinely gain key personal information from stolen mail.
   Want secure mail delivery? Lori advises everyone to rent a post office box.

It's burglary season

  It never fails to be one of the few downers at this time of year. With warmer weather come more visitors and more opportunity for those of the criminal element looking for an easy heist.
   A couple of weeks ago, a local repairman working at a North Fork residence left a key in the door while he made a quick trip to the hardware store. When he returned 45 minutes later, apparently a thief had entered and removed a chainsaw and a vacuum cleaner.
   When the owner of the house returned the following weekend, he mused, “The person who stole my vacuum must have left in a hurry because they neglected to take the attachments. If they read this and still want them just let me know.”
   In a far more serious incident that occurred Thursday, April 19, two Hispanic males were observed leaving a Dinely Drive residence carrying a TV to their vehicle. In addition to the electronics, antique jewelry, firearms, and at least $300 in cash were taken in that heist.
   Property reported stolen in these recent burglaries was estimated to be worth several thousand dollars. Both cases are currently under investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.
   To report information on these or other crimes, call dispatch at 733-6218.

Suspected pot growers taken into custody

  It is not advised to try this at your house or property. In fact, avoid confrontations and call 911 immediately.
   A Three Rivers man, while visiting his Oak Grove property on Saturday, April 14, located seven miles up Mineral King Road, noticed human activity inside his trailer parked on the site.
   After returning to his vehicle to retrieve a handgun (the property owner reportedly has a concealed weapons permit), the owner entered the trailer and confronted the squatters.
   Gaining the advantage in the situation through the element of surprise, the local man was able to make a citizen’s arrest and hold two individuals at gunpoint until Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and took the trespassers into custody.
   According to unconfirmed reports, the two men had weapons, supplies, and the telltale starter trays of Dixie cups with pot seedlings in their possession. They were obviously mobilizing for a trip to their intended grow site.
   A Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, Sgt. Chris Douglass, said more information is being developed in the case and an announcement will be forthcoming as what charges were filed against the two defendants.
   Anyone who observes any suspicious activity, especially near the heavily used grow sites on public lands near the Sequoia National Park boundaries, should call the Sheriff’s dispatcher at 733-6318.

'Spread the Word to End the Word' campaign

reaches Woodlake High School

  As of this school year, there is a new class at Woodlake High School. And while the students in this class are learning their lessons, the rest of the student body is receiving an additional education that isn’t found in textbooks: lessons in tolerance, empathy, respect, and the hurtful consequences of one powerful word.
   Irene Barba of Three Rivers is the teacher of the Severely Handicapped Services class that now occupies Room 70 on the campus. Woodlake didn’t have this option for families with special needs in the past, so disabled children in the Woodlake School District had to travel to the Exeter district or elsewhere.
   For the past several years, Irene taught that Exeter class. But, being a 1978 graduate of Woodlake High School, she was only too happy to accept the Woodlake assignment. Now she’s back in the community where she was raised and at her high school alma mater.
   The Tulare County Office of Education operates programs to meet the full range of needs for mildly handicapped to profoundly handicapped students. Approximately 7,500 students from birth to 21 years of age are served by Special Education in the 46 school districts in the county.
   But since this program is new on the campus of Woodlake High, Irene saw the need for some bonding between the students in the conventional classes and her students. To that end, she started “Tiger Fusion,” which immerses her students into campus activities.
   In other words, instead of there being two separate groups of students, there is inclusion as they become one: Tigers.
   On Friday, April 20, Irene and the Tiger Fusion club members presided over an outdoor assembly. The event began with the WHS choir singing and signing a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” medley. A “flash mob” of students joined in, also signing the words to the song.
   Previously, Irene had placed an instructional video on YouTube and urged students to learn to use American Sign Language to communicate the song. At least one of her students communicates via sign language.
   Following the choir’s performance, Irene stood on her soapbox ­— literally, a box decorated with the “Tide” logo — to explain “Spread the Word to End the Word,” a national campaign that encourages people to pledge to stop using the word “retard.”
   A banner was presented that contained the pledge. All students, staff, and interested parties are invited to sign it. The signed banner will next be seen on a float during the Woodlake Rodeo Parade.
   The point of the campaign at this local assembly was to urge WHS students to stop calling their friends “retards” or telling their parents that they are “retarded,” or worst of all, using the word to describe a student in the Severely Handicapped Services class.
   This word might have been tolerated in previous years on the campus, but now there are students who have actually been labeled with the r-word in a derogatory sense and it’s hurtful, to the student, to their friends, to their families, Irene said.
   On behalf of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, Irene urged the use of a new r-word: Respect.
   The assembly ended on a less serious note with a cup-stacking contest, student versus student and teacher versus teacher versus superintendent.
   Cup stacking, also called speed stacking, is a popular recreational activity where participants stack and unstack 12 specially designed plastic cups in a predetermined sequence. It takes practice to master the art... and a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t for your opponents.

Science solutions

  Three Rivers Union School students took the Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair by storm this year. Five TRUS projects were honored during the 27th annual event’s awards presentation last month.
   The Tulare County Science Fair is held annual each March. Over 250 science fair projects from grades three through 12, representing schools throughout the county, are put on display for public view. This year at Three Rivers School, students in grades six through eight submitted science projects that were judged locally with the top projects advancing to the county competition.
   All science fair projects support a problem-solving methodology, adhere to the scientific method, and as such, are experimental in design. Science experts from a variety of fields in both the private and public sectors judge the projects, which are categorized within 10 major areas of content.
   Outstanding projects receive special recognition through the awarding of ribbons and plaques. The top three projects in each category receive a special award from a community-based business. Local industries and agencies also sponsor special awards for projects meeting specific criteria.
   The top science fair projects, as judged by a panel of experts, advance to compete in the California State Science Fair, held each May in Los Angeles. Kyle Beedle (right, in photo above) and Henry Pfaff (left), eighth-graders at Three Rivers School, will join just five other students from Tulare County at the 61st annual state fair, which will be held April 30 and May 1.
   Their project, “Phones and Reaction Time,” studied the use of cellphones while driving. At the county level, they received second place in the Behavioral Science category and were one of the “Top 30 Projects.”
   Other award-winning projects developed by TRUS students are:
Andy Garcia, eighth grade— “Nuclear Fallout or Garden of Eden?,” Top 30 Project; second place, Botany.
   Alijah Thorn, seventh grade— “Palette vs. Palate,” Top 30 Project; second place, Behavioral Science.
   Dillon Howell, sixth grade— “Land-Water Contrasts,” first place, Earth and Space Science; NOAA Award.
   Katie Pfaff and Shelby Parker, sixth grade— “How Hot Will It Get?,” third place, Earth and Space Science; NOAA Award.

Stop and smell the roses... really!

  The roses at Woodlake Botanical Garden, of which there are more than 100 varieties, are currently in full bloom. They are a colorful sight to behold and a treat for the olfactory senses. The garden, located on the north shore of Bravo Lake, is definitely worth a visit. It is overseen by Manuel Jimenez, a lifelong Woodlake resident. In 1993, Manuel and his wife, Olga, founded Woodlake Pride, a volunteer organization that puts youth to work on community-service projects, including the Woodlake Botanical Garden. The roses were planted 10 years ago, about the same time that the 1.2-mile walking path was constructed.

Local volunteer honored

  Last night (Thursday, April 26), at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Visalia, First 5 Tulare County presented Hands-On Heroes awards to local individuals and organizations for their selfless and passionate support of children from birth to age five.
   Heidi Schumacher of Three Rivers, lead organizer for activities at Our Place Playground, was presented with the “Exceptional Volunteer” award. Heidi currently schedules the weekly activities for preschoolers that are held at the playground, in the library, or involve an educational field trip.
   Our Place Playground, now five years old, was originally funded in part by a First 5 grant. First 5 is a county commission created to distribute tobacco tax monies for special projects.
   Currently, the Three Rivers Community Services District and Three Rivers Woman’s Club assist with the funding of the programs and activities. Volunteers, many of whom are parents of preschoolers, donate time and talents to the upkeep of the playground.

Quilt volunteers wrap up 16th season

  Comfort for Kids volunteers proudly display quilt number 23,600, which was one of the final quilts of the group’s 2012 season. All of the quilts have been made locally and donated to patients at Children’s Hospital Central California. Founded by Jack and Joyce Nielsen of Three Rivers, for the past 16 years, project volunteers have gathered at the Three Rivers Memorial Building each Tuesday from January through April to provide this labor of love.


'Garden Geeks' headline Woman's Club meeting

by Linda DeLisio

  Once again the ladies of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club met to enjoy association, delicious edibles, and discuss business old and new. I found most interesting the report of the comparison of sales at the Woman’s Club Thingerie Thrift Store over the years. The oldest year that was reported was 1997-1998. Total sales for the year were $15,762. Jumping forward to 2003-2004, total sales were $28,895. Sales increased in 2010-2011 to a whopping $40,817.00. So far for this year — 2011-2012 — we are at $39,713 with a quarter still to go.
   Now remember, all profits go back into the Three Rivers community in the form of scholarships and donations to organizations that need assistance.
   The April meeting featured a presentation by the Redbud Garden Club president Marcia Goldstein, who gave an overview of past and present activities plus hints for improving our own gardens and landscaping. The Garden Club has five public demonstration gardens throughout Three Rivers that they designed and now monitor via the club’s Garden Watchers Program, which ensures the plants are kept in good condition.
   I would bet many of you have seen club members out there planting and tending these gardens, which include the Three Rivers Post Office, the Cal Fire Station, the Tulare County Fire Station (South Fork Drive at Sierra Drive), the Three Rivers Library, and the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
   These garden ladies proved to have other talents too. Tips for a thriving Three Rivers garden were imparted on us by the “Garden Geeks,” a wild and wonderful rap group consisting of Denise Griego, Liz Nanney, and Mary Wood. We were told to “listen up,” and with a cool hip beat matching the steps of their feet, we were given precautions on how to deal with hot weather, cold weather, garden pests that destroy, and “tricks of their trade concerning plants that invade.”

Try plants that add color
at all different stages
Like poppies, lavender
and several different sages...
Listen up, that’s it
Gardens are a joy
so don’t you quit!
Can you dig it?

  It was a great meeting and we left full of delectable treats and with information to brighten our yards. This information was provided just in time to try it out on our spring gardens that will surely bring all types of challenges.
   The Three Rivers Woman’s Club’s next meeting is Wednesday, May 2, at 1 p.m., at the Memorial Building. Cinco de Mayo will be the theme, so I am looking forward to seeing if margaritas will be added to the endless lip-smacking table of treats.
   Woodlake High School’s MAYA Club dancers will be there to sashay their Spanish dancing skills.
   And a quick mention of the March meeting and St. Patrick’s Day dinner of which I was not able to write about last month. We all now have a little bit of Irish in us and a few extra pounds after we devoured the corned beef and cabbage dinner, catered by Antoinette of   Antoinette’s Coffee and Goodies. Music by Redwing was the finishing touch to a happy and satisfying evening.
   The Three Rivers Woman’s Club membership is open to all women of the community. For information about membership and more, call Bev at 561-3601.
   Linda DeLisio is the publicity chairperson for the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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