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In the News - Friday, July 13, 2012




TRUS in dire straits:

Enrollment declines, state funds flatline

By Holly Gallo

  “We’ve made it through tough times before. We can do it again.”
   So says superintendent, principal, and teacher Sue Sherwood in regard to the disparaging trend seen at Three Rivers Union School of decreased student enrollment and reduced funding.
   The enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year, documented at 134 students, is nearly 40 percent less than that of 10 years ago. Illustrating the poignancy of this drop will be this year’s eighth-grade graduating class of only eight students.
   TRUS noticed the number of students falling in accord with the housing market over the past few years, as parents who could no longer afford the commute to work were displaced to neighboring towns outside of Three Rivers.
   These reduced numbers spell trouble for the school’s revenue limit, which is directly correlated with average daily attendance. The 2011-2012 school year’s unrestricted revenue limit dropped 22 percent compared to that of the 2006-2007 school year.
   The $211,000 shortfall mirrors the 22 percent drop in student attendance over those same years.
   As a result, school expenditures have surpassed total unrestricted revenue by as much as $52,581.98 this last school year alone, according to the working budget as of July 9. This despite of the reduction in costs of certificated and classified salaries, operating expenses, and materials over the last six years.
   Put simply, Sherwood said, “There’s no money, and there’s a lot of cuts.”
   While the school is working to reduce deficit spending, there’s little else to cut without further jeopardizing educational programs.
   One measure the school has taken to limit expenditure is reducing the staff at TRUS. This year, the school will employ only seven teachers, including Sherwood herself.
   They are also combining grades, forming joint third-fourth, fourth-fifth, and seventh-eighth-grade classes. This move will minimize the number of teaching staff that will need to be employed, but it is also a necessity reflective of the reduced enrollment numbers.
   Furthermore, a volunteer staff will replace the regular library technician. Sherwood notes that the school is already working with a single employee each for the cafeteria and grounds maintenance.

  Sources of School Revenue— “In order to maintain adequate programs, pay teachers well, keep small classes, and continue to offer the full range of educational opportunities, we must look for ways to increase revenue,” Sherwood said.
   The amount of funding that a school typically receives from the government is inversely determined by the contribution of local property taxes. The school board notes that there has been a reduction of property values in Three Rivers, which implies further minimization of funding for the school.
   TRUS also receives restricted Title I funds — a federal program that provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards. These funds will allow   TRUS to hire two part-time instructional aides this year and provide the music instructor with additional working hours.
   While state support of public education has decreased in recent years, Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a tax initiative this year that, if passed, would hold the tax revenue begotten of a temporary sales tax increase into the Education Protection Account. If approved, 89 percent of the revenue therein would be saved for K-12 education, with the remaining 11 percent going to community colleges.
   The Three Rivers School board estimates that the governor’s tax initiative will provide the school with $60,000 and would significantly reduce deficit spending.
   A local source of much-needed funds is the Three Rivers Union School Foundation.
  “The TRUS Foundation has done a lot to support the school and continues to do so,” Sherwood said.
   The Foundation is currently heavily supporting the school’s music program, art program, facilities and maintenance, technology program, and the sixth-grade SCICON trip.
   Another option discussed during the November 2011 elections was that of the unification of the Three Rivers district with Woodlake elementary schools. Unification would allow better revenue opportunities for Three Rivers, as well as boost teachers’ salaries.
   The unification is not without concern. Some parents express apprehension with bussing their young children to Woodlake every day for school, while administrators are paying attention to the potential loss of autonomy and leveling of the Academic Performance Index (API) profile for the TRUS district.
   According to the 2011 API scores, TRUS ranks in at eighth out of 10 (with 10 being best) on a statewide level. This score is seven deciles higher than both F.J. White and Castle Rock elementary schools in the Woodlake district.
   Three Rivers parents may also be troubled by the possibility of losing local representation on the unified school board, which will host fewer positions and may eliminate Three Rivers delegates entirely.
   The school board’s main prerogative is to emphasize the dire state of Three Rivers Elementary. The school may be forced to take drastic means in as little as three years if the budget issues are not solved, including shutting its doors for good.
   The school board agrees that TRUS “simply has no other choice.”
   Despite the long road ahead to pulling TRUS out of the red, administrators remain hopeful.   “As long as the children remain the focus here,” Sherwood said, “we will successfully make it through this.”

TRUS to place parcel tax measure
on November ballot

By Holly Gallo

  Another Three Rivers School funding resource yet to be tapped can be found in the imposition of a district parcel tax. The parcel tax differs from the standard property tax in that it is based not on the value of the property but on certain characteristics of the parcel.
   The measure will be placed on the November 2012 ballot. The school board attempted to pass the tax initiative in the November 2010 election.
   Known on the ballot as Measure V, it proposed a flat rate of $56 per year for five years per property. Although it received more than 50-percent voter approval, it failed to acquire the two-thirds necessary for passage.
   Measure V failed, Sherwood suspects, due not to a lack of commitment to education and to the school on part of local residents, but rather because of a lack of information. This time around, Sherwood plans to improve on the quality and quantity of public outreach programs to ensure the passage of a parcel tax and, thus, the survival of the school.
   When the school board puts the initiative to vote again this November 6, they worry that some voters may be hesitant to pass the initiative. Voters navigating a floundering economy may not support the initiative, which is now proposed to contain a flat rate of $60 per year.
   The proposed parcel tax will not exclude senior citizens. Nor will it include a sunset date, but rather will be held to annual review and dismissed at such a time when the school has maintained two years sans deficit spending and can project an additional two years of similar budgeting not including funds collected from the tax.

Park ecologist injured during Circle Fire

  Tony Caprio, Park Service fire ecologist, suffered a broken ankle while he was attempting to get out of the way of white fir snag that fell as a result of the Circle Meadow Prescribed Fire. The 114-acre fire, ignited by NPS personnel on June 26, is currently in “patrol status,” which means that fire crews will keep watch on the Giant Forest blaze while it continues to smolder.
  “The safety of NPS fire personnel is our priority so there will be an investigation to see how accidents like this might be prevented in the future,” said Deb Schweizer, who is currently on assignment at the Mill Fire in Colusa County.
   After sustaining the broken ankle, Caprio was carried out of the recently charred forest on a litter by park rangers who were met by other park personnel with a wheeled litter where the trail becomes paved. Caprio was taken to a nearby parking area where he was transported by a waiting ambulance to the hospital for treatment.
   Deb also reported that all the trail closures related to the 500-acre Whitaker Prescribed Fire in Redwood Canyon have been lifted. The Circle Meadow Loop Trail and the lower portion of the Congress Trail remain closed.

Driver flees Highway 198 accident scene

  It’s an all too familiar Kaweah Country story. There’s a solo vehicle crash and the driver flees the scene before emergency personnel and the CHP arrive.
   That’s what happened with the Ford Ranger pickup that was found Thursday, July 5, shortly after 6 p.m. parked in the lot of the Family HealthCare Network health center.   According to evidence at the scene, the Ford Ranger, registered to Denis Daniel Rene of Three Rivers, was traveling eastbound on Sierra Drive (Hwy. 198) when the driver tried to make a left turn onto North Fork Drive.
   It appeared that the driver over-corrected and jerked the wheel causing the vehicle to roll, coming to rest right side up. The CHP report did not list any witnesses to the accident but a bystander at the scene said a man was hauling trash to be dumped at a Three Rivers business when the crash occurred.
   Trash scattered about at the scene contained paperwork and billing statements belonging to the owner of the truck.
  “We get a number of similar cases when there is obviously a crash and the driver flees the scene,” said Officer Brad Wright of the Visalia office of the CHP. “Since we have no driver and the only damage is to the vehicle with no reported injuries the investigation is closed.”
   As is customary in cases like these, the CHP arranged for a tow truck. If and when the owner claims the vehicle, he will have some explaining to do and a towing bill to pay.

  No DUI in MK Road mishap— Adwait Athlae, the 21-year- old Visalia man who survived a 200-foot plunge off the Mineral King Road on Friday, June 22, was not cited in connection with the pre-dawn accident that left him trapped in his vehicle for more than three hours. According to the accident report, alcohol and drugs were not a factor. The driver was wearing a seatbelt.
  “It was just a case of poor driving that caused the man to miss a curve in the road and plunge down a steep embankment,” said Officer Brad Wright of the Visalia CHP office. “The driver will get a point added to his DMV record, which means another incident or two could result in the loss of his driving privileges.”
   The single point penalty and notification of the driver’s insurance company, is a small price to pay when the accident could have easily resulted in a fatality.

Young motocross racer headed

to National Championships… again

By Holly Gallo

  Brandon Hernandez of Woodlake is an accomplished motocross competitor and he’s only 11 years old. By the age of six, he’d already won six national championships.
   For Brandon, this is just the beginning.
   Last month, Brandon beat 40 other contestants and won three national championships at the Road to Mammoth Motocross competition.
   Shortly before that, he claimed the prize as fastest in his class at the 2012 Northwest   Qualifying and Regionals, which took place April 14-22. His success there will send him to the Loretta Lynn Motocross MX National Championship in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., which will be held July 29 through August 4.
   Brandon recently gained professional amateur sponsorship through Fly Racing. He’s also participated as a factory rider for a European motorcycle company, and subsequently broken every machine they brought him to test ride.
   He’s even received his first professional call name: “The Flying Burrito.”
  “My wife wasn’t thrilled about the name at first,” said Tony Hernandez, Brandon’s father.
   As applied to a young Hispanic in a largely Caucasian-dominated sport, the nickname certainly has some potentially denigrating racial implications. Nevertheless, the family has resolved to accept the name, as local fans and new admirers have come to embrace it.
  “When I go pro, I want to get a lot of money, get a big house, and have a lot of cars,” said Brandon.
   In preparation for sending Brandon and his family to Tennessee for the Loretta Lynn National Championships, the family will be holding a fundraising rally at Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, 1330 N. Plaza Dr. in Goshen on Saturday, July 21, at 5 p.m. Hernandez’s sponsors will conduct a raffle with various prizes.
   Brandon’s fans are encouraged to attend to celebrate his recent success as well as donate to the funds that will support his trip to Tennessee.

Wood ‘N’ Horse is going at a gallop:

Competition, camp and historic trail ride

Horse Camp for Beginners is next week

  The downturn in the economy over the past several years has dealt a blow to the horse world, reported Christy Wood, a horse show judge and competitor. There are fewer shows to attend, making it difficult for riders, including Christy, to qualify their horses for the Appaloosa World Show in Fort Worth, Texas. in October.
  “The shows scheduled in California are a must for serious riders, and the Wood ‘N’ Horse show team has traveled quite a few miles during the first half of the year,” said Christy.
   One of the students that Christy is coaching is Teri Heick from Santa Maria and she did well at the show in May held at Rancho Murrieta taking home High Point Novice Non Pro.
   Christy has been showing her own horse, Blue Suede Dude, also her Rose Parade mount, and he has won High Point English horse at every show he has attended. Her most recent show at City of Industry during the weekend of June 2 and 3 offered three saddles for the winners, and Christy and Dude won two of them.
   Dude has qualified in four of his six classes so far, earning an invitation to the 2012 World Show this fall. There are two shows left, scheduled for August, and Christy is hoping Dude can finish his qualification points by the end of that month.
   Next up for Christy is the summer Horse Camp for Beginners she will host at Wood ‘N’ Horse next week. All ages are welcome; call 561-4268 for information.
In addition, she just signed a contract to publish her second book, entitled Ranger: The Little Horse with the Big Heart.
   This month, Christy will also be riding her ninth year on the Chief Joseph Historic Trail Ride in Montana. The Chief Joseph Trail Ride is considered one of the most historic trail rides in the U.S. today.
   Since 1964, the Appaloosa Horse Club has retraced, as closely as possible, the 1,300-mile trek that the Nez Perce took in 1877 during their “flight to freedom” to avoid being forced onto a reservation.
   The Chief Joseph is a progressive ride, meaning that it moves camp daily and yearly to follow the exact trail of the retreat. Each year, the ride covers 100 miles during a one-week period and takes 13 years to complete in its entirety.
   The ride started for its third consecutive 13 years in July 2004. For the ninth year, Christy will join a couple hundred other riders and their registered appaloosas.
   Beginning in 2004, Christy made a commitment to participate each year through 2016 and when completed, she will have ridden through four states — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
  “This is not a pleasure ride through a meadow,” explained Christy in 2005 after her second year on the trail. “You and your horse better be in top shape.”
   The extreme terrain and the canyon and river crossings are a true test of teamwork between horse and rider, she said.
   Although a doctor, veterinarian, farrier, water, portable toilets, and catered meals are provided, there are no showers, phones, or other modern luxuries. Of the couple hundred riders and their mounts that begin the week-long expedition each year, about one-fourth drop out by week’s end.
   For more information about the upcoming horse camp, local trail rides, or other Wood ‘N’ Horse-sponsored events, call Christy at 561-4268 or stop by the stables at 42846 North Fork Drive.

National Park Service horses and mules:
Tragic accident caused deaths

By Kelly Anez, DVM

  Instead of my usual column on pet care, I am going to discuss an event that affected all of us as citizens of this community and, for some of us, as lovers and patrons of our national parks.  And for those of us in the horse community, an event which has caused great sadness and empathy, but also anger and finger-pointing, spread by rampant rumors and misinformation of facts.
   A few weeks ago, on Sunday, June 3, a tragic event took place. As most people have probably heard, 10 National Park Service horses and mules died from water deprivation.
   Over a very hot weekend, the one water trough that supplied a herd of horses and mules ran dry, and over the next ensuing days the animals slowly died from thirst or trauma as they fought each other over the last remaining drops of water. As the media got wind of the situation and began reporting on the event, Pacific Crest Equine of Exeter was actively treating several of the affected animals in our hospital that were still struggling for their lives.
   The National Park Service and their livestock have been clients of ours long before this event, and this gives us something that has been sorely missing in the ensuing public persecution of the national park employees who oversaw the horses: historical perspective and testimony to character. If you believe the media and politicians who hopped on the we-must-blame-someone bandwagon, this was an issue of malicious neglect.
   Here is the other side of the story.
   The horses and mules that were affected reside in a remote location as this is the least expensive option for their care when they are not in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The stock overseers decided to leave the animals at this location longer than normal to save on hay costs.
   There is only one small water trough for all the stock, and it has been this way for over 40 years, way before the current staff was on board. The staff has a system of checking on the animals every other day, with a kind neighbor volunteer checking it on the off days.
   Sometime over the weekend, a bug caused an electrical short, which caused the pump to malfunction, shutting water off to the trough. The stock managers, when asked, are distraught over the rumor that they turned the trough off.
   Once it was discovered that the water was gone, a well-meaning but uninformed neighbor filled the trough, allowing the dehydrated animals free choice water, which caused water toxicosis (water deprived animals need to be reintroduced to water slowly). From the location and signs of the deceased animals, it appears that three or four actually died from the water toxicosis rather than dehydration.
   This occurred even before the Park Service employees were notified of the situation. When the park staff actually found out about the situation, they called us immediately for advice and to be present when they arrived.
   The ensuing scene was as horrific and devastating and tragic as one can imagine.
    When the National Park Service investigators interviewed Pacific Crest Equine staff after the fact, they asked if we had ever had any red flags as to neglect. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
   As one of our veterinarians stated in her report: “...[the employee in charge] has worked closely with PCE and takes excellent care of the animals in his charge. He goes above and beyond. We see him often for excellent preventative care and prompt care for any health concerns however minor that arise in the stock. All stock involved were in excellent condition...” prior to the event.
   The Sequoia-Kings Canyon staff we have worked with were extremely close to these animals. In spite of the parks’ budget being cut, they still take very good care of their animals.
   Their affection for the horses and mules under their care is obvious, and I cannot overstate the emotional trauma that this has caused them. To see them vilified in the media and at press conferences has been extremely difficult.
   As one of our employees stated, “If they could only see how well these animals had been cared for and what nice people the staff are, no one would be saying these things.”
   Is this a horrible event? Absolutely.
   Was the Park Service right to investigate? Of course.
   Should the media and everyone else who turned this event into a public lynching have gotten the full story before reporting on the event? One would have hoped it would have gone that way.
   As anyone who owns livestock or even companion animals know, sometimes accidents happen. Kittens get stepped on, dogs get locked in hot cars, and horses get caught in fences. I ran over my own dog.
   But in today’s society, we need a villain, and unfortunate events need to be blamed on someone. For those of us who knew and loved these horses and mules, this serves no purpose but to add public shame to a broken heart.
   Kelly Anez and her husband, Doug, are veterinarians and owners of Pacific Crest Equine in Exeter.

Crystal Cave reopened after temporary closure

  Crystal Cave was closed Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. (July 6) after Katie Wightman, cave manager, noticed some suspicious wiring during a routine lighting check. Historic dynamite blasting materials have been found before so Wightman, not taking any chances, immediately closed the popular Sequoia National Park attraction and summoned park rangers.
   The length of copper wire, approximately eight inches long, was not connected to anything and never posed a threat to anyone. Tulare County Sheriff’s Department bomb experts examined the wire that evening and said it was the type used by the Civilian Conservation Corps in making improvements to the cave in the 1930s.
   Wightman said because Crystal Cave’s passageways include more than three miles, much of which is not lighted, it’s not unusual to discover new formations and historic artifacts. The cave reopened for business as usual on Saturday morning.
   Mark Tilchen, executive director of the Sequoia Natural History Association whose organization operates Crystal Cave, said a full day’s closure would have cost SNHA a $5,000 loss in net income. That would mean that much less that SNHA, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks supporting non-profit, would be able to make available for education and park projects.
  “We have come to learn that unexpected things can happen when one operates an educational program in a remote area of a national park,” Tilchen said. “Because it was a holiday weekend, the NPS responded quickly to minimize the impact on all the visitors.”

Woodlake City manager retires after 15 years

By Holly Gallo

  Bill Lewis, city manager of Woodlake, retired from his post of 15 years on June 21. Looking back on his career, Lewis is proud of the projects that the city has undertaken under his leadership that most benefit Woodlake in the long term.
   One such project was the water tank upgrade, which doubled the storage capacity for water in the city and safeguarded Woodlake residents against issues that require additional water resources, such as fires.
   With a mindset toward the best future for Woodlake, Lewis considers the importance of making improvements to the downtown area in the coming years.
  “The future of Woodlake looks good,” Lewis said. “We have a good infrastructure, now we’re just waiting for the next big boom.”
   Though Lewis retired from city management, Woodlake remains close to his heart. “I put my roots down here,” Lewis said. “I’m not going away.”
   Now a full-time private citizen with five grandchildren, three of whom reside in Woodlake, Lewis looks forward to spending more time with family.
   As of June 22, Ramon Lara began his tenure as Woodlake’s city manager.


  Kimberly Martino, a soon-to-be sixth-grader at Three Rivers School, designed an award-winning billboard that can be seen along Highway 198 at Lake Kaweah. And there is more to this sign that meets the eye. If you see smoke, it is definitely no laughing matter, but even if you can smell smoke, it is hazardous to your health. Fire conditions are extreme now and seasonal restrictions regarding campfires, barbecues, and smoking are in effect in all areas of the Sierra foothills and mountains.


Lois Monson
1937 ~ 2012

   Lois Monson, a former resident of Three Rivers currently residing in Pioneer, passed away Sunday, July 1, 2012, in Jackson, Calif., with her children at her side. She was 75.
   Lois was born in Chicago but grew up in Southern California where she met her husband, Fred, when she was 20. They were married three weeks later; she “just knew!”
   Fred discovered Three Rivers in 1961 and fell in love with the place. Lois and the kids soon followed, and this is where they resided for nearly 40 years.
   Lois worked at Valley Oak Credit Union for 25 years. She retired as VOCU manager in 1992.
   While in Three Rivers raising her family, Lois was a houseboater and waterskier. The Monsons had the very first houseboat on Lake Kaweah, and Lois could be seen out there with her family most weekends.
   If she wasn’t out on the lake, she could be spotted cruising around the backcountry of Three Rivers in the family dune buggy. She was a Lady Lion and a “Reagan girl,” two things that she was very proud of.
   Lois was also an avid golfer. She was at the Three Rivers Golf Course every Friday night for the scrambles with her posse: Barbara, Em, Rayetta, Mickey, Vera, and Jackie.
   She also did a lot of traveling after retiring. She went to Sweden with her sister, Arlene, and cruised through the Panama Canal with her husband and children. The family had a timeshare in Cancun and would meet there every November.
   To celebrate her birthday each year, she would travel to Lake Tahoe. Actually, there was not a lot of celebrating, just a lot of gambling.
   In 2000, Fred and Lois relocated to Pioneer. They found the perfect piece of property, and Fred and their two children, Jeff and Jana, along with a reliable contractor, built her dream home.
   This is where she lived for the past 12 years. She golfed every day and was president of the ladies’ golf club at Mace Meadows Golf Course. She bought herself a golf cart and cruised around the course and the neighborhood. She also became involved in a ladies’ bridge club, which kept her busy for the past few years.
   Lois was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Fred (1935-2010); her sister, Arlene Baldwin; and, in 2010, her five-year-old granddaughter Khylee Monson.
   She is survived by her children Jeff Monson and Jana Monson (Julie Carlisle); grandchildren Katie Sarles (James), Todd Monson (Jessica), and Bailee Monson; and great-grandchildren Kaia Sarles and Chayton Sarles.
   No services are pending but the family is organizing a golf get-together at Mace Meadows in August.


David Lee Duncan
May 8, 1958 ~ July 15, 2006

   David Duncan was born and raised in Missouri by his grandparents. He studied culinary arts in Amsterdam. He passed away July 15, 2006, at the age of 48 in Port Angeles, Wash., due to complications of Hepatitis C. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, his son Jeremiah Duncan, and his brother, Douglas Duncan.
   Dave lived in Three Rivers from 1990 to 2000 and was married to Jeri Dieteren. He was employed as a chef at the White Horse Inn and the Noisy Water Restaurant. Almost everyone in town enjoyed Dave’s cooking at one time or another. He truly was an incredibly brilliant chef.
   Dave was self confident and never cared if anyone thought he was odd. He always had a great love for food and women. In high school he was teased by the other boys in his class for taking Home Economics instead of Wood Shop. His response was, “I am cooking in a class with 30 pretty girls, and the rest of you are in Wood Shop with 30 sweaty boys; who’s the dummy?” The next semester so many boys signed up for Home Economics that the school started a boys’ Home Economics class. I am sure Dave is still laughing about that one!
   Dave was a friend to all and loved to help people and animals. We can’t even count how many homeless animals he brought home. It became so many that we couldn’t keep them all; however, we always found a loving home to place them in. I’m sure many of you remember “Chester” the llama.
   Dave’s kindness was always overflowing. We remember one year when all the restaurants were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Dave cooked at home all day and delivered Thanksgiving meals to over 20 people.
   We also remember when the North Fork Bridge was flooded, resulting in many people being struck on the other side of the river without power. Dave purchased every bottle of water in town and delivered it to the folks stuck across the river by crossing on a downed tree.
   Dave was a lot of things in life: an odd duck with a big heart, a fine chef, a hard worker, a compassionate man, and a jokester. He was truly a unique person. He was the type of guy that could wear a pink shirt or suspenders and not be bothered by what anyone thought. He had great passion for food and drink. Dave fully enjoyed life and lived it to its fullest.
   In 1995 Dave was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was expected to only live two to three years from that point (that was our secret). He proved the doctors wrong by living another 11 years.
   The Dieteren family wanted the people in Three Rivers whose lives Dave impacted to know that he is now at rest with his Lord and Savior.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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