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In the News - Friday, August 13, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


School board candidates
Qualify for November ballot

   Candidate filings for the Woodlake Union High School and Three Rivers Union School governing boards were finalized this week by the Tulare County Elections Office. The Woodlake race has four candidates for three seats while the Three Rivers election features five candidates vying for three seats.
   All three incumbents on the Woodlake board — Richard Rochin, Charles Mills, and Edmund Pena (Three Rivers) — are seeking reelection. The lone challenger is Ralph Alley, who is hoping some anti-incumbent sentiment might open up at least one seat.
   In Three Rivers, only incumbents Scott Sherwood and Bob Burke are seeking reelection. Bobbie Harris, lifetime resident of Three Rivers and retired TRUS teacher, is not seeking re-election.
   The field of challengers includes Chris Carpenter, George Kulick, and Sue Winters. All three are parents of students who currently attend TRUS.

New at Woodlake High:
Teachers, rooms, semesters

   The seasons are shifting from summer to fall, and Woodlake Union High School is experiencing changes as well. A half-dozen new teachers are endemic of the turnover that is occurring at nearly every high school campus in California.
   The changes to the campus might be even more obvious to observers. Replacing the four old trailers are four new permanent classrooms. A new set of bathrooms has also been completed.
   Administratively speaking, vice principal Tony Casares is no longer working at the high school. However, he is still in the district, now working at Bravo Lake continuation school located nearby the district’s main high school campus. Taking his place is former mathematics teacher Rick Rodriguez who steps into the position of learning director/assistant principal.
   WHS is introducing seven new teachers this year: David Boswell, English; Mark Browning, Agriculture; Robert Castillo, English; Tori Johnson, Leadership; Nathan Meik, Special Education; Ben Otto, Math; and Tiana Ring, Math.
   David Boswell grew up in Oroville and received a B.A. in Philosophy at Chico State. He later received his M.A. in Humanities from Cal State Dominguez Hills. His teaching credential was earned at the University of Phoenix.
   Boswell said teaching was a second career; for more than 20 years he served as a Protestant minister. His most recent teaching position was with the Sacramento City Unified School District, the most culturally diverse district in the nation with 45,000 students who speak 32 languages.

  “I’m really impressed with my colleagues here at this school district, and I’m hoping to teach at Woodlake for a long time,” Boswell said.
   Mark Browning will be the new agriculture teacher, teaching Mechanized Agriculture as well as physical and earth science.   Growing up in Modesto, Browning attended Cal Poly where he earned his B.S. in Agriculture. He then received his teaching credential at Fresno State.
   Browning has been teaching for 11 years and is looking forward to meeting and teaching the students, as well as attending the Tiger football games.

  “I am excited to be here and helping out and to make a difference in the lives of these students,” he said.
   Robert Castillo (see Neighbor Profile in the August 13 print edition) is the new freshman English teacher. Born in Alaska, Castillo spent his school years in Woodlake. He majored in English and minored in Education at UC Santa Cruz. He recently received his M.A. in Education (UC Santa Cruz) after earning his teaching credential at Bethany University. He has been a substitute teacher for three years. This is his first full-time teaching assignment. He will also help out as an assistant coach for the JV football team.
   Tori Johnson is not new to Woodlake or to Three Rivers. She has been a part of the WHS family for 11 years, coaching the varsity volleyball team, as well as other sports teams.
   In addition, she is involved in a variety of community and school events as well as advisor for the WHS Friday Night Live program.  This year, Johnson will be the Leadership instructor, as well as teach the TCOVE Child Care class. As Leadership instructor, Johnson will be in charge the school’s student council and various school events.

  “I hope to bring back an emphasis on school activities,” said Tori, “like the lip sync and the carnival.”
   Tori grew up in Pasadena and graduated from Fresno Pacific University with a major in Liberal Studies. This is her first teaching job at WHS and she will continue as head coach of the girls’ volleyball team.
   Tiana Ring is new to the math department this year. She will be teaching college prep classes, four Algebra classes, and one Geometry class. Ring grew up in Bakersfield, and attended CSU Bakersfield.
She received her B.S. in math in 2009 and her teaching credential this year. This is her first teaching position.

  “I am a little nervous,” said Ring. “But I am also incredibly excited, and I can’t wait for school to start.
   Ben Otto and Nathan Meik were not available for interview. Kathryn Keeley contributed to this article.

Familiar faces joining

staff at Three Rivers School

   Three Rivers Union School, like nearly every school district in America, is belt-tightening and preparing for some continued tough times when it comes to balancing the budget.
   For example, Sue Sherwood is teaching the TRUS sixth-grade class. This year will mark her return to the classroom after serving as the school district’s superintendent and principal for the past 14 years. Sherwood will also continue the two administrative posts.
   The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school is also bringing back former eighth-grade teacher, Gail Matuskey, to temporarily fill the third-grade teaching position. Previous third-grade teacher, Linda Warner, will teach fourth grade, which effectively eliminates the need for a third/fourth-grade combination class.
   In other TRUS news, Sue Winters, the school’s resource specialist, transferred to Strathmore. She will be replaced by Patty Moore, longtime Three Rivers resident who has previously taught at TRUS, but recently retired from Visalia Unified.
   Arlin Talley, the pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church, will come onboard as a schoolbus driver. John Crabtree, the long-time driver who is looking to retire, will now only be required to drive a single shift, starting in September with the addition of Talley.
   Kathryn Keeley contributed to this article.

Three Rivers School bond

on November ballot

By Greg Sweet

   Three Rivers residents take pride in their K-8 school and the ability to provide cultural programs such as sports and the arts. In a town where there are few private-sector options, these programs are especially valuable to the children.
   But, naturally, sports and arts programs come at a price, and times are tough for Three Rivers Union School.
   A general obligation bond, expected to be on the ballot this fall, as well as one already in effect, promise to improve schools in Three Rivers and Woodlake.
   Measure V, which is not yet listed on the Tulare County elections website, will propose a limited-tax pledge for TRUS.

  “I just got the email myself,” said Susan Sherwood, superintendent/principal, on Wednesday. “But they are saying the measure would be a tax of $56 \per parcel per year for the next five years.”
   Sue, who is pulling double duty by also teaching the sixth-grade class this year, said that in addition to supporting music, arts, and sports programs, the bond would keep teachers in “single classrooms” so that they will not have to simultaneously teach multiple subjects in “combination classrooms.”
   Without additional help from Three Rivers residents, TRUS might be forced to join Woodlake Elementary Unified School District.
“Woodlake is a fine school district,” said Sue. “However, it is very important to us that we retain our autonomy. This bond would keep us from being blended with them.”
   She noted that the two communities are quite different and decisions regarding the Three Rivers school ought to remain local.
Three Rivers students who go on to Woodlake High School will find improvements funded by an existing bond.

  “Measure C was passed in February 2008 on general obligation,” said superintendent Tim Hire. “It pledged $4.5 million for new classrooms, sports, and performing arts.”
   Plans also include the renovation of the football stadium, including the addition of an all-weather track made from recycled materials.


TRUS band teacher has La Sierra history

By Athena Saenz

   During the week of August 1 to 7, young musicians from all over the Central Valley attended La Sierra Creative Arts Camp. The camp is held at Camp Green Meadows located in Fish Camp near Yosemite, and is a week full of music, fun, friends, and wonderful memories.
   This year, eight Three Rivers Union School students were able to attend. I was so pleased that more students were interested (last summer, there were four), and I hope more and more are able to attend in the future. This year’s crew was: Elliott Arnold, Henry Pfaff, Claire Hamm, McKenzie Kelly, Abbie Friel, Gunnar Little, Terran Brown, and Sage Davis.
   La Sierra accepts music students that are in fifth grade all the way through the summer after their 12th grade year. No, you don’t have to be a virtuoso or even a first-chair player in your band to be qualified to go. You just have to have an open heart, a craving for learning new music, and the ability to just let go and have fun.
   I attended La Sierra for the first time when I was in seventh grade. It was amazing to be in an environment full of music lovers.
   I learned so much that year, and vowed I would go back every summer. When my time ran out (12th grade summer), I asked if I could come back as a counselor and, lucky for me, they said “Okay.” I have now attended my 11th year of camp.
   So what do we actually do at La Sierra music camp? Bottom line: have fun.
   On the first day, the students audition to be placed in one of two bands: the concert band (mostly comprised of middle school students) or the symphonic band (mostly late high school). They also have the option of auditioning for a jazz band.
   Throughout the week, students have rehearsals with their band, but also receive more specialized time through ensemble, sectional, and private-lesson instruction. During the afternoon, there is recreation where the kids take hikes, wade in the creek, or play sports for cabin points.
   In the evening, the activities consist of relays (including neckball, now an official La Sierra sport), game show night, and skit/air guitar night. Two very important nights are the staff concert night and student recital night.
   On staff night, the students listen to their instructors and counselors show off their talents. A lot of the instructors are well-known throughout the U.S., so it’s an honor as a student to get to hear a top-notch group perform a private concert.
   When the students take their turn on recital night, it’s exciting for me to see how much they’ve learned in just a matter of days. It’s also nice because few of them have ever had the opportunity to perform soloistic pieces.
   On the last night, we celebrate with a dance, sometimes adorned in wacky costumes (don’t ask!), then the next morning the two bands and the jazz bands put on an outstanding concert for the parents.
   Throughout the week, I saw Three Rivers students laugh, play music, dance, and be involved like I’ve never seen before. I was ecstatic to see them act so comfortably.
   I also saw them take great strides as musicians. A lot of them progressed without even realizing it; they were too busy having a great time.
   Another great thing was that they all made friends with other students from around the Valley. The most loved and cherished friends in my life I made at camp starting 11 years ago. They’ve all spread out now to places like Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, other parts of California, and have even traveled to other parts of the world. Most make sure to make it back every summer to be counselors at camp, and we all still communicate and take part in each others’ lives because of the strong bond we made at camp.
   I’m so glad I got to introduce my students to something that means so much to me, something I look forward to all year, and the reason why I want to be a music educator. I’m sure when school starts next week, they will be full of zany stories, and the countdown for La Sierra 2011 will begin!
   If you’d like to learn more about the camp, or see a funny picture of me with a beard, visit www.lasierracamp.org.
   Athena Saenz is the part-time band and music teacher at Three Rivers Union School.



Missing man’s body
recovered from Lake Kaweah

   The body of Mark Burgess was recovered by a search team Tuesday, Aug. 10, 71 days after the Tulare contractor was ejected from the boat in which he was riding after it collided with a Jet Ski. A coroner’s report of an autopsy conducted Wednesday morning revealed that the body was in a good state of preservation due to being on the lake bottom with a water temperature of 40 degrees.
   Since the Memorial Day weekend accident, the lake level has dropped more than 65 feet. A search team on loan from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, using a robotic camera discovered the victim on the lake bottom less than 200 feet from the Greasy Cove accident site.
   The next day, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee snagged the clothing of the victim with a rope connected to a robot. After nudging it toward the surface, the body eventually broke free and floated the rest of the way up.
   Matt Murphy, a park ranger at Lake Kaweah, said he believed some visitors might have stayed away this summer because of reports about the accident and the missing body. According to the coroner, the toxicology reports are “problematic” at this time; the cause of death is officially a “fresh water drowning.”

Death on the Shuttle

Visalia man dies during park tour

   A Sequoia Shuttle rider, Michael Spencer Dowling, 46, of Visalia died Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 10, after he lost consciousness while the passenger shuttle was parked near the General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park. Persons at the scene administered CPR to the victim until park personnel arrived.
   Medical personnel tried to revive the victim for approximately 40 minutes. Dowling was pronounced dead at 1:10 p.m.
   The fatality is the first to occur in the four years that the Sequoia Shuttle has been operating within the national park. The cause of death is pending the findings of an autopsy.

Vehicle length restrictions

in effect on Generals Highway

   The ongoing road construction on the Generals Highway is an inconvenience for all park visitors but most seem to accept the intermittent waiting cheerfully. As of this Monday, Aug. 9, park rangers began to enforce a Federal Highways closure order that forbids all vehicles over 22 feet in length from traveling the portion of the Generals Highway from Hospital Rock to the Giant Forest.
Prior to the new restrictions, the larger RV rigs were only being advised not to travel through Sequoia National Park. According to a release that was circulated earlier this week by Dana Dierkes, parks information officer, rangers will be turning vehicles around that are longer than 22 feet.
   The standard recreational vehicle (RV) rentals, which are popular with park visitors, are 22 feet in length. But the majority of rentals and the owner-operated RVs are much larger and often tow an additional vehicle.
   The restrictions are expected to remain in effect through December 31 and could be extended into next year if the current construction project is not completed. Federal Highways officials closed the approximate 10-mile portion of the Generals Highway because the narrow one-lane stretch that accommodates heavy vehicle traffic through the construction zone is considered dangerous, especially for the larger RVs.
   A spokesperson for the parks said if there was a wreck or fire, emergency vehicles and hundreds of waiting motorists would find it nearly impossible to get in or out on the winding mountain highway.
   The news of the new restrictions took local businesses owners like Roger and Margaret Disinger of Lemon Cove-Sequoia Campground by surprise. The couple, who has owned the popular campground below Lake Kaweah for 32 years were wondering if park officials or the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce had considered the effect the new vehicle restrictions might have on the local tourist industry.
Roger Disinger said the new restrictions could have a devastating effect on local businesses. When RV owners of the larger rigs hear of the closure they will simply go elsewhere, Roger said.
   In addition to fees for parking at campgrounds, RV owners buy groceries, gas, and eat at local restaurants. Nobody has calculated the effect that the on-going road construction has had on area businesses though local operators have lots of customers right now as August is traditionally the busiest month of the year.
   This summer, travelers are experiencing construction in parks and on highways all across America. According to the Federal Highways Administration website, there are currently 12,800 projects like the Generals Highway road construction under obligation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As of this week, more than 8,000 projects are currently under construction; more than 3,300 projects have been completed.
   A complete Generals Highway road construction schedule appears in the August 13 print edition.

Sequoia-Kings Canyon implements

seasonal fire restrictions

   In these parts, summer fire restrictions come with the territory. It’s not if, but rather when, because no matter how much precipitation the previous season brings, the local foothills turn brown and tinder dry.
   To lessen the risk of a human-caused fire, and owing to extreme fire danger, the following fire restrictions are in effect for all areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:
   No wood or barbecue fires are permitted below 6,000 feet except in designated campgrounds. This includes Ash Mountain Picnic Area, Hospital Rock Picnic Area, and wilderness travel below 6,000 feet. Gas or propane stoves may used at all elevations.
   No smoking is permitted below 6,000 feet except within a developed area, a campground, an enclosed vehicle, or a building that might allow smoking.
   These current restrictions will remain in effect until further notice.

  “We are especially concerned about smoking in the construction zone with the one narrow lane of roadway and hundreds of vehicles waiting to pass,” said Deb Schweizer, the parks fire education specialist. “The difficulty in evacuating everyone from that area in the event of a fire is posing a serious threat to public safety.”
   In addition, smokers should know to never toss a burning cigarette from a car window. Use the vehicle’s ashtray and dispose of cigarettes properly.
   In other fire-related news, the Sheep Fire near Cedar Grove has grown to nearly 400 acres. Smoke is present in Cedar Grove but is being dispersed by late afternoon in the current weather pattern.
Presently, the fire does not pose a threat to visitors or any property.   The Don Cecil Trail remains closed for public safety.
   The other three fires caused by lightning last month are currently showing little or no fire activity. No smoke is in the immediate forecast for residents of Three Rivers or visitors to the Kaweah canyon.
   The Bull Fire north of Kernville is now 100-percent contained and all roads and campgrounds have reopened.
   There is still no date set for ignitions to begin on the Redwood Meadow Prescribed Fire in Kings Canyon National Park and at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Kaweah River. That 634-acre fire will be lit when air quality and manpower allow.

Sight for sore eyes

Optometrists set up shop in Woodlake

By Brian Rothhammer

   Eyesight is surely one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon us. Trevor Steidley knew to appreciate this as he grew up in Lindsay in southern Tulare County. Blindness ran in his family.

  “It was a local doctor who initiated my curiosity in the eye,” related Dr. Steidley. His grandparents lived in Lemon Cove, and Dr. Kuykendahl sparked young Trevor’s interest.

  “I became fascinated with vision and chose the field of optometry as it became my passion to help others,” he said
   After high school, the future doctor attended the University of LaVerne in Southern California prior to graduating from the Illinois College of Optometry in 1994. Following an internship at a Veterans Hospital in West Virginia, he went on to practice in New Braunfels, Texas, as well as Seattle, Wash., and Reno, Nev.
   During this odyssey, he met Colleen Ito of Wahiawa, Hawaii. Dr. Ito had graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1985, majoring in biology. She then went stateside to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., for Optometry School. She graduated in 1989.
   Having set eyes on each other, a partnership ensued, both personally and professionally. By 2009 the now Mr. and Mrs. opened a new practice of their own in Woodlake at 160 S. Valencia, Suite B.

  “It’s so good to be back,” said Dr. Steidley. “I wanted to return to my home, my neighbors, and my family. I could see that there was a real need for services in Woodlake.”
   Both Drs. Steidley and Ito expressed that they are looking forward to seeing folks from Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, Woodlake, and neighboring communities.
   Along with the new Woodlake office, the husband-and-wife team also acquired an established practice in Porterville at 100 North D Street upon the retirement of that office’s optometrist.
   Isn’t it way past time to have your eyes checked? The Woodlake office is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can reach them by phone at 564-2020.


Bill Lane


  Bill Lane, former Sunset magazine publisher, died Saturday, July 31, at Stanford Hospital. He was 90.
   Mr. Lane served as co-publisher of Sunset with his brother, Mel, from the late 1950s until 1990 and oversaw Sunset Books. Both ventures reflected Mr. Lane’s view of what it meant to live in the West in the modern era, said Jon Christensen, director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford.
   Mr. Lane was born November 7, 1919, in Des Moines, Iowa, and moved to Palo Alto as a boy after his father, Laurence Lane, purchased a literary magazine from Southern Pacific Railroad known as Sunset.
   Mr. Lane has said that a trip to Yosemite National Park at the age of nine forever altered his world view. As a result, in the 1940s, he spent summers working his first jobs in Sequoia and Yosemite national parks.
   In Yosemite, one of his duties was to call out “Let the fire fall!” to initiate the push of embers over the edge of Glacier Point at night to create a visual spectacle for the viewers 3,000 feet below in Yosemite Valley.
   Mr. Lane graduated from Stanford University in 1942, then served in the Pacific theater during World War II.
   He returned to California to help expand his family’s publishing empire. He was one of the first publishers to decline tobacco advertising as a matter of principle and later banned Ortho gardening products that contained pesticides.
   The Lane brothers sold their company in 1990 to Time Warner for a reported $250 million. He remained active in the magazine’s direction, in community affairs, and donated millions to conservationist endeavors and his college alma mater.
   In 1995, the National Parks and Conservation Association named him conservationist of the year.
   He is survived by his wife and three children.


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