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In the News - Friday, October 22, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Five vie for three

TRUS board seats


  Three Rivers Union School is at a major crossroads, and much of the school's future currently rests in voters' hands. The upcoming election is perhaps the most important facing the school since 1927, when Three Rivers voters decided that unionization was the direction for the school to take.

  On November 2, voters will decide Measure V, which, if approved, will provide TRUS with $100,000 annually for five years to ensure that the school remains viable and, as thus, its own single-school district.

  Voters will also decide who will be governing TRUS into the next decade and who are the best candidates to make the tough fiscal decisions that are currently looming.

  Two incumbents and three challengers are vying for three seats. Bobbie Harris, whose family has more than a century of service to Three Rivers School over three generations, will be leaving the board after two terms.

  Meet the candidates, all of whom are willing to devote the time and energy to the betterment of Three Rivers Union School and its students. (The order in which the candidates' statements appear was determined by a random drawing.)


Scott Sherwood


Resident of Three Rivers for 23 years

  Age: 31

  Occupation: Retail store manager

  Family: Wife Cynthia and three daughters, Hannah, 10; Christina, 9; and Sierra, 3.

  Community involvement: Been an active board member of the TRUS board of trustees for four years, president of Deer Meadow Mutual Water Com pany, participates in community clean-up days and public lands works as the opportunities arise.

  Interests/hobbies: Spending time with my family above all else. Aside from that, anything outdoors: fishing, camping, hiking, backpacking, golf. Teaching my children to appreciate those things as much as I do is always an added bonus.

  Goals as a trustee of Three Rivers Union School : My primary goal is to continue, and always improve on, the level of education offered at TRUS. We have a staff of dedicated professionals who are committed to not only our children's academic success but also their m aturity and growth as they transform into good citizens and members of our community.

  Top priority as a member of the TRUS board: Aside from the obvious — our children's wellbeing and education — the financial state of the school district will be one of the largest challenges in the upcoming years. Maintaining our autonomy as a single-school district will be challenging with the fiscal position the State of California is currently in. We have many hard decisions as a school and a community ahead of us, but I firmly believe we have the right staff, students, and community members to make it work and continue to thrive.

  Philosophy regarding the education of Three Rivers children: I have always believed that our teachers and staff at TRUS are second to none. I believe that my reasonability as a board member is to ensure that each student receives the best education possible, academically as well as personal growth and social development. I also believe the best way for me to do that is through the support and encouragement of our staff. Our teachers and office staff have struggled with the challenges due to the state's budget crisis more than anyone, but still continue to deliver outstanding results.

  I am proud of the TRUS board's support of the students and staff during the last four years and am looking forward to the opportunity to continue that support for the next four years.


George Kulick


Resident of Three Rivers from 1965 to 1980

and 2007 to present

  Age: 54

  Occupation: Director of Engineering, USDA Forest Service, Region 5 (retiring December 2, 2010 )

  Family: Wife Debbie and children, Maryrose Kulick, 15, and John Kulick, 13.

  Community involvement: Member of St. Clement's Anglican Church in Woodlake.

  Interests/hobbies: Support to my family, woodworking, cooking, construction, and watercolor painting.

  Goals as a trustee of Three Rivers Union School : To ensure the high standards of education will remain in place for all of our upcoming students and to seek new ways to enhance the overall appearance and learning environment of TRUS.

  I hope to use my past governmental experience in managing human resources, managing large and complex budgets, and managing infrastructure to assist the superintendent and the other board members in effectively leading TRUS into the future.

  Because of my upcoming retirement from the Forest Service, I will have time to devote to my community. My goal is to bring a set of skills in managing complex issues, people, and highly variable budget scenarios in a governmental environment to the TRUS board and help TRUS to reach new goals.

  Top priority as a member of the TRUS board: To effectively work with the board as a team member and to ensure that each grade is staffed with a qualified and highly motivated instructor. Additionally, to remain fiscally healthy in this contracting financial atmosphere and to address deferred maintenance issues at TRUS.

  Philosophy regarding the education of Three Rivers children: Our children must receive a strong education in basic skills — reading, writing and math — but I have learned along the way that we must also seek to provide a well-rounded education in the arts, sciences, and technology.

  In addition, as a person involved in natural resource management for many years, I believe we have some wonderful opportunities in Three Rivers to better understand and teach our children about the world we live in. As we know, we are truly blessed to live in such a great community. I would like to see us underscore that privilege of living in a great small community and for our children to understand the ecosystems at work right in our backyards.

  Additional comments: We made a conscious decision to return to Three Rivers. With my parents living in Three Rivers, I have always considered Three Rivers to be home, and we have always spent time in Three Rivers every year. Even with our 30-plus years of travels with the Forest Service, which took us to many great places across the U.S. , Three Rivers always beckoned us home. I wanted very much for my children to go to school where I went to school. It was a proud day, indeed, when my daughter, Maryrose, graduated from TRUS, where 40 years prior, I too graduated. This year, my son John will also graduate from TRUS.


Robert Burke


Resident of Three Rivers for 32 years

  Age: 56

  Occupation: High school teacher

  Family: Wife Brenda and two adult children, Katie and John.

  Community involvement: Three Rivers Recreation Commission (mid 1980s), Three Rivers School Site Council president (mid to late 1980s), Three Rivers School board of trustees (1989-2002), Woodlake High School board of trustees (2002-2006), Three Rivers School board of trustees (2006 to present).

  Interests/hobbies: Writing, gardening, road trips with Brenda, and keeping our 1966 Triumph TR4A on the road.

  Goals as a trustee of Three Rivers Union School : Maintain the quality with less money coming in. Keep Three Rivers Union School the center of the community and continue to give our students an excellent foundation for educational success.

  Top priority as a member of the TRUS board: Survive the current cuts in education while, at the same time, giving our students a top-notch educational experience.

  Philosophy regarding the education of Three Rivers children: Three Rivers Union School is unique in that it is still providing a well-rounded education in the era of high-stakes testing. Being able to excel in state-mandated tests and still provide time for field trips, the eighth-grade trip, and other essential educational experiences sets us apart from other districts. Our school thrives because our community, parents, and volunteers have actively supported TRUS for generations. I would like to keep this tradition alive.


Chris Carpenter


Resident of Three Rivers for four years

  Age: 33

  Occupation: Project manager

  Family: Wife Jennifer and two daughters, Riley, 7, and Allie, 4.

  Community involvement: Assist Jennifer with the TRUS Halloween Carnival.

  Interests/hobbies: Sports, backpacking, fishing, rock climbing.

  Goals as a trustee of Three Rivers Union School :

  1. Work with school management, local community, and board members to develop a near and long-term vision for the school district.

  2. Provide leadership and direction in the development of a school district organizational structure that is effective, efficient, and capable in order to provide the highest quality of education and enrichment activities while being fiscally responsible.

  3. To ensure professional decision-making processes are utilized with the input of the community, school staff, and parents to provide subjective and accountable decisions and policies.

  Top priority as a member of the TRUS board: Based on the state's current fiscal climate, my top priority would be goal no. 2 (see above).

  Philosophy regarding the education of Three Rivers children: The education and development of our children should be important to everyone since the strength of our great nation will be in their hands long after we are gone. Education of our children comes in many forms and the Three Rivers School District can and should provide a balanced mix between core curriculum, arts, sports, and basic life skills.


Sue Winters


Resident of Three Rivers for 14 years

  Age:   56

  Occupation: Resource teacher for Tulare County Office of Education. I was assigned to TRUS for the past four years and reassigned to Strathmore Elementary this fall. I'm also an instructor for the Impact Teacher Intern Program, and for BTSA, which supports new teachers. I've been an educator for 31 years. Before moving to Three Rivers, I directed a literacy training program in Orange County for four years for adults with dyslexia.

  Family: My son, Terran Brown, who has attended TRUS since kindergarten and will graduate in June; and two cats, Cody and Katrina.

  Community involvement: Past president of the TRUS Eagle Booster Club (formerly PTA ), CyberQuest coach for three years, member of several local groups (Arts Alliance, Historical Society, California Native Plant Society, Tulare/Sequoia Gourd Patch, Yoga of the Sequoias Co-op, Friends of Three Rivers Library, and two book clubs).

  Interests/hobbies: Chauffeuring Terran and his friends, reading, gourd art, yoga, camping, hiking, music, traveling and, most important, time with family and friends.

  Goals as a trustee of Three Rivers Union School : As a trustee, I will w ork to assure that TRUS provides ex cellent educational opportunities and thus provides high value to the taxpayers. As a parent and community member, I feel it is important to continue the music and art programs, to maintain high academic standards, to encourage close communication between parents and staff, and to ensure that all students are developing the skills they will need to be successful adults.

  Top priority as member of TRUS board: My top priority is for TRUS to continue as an independent school district. Finances are very tight for everyone, and I greatly appreciate the Three Rivers community, which continues to be so supportive of our school. Community members generously give their time, energy, and money to help our school meet the needs of our children. Voting YES on Measure V will allow TRUS to continue to provide an excellent education for our students (and it only requires $1.07 per week!). Supporting our school is a worthy investment in our community.

  Philosophy regarding the education of Three Rivers children: During my 14 years with Tulare County Office of Education, I have had the opportunity to visit and/or work at more than 30 local schools and districts. In my experience, Three Rivers Union School is unique.   The entire staff works very hard and truly enjoys the students.  Teachers are available before and after school, as well as during recess and lunch to give extra help. They provide a rich and challenging curriculum, maintain high expectations, and are powerful role models for our children. The staff goes the extra mile, and every child gets personal care and attention. I have yet to find another school with this unique culture, and I am very grateful that my son has been educated at TRUS.

  I believe that every child should have access to a quality education – this is critical for our children. In these tough economic times, it is necessary to operate with intense fiscal responsibility, and we are forced to cut back in many areas. Nevertheless, providing a strong educational program must remain our top priority. A good school is vital to the success of our community.

  I feel blessed to have been part of the staff at TRUS for four years, and now look forward to supporting our school and community as a member of the TRUS board.


Kaweah Post Office:

The ‘ramshackle redwood box'


By Brian Rothhammmer

 This article written in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Kaweah Post Office. A celebration of this fete will be held this weekend.  

  Just what is the Kaweah Post Office, and what makes it so special? The 10-by-12-foot “ramshackle redwood box,” as it has been described, was built in 1910 by six local ranchers who donated their time, labor, and the considerable sum of $15 for materials to provide a stable and permanent place for their neighbors to receive mail.

Whether intended or not, the little utilitarian cabin they built has a harmony of form that borders on elegance. It is honest, simple, and straightforward. Soon it would become an indelible part of the community.

  Kaweah Colony. By May 1890, the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony had established a United States Post Office at Advance. Later that year, the name was changed to Kaweah. Without a post office building, the place to send and receive mail often changed, sometimes being at the home of the postmaster. As the postmaster would change, so would the location.

  National parks. The year 1890 also brought the nation's second national park – Sequoia -- and six days later, General Grant (now Kings Canyon ) National Park. These actions sealed the fate of the Kaweah Colony, as the Colony's timber leases were now off-limits within the new park boundaries. It seemed as if Kaweah would be forgotten.

  By 1892, due to internal division and external pressures, the Kaweah Colony collapsed. Some of the colonists left while others stayed on at Kaweah, the little ramshackle redwood box they would build in 1910 becoming the very center of the community that remained.

  Touring cars , tourists. With the 20th century came the automobile. Ironically, the only practical way to access the new national park that had displaced the Colony's enterprise was on the road that the Kaweah colonists had built to transport lumber by mule team.

  As legions of a new breed of humans – motorists — ascended the hand-hewn highway in their touring cars, resplendent in dusters and goggles, the popular stop for gas, oil, fresh fruits, and to mail a postcard or letter was Kaweah Post Office.

  By 1925, the post office itself had become a beloved member of the community as well as a favored stop for tourists with their Brownie Box cameras. When the U.S. Post Office Department discontinued service to Kaweah that December, neighbors and tourists alike rose in defiance.

  Reinstatement. On May 15, 1926 , service resumed with Ida Purdy as postmistress. Neighbors had put the ramshackle redwood box on logs and moved it 800 feet closer to Ida's house to better accommodate her. It has remained there since and so perfectly blends with its surroundings that it is today a favored subject for countless artists' renderings.

  The Generals Highway was completed in 1926, and with efficient means for tourists to bypass Kaweah altogether in their ever faster cars, it seemed again that Kaweah may fade away.

  Tourist attraction. Through the decades since, countless thousands of people every year have taken the drive along the North Fork of the Kaweah River specifically to visit the Kaweah Post Office: to see it, to feel it, to take a snapshot or two, and to mail a letter. It was popular nostalgia before nostalgia was popular.

  Indeed, several times over the years the Post Office Department has attempted to close the ramshackle redwood box, stating that it was obsolete. Each time they were met with impassioned letter writing campaigns from folks around the world demanding that it remain open.

  Closed again. November 1974 would see a change of status for Kaweah Post Office. The United States Postal Service (successor to USPOD) closed the “Fourth Class” post office at Kaweah. Relenting to public pressure, they allowed it to reopen in April 1975 as a Community Post Office (also known as Contract Postal Office).

  The CPO status remained until May 31, 2010 , when it was demoted again to the status of Contract Postal Unit. CPUs are the lowest level of the USPS hierarchy.

  Presently, the USPS will not allow the Kaweah CPU to sell USPS products and services. The CPU can only receive mail and rent post office boxes.

  Kaweah Postal Foundation. The Kaweah Postal Foundation, while not yet defined as a nonprofit organization, exists for the sole purpose of “maintaining and perpetuating the operation of the Kaweah Post Office,” said Kathleen McCleary, who unwittingly became its proprietor.

  “I came from the L.A./Santa Barbara area where you just don't have this depth of community…. the sincerity of friends and neighbors…” she continued.

  She bought her dream home 32 years ago on the North Fork on land that included a deed to the Kaweah Post Office.

  “I didn't realize at the time that I would be adopting a post office. This experience has made me so much more aware of Kaweah as a community, as an entity.”

  Kathleen credits Three Rivers Postmistress Lori Ontiveros for facilitating the transition from CPO to what USPS terms a “firm, fixed CPU contract.”

  “If not for that and our ZIP code being preserved, it simply would have been closed,” she said.

  Lori will be on hand at the Kaweah Post Office on Saturday, Oct. 23, to apply special commemorative postmarks to mail posted that day at Kaweah. There is no charge for the unique postmark, which was designed by Sarah Farkas, who was raised in Three Rivers and received her B.S. in graphic design last year from the Art Institute of California-Orange County.

  The Foundation will offer special postal cachet envelopes and a limited quantity of special Kaweah Post Office postage stamps for sale. The stamps are not USPS issue, but are legal U.S. postage, custom-ordered for this event.

  “I haven't given up on my vision toward full reinstatement of Kaweah as a fully fledged, staffed, retail post office in order to better serve the community as it has for 100 years,” assured Kathleen. “Visitors just can't believe that USPS would pull out. They ask, ‘how much could it cost to keep it open?' Neighbors come by as if visiting an ailing friend, concerned but with hope for its future. Their love for this place is clearly evident.”

  With continued community support, Kaweah Post Office will serve postal patrons and visitors for another 100 years. For now, this Saturday, see ya at Kaweah!


Search underway for

Missing Whitney hikers


  A group of hikers departed the Whitney Portal trailhead (8,000 feet elevation) in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, Oct. 18, to get a leg up on what was to be about a 12-plus-hour, roundtrip day hike to summit Mt. Whitney (14,500 feet). But when stormy weather is in the forecast, especially at these elevations, the best-laid plans can go awry.

  The three hikers — Dale Clymens, 45; Phillip Abraham, 34; and Stevan Filips, 43 — departed at four a.m. for the 21-mile roundtrip hike. They were also reported to have plans to return the same day, but have not been seen since. Dana Dierkes, Sequoia-Kings Canyon public information officer, said that seven other hikers who were also leaving at that time embarked on the trail with the three men.

  Of that group, two turned back and five made it to Whitney's summit that day and hiked down to safety. The missing men are from the Omaha, Neb., area and were reported to have made it to the summit.

  A text message indicated the trio is bivouacked at the Smithsonian Hut, a historic stone structure that sits atop Whitney's summit. As of Thursday morning, the three hikers were still officially missing and new reports are indicating that at least two other hikers, unrelated to this party, have also been reported missing since Tuesday, Oct. 19.

  A search-and-rescue team from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and rangers and personnel from Inyo County have not been able to search the higher elevations because of winter-like weather. At least three feet of snow has accumulated in the area where the trio of hikers is reportedly hunkered down.

  On Thursday, a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks helicopter was joined in the search by a California National Guard helicopter that is attempting to fly in from the east side.

  “The search-and-rescue teams have had a very short weather window, and that has hampered efforts to reach the stranded hikers,” said Dana.

  Abraham's girlfriend told KETV in Omaha that she had been receiving text messages from Abraham until 10:28 a.m. Tuesday and hasn't heard from him since.

  After being turned back by deteriorating weather conditions previously, rescue teams were predicted to reach the hut Thursday afternoon, Oct. 21.


La Nina will dominate winter weather


 Last season's El Nino condition, which brought above-average precipitation to the Central California region, will give way to a La Nina, a gradual cooling of the Pacific equatorial currents that should keep local weather patterns milder and drier throughout the remainder of 2010 and into the first quarter of 2011. But this is not necessarily so for the rest of the country.

  The 2011 Farmers' Almanac , about as reliable as it gets for long-range weather forecasting, predicts that Old Man Winter will exhibit a “split personality.” The eastern third of the country ( New England down to Florida and as far west as the lower Ohio River and Mississippi River valley) will experience colder-than-normal winter temperatures.

  Across New England , where relatively balmy temperatures prevailed during the “Snowmageddon” of the mid-Atlantic region during 2009-2010, the upcoming winter will feel like a cold slap in the face. Much colder temperatures and higher heating bills are in store for this region.

  Meanwhile, in the entire West region, milder-than-normal temperatures are expected. They will spread from the Pacific Coast inland as far as the Rockies and the western Great Plains . Across the nation's midsection, near-normal winter temperatures are expected.

  Where the storm tracks will precisely dump their moisture is still a crapshoot. But the above-normal storms are expected to steer north of California to, where else?, the Pacific Northwest .


Public invited to ASDEC event


By Kathryn Keeley


  With just a few dollars in their pockets and an idealistic dream at hand, eight years ago Gerald and Donna Whittaker founded the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center in Woodlake. What they created was an extraordinary program that engages Woodlake High School students to train dogs that eventually become service dogs to aid the mentally and physically disabled, including injured war veterans.

  The outcome of this nonprofit organization has become a win-win for all involved. The certified assistance dogs not only help the individuals who receive them by providing companionship as well as assistance with over 90 distinct commands, but they also benefit the students who train them, by teaching them important life lessons such as responsibility, respect, compassion, leadership, patience, and confidence, not to mention a marketable trade.

  As much as this unique organization offers to others, it relies on the generosity of donors to sustain it. Next week, the community has a wonderful opportunity to show its support to this life-changing institute by attending an entertaining charity event.

  Hosted by Tiffany Smith-Edmonds, owner/operator of Tiffany's Luxury MediSpa, this event will occur Thursday, October 28, in Visalia . The fundraiser aims to bring the community's attention to the valiant efforts put forth by the Whittakers and ASDEC, as well as to enable the program to continue providing service dogs to the disabled at low or no cost.

  There will be a raffle, live auction, and silent auction. Adding to the excitement, Woodlake High School student trainers will present their dogs and demonstrate some of the commands that they know. Gerald Whittaker, as resident “Dog Whisperer,” will also be hosting a question-and-answer session featuring tips, tricks, and insights into the complex world of dog training.

  Currently, the ASDEC is focusing their efforts to supply war veterans with service dogs. Each service dog is typically valued at over $5,000 and, presently, the Veterans Administration will not pay to provide the veterans with service dogs. Because of the tremendous need, the Whittakers are committed to place these service dogs to assist the disabled at no cost to them.

  “Dondi has done more for Joshua than I could do in six months,” said the psychiatrist for Army veteran Joshua after only one week of being paired with service dog Dondi.

  So plan on attending Tiffany Smith-Edmond's fundraiser on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. , to assist with the ASDEC's goals. Tiffany's Luxury MediSpa is located at 4037 South Mooney Blvd. in the Packwood Creek Shopping Center .


  Katie Keeley is a Woodlake High School senior from Three Rivers.




Three types of artists


By Jana Botkin


  A simple way of categorizing artists is to divide their approaches to art into three varieties: those who make art for fun, those who make art as a secondary occupation, and those who earn a living from their art.

Those who make art for fun undoubtedly have it the easiest. Without thinking about what might sell or being bound to any one style, this type of artist is free to try any medium or technique.

  He can bounce from teacher to teacher, class to class, pottery to watercolor to drawing in any order. He can dabble at anything that strikes his fancy.

  Goals may be set, and even reached, but in the end, fun and self-expression seem to be the main purpose. Once I even had a drawing student tell me, “I don't care much about art, I just want to meet women!”

  Those who straddle the line between a day job and making art probably have it the hardest. To make quality art in enough quantity to sell takes an enormous amount of time, and it is very difficult to fit this into a week with a 40-hour bite already missing.

  There is a struggle while working a “real” job to focus on the task at hand while one's mind is roaming the halls of Artland. I remember working in a dining hall at a camp and constantly being distracted by the deep golden brown color of a giant container of tea and admiring the brilliant orange of grated carrots against the spring greens of lettuce. Needless to say, my co-workers thought I was a nut-job.

  Engaging in art as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime is a highly rewarding approach to art-making. It takes a strong commitment, an unwavering resolution to never give up.

  When sales drop, galleries and shops close, students get old and few new ones come, and long-term art shows fold, my focus must revert to marketing instead of painting and drawing. If sales don't happen, there is no income!

  Art is a luxury item, not a necessity, and in the current economic atmosphere this fact is more evident than usual. Tulare County has higher unemployment, poverty, and welfare dependence than much of the country even in good times. Despite that, it is possible to earn a living as a professional artist here.

  In upcoming articles, I will explain some of the avenues I have followed to make that dream a reality.

  Jana Botkin writes, paints, and draws in her Three Rivers home studio.




Danny Estep

1948 ~ 2010


  Danny Keith Estep, a 24-year resident of Three Rivers, died Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 , at his home due to cancer. He was 62.

  A memorial service will be held today (Friday, Oct. 22), at 2 p.m. , at the Three Rivers Veterans Memorial Building.

  Danny was born February 14, 1948 , to William and Winona (Bruce) Estep in Tulare. He was raised in Visalia and attended Redwood and Mt. Whitney high schools.

  Danny served in the United States Marine Corps from 1968 to 1969. While fighting for his country in Vietnam, he lost both his legs.

  “The loss of Danny's life reflects the true cost of freedom, and it was an honor to know and love this man,” said his wife, Paula, whom he married in 1987.

  Danny is survived by his wife of 23 years, Paula; son Danny Estep Jr. and wife Rebecca; daughter Leia Oden; granddaughters Hannah Estep, Brooke Estep, and Averee Estep; and grandsons Jacob Estep and Nicholas Oden.

  Online condolences may be sent via www.smithfamilychapel.com.



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