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School Layoffs

SANTA ROSA The federal budget impasse could cost local schools 13 teachers' aides, a joint announcement by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Santa Rosa school officials noted this week. Woolsey blames House Speaker Newt Gingrich for "playing politics" and ordering the Republican majority to delay passage of a federal budget. The current temporary operating budget provides 17 percent less money to help children in reading, writing, mathematics, and advanced reasoning programs. At this level, Sonoma County stands to lose $700,000 in so-called Title I funds.

Among those possible layoffs are eight teachers' aides at Burbank Elementary School and five more at Santa Rosa Junior High School. This is not the way to run a government, and this is not the way to be treating our schools and students, said Woolsey, a member of the budget, and education and opportunities committees. She plans to ask the House this week to accept a U.S. Senate plan to restore $2.6 billion for education when it considers a new continuing resolution for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Riggs has announced that he will join the fight to persuade senators to restore education funds.


Lafferty Vote Delayed

PETALUMA In a stunning development Monday, four city councilwomen gave in to increasing public opposition and agreed to postpone the controversial Lafferty-Moon land swap for one year to seek other options. Mayor Patty Hilligoss and Councilwomen Nancy Read, Lori Shea, and Mary Stompe proposed delaying the deal that would trade city-owned mountain property Lafferty Ranch and $1.4 million in county open space funds for the privately owned Moon Ranch.

They say they were swayed by county Supervisor Jim Harberson, who said he'd support an alternative way to get a regional park. Meanwhile, some members of the community charge the councilwomen with violating the Brown Act by conducting a closed meeting to discuss their intentions prior to the recent council meeting.


Open Space Funds for Laguna Uplands

SEBASTOPOL By the narrowest possible margin, the Sonoma County Open Space Authority has helped sustain the possibility of a new Native American cultural center at the Laguna Uplands site. The Open Space panel voted 3-2 last week to contribute $900,000 to the effort, although the action must still be ratified by the county Board of Supervisors. The funds represent 60 percent of the purchase price for an 18-acre site overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa, an area that was once home to a large Native American encampment. The site has been approved for an 18-home luxury subdivision called Palm Terrace, but the developers have said they are willing to sell the property to the community instead, if $1.5 million can be raised by mid-April. Grassroots fundraising efforts, including bake sales and donation jars in local businesses, have collected only about $82,000 so far, but "there's absolutely no doubt we're going to make it," says Laguna Uplands committee co-chair Juliana Doms. "We have planted enough seeds." A benefit concert this weekend and a second fundraising event April 13-14 are also expected to help boost the fundraising effort. Detailed plans for the site will not be developed until the purchase has been assured, Doms says, and then the committee will seek a citywide consensus. "In order to honor our original motives, it has to be brought to the community."


Rally Causes Furor

SANTA ROSA It's clear that the Christian Life Center was within its rights to stage an evangelical youth rally at the Santa Rosa High School auditorium last week, but officals from the church and the school have distinctly differing views on how the event was promoted. The evening rally came after a day of school assembly programs at two junior highs and three high schools in Santa Rosa, as well as a program at Windsor Middle School. These secular programs focused on a message of self-esteem and warnings about drug and alcohol use, explains the Rev. Carter Wood of Christian Life Center, and were well received by the schools.

At those programs, however, flyers were passed out inviting the kids to the evening meeting at SRHS, which was to feature free pizza, a Velcro wall, and other attractions. But there was no mention of the church's sponsorship of the event on the flyer, nor of its strong Christian content. "The flyers did not have any religious content on them because we were told not to put it there," Wood says. "The schools don't let us pass out religious material. Why they have to be so skittish about it, I don't know."

Wood also says the Christian nature of the evening gathering was made clear to school officials at the time they made arrangements to rent the auditorium: "They were well aware it was going to be a religious event," Wood adds.

But that's not the way that SRHS vice principal and facilities coordinator Tony Negri saw it. "I knew it was something that was supposed to be positive and engage the kids, but I didn't know it revolved around an evangelical approach to religion," Negri says. "Nor was I aware of the free pizza." The rental of the room for $495 that night did not hinge on the nature of the event, he adds. "This is a public auditorium. You could have anything you want in there."

But Negri says the sponsors "were less than forthright" about their plans, although he also admits, "I can't say [Wood] was being deliberately evasive, because I didn't ask him the hard questions."


Community Hospital Control Transferred

SANTA ROSA The management of county-owned Community Hospital in Santa Rosa passed quietly into the hands of Sutter Health of Sacramento on Monday. The controversial transfer, opposed by many of the facility's 800 unionized employees, still faces a tough ballot fight in November. The employees are now working under a temporary contract that expires in June. Labor negotiations are slated to begin in mid-May.

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From the March 28-April 3, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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