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February 13, 2008 11:20 PM

The 4J School Board gave little indication tonight, Feb. 13, that they would alter the recommendation of Superintendent George Russell to force the poor, largely Latino children out of a neighborhood elementary school in South Eugene to give the building to whiter, and wealthier alternative school children.

Russell recommended last week to close Harris neighborhood elementary and give its building to the Eastside and Charlemagne alternative schools. Harris is 67 percent free and reduced lunch while Eastside is 5 percent and the Charlemagne French Immersion school is 10 percent. Harris is 25 percent Latino while Eastside and Charlemagne are both 1 percent Latino.

Kristen Larson, a parent of three Harris children, told the board that the decision to close Harris for the alternative schools was "basic discrimination against the lower income families." Larsen said, "if you support these recommendations, shame on you."

But not a single board member gave clear indication that they did not.

School Board Member Charles Martinez did question how it was decided that the alternative schools would have an "immunization from closure" during the district's "Schools of the Future" process to consolidate schools due to declining enrollment and supposedly reduce inequities. "I don't think that's consistent with board direction."

Russell admitted that school board minutes clearly show that closing an alternative school should be "open for consideration."

So why didn't Russell recommend closing an alternative schools to boost enrollment at neighborhood schools?

Russell said if the board directed him to close the alternative schools, "I'm happy to do that." But he said it was his impression that the board had eliminated that option. "I felt that was not really on the table in light of the decisions that had been made previously."

An Eastside parent testified to the board reading a statement from her school's parent group thanking the superintendent for giving the Harris building to them. "Our community appreciates and supports George Russell's recommendation."

In other news, Russell said that unlike every other school, Charlemagne students would be immune from his recommendation to limit transfers to Roosevelt Middle School and South Eugene High School. The French immersion students would be given automatic places at the two popular schools even if they did not reside in the appropriate school boundary.

February 12, 2008 04:50 PM

Despite the horror that was Revenge of the Sith, I still get excited about Star Wars news. It's like a compulsion. Or something. I was one of those kids who wore my Princess Leia underoos to shreds and only wanted to play Star Wars, OK? It's in my blood. So I greeted this news with excitement and suspicion all at once:

A new era of Star Wars entertainment begins in 2008 when STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, from creator George Lucas, premieres as an all-new feature film in August, followed by the television series debut in the fall, in a partnership announced today between Lucasfilm Ltd., Warner Bros. Pictures and Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

Check out the pix at USA Today.

As MTV News helpfully points out, the Clone Wars era — though totally fascinating — is "a minefield of potential continuity errors." But it'll have clones! Awesome.

February 12, 2008 05:43 PM

Australian news doesn't get a lot of coverage in the U.S., but it catches my eye when it does; I lived there for only four months, but I fell fully in love with the country. And this is absolutely wonderful news. Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister who replaced John Howard (I am refraining from making rude remarks about Howard; let's just say I was certainly no fan of his), has formally apologized for the treatment of Australia's indigenous people (that's just one possible link; there are so many).

"We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians."

There's a fantastic multimedia piece on the event here.

February 8, 2008 06:16 PM

Eugene 4J School Superintendent George Russell has recommended that the district kick the poor kids at Harris neighborhood elementary school out of their building to make room for wealthier kids from the Eastside and French Immersion alternative schools.

Harris is 67 percent free and reduced lunch while Eastside is 5 percent and the French Immersion school is 10 percent.

The recommendation is part of Russell's "Shaping 4J’s Future" report on school closures and moves. The 4J School Board will meet to discuss the report on Wednesday, February 13, at 6 p.m.

Here's Russell's summary of the key recommendations:

—"Close Harris Elementary School for the 2008 – 2009 school year and redistribute students to Edison and Parker elementary schools. Redraw the attendance boundaries for Edison and Parker. Relocate Eastside Alternative School from Parker into the Harris building for the 2008 – 09 school year. During 2008-09, make additions to the school that will allow it to accommodate adding the French Immersion school for the 2009-10 school year.

—Move Meadowlark students to a new school at the Kinney Loop site in 2011-12. Buena Vista would then become a K-5 stand-alone school at the Meadowlark site.

—Close Coburg in June 2011, and relocate students to the new school at Kinney Loop site in 2011-12, and reassign middle school students from Cal Young to Monroe.

—Close the Fox Hollow building and move the French Immersion School to join Eastside in the Harris building in 2009-10.

—Move the Family School and establish it as a 1-8 school sharing the facility with the Arts and Technology Academy at the Jefferson building for 2009-10.

—Implement a differentiated staffing ratio based on the percentage of free-and-reduced lunch students, English Language Learners, and special education students (excluding students receiving only speech and language services). Schools serving higher percentages of these students would receive more staffing then other schools.

—Limit transfers for middle and high schools. Each middle school could accept up to 5% of the middle school students residing within the boundaries of another region. No school could accept transfers that would result in a student enrollment that exceeds the middle school size maximum enrollment target of 600 students. Each high school could accept up to 5% of the high school students residing within the boundaries of another region. No school could accept transfers that would result in a student enrollment that exceeds the high school size maximum of 1500 students.

—Transportation. There may be some additional transportation costs related to boundary adjustments and school consolidations. I recommend that we also consider providing transportation within each region to alternative schools in that region.

Another option that I [Russell] considered, but am not recommending at this time is:

—Consider closing Twin Oaks Elementary in June 2011 and send students to McCornack and Crest Drive."

February 8, 2008 11:35 AM

Biofuels may increase, not decrease global warming because they result in farmers clearing natural vegetation for crops, according to studies published Thursday in the leading journal Science and reported in the New York Times.

The studies indicate that even biofuels produced on already existing cropland could increase global warming as farmers in other areas clear rainforests and other natural areas to take advantage of a resulting rise in commodity prices.

Of course, biofuels are a renewable, not fossil fuel and may have other non-global warming advantages such as supporting farmers and world peace. The U.S. is unlikely to invade Iowa for its corn.

Scientists are also studying how to some day produce biofuels economically from agricultural bi-products, which would eliminate the land-use impact.

February 7, 2008 08:24 PM

... because Stanford is going to kill us.

Don't get me wrong. I think the Ducks could win this game. I just don't think they will, despite the (depressing) tendency they have to play up or down nearly to their opponent's level. Almost as bad as OSU, almost as good as WSU or UCLA.

Alas. We miss you, Aaron Brooks!

I'll be sitting here like it's ye olden days, listening to the radio and trying to type with crossed fingers.

February 6, 2008 02:08 PM

Local social service providers have banded together again this year for a Project Homeless Connect event Thursday, February 7 at the county fairgrounds.

Last year the event provided services ranging from medical exams to haircuts to 1,007 homeless or near homeless people. This year 600 professional and volunteer staff will hold the event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lane Events Center at the Fairgrounds, according to a press release.

Who are the local homeless? Here’s a video organizers put together:

February 4, 2008 04:18 PM

Every year, Slate's Movie Club is one of the very, very best discussions about the previous year in film. Fiery, feisty, packed with opinion and disagreement, it's worth deep reading even if you think any given year's critics aren't your favorites. You're as likely to find new favorites reading the Club as you as to lose some love for old faves. And this year is no exception. A selection of favorite quotes:

"Speaking of polemics, I know I'm not the only one among us who loathes The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, aka My Left Eyelid, aka Awakenings for the smart set. Yes, I'm talking to you, Scott. I'd dis the thing myself, but I'd probably have to watch it again to do so properly, and we all have our limits—mine came about two minutes into the interminable, pretentious, Brakhage-for-dummies POV shtick at the outset of Butterfly."
— Nathan Lee of The Village Voice (who then immediately turned against my sensibilities by dissing Ratatouille)

"[I'm Not There] has experimental balls, but I couldn't get the zipper down to really feel them the way other people seemed to be able to."
— The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris

"No Country succeeds in the way Javier Bardem's pneumatic cattle-gun succeeds in annihilating his victims: It blows a hole in our brains, over and over again, without explanation, and then asks us to walk out going, "Wow, that was quite a hole you blew in my brain. Thanks.""
— Dana Stevens of Slate

"Simultaneously horned-up and sexless, Beowulf taps deeper into castration anxiety than the lame-brained pseudo-transgressions of Hostel II, not to mention the quandary of the Silver Surfer, that intergalactic neuter who roams the galaxy on an externalized penis at the behest of a planet-gobbling vagina dentate."
— Lee (could it be anyone else?)

"You tell me there's something new at the picture show about the cruel hopelessness and inhumanity of existence and I am so there."
— LA Weekly's Scott Foundas

"Hmmm. The question of moviegoing. Having watched films on laptops, iThings, and TVs thinner than Keira Knightley (baby, I love you, but here, take my sandwich), I, too, prefer going to the movies—the actual movies. But I'm this close to becoming Dr. Will Smith and locking my black ass away from all the freaks."
— Morris, one of whose pieces is more than worth reading in total even if you don't read a single other page — which you should, of course.

... OK, got distracted by reading. But seriously. Do yourself a favor and read this.

Me, I've got another couple dozen films to go watch ...

February 2, 2008 11:05 PM

Jon Ruiz

Ruiz

A sharply divided Eugene City Council voted 5-3 Saturday night to select Jon Ruiz as the powerful city manager of Eugene. The vote marks the first time in Eugene history where the city's top official was chosen on such a divided vote.

Council conservatives voted as a block for Ruiz, a retired Army Colonel who was criticized in a California newspaper for being too cozy with developers in his work as assistant city manager of Fresno. Councilor Alan Zelenka provided the swing vote to back the conservative's candidate.

Progressive Councilors Betty Taylor, Bonny Bettman and Andrea Ortiz voted against hiring Ruiz. Zelenka and council conservatives Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, Chris Pryor and George Poling voted to hire Ruiz.

The council majority made the job offer contingent on Ruiz passing more formal background and reference checks and agreeing to a salary offer.

Councilors Bettman and Taylor said they favored Joe Lessard for the manager job. Lessard has worked as a consultant with an interest in progressive planning since leaving an assistant manager job with the city of Austin, Texas. (EW reported recently on the manager candidate backgrounds.)

"I thought we had an outstanding candidate in Lessard, and I'm very disappointed that we didn't choose him," councilor Taylor said. Taylor and Bettman praised Lessard's intelligence, honesty and experience.

Lessard has environmental planning and conflict resolution experience in a large city with similar issues and politics to Eugene, according to Bettman. Fresno "is nothing like Eugene," she said.

Bettman said that while Ruiz came across as personable, Lessard offered experience and intellect that Ruiz couldn't match. "Style versus substance is what we got. They went for the style," Bettman said.

Bettman said Ruiz was the favorite candidate of city executive staff and she expects the new city manager to make few of the reforms in city accountability, transparency and planning that she says are needed.

"Ruiz to me represents more of the same," Bettman said. "The majority of councilors defended the status quo into the future."

Council conservative Mike Clark declined to comment on his vote. Other councilors and the mayor quickly left the meeting before they could be interviewed. The elected officials did not state the reasons for their votes during the three minute public meeting after the council met for eight hours in closed session at the Eugene Hilton board room to interview and discuss the candidates.

Earlier, many elected officials had said the vote would likely be one of the most important they would make as elected officials. City managers are not democratically elected but wield most government power in Eugene, controlling all information and making all hiring firing, contracting and discipline decisions. Part-time elected councilors vote to hire and fire the city manager.

January 31, 2008 05:16 PM

After Republicans blocked money for food stamps and unemployment benefits, it's worthwhile to think of the billions of dollars that they have spent, and continue to spend on the Iraq War.

Here's a video illustrating what all the hemorrhaging war money instead could buy:

tick, tick, tick....

Imagine what just a small fraction of all those wads of taxpayer cash dropped on Iraq could have done to fix local city, county and school funding woes. Maybe we need an insurgency in this country?

January 30, 2008 06:54 PM

KrogerMacpherson

What's the actual policy differences between John Kroger and Greg
Macpherson, the two Democrats running for Oregon Attorney General?

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin cuts through some of the smoke in a recent article. He notes that Macpherson might be partial to big "Oregon utilities, for example, whose interests Macpherson championed when he opposed the bill that stopped PGE and PacifiCorp from including phony taxes in their rates."

As for the expensive Measure 11, Duin writes:

"Macpherson is pushing for changes in the mandatory sentencing law, arguing -- in light of Kevin Mannix's new push for mandatory jail time for drug and property crimes -- that we ensure 'each prison bed has
the person in it who's the greatest risk.'"

Kroger, meanwhile, told the district attorneys, 'I will do everything I can as attorney general to make sure we don't water down mandatory minimums for violent crimes.'"

Steve Novick, the little populist Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has said he'd be more excited with Kroger as AG. Novick argues that a career prosecutor would get the lawyers at the AG more jazzed than a corporate lawyer.

For more background on Kroger, here's our November cover story:

Kroger

Speaking of Novick, his not-the-typical-politician ads have won him a lot of attention, not to mention tens of thousands of YouTube hits. Here's a look:

Here's an EW interview with Novick:

Novick

But Novick's more mainstream opponent in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Jeff Merkley, is not to be outquirked. After a roll-over accident, Merkley put out this video on his "unstoppable" campaign:

One leading issue in this quirk-slinging campaign: Who will keep Oregon weirder?

January 29, 2008 11:01 AM

As someone who has purchased or rated books by C.S. Lewis, you might like to know that Outlaws of Poplar Creek / Bowdrie Follows a Cold Trail / His Brother's Debt will be released on February 12, 2008.

Actually, no, and not just because I totally fail to see what having rated or purchased books by C.S. Lewis has to do with books by LOUIS FRICKING L'AMOUR.

You fail, Amazon.

January 26, 2008 09:12 PM

Oh, Bryce Taylor, you are made of awesome.

Please teach the Ducks how to come from behind now!