SCHOOL BOARD MEETING PACKED WITH TEACHERS DEMANDING A RAISE

A standing-room-only crowd of school teachers and classified school employees expressed their disapproval with the course of not-yet-concluded contract negotiations between their unions and the Morongo Unified School District last night. Reporter Dan Stork was there to witness the show of solidarity, and tells what else happened at the Board of Education meeting…

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The audience of about 200 teachers and other MUSD employees, all clad in MTA (Morongo Teachers Association) T-shirts, turn their backs on Superintendent Cecelia English during her report to the Board of Education.

While MUSD Superintendent Cecelia English gave her report shortly after the start of the meeting of the Board of Education, the audience of approximately 200, all clad in Morongo Teachers Association T-shirts, stood with their backs to her, many holding up signs protesting how District employees are being treated financially. During public comment time, a succession of teachers and classified employees told of long uncompensated hours, salary scales lower than nearby school districts, years with little or no raises, and expectations heightened by Gov. Brown’s reforms and the improved economy. Teacher union representative Jason Bolt used his report to list the salary increases received by assistant superintendents in the District in the past 5 years, and to note the $20,000 increase in base salary from the previous Superintendent to the current one. Classified School Employee Association representative Maria Brunetti said that the District has not been responsive to CSEA concerns during contract negotiations. Following the meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Douglas Weller told us that the Morongo Teachers Association has filed a Notice of Impasse with the state Public Employees Relations Board, which is expected to result in the appointment of a mediator for current contract negotiations. The news that teacher addition at Landers Elementary has eliminated the need for a combined 2nd and 3rd grade class was universally welcomed. When the Board turned to its agenda, Board member Karalee Hargrove pulled from the consent agenda an item that would have approved several new classified positions and employees, saying that she didn’t want to hire new employees before compensating existing ones adequately. Following a motion by member Ed Will, that item was tabled until a future meeting. Daily pay for permitted and credentialed substitute teachers was raised respectively from $86.70 and $91.70 to $100 and $110. In her legislative status report, Karalee Hargrove noted that the effort to overturn AB 1266, on Transgender Student Participation Based on Gender Identity, has failed to qualify for the November ballot.

NO HELMET, ALCOHOL, ADD UP TO MAJOR MOTORCYCLE CRASH INJURIES

Alcohol is believed to have been a factor in a dirt bike crash that sent a Yucca Valley man to the hospital Saturday afternoon. According to CHP Officer Joan Griffin, Jesus Cuevas, 30, was riding his red and white off-highway motorcycle northbound on the dirt highway that parallels Old Woman Springs Road about 2 p.m. As he neared Hondo Street, Cuevas lost control and was thrown from the dirt bike. Cuevas was not wearing a helmet and suffered major injuries. Jesus Cuevas was transported to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs. The accident is still under investigation.

ASHES TO GO TODAY IN YUCCA VALLEY

For the third year, the vicar of St. Joseph’s of Arimathea Episcopal Church in Yucca Valley will offer Ashes to Go. From noon to 1:30 the Reverend Jane Crase will be on the sidewalk in front of the Yucca Valley Post Office mark the sign of the cross on the foreheads of people of all faiths in honor of Ash Wednesday.

YUCCA VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL WANTS ALTERNATIVES TO THE HIGHWAY DEVELOPED

At a meeting in November, the Yucca Valley Town Council directed town staff to present an analysis of paving dirt roads and alleys north and south of Highway 62, to provide an alternative to traveling on the highway. And with the current project of installing raised medians on the highway, many access points to businesses on the highway have been cut off. At last night’s meeting, the Town Council directed staff to include two dirt roads into the Town’s maintained road system to begin the process of road improvements. Managing editor Tami Roleff was there, and files this report…
Once the raised medians on the highway are completed in the western half of Yucca Valley, motorists will find it more difficult to gain access to some businesses located on the highway. At its meeting last night, the Yucca Valley Town Council directed staff to start planning for paving and improving two dirt roads that parallel the highway: Pima Trail, on the south side of the highway between Church Street and Palm Avenue, and an alley on the north side of the highway between Grand and Palm Avenues. These roads will also be alternatives to traveling on Highway 62. The Council unanimously approved including just under $300,000 in the 2014/2015 budget to complete evaluations, design costs, and preliminary construction costs for these two roads. The Council announced, following its closed session, that it is considering an in-house recruitment for the position of town manager.

LIMITS TO SENIOR MEALS HAVE BEEN LIFTED

Limits that were placed on the senior meal programs in the Morongo Basin have been lifted, effective Monday, according to a spokesman at the Family Service Association, which funds the program. Tom Donahue said about $300,000 in federal funds for the senior nutrition program had been cut this fiscal year due to the federal sequestration last fall, which meant that limits had to be placed on the number of meals the area’s senior centers could serve each day. But Donahue said the FSA has secured additional funding from community groups, businesses, local governments, and the federal government, and so the limits have been lifted. The Twentynine Palms Senior Center had been serving 35 to 40 people per day, but under the meal caps, they were limited to 21 meals per day. The Joshua Tree center went from feeding 40 seniors to 25, and the Yucca Valley Senior Center had about 10 people cut from its program, going from 50 meals to 40 meals per day.

JOSHUA BASIN WATER DISTRICT BOARD MEETS TONIGHT

The Joshua Basin Water District Board meets tonight in regular session. Reporter Mike Lipsitz checks the agenda…
Prior to tonight’s regular meeting of the Joshua Basin Water District, the board will meet in closed session in connection with labor contract negotiations. Then the 7 p.m. open session gets underway with incoming general manager Curt Sauer taking the oath of office. There are no action items on the agenda, but there will be a Strategic Plan Summary Review. Tonight’s meeting is at the District office on Chollita Road in Joshua Tree.

TWENTYNINE PALMS LIBRARY PRE-SCHOOL STORYTIME CELEBRATES DR. SEUSS

Preschool story time at the Twentynine Palms Library this week will be celebrating Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. This Thursday, March 6, Preschool story time will celebrate by reading his books and creating Dr. Seuss themed crafts. Children are invited to bring something to share, whether it’s Dr. Seuss themed or otherwise. Parents and babysitters are invited to bring their three-, four-, and five-year-olds to attend this free program at the Twentynine Palms. The program includes age appropriate storytelling, apron stories, finger plays, songs, and other activities to promote a love of books, reading, and language. For more information about preschool story time, please call the Twentynine Palms Library at 760-367-9519.

HIGH SCHOOL ARTISTS INVITED TO APPLY FOR CONGRESSIONAL ART SHOW

Congressman Paul Cook of Yucca Valley is giving local high school artists a chance to shine nationally. Reporter Taylor Thacker tells you how to enter the congressional art show…
Every spring, a nationwide high school arts competition is sponsored by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Recently, Representative Paul Cook has announced this year’s 8th Congressional District Art Contest and invited high school students in California’s 8th Congressional District to compete in the contest. Students will submit work through the art teachers at their high schools. The winning artwork will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol complex for one year. In addition, second place will be displayed in Representative Cook’s Capitol Office and the third place winner will be on display in the Apple Valley District Office. All artwork must be submitted by April 3, 2014. Art work entered in the contest may be up to 28 inches by 28 inches (including the frame) and may be up to 4 inches in depth. The art submissions may be paintings, drawings, collages, prints, mixed media, computer generated art, and photography. For more information, call 760-247-1815.

RETIRED TEACHERS MEET NEXT WEEK

The California Retired Teachers’ Association will meet at 10:00 a.m. Friday, March 14, at the Helen Gray Center in Joshua Tree.  Guest speakers will be Mary Reeves and Kelly Lomax, of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  Please call Sherry Craft, 760-881-5275, no later than Monday, March 10, if you wish to reserve lunch.

YUCCA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL STAFF VERSUS STUDENT BASKETBALL GAME FRIDAY

Can a staff basketball team ever defeat the varsity at Yucca Valley High School? Dan Stork says come see, and support the sports program…
The 4th Annual Yucca Valley High School “Staff vs. Boys Basketball” game is Friday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the Trojan Gym. The cost of admission is only $3. Come see if the staff can finally defeat the boys basketball team. It will be a night you won’t want to miss! The game is a fundraiser for the high school athletic program—come support it and enjoy the spectacle.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: SCORE AND SCHEDULES

The Twentynine Palms Wildcat varsity golf team kicked off their pre-season Monday, traveling to San Jacinto for a two-day match play tournament against 16 other teams from around Southern California. The ’Cats came out strong and after Monday’s play, advanced four players to today. Advancing were Brandon Steffins, Ty Luken, Justin Delarosa and Cody Hathaway. Coaches say the team played very well and this is a great event to get the team tuned up for the season opener April 1.

Coming up in high school sports tomorrow, the Twentynine Palms High School boys’ tennis team will travel away to Coachella Valley. First serve is at 3:15.