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Latest News in Taft, CA
Sanger school board won’t stop school merger, but will it drop its charter status?
Two Sanger Unified school programs will merge next year, despite outcry from some parents who have asked the school board to reconsider.But the merging of Hallmark Charter School and Taft Academy isn’t a board decision, district officials have said. The school board will decide whether Hallmark remains a charter school or drops that status.“The starting of Hallmark Academy – and the transition of Taft Academy – continues to move forward and evolve,” Sanger Unified Deputy Superintendent Eduardo Mart...
Two Sanger Unified school programs will merge next year, despite outcry from some parents who have asked the school board to reconsider.
But the merging of Hallmark Charter School and Taft Academy isn’t a board decision, district officials have said. The school board will decide whether Hallmark remains a charter school or drops that status.
“The starting of Hallmark Academy – and the transition of Taft Academy – continues to move forward and evolve,” Sanger Unified Deputy Superintendent Eduardo Martinez said. “And that evolution or transformation isn’t contingent on the dissolution of the charter. Hallmark Academy will evolve independently and transform Taft Academy into Hallmark Academy.”
Frustrated by the process, parents and teachers from Hallmark Charter School continue to question district leadership about the swift action to drop the school’s charter when the programs merge.
Taft parents are eager for the merger, so their children can reap the benefits of what Hallmark has to offer while still being under the online learning platform they need from Taft. The pushback from Hallmark families opposed to dropping the school’s charter status as part of the merger is what’s frustrating to Taft parents.
“‘Every child, every day,’” Justin Mesloh said, quoting the Sanger Unified motto during the May 24 board meeting. “You instilled that in me. I still believe that with our Taft Academy students. This exact phrase is the reason I believe the only way our Taft Academy students, including my daughters, will receive extracurricular activities is through this merger.”
Sanger leadership has proposed dropping Hallmark’s charter status starting in 2023, which would free up its funds for the Sanger Unified district as a whole.
“As a community, parents, students, and staff, we wouldn’t be here if district officials did due diligence before bringing the proposed merger of Hallmark Charter and Taft Academy to the board,” Hallmark Charter parent Auriette Larbi said. “We are here because our leaders have made a crucial and important decision without engaging stakeholders.
“We are asking our leaders: take time, engage the community and be transparent with the issues….”
The board will vote on the charter status dropping — what parents are frustrated with — not the merger of Hallmark and Taft to become Hallmark Academy, district leaders have said.
Superintendent Adela Jones said the district’s administration can evolve programs “for all our parents to access.”
“We don’t need board approval for that,” Jones said about the evolution of Hallmark Academy.
Mesloh said his children need the hands-on learning experiences Hallmark provides but need to remain Taft students.
Hallmark has music, art, enrichment classes, tutorials, and lab science programs.
One of his children was distracted while a part of in-person classes, which is why he and his wife chose Taft’s online platform, where she has grown and thrived, exceeding grade-level expectations.
That’s why they want to keep her at Taft. But keeping her at Taft has also meant that she doesn’t have access to extracurricular activities, like the optional, on-campus activities Hallmark offers.
“As parents, her mother and I would love the opportunities for her to receive some parts of STEM, art, music,” Mesloh said. “It’s become evident that the only way that this is going to happen is with this merger.”
Their second daughter would benefit from the merged Hallmark Academy as well because she needs hands-on activities and an at-home learning environment since she’d be entering school for the first time as a kindergartner. The Taft online learning platform with Hallmark’s opportunities is what they see as best for her.
Larbi and Hallmark Charter teacher Angela Ballew asked the board to take the time to consider their actions of dropping the charter status.
There are several reasons behind the decision to dissolve the charter, Jones previously told the Ed Lab. Those include the charter school’s declining enrollment for several years; streamlining business operations for both programs because the charter school’s Local Control Accountability Program dollars would become a part of the district’s funding to support the SUSD initiatives at Hallmark Academy; and allowing more equity and access to both programs.
This school year, Hallmark Charter School planned to spend more than $3.9 million, in which $216,670 was tied to services in LCAP, according to the local control funding formula budget overview accessible on Hallmark’s website.
Hallmark Charter was created 22 years ago for enrollment as a homeschool learning model just as it operates today, but that was when there weren’t many charter schools for it to compete with, Jones said. Sanger Unified’s charter schools join more than 1,300 as of the 2021-22 school year, according to the California Department of Education’s website.
“You have this charter; you worked hard to get it,” Ballew said. “We worked hard to keep it and make it something beautiful and special.”
Like most programs, Hallmark Charter might need to evolve to educate kids better, she said, but teachers need time to do that.
Without the charter status, out-of-district families must enroll through an interdistrict transfer, something that both Sanger and the other district must approve, leaving parents wary.
“I can speak from my experience,” Ballew said about the success of students who’ve been able to “just come” from across the Central Valley. “They just come. And they find their way.”
About 102 students from 10 other districts will have to use interdistrict transfers after Hallmark’s charter status is removed.
According to Associate Superintendent Tim Lopez and Jones, at least 24 of those families have completed the interdistrict transfers, which have to be done annually.
The district has reached out to each of the 10 other districts about the transfers and provided the links to the one-page transfer forms, Lopez said.
Currently, 491 students do transfers out of Sanger, 220 do interdistrict transfers, and around 300 who do intradistrict transfers, all of which require approval from the district students are leaving and entering.
Some districts require board approval or district office approval, Lopez said.
The district wants parents to have a “school of choice” with access to opportunities rather than either Hallmark Charter’s homeschool model with extracurricular opportunities or Taft Academy’s virtual program with no opportunities.
“The choice is around having two platforms under one school of choice,” Jones said.
Of Hallmark’s 252 students and Taft’s nearly 500, 455 have expressed their intentions of enrolling in the merged school. Some plan to continue Hallmark’s homeschool model, some plan to continue Taft’s virtual platform, and some have switched to the other learning model from their current learning style, Associate Superintendent Tim Lopez said.
Under the name Hallmark Academy, the merged school will still have:
Families would choose between Hallmark’s homeschool option and Taft’s virtual programming that logs on for classes at scheduled times throughout the day.
“The program of Hallmark is not going away,” Jones echoed both times she spoke with the Education Lab.
There are informational flyers — which Hallmark Charter parents say started being distributed at or around the time the merger proposal was first presented to the board on May 10 – about Hallmark Academy.
What’s left for the board to decide is whether to dissolve Hallmark’s charter status.
The board’s vote on the charter status will occur at a future board meeting, Jones said, and the district is “moving forward” with enrolling students in the new school of choice that Hallmark Academy is becoming.
To Larbi, the district has disregarded the school board.
Parents such as Larbi and Sara Florez and teachers like 22-year educator Shannon Anderson view the district’s actions as a “work-around” board approval.
Larbi told the board that the community trusts them to do the what’s best for students, families and the community.
“You do have a voice,” Florez repeated to the board. “No matter what the district has said about how they’re going to circumvent or go around you, you do have a voice. And your voice is supposed to be our voice, right? You’re representing everybody in the community, not just Sanger Unified School District (but) everybody in the community.
“You can speak for us.”
The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn about The Bee’s Education Lab at its website.
COUCH'S CORNER: An update on Laborers of the Harvest program in Taft
David Couch For The Recordhttps://www.bakersfield.com/delano-record/couchs-corner-an-update-on-laborers-of-the-harvest-program-in-taft/article_d70c07bc-c293-11ec-be50-97bc8358397f.html
Several times recently we’ve dedicated Couch’s Corner to programs designed to help the homeless and disadvantaged in our community. This week, I thought we’d provide an update on one of those programs, Laborers of the Harvest. In the past few months, LOTH has been awarded three grants and is implementing a first-of-its kind program that I hope we can replicate throughout the county.The key grant, as far as I’m concerned, is the one that uses state job skills training funds as funneled through one of our county ...
Several times recently we’ve dedicated Couch’s Corner to programs designed to help the homeless and disadvantaged in our community. This week, I thought we’d provide an update on one of those programs, Laborers of the Harvest. In the past few months, LOTH has been awarded three grants and is implementing a first-of-its kind program that I hope we can replicate throughout the county.
The key grant, as far as I’m concerned, is the one that uses state job skills training funds as funneled through one of our county departments, employer training resource, to put the homeless to work at the LOTH Food Pantry in Taft. Shari Rightmer, executive director of LOTH, has been working with Taft’s homeless population for years, but this is the first chance she’s had to actually pay her people. And the beauty of solving homelessness through paid work experience is that when our homeless population gets paid, they can then find and pay for their own housing. We spend millions putting the homeless into housing. Finding a way to put them to work gets them into housing at a fraction of the cost.
Shari’s program is special in that she builds her people up, which is critical for people whose past has some kind of trauma, sometimes self-inflicted. The pain inside often is what drives them to make unhealthy choices. Shari doesn’t just put people to work, she helps them work on what’s ailing them on the inside. To see some of her folks, some of whom have never been able to work, some of whom have lived under the bridge their whole lives, excited at the prospect that they are finally digging out of that place they’ve been trapped in and becoming contributing members of society, now that’s special.
But LOTH’s workers aren’t in some kind of make-work program. LOTH also received a grant from CalRecycle, California’s agency for waste and recycling, to help the county with its SB 1383 implementation. SB 1383 is that new law that says we must recycle 75 percent of our organic waste. It also says we must recover 20 percent of our discarded food. LOTH has received funds to help build a regional food bank and fresh food giveaway, or “Open Harvest,” as she calls it.
In Taft on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the hungry get free, fresh food that’s been gleaned from some area grocery stores and from a centralized food warehouse. Those homeless people who now will receive wages — they are the ones feeding the hungry. With those CalRecycle funds and some additional funding and coordination in our county, I’m hoping we can make LOTH’s Taft model a countywide program.
I’m in. I just dispatched my district director, Sal Moretti, to go work at ETR to help build this program again and again until we can get as much food as possible gleaned and as many training programs as possible developed throughout the county. Thank you to Teresa Hitchcock, ETR director, and to all of you at ETR who have been helping Shari build a program that I hope can be a solution to homelessness and food insecurity countywide.
On May 2, 15 homeless and otherwise disadvantaged workers will start getting paid job skills work experience. A few months later, another 15 will get the chance. And I hope, as additional funding comes in from the state, we find a way to keep on building this program in other communities and keep on getting these people paid.
If you have any questions about this or any District 4 matter, don’t hesitate to call at 661-868-3680 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a safe week.
Museum in Taft remembers the history of oil in Kern County
Corey O'Leary 23ABChttps://www.turnto23.com/community/museum-in-taft-remembers-the-history-of-oil-in-kern-county
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The West Kern Oil Museum in Taft is preparing to celebrate 50 years of preserving the history of one of California's biggest industries: Oil.
According to Don Maxwell, Chairman of the Board for the West Kern Oil Museum, Inc., it all started with one oil well.
"It was started about 50 years ago. A group of six university women, they were all teachers, got together. This well behind us was gonna be abandoned, and they stepped in and talked to the supervisor and they stopped that from happening," said Maxwell.
In 1973, the West Kern Oil Museum was just a storefront in Downtown Taft, off of Main Street. Today, it sits on 8 acres of land and includes the history of more than just oil. The museum gives visitors a glimpse into Kern County of the past.
"We have a central museum, in which we have a Native American story of oil. We have OILI camp history. We have a building with old cars, Model T's and old oilfield equipment, tools," said Maxwell.
The backbone of the West Kern Oil Museum is the volunteers who donate their time to keep the museum open and running.
"'Cause of my oilfield experience, I enjoy the outdoors here with the rigs," said Greg Mudge, Director of Volunteers at the museum. "The wooden derrick and the Bender drilling rig."
The dedication of volunteers also helps the museum maintain free admission to the public while helping to share the history of oil in Kern County.
"Right now, we have about twelve steady volunteers. A lot of people don't know about the wonderful heritage here, and our volunteers love telling them," said Mudge, adding that while the history of oil may not be as glamorous as the history of some other things in California, it's an important part of the state's heritage.
Maxwell agrees, saying that understanding the history is the best way to plan for the future.
"History is always important to preserve because we have to learn about it. Not how it used to be, but how it evolved from that, being safer, being more cost effective," said Maxwell.
The West Kern Oil Museum's 50th birthday will take place on March 11, 2023, when the museum will hold a celebration to raise funds for the museum.
Copyright 2023 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
A mega oil spill & mice infestation. It all happened in Taft, Calif. | Bartell's Backroads
More than a billion barrels of oil have been pulled from the Taft area. There’s so much oil in Kern County that in many places oil oozes out of cracks in the ground.TAFT, Calif. — When you think petroleum, you may not think California, but the Golden State is one of the top 10 oil producers in the nation. And in Taft, Calif., the oil’s been the lifeblood of the town since...
More than a billion barrels of oil have been pulled from the Taft area. There’s so much oil in Kern County that in many places oil oozes out of cracks in the ground.
TAFT, Calif. — When you think petroleum, you may not think California, but the Golden State is one of the top 10 oil producers in the nation. And in Taft, Calif., the oil’s been the lifeblood of the town since it was discovered in the 1880s.
More than a billion barrels of oil have been pulled from the Taft area. There’s so much oil in Kern County that in many places oil oozes out of cracks in the ground -- the leftover’s from a graveyard of Jurassic monsters crushed below the surface.
At the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft you will find one-of-a-kind artifacts of petroleum’s past. Museum volunteer Dennis McCall says these artifacts played a part in Taft’s economic prosperity, but the artifacts also played a part in creating the world the largest oil spill.
“The Lake View Gusher spilled about 9 million barrels of oil -- the biggest oil spill to date,” said McCall.
The 1910 Lakeview Gusher was a crude oil drilling accident that caused an eruption of oil to shoot up in the sky for 544 days. It took tremendous effort to contain the spill and keep it from running into the nearby Buena Vista Lake.
“Yeah, a major effort. They hired everyone they could to create dikes and berms to contain the oil,” said McCall.
Oil was not the only thing to spill in Taft. In 1926, a massive rainstorm caused farm fields to flood, forcing an infestation of mice to spill into the town.
“We are talking 8 or 9 million mice in town,” said McCall.
No amount of cats could rid the town of the mice. The infestation was so bad, the federal government sent in a highly trained exterminator.
"They dug trenches around town and filled it with poison grain. That eventually slowed the flow,” said McCall.
Once the mice problem was under control, Taft was free to focus on petroleum production. So much was produced that locals could drive up to a leaky gas pipe and fill up their car.
“Yes, this was a rite of passage. Dripping we called it,” said McCall.
These days oil production is not what it used to be. California regulations and renewable energy has impacted the oil industry, but thanks to the West Kern Oil Museum, Taft’s petroleum past live on.
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Accused drunken driver charged with 3 felonies in fiery Taft Highway crash
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A woman accused of driving under the influence when she crashed a Mercedes-Benz into a home along Taft Highway, seriously injuring three people including a child, has been charged with three felonies.Madison Williams, 26, is charged with two DUI injury offenses and causing an inhabited dwelling to burn, according to the Superior Court website. Her arraignment is scheduled Oct. 6.According to court documents, a preliminary alcohol screening performed on Williams returned blood-alcohol content r...
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A woman accused of driving under the influence when she crashed a Mercedes-Benz into a home along Taft Highway, seriously injuring three people including a child, has been charged with three felonies.
Madison Williams, 26, is charged with two DUI injury offenses and causing an inhabited dwelling to burn, according to the Superior Court website. Her arraignment is scheduled Oct. 6.
According to court documents, a preliminary alcohol screening performed on Williams returned blood-alcohol content readings of 0.16 and 0.15 percent, twice the legal limit of 0.08. Williams had blood on her face and clothes and smelled of alcohol, officers said. She said she drank a margarita with her father that evening.
The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 14 when Williams’ 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 plowed into a home at Old River Road and Taft Highway, according to the California Highway Patrol. The house caught fire and its occupants managed to escape.
Family members said Princedeep Joshan, 25, his wife, Rajwinder Joshan, 25, his father, Balwinder Joshan, 61, and 21-month-old Rohundeep Joshan were inside at the time and the ceiling fell on them.
Court documents say the child and two others suffered broken bones. The child had a fractured skull, broken left arm and broken ribs, and the adults had spinal fractures, among other injuries, reports say.
Williams suffered minor injuries, according to CHP.
She told officers she was driving north on Old River Road and was going to turn left on Taft Highway then continue on Old River Road.
“She went straight through the intersection and did not stop at the stop sign,” officers wrote. “She related she was driving an approximate speed of 50 to 55 mph. She related she could not see because there is no light in the area. She then crashed into the house.”
Williams told officers she has driven through that intersection multiple times and knows the road shifts to the left. Officers took her to Kern Medical to have her blood drawn then booked her into jail. She’s free on $20,000 bail.
The court website shows a woman with Williams’ name and year of birth was charged with a DUI in June.