Roundup: Riding with Birdie on the Rodota Trail
Socioeconomically disadvantaged students on the rise; praising Sebastopol for "not making sense"; Apple Fair's 2024 poster
On Saturday, Santa Rosa resident Alex Massey rode on the Joe Rodota Trail, balancing on her electric scooter and carrying her dog, Birdie, in her backpack.
Growing Number of “Disadvantaged” Kids in Our Schools
The California School Dashboard lists the number of students classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged, a numbing euphemism for “living in poverty” or “growing up in a poor family.” Specifically the classification means that students were eligible for free and reduced lunches or had parents or guardians who did not graduate from high school.
Along with declining enrollment in Sebastopol area schools, there is a significant rise in the number of students who are categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged. In 2017, that number was 20.7% of Analy students. Each year since then, that number has moved higher so that by 2023, 43.5% students fall into that category. That’s a change from one in five to two in five, a doubling in seven years.
When I looked up the numbers for Park Side and Brook Haven, and saw that approximately 58% of their students were in this category, I decided to compile the data for all schools in our area in the table below, looking at the rise in socioeconomically disadvantages students as well as changes in enrollment. For each school, the first two columns list the percentage of disadvantaged students in 2023 and then enrollment for that year. The next two columns show the same numbers for 2017. The last column shows the number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students in 2023 in each school. The overall total is 1800 students in area schools in 2023 that are socioeconomically disadvantaged, or living in or near poverty.
A few notes:
The merger in 2021 of El Molino into Analy High accounts for a one-time increase in Analy’s enrollment.
The percentages are rounded.
In the Dashboard, there are sometimes multiple entries for district schools, which perhaps has something to do with charter schools. For instance, Twin Hills Union Elementary is listed as a K-12 school with 296 students; there’s Twin Hills Middle School Charter, which is listed as grades 6-8 with 204 students; there’s also Apple Blossom, listed as K-5, with 296 students. I didn’t use the entry for Twin Hills Union Elementary.
There are similar issues with Gravenstein, Harmony and Forestville — different names and range of grades. Let me know if I have used the wrong data.
For many schools, the California School Dashboard pointed out chronic absenteeism, based on attendance numbers for the 2022-2023 school year. Park Side was in the red, with a third of their students chronically absent and up 29% over the previous year.
Also in the red range are Gravenstein, Forestville, Sebastopol Independent Charter, Sunridge, Hillcrest and Oak Grove/Willowside. In the moderate (yellow) range were Brook Haven, Salmon Creek, Apple Blossom and Twin Hills. Analy did not have an attendance rating, but student absenteeism has been brought up before the School Board as a problem.
Sebastopol “Makes No Sense”
Ted Gioia, who writes about music, books, media and culture as The Honest Broker on Substack, wrote a contrarian article on the idea of progress in “I Ask Seven Heretical Questions About Progress” in which he talks about his parents moving to Sebastopol. (H/T reader Sara Winge.)
A few months after I graduated from high school, my parents moved from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere.
Maybe that’s not fair. They actually moved to a poorly-built home on a dirt road in Sebastopol, California—completely off the grid except for an electricity connection to the power lines.
Nowadays, I realize that this was a very cool move on their part. But that’s not how I saw it at age 18.
I was horrified back then.
I’d spent my high school years cruising around LA, going to Hollywood movie premieres, and hanging out at the beach. Now when I came home from college, I was stuck at the intersection of Dullsville and Green Acres.
My parents were rejecting progress—they didn’t even have garbage collection (just an outdoor sump). Or city plumbing—they got their water from a well. And soon they would start organic farming (see item #1 above).
It gets worse: Sebastopol had passed laws against chainstores in the downtown area. So there was no Walmart, no Target, no Best Buy, not even a sucky Olive Garden. Instead there were a bunch of mom-and-pop stores owned and operated by people who also lived in the community.
The city’s biggest source of employment was growing apples—I kid you not—almost as if the economy hadn’t advanced since the days of Rip Van Winkle.
But here’s the sequel—and it makes no sense: Everybody today wants to move to this same city, and property values in Sebastopol have skyrocketed. That off-the-grid home was the smartest financial investment my parents ever made. And the downtown is now praised as quaint and picturesque—so much cooler than nearby cities with their Walmarts and Olive Gardens.
People actually move from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of innovation, to lowly Sebastopol and its apple (not Apple) economy. Who could have ever anticipated that?
— Used by permission of author
Could “Sebastopol Makes No Sense” be a new slogan for the town? You have to admit, it does get at why many like living here and it can be hard to explain to others.
Little League Gear Swap
This weekend, the Sebastopol Little League has a gear swap table open while player evaluations are going on at the ball fields. “Bring your outgrown baseball pants, cleats, gloves, or backpacks, or take what your child can use!”
The Little League is also looking for team sponsors. If you are interested, reach out to our Sponsorship Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
Gravenstein Apple Fair poster released
The Week of January 22-27
Laura came across West County filmmaker Jake Viramontez in the Livery co-working space and Jake explained that he helps nonprofits tell their stories. Jake said: “I cannot quantify the return on investment when you start being generous with your energy and your talents and your skills. It's really the biggest life hack in the world.”
As you might expect, people who live near the proposed Canopy project showed up at last week’s Planning Commission meeting to say NIMBY. Three story buildings! We also learned of Kari Svanstrom’s departure due to family matters. She will be leaving in mid-February after having joined the department in 2018.
Laura found out: ‘What’s with all the duct-taped branches?” in her story on the trees in the Plaza. Readers weighed in. Franny Minervini-Zick asks “why aren’t we using native trees?” Abryhan said: “City trees reflect who and what we are as a community. Struggling to get by…”
At last week’s WSCUHSD board meeting, we learned that Superintendent Chris Meredith’s new daughter arrived earlier than expected, the school demographic projections confirmed “subdued” declining enrollment — largely based on lower birth rates in the area— and student activists asked to be on the agenda but didn’t show up and sent a letter instead. Also students aren’t using their lockers these days!
Mark interviewed high school students who are volunteering at the Ceres Community Project. “We have four shifts a week here in Sebastopol in this kitchen, and there’s between six and 12 kids on a shift, and then we have the garden,” said youth program manager Sara McCamant. They are looking for more student volunteers.
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