Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kuna coaches are doing right by our student-athletes

In the opening game of the District 3 baseball tournament earlier this month, Kuna found itself down 6-4 to Emmett in the middle of the sixth inning. The boys made a short rally and scored a run to make it 6-5, but a grounder ended the inning for Kuna.
I was standing next to the Kuna dugout snapping photos. Chase Hernandez, Kuna’s left fielder, sprinted onto the field for the top of the seventh. I heard him say something to the effect, “All right, it’s going to be the seventh inning,” as if he had every confidence in what was about to happen.
What happened was Kuna came back, sure enough, in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the game. They did it again in the next game, with another walkoff game-winning run to make it to the district championship game and secure a spot in the state tournament for the first time in six years.
Coach Dale Rippy has clearly done an outstanding job with such a young team of mostly juniors and sophomores. Not just in performance, but in character, work ethic and attitude. The boys were victims of bad calls, demoralizing rallies and devastating losses. But they continued to battle back, they kept their heads up, they didn’t whine or complain or throw temper tantrums.
And they learned from their mistakes. Perhaps most telling is the number of times Kuna lost the first game of a series then turned around and won the next game against the same team, including one of the biggest wins, a 13-12 victory over Bishop Kelly, BK’s only loss of the season.

Read the rest of this opinion piece in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The state is passing the buck on public education

The argument has been made that raising taxes is a sure way to kill an already suffering economy. Our voters can’t afford to pay more taxes. We can’t simply pass along costs to our voters. So that’s why we’ve decided to cut public education funding by 7.5 percent.
What’s the effect? In Kuna, anyway, we have higher taxes in the form of a supplemental levy. Students will have to pay to park at the high school. Students will have to pay more money to take advanced placement and concurrent credit courses. Students will have to pay to travel to away sports games and other extracurricular competitions and events. Field trips will be cut drastically. We may send our students to school fewer days.
We haven’t found out yet, but teachers’ pay likely will get cut. Bus drivers already have had their pay cut and it likely will get cut more. We’ve cut administrative positions and are cutting hours next year.
In Melba, they’ve killed the music program.
Here’s the point: The costs are getting passed down, whether the state Legislature says so or not. The taxpayers are paying for this one way or the other. Cutting employee pay and taking money out of students’ families’ pockets to pay for basics, in the end, hurts the economy, whether state legislators say so or not.

You can read more of this opinion in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Steven Ricks withdraws from state Senate race

Steven Ricks has withdrawn from the race for the District 21 state Senate seat.
Ricks was slated to face incumbent Sen. Russ Fulcher in the Republican primary on May 25.
In a press release, Ricks cited an ongoing lawsuit stemming from his campaign in 2008. During that campaign, also against Fulcher, Ricks prepared and mailed out letters from Republican Party committee members. At the top of the letters was the Idaho Republican Party logo. The letter attacks special interest politics, good old boy politics and party politics.
Ricks lost to Fulcher in the primary. In September following the primary, Idaho Republican Party chairman Norm Semanko sent Ricks a letter chastising Ricks for using the state party logo in his campaign, stating that it might cause confusion that the state Republican Party was endorsing candidates. The letter also took Ricks to task for criticizing the party and making blanket statements about Republican legislators.
A similar letter was sent in September to all committee members.
Then in December 2008, Semanko sent another letter to every person in District 21 who had voted in the May primary election. That letter reiterated many of the same points in the previous letters.
In response, in March 2009, Ricks filed a libel lawsuit in the Fourth Judicial District against Semanko and the Idaho Republican State Central Committee, claiming the defendants made false statements about Ricks, published the false statements and “impugned the honesty, integrity, or reputation of Ricks or exposed Ricks to public contempt or ridicule.”
Ricks’ suit seeks judgment against the defendants of no less than $10,000.
The suit is scheduled to be tried in April 2011.
“Now that the case will not be resolved for almost another year, it will continue to consume a major portion of my time and focus,” according to a press release from Ricks. “The outcome of the case will be important to the operations of the Idaho Republican Party. Many questions, some with Constitutional implications, are at issue in the case.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movie Gallery in Kuna appears to be closing

It would appear that the city of Kuna will soon be without a movie rental store in town.
A handwritten sign posted on the front door of the Movie Gallery in Deer Flat Crossing reads, “We will no longer be receiving new release movies. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please do not ask employees why we are closing.”
If the Kuna Movie Gallery closes, it would leave Kuna without a movie rental store, as Kuna Video closed its doors two years ago. Kuna does have a Redbox DVD rental kiosk at Jacksons on Main Street. A similar DVD vending machine operation set up shop in Super C but moved out last year.
The Movie Gallery note refers customers to a 503 area code phone number. The voicemail message from the phone number refers callers to a website information page.
The website explains that Wilsonville, Ore.-based Movie Gallery is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is not going out of business but is hoping to “restructure” and emerge as a stronger company after Chapter 11.
Nothing more is said on Movie Gallery’s website regarding store closures.
But a story in the Wall Street Journal last week said the chain was closing all 2,415 of its U.S. stores.

Find out why I think we could see a competing chain move into Kuna in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Calling on the Kuna school board to hold open budget hearings

With the Kuna school district administration predicting $3.8 million in cuts in next year’s budget, a 14 percent reduction in revenue is a daunting task that will need everyone’s expertise and input.
I know that a budget reduction team is working on possible cuts and will be reporting back to the school board, who will then make the final decision.
My biggest concern, though, is that school board members aren’t involved enough in the process.
I would like to point out just a couple of minor items from last year’s budget as a case in point.
During last year’s budget talks, school board members voted to eliminate midday bus transportation by changing the kindergarten schedule for many Kuna kindergartners from all-day-half-day to full-day-alternate-day. The estimated savings came to about $100,000.
But now we’ve come to find out that during teacher contract negotiations last year, the district agreed to give raises to 41 teachers based on achievement of higher education. The cost of the raises was about $76,000. On top of that, as reported in the Kuna Melba News on April 14, the district also agreed to partially pay those same teachers part of their expenses to take those classes, to the tune of $140 per credit for a total expenditure of about $52,000.
If you combined those two expenses, the district spent about $128,000, more than enough to avoid changing the kindergarten schedule.
Eliminating these raises and education payments was never an option presented to the public. Changing kindergarten was a line item with an estimated saving, but there were no line items that said, “Eliminate education raises for teachers, savings: $76,000,” “Eliminate paying for teacher education, savings: $52,000.”
I don’t know whether school board members knew about the raises and the payments for the education credits, but they certainly did not come up during any budget discussions.
To the contrary, I was under the (false) impression that the school district had eliminated all raises for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Raises for experience were indeed eliminated, but apparently raises for college courses was still approved.
Changing the kindergarten schedule may have still been the right thing to do. Giving teachers raises and paying for part of their education may very well still have been the right thing to do. But these things were never discussed openly during last year’s budget process.

You can read more of this opinion in this week's Kuna Melba News.