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Morning Lookout: PVUSD saga continues, generations of racism against Asian Americans in county and more

Good Morning! It’s Monday, March 22. We’re looking at a mild, partly sunny day with a high of 62 — though the National Weather Service promises some 70s later in the week.

This week, the PVUSD board saga is set to continue with trustees set to consider censuring former board president Georgia Acosta over a laundry list of allegations — some related to the brief ouster of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez and some that predate it.

As racism against Asian Americans has become a focal point of national headlines, Santa Cruz County has till now been spared any racial violence. But different generations of Asian Americans in the area are speaking up about the racism they’ve faced their whole lives, and we have two incredible stories about the issue: one about a Watsonville couple that has led the fight for civil rights for years and another that peers at the issue of race through the eyes of local teens and tweens.

We also learned over the weekend that California has changed social-distancing guidelines in classrooms. With all the swirling questions about back-to-school, later this month, Lookout is giving parents, educators and students a chance to ask those questions directly of top education leaders through our latest free virtual event.

And at the very bottom of this newsletter, I have more details about a fun photo contest to show off your best Santa Cruz sunset snaps.

Let’s dive in:

PVUSD trustees to consider censuring former president Georgia Acosta

PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board's president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board’s president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
(PVUSD and Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees will consider Wednesday whether to censure its former board president Georgia Acosta over her actions — some predating the brief ouster of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez in January. The 3-page resolution to censure Acosta lists a litany of complaints against her. Read more about the allegations against Acosta from our Patrick Riley — and read the entire resolution — here.

Lookout’s Nick Ibarra has covered the issue closely. Here’s a timeline of events so far:

Jan. 28: PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez reacts to her abrupt dismissal

Jan. 29: PVUSD trustees reverse course, vote to consider reinstating Rodriguez

Jan. 30: Why did actor Edward James Olmos turn up at a Pajaro Valley Unified school board meeting?

Jan. 31: PVUSD trustees unanimously reinstate Rodriguez, change board leadership

Feb. 1: Rodriguez heads back to work

Feb. 2: Two PVUSD trustees cited ‘death threats’ amid Michelle Rodriguez saga. Days later, police say none reported

Feb. 18: INVESTIGATION: Were shaky finances behind PVUSD superintendent’s firing? Hastily deleted post reveals tension

March 10: PVUSD board votes against paying $16K in legal fees authorized by its former president

Presented by K&D Landscaping

As the second-generation CEO of a local family-owned business, Justin White is making waves in his community and...

The evolution of racism faced by generations of Asian Americans in Santa Cruz County

(via Pixabay, Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

‘I don’t deserve to be called that’: Asian American teens in Santa Cruz County talk race, identity, pain: Amid the ongoing national reckoning over treatment of Asian Americans, Lookout assembled a group of Santa Cruz area teens and tweens to come together for a discussion about their experiences. “I didn’t realize that I had experienced racist remarks until COVID happened. It opened my eyes and made me realize it’s a serious problem,” said one 16-year-old. Read the story by Mark Conley here.

The Hashimoto doctrine: Keep vigilant against racism and stand up for civil rights for Asian Americans: Mas and Marcia Hashimoto, both retired school teachers who worked and still live in Watsonville, are among the most long standing civil rights activists and advocates in Santa Cruz County. And while the Atlanta murders have put the issue of discrimination against Asian Americans front and center in the headlines in recent days, such discrimination in California is something they say they’ve both been living with their entire lives. Read the story by Wallace Baine here.

LOOKOUT POLL: Have you experienced racism in Santa Cruz County?

HOME is where the heart is when it comes to pandemic restaurant resiliency

Brad and Linda share a moment with Lola while Inka explores the garden.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Brad Briske and Linda Ritten, partners in work and life and co-owners of HOME in Soquel, are the pandemic small-business bellwethers for taking COVID lemons and making delicious lemonade. They not only figured out how to successfully sling curbside takeout, seat people in their perfect-for-pandemic garden, create an in-house takeaway market, but they also just this winter opened up a satellite location within Discretion Brewing called HOMEfry. Read more from Lookout contributor Amber Turpin here.

Back-to-school in a pandemic

PPE are on the desks for kindergarten students at West Hollywood Elementary School
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

California adopts 3-foot-spacing rule for classrooms, changing reopening equation: Students in California are now allowed to sit three feet apart in classrooms — instead of four or six feet — in guidelines state officials issued over the weekend, a major change in policy that will exert pressure on local officials to consider a faster and more complete reopening of campuses. Read more from the LA Times here.

FREE EVENT | School reopenings in Santa Cruz County: The experts answer your questions: What safety precautions are in place in school buildings? What’s going on with sports and other extracurriculars? And, of course, what might school schedules look like in the fall? When it comes to education post-pandemic, the number of questions one might ask about school reopenings are seemingly endless. So Lookout, in partnership with Event Santa Cruz, is giving you a chance to run your questions by two top Santa Cruz County Office of Education officials: Superintendent Faris Sabbah and Director of School Safety Jennifer Buesing.

When: 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30
Where: Zoom
Register and submit your questions ahead of time here.

Around the state…

California Governor Gavin Newsom

Is it inevitable that a prominent Democrat will challenge Newsom? As the effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from office intensifies, a critical question is whether another Democrat jumps into the race to replace him. No candidate has come forward yet, but many political experts believe it is inevitable. Contenders could come from a handful of categories: an impatient progressive frustrated by the logjam for top statewide seats, a candidate with nothing to lose, a rich neophyte or a party pick if Democratic leaders ultimately decide it’s too risky not to have a backup plan. We’ve got the overview from the LA Times here.

Blue Shield spent years cultivating relationship with Newsom, and it got the state vaccine deal: Insurance giant Blue Shield of California has made millions in charitable and political donations to Gov. Gavin Newsom over nearly two decades, largely to his dearly held homeless initiatives. Now, Newsom has rewarded the insurer with a $15 million no-bid contract to lead the state’s covid vaccination distribution. Our content partner Kaiser Health News investigates here.

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

Wild Poppies – a small local olive oil business – was created by two sisters, Kim Null and Jamie de Sieyes. Their...

Around the county . . .

Central Coast foster care workers seek mentors for foster kids (KION-TV)

Restoration of iconic Watsonville High mural begins (The Pajaronian)

Chisem builds his dream palace | Local History (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

A little Lookout fun . . .

SUNSET PHOTO CONTEST: I haven’t had to live in Santa Cruz very long to learn that sunsets here are a special treat. My phone is filled with photos of pretty vistas and sunsets from around the county and I bet yours is too. So to that end, we want to see your best Santa Cruz sunset photos for a chance to win a Lookout T-Shirt. Submit your entry here.

QUIZ: Also, our “How well do you know Santa Cruz history and culture” quiz is really fun — especially for the longtime locals. The tough questions were crafted by our seasoned locals, Wallace and Mark. Only a handful of our readers have achieved Grandmaster status so far. Test out your local knowledge here.

Finally, as news develops through the day, I recommend signing up for Lookout’s Breaking News Text Alerts. We deliver the news as it happens straight to your phone so you can be in the know about what’s going on around the county. Sign up for our free text alerts here or just text the word BREAKING to (831) 265-0158.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor