New Santa Cruz County Fair CEO Zeke Fraser
New Santa Cruz County Fair CEO Zeke Fraser.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Schools’ absenteeism problem, county fair CEO’s challenges & prison visits

Gooood morning, Santa Cruz County! It is Thursday, Sept. 7, and a gradual warmup is in store as we coast into the weekend, with mid-70s to mid-80s expected.

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Local school districts’ struggles with chronic absenteeism is first up, with Hillary Ojeda reporting on a changing focus in messaging. Amid the pandemic, schools erred on the side of keeping students home for health and safety reasons; now, attendance is a priority.

With the Santa Cruz County Fair coming next week, Wallace Baine talked with Zeke Fraser, who landed the CEO job not only with way less time to prepare for the annual event than usual but also after a tumultuous stretch that saw previous CEOs fired or resign and turmoil on the fair board and among supporters.

From Lookout’s Community Voices opinion section comes an op-ed from Jeri Ross, who writes from experience about how important prison visits are to both the family of those incarcerated and to those behind bars.

Also among Thursday’s packed set of headlines is Jessica M. Pasko’s roundup of news and notes from the Santa Cruz County business community ... shall we take a look?

Too many students are missing class: Santa Cruz County schools struggle with steep rise in chronic absenteeism

Scott Turnbull, Soquel Union Elementary School District superintendent, stands in his office on Sept. 6, 2023, in Capitola.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa )

Local school leaders are working to address chronic absenteeism rates that have remained stubbornly high since the pandemic. In addition to sending letters to families, Santa Cruz County districts are knocking on more doors and making more phone calls home. The strategy is a shift from the past three years of messaging that erred on the side of encouraging students to stay home from school for health and safety reasons. Hillary Ojeda has the picture.

MORE: Enrollment drops sharply in Santa Cruz County public schools amid demographic changes, affordability woes

After a stormy offseason, Zeke Fraser is hustling to get the Santa Cruz County Fair up and running

New Santa Cruz County Fair CEO Zeke Fraser
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Less than three months into his tenure as Santa Cruz County Fair CEO, the pressure is on for Zeke Fraser to pull off this year’s version, which runs Sept. 13-17. The longtime local talks about getting up to speed, what’s on tap for this year’s fair and bridging the North County-South County divide. Check out his Q&A with Wallace Baine.

LOOKOUT Q&As: Hear from Santa Cruz County newsmakers in their own words


Upcoming events in Santa Cruz County

“Ten” exhibition @Radius Gallery
Poetry Series @Boulder Creek Branch Library
Dylan Rose: Father & Son @Bargetto Winery
The Latin Dead @Felton Music Hall
Sofia Talvik @Ugly Mug Coffeehouse

Midtown Fridays @1111 Soquel Ave.
Food Truck Friday @Skypark
Mountain Film on Tour Santa Cruz @Rio Theatre
Roosevelt @The Catalyst

Out of The Darkness Santa Cruz County Walk @Skypark
Community Crafters-Basic Earring Making Workshop @Boulder Creek Branch Library
Farm Dinner @1481 San Miguel Canyon Rd.
Big Mountain @Moe’s Alley
MaMuse, WildChoir & The Feelings Parade @Rio Theatre

Halloween Pop-up Event @Little Trends
Rail & Trail Festival @Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
David Luning @Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Marc E. Bassy @The Catalyst

That, friends, is what I know this here Thursday. I can also tell you that there’s more coming from Lookout, including another edition of Weekender, Wallace Baine’s recommendation-packed jaunt through Santa Cruz County arts and entertainment. You can get that delivered right to you by clicking right here, where you can avail yourself of not only all of Lookout’s other newsletters but breaking news alerts via text and email, too. For you social types, give Lookout a follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Threads to stay on top of local news and views.

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Tally ho — let’s run Thursday down.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz