New school chief; prank gets profane; rising stars; and more

Posted on May 16, 2023 by Val Robichaud


Dr. Jeanette Rodríguez-Chien is the new superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. After a unanimous vote of the board, she’ll begin a three-year, $241,000 per year contract on July 1. (Plus benefits, moving expenses and an annual raise.) The 30-year public school veteran replaces Elizabeth Kaufman, who held the job on an interim basis since November, when Adrian Palazuelos departed suddenly. (He had replaced another troubled administrator, but enough about the office being haunted)… Dr. Rodriguez-Chien started her career as a  bilingual classroom teacher and has served in a variety of capacities including school site  principal, director of curriculum and instruction, chief academic officer, assistant superintendent and, most recently, Deputy Superintendent of San Diego County Office of Education. “It is a great privilege to join this amazing community of educators, parents and students,” she said. “As I step into this pivotal role, I am filled with great enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to advancing the future of education in our district.”

The City of Sonoma has adopted a Three-Year Action Plan to End Homelessness. A year in the making, the plan, rolled out by the City’s Homelessness Consultant Andrew Henning, aims to reach “Functional Zero” homelessness in the Sonoma Valley by June 30, 2026. The plan calls for the City to “work with the County of Sonoma and local service providers to create a highly coordinated, housing-focused system of care that is sustainable and enduring.” Henning advised focusing efforts on these six areas: Coordinate outreach in line with the County’s Continuum of Care Strategic Plan; Centralize services around the Hwy 12 corridor; Address the upstream causes of homelessness (e.g., food insecurity, affordable housing development, mental health, healthcare, etc); Expand more local affordable and supportive housing; Increase non-congregate shelter capacity; and Increase and improve the organizational and financial capacity of local service providers… The “Functional Zero” target is defined as the idea that even though a homeless system of care might not be able to fully reform the root causes of  homelessness, it can house every person experiencing long-term homelessness (more than 90 days) and ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and one-time for anyone who becomes homeless thereafter (less than 90 days). The Plan will help guide and coordinate efforts to prevent and address homelessness within the City of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley, including funding decisions and support for nonprofit service providers that focus on the unhoused.

Sonoma Valley High School senior Grace Atkinson has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Student Creative Artist Award of $2,000 by Sonoma’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission. The commissioners were impressed with Grace’s dedication to her craft and passion for the visual arts. “The subject of most of my art is symbiotic relationships,” she explained. “I like to depict interactions between different creatures and allude to a story within an image. Another inspiration to me is finding the beauty within the ugly and showing different kinds of love or conflict.” What’s next? “Complete my AP art portfolio and work on submitting my art to different galleries and contests. My absolute greatest aspiration is to be able to make a career out of my art, and for now, I hope to continue building my skills in various mediums.”…Another talented visual artist and Sonoma Valley High School senior, Sydney Chapin, was chosen to receive a merit award of $1,000 from the Commission.

A Sonoma Valley High School employee was put on leave after losing her temper, obscenely, via social media. It started with a game students play, an after-hours, off-book tradition called Fugitive Night. The underclassers start at a neutral spot and try to sneak back to the school campus without  being spotted by upperclassers on the hunt. (Theoretically harmless, and no major injuries over the years, though hard to justify in this day and age). Anyway… The hazing went from clean fun to dirty tricks when a skirmish back on campus fouled buildings and broke windows. The school office employee took the vandalism quite personally and took to Snapchat to berate the perpetrators, mostly with expletives. So now the district has two problems on its hands – unruly students and an unusually rude employee. 

What’s the best way to celebrate excellence in the hospitality industry? Throw a big party in a hotel ballroom, pour lots of wine, and hand out awards. Several Sonoma Valley folks were honored at the recent 2023 Sonoma County Tourism Stars of the Industry Awards. Among the winners: Santos Perez De Wile, from the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, in the Heart of the House category; Hayden Puryear, tasting room manager at Larson Family Wines, this year’s Rising Star (pictured); and Transcendence Theatre Company, a group award for Community Enrichment. 

More and more, muses Rosie Lee-Parks, we all seem to be in such a hurry. “Get up and move, hurry up, be productive. We’re living life like all there is to drink is coffee.” Lee-Parks, of Readers’ Books, is a tea person. “You can’t rush a nice cup of tea. No amount of focus and dedication is going to make water boil faster; you can’t chug down a steaming cup. To have a good cup of tea is to take the time for it.” I’ll have what she’s having.

– Val Robichaud, [email protected]

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