Saturday, 18 May 2024

Opinion

Exposure to lead is harmful to young children. Recent news reports of high lead levels found in some fruit pouch brands consumed by kids, highlight the fact that lead exposure is not a thing of the past but an important part of our present. All parents need to be vigilant and informed about lead poisoning prevention.

If you have children age 6 or younger, your health care provider should be talking with you at every well-child visit about the possibility that your child has been exposed to lead. This is important because exposure to lead can cause a wide range of health problems, including irreversible brain damage, especially in young, developing brains. There is no known “safe” level of lead exposure.

Since most children have no symptoms while they are being exposed, the best way to prevent lead poisoning is to know how kids may be exposed and to have your child screened by answering questions and/or getting tested for lead exposure. Testing is recommended at 1 and 2 years of age and is usually done with a quick finger poke at your child’s well-care visit.

For children in publicly funded programs like Medi-Cal and the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Food Program, or WIC, testing at 1 and 2 years of age is required. For these children, catch-up testing must be done (up to the age of 6 years) if not done at 2 years of age.

Many of us have heard about older (pre-1978) homes being a source of exposure due to the lead-based paints widely used prior to that time. Fortunately, lead-based paints were banned for continued home use in the U.S. in 1978 but can still be found in older homes.

As this paint cracks and peels over time, lead-containing dust and paint chips can find their way onto the hands and then into the mouths of crawling infants and climbing toddlers. Lead may also be found in soil, particularly around older homes and industrial sites and in water that flows
through older pipes containing lead.

Until fairly recently, parents were advised primarily about these potential lead sources. In recent years, we have been finding lead in many more unexpected places.

These days, the items we all eat, drink and use every day (such as pottery, cookware, herbal medicine and makeup), come from all over the world. As countries have varying customs and regulations regarding food and product safety, the potential for lead exposure has grown.

For example, the contaminated apple cinnamon fruit pouches mentioned above were made in Ecuador and sold under various brand names in the United States. The source of contamination is suspected to be the added cinnamon. Similarly, in parts of South Asia, the beautiful golden yellow spice called turmeric has long been used in traditional medicines and in food. In that part of the world, the turmeric roots are often treated with a lead compound to make the color even brighter. This may be one reason that South Asia has some of the highest rates of lead poisoning in the world.

So, parents, the bad news is that lead exposure in children is a big health concern. The good news is that many exposures can be avoided, and testing for lead early can prevent ongoing and higher levels of exposure. Some helpful tips to prevent lead exposure in your home are:

• Be careful and consider the source of spices, medications, cosmetics and items such as cookware and tableware that you bring into your home.

• Think about the age of your home and whether it is likely to have lead paint.

• Talk with your child’s doctor about lead exposure and preventing exposure.

• Visit the California Department of Public Health Lead Prevention Homepage for facts on how you can keep your child safe from lead poisoning.

Dr. Teresa Frankovich is an associate medical director at Partnership HealthPlan of California. Partnership is a community-based, safety-net health plan that contracts with the state to administer Medi-Cal benefits. Partnership provides quality care to over 900,000 Medi-Cal members. Starting in Solano County in 1994, Partnership now serves 24 Northern California counties – Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba. Learn more at PartnershipHP.org.

Dr. Nicki Thomas. Courtesy photo.

School funding in California depends on both state funding and local tax dollars.

State funding can only be used for operational expenses like teacher salaries, supplies, and other materials directly related to student instruction. For facilities maintenance and construction, schools depend on local tax dollars.

In 2016, Kelseyville voters passed Measure U by a significant margin, allowing us to make essential upgrades and repairs to our schools. We kept the community informed of our progress along the way, so people knew we respected and appreciated their support.

Thanks to sensible planning from our school board and careful execution from our staff and community partners, we were able to complete projects at every single school, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Some of the highlights included a new multi-use room, or MUR, at Kelseyville Elementary that now serves as both a cafeteria and a gymnasium. Before we had a MUR, kids didn’t have a covered space where they could eat lunch.

At Riviera Elementary, we upgraded the parking lot to make it safer and enhance the flow of traffic. At Mountain Vista Middle School, we renovated classrooms and bathrooms and added shade covers over ADA-compliant walkways. At Kelseyville High School, we built a state-of-the-art shop building and installed air conditioning in the gym.

These enhancements continue to make a big difference for our students. However, our work isn’t finished. Due to increased enrollment and the normal wear and tear of so many students on our campuses, we need to invest in our schools again. This should be the last time we request a bond measure for many years.

To figure out exactly what we needed, we hired a company to objectively assess our school campuses. Here’s what they said.

Original and historic buildings throughout the district are especially in urgent need of modernizing in order to meet current safety and accessibility standards, as well as access to the digital education tools necessary for our 21st century learning environment … Given increasing construction, maintenance, and utility costs, as well as the need for facilities to serve as an important community resource for emergency shelter in extreme weather and disaster events, this needs assessment focuses on safety, accessibility, durability and cost containment/mitigation.

Right now, Kelseyville Elementary is bursting at the seams. For the 2023-24 school year, we had to deny requests from several families who wanted to transfer in, and still, we are at 600 students (which is significantly beyond the population the school was built for).

With Measure Q funding, we would be able to update and build more classrooms, modernize the playground, replace non-operable windows, repair and repaint walls, and more.

At Riviera Elementary, we are also planning for a future with more students. This creates the need for more classrooms, an updated HVAC (heating and air conditioning) system, and replacing floors, cabinets, and data infrastructure.

At Mountain Vista Middle School, we’re planning on more classrooms, an upgrade to the irrigation system, replacing and repainting damaged walls and ceiling tiles, and more. I was principal at MVMS when the last round of updates occurred. After that, the new classrooms and bathrooms were never hit by vandals, only older parts of the campus. Students took pride in the parts of their school that were in good repair.

At Kelseyville High School, the pipe that carries sewage is half as big as it should be. This results in back-ups and problems that none of us wants to think about, but that our janitors and maintenance folks cannot avoid. Roofs and exterior siding are in need of phased replacement, and the remaining portable buildings on campus are more than 30 years old, which is far past their expiration date.

The point is, we are not asking for fancy upgrades. We are asking for essential maintenance and additional space to meet our growing student population. A new apartment building is under construction in the Kelseyville Elementary area, which will only increase our need for more room.

We’re happy to welcome more families to our Kelseyville community, but we need enough funding to provide adequate school facilities. Kelseyville Unified is proud of our good reputation, and we are dedicated to maintaining it.

We know that when a school district has a good reputation, it's easier for businesses to recruit employees to the area. There’s a lot of research that says well-maintained schools contribute to a positive campus culture, which increases student attendance and therefore, performance.

Also, great facilities attract great teachers and we are competing for staff because of the nationwide teacher shortage.

The bottom line is that our kids deserve a safe and comfortable place to learn. They need classrooms where air conditioning works in the summer and heaters work in the winter, allowing them to concentrate on their studies rather than the temperature. They need doors and windows that seal properly, furniture that isn’t broken, and walls where the paint isn’t peeling off. They need brightly lit classrooms and safe playground equipment.

Investing in schools is about the biggest bang for your buck you can hope for. These students are our future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and law enforcement officers. They will be taking care of us eventually. Let’s take care of them now.

Dr. Nicki Thomas is superintendent of the Kelseyville Unified School District in Kelseyville, California.

Citizens for Healing is an outlier group of Lake County residents who have filed an application to the federal Board on Geographic Names in Reston, Virginia. They are proposing to change the name of Kelseyville to “Konocti.”

The decision for their campaign is based on the egregious and horrendous behavior toward the Native Americans of this valley by Andrew Kelsey and his business partner, Charles Stone, who lived here from 1847 to 1849.

No one condones the reprehensible behavior of these men. Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone were murdered by local Native Americans in 1849.

The history of the Native Americans who were the first stewards of this area 10,000 years ago is appreciated and respected. Their story is important to the history and culture of this region. This period in time is a painful part of the history of Kelseyville, and it is acknowledged.

Changing the name of Kelseyville will not change the past. This initiative divides the community rather than “heals” and the platform to discuss the past may disappear with the name. It is best to educate about the history instead of trying to erase it.

In 1854 new settlers, moving westward, came into this isolated valley. The new settlers were mainly farmers, but there were also merchants, blacksmiths, teachers and pastors. These were families who were coming from areas such as Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. They blended to make up the tapestry of this evolving town. They were the new face of this community and created an honorable town.

Kelseyville, formerly Uncle Sam, was officially renamed by the United States Post office in October 1882. It is believed that the community was named Kelseyville, not to honor Andrew Kelsey, but because, as often happened in the settling of new communities, he was the first man to build an adobe cabin in an unnamed area, on an unnamed creek.

Kelseyville is a diverse, rural town made up of different ethnicities. Throughout the last century, Kelseyville has thrived because of the residents who have worked diligently to make it a respected and inclusive town.

Kelseyville is situated at the base of the powerful and beautiful mountain, Mount Konocti. The Native Americans of this valley value it as sacred land; this sacred land belongs to the whole county of Lake.

Changing the name of Kelseyville to Konocti would create a sense of confusion and a burden to the historic school district in the community of Lower Lake that is called Konocti Unified School District.

There is great pride in the town of Kelseyville. The Kelseyville Business Association presents five major festivals a year: Bacon Fest; Dia de la Independencia, honoring the Kelseyville Hispanic families; the Kelseyville Pear Festival, honoring the agricultural heritage of Kelseyville; the Farm to Fork Dinner on Main Street, celebrating the food of Lake County; and Christmas in the Country, celebrating the joy of the season with the Light Parade.

The leaders of this town have worked tirelessly for the past 30 years building the brand of Kelseyville. This town draws thousands of visitors all year.

The community of Kelseyville is open to anyone who wishes a place at the table. It is a community who works hard to make Lake County a better place for everyone.

There will be no winners if the name is changed. It will be divisive, creating irreparable harm and financial hardship to the businesses, the school district, the fire department, the post office, the townspeople and Lake County government.

Kelseyville is rich in history and beauty. Let’s celebrate each other.

Save the Name of Kelseyville Committee includes Chair Marilyn Holdenried, Mark Borghesani, Jim Comisky, Helen Finch, Barbara Green, Debbi Holdenried, Patsy Huggins, Lois and Mike Jordan, Tammi Mandeville, Tammy Myers, Jamie Patten, Trena Moore Pauly, Kathy Prather and Vicki Totorica. For additional information go to “SaveKelseyville” Facebook page.

Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

When it comes to motivating students (or anyone, really), holding them to an overwhelming goal doesn’t work.

The California Department of Education regularly updates an online dashboard for each public school district to display information about academic achievement and some of the factors that contribute to it, including suspension rates, chronic absenteeism, English Learner progress, and more.

As a district, Konocti Unified has a history of struggling to achieve at high levels when measured on the basis of “Distance from Standard,” which is what the dashboard uses. I recognize the importance of having uniform standards, but I also know how depressing it can feel when those standards feel out of reach. So, while we continue to strive for high marks, our schools are paying attention to whether students are making progress.

Imagine for a moment that your health level makes it hard to walk to the mailbox without getting winded. You know you’re not in great shape, and when someone tells you you’re not as fast as the track star next door, you shrug and shuffle back to your front door. Would you like to be in better shape? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But when external measures seem completely unrealistic, why put any effort into achieving them?

Now imagine that the whole neighborhood is on a health kick and each person is measured on their own improvement. You receive daily encouragement and helpful information about the benefits of cardiovascular health. Each time your minutes-to-the-mailbox score improves, everyone celebrates.

Suddenly, you’re fired up. You know you can shave another minute off your time. You love how much better you’re feeling. You think it’s great that you aren’t tired all the time. Now, you’re not even working hard for the recognition; you’re working hard because you like the results. Now, it’s for you.

This is what we are going for at Konocti Unified. We’re measuring student progress. If a middle school student is reading at a third-grade level and they achieve two years of progress in one year, according to the distance-from-standard measure, they are still “below grade level.”

But according to our measure, they are ROCK STARS! In one year, they learned twice as much as anyone expected. We call that a reason to celebrate.

When students start succeeding, they start to believe in themselves. After all my years in education, I can tell you, this is where the magic happens. This little snowball of success can roll into an avalanche or achievement.

At Pomo Elementary, Lexile (reading) growth rates were stunning. The percentage of kids who hit the 50-point growth goal was as follows:

First grade: 83%
Second grade: 85%
Third grade: 73%
Fourth grade: 69%
Fifth grade: 61%
Sixth grade: 52%

This is a huge improvement over prior years. We have implemented a strong foundational reading program in grades K-3. Schoolwide, we are providing the kind of support that catches students as soon as they start to stumble, so they don’t get stuck — and frustrated. This keeps students motivated to learn.

We celebrated all students for the schoolwide success — this helps students feel connected to each other and feel school pride.

For students to succeed, we need them at school. Poor attendance has been a problem countywide, but we are starting to see improvement in that area. By making our schools as welcoming as possible, students have a place where they feel like they belong.

Sometimes, this means finding a club or sports team. Sometimes, this means connecting with a caring adult willing to take the time to listen. Sometimes, it simply means getting used to each other.

At Obsidian Middle School, we had a bumpy start to the year. We knew this would be the case. When this many middle schoolers come together in a new school, they need to figure out the social hierarchy. It’s human nature.

The good news is that things are settling way down. We have a tiny fraction of the fights on campus that we had at the beginning of the year. Our goal is no fights (standards-based goal), but we are focusing on our progress (things are moving quickly and dramatically in the right direction).

At Obsidian, we are also creating a culture that supports a sense of community. Our House Structure program allows students to be in a smaller learning environment.

Students have two core teachers, one STEM (math and science) and one Humanities (English and history). Each house has approximately 90 students, and the students travel together in their three blocks throughout the day. This makes a middle school of 600 students feel smaller and more personalized. We plan to name the houses and hold healthy competitions this semester to boost school/house spirit.

At Obsidian we also have “positive referrals,” where all staff members can “catch” students doing good work, such as standing up for another student, helping a staff member or cleaning up the campus.

The student receives an Obsidian Middle School hoodie and can take the positive note home to share with parents. These hoodies are gaining popularity and students are working hard to earn them.

We have so many reasons to feel encouraged. We are proud of the progress our students are making. We intend to continue to help them set realistic goals and to celebrate when they reach them.

So, although our California Department of Education dashboard may not look amazing (yet), we’ll keep motivating our students to achieve. Our goal is progress, not perfection.

Becky Salato is superintendent of Konocti Unified School District in Lower Lake, California.

Dr. Damanpreet Jamarai. Courtesy photo.

February is Heart Health Awareness month, a great time to start on the path to better heart health and wellbeing and to understand the risk factors that can contribute to heart problems.

Late last year, the America’s Health Rankings report highlighted a startling fact: heart disease is one of eight chronic conditions that has reached record highs since the report began tracking health and wellbeing in the United States.

Despite a decline in deaths tied to heart disease, it remains the leading cause of death among men and women. Heart disease costs the U.S. health system $216 billion per year, according to the CDC, not including an additional $147 billion in lost wages and productivity.

Risk factors for heart disease include conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity as well as unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol abuse.

In California, 25.4 percent of adults over age 65 qualified as physically inactive while more than 23.9% are obese and just over 7% smoke, according to the America’s Health Rankings 2023 Senior report.

What's more, the report shows strong disparities exist across geographic, racial, and economic groups, putting certain people at greater risk of developing heart problems.

The prevalence of heart disease, like overall health and wellbeing, is influenced by the “social determinants of health” such as lack of access to transportation, healthy foods, and safe housing.

Talk to your health plan and your health care provider about resources that may be available to you to help improve your health and wellbeing.

According to the American Heart Association, there are immediate steps you can take to help you live a longer, healthier life and help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

First, eat a healthier diet. Center your eating plan around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish. Limit sweetened drinks, added sugars, processed meats, sodium and saturated fats.

Second, be physically active and keep any eye on your weight. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Lastly, live tobacco free. If you don’t think you can quit for good on your own, ask for help and talk to your healthcare provider.

For more helpful health and wellness information, visit https://www.uhc.com/news-articles/medicare-articles/medicare.

Dr. Damanpreet Jamarai is chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement of California.

This year we had a long and beautiful fall. The colder days and nights now bring us to the winter season.

Winter is a time for slowing down. Nature has moved from the leaves changing colors and falling and the gift of releasing and letting go, to now receive the time of Winter, the most Yin time of year. A time of rest, stillness, and replenishment.

A time for the seed underground to grow strong roots, storing up and conserving energy, to support growth in the coming Spring.

Because we are also a part of nature, winter is also our time to restore our resources and conserve energy. It is a time to connect with our deepest wisdom, and potential energy that energizes us to realize anything is possible if we simply follow our true nature.

In Chinese Medicine the winter season is the water element.

Water is about our ability to flow and overcome obstacles.

Water is transformative.

As the most yin of all the seasons and the elements, it is a time for stepping back from the outside world and instead, turn inward, to reconnect with ourselves.

When we take quiet time to go inward, and ‘be', we connect with our deepest essence and allow an internal, intuitive process to be heard.

The body/physical gift of water element is rest, solitude, re-balancing, and replenishment. When we have enough reserves, we have enough strength, drive and ambition. In the winter we need to manage our physical energy by not overdoing it or we can become tired and exhausted.

The mind/emotional gift of water is courage, faith, and trust. It is the renewed sense that we can count on our essence and the 'blueprint' for our lives. What happens if we become out of balance? We can feel anxiety, fear, and stress from not being able to live our fullest lives.

The spirit gift of water is the will, the capacity to persevere, listen to our intuition, and tap into our internal energy, so we can grow ‘roots’ that anchor us in who we are.

Keys to staying balanced in the winter season.

Allow yourself to be quiet and listen to your deepest self-essence.

Stay warm, reduce outward activity to conserve energy in the colder, darker months.

Take a quiet walk outside in the fresh air, listen to relaxing music, read books or listen to books on tape.

Take time for extra self-care: get a massage, take a soothing bath, or a hot foot soak. Get an acupuncture treatment to stay balanced!

The winter season is a good time to discover more about yourself through reflection, keeping a journal, paying attention to your dreams, and the practice of meditation.

Do more moderate exercise like Chi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates.

Daily vitamins can help to keep your immune system strong: try taking multi- vitamins and multiminerals, B vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

Drink lots of warm herbal teas, like chamomile, ginger tea, Bengal Spice and Good Earth tea. Eat warm foods, like soups, plenty of steamed vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Have meals with whole grains, squashes, beans and peas, and dark leafy greens like swiss chard, kale, and bok choy.

Avoid too many cold foods and drinks. Although it is hard over the holidays, now try to have less sugar and dairy, as they can deplete your immune system.

Drink plenty of good quality water. Drink half your body weight in ounces. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink a minimum of 75 ounces of water per day.

Stay warm, cover the back of your neck to protect against the cold wind. According to Chinese Medicine the wind can cause colds and flus. Also cover your low back area, to protect your kidneys, and your reserves of energy.

Follow the wisdom of water.

Be effortless in your response to its environment, adapting to change, yielding yet persevering, with the courage to stay the course, and staying rooted to one’s essence. Find the quiet contentment that comes with resting and waiting, being in the space of hibernation as you replenish your reserves.

Spring always follows winter. We don’t know what the spring will look like, yet if we have followed nature’s way and allowed ourselves to be immersed in winter’s gift of rest and replenishment, we will emerge in spring with renewed, vibrant energy, rooted in a clearer vision, and a deeper sense of how we want to show up and manifest our life.

Wendy Weiss is a licensed acupuncturist based in Lower Lake, California, telephone 707-277-0891. Visit her website at www.wendyweissacupuncture.com.

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