On Politics: Flunking high school (opinion)

With "March Miracle" snowstorms hitting Tahoe I decided to visit coastal California to see blooming flowers and green deciduous trees.

I was not disappointed with the Golden State's early spring. However, I was struck by a front page San Francisco Chronicle story about a school occurrence that I hope never happens in any school district that serves Lake Tahoe. Here are the facts.

Washington High School is located in the northwest corner of San Francisco in a largely residential area called "Outer Richmond." It was built in 1936, has been well maintained and boasts a distinguished group of alumni including actor Danny Glover, pro tennis star Rosemary Casals and Grammy-winning singer Johnny Mathis.

The enrollment is about 2,000 kids, 59 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced price lunch. US News and World Report reported that "minority enrollment" makes up 92 percent of the total student population at Washington. Yet, despite what the Chronicle called a failure "to close the achievement gap for black, Latino and Pacific Islander students," students at Washington substantially outperform, on average, other San Francisco high schools as well as those in the entire state of California.

The school offers 15 advanced placement classes in which 59 percent of its students enroll and 79 percent of enrollees pass, and 93 percent of its students graduate on time, according to US News and World Report. If the high ratio of poverty students and minorities seems inconsistent with solid academic performance let me add one other disclosure: 70 percent of the "of color" students are Asian.

What a surprise then to see a headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle reading: "A study in failure at city's schools" (the headline online is "A child left behind: SF student failed every class in high school"). The story described how Pat Scott, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, urged the city school board to make changes because of a Washington High School senior who had received no grade higher than "F" — "an F in biology, an F in world history, an F in Spanish, an F in P.E., all F's from grade nine to the first semester of grade 12. And no one intervened. He got a notice he wasn't going to graduate last week and nothing happened."

The student, identified only as a "Latino boy" took the notice and his transcript to Scott's agency and showed it to a social worker who couldn't believe her eyes. The Community Service Center was formed to help students transitioning out of foster care.

Washington High's principal Susan Saunders, citing confidentiality laws, declined to say how the student had been advanced from one grade to the next having failed every class, and what action, if any, the school took to intervene.

She also declined to speak even generally how school officials would handle a student who consistently failed classes, according to the Chronicle report.

John Trotter, Booker T. Washington Center's program director for college and career readiness, said: "74 percent of black students across the (San Francisco Unified School) District did not meet 2016-17 state assessment standards in at least one subject area, district data show. The same was true for 61 percent of Latino students and 65 percent of Pacific Islander students. Only 14 percent of whites and 16 percent of Asian Americans failed to meet standards . . . Nothing has changed in years and years; there's no help. There's no intervention."

The student has been placed in a continuation school by the Booker T. Washington Center where he is now working toward a GED. But he can never get back the years of his life wasted for lack of oversight by school officials.

This time the press got it exactly right. The media are right to shine a bright light on circumstances like this that threaten to ruin a young student's life for lack of caring.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at tahoesbjc@aol.com.

University of Nevada professor’s frog study helps to understand emerging diseases

RENO — The search for answers to protect Central American frogs from extinction is also giving scientists clues on how to predict and respond to emerging diseases and epidemics in humans, plants and other wildlife.

In their paper published in the magazine Science, March 30, University of Nevada, Reno's Jamie Voyles and her colleagues document the recovery of some tropical amphibians following continued exposure to a lethal pathogen.

"Diseases often shift to be less deadly over time," said Voyles, assistant professor in the department of biology and lead author on the study. "But we don't fully understand why. In our study, we found that the pathogen, in this case a lethal fungus, remains just as deadly to hosts a decade after it first appeared."

For amphibians, scientists have known about a highly lethal disease called "chytridiomycosis" since the 1990s. This disease was especially devastating to frogs in Central America, where it may have wiped out entire species. The study shows nine species that reached critically low numbers are showing evidence of recovery. In addition, some species have defenses against infection that are more effective now than they were prior to the epidemic.

"In this study, we made the exciting discovery that a handful of amphibian species — some of which were thought to have been completely wiped out — are persisting, and may even be recovering, after lethal disease outbreaks," said Voyles a disease ecologist. "We wanted to understand how it was happening. Was it a change in the pathogen, the frogs, or both?"

The fungal pathogen that causes chytridiomycosis, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been linked to population declines in amphibian species around the world. The team investigated the chytridiomycosis outbreak and its transition away from epidemic by tracking shifts in species detection, community composition, infection patterns, as well as host resistance and pathogen virulence over time.

"Because we have pathogen and host samples from before, during and after the epidemic, we can ask whether some frogs survived because the pathogen grew weaker through time, or because the frogs' immune systems or resistance increased through time," Voyles said.

"The evidence suggests that the pathogen has not changed. It's possible that the hosts have evolved better defenses over a relatively short period of time" she said. "We found that nearly a decade after the outbreak, the fungal pathogen is still equally deadly, but the frogs in Panama are surviving and may have better defenses against it. This suggests that some of Panama's frogs may be fighting back."

"This pathogen infects many different amphibian species — sometimes without causing disease — and can survive in the environment outside of its host, so it's not going away anytime soon," said study co-author Allison Byrne, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley. "This study provides hope that some species can recover despite being constantly exposed to a deadly pathogen."

Understanding how amphibian communities are recovering after this disease outbreak is important for multiple reasons. This work suggests that recovery after the epidemics is possible, but likely a slow and gradual process, which underscores the importance of continuing to monitor amphibian populations.

"The study sounds a hopeful note," said Louise A. Rollins-Smith, a co-author of the study from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Initially it looked bleak for many frog species, but some of them are certainly recovering."

Detecting species that exist in small, remnant populations means many hours of searching across many sites and habitats. Distinguishing between populations that are lost for good and populations that are limping along, perhaps in need of conservation support, requires a prolonged and extensive monitoring effort.

"Clarifying how disease outbreaks subside will help us predict, and respond to, other emerging pathogens in plants, wildlife – and in humans," Voyles said. "These are increasingly important goals in a time when rapid globalization has increased the rate of introduction of pathogens to new host populations."

Contributing authors on the study "Shifts in disease dynamics in a tropical amphibian assemblage are not due to pathogen attenuation," are: Douglas C. Woodhams, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancón, Panamá and University of Massachusetts-Boston; Veronica Saenz, University of Pittsburgh; Allison Q. Byrne and Erica Bree Rosenblum, University of California, Berkeley; Rachel Perez, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico; Gabriela Rios-Sotelo, University of Nevada, Reno; Mason J. Ryan, University of Nevada, Reno and Arizona Department of Game and Fish, Phoenix, Arizona; Molly C. Bletz, University of Massachusetts- Boston; Florence Ann Sobell, Louise A. Rollins-Smith, Shawna McLetchie and Laura Reinert, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn.; Roberto Ibáñez, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancón, Panamá and Sistema Nacional de Investigación, Panamá, Panamá; Julie M. Ray, La Mica Biological Station, El Copé, Panamá; Edgardo J. Griffith, Fundación Centro de Conservación de Anfibios, El Valle, Panamá; Heidi Ross, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; Corinne L. Richards-Zawacki, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and University of Pittsburgh.

Prescribed burns in Lake Tahoe ahead of next storm

Incline tracksters set personal, season bests at Reed Invite

Incline tracksters set season and personal bests this past weekend at the 2018 Reed Sparks Rotary Invitational.

The Highlander girls finished 17th with 11.5 points while the boys were 21st with three points out of 30 schools of all sizes at the two-day event, Friday and Saturday, March 30-31.

Freshman high jumper Millie Jenkins again tied the school record with a jump of 5 feet, which was good for first place.

Last year's team MVP Samantha Giangreco was eighth in the high jump and freshman Jada Moore was 10th. Both reached the same height of 4-08.

Giangreco set season bests in discus and the 100-meter run while Moore set personal bests in the 300-meter hurdles and 200.

Giangreco was 21st out of 67 shot putters with a toss of 73-03 and finished 21st out 79 in the 100 in 13.88.

Moore was 19th out of 53 hurdlers in 53.89 and was 42nd out of 81 in the 200 with a time of 30.08. Her time in hurdles was the best among 1A/2A schools.

Moore, Jenkins and Giangreco also teamed with Belle Johnson to earn eighth in the 4×100 relay out of 13 teams.

Incline jumper DJ Littleton set a personal record in long jump and tied his season best in the triple jump to lead the highlander boys.

He reached 19 feet, 9 inches in the long jump, good for sixth out of 50 jumpers. His distance would have placed him third best in Class 2A at the state meet last year. He finished 13th out of 27 in the triple jump with a distance of 37-03.

Christopher Vaughn threw a personal best in discus, reaching 77-05 and earned 14th out of 40 throwers.

On the opposite side of the field, Brad Rye took to the runway in pole vault clearing 7-06 in his second attempt and finished 11th out of 38.

Esten Flores was 20th out of 63 in the shot put with a distance of 37-06.25,

"Overall, this is a young and improved team from last year at the same time under similar winter conditions," said Incline head coach Thomas Reymer. "Exciting things are happening and records may continue to fall."

Incline next will compete Saturday, April 7, in California at the Thunder Invitational at Rocklin High School.

Lake Tahoe School student to compete at Geography Bee

Lake Tahoe School student Sabrina Ottaway recently qualified to compete in the state level competition of the National Geographic Bee.

The Nevada State Bee will be held on Friday, April 6.

Eligible state Bee competitors are in grades four through eight, and must have participated in and won the competition at the school level that involved at least six students.

One champion from each state and territory will advance to the National Geographic Bee Championship, which will be held May 20-23 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Sabrina, according to the school, also placed second for sixth grade in this year's Lake Tahoe School Science Fair with her project, titled "Hertz So Good," which compared the effect of different frequencies of sound on bacteria growth.

Incline splits weekend doubleheader with North Tahoe

Incline baseball hung on to take the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, March 31, but lost the second game to North Shore rival North Tahoe.

The Highlanders grabbed a big early lead and held on for a 11-10 in the opener and fell behind fast in the nightcap and could never recover losing 9-5 at Governor's Field in Carson City.

"The first game, we got a big lead early, we were in control, but had some mental lapses and made some bad choices and all of a sudden it's a game and we had to hang on," said Incline head coach Billy Knight. "Our approaches at the plate need to get better. We did OK in the first game but in the second game we couldn't string hits together and struck out at bad times. Overall though, things are improving and we're still trying to overcome the lack of outside practice."

The Highlanders led 7-3 after two innings and 10-5 after three.

Jake Harrell, who pitched and earned the victory against the Lakers on Tuesday, March 27, came on in relief in the sixth inning and earned the save.

Dalton Fry, Harrell, Tristan Summers and Zachary Poalillo each had two hits to lead Incline at the plate.

Fry doubled twice and scored three runs, Harrell doubled and had two runs batted in and scored two runs and Summers doubled, had an RBI and scored.

Also for Incline, Jacob Collins doubled and drove in two, Tyler Bellig singled and had two RBIs and Jacob Leoncio scored twice.

The Highlanders fell behind 8-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning in the nightcap and it was an uphill battle from there.

Summers doubled and singled, Trent Green doubled and Gage Pierce singled and scored twice, Braydon Snearly singled and drove in a run and Harrell scored and had an RBI to lead the Incline offense.

"I'm disappointed we didn't win all three, but give them credit," Knight said. "They're a good, well-coached team and they did what they needed to do."

Incline on Wednesday was waiting to see if its three games against Battle Mountain would be rescheduled to fit in a doubleheader Friday, April 6, to beat the heavy part of an incoming storm.

The Highlanders are scheduled to play a single game on Friday followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, April 7, at Galena High School.

"We need to get two wins this weekend to keep matters in our own hands for playoffs," Knight said. "If we don't get two, then our backs will be against the wall and we have to hope for other teams to lose and we don't want that. But we have everybody healthy and everything is lined up so if we don't take two, that will be on us."

Market Pulse: Be prudent … or at least cautious

There have been many times in my long career when some things were "certain."

In 1999 and 2000 people were certain tech and internet stocks would rise with no end, as if trees grow to the sky. In recent years there were times when investors were certain interest rates would rise and not by a little. After all, Fed chiefs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen told us so.

On the other side, in the 2008-09 financial crisis there were those who were certain the financial system was about to collapse. Buy treasuries yielding close to zero, they said. Something is better than nothing. There were similar panics (the taper tantrum) after that.

At times stock market bears said get out now while you can, or the opposite (last chance to get in). There are always people on the extremes. The problem is that extreme results seldom happen because there is no constituency for them. In most aspects of life, moderation carries the day.

So here we are. Most people expect interest rates to rise in fits and starts for years. Fed chief Jerome Powell has said as much. I can make a case for that as the economy expands and demands for credit grow, but nothing is certain.

Suppose for whatever reason credit demands do not rise and interest rates stay where they are (historically very low) or edge up or down a bit. The prudent thing to do is cover both outcomes to one degree or another and for clients that is exactly what I do.

Investments that do well when interest rates rise include adjustable preferreds and bank-loan funds.

When rates fall or stay low, fixed-rate bonds, preferreds and exchange-traded debt do well. So do utility stocks, telecoms and better-yielding issues.

Stocks do well when the cause of upward pressure on interest rates is an expanding economy, which means profits are rising as well. Stocks did very well in the 1980s because GDP was growing at a rate we can only hope for now. It didn't matter that interest rates also rose — it was a bull market.

The prudent strategy is to have one foot in each camp. Own some vehicles that will do well if rates rise and some if they don't, or if in fact they fall. One needn't be 50-50.

My favorite adjustable rate preferred is Goldman Sachs Series 'D' (GS.D). For fixed-rate preferreds, my clients own Saul Centers 6.125 percent Series 'D' (BFS.D) and Renaissance Re 5.375 percent Series 'E' (RNR.E).

More on those and others in an upcoming article.

David Vomund is an Incline Village-based fee-only money manager. Information is found at http://www.VomundInvestments.com or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.