By Lois Henry
You've had two whole weeks of vacation from me but that's over now. So, buck up, kiddies.
One of the perks of being away from the office is coming back and sifting through all the news that's transpired in my absence.
Lois Henry hosts Californian Radio every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN.
Of course, that means a lot of eye rolling, snorting and hollering at my stack of newspapers, which can be disconcerting to innocent passersby.
Such as my very audible, "Oh puh-leeze!" at the Aug. 19 story in which former Kern High School District Trustee Ken Mettler said he wants to see the district shell out possibly $30,000 to $40,000 a year to have a private company bring drug-sniffing dogs on campuses.
When he was still a trustee back in 2009, Mettler succeeded in getting most of his fellow trustees (former trustee Bob Hampton was the only one with the sense to vote NO) to agree to have Kern County Probation bring a dog on campus as a way "to keep kids away from drugs," Metter said at the time.
The dog, which was not allowed to sniff the kids, just desks, lockers and vehicles, visited all 18 schools in the district in the first two years of the program. It found some empty beer cans in a truck and a fermented sports drink.
That certainly doesn't mean some high school kids aren't involved in drugs, even possibly bringing them on campus.
But it does show that random canine drug searches aren't effective. Not as way to catch culprits and, apparently, not as a deterrent either.
The Aug. 19 story reported there were 351 drug-related expulsions/suspensions in 2006 and 350 in 2009 after the dog was employed.
The district now, wisely, only calls out the dogs when there's a reason to suspect drugs actually are on campus.
That means teachers, administrators, counselors, parents and the kids themselves have to be aware and involved in what's happening at their own schools.
Involvement and awareness are almost always the best methods to keep kids out of trouble.
Give the dogs a rest, Mr. Mettler.
Moving on, I was extremely interested in an Aug. 22 story about the Kern County Board of Supervisors voting to begin the process of outsourcing maintenance and janitorial services at a park in Lost Hills and county buildings in Wasco, Shafter, McFarland and Delano.
Parks Director Bob Lerude told supervisors such a contract could cost the county about $80,600 a year.
That would be an extra cost as Lerude said his plan didn't involve laying off any existing employees. Instead, he said costs would be offset by not filling already vacant county jobs.
Still, he said, there would be a benefit to the public, as the private companies would likely be able to make twice as many visits to the parks and county buildings as county staffers.
That same level of service from county employees would cost taxpayers more than $400,000, Lerude said.
I had to pause, re-read and pause again to think about that.
I'm not in favor of squeezing wages to the point that people can't earn a decent living.
But something is clearly out of whack when a private company can do double the work for a fifth of the money.
I was gratified to see in the Aug. 29 paper that the Tehachapi Unified School District board decided not to let parents "opt out" of having their children go through anti-bullying curriculum mandated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The mandate came after an investigation into the 2010 hanging suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh. Seth, who was gay, had suffered severe and unrelenting bullying over his orientation.
With that death as a backdrop, I would say a number of parents in the Tehachapi area, and unfortunately too many other places, have already "opted out" of teaching their children to treat other human beings with kindness and respect.
There were so many more intriguing stories. But I'll end with the uplifting Aug. 29 article on how the Golden Empire Gleaners are running a tighter ship after a team from Aera Energy spent the last year working with the food charity on efficiency.
I found it fascinating how Aera engineers used Legos to get Gleaner staff and volunteers to think about how each facet of the operation affects the other and how they could streamline those functions. That's vitally important when you're talking about moving food from the hands of donators into the hands of those who desperately need it. Not a simple task.
In the end, the Gleaners went from processing 40 or 50 food orders a day to 70 to 80 a day. If they can get more food (hint to the rest of us to up our donations) they're certain they can process 100 orders a day.
That's a huge leap and all should be congratulated.
Makes you wonder what could happen if the Aera team took their Legos to the halls of government.
One can dream.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org