Thumbs up, thumbs down: The good – and not so good – around the Modesto area

The Modesto Bee Editorial Board

Caltrans clears homeless camps every day. Here’s what they look like inside

California’s homeless crisis is playing out on the state’s highways, where Caltrans is clearing dozens of camps every day. Here's the scene inside a camp near a Berkeley freeway in November 2018.
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California’s homeless crisis is playing out on the state’s highways, where Caltrans is clearing dozens of camps every day. Here's the scene inside a camp near a Berkeley freeway in November 2018.

Some quick takes as we near the month of June and Modesto’s annual Graffiti Month (Thumbs Up!) …

Thumbs Up: To all the area college and high school graduates. Job. Well. Done. Now, for your next task. To the college graduates, please look hard for work in Stanislaus County or the Central Valley. We need your talents to return or remain here. For those in high school heading to colleges or universities out of the area, please come back after your four or five years. It’s no doubt a complex issue – our governmental agencies have to attract industry with better jobs and it’s easier if we have the talent pool to fill those positions. We know there is a world beyond Modesto, but sometimes the greatest things you miss are those right in front of you.

Thumbs Down: To Caltrans, which essentially takes the victim-blaming approach in its response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Shannon Bigley, the woman who died after she was crushed by the bucket of a front loader driven by one of its employees 30 minutes before sunrise on state property in Modesto known as a place where the homeless reside. A story by The Bee’s Erin Tracy on the California Highway Patrol report saying Caltrans violated its own policies states: “In its response to the complaint filed against Caltrans by Bigley’s father, Caltrans argues that Bigley was negligent in her own death because she ‘failed to exercise ordinary care at the time and place of the alleged incident.’” We understand defense tactics, but this seems especially callous given what occurred.

Thumbs Up: To all the teachers honored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Modesto Rotary Club for the dedication to educating our children. There were 69 nominated and all are to be congratulated. But to hear and watch the four finalists – Turlock High’s Jared Jeffries, Sherwood Elementary’s Debbie Persons, Ross Middle School’s Crystal Case and Beaver Elementary’s Gaylyn Barker – get emotional in their acceptance speeches during the wonderful ceremony at the DoubleTree was touching. It illustrated their passion – and compassion – about their work and the students lucky enough to walk through their doors each morning.

Thumbs Down: To Modesto City Schools, for the lack of naming high school valedictorians. Luckily, Sara Noguchi, who’s just finishing up her first year as superintendent, said last week she will “begin the conversation again about valedictorians ... ” We find it interesting that schools will invite media to celebrate athletes who secure full or partial scholarships to four-year schools based on their athletic prowess. (We may be partly to blame for this because we, in turn, cover it) Yet there are just as many students – probably more – who secure funds to attend Ivy League, UCs and high-ranking private schools who go largely unnoticed. If we can publicly crown champions on the playing field, we should do the same for those in the classroom.

Thumbs Up: To the staff at Valley Children’s Healthcare in Madera. We took a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities a few weeks ago. We talked to doctors, practitioners, nurses and others, and the empathy among all staff members to go beyond solely the patient was amazing. Certainly, the focus is on the child patient, but it also included parents, siblings, other family members and co-patients. It was telling that those we spoke with had worked there for years, wanted to be there for years and deeply cared about the success of their organization.