David Reese says goodbye

BHS Principal David Reese leads his final yearly sendoff meeting with teachers at the BHS student cafeteria, decorated for his going-away tribute.

Reader: My friend sent me this email: "Send this letter to the editor, 'Principal made honest mistake with card use,'  as well as the chicken-suit article, to Bob Price and see what he has to say."

We want to point out/remind you and your staff that many retirees that go off into the sunset without the glamour of a front-page article and do not have the baggage of Bakersfield High School Principal David Reese ("BHS Principal David Reese, never one to sit behind his desk anyway, rides off into retirement," June 2).

Maybe think before you print or, in building terms, measure twice, cut once.

— Anonymous and his anonymous friend

Price: Well, of course I could have repeated every negative thing that ever happened to Reese or to BHS during his 20-year tenure there. There were a few. Yes, I could have mentioned the 2014 incident in which Reese mistakenly used a school district credit card to make camping reservations; he had tried to reverse the charge immediately after he realized what he'd done. I could have included the expensive lawsuit stemming from a school pep rally in which a student in a chicken costume — he was supposed to represent the mascot of the football team's upcoming opponent — was tackled by players and seriously hurt. I could have mentioned the on-campus assaults that have some teachers and staffers fearing for their safety; the student expulsion-rate controversy — a districtwide issue — raised by the Dolores Huerta Foundation; and more.

When you've been the top administrator of a prominent entity with many built-in challenges — a large, alumni-sensitive, demographically diverse, history-rich, inner-city high school — for two decades, chances are good that some negative or embarrassing things have happened along the way. We reported on all of those controversies, extensively in some cases, and didn't pull any punches at the time — that's how you found out about them all, right? our reporting? — so it's not like I was sugarcoating anything.

Sunday's Reese story was about the retirement of a generally well-loved guy in an extremely high-profile job — not your ordinary retiree. That said, we often write about lower-profile retirees. I loved Ema Sasic's nice portrait of Houchin Blood Bank donor screener Susan Palla, who is stepping away after 33 years of service. Higher-profile people, too, of course: Coming Sunday, read Sam Morgen's look at Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy, who will leave his job in December. If we had the time, resources and space, we'd write about more retirees. A lot of people do great things for this community that go unrecognized. But that's not an argument for ignoring Reese's retirement; it's an argument for writing about him.

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Reader: I just want to say to somebody that BHS is like my church. The thing that no one will talk about that makes BHS different is that it is a high school with the personality or attitude of a university. Maybe more so than even Bakersfield College, which does at least have ashtrays. That's all, just my 2 cents. Regarding David Reese's retirement: Thank you!

— Mike Balasis

Reader: Awesome story about the retiring principal. My oldest graduated from BHS in ’93, so too early for him. She could have used someone like him on her team. Had a lump in my throat as I read it. Love your stories!

— Toni DeRosa

Price: Here's a disclaimer, which I should have included with my article on Reese last week: Both of my kids graduated from BHS under his principalship, and he was my counselor-ex-wife's boss. I feel like an ex-Driller myself. Er, a Driller.

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Reader: Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed your back-to-back columns May 29 ("Why is a 1905, horse-drawn fire wagon moving in behind the Fox Theater? Peggy Darling knows") and May 30 ("He didn't have a father, but then, at Bakersfield High School, he found six"). You have beautiful writing skills. You personalized each person in a way that made me think that each was telling her/his own story. As I read your columns, it felt as if I personally knew them. Each was inspiring, and I feel lucky to live in a town where these three people live. Just as wonderful is the fact that you live here, and are writing such interesting columns!

P.S. I hope you don’t mind that I call you Robert, rather than your nickname. I like the name Robert very much. If you prefer Bob, of course, just let me know.

— Sharon Thomas

Price: Thanks, Sharon. Robert works, Bob works, "Hey you" works.

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Reader: Thank you to Sam Morgen for his professionalism and accuracy in reporting on the hot-button yet historic Bakersfield City Council vote on "In God We Trust" ("'In God We Trust' decals to be placed on local police, fire vehicles," June 6).

— Angelo Frazier

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Reader: In her response to Sam Morgen’s May 19 article (“Vast majority of officer-involved shootings in Bakersfield involve people of color”), Karen Lawson raises an important and somewhat confusing issue — that of disproportionate police actions with people of color ("Sound Off: Is our pro-illegal immigration agenda showing again?," May 25).

At first blush, such a statistic screams racism, i.e., skin color is the main basis for police involvement. And there is certainly some of that, as evidenced via coverage by national media. But if the primary basis for police action is based on aberrant behavior (vs. skin color), such action may be justified. That of course begs the question, are whites committing similar acts at the same frequency as people of color, yet are not targeted by police?

Knowing these stats would shed light on whether color or behavior is the primary basis for police action. Another possible way to analyze the discrepancy is to examine police action as a function of socio-economic status, and ethnic representation within that class. Assuming the bulk of police actions involve persons of lower socio-economic status, it would be interesting to know if these actions are proportional to ethnic representation within this class, i.e., are lower socio-economic status whites the subject of police action at the same rates as people of color based on their respective proportionate representation in that tier of the population? Disproportionality based on ethnicity is also an issue within education with respect to suspension and expulsion rates, along with the same challenges of accurate data analysis. The devil is always in the details.

— Bill Matthew

Price: I agree completely. Statistics like the numbers in the study Sam wrote about are only the starting point. Now the question is, what do they mean? The answer isn't as simple as some would like.

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Reader: Got a chuckle out of your June 1 column, "We interrupt this graduation to point out the idiot." There comes a time when one realizes that you are just too elderly to flip over a fence. So. I would give you a 10 for attitude, determination and desperation that you would get your article in at the deadline. I’ve been there when reading meters for PG&E years ago — literally flipped over a 6-foot fence when three dogs had me targeted as their morning meal. I totally relate in wonderment how adrenaline kicks in — and we get the job done!

— Jan Lewy

Reader: Your caustic wit and scathing editorial beat-downs are what I love about you. But Friday we get a witty little piece about “A Day in Bob’s Life.” Is Herb retiring or something?

— Michael Willis

Price: Herb Benham's trademark self-deprecating style is safe from my incursions. The story of my fence-hopping escapades at last week's Golden Valley High School graduation was originally a Facebook post. Then I realized I had basically written a column.

I won't let it happen again, Herb.

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Reader: Robert, you just can't resist featuring dedicated Trump haters. Your latest demagogue is a member of the local academia at CSUB, professor of psychology Steve Bacon. Seems that Bacon thinks "President Trump believes all Americans are suckers." He also opines that Attorney General William Barr assumes we are too lazy to read the Mueller report and "we will never challenge his distorted four-page account."

You really know how to pick them, Robert!

— Jack Balfanz

Price: Thanks, Jack. Can we at least agree on this? This was Bacon's headline: "Don't trust what others say, read the Mueller report yourself."

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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