NU principal, others point to local racial incident as another “teachable moment”

Grass Valley resident Jamal Walker’s video on Facebook

A racial incident in downtown Grass Valley this week — where slurs were shouted at a Nevada Union High School student as he walked down Mill Street,  according to his father on Facebook — has concerned local residents, including the Nevada Union High principal, and it is being held up as a teachable moment.

Other “teachable moments” have occurred in our area as well. Examples are here and here.

“Something needs to be done in the community to enable people to step forward and help people in need and speak up when someone is out of line in order to protect others,” Kelly Rhoden, the principal of Nevada Union High School, said in a thoughtful memo on Thursday to the NU staff titled “Opportunity for Discussion/Awareness/Action.” (Sierra Foothills Report read the memo).

“We are aware as a staff that there is still hate language on campus and in our community. The best we can do is recognize it when it happens and stop it when we see and/or hear it.  I believe we do this and will keep doing this in order to support our kids. This is a bigger issue and one that is occurring nationwide.”

In a live video on Facebook on Wednesday at 4:50 p.m., Rhoden explained, “Jamal Walker (the father of an NU student) tells the disturbing story of an experience his son (Imani) had earlier that evening walking down Mill Street… when a vehicle full of young men began riding alongside him and shouting racial slurs.”

Walker’s post — titled “Come and tell my son to his face that racism doesn’t exist anymore!” — has gone viral among local Facebook readers, so far generating 26,000 views, 482 “sad,” “angry,” and other responses; 484 shares; and 504 comments — and more are being generated each minute.

“What bothers me is that we have all these people who want to maintain that racism doesn’t exist anymore. This is a prime example of that being an outright fantasy,” Walker said on the video.

“For those of you who watched this happen and chose to say absolutely nothing, shame on you. We can do better people. This is not an indictment of Grass Valley. I love it here. It’s a good place full of a lot of good people. But if you want black folks to stop talking about racism, you need to get off your asses and do something when you see it going on. Stop acting like you don’t know.” He added later: “Please feel free to share this post.”

Walker’s video is a reminder of the power of social media in our towns, opening up new channels of communication that didn’t exist before — with signed responses.

A link to Walker’s post is here.

Rhoden added in her memo to the NU staff: ” I thought you might be interested in seeing it and even, if appropriate, discussing it with your students.

“There is also an informal downtown Grass Valley walk taking shape for 5 p.m. on Friday, as a way for people to show their support for this family. The Walkers will gather at the Del Oro Theatre to start. It’s not a political thing — simply a way for a community to show up to actively condemn racism and hate.” (The walk also is being discussed on Facebook).

Neither Rhoden nor the Grass Valley police department officer who was handling the case returned phone calls this afternoon. I spoke to former Grass Valley police chief John Foster, who met with Jamal Walker, and also expressed his concern about the incident, along with others at the high school.

The Facebook responses showed compassion. “Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us that we all can be a part of change,” wrote Diane Jacobson.

“Jamal.. agree with your disappointment in our behavior to not step in and condemn this behavior…let’s step up and we can do better!! 😔get up off your butts and say something folks! Condemn racism when it happens !” wrote Lindy Beatie.

” Jamal, thank you for sharing. I know how painful it is for you and your son. You’re right, too many people are in denial,” said Shawn Ryley.

Scoop: Dan Frisella tapped as new principal of Nevada Union High School

Editor’s note: Here’s another one for The Union and its journalistically feeble columnist George Boardman to chase down. Sourcing, not an FOI lawsuit against the High School District, is what helps you cover the community. No “pay wall” either. Journalism entrepreneurism is flourishing here, thanks to the internet:

Nevada Joint Union High School Assistant Principal Dan Frisella has been tapped as the school’s new principal, replacing Mike Blake, according to my sources.

Frisella was one of two candidates. Another was from Bear River High School, my sources said.

Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Louise Bennicoff Johnson told District workers she is recommending the appointment of Frisella after long and careful deliberations.

The District also is interviewing for the new principal of North Point Academy.

Johnson hopes the new hires will help stabilize the District’s administrative team, though I wouldn’t be surprised if more administrative changes are afoot.

She is working on a long-term vision and balancing the budget deficit — stemming from an ongoing loss of revenue to match the ongoing loss of students.

I’m confident Dr. Johnson — our community’s own “Dr. J.” — will continue to improve the situation at the District. I’ve admired her since she was hired.

Our Dr. J - Louise Johnson
Our Dr. J – Louise Johnson
The other Dr J. - Julius Erving
The other Dr J. – Julius Erving

Scoop: NU Football Coach Humphers could soon announce his retirement after two decades at the helm

559169_4002686178293_2146684262_nNo word in the local media (where The Union newspaper Editor, the KNCO News Director and a sports blogger all feverishly cover the Nevada Union High football “brotherhood”). But I’m hearing that Head Coach Dave Humphers could soon announce his retirement — after 22 years.

A new head coach would take the reins this upcoming season. A press release could be issued as early as this week.

Humphers’ retirement would mark the end of an era. He took over as NU’s head varsity coach in 1991. Many long-timers view him as a local legend.

Humphers’ teams have won more than three-fourths of their games; ten league championships; and have won the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship four times, according to Western Sports Camps. Humphers was named “California Coach of the Year” in 2005.

Humphers graduated from Mira Loma High and coached there. His mentor, Gerry Kundert, installed the Wing-T offense after watching Delaware in the 1972 Camelia Bowl at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, as the Stockton Record reports.

Humphers went to Nevada Union in 1983 as the top assistant under former Mira Loma coach Randy Blakenship. They brought the Wing-T with them.

It has been the Miners’ offense ever since. A feeder program, the Junior Miners, employ the Wing-T from age 6, as the Record reported.

Mira Loma dropped the Wing T in 2009, however, for a more “conventional” offensive attack. More details on the Wing T are here and here.

Over the years, Humphers has likened NU football as a “brotherhood,” not just a sports program.

NU’s football program has some longtime, loyal fans. But others feel strongly that it is over emphasized at NU, and the school should be doubling down on academics.

The Ghidotti Early College High School has been gaining more academic praise lately than NU, prompting a growing number of parents to favor the alternative high school for their children. In many ways, NU is at a crossroads, with a search underway for a new superintendent.

Though he would retire as the head football coach, Humphers would keep his teaching job at NU.

Here’s Humphers’ “picture day speech” from last August:

(photo credit: Dave Humphers’ Facebook page)