This is the 31st and final segment of "The Rise and Fall of the Wellspring Education Collective.
Having described the bust of July 23, 1985, in “It Came Out of the Sky,” I now ask, “What does this event have to do with Wellspring Education Collective?" It took place two full years, before we even joined the collective, in 1987, and it has everything to do with Wellspring. I was new in the neighborhood, having been on the mountain for less that three years. I had owned my property for ten years, but had only moved up in May, of 1982.
When the helicopter “camped” on us, we were on our own, in the sense that it was my name on the deed to my land, and the federal government had seized it, but we were not made to feel unsupported. Our friends and neighbors were outraged. Will Emerson wrote a lengthy letter to the Laytonville Ledger, run by John Weed, in which he described observing the federal thugs, invading my parcel, and hearing “sounds of multiple items being smashed.”
Our community’s outrage was reflected in the simple fact, that if it could happen to Ann and me, then it could happen to anyone. It was even one thing to raid property for illegal plants, it was quite another to toss women and children, into the street. One interesting component, is that I never spoke to an authoritarian figure, I was never charged with a criminal offense, and I never got an apology. I did get returned the nine hundred clams they stole from me, that I had received from “Woodrow,” for carpentry services, but I was left holding the rather expensive bag, to the tune of $17, 500 for lawyer’s fees. Kind of funny how it turned out to be such a nice, round figure. None of this $17,486.27 business.
Friends and neighbors expressed their sense of outrage, by donating hard, cold cash to our defense fund. At first we were so flummoxed, we accepted the help without question. Eventually, I developed a very keen sense of communal responsibility, when it came to finding a way to demonstrably make reparations. Simply repaying money, which was donated to make a statement of support, was not feasible, nor expected.
However, when Karen made the decision, to sever connections with the school district, as a result of Asha’s lack of academic growth, and the potential legal ramifications, the little collective was left without that liaison. I have indicated earlier, that the collective was not interested in the money, per se, that came from this position, so much as the curriculum which allowed our kids up on the mountain, to remain aligned with the kids attending school down in town.
The goal was to be able to transition kids from the mountain to the school, without having this transfer be academically any more difficult than manageable. By maintaining the district liaison, we hoped to be able to render this relocation of the kids’ academic setting as painless as possible.
So I could not right the scales of community support, with money, but I could with my education. I had my degree already in Humanities, from San Jose State University, so I applied at Dominican College, at their off-campus facility in Ukiah, and was accepted. Of course, that act of applying at Dominican, unleashed the fury in Maxine Grace Shinns, and she wrote the famous letter, described in “Two Can Play the Same Game,” the ninth episode of Wellspring.
By the time the fallout from all of the legal maneuvering finally settled down, the collective was dissolved, the kids were down in town, and I was employed by the district, as one of the language arts teachers on staff. At least then, I was the first to teach some of those students, making the jump from the mountain to town.
That sums up the events and turmoil, that comprised the fall of the Wellspring Education Collective. Out of chaos comes order. Grace Maxine Shinns created her share of chaos, whether in a misguided attempt at attaining equality for her daughter, or a sense of wounded pride at being ousted from the collective, something that will never be determined.
What we did determine, is that communication and unity combined to create the battering ram we needed to burst through the legal wall that Shinns created, and that having done so, we provided for our kids the best possible combination of one-room school charm and fervor, with the pragmatic availability of education in town. Well-played, one and all.