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  • Monday, January 02, 2006


    Orange Unified Schools Digest


    Nichols Becomes OUSD Board President
    Orange Unified School District (OUSD) Trustee Kim Nichols became the President of the OUSD Board of Education at the December 8th OUSD Board Meeting. Nichols rotated into the office by the Rotation System instituted by the OUSD Board as one of several Recall Reforms. Ironically, later in the evening the Board voted to end that rotation system as the latest Recall Reform to be dumped by the current trustees. Nichols in a prepared themed statement stated “We are the village”. She continued her statement by addressing the ever present political nature of the huge district that encompasses numerous cities, communities, stratified economic-social classes, all with a diverse ethnic population and a strong conservative voting bloc, by asserting that education has nothing to do with politics. Nichols stated: “I believe education has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right for kids and it’s about supporting education. Education is not political.”

    Godley Takes His Place on the Dais
    In a another break with long established democratic protocols, Orange Unified Superintendent Thomas Godley moved his seat to the upper dais of the Orange Unified Board Room next to the elected OUSD Trustees. The elevated dais has a long traditional throughout the country as being reserved only for the duly elected officials. Godley’s staff continues sitting lower in the traditional place reserved for the unelected administrative district staff. Nichols too broke with tradition by moving the traditional position of the OUSD Board President from the center of the dais, to the end of the dais next to Godley.

    Long time OUSD watchers noted that all the former women OUSD Board Presidents- Kathy Moffat, Melissa Smith, Linda Davis, and Kathy Ward- had enough personal presence to preside over the Board from the traditional center chair. Observors added that the new arraignment made “Kim” (as Godley continued to refer to Nichols throughout the evening) look weak and subservient to Godley who some observed now looked at the least not quite her superior (but definitely not an employee of the Board), and at best like a “co-president”. To reflect this new change, the long familiar orange cover sheet of the OUSD Board Agenda has been changed to remove the pictogram of the seating chart of the OUSD Board Room which for years explained the boardroom seating arrangement with the elected OUSD Trustees on the dais and the Superintendent and administrative staff seated lower and to their right.

    From his new perch, Godley bestowed never before seen lavish praise from an OUSD superintendent on the outgoing Board President Kathy Moffat, who he referred to simply as “Kathy”. While Godley continued to refer to the women members by their first names, the OUSD Trustees continued to address each other with the traditional etiquette using the formal mister and misses attached to the trustee’s surnames.

    Godley recited a list of 27 accomplishments he attributed to the OUSD Board under Moffat (“Kathy”) during the year. Board watchers noted most of the “accomplishments” cited by Godley where beyond the OUSD Trustees control or initiative. Those included: required actions under the law (approving a balanced budget; approving state requirements for underperforming schools); community initiatives (Fred Kelly Stadium renovation; Orange Education Foundation priorities); outside community awards (California Distinguished School awards; Disney Teacher Awards); political initiatives (Pink Slip Campaign; voting opposition to Prop 76); and actions brought on by community pressure (restoration of some class size reductions; restoration of video broadcasting of Board meetings; approval of the Santiago Charter). While Godley listed as accomplishments the contract agreements with the teachers and support staff and increase in substitute pay (as well as jokingly mentioning himself becoming Superintendent), he failed to mention the controversial pay increase for the Superintendent and pay increases for top district administrators. Also missing from his list was moving top district administrators to the yearly pay matrix, thus removing their pay increases from needing separate Board approval.

    When discounting those items beyond the Trustees’ control the “accomplishment” list narrows to just a few including: joint use facilities agreements; the controversial Irvine Company Mitigation Agreements; Board Policy Revisions and Superintendent and Board Goals; and contracting with School News. Godley did not mention anything having to do with the controversial and expensive consultant program Focus on Results. After his recitation, Godley gave a tearful Moffat a warm embrace, a kiss, and a souvenir gavel as the pair embraced for a picture. He then turned his attention to Trustee Nichols, who he also referred to with the informal and familiar “Kim” and also presenting her with a kiss, and gavel, and embraced for a photograph.

    During the Comments to the Board, long time community activist Denise Bittel spoke regarding comments Trustee Steve Rocco made at the October 25th OUSD Board meeting which Bittel characterized as “defaming comments about my character”. Stating that she tried to contact Rocco privately to clear up the matter, Bittel said because Rocco had not responded she was speaking now. Bittel addressing Rocco, stated “People have said you are an inept and ineffective school board member” then recited a list of complaints about Rocco that included: Rocco’s continuous abstention votes; not removing his hat during the Flag Pledge; cited his comments about test scores and race; no visits to school sites; stated he has done “nothing to advance education” for students; and said he misrepresented his occupation on the ballot. Bittel concluded that Rocco’s comments about others “not as forgiving as I” could lead to a slander lawsuit. She concluded: “I have spent over a decade in OUSD without a personal or hidden agenda. My only interest has been helping the students of this great district.”
    As Bittel took her seat, Rocco responded by shouting out to her as he pointed to Kathy Moffat: “I think your only interest is to get her seat…which everyone knows you want!”
    Bittel’s comments prompted a December 27th Los Angeles Times article. The article described Bittel and Rocco has having a “tense relationship” and featured the core issues of Bittel’s comments about Rocco from the December 8th OUSD Board meeting (to view CLICK ON: LA TIMES/ROCCO STORY).

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