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  • Wednesday, February 22, 2006


    Orange Unified Schools DIGEST

    The day the music died in OUSD


    At the Thursday February 23rd Orange Unified School District is scheduled to vote on a resolution (Agenda Item 12 D page 21) to continue its plan to discontinue the elementary itinerate music program after this year. Last year the OUSD Board voted to end the elementary school music program after this year and this week’s resolution permits the layoff of temporary music teachers. Three elementary music teachers hold tenure and could in theory move to a secondary school music program to replace temporary teachers at that level.

    Since last February, speakers from the community have routinely addressed the OUSD Board in favor of keeping what is left of the elementary music program. At the February 9th Board Meeting, Orange High School Music Director Mike Short was introduced as the City of Orange Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. Later in the meeting, Short and a number of high school students and community members addressed the OUSD Trustees to ask them to find a way to keep a separate music program in OUSD’s elementary schools.

    While Board President Kim Nichols advised the community and students to write to their state legislators and the Governor to fund music in California schools, Trustee Kathy Moffat continued to insist that OUSD students will receive music without specialized music teachers from the regular classroom teacher after OUSD cuts the music program. However, on page 34 of the latest issue of the OUSD edition of School News Roll Call (Vol. 1. Issue 3) OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Cheryl Cohen addresses the issue of instructional minutes in the elementary classrooms. In her article titled Instructional Minutes Cohen writes how classroom teachers make the decisions to maximize the instructional minutes each day. Cohen writes that the flexibility of elementary scheduling allows staff to “spend more time on units with themes of instruction”. Cohen continues “the teacher has the flexibility to do this, knowing she may not get to health or fine arts during this same week of instruction but will instead plan for these content areas in the upcoming weeks in her lesson plans”. Clearly in an era of mandated high stakes testing, music is shortchanged because it is not part of the testing regime. The watchdog group, the Greater Orange Community Organization in a communitywide email about the end of the music program in OUSD blasted “Moffat’s lack of leadership” to save the program as OUSD Board President last year. It stated:

    “…the Moffat Myth about Music Instruction by regular classroom teachers in elementary school is just the latest fairytale from the trustee who knows everything she’s been told.”
    - Greater Orange Community Group email (2/12/06)

    The Agenda Item 12 D on Thursday states the savings to the district after they cancel the elementary music program will be $411,000. The controversial consultant program Focus on Results program has cost taxpayers over 2.2 million dollars over the last four years with no hard evidence to back it up. Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen compared Focus on Results to a “marriage encounter” program and revealed she has a personal consultant “coach” from the program. Cohen also reported that while consultants were cut back last year, the dollars for the program were not. A clear example of the OUSD Trustees not understanding what they are spending taxpayers money on, Trustee Wes Poutsma stated he supports Focus on Results because it is a “reading program” and declared about the controversial program: “We’re a $220 million dollar business; we’re going to spend the money somewhere”. In 2004 under Moffat’s leadership, the OUSD Trustees spent $423,355 on controversial consultant deals and in 2005 another $270,000. In 2005, the OUSD Board spent $730,000 on legal fees with the additional attempt to revoke the Santiago Charter.

    While OUSD like all other Orange County school districts face shrinking student populations that result in decreased funding, OUSD unlike other districts has continued to balance its books with classroom program cuts and not administrator pet projects or cuts in the administrative areas. OUSD continues to rank 4th highest in Orange County administrative costs among the 12 unified county school districts, yet the OUSD administration took no cuts in the California State budget crisis. Instead, Enron-like accounting kept program cuts in the classrooms. As an example, Cohen named the Focus on Results program as a budget cut, then actually shifted the program to be paid with federal funding OUSD receives. In just the second month of 2006 and controversial OUSD administrative travel junkets are up 50% over all of last year’s $7,000 total with more junkets in this week’s agenda (see below). Reportedly, the OUSD administration in current negotiations with the Orange Unified Educators Association want to eliminate class size reductions in 9th grade math and English classes in exchange for keeping music programs. The OUSD administration also is trying to increase elementary class sizes for next year.

    For the report on Music in California schools by MUSIC FOR ALL:

    Highlights of the NEXT OUSD BOARD MEETING February 23, 2006
    State of the School Report: Richland C.H.S.
    by Student Representative: Melissa Brown
    Item 12 A- Del Rio Bond/ Mello-Roos Tax District 2nd Reading
    Item 12 B – Future Budget Assumptions-First Reading
    Item 12 C - School Calendars- Fall 2006-2009
    Item 12D- Music Teacher Layoff
    Item 12E- Board Policy Revisions Series 3000 2nd reading
    Item 13B- Legislative Coalition 2006 Platform
    All items pass without comment unless a Trustee “pulls” for discussion
    Agenda page 43- 46
    Emergency Allowance of Attendance application because of the Sierra Fire

    Administrator Travel page 65-663
    administrators to Texas and Florida conferences $4,050.

    COMMUNITY DONATIONS: ( see page 39-40 for a complete list)
    Orange North Rotary-$1000- Child Care Holiday Party; Rotary Club of Orange-$3000- Science Kits; El Modena Ed Foundation-$11,000 -Supplies /Salary Support; Taft PTA -$3000 -transportation; Sharon Seagate $4000-Santiago books

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