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  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

     

    Orange Unified Schools Digest UPDATE

    Group wants OUSD to use Donated Funds for Benham Report

    At the Orange Unified School Board’s March 23rd meeting, the OUSD Trustees voted in their Consent Agenda without comment to accept $14,673 in donated funds earmarked to save OUSD music programs from the Orange Education Foundation. Those funds however are at the center of a controversy over how the money was raised (and by whom) and what the funds could be used spent on. The controversy has split the two community groups that were initially both involved in the fundraising, the Orange Education Foundation, and the now independent Music Matters Committee.

    Passing the funds on to OUSD initially created a controversy when on March 1st the Orange Education Foundation donated the funds that Music Matters Committee deposited with the Foundation to OUSD. The Music Matters Committee learned about what they consider an abrupt transfer of the music funding it raised after informing the Orange Education Foundation that the Music Matters Committee wanted to use part of the music fund money it raised to pay for an independent audit by renowned school district and music budget specialist Dr. John Benham. Benham has helped save music programs across the U.S. and Canada with his budget audits. The local print media quoted Orange Education Foundation Chair Denise Bittel as stating the donated music money was transferred because “we had to get it off our books. The Foundation did its fiduciary duty giving that money to the district”. The Music Matters Committee members also report that members of the Orange Education Foundation refused to meet with them to discuss the transfer which helped lead to the break between the two community groups.

    After the Music Matter’s Committee ended it’s affiliation with the Orange Education Foundation, it began working with the OUSD Trustees and the OUSD Administrators to pay for the Benham Report. An agreement between the group an the district was reached with an understanding that Orange Unified Superintendent Thomas Godley, Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen and Elementary Executive Director Rachelle Morga will speak with Benham by conference call to get a better understanding of what his report will cover. The OUSD Administration will then decide whether or not to recommend that OUSD purchase the Benham Report.

    OUSD has been under fire for a number of years for the over-the-top use of educational tax dollars on numerous consultants. In particular, OUSD’s multi-year $2.5 million dollar spending spree on the Focus on Results consulting model has been a constant source of concern and criticism by community watchdogs, the Greater Orange Communities Organization. Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen in a recent report to the OUSD Trustees on Focus on Results was unable to cite hard researched data of any benefits from the program, so instead characterized the $2.5 million educational tax dollar program as being akin to “marriage counseling”. When Focus on Results was first introduced in OUSD years ago, Prospect Elementary Principal Kathy Bruce failed to reveal to the OUSD Trustees that she was also a Senior Consultant for the Focus on Results firm. Orange Net News in a Special Investigative series, Focus on Consultants, revealed Bruce’s affiliation, and later the fact the bi-monthly OUSD Focus on Results meetings were using copyrighted materials without the author’s knowledge or permission.

    More recently, at the March 9th OUSD Board Meeting, the OUSD Trustees approved educational tax dollars for a 3 day $10,000 consultant to train leadership staff on a psycho-business team-building model called “method teaming ” (CLICK ON: http://www.ondonline.com/ ).

    The Benham Report cost is approximately $8,000 and would be paid for by the donated music money funding, not educational tax dollars.

    Orange Unified Newest Offer to Teachers
    At the March 23rd OUSD Board Meeting the OUSD Trustees approved a 3.25% raise for support staff and gave the same 3.25% to the district administrators. Negotiations have been stalled with teachers. This week, the district offered what amounts to a 1.84% salary increases to teachers for this year and a 4.75% for next year. (for an update on Negotiations from the OUEA CLICK ON: http://www.teachersoforange.com/Negotiations.html)


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