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  • Wednesday, July 05, 2006


    eLECTION Watch 2006

    a Special News Analysis series by Orange Net News /O/N/N/

    Moffat, Nichols and Smith dump
    Fiscal Conservative Rick Ledesma for

    “Three Presidents” Slate vs Education Alliance

    While the Orange Unified School District’s Community Strategic Planning Workshop in May wowed the likes of Foothills Sentry columnist and longtime OUSD watcher and OUSD Legislative Coalition Secretary Marjan Dunn, some other longtime Board watchers who also participated couldn’t help but notice that there was a lot more going on than just “strategic” planning for long term OUSD goals. Hand-in-hand with the workshops “planning” was long term political planning as OUSD Trustees Kathy Moffat and Lissa Smith were asking community leaders for their support in the upcoming November OUSD School Board elections. Thus, at a meeting that cost $3333.00+ a day in educational tax funds, the 2006 OUSD Trustee Election got underway.

    Five years after the June 2001 Orange Recall Election, and three OUSD Superintendents (Van Otterloo; French; Godley) later, the November election will be the first time for four members of the then Quality Education Team also known as the Citizen’s Slate (the slate that won the Orange Recall and ousted the Radical Education Alliance Board ) to face reelection. After losing the June 2001 Recall, the Radical Education Alliance members then ran again a few months later to try and over turn their Recall defeat. In that November 2006 “re-run” election they were soundly defeated (see link below). One of the first reforms instituted by the newly elected Citizen’s Board (and unlike other reforms is still in place), was to realign the off-year Board elections with the on-year primary and national election cycle. That move not only saved money and insured more electorate participation, but it also extended the terms of most of the sitting board members. So now five years later, four of the original five elected Citizen Board Trustees- Rick Ledesma, Kathy Moffat, Melissa Smith, and Kim Nichols-are up for reelection. The only member of the original Citizen’s Board to face re-election so far has been Trustee John Ortega who had no opponents and therefore was automatically declared the winner without an election formality.

    Now, five years later and the Citizen’s Board is no more. With four of the original members now up for re-election, the slate has been wiped clean. Kathy Moffat, Kim Nichols and Lissa Smith have dumped fiscal conservative Trustee Rick Ledesma from their slate that community watchers are calling the “Three Presidents Slate” because all three have rotated into the OUSD Board President’s post. At the May OUSD Community Strategic Planning Workshop and elsewhere, members of the liberal leaning Three President’s Slate have made it clear they want nothing to do with the fiscally conservative and politically moderate Rick Ledesma who apparently has offended the liberal leaning Board majority with his numerous questions and votes contrary to the now customary usual rubber-stamping the Board majority usually engaged in.

    The Incumbents: Ledesma; Moffat; Nichols and Smith

    Rick Ledesma- Fiscal Conservative Republican

    Trustee Rick Ledesma had been elected once before from Trustee Area #7 then was defeated for re-election by Kathy Ward of the Radical Education Alliance in 1997 that took control of OUSD. Ward and her allies were later ousted from power by the Orange Recall. Recall organizers approached Ledesma to take on Ward again. Ledesma agreed and won back the seat he had lost to Ward. He then defeated Ward again in a landslide in the Radical re-run attempt to win their seats back a few months later in the November 2001 Board Election.

    Ledesma was the leading critic of the OUSD administration’s attempt to revoke the Santiago Charter last year. Ledesma’s vehement criticism and opposition to paying for the now infamous OUSD Revocation Report prepared by the revocation law firm of Miller, Brown and Dannis appears to have played a major role in the split between him and the current Board majority. Ledesma also voted against pay raises for superintendents French and Godley, as well as opposed the process used, and the selection of, Dr. Godley as OUSD Superintendent.

    Continually questioning OUSD Administrators about their spending proposals, the Board’s direction and priorities, and especially classroom and program cuts, community leaders say Trustee Rick Ledesma continues to be a true to the principles of the Orange Recall of placing kids and public education first above wasteful spending of scare educational tax dollars and personal agendas. Having long ago proven he is a true fiscal conservative, Ledesma serves as a fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers and as an educational watchdog for OUSD student’s and the educational community. While Ledesma often votes against OUSD Administrative proposals, his greatest strength, whether supporting or opposing proposals, is that he speaks out to make it clear to the public what the OUSD Administration and Board majority are doing. These qualities and his unwavering convictions have cost Ledesma support from the Board majority. Ironically, community leaders point out that at the time of the Orange Recall the current Trustees who now oppose Ledesma possessed the same qualities they now seem to distain in Ledesma.

    Despite continually being blocked by the Board majority Ledesma has accomplished much by speaking out. Ledesma’s role in opposing Dr. Godley’s proposal to end the OUSD Board Meeting broadcasts to the community is one of Ledesma’s biggest achievements. In fact, Ledesma is seen by many in the community as single-handedly not allowing the issue of ending the recall reform instituted broadcast of the OUSD Board Meetings over local cable stations to the community die. For months, meeting after meeting, Ledesma publicly looked for, and asked, for out-of-the box solutions from Godley and Moffat to keep the OUSD Board Meeting cable broadcasts. The community rallied to his cause. Then, in what the watchdog Greater Orange Communities Group described as “one of Dr. Godley’s trademark ‘We found the money’ epiphanies”, Godley found the $8,000 to save the community broadcasts of the OUSD Board meetings.

    Ledesma also is by far the leader in “pulling” items from the Consent Agenda for a discussion and vote. Consent Agenda’s are scheduled to be automatically approved by the Board without discussion. This has included contracts to law firms worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and the controversial pet administrative million dollar program OUSD’s Focus on Results, which Ledesma recently pulled from the June 8th, 2006 OUSD Board Agenda to vote against. The $164,000 spending proposal to continue the Focus on Results program still passed with Moffat, Nichols and Smith joining Wes Poutsma on voting to approve the spending.

    Kathy Moffat- Liberal Democrat

    Liberal Democrat Kathy Moffat represents the mostly very fiscally conservative, and mostly very Republican, Trustee Area #7 located primarily in Villa Park. Moffat, who has never once in her five years on the Board voted against any OUSD Administration proposal, continues to be the most outspoken supporter of OUSD Administration and OUSD bureaucrat’s personal agendas.

    Moffat was the OUSD Board President during the failed attempt of the OUSD Administration to revoke the Santiago Charter School charter. Moffat originally was very vocal in supporting the OUSD Administration’s attempt at revoking the Santiago Charter based on a what is now widely held to have been a trumped up “student safety” issue. However, as community pressure mounted, Moffat became less vocal and changed her position to support what Board watchers describe as a “face-saving compromise” that did little to fundamentally change the original “student safety” issue. Later, Moffat also presided over the controversial selection of Dr. Godley as Superintendent Dr. Robert French’s replacement. Godley is seen by some in the community as the driving force behind the Santiago Charter revocation attempt.

    Moffat was also the OUSD President during the majority of the California State Fiscal crisis and supported administrative proposals for cuts to student-centered programs while at the same time being the most outspoken supporter of the millions of dollars her bureaucratic friends in the OUSD Administration have spent on their personal pet project, the controversial OUSD Focus on Results program. Moffat continues to support the Focus on Results program that OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen (with no hard research to support the program) described as akin to “marriage encounter training”. In what the Greater Orange Communities Group has called “Moffat’s Focus on Denial”, Moffat continues to insist that the controversial program has improved OUSD state test scores (something the OUSD program is not directly designed to do) even as the number of OUSD’s state identified Underperforming School’s continued to grow to the second largest in Orange County.

    The continued irony of Moffat’s stated beliefs (which give her widespread support across the district outside of her conservative Villa Park home) and her votes to support the personal agenda’s of OUSD Bureaucrats is evident in her biggest accomplishment while on the Board. At the same time Moffat supported Superintendent Godley’s attempt to end the televising of OUSD Board meetings over local cable channels, Moffat’s wanted to improve OUSD’s image with a “news” outlet for Orange Unified. Eventually Moffat found the Seal Beach based School News Roll Call to publish and distribute four “good news” non-political district newspapers a year at no cost to the OUSD taxpayers.

    Kim Nichols-Moderate Republican

    Moderate Kim Nichols has presided over the OUSD Board since the beginning of this year. Until becoming Board President, Nichols’ greatest accomplishment was providing a moderate and well thought out intelligent voice in Board discussions. She has not faired as well in her leadership as Board President.

    Seen by Board watchers as the weakest OUSD Board President since John Ortega (who was seen as well intentioned, but too often apoplectic for being unprepared and lost on procedures). The Nichols’ tenure as Board President began with her introduction as “Kim” by Superintendent Dr. Godley. Then came the awkward chair maneuvering incident as the newly installed Board President “Kim” moved from the customary center OUSD President’s chair of the upper dais of elected Trustees down to the far end to where Godley had moved up to from the customary lower administrative dais. Since that begining musical-chairs-like maneuvering Nichols’ has never come into her own as her dependence on Godley has not gone unnoticed. In the Boardroom and on the cable broadcasts, Nichols and Godley are frequently seen during meetings conferring or passing notes to each other. In addition, unlike Moffat and Smith, Nichols has had obvious trouble controlling the increasing tense Board discussions and in particular the often off-topic Trustee Steve Rocco.

    Melissa “Lissa” Smith- Liberal Democrat

    Democrat Melissa (Lissa) Smith, representing Trustee Area #1 (primarily located in Anaheim Hills) followed veteran Trustee Bob Viviano as the first Citizen’s Board trustee to preside as the OUSD President.

    Smith was OUSD Board President during the two failed Measure A Bond attempts. Aside from shepparding the failed back-to-back Measure A Bonds onto the ballot, Smith’s biggest accomplishment was pursuing and accomplishing the declaring of the OUSD Barham Ranch property as surplus and then its sale to the County of Orange as parkland.

    Recently, the usually outspoken Smith has been more subdued and has mostly avoided commenting on the more contentious issues that have lately been before the Board. Board watchers point out despite her recent lack of comment and debate, Smith’s votes continue to speak volumes as she continues her consistent votes to back the OUSD Administration proposals without question.

    Potential Challengers and the New Education Alliance

    After five years of various heated controversies this November’s Board Election promises to be the liveliest local election since the 2001 Orange Recall. Many names are floating around of potential challengers. Each challenger must live in the Trustee Area they wish to run in, but are elected by the whole district. This includes a new slate that reportedly has the involvement of Mark Bucher, the reported political architect of the original Radical Education Alliance.

    Trustee Area # 4 may be the most contested race and is targeted by a new Education Alliance Slate headed by local activist Hope Grace. At times labeled by local conservatives as a rubber stamp-liberal, Moffat may face some stiff competition from more moderate candidates. However, if Moffat has more than one strong conservative facing her, they may split the votes allowing her participation on the Three President’s Slate to carry her on to re-election. On the other hand, some local political watchers potentially see Nichols and Smith hurt by running with Moffat on a slate if the Villa Park contest becomes particularly nasty and Villa Park voters come out strong on Election Day.

    Among the names as potential Moffat challengers floating across the Greater Orange Communities is Denise Bittel. A local Villa Park and Greater Orange political powerhouse, in addition to being a community and educational activist, her rumored fall-out with Moffat has taken on an urban legend status. Another often cited potential Villa Park candidate is Republican Party activist Deborah Pauley who has long rumored to be eyeing an election ballot debut (she applied for the vacant Villa Park council seat that went to Foothills Sentry writer Robert Fauteux) and has often been mentioned as a possible school board candidate and recently hosted a meeting of the new Education Alliance at her home.

    Ledesma’s Area #7 may also become a heated contest with rumors of OUSD’s Legislative Coalition recent chairman Larry Cohn reportedly eyeing Ledesma’s seat. Cohn has recently made a name for himself as the nemesis of Trustee Steve Rocco who has chosen both Cohn and Bittel as two of his favorite local conspiracy targets.
    While Smith seems strong in the educationally involved Trustee Area #1, Smith appears to have taken for granted the strength of the music supporters in her area and across the district. With the OUSD Save the Music movement based in her area, Smith reportedly came off to many music supporters as unsupportive. By all reports, many of Smith’s constitutes who were new to the politics of OUSD were put off by Smith’s support of the OUSD Administration and her failure to represent her area’s music supporters viewpoints much in the same way Ledesma was unwavering in his supported of the Santiago community during the attempted revocation. Reportedly, some Trustee Area #1 community members are looking for a choice besides Smith. One name that has been mentioned by several sources is Music Matters Committee leader Angel LaMarca. Sources close to the new Education Alliance Slate report that they are supporting 60th Assembly Republican Central Committee Member and Orange County Young Republican Director Dr. Alexia Deligianni to run against Smith.

    Of course in the Greater Orange Communities, one thing we know anything is possible in Orange Unified including a dark horse candidate appearing and winning just like Trustee Steve Rocco. The November 2006 OUSD Election Declaration of Candidacy window is between July 17 and August 11.

    For a complete guide to local politics CLICK ON:

    For results of the June 2001 Orange Recall Election CLICK ON:

    For results of the November 2001 “Re-Run” Election CLICK ON:

    eLECTION Watch 2006 is produced by Orange Net News /O/N/N/To make PUBLIC COMMENTS on eLECTION Watch2006
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