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  • Sunday, September 24, 2006


    Metro VIEWS

    OUSD Censorship Violates Community Trust
    A community viewpoint from the
    Greater Orange Communities Organization

    The Orange Unified School District Administration’s censorship of the community broadcast of the September 14th Orange Unified School Board meeting is an affront to the people of the Greater Orange Communities and an attack on the democratic institutions that the basic rights of a free and informed society are dependent on. Equally offensive is that the order to stop the broadcast of the politically charged and chaotic end of the September 14th Board meeting reportedly came from OUSD Superintendent Thomas Godley who has in the past tried to put a stop to the community broadcasts through budget cuts (to broadcast the 18 meetings cost only about $500 per meeting ).

    In the center of this controversy is the eccentric, but elected, Trustee Steve Rocco. Officially elected, his election apparently represents the irony of an uniformed electorate. Since his election, the OUSD Administration and current Board Members have acted to silence him. When Rocco was first elected and incommunicado for days (he says because of the death of his father), the OUSD Administration and some Board members acting like third world military generals, actively sought legal ways of not allowing Rocco to take his elected post. Having failed in that respect, they resorted to other ways to silence him. They have changed rules to prevent him from assuming a leadership role, they have tried to silence him with votes to end the meeting during his rants, they have cut him off, and just plain tried to ignore him. While the eccentric Rocco has provided hours of dribble in his time on the board, his occasional populist announcements to assembled crowds has brought him numerous spontaneous applause. While many openly doubt his sanity (i.e. his conspiracy theory Partnership) his frankness and lack of PC (politically correct) in his educational comments cause some to wish if only the sane trustees could say it too. His comments, though not politically correct, on student testing scores based on race, his immigration stances, and ideas on wasting taxes have often rung true with many in the community, but are often mixed-in with his trademark personal agenda based on a persecution complex. At the September 14th meeting, part of the meeting that was censored was Rocco’s remarks on nepotism in OUSD as he names administrators with family members working in the district ( he said he had a list of 16) and questioning out loud can these family members job performance be fairly evaluated by their immediate supervisors who know they have a top administrative relative?

    Obviously in the last two years, the community has grown tired of Rocco, and at the September 14th meeting it was obvious a frustrated OUSD Trustee John Ortega (Rocco’s “elbow partner”) spoke up for the community in his frustrated verbal attack on Rocco. Rocco’s response to Ortega’s attack about the cause of Ortega’s brother’s death (a former OUSD employee) was insensitive and cruel. That said however, in a free society, the voters have a right to observe, hear and see all the actions of their elected officials in a free and open meeting and make up their own mind. None of the exchange at the end of the September 14th meeting was worthy of censorship. Condemnation perhaps, censorship no.

    Furthermore, the censorship shows clear evidence of hypocrisy on the part of the current OUSD Administration. The September 14th Censorship clearly violates the trust the community has in the OUSD Administration. In the Godley inspired TOP TEN CORE VALUES, number seven states:

    “7. That we will demonstrate trustworthiness in everything we say and do.”

    Another reform model that Godley has given lip service to is the Good to Great business model. In Stage 2 of the model a concept called Confront the Brutal Facts states that Good to Great entities: “confront the most brutal facts of your current realty, whatever they might be.” Clearly censoring what the community sees is not “confronting the most brutal facts”, but a sad attempt at manipulating those “brutal facts”. Any “Good to Great” leader (called Level 5 Leadership in Good to Great lingo) would know that in the end, the loss of community trust in trying to manipulate and censor information far exceeds the impact of the information being out in the community.

    If the OUSD Superintendent thinks that a display of trustworthiness is to censor the broadcast of an open OUSD Board meeting when two trustees face off verbally, what other items might he decide in the future that are unfit for the community to see? A parade of parents upset at program cuts in the budget addressing their elected trustees? Would parents addressing their elected officials about concerns over a high school principal be considered a personnel issue and therefore censored? Would a Board vote on a controversial administrative funding request qualify for censorship? Would a popular trustee criticizing the administration’s attempt to cut Board meetings being video broadcast to the community be something unfit for the community to see?

    By going down the path of censorship in a community that fought hard and long for the right to view their elected officials at work, Dr. Godley is once again leading us to question whether we can trust he is the right man for the job of leading us from Good to Great.

    To view OUSD’s Top Ten Core Values CLICK ON:

    Metro Views is open to community members to voice their opinions on important local community issues in the
    Greater Orange Communities.

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    Greater Orange News Service is a community service of the Orange Communication System /OCS/, the communications arm of the Greater Orange Community Orgainization