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  • Tuesday, September 12, 2006


    Orange Unified Schools DIGEST

    a news service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/

    “Mr. Rich, he needs to get out of our school”
    -VPHS Student to OUSD Board at August 24 Meeting

    An emotional full capacity crowd awaited the Orange Unified School Board at the usually sedate summer August OUSD School Board meeting held on August 24th. Villa Park High School students, parents, staff, alumni and community leaders appeared before the board to address a multitude of issues concerning Villa Park High School and it’s then principal Ben Rich.

    Close to twenty community speakers cited changes in a host of classes, staff and the “depersonalization” of students at what many consider the crown jewel of OUSD’s high schools. The community made such a strong case to the Board and top OUSD Administrators, that within days the OUSD Administration defused the growing educational and soon-to-turn political situation (Denise Bittel is the PSTO President of VPHS and is running against Trustee Kathy Moffat) by the reassignment of Rich to the district office as “principal under special assignment” and placement of OUSD Administrator trouble shooter Chris Reider as VPHS Interim Principal.

    Speaker after speaker (VPHS staff members, students, parents and community leaders) made their position clear that Villa Park Principal Ben Rich was changing successful teachers and programs and causing havoc with student schedules. Perhaps the most damming testimony came from students in the VPHS TV Media Class who spoke individually of Rich telling the students in a TV Media Class summer workshop what a great year they would have in the class when school started. Parents, staff and students spoke how Rich would not answer why changes were happening. Almost to a person they told the Board and district administrators that when they asked Rich why a change took place, they were told that “change was sometimes painful” (a mantra that has been reportedly repeated by many OUSD Principals around the district at this year’s various before school staff meetings). To this repeated quote attributed to Rich, one parent told the Board said “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

    As the speakers continued at the August 24th OUSD Board Meeting, it became clear that the number of speakers would outlast the 20 minute per topic OUSD Board speaking limit. OUSD Trustee Wes Poutsma made a motion (at OUSD Board President Kim Nichols request) that the speaking time be extended until all speakers were heard. With a seconding of the motion from Trustee John Ortega, the motion carried 7-0 with a rare “Yes” vote from Trustee Steve Rocco.

    After all the speakers were finished, Nichols then spoke. She apologized for the lack of communication in the current situation, but also insisted change was needed to progress. Nichols then tried to explain that she was told that the reason the T.V. Media Class was taken away from VPHS teacher Dr. Linda Bartom was because Bartom did not have the proper teaching credentials. This led to an uproar from the audience and Bartom approaching the dais and handing Nichols information on the credentialing needed for the elective class that Bartom wrote the curriculum for and had it approved by both the OUSD Board and the UC System. After the meeting, apparently after reading the material, Nichols reportedly apologized to Bartom in the district office parking lot, were many of the VPHS supporters were still mingling.

    After Nichols boardroom comments, in a break with Roberts Rules and Board precedent, she took other comments from Board members on the public comments from the VPHS speakers. Trustee Rick Ledesma asked for a consensus from the Board to refer the matter the OUSD Administration for resolution. Trustee Steve Rocco stated that the community would get what they wanted sooner or later and used the example of the continued Board cable broadcasts as an example. Rocco stating that the OUSD Administration had a hard time finding $8,000 to continue the public broadcasts (the OUSD Administration had called for the broadcasts to be cut during the state financial crisis), but found the $9,000 for Superintendent Godley’s raise. Nichols took exception to Rocco’s characterization and reminded Rocco that the Board was still broadcasting its meetings. Rocco received a loud applause from the crowded board room.

    Not unnoticed by those attending from Villa Park was one trustee that was missing from the comments, discussion or motions (except to vote) over the VPHS issues. OUSD Trustee Kathy Moffat (who represents the OUSD Area 4 that includes Villa Park) when given the chance to comment sat silent throughout the portion of the meeting devoted to VPHS and at the end of the meeting, with another chance to comment on anything she wanted, she said nothing. Clearly, the political ramifications of the evening were evident to many as Moffat’s opponent in the November election, VPHS Parent Student Teacher Organization President Denise Bittel sat watching her Villa Park neighbors from the audience. On September 6th, Rich’s reassignment was announced.

    Call for Rocco to Resign
    The public comments were not confined to the VPHS at the August meeting, nor the spoken fireworks. The evening’s public comments started with Orange resident and local university political science professor Fred Smoller calling for OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco’s resignation. Smoller, remarked that he had no ill will toward Rocco, then listed several reasons he felt it Rocco should resign. Smoller’s concerns included: Rocco’s position of not attending closed session meetings; Rocco’s disengagement from voting by abstaining (which Smoller characterized was like an umpire refusing to call strikes or balls); Rocco’s public comments during Board meetings which Smoller characterized as irrelevant to his job as a trustee; and Rocco’s not responding to constituents (Smoller used himself and his unanswered attempts to speak with Rocco as an example). Smoller also pointed to Rocco’s recent decision to seek election to the Rancho Santiago College Board of Trustees.

    Another citizen spoke about some Anaheim Hills students in the Riverdale school area not eligible for bus transportation because of a 3 mile radius rule. This rule forces the students from the Riverdale area who attend Canyon H.S. to walk along the dangerous Santiago Canyon Road which does not have sidewalks along the route to the high school. Trustee Melisa Smith who represents Anaheim Hills thanked the speaker for being proactive before something happened.

    The OUSD Board called a Special Meeting August 14th to approve and announce the newly hired Assistant Principal positions at each high school. In addition, the Board approved the OUSD Administration’s District Strategic Plan and authorized the OUSD Administration to develop time lines and strategies for implementation for later approval. Part of the discussion focused on the understanding that a new top OUSD Administrative “Director” position would be created.

    The new student representatives from each of OUSD’s high schools for the Student Advisory Council to the Board of Education (SACBE) for this year will be introduced.

    In addition:

    Item 12 A: Approval of the required updating of Conflict of Interest policies
    Item 12 B: Approval of Final Revised Budget numbers: OUSD surplus this year includes $8,706,568 educational tax dollars in “Unappropriated Funds”.
    Item 12 D: Approval of the Superintendent’s Goals and Objectives that were taken directly from the May 22 Community Strategic Planning Workshop that developed the District Strategic Plan and apparently also developed the Goals and Objectives for Dr. Godley that are required by his contract.
    Item 12 E: Approval of the OUSD Administration’s three year goal setting cycle and the schedule for the District Strategic Plan.

    During the month of August, the Orange Unified School Board met twice, once in Special Session (August 14) and once in Regular Session (August 24).
    For a recap of the July 20th, 2006 meeting CLICK ON:


    “We’re a $220 million dollar business; we’re going to spend the money somewhere.”-OUSD Trustee Wes Poutsma 9/22/05

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars spent in 2006: $ 849,717.00:

    2006 Consultant Fee Tally:
    6/22/06 Douglas DeVore Speech $ 2,000
    6/08/06 Focus on Results $164,400
    3/09/06 Bob Sadler 3 Day Workshop $ 10,000
    Total $176,400

    2006 Attorney Fee Tally:
    7/20/06 Parker & Covert $100,000
    7/20/06 Parker & Covert $ 50,000
    7/20/06 Miller, Brown & Dannis $ 30,000
    6/22/06 Miller, Brown & Dannis $ 50,000
    6/22/06 Parker & Covert $175,000
    4/20/06 Parker & Covert: $ 50,000
    1/19/06 Parker & Covert: $200,000
    Total $655,000

    2006 Administrative Conference/Travel:
    2/9/06 Roney and 5 principals to Florida $ 10,623
    2/23/06 Roney and 2 principals Tx/ Fl $ 4,050
    3/09/06 2 to Florida Conference $ 3,644
    Total $ 18,317

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars spent in 2005: $ 978,300.000:

    Total 2005 Conference Administrator/Board Fees: $ 7,500.00
    2005 Attorney Fee Tally: $730,600.00
    Total Watched 2005 OUSD Consultant spending: $ 270,200.00
    The next Orange Unified School Board Meeting: September 14, 2006
    Closed Session will begin at 6:30 pm, Regular Session remains at 7:30 pm
    To view the Agenda CLICK ON: :

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