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  • Tuesday, September 05, 2006

     

    SPECIAL REPORT

    A community service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/

    Villa Park H.S. Principal Ben Rich Removed

    Two weeks after dozens of Villa Park High School parents, students and graduates attended the August 24th Orange Unified School Board meeting to complain about the increasing turmoil at Villa Park High School, the OUSD Administrators announced to the Villa Park staff after school on Tuesday September 5th that there would be “personnel changes” at Villa Park H.S. Long time former El Modena Vice Principal Chris Reider, now an OUSD Administrator, was appointed the temporary Interim Principal to replace Principal Ben Rich. VPHS Parents and the ASB student leaders where to be notified at a Wednesday morning meeting, but by the end of the day on Tuesday, emails, telephone calls and student My-Space postings had the news flying around the small close community of Villa Park.

    Several issues alienated former principal Ben Rich from the Villa Park community which prides itself on parent involvement in its local schools which are part of Orange Unified. Rich had reportedly taken a very public dislike to teachers very popular with the close-knit community and students. Apparently reciting and taking to heart the newest top-down OUSD Administrative mantra of “change is good, but sometimes painful” Rich initiated changes that turned the whole community upside down. As an example he moved the VPHS starting time to 8:00 a.m., just five minutes after Cerro Villa M.S. causing massive gridlock to central Villa Park as thousands of students, staff, and parents try to negotiate the streets of the schools that are within a block of each other. The recent announcement of the elimination of the VPHS Freshman Foundation Class and other honors classes caused a parental uproar. The “straw” that “broke the back” apparently appears to be the elimination of the highly honored VPHS TV Media Class.

    With the OUSD Board Room filled at the August 24th meeting, Trustee Wes Poutsma made a motion to extend the speaking time past the customary 20 minutes per topic. To the surprise of Villa Park residents in attendance, OUSD Trustee Kathy Moffat who is the main Villa Park representative on the OUSD Board remained silent. It was John Ortega who seconded Poutsma’s motion. Even after the parade of speakers, it was long time community advocate Trustee Rick Ledesma who made the suggestion to refer the matter to staff to resolve the issues. Apparently that resolution came about with the replacing of Rich.

    Clearly, with four trustee seats up for election, the political ramifications are clear. Villa Park Trustee Kathy Moffat is very close to the OUSD Administration and is already seen by many in the community as taking the OUSD Administrations side in the attempted Santiago Charter Revocation. Her silence and apparent hands-off approach to the VPHS Controversy at the Board Meeting did not go unnoticed. Politically it is even more complicated by the fact that her opponent in the race is Denise Bittel, the President of the VPHS Parent, Faculty, Student, Organization (PFSO) who tried to work within the system to resolve many of the VPHS issues.

    However, Moffat may not be the only one who suffered politically. Board President Kim Nichols apparently had received wrong information about the popular TV Media Class. Addressing the crowd in the Board Room, Nichols stated that the decision to eliminate the class was based on a teaching credentialing problem. Her statement resulted in a volley of boos from the audience. When VPHS teacher Dr. Linda Bartom, from the audience, offered to set the record straight Nichols told her that she could not speak. Bartom, who wrote the curriculum for the class, walked up to the Board Dais and gave Nichols the information and proof on the credentialing issue. The class was submitted to the U.C. System and approved. The OUSD Board also approved the class with specific criteria to teach it.

    Apparently again realizing that the Trustees had been supplied with wrong information, after the meeting Nichols went to the crowd outside the Board Room and apologized to Dr. Bartom explaining that the Trustees had been told that Bartom could not teach the class because of her teaching credentials.

    Even with Rich gone, many VPHS parent leaders are unhappy at the way the situation has been handled by the OUSD Administration and Board. Despite Godley’s Top Core Values (based on showing subservient behavior to the community OUSD serves) telephone calls from Villa Park parent leaders to many top OUSD administrators were not returned Tuesday.

    However, as one Villa Park parent commented, “They may not want to hear from us now, but as others have learned, they can’t ignore us in November”.

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