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  • Monday, December 10, 2007



    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    a news service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Proposed Trustee Area Boundary changes mean…

    The Godley Majority of the Orange Unified School Board has failed at everything they have done to try and silence outspoken Orange Unified School Board Trustee Steve Rocco. They have changed the OUSD Board By-laws to prevent Rocco from rotating into a leadership position and also to prevent him from adding agenda items for discussion. They have passed an official Resolution of Censured against Rocco and then won a court battle against him upholding the Censure. OUSD then went back to court to make Rocco pay for the legal battle, ultimately garnished his wages and putting a lien on his home. They have censored OUSD Board of Education meeting cablecasts to the community to prevent controversial Rocco statements (and the reaction of other Board members against him) from reaching the community over cable television. The OUSD Trustees have walked out on Rocco’s statements during meetings (including the November 15th meeting were enough trustees walked out to end the quorum and silence Rocco). When Rocco showed up at the OUSD Community Drug Forum and spoke as an audience member, OUSD did not cablecast the Forum. Some of the OUSD Trustees and their community allies tried to go to the community to Recall Rocco, but failed to get the required signatures (CLICK ON: ROCCO RECALL FAILS ). Throughout it all Rocco has defiantly refused to be silenced reacting to the moves to silence him by frustrating and alienating the status-quo by mixing his own style of local democratic populism with a penchant for off-topic conspiracy theories. Now, in an ultimate power play over the heads of the electorate, the OUSD Board at its December 13th meeting is ready to in effect vote Rocco off the island in political power ploy that will change the OUSD Trustee Areas boundaries thus taking Rocco’s Trustee Area 6 away from him and placing him into Trustee Rick Ledesma’s Area 7.

    Board President Kim Nichols began the move to change the OUSD Trustee Area boundaries stating that she was concerned that her Trustee Area 5 included the Anaheim Hills communities that she felt she was geographically disconnected from. The results of the demographic study initiated by Nichols request appears on the December 13th Board Agenda in Item 12 B (page 11) as the “RESOLUTION PROVIDING FOR A PROPOSED READJUSTMENT TO TRUSTEE AREAS”. The Agenda Item includes three boundary change scenarios. The staff report with the Agenda Item recommends Scenario Three that in essence moves Rocco out of his Trustee Area 6 to Trustee Rick Ledesma’s Area 7. The move would have to be approved by the Orange County Committee on School District Organization. Any move could also be challenged by voters. (For complete information how the boundary process works please CLICK ON: OC Committee ). If approved, the change would take place in November 2008 when Rocco is up for reelection.

    Scenario 1 of the proposed plan makes minor adjustments to the Trustee Areas and keeps the current Trustees in their areas, but does little to address the Anaheim Hills (and proposed new Orange Hills communities) geographical concerns of Nichols’ had about her Trustee Area 5. The two other proposals, Scenario 2 and 3, do however address Nichols geographical concerns. Scenario 2 addresses the issue and keeps the current trustees in their current Trustee Areas. In Scenario 3, the geographical issues are addressed, but with major changes in the current boundary arrangement that includes changing Rocco’s Area 6 boundaries away from his home. OUSD Board members are elected at-large, but must live in the Trustee Area they represent.

    The OUSD Staff supports Scenario 3 which is by far the most radical of the proposals that gerrymanders the Trustee Areas in established Orange and Santa Ana neighborhoods and splits high school attendance areas into new Trustee Areas. The stated reasoning behind supporting Scenario 3 is that by 2015 and into 2020, Scenario 3 would have the least population deviation between the Trustee Areas. However, it is not known if the current housing mortgage economic melt down, which has pushed many current housing building plans into a holding pattern was taken into consideration in the demographic consultant’s timeline.

    Scenario Three would also do what the Godley Majority on the OUSD Board has been unable to do: silence Rocco. Under Scenario 3, just in time for the November 2008 Election, the boundary change would take Steve Rocco out of Area 6 and place him in Ledesma’s Area 7 (Ledesma also has been at odds with the OUSD Board majority from time to time). Trustee Lissa Smith’s home would be moved from current Area 1 to Trustee Wes Poutsma’s Area 3 (sources report Smith has stated she does not plan to run for another term in 2010). Rocco’s Area 6 would become open in November 2008 (when the proposed boundary shift is to take place) and Smith’s would be open in 2010. Sources state legal counsel has advised the OUSD that Smith would be able to remain in her position until the 2010 election. ONN was unable to confirm how the proposed boundary changes would impact declared candidates for Rocco’s seat, Florice Hoffman (currently in Area 1), Phil Martinez, or Arianna Barios. Open Trustee Areas could improve the likelihood of slate candidates from such organizations as the Educational Alliance again making a bid for seats on the OUSD Board.

    In an emailed response on the boundary changes, the local watchdog organization the Greater Orange Communities Organization wrote:

    “Current Board President Kim Nichols as a citizen single handedly fought the former recalled Board in court and won when that Board tried to play politics with the recall election ballot to fool voters and stay in power. Apparently absolute power has corrupted another well meaning citizen as Kim Nichols now plays the Machiavellian game of the end justifies the means political power play to do an end-run around the voters that wouldn’t sign her recall petitions. Having Nichols place political expediency above democracy is a sad day for the Greater Orange Communities, but an even sadder comment on what kind of politician Nichols has become: ‘a sore winner’.”

    After missing the first September deadline for turning in signatures, Rocco Recall supporters openly feared and stated that the voters (who they insist mistakenly elected Rocco) could not be trusted to oust Rocco in a regular election because he would carry the title of incumbent, or because challengers would split the vote. Now those recall supporters will not have to fear what voters will do because since the voters wouldn’t give them a Recall Election in 2008, the OUSD Board won’t give voters a choice in 2008.

    OUSD’s Legislative Coalition next Means Justify End ?
    In an irony of mythic proportions, at the same meeting the OUSD Board moves against Rocco, they will also move to change one of Rocco’s favorite targets, the OUSD’s Legislative Coalition. Rocco has attacked the Board Committee as the training grounds for the OUSD Trustees Godley Majority. In fact, more Board members, past and present, have been pervious Legislative Coalition members than any other civic group or organization. The December 13 Information Item 13 (page 30) will open the conversation on the Committees of the Board.

    As an independent committee of the OUSD Board with its own by-laws, the first sign of a struggle over the Legislative Coalition came as the OUSD Board reviewed the by-laws and made a move to change them after the last Board election when current OUSD Trustees were challenged by Legislative Coalition members. Then at the October 17th Legislative Coalition, an emotional Trustee Lissa Smith resigned from the Legislative Coalition because of the “blurred lines” between Board members also being school and parent representatives on the committee (For the meeting minutes CLICK ON: LEG CO Agenda ). Nichols also present at the meeting later announced that the Board would be looking at changes to “organizational” status of the Legislative Coalition.

    Sources state that some OUSD Board members and OUSD Administrators have become annoyed at some members of the Legislative Coalition who have taken on Board-member like qualities and not “focused” on “promoting public educational legislation”, but on district policy areas OUSD Trustees are elected to deal with as well as becoming increasingly political in district affairs.

    Responding to an email inquiry about the direction of changes for Legislative Coalition, OUSD President Kim Nichols wrote:

    “If the organizational change occurs, I do not believe there will be any change in Leg. Co's. mission or purpose. I believe it will facilitate its stated mission by reducing the amount of time spent on "administrative issues" allowing for more time to be spent learning about and discussing education legislation. As to the 'bringing together distinct parties from throughout the District', there will be no change in the way individuals are selected by their sites to participate in Legislative Coalition. Leg Co will continue to request a representative from each of the school sites, as selected by their parent group, or by the Principal if no parent group is active, and a representative from each of the employee associations. The only difference in attendance is that there will be no Board Member representatives unless requested by Leg. Co., for a specific purpose”.

    The Legislative Coalition by-laws state the following focus:

    The Legislative Coalition of the Orange Unified School District shall bring together distinct parties from throughout the District for the purpose of understanding and promoting public education legislation.

    Responding to and emailed inquiry about the possibility of changes in the Legislative Coalition organizational structure, Legislative Coalition Dianne Singer relied:

    “Legislative Coalition is a committee of the Board of Education and as such serves at their pleasure. The Board will be considering a change from committee of the Board to committee of the Superintendent at the next board meeting.

    Legislative Coalition, and its purpose, does not change at all. Certain organizational features such as by-laws will no longer be needed. The purpose of Legislative Coalition, as well as membership and participation, will continue to remain: parents, elected by their schools, discuss, consider and recommend legislation that effects K-12 education to the Board in a non-partisan, open environment.

    The change to committee of the superintendent is an organizational change only. It allows us to focus only on our purpose. The purpose, which is the most important feature and why a majority of members continue to participate, will not change, nor will participation or membership.”

    Some members of the Legislative Coalition are confused at the proposal or why the work of Legislative Coalition has become the focus of the OUSD Board. Some Legislative Coalition members will be meeting before the Board meeting to discuss the concerns they wish to relay to the OUSD Trustees at the December 13th meeting.

    INSIDE the November 15th, 2007 OUSD Board Agenda
    Item 9- Annual Organizational Meeting: With the Board eliminating the Rotation of Officers, Kim Nichols has been OUSD President for two years. The biggest question for the members is who wants to deal with a now certain lame-duck Steve Rocco until November?

    Action Items include the following items:
    12 C Interim financial report: a positive report showing an Unappropriated Fund amount of $7,164,527 above the 3% state required emergency fund.
    12 D A wage agreement giving a 3.5% raise to CSEA employees
    12 E A wage agreement granting the 3.5% raise agreed to for support staff to District Leadership (administrators).

    Consent Agenda Items include:
    • PAGE 30: The Planning Center-$60,000 for reports to begin the demolition process on the two historic original school buildings from Villa Park Elementary School

    Community Donations
    Angel Baseball-$1,000 to Olive E.S. for Library supplies; Running Springs PTA-$4,470 for Running Springs Library Book shelves; El Modena Education Foundation $13,090- laptop computers. For a complete list of community donations see page 36 of the Agenda.

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


    $200,000 Total
    2008 Attorney Fee Tally:
    11/15/07 Parker & Covert (1/08 to 6/08) $200,000

    $704,090.00 Total
    2007 Consultant/ Speaker Fee Tally:
    4/30/07 Debra Ford Speaker Fee $ 4,090
    4/30/07 Danny Brassell Speaker Fee $ 3,500
    3/8/07 Dr. Daggett Speaker Fee $ 9,000
    9/27/07 Dr.Daggett Speaker Fee $ 35,000
    11/15/07 OCDE High Priority Consultants $115,000
    Total $166,590

    2007 Attorney Fee Tally:
    1/18/07 Parker & Covert (1/07 to 6/07) $175,000
    (6/07-12/07) $200,000
    2/08/07 Miller, Brown, and Dannis $ 7, 500
    2/22/07 Parker & Covert $ 45,000
    5/10/07 Miller, Brown and Dannis $ 50,000
    7/19/07 Parker & Covert $ 60,000
    Total $537,500

    2007 Administrative Conference/Travel: hidden since 6/8/06*

    *JUNE 8th, 2006 Trustees VOTE to Give OUSD Superintendent the power to APPROVE Travel Requests taking this item OUT of the PUBLIC AGENDA

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2006: $849,717.00*
    2006 Consultant Fee Tally: Total $176,400
    2006 Attorney Fee Tally: Total Approved $655,000
    2006 Administrative Conference/Travel: Total $ 18,317 *
    * JUNE 8th, 2006 Trustees VOTE to Give OUSD Superintendent the power to
    APPROVE OUSD Travel Requests taking this item OUT of the PUBLIC AGENDA

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2005: $978,300.00:
    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

    Next OUSD Board Meeting Thursday December 13, 2007. For more information

    OUSD CLOSED SESSION STARTS 6:30 PM on 12/13 Regular Session: 7:30 pm
    For more information call the OUSD Superintendent’s office at 714-628-4040
    For budgeting questions call Business Services at 714-628-4015

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    Independent insight into OUSD
    is an independent news service of /O/N/N/
    “Independent Local Insight”

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