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  • Monday, February 02, 2009



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

    “We will walk through this very dark valley together.”
    - Trustee M. Smith 1/15/09

    Trustees meeting on OUSD Budget Set for February 5
    As the top state officials meet in Sacramento this week to try and find a solution to the ongoing California state budget impasse, (GOP leaders have threaten to censure any Republican lawmaker breaking ranks and voting for any tax increases) the Orange Unified School Board will hold a Special Session Work Study meeting for:

    “Discussion of the state budget crisis and its potential impact on OUSD”

    The public Special Open Session meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. on February 5, 2009in the OUSD Board Room.

    In a candid opening Superintendent’s Report at the January 15, 2009 OUSD Board Meeting, Orange Unified School Superintendent Dr. Renae Drier spoke about an expected 10.2 million dollar shortfall for next year’s OUSD budget. The projected shortfall is based on the latest budget proposals by Governor Schwarzenegger. Throughout the meeting, Drier focused on a theme of “communication” with the community and “transparency” about the hard and painful budget decisions that would be necessitated by the current world-wide financial crisis and California’s budget shortfalls. The Superintendent in her opening remarks noted that 85% of the OUSD budget is personnel related and reminded the community that any cuts to teaching staff must be announced before the mandated March 15th legal deadline. Certified support staff has an anytime contractual 45 day notice period.

    Later in the meeting, Orange Unified School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jon Archibald presented an informational item that focused on the current budget crisis. Starting with an in-dept, yet easy to understand analysis of the current California budget stalemate and problems, Archibald’s slide show visually explained the budget predicament California finds itself in. Explaining that 1% of the wealthiest Californians pay 50% of the state income taxes that come mostly from capital gains in financial markets, and explaining that a good deal of rest of the state revenue comes from the state sales tax, Archibald clearly explained how the current financial markets collapse and retail sales slump has equated in a $20 billion dollar revenue shortfall for California’s current fiscal year, with the shortfall expected to continue into future budgets.

    Archibald outlined continued efforts by the OUSD Administration to continue positive cash flow during the budget stalemate in Sacramento. Those efforts include internal borrowing from internal OUSD accounts to a district hiring freeze. Archibald related that the district under present cash flow circumstances can continue until September 2009 without having to go to outside loan sources.

    Finally, Archibald gave a list of potential cuts the OUSD Board could possibly authorize in the months leading up to the March 15th, Ides of March legal deadline for staff cut notifications. The Archibald list of Potential Adjustments to the OUSD Budget are:

    Administrative Funding Adjustments – $ 2.5 million savings
    Deferred Maintenance Match - $ 1.5 million savings
    Consolidate Small Schools and
    eliminate Class Size Reduction - $ 1.2 million savings
    All district on 1 calendar - $ .5 million savings
    Reduce staff (outside Class reduction) - $ 2.9 million savings
    Freeze Step/Column raises - $ 3.1 million savings
    Reduce Salaries-varied savings: every 1% decrease equals a $1.6 million savings
    Restructure Health and Welfare benefits package- unknown variable savings

    Using the Governor’s last proposed budget, the projected mid-year budget cuts for this school year in OUSD are another $ 8.6 million. Those cuts are then expected to continue and increase through the 2010-2011 school year.

    Following the presentation during Public Comments on the agenda item, community members representing the small schools of Riverdale and Silverado gave emotional pleas to save their schools from any future closings.

    Homework on the hot seat
    “We are doing a disservice to our families and students”
    – Trustee J. Ortega 1/15/09

    Continuing his call for “quality vs. quantity” in the amount of homework students and their families are subjected to, OUSD Trustee John Ortega spoke after a presentation by OUSD Administrators on updating the Board on their recent focus on the amount of homework assigned to students across the grades and district. Ortega continued to champion parental concerns that homework and school projects have become burdensome for students and their families. Ortega questioned “Where is it written that giving homework over the weekends is beneficial?”

    While the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Brown agreed that she knew of no homework studies confirming benefits from weekend homework, Trustee Kathy Moffat interjected that a recent Duke University study had reviewed other homework studies (in fact the Duke study was published in 2006). While Moffat correctly stated that study found some homework appearing to have benefits in the secondary grades, the study taken in whole reinforces what Trustee John Ortega has contended in his homework campaign about the limited effects of homework and the harmful effects of excessive homework. A Duke University Press Release quoted Duke Professor Harris Cooper about his widely read 2006 homework research study:

    “With only rare exception, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant,”

    The Duke Press Release on Copper’s findings continues that:

    "While it’s clear that homework is a critical part of the learning process, Cooper said the analysis also showed that too much homework can be counter-productive for students at all levels."

    “Even for high school students, overloading them with homework is not associated with higher grades,” Cooper said.

    Absent from the Board’s homework dialogue has been OUSD’s large lower income Hispanic population. The special cultural and economic needs of this group have not been addressed in the local homework controversy. Examples of the special challenges include older siblings often are expected to care for younger siblings in homes where parents work more than one job and many times crowded living conditions also lead to students unable to have any work spaces. The Duke University study acknowledges outside cultural and economic differences have not been accounted for in research studies stating:

    "Cooper pointed out that there are limitations to current research on homework. For instance, little research has been done to assess whether a student’s race, socioeconomic status or ability level affects the importance of homework in his or her achievement."

    In an apparent response to Ortega’s concerns that higher level students appear to get more homework just because they are in higher classes (i.e. more problems to do), Trustee Melissa Smith offered her thoughts that Honors classes, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) students make the choice to take those more demanding classes knowing that they will have the extra work. Comments from the Board members seemed to indicate a consensus that they did not want to interfere with teachers’ professional judgment in the realm of homework by implementing any specific Board mandates.

    For more information CLICK ON: DUKE

    And: TIME on DUKE

    A Parents View: PARENT

    Drier follows up Canyon H.S. bullying incident
    In an unprecedented announcement commenting on Public Comments from the previous meeting, Superintendent Dr. Drier announced as part of her Superintendent’s Report that her upper management administrators have moved aggressively to address the Canyon H.S. bullying incident that two parents brought to the attention of the OUSD Board at their January 15, 2009 meeting during Public Comments.

    The quick response of top district officials should come as no surprise since just last month and just five days after the Board meeting, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee that parents have a right to sue school districts over gender discrimination. While that case involved young opposite sex students, the evidence included an incident where the victims pants were pulled down, similar to one of the incidents described by the Canyon H.S. parents against their son. California law outlaws same-sex harassment. Like the Canyon H.S. incident, the parents in the court case had made repeated attempts with the school administration to remedy the situation. In addition, the high court Justices sided with the parents on faulting the district for not transferring the bully away from the victim. In the Canyon H.S. case, the parents stated that because of the bullying they were forced to remove their son from the school.

    For more information on Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School CLICK ON:

    To see the FULL STORY on the Canyon High School abuse from DEC 11, 2008 CLICK ON:


    • Superintendent Dr. Drier made it clear several times throughout the January 15, 2009 meeting that she is commitment to communication and transparency to the Greater Orange Communities in the budgeting process and all aspects of her administration of OUSD. Drier’s commitment to communication has become evident in emails and memos to all staff about the ongoing budget crisis. In addition, her administration’s use of the district website (like posting of Frequently Asked Questions about the budget) has been innovative and a refreshing change from the old administration which censored and hid information from the communities it served.

    • Keeping his reputation for more access for the public, Board President Rick Ledesma asked the OUSD Staff to look into video streaming the OUSD Board meetings on the OUSD website. Ledesma also asked that Board Policies and By-Laws be made available to the public online and asked for a possible engine search feature for Board Agendas. Ledesma, long an advocate for public access, had previously championed continued community broadcasts of the OUSD Board meetings to the community when former OUSD Superintendent Dr. Godley had sought to save $7,000 a year by ending the cablecasts. The broadcast of the Board meetings was one of the original reforms resulting from the Orange Recall election. Eventually, Godley “found” the money to continue the cablecasts.

    The OUSD Board continued to frustrate each other as they continued to try and work out scheduling problems with the ambitious meeting schedule for the year proposed and approved at the January 15 Board meeting by Ledesma and his Coalition. As part of her on-going campaign for transparency, Superintendent Drier also offered scheduling two Budget Work Study Sessions for the Board members and community.

    Budget crisis? Hiring freeze? Not for the OUSD Consultant Culture
    Those Budget Work Study meetings proposed by Dr. Drier included the Saturday January 24th Work Study Session Workshop on Board Governance, Goals and Objectives. For that ‘workshop” the district paid two consultants “not to exceed $3,000” to conduct a six hour workshop (that is $500 an hour!). While a hiring freeze was announced by Assistant Superintendent Archibald, clearly that freeze does not include high priced consultants. Apparently despite massive looming budget cuts OUSD, while Drier and her staff give up cell phones, many on her staff are unwilling not to give up the OUSD’s Consultant Culture.

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget

    Total $200,000
    2009 Attorney Fee Tally:
    11/13/08 Parker & Covert (for 1/09 -6/09) $200,000

    2009 Consultant/ Speaker Fee Tally:
    01/24/09 Leadership Associates Consultants $ 3,000
    2009 TOTAL $ 203,000

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus running total (beginning 8/2008):$8470.00*

    * The Godley Retirement Bonus presented here is an estimate of the amount in “bonus retirement” accrued since the Superintendent’s retirement on 6/30/08 using a 6% lifetime formula calculated here at $1210 a month since 8/08. The actual retirement plan the former OUSD Superintendent opted to take is not public information and the figures presented are only as an estimate of the taxpayer costs after the OUSD trustees voted against an amendment to exclude Godley from the retirement program. The on-going estimated figure is presented as a reminder to the community of the high cost in educational tax dollars the OUSD Board vote to allow the former Superintendent to participate in the 6% retirement incentive cost the OUSD education community in tax dollars. Godley retired from OUSD on June 30, 2008 after he worked for the school district for a little over five years.Total for

    Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2008: $907,800
    2008 Attorney Fee Tally:
    6/19/08 Parker & Covert $ 60,000
    6/05/08 Miller, Brown & Dannis $ 40,000
    6/05/08 Parker & Covert $150,000
    6/05/08 Parker & Covert $200,000
    2/07/08 Parker & Covert $100,000
    11/15/07 Parker & Covert (for 1/08 to 6/08) $200,000
    2008 Consultant/ Speaker Fee Tally:
    11/13/08 Subs for SDCDE (Reading First) $24,000
    11/13/08 SDCDE (Reading First) $30,000
    10/30/08 Dr. Willard Daggett (ICLE) $ 4,500
    10/16/08 Dr. Parker 40 pt Consultant $ 4,200
    9/25/08 Visual Ink for Sadler Consultant $ 6,600
    9/25/08 Bob Sadler Consultant Fee $ 8,500
    9/25/08 Candace Simpson-Sadler Helper $ 5,500
    7/24/08 Dr. Parker 40 pt Consultant $ 10,000
    4/17/08 Dr. Kenneth Stichter Speaker Fee $ 6,500
    3/7/08 Dr. Kathleen Weigel Speaker Fee $ 8,000
    Consultant Total $ 107, 800
    2008 TOTAL $ 907,800

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2007: $704,090.00**

    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 February 5, 2009 -OUSD BOARD ROOM

    OUSD Regular Session: 5:30 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/
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