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  • Monday, March 23, 2009



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


    After confusing procedural votes,
    OUSD Board votes to close Silverado

    At the March 12, 2009 Orange Unified School Board Meeting, a standing room only crowd watched the seven OUSD Trustees grapple with devastating state budget cuts to local schools by voting for deep budget cuts and to close the smallest OUSD school, Silverado Elementary School.

    The votes on the budget cuts in Agenda Action Item 12C were preceded by comments from Orange Unified Superintendent Renae Drier. The popular new superintendent reviewed the history of cuts her administration has initiated in the wake of the overwhelming state budget crisis. The district budget cuts include a salary freeze which has already saved the school district around $300,000. Commenting about her administration's moratorium on paying for educational consultants, Drier echoed sentiments long felt by community leaders opposed to the millions of tax dollars past OUSD Administrators have recently dumped into consultant programs that are no longer a part of the OUSD culture despite the millions invested in them. Drier stated about the decision to forgo educational consultants: “We strongly believe we have the talent internally to provide the kind of staff development we need to move ahead”.

    In other comments on the March 12th Agenda’s proposed cuts, Drier then focused on what her administration did not cut: the Gate Magnet Program; Elementary Instrumental Music; high school assistant principals; and increasing high school class size. Drier was apparently unconcerned that by publicly supporting those programs now would make any future cuts more difficult.

    The vote on the Action Item 12 C budget cuts came after public comments from the Silverado School community speakers (now facing the reality of the OUSD Administration recommendation for Silverado’s closure) who changed their appeal to save the small school outright, to an appeal for one more year to work on their plans for changing to a charter school. After the Public Comments, first Trustee Dr. Alexia Deligianni attempted, then, Trustee Kathy Moffat made a motion to remove Silverado from the budget cut list. While Deligianni sided emotionally with the schools supporters for a year reprieve, Moffat acknowledged the lack of efficiency and expense of the small school, but sided with the “unique community” of the school. Trustee Mark Wayland tried to find common ground by proposing a partial closing of the school (keeping K-1 open).

    Trustee Lisa Smith in what she herself described as a courageous stand (and branded herself as a “black sheep”), stated that a great many in the community had communicated to her the necessity of closing the small schools and making the hard choices needed in the current fiscal crisis. Smith spoke of her obligations, fiscally to the whole district, and to all the students and the employees in the district, in explaining her vote to close Silverado. Smith also spoke of her reluctance to again grant more time to a group when in the past “more time” always seemed to result in “more time” again. Smith also recounted how Olive and McPherson elementary schools both had been closed once, but then reopened. (Later, at the end of the meeting, Smith took another courageous stand commenting that she wanted the OUSD Trustees to take a pay cut to their per meeting compensation and ending health benefits for OUSD Trustees). Nichols sided with Smith on Silverado, and questioned the ability to attract enough students to a Silverado Charter fast enough to a make it viable and instead offered the suggestion of a Silverado Environmental Resource Center for the entire district.

    The vote to remove Silverado from the budget cuts failed 3-3 with a surprise abstention from Wayland (Yes to remove from list- Moffat, Ortega, and Deligianni: No to keep on list- Smith, Ledesma, and Nichols). Confusion over the tie vote was settled by Attorney Spencer Covert (as Nichols took a Roberts Rules book out that she was carrying) that the vote needed four Yes to pass. Smith then reminded the Trustees a vote to reconsider could be requested which Deligianni moved to do. In the second vote, Wayland joined the No vote and the attempt to remove Silverado from the budget cuts was again defeated. Then a 7-0 vote for the budget cuts ended the voting on the Action Item. In a final statement, Nichols warned that the budget crisis was far from over with May being a pivotal month with the May 19th Special Election (see below) and the May Budget Revise.

    OUSD estimated to receive $9,440,000 in Federal Stimulus dollars
    OUSD Trustees and Administrators made several references at the March 12th meeting to the Federal Economic Stimulus monies as still a budgetary unknown, and perhaps a budget saver. Since that meeting the details of the Federal Economic Stimulus categorical funding have become better known. With most of the money going directly to state budgets, the House of Representatives House Education and Labor Committee has published estimates on how much local school districts will receive in direct categorical funding (based on Federal Title 1 formulas). OUSD is listed as projected to receive $9,440,000 in categorical Federal Stimulus funds: $2,616,000 in Title 1 A funding (targeted grants and educational finance incentive grants); and $6,824,000 in IDEA Part B funding (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act).

    Title 1 A Funding money will support the Federal Title 1 Program under the No Child Left Behind Act. These monies will help districts with large amounts of economically disadvantaged students. IDEA Part B Funding will go to services for children with learning disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

    Federal Stimulus money that will go directly to the state governments include: State Fiscal Stabilization Fund- money to prevent layoffs; Innovation Fund- rewards to states to help struggling schools close achievement gaps and create student data bases; Public School Modernizations- funds to high priority needs-school repairs or energy efficiency. Also money to buy food-service equipment under the National School Lunch Program; expand school technology; transportation and meals aid to homeless students; and moneys to develop student achievement tracking databases.

    House Committee

    US Dept of Education

    OTHER March 12th ACTIONS
    In other budget related actions from the March 12th meeting, the OUSD Board voted to approve expanded inter-fund transfers (Agenda Item 12A); and transfer the February 20th California State Budget Level II categorical monies to the General Fund. In the Consent Agenda, Wayland continued to ask the tough fiscal questions as he pulled $98,000 in additional funding to law firm Parker-Covert and another $50,000 to another firm for Special Education cases. The OUSD Administration explained that the money was for expenses that “might occur” and that made the astonishing comment that more than one firm was required to avoid “the appearance of a monopoly”.

    Item 14 H in the March 26th OUSD Board Meeting Consent Agenda (Agenda page 20-22) has the details about approving Summer School for OUSD this summer. While OUSD Administrators during the current budget crisis had gone forward with the Summer School planning, the March 26th Agenda is the first solid indication that the Summer School program would be offered this summer in OUSD (pending Board approval). The Item 14 H Fiscal Impact statement (Agenda Page 20) shows a net income on the OUSD Summer School program to the OUSD General Fund of $246,944 (Income- $1,486,742: Expenditures-$1,239,798).

    California Summer School programs took a major hit in the 2008 budget year. In, this year’s February 20th California Budget more flexibility with the monies provided to school districts resulted in major cut-backs to summer school programs across the state. Schools do receive more money from the state for intervention students who are behind in graduation and promotion credits or need support in English Language Arts and math intervention, or support in passing the California High School Exam.

    In the past, California districts have paid for summer school upfront and then been reimbursed by the state. The OUSD March 26th authorization of summer school appears that the program will be offered, but the outcome on the budget of the May 19, 2009 Special Election results could theoretically completely change all current expected budgeted monies from the state under the February 20th California Budget which relies heavily on funding from the budget changes on the May 19th Special Election ballot. While a March 3rd Field Poll showed initial voter support for the May 19th ballot provisions, the poll found that Proposition 1A (one of the so-called “must pass” propositions) seems to be in trouble when voters understand the propositions stipulations completely. The Field Poll stated:

    The Field Poll #2297
    Tuesday, March 3, 2009
    One of the provisions which lawmakers attached to Prop. 1A, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund, was a stipulation that should it pass the timelines of the state’s recently approved increases to the sales tax, the vehicle registration fee and the income tax would be extended by up to two years. In the current survey likely voters who said they were backing Prop. 1A were asked what effect this information would have on their voting preferences. Of the 57% of likely voters initially supporting the measure 23% say knowledge of the tax extension makes them more inclined to vote No


    Agenda Item 14 H also includes the OUSD Summer School sites and schedule (page 21). Elementary Summer School sites are: California, Lampson, McPherson, Palmyra and Villa Park elementary schools. Middle School Summer School programs will be offered at: Orange H.S., Villa Park H.S. and for Special Education classes- Santiago Charter. The elementary and middle school classes will start Monday June 22nd, 2009 and end July 17th.

    The OUSD high school Summer School program will take place at El Modena, Orange and Villa Park High Schools. Two 2 ½ week sessions will be offered: Session I-June 22-July 30; Session II- July 13-July 30th. In addition, OUSD will offer alternative education and ROP Summer School sessions. The 2009-2010 school year will start August 20th, 2009.

    The final page of Item 14 H (Agenda page 22) has the Summer School calendar days, staffing hours and pay for Certificated staff as well as calendar days and hours for Classified support staff.

    OUSD Law firm to “donate” $2,500 to Strategic Planning Workshop
    OUSD budget problems recently had prompted more serious talk about an in-house attorney instead of the current practice of outside pay-as-you go- legal services. OUSD Administrators had stated at a recent OUSD Board meeting that the OUSD pay- as you-go law firm of Parker Covert LLP had been more open to providing some pro-bono services during the budget crisis. The March 26th OUSD Board Agenda (Agenda page 6) now shows Parker Covert LLP donating $2,500 to the second OUSD Strategic Planning Workshop scheduled for April. So far this year, the OUSD Board has publicly approved $298,000 in contracts for the Parker Covert LLP firm.

    Two other donations for the Strategic Planning Workshop are also listed on the Agenda, $1,200 from Schools First Credit Union (formerly Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union) and $250 from Asraf Sham. The initial cost for the consultants to run the workshop approved by the OUSD Board in September 2008 was $20,600. That consultant total included $6,600 for a live “mural artist” to create a live butcher paper “mural” of the two day event. As a budget cut in response to the state budget crisis, OUSD Superintendent Renae Drier announced last month that the live mural artist had been cut from the workshop program, and that the workshop had been scaled back to one day. What the new $3950 in donations for the Strategic Planning Workshop will be used for was not listed. With so many cutbacks and pressing needs in OUSD, hopefully the money (even though donated) is not for a one day live butcher paper mural artist or any other type of extravagant AIG/ Merrill Lynch type of insensitive spending during these difficult budget times.

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget
    Total $378,000
    2009 Attorney Fee Tally:
    11/13/08 Parker & Covert (for 1/09 -6/09) $200,000
    3/12/09 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya (Sp. Ed) $ 50,000
    Parker & Covert (Special Ed) $ 98,000
    Total $348,000

    2009 Consultant/ Speaker Fee Tally:
    01/24/09 Leadership Associates Consultants $ 3,000
    2009 TOTAL $ 378,000

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus running total (beginning 8/2008):
    * 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: $901,200
    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> CANCELED in 2009
    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 $ 101, 200
    2008 TOTAL $ 901,200

    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 March 26, 2009 -OUSD BOARD ROOM
    FOR the Agenda CLICK ON: MARCH 26 AGENDA

    CLOSED SESSION- 6:30 pm
    OUSD Regular Session: 7:00 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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