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  • Tuesday, March 08, 2011


    OUSD Fails Watchdog’s Public Records Audit

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

    OUSD Fails Watchdog’s Public Records Audit

    Californians Aware, the organization with the mission of “To foster the improvement of, compliance with and public understanding and use of, public forum law” gave Orange Unified a failing grade in its most recent statewide public education audit released at the end of February. The Audit was of 194 California school districts in meeting the requirements of the California Public Records Act. Over half of the school districts in the Audit received a failing grade. The watchdog group, that has had specific dealings with OUSD in the past, also has had numerous run-ins with the law firm of Parker & Covert that represents OUSD and numerous other school districts. The school district public records audit comes on the heels of a similar audit of the state’s public colleges and universities.

    In the released report card, available on line on the Californian Aware website (see link below), the group sent requests to each of the 194 districts for public records and evaluated the districts’ responses in meeting the requirements of the California Public Records Act. The districts were each asked to provide “a copy of the most recent pre-lawsuit claim for damages brought on behalf of a student that was settled without going to court, as well as a copy of the settlement agreement and records showing any approval.” The group chose this public record because often the only way the public finds out how educational funds have been spent in lawsuit settlements is to request public records.

    Districts were graded in how they initially responded to the laws requirement to respond to the request within 10 days by declaring which of the requested documents were public records and would be provided if they could be located. According to the California Aware website, the F grade justification for Orange Unified is that it ignored the request altogether, failing to respond properly within 60 days [ G. C. ss 6253 (c), (d)]. The group had decided that if documents were received within 60 days that would constitute a prompt response the law requires.

    While the group was concerned with the high failure rate and the apparent confusion many districts had with the request and the law, they had high praise for the districts that performed perfectly in responding to the identical request. A total of 21%, or one-fifth of those surveyed received the perfect A+ score. Among the A+ districts identified for exemplary response and adherence to the law was Poway USD which responded in 3 days free of any charges.

    While a few districts complied with the law and charged a legal nominal copying fee, California Aware took to task and is planning legal action against districts that tried to charge excessive fees in violation of the law, some up to 20 cents a page (for profit retail stores Staples and Office Depot charge 10 cents an employee handled copy). In addition, San Diego Unified wanted to add $20 -$28 an hour charge for clerical time to retrieve the information in direct violation of the law. Other legal problems included: Unjustifiable Delayed Responses; Illegal Screening Queries (illegally requesting names of the requestors and affiliations they have); Ineffective Employee Training; and Passing the Buck. In addition, California Aware states that the best performing districts had basic Common Sense/Courtesy-that made all the difference, as opposed to the lowest scoring districts that showed little Courtesy or willingness to comply with the request and get on with meeting their obligations under the law.

    That last concern is the most troubling for the Great Orange Communities. Orange Unified Superintendent Dr. Renae Dreier has been lauded for her mantra “Knowledge is Power”. Her administrations open process of budget cuts has resulted in peaceful and cooperative labor relations not seen for over 15 years and a community united behind their schools. In addition, Orange Unified’s highly visible Outstanding Customer Relations Program, one of the few holdovers from the rocky tenure of former OUSD Superintendent Dr. Godley’s administration, prides itself on that exact Common Sense and Courtesy that the bottom districts lacked. In the past, the F rating would have been accepted as “business as usual” for a district adrift in political factures and bad PR. However, current community leaders feel differently. The Greater Orange Community Organization (GOCO) , issued a statement regarding the rating:
    “The CalAware rating should be a wake-up call to the current OUSD administration. The Greater Orange Communities have proved they are mature enough to use Knowledge as a power for the greater good of the community. Going back to a time of censorship, limited information and widespread community unrest is a direction we feel confident that our current Superintendent has no intention of revisiting. We believe her vision of Knowledge as Power for OUSD has not only united our community but moved it forward. We hope that the Dreier Administration will move quickly to rectify this current breach in the public trust.”
    - GOCO community email 3/2/11

    California Aware- OUSD Audit rating link

    INSIDE the OUSD AGENDA- March 10, 2011
    At the March 19, 2011 Orange Unified School Board Meeting, Agenda Announcements 9 E (Agenda page 3-5) is a Proclamation honoring Lorenzo and Josefina Ramirez and their children for their role in ending legal school racial segregation in California. A local committee has been seeking to name a school after Ramirez.

    While other school districts throughout California this year are really only now dealing with a budget crisis over two years in the making, OUSD which has planned prudently again will be able to certify a “positive certification” in meeting its financial obligations. Action Item 12 C is the Second Interim Financial Report required by state laws. OUSD’s abilities to weather the financial storm is an envy of districts state-wide and a testament to the current OUSD Administrative team and the district’s employees. While there have been sacrifices, Orange Unified has been able to maintain a “positive certification” during one of the worst financial meltdowns in history.

    Other Agenda items include:
    Closed Session 4B: Continued discussions on selling or leasing 6 surplus properties including now closed Riverdale and Silverado sites.

    Action Item 12 A: Public Hearing on the Special Education Local Area Plan and Budget

    Action Item 12 B: Tier III Flexible Funding Transfer- this allows the District to transfer funds between normally inflexible accounts during non-economic emergency times

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2011: $ 0
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2010: $ 395,000
    2010 Attorney Fee Tally:
    5/27/10 Dannis, Woliver & Kelley $ 30,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert $ 55,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert (to 6/11) $300,000
    2010 CSBA-Trustees and Superintendent: $ 10,000
    TOTAL $ 395,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2009: $1,041,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2008: $901,200.00

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

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

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus running total
    (beginning 8/2008): $35,300.00*

    * 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.

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

    Next OUSD Board Meeting Thursday MARCH 10, 2011.
    For more information CLICK ON: OUSD AGENDA

    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

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