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  • Tuesday, July 26, 2011


    INSIDE OUSD: Information Entropy

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

    OUSD’s Information Entropy

    INSIDE the June 11, 2011 Meeting
    The June 9, 2011 Orange Unified School Board meeting in many ways paid homage to mathematician Claude Elwood Shannon, the father of modern cryptography and information theory (i.e. Information Entropy). In his information entropy theory, Shannon said the more uncertain or random the event is, the more information it will contain. Case in point the June 9, 2011 Orange Unified School Board meeting,

    Over a decade ago, Orange Unified was run as a private fiefdom for a far right radical anti-education fringe group that used amassed district resources as their personal treasury to further fringe political war by spending multi-millions of dollars on legal fees and far right attorney’s to try to remain in power as they waged a culture war, all the while watching hundreds of highly qualified teachers and administrators flee OUSD. After a successful community recall and subsequent election, the newly elected Citizen’s Board then allowed the pendulum to swing far to the left taking a hands-off rubber stamp governing approach that allowed the district bureaucracy to create a Consultant Culture that began wasting as much, if not more district resources, on consultant driven fad-culture educational gobbley-gook programs that district administrators had direct ties to– again, ignoring the fundamental district educational problems. During that decade, community watchdogs have kept the pressure on the OUSD Board and Administration by relentlessly informing the community through a 21st Century communications system, born in the 2001 Recall, about the spending sprees. All that came to an end with the financial collapse and the arrival of Superintendent Dr. Renae Dreier.

    On June 9, 2011, almost ten years to the day, OUSD’s information entropy occurred as Deputy Assistant Superintendent Michael Christensen, the soon-to-be-next OUSD Superintendent, presented a break down of legal fees to the Board and community in response to Trustee Diane Singer’s pulling of legal fees from the OUSD Consent Agenda in May. In his report, Christensen, who publicly acknowledged the years of public scrutiny of OUSD legal fees, outlined the successful extra-ordinary length that outgoing OUSD Superintendent Dr. Renae Dreier’s administration took to control legal costs during the current Financial Crisis. Under Dreier, management review and the Superintendent’s Cabinet level review of legal fees brought those costs down to only 2.13% of the total OUSD Budget.

    While the OUSD Board pre-approves legal budgets to create accounts to draw from, Dreier’s stringent review policies have resulted in a significant savings to OUSD, with the Board approved, but unused legal fee funds returning to OUSD accounts. Christensen in his presentation broke down to the OUSD Trustees and public, for the first time, the actual costs of the yearly legal fees spent by OUSD for the last five school years:
    2006-2007 $714, 277
    2007-2008 $679, 507
    2008-2009 $503, 975
    2009-2010 $365, 543

    Christensen reported that so far in the 2010-2011 school year, the actual legal costs have risen slightly because of dealing with the bankruptcy of the contractor for the Yorba Middle School remodel to $503,975. In his presentation, the community also learned for the first time that the actual legal fee reimbursement that Cal-Aware First Amendment group was forced to pay OUSD in their Rocco Censure lawsuit for suing OUSD was $75,597.

    At the end of the meeting during Trustee comments, entropy examples continued as OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma in a cryptic statement stated that in response to numerous requests for information to the OUSD staff from OUSD Trustees he was proposing that in the future a new process be implemented for Trustees wanting information. Ledesma proposed that all Trustee requests for information from the staff be “evaluated” by the Board President and Superintendent to see if it the request was worthy to have staff spend time on to gather the information and/or present the information to the whole Board as an agenda item. Seeking consensus, Ledesma quickly received approval of his Ledesma Plan from fellow majority block members, Wayland, Surridge, Ortega and Deligianni. Minority block members Moffat and Singer, however protest vehemently. Moffat continued to ask Ledesma for examples of offending requests (which he did not provide), while Singer objected to what she described as an attempt at “controlling” information. The usually upbeat and positive Moffat, in frustration publicly referred to the “dark age” (a reference to the 2001 Recalled Board) where the only way to obtain information was through the Freedom of Information Act, which Moffat stated might be something that Trustees would have to resort to under the Ledesma Plan. Ironically, when Moffat was a part of the majority, it was her majority that changed Board policy from 2 trustees to agendize an item without the Board President to needing 3 trustees to agendize an item. That change was in response to Ledesma who signed on to a request by former OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco to agendize two items which Rocco used to continue his conspiracy theories grandstanding. That same majority in response to Rocco also eliminated the Recall Reform of rotating the OUSD Board offices between all the trustees that former Trustee Robert Viviano had instituted after suffering as an outsider for years under the former Radical Board that was eventually recalled.

    Further Reorganization approved
    Also in the June 9, 2011 meeting parents addressed the Board and presented a petition to the Trustees about a re-organization plan to save $200,000. The parents were against the reassignment of Canyon Hills Principal Dr. William Gee. After a motion to approve the reorganization was made, OUSD Trustee Kathy Moffat made a substitute motion to support the parent request. In her motion, Moffat sought to remove the Canyon Hills component from the proposed reorganization in order to allow more study of the Canyon Hills situation. The Board voted (splitting along gender lines) 3-4 against Moffat’s motion (Moffat, Deligianni and Singer Yes; Ledesma, Surridge, Ortega and Wayland –No). The Board then voted to approve the staff reorganization by a 6-1 vote with Singer, who represents Canyon Hills in OUSD Trustee Area 1 casting the lone No vote.

    Other items of note from the June 9, 2011 meeting:

    Trustee Mark Wayland in honor of Flag Day, gave full-size American flags for everyone in attendance at the OUSD Board meeting (200 flags in total). Mr. Wayland also recognized the late former OUSD Trustee James Fearns’ son Jeff Fearns for his family’s yearly $5,000 scholarship award to an Orange High School student enrolled in the JROTC student since 2009. Jeff’s father James, a retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant, was instrumental in establishing the nationally recognized JROTC program in OUSD by personally flying to Washington D.C. to meet with the Marine Corps Commandant. The elder Fearns, who passed away in 2007, was once part of the OUSD Board minority that opposed the Radical Board. Fearns’ minority partners were Robert Viviano and current Board President Rick Ledesma.

    The COSCO stores realty officer presented the OUSD Trustees a packet showing interests in the surplus OUSD Parkside site property

    Staff presented updates on the OUSD Drug Dog program at OUSD High Schools. Inside OUSD administrative sources say staff is planning to ask the OUSD Trustees to expand the program to OUSD Middle Schools.

    INSIDE the July 28 Agenda
    It will be outgoing OUSD Superintendent Dr. Dreier’s last OUSD Board meeting. She will be retiring August 1st, with OUSD Deputy Superintendent Michael Christensen taking the helm as the new OUSD Superintendent

    Ledesma moves to replace lawyer Spencer Covert
    In Action Item 12 B on the July 28, 2011 OUSD Board Agenda (Agenda page 5) Board President Rick Ledesma seeks to replace longtime OUSD lead counsel Spencer Covert of Parker & Covert as lead negotiator for OUSD with its employee groups. Ledesma, who two months ago got Board consensus to bring the matter up, has long been a critic of the “me-too” deals that have been negotiated for administrators under Covert. Covert, who was once replaced in OUSD by various right wing counsel under the Radical Board, was brought back as lead counsel in 2001 after the Citizen’s Board won the election. At the May 12, 2011 Orange Unified School Board meeting, OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma recommended that OUSD change legal representatives for negotiations with its employee groups. Ledesma asked the OUSD Board for consensus to have staff ask for a quote from law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo to be the legal representative for the district in employee negotiations replacing longtime firm Parker & Covert. Ledesma stated it was “good business sense” to occasionally rotate firms for a fresh perspective. While Ledesma was getting the consensus of nodding heads from the Trustees, only Trustee Kathy Moffat spoke up with concerns. Moffat, who stated that she had no objection asking for quotes, however did object to only one firm being considered for the contract to negotiate on behalf of OUSD and also wanted some objected criteria established. Moffat also thanked long time OUSD Attorney Spencer Covert for his service to OUSD.
    Other Items:
    4 B – (Closed Session) new hires for 6 Administrative positions
    13 A- (Agenda 7) page Report on the sometimes controversial OPED Bond
    13 B- (Agenda 8) update on the state budget impacts

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget
    After eleven years of running on-going totals of consultants and attorney fees, Inside the OUSD Budget will no longer keep a running total of these two items. In recognition of the current safe-guards instituted by outgoing Superintendent Dr. Renae Dreier, and in recognition of the honest and open reports of current Deputy Superintendent and the next Superintendent Michael Christensen, Orange Unified Schools INSIDE will cease on-going monthly tallies of those items. In doing so, it is our hope that the OUSD Board and Administration will recognize the historical significance of the communities interest in continue yearly reports to the community on legal expenses as exemplified by Mr. Christensen’s outstanding report from June. Orange Unified Schools INSIDE will continue to monitor consultant and legal fees and bring it to the communities’ attention when warranted. As watchdogs, we recognized and appreciate the enormous change in culture that OUSD has achieved under Dr. Dreier and urge Mr. Christensen to continue to embrace Knowledge as Power. We look forward in working with him to keep the Greater Orange Community informed about the most important resource that unites Central Orange County- their once again great education system.

    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.

    CLOSED SESSION- 5:30 pm

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

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