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  • Thursday, December 29, 2011


    Whitney Amsbary wins 2011 GOPY

    Orange Unified Educators Association President Amsbary wins 3rd Annual Greater Orange Person of the Year award

    The Orange Communication System, has announced Orange Unified Educators Association (OUEA) President Whitney Amsbary has been named the 2011 recipient of the GOPY (Greater Orange Person of the Year).

    In a December 29th press release, the Greater Orange Community Organization announced that the Orange Communication System awarded 2011 GOPY Award based on the award’s criteria of "the person who’s actions most influenced the Greater Orange Community” during the year. Amsbary, a 5th Grade teacher at Nohl Canyon Elementary School in Orange Unified, is serving her second term as OUEA President. The press release states Amsbary:

    “has been a standout leader in improving communication, cooperation and understanding between the Orange Unified School Board, the Orange Unified Administration and with the Greater Orange Community at large. Her commitment to open and honest communication and finding common ground during this unprecedented economic turmoil has helped make Orange Unified a shinning example in Orange County and across the State of California of how cooperation and trusts unites a community.”

    Orange Communication System is the communications arm of the watchdog group the Greater Orange Community Organization. The Orange Communication System is the producer of original local central Orange County news services that include Orange Net News (ONN) and the Greater Orange News Service and is affiliated with national citizen news organizations.

    Past GOPY Award recipients are:
    2010- Orange Unified Deputy Superintendent Michael Christensen (now Superintendent)
    CLICK ON: 2nd GOPY

    2009- Orange Unified Superintendent Renae Dreier (now retired)
    CLICK ON: 1st GOPY

    Monday, December 12, 2011


    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation: Out of the Box or Out of Control PART 1

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control?

    Most of the handful of schools across California that have implemented a California State Standards (CST) Incentive Program are doing so on their own with a wide-range of approaches. Only Los Angeles Unified School District has a district-wide experimental program in place with district-wide policies for the 39 schools selected to participate in the experimental program. Those policies include legal and logistical policies to navigate the legal pitfalls that the program encounters. By contrast, Orange Unified's El Modena High School, with a more fly-by the-seat-of-our-pants approach, has done none of the legal legwork to prevent another colossal El Modena scandal from erupting in the myriad of issues that could and may have already happened with the program at El Modena. This school year in Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control? the newest Orange Net News investigative series, we will be examining the good, the bad and the ugly issues that this new program opens up, not only specifically with the program at El Modena and its potential far reaching consequences for Orange Unified, but also with the possible future of CST Incentive programs overall.

    AP and honors Students penalized: Student Segregation Returns
    Orange Unified’s El Modena High School is no stranger to controversy, or controversial programs. The most recent foray into the land of educational controversy is being pushed by El Modena Principal John Briquelet. Under Briquelet, the principal has pushed El Modena to join a handful of California high schools experimenting with motivating students to do better on the California State Standards (CST) exams by increasing classroom grades for students who perform well on the tests.

    The idea of the grade improvement program is to improve apathy among high school students towards a testing regime that students have come to realize by high school has no real world consequences for poor performance because they do not effect grade-points, do not fulfill graduation credits or requirements for college entrance or help on college applications. At El Modena however, the program tries to not reward motivated AP and honors students who would be more inclined to be “motivated” to use the rewards program.

    Any new program can be a hard sell, especially when California Education Code makes teachers the final authority over classroom grades. By most accounts, Briquelet used his bully pulpit to impose the system on the El Modena staff. That can clearly be seen in the paper issued by Briquelet titled A CST Incentive Program FAQ . In it Briquelet repeatedly uses the pronoun “I”. More astonishing is the A CST Incentive Program FAQ presentation of antidotal evidence, generalizations, stereotypes and assumptions as fact.

    The A CST Incentive Program FAQ includes phrases like;

    “We would like to be accurately represented as a an academic institution”;

    “Believe it or not, a school’s performance can affect home values in its attendance area!":

    “We do not expect excessive grade inflation”.

    “First, very few students will have sufficient knowledge to move from F to D, but their certainly will be a few who manage to do so."

    “AP and honors students and honors students should be able to score Advanced in most cases with little effort- the CST exams are not much of a challenge for these kids”

    The El Modena plan also includes the legally questionable policy of penalizing Advance Placement (AP) and honors not only by not only requiring them to score higher on the CST exams with an Advance score, but also by giving those already motivated students only one-third the grade “bump” if they do score higher on the CST. The El Modena CST Incentive Program FAQ explains: “AP and honors classes are already provided a bump of sorts through weighted GPA’s, therefore, therefore a full grade increase would result in excessive grade and GPA inflation.”

    The LAUSD Board of Education approved Los Angeles Unified plan treats all students equally while recognizing the extra efforts AP and honors students make. Far from penalizing AP students, those students are treated the same as all students by the LAUSD CST Program. The LAUSD program rewards any student improving their score by one achievement category to the next achievement category. In addition, the Los Angeles Unified incentive policy recognizes and rewards AP students for the extra efforts needed to pass the AP examinations by allowing students to petition for an A in a class for a passing score on those college level AP examinations.

    Finally, the El Modena CST Incentive Program FAQ addresses what many critics cite as the educational ethical questions with more of an opinion piece:

    “Are extra credit assignments unethical? What about the administration of final exams? How about giving students’ college course credits for passing Advanced Placement exams? No, I do not see the CST Incentive Program as remotely unethical.”

    Unfortunately, this is just where our series begins.

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control ?

    Is an investigative news series of

    Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Orange Net News newest investigative series:

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control?

    Tuesday, December 06, 2011


    OUSD Board rejects returning to Rotating Officers

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

    OUSD Board rejects returning to Rotating Officers

    At the November 17, 2011 Orange Unified School Board meeting, the Board rejected on a 2-5 vote returning to the practice of rotating Board officers, keeping the current policy of electing them. Trustee Diane Singer sponsored the proposal to revise the Orange Unified School Board Policies to again include the rotation of Board officers as first implemented by the Citizens Board that was elected after the 2001 Orange Unified Recall election.

    Currently Trustee Kathy Moffat and OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma are the only remaining trustees that were elected as part of that original Citizens Board that implemented the package of Board Policy reforms dubbed the Recall Reforms that included the rotation of officers. A few years later, the controversial election of Steve Rocco to the OUSD Board proved too much for the then citizens majority and they began changing Board policies. Those changes including eliminating the rotation of officers to deny Rocco any leadership role as they simultaneously tried to pursue a recall against Rocco.

    At the November 17th meeting it was Moffat who moved Singer’s proposal and asked her fellow Board members to support it. Acknowledging for the first time in public (without mentioning him by name) that Rocco’s election was the motivation behind the change away from the rotation system, Moffat noted that having served under both systems of rotation and election, in her experience the rotation system was a “healthier one”. Moffat explained that she felt under the rotation system it gave proper perspective to the officers, making their service more positive, and avoiding the feeling that the Board President’s position was a “super board member” position. Moffat noted that if the situation ever again arose that the by-law needed to be changed, it could.

    Trustee Mark Wayland reasoned that some members are not as prepared to be Board President as others. Wayland also countered the argument that rotation of officers ensured fairness with the statement, “Life is not fair”. Trustee Timothy Surridge, who has often been a bridge builder between the majority and minority members, reasoned that the Board President must be a “consensus builder” and an election ensures that the Board President “has support”.

    The 2-5 vote had Moffat and Singer voting to return to the rotation system with Wayland and Surridge being joined by Trustees Rick Ledesma, Dr. Alexia Deligianni, and John Ortega to oppose the change.

    Agenda Item 9 A (Agenda page 1) for this week’s Thursday December 8, 2011 OUSD Board Meeting is the Annual Organizational Meeting that will elect new OUSD Board officers for next year.

    Villa Park Councilman Robert Fauteux praises OUSD Superintendent

    Villa Park Councilman Robert Fauteux is no stranger to the OUSD Boardroom. Commenting for years in the Foothill Sentry on OUSD, his November 17 reason for his appearance before the OUSD Board was remarkable for anyone who has followed Fauteux’s career. The councilman stood before the OUSD Board to heap praise on Superintendent Michael Christensen for his attendance at a Villa Park City Council Meeting to hear community complaints about the traffic centered around OUSD’s four schools located in Villa Park. Fauteux also praised the Superintendent for beginning the work to address the traffic issues that with City of Villa Park staff and officials. While he was there the councilman also invited everyone to the Villa Park Great Dry Land Yacht Parade on Sunday December 13- and you know what- we could tell he really meant it.

    OUSD sound as California prepares to pull the Budget Trigger

    After a stellar Annual Audit Report from the independent auditor, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Joe Sorrera gave an update on the financial outlook for OUSD with the prospect of an estimated $3.7 billion California budget deficit forcing double trigger budget cuts built into this year’s California budget. As the weak economy continues to take its toll, OUSD could see a loss of $8.1 million dollars. With a current $13 million dollar reserve (due in part to lower interest rates on its OPED Bonds) OUSD should not have further budget cuts or be required to cut further days off its school year this year. The two outlying years will require applying for continuing the Class Size Waiver in grades 3-8 for two more years and may require further negotiations to extend current pay agreements with its employees through 2014 to offset continued projected revenue losses.

    No takers on OUSD Killefer site or OUSD Bond offer

    The economy is taking its toll on more than just tax receipts from the Sacramento. The opening on bids for purchase of the OUSD Killefer property site on Lemon Street in Old Towne proved anti-climatic as no bids were received for the site during the Public Hearing at the November 17 meeting.

    Meanwhile, a day later on November 18, Standard and Poors withdrew it’s A plus rating of OUSD 2008 Bonds because no one bought them.

    For More Information CLICK HERE: OUSD BONDS

    Superintendent Christensen pushes back OUSD Strategic Plan goals to 2014

    Explaining to the OUSD Board that the OUSD 3 year Strategic Plan was good but “We need more time”, OUSD Superintendent Christensen extended the timeline to accomplish the goals to 2014. Honestly explaining to the OUSD Board that “The timelines [to accomplish the goals] are moving back because they cannot be met”, Christensen used the example of technology as how the economy has impacted meeting the goals. Citing the lack of funds to upgrade technology, the elimination of teacher in-service days to train on new technology and the shear stress and workload on the district’s human resources, the forthright Christensen explained “We are not finished with what is in place” and therefore needed to extend the timelines assuring the Board that “We are moving ahead”.

    INSIDE the December 8, 2011 Agenda-New Xerox Machines

    While officers for next year will be decided at the December 8 OUSD Board meeting, perhaps more interesting to teachers and support staff is Consent Item 15 D (pg 50). OUSD’s current 5 year lease with Xerox Corporation will expire in June, 2012. The Agenda Item reports the new lease includes: new copy machines throughout the district with the latest technology; and a 17% savings over the current contract (less machines) a five year $940,000 savings.
    Announcement 10 E (Agenda pg 5-6) Proclamation recognizing Villa Park’s 50th Anniversary
    Announcement 10 F (Agenda pg 7-8) Proclamation recognizing the Orange Chamber of Commerce 90th Anniversary
    Action Item 13 A- (Agenda pg 9-42) First Interim Financial Report on the OUSD budget

    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.

    NEXT BOARD MEETING December 8, 2011
    Next OUSD Board Meeting Thursday Nov 17, 2011 -OUSD BOARD ROOM
    CLOSED SESSION- 5:00 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/
    “Independent Local Insight”

    WATCH FOR Orange Net News newest investigative series:
    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation:
    Out of the Box or Out of Control?

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    Greater Orange News Service is a community service of the Orange Communication System /OCS/, the communications arm of the Greater Orange Community Orgainization