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  • Tuesday, December 10, 2013


    Surridge's failed Year of Living Dangerously...

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    Independent insight into OUSD      
    a news service of
     Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    OUSD Board to elect new officers after Surridge's failed Year of Living Dangerously 

    The Orange Unified School Board is set to elect officers at their December 12, 2013 School Board meeting for the next 12 months.  The election could have major consequences for not just the 2014 OUSD Trustee elections, but also a possible 2014 OUSD School Bond.

    In December of 2012, the Orange Unified School Board elected Timothy Surridge for a second term as OUSD Board President.  Surridge's second term has been one of the most controversial and contentious policy years in OUSD history since the years leading up to the 2001 Orange Recall.

    Surridge's contentious Year of Living Dangerously started with his public policy statement of his "vision" for OUSD at the January 17, 2013 OUSD Board Meeting. That was when Surridge outlined his goals for the coming year. Those goals included investment in schools by the local community,  exploring using unused portions of school sites for city recreation purposes, and dealing with "the size" of the OUSD governing body ( the Board of Trustees). 

    By any means of measurement, over the past year Surridge failed to deliver anything but controversy across the Greater Orange Communities.

    The Surridge "vision" included what many community members characterized as  a “radical un-democratic plan” to eliminate two OUSD Trustee seats. This "Surridge Plan" was seen as ultimately stripping away representation from Villa Park and Anaheim Hills on the Orange Unified School Board to consolidate power for the Surridge majority. 

    Publicly stating the reasoning for his plan was “a turn-over” of superintendents, Surridge tried to begin to build a case that having more than five trustees on a school board leads to a higher turn over of superintendents. He offered no evidence to support his theory.

    In fact, there was no evidence to support his assertion. Almost as fast as he presented it, Surridge's theory was promptly debunked ( CLICK ON DEBUNKED ). In fact one of the reputable academic studies circulating throughout Greater Orange after the "Surridge Plan" was introduced reported that five member school boards are actually more unstable for superintendents because one election can completely change a board majority that supports a district's superintendent.

    OUSD Trustees Kathy Moffat (Trustee Area 4- majority Villa Park neighborhoods) and Diane Singer (Trustee Area 1-majority Anaheim Hills neighborhoods)  have been the minority on the OUSD Board since Surridge was elected and have frequently clashed with Surridge (an Orange resident) over numerous policies, especially his center piece effort to privatize surplus property and build high density apartments on the Peralta Site.   

    They were not alone. Many City of Orange and Villa Park officials and numerous leading citizen’s have also been outspoken opponents of the Surridge backed plan to lease the Peralta site property. The Villa Park headquartered Foothills Sentry  too has been a leader in reporting on the Peralta deal and its stories were routinely blasted by Surridge and his allies on the Board.

    Surridge wasted no time in working on his "vision"  of reconfiguring the OUSD Board. As Board President, Surridge added Informational Item 13 D to the February 21, 2013 Board Agenda. The agenda item titled a “Discussion Requested by Board President Surridge”, the item description on page 30 states:

    At the January 17, 2013 meeting, during the Board President’s Report, Mr. Surridge laid out a vision for the District. Included was the reduction of the Board of Education from seven to five members. Additionally an intereste [sic] has been expressed regarding term limits for members of the governing board.

    Mr. Surridge has requested that the Board discuss reducing the number of Board members and term limits.

    At that February meeting, with his "superintendent" theory debunked, Surridge glossed over the original reasoning he had stated was the purpose in his introducing the item -to keep superintendents longer.
    While Surridge tried to change his “vision” approach to the “just starting a discussion”, approach,  Trustee Kathy Moffat quickly pointed out that Surridge had offered no concrete reasons for the radical board change-except to just do it.  

    The Greater Orange Community Organization blasted not only the "Surridge Plan", but also Surridge ally OUSD Trustee Mark Wayland for his call to do away with district-wide voting in favor of “election by Trustee Area only”  votes to elect trustees. GOCO made the case that an area like the Peralta community would have no electoral recourse if the other 6 Trustees voted to build apartment buildings- but its "local" Trustee “safely” oppose the project. Under such a scenario, the Peralta voters could not influence other trustees with election upsets- just their trustee- who would have political cover by opposing anything unfavorable in their Trustee Area. Nor could any other group-civic, business,  school, environmental etc. have any political clout with trustee area only elections.

    At the February meeting, Trustee Diane Singer brought up the fact that there could be possible Voter’s Rights Act problems in changing the trustee numbers and voting arrangements. While she did not specify, a change that diluted  the minority vote, (which is concentrated in specific neighborhoods, in specific Trustee Areas) could prove to be an expensive problem for the cash strapped district if a deep pocket organization like the ACLU (which took on the district in Colin vs. OUSD  and won a precedent setting case) challenged a trustee area change. Just this year, OUSD backed down from a lawsuit threat by the deep pocketed National Rifle Association over an OUSD  student wearing an NRA t-shirt.
    Another focus of attention in Surridge’s February Agenda was term-limits. Originally brought forward as a campaign promise by OUSD Trustee Dr. Alexia Deligianni when she  ran five years ago for her first term, Deligianni –has taken  no action about term limits since her election. Deligianni also said nothing on the subject during the discussion at the February meeting. Ironically, speaking in favor of term limits at the February meeting was OUSD Trustee John Ortega. Saying he has "always favored term limits", Ortega failed to point out that after being originally elected in 2001, he has filed to run for office each successive time he has been eligible, thereby negating any personally imposed term limits he believes in.

    Later in the year, Surridge ally Trustee Rick Ledesma also took an aim at the "Surridge Plan" stating that when he goes to public meetings throughout the Greater Orange communities, when it comes to discussing the schools, people want to know what seats the OUSD majority wants to eliminate. Not exactly the subject a school board trustee wants to be foremost in the community minds when it comes to schools.

    While the "Surridge Plan" died a quite death, Surridge's push for high density apartments at the Peralta Site had the Greater Orange Community in a complete revolt  throughout most of the year.  Month after month, against universal  opposition, not one community member publicly supported Surridge and the Board majority's position on Peralta.

    To make matters worst for the High Density Apartment majority, which were all the men on the OUSD Board, was the degrading and demeaning manner they spoke to the plans opponents who were all the OUSD women trustees. The men's tone, attitude and bullying toward the women did not go unnoticed in the Greater Orange Communities that are filled with women elected and civic officials, PTA moms and  women activists.

    Surridge's Year of Living Dangerously  could have far reaching effects with the 2014 election cycle and the 2016 election cycle.  With Rick Ledesma and Timothy Surridge on the ballot in 2014 ( along with Kathy Moffat and Diane Singer) the Peralta community could flex its politcal muscle by using the ties it has forged with anti-growth and open space advocates
    across the Greater Orange Communities.  In 2016 those anti-growth advocates could again play a role as could an anticipated  2016 Year of the Women which could spell trouble for Surridge allies Mark Wayland and John Ortega.

    The 2014 OUSD races and the elusive OUSD School Bond quest really starts with the vote on Thursday night for the 2014 OUSD leadership.  Another term of Timothy Surridge could prove disastrous for OUSD as Surridge runs for re-election.   Both Ledesma and Ortega have had experience as President, but both of them also can be irritated into confrontation with Moffat and Singer- not a good look. Wayland has repeatedly ruled out leading the Board and while there is no doubt Dr. Deligianni would welcome the duties, her reputation in Greater Orange is well known and with a possible OUSD School Bond would she be the leader of OUSD that the Trustees want representing the Bond effort?

    Perhaps the late OUSD Trustee Robert Viviano's short-lived rule for rotating officers is looking really good right now to a number of OUSD Trustees.  

    INSIDE the December 12, 2013 Agenda
    Agenda Item 9 B- 2014 OUSD Calendar- Moffat and Singer have been pushing to revert back to bi-monthly meetings for the OUSD Board. Coming right after the leadership election, look to this item to be the first test of the new OUSD President in setting the tone for the 2014 OUSD Board.

    Agenda Item 13 B- First Interim Financial Report.

    NEXT OUSD BOARD MEETING December 12, 2013
    Next OUSD Board Meeting -OUSD BOARD ROOM
    CLOSED SESSION- 6:00 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

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