In an email to Orange Unified employees shortly before 5:00 pm on Friday April 28, 2016, Orange Unified Superintendent Micheal Christensen announced his retirement at the end of this school year (see full text below).
The email was signed simply with his first name "Mike", the name that many in the community and at OUSD still call him after his 20 years working in the Orange community .
It was in 2011, then Deputy Superintendent Mike Christensen, was named OUSD Superintendent. Christensen, who holds an MBA from California Baptist University and a BA from the University of Redlands, was the first OUSD Superintendent not to come from an educational background. OUSD's "Recession Model" of appointing a financial and business manager as head of a school district made OUSD a standout among school districts.
At the April 2011 OUSD School Board Meeting when the OUSD Board announced the 7-0 appointment of Christensen, the news was greeted in the Board Room literally with a loud thunderous round of cheers.
Christensen followed OUSD Superintendent Dr. Renae Drier. Christensen continued Drier's policy of professionalization the OUSD senior administrators by recruiting top career educational professionals to Orange Unified from outside the district.
Throughout his tenure as Superintendent, Christensen worked to pass a school bond measure for the district's decaying schools and boost moral of staff that were working in those schools. When addressing the need to repair decaying OUSD schools, Christensen often boasted that OUSD was a "District of Excellence" because of its employees and that the employees and students deserved schools that matched OUSD's outcomes as a "District of Excellence" .
announcement comes just 4 months after achieving what no other OUSD Superintendent
was able to achieve- the first passage of an OUSD school improvement measure last year.
The consequences of passing the Measure S school bond in November 2016 will long
outlast Christensen's numerous other carrier achievements with Orange Unified.
Christensen, who has held
numerous titles in OUSD including Executive Director of Facilities and Planning
and Executive Director of Administrative Services, was named in April 2010 the
first ever OUSD Deputy Superintendent in a re-organization that was initiated
after massive cuts brought about by the on-going California State Budget Crisis. Christensen had become a regular fixture at the OUSD Board meetings
keeping the Board and community up-to-date on the latest state budget news-or
no news- and its implications for the local schools and employees.
As Deputy Superintendent, Christensen was responsible for dealing with the remodel of the 1950’s era Yorba Middle
School and the numerous delays and problems
caused by the budget crisis with the contractors. During the budget
crisis, Christensen also oversaw the closure of two of OUSD’s smallest
schools, Silverado and Riverdale elementary schools. He spearheaded OUSD's successful win before the Orange County Committee on School District Organization that
Silverado community should remain part of OUSD. He was also instrumental in
implementing OUSD Superintendent Dr. Renae Drier's budget priorities including
successfully implementing a merging of the three employee groups into one
health care plan. Christensen also served on the Board of Directors of the
California Association of School Business Officials.
As Deputy Superintendent, Christensen was the first top OUSD Administrator to publicly acknowledged the demographic
differences and challenges OUSD faces by its geographical regions by uttering the
long OUSD administrative taboo words “the 55 divide”.
It was Christensen who
accompanied then Superintendent Dr. Drier in the first ever visit of a Superintendent to the
Representative Council of the Orange Unified Educators Association, a tradition
In his years with OUSD, Christensen worked on numerous financial, educational and political issues: the negotiation with the Irvine Company to mitigate impacts of the proposed (and now delayed) East Orange and Mountain Park projects: implementing the integration of year-round school schools to the traditional calendar; school boundaries issues including attempts of areas to leave OUSD as well as Trustee Area boundaries; declining student enrollment projections; applying and implementing state modernization funding, the planning and remodeling of five OUSD schools-without a bond; implemented OUSD’s widely recognized energy saving program; financing the district's unfunded health care liability with a financial bond instrument; guided a fractured OUSD Board over surplus properties and the failed attempt to sell or lease the Peralta Site.
As Superintendent, Christensen pioneered (then later abandoned) video messages to the OUSD employees.
In December 2011, the watchdog group, the Greater Orange Communication Organization*
named Christensen the 2010 Greater Orange Person of the Year (GOPY)
describing Christensen as “an
irreplaceable asset to the Greater Orange Communities who’s many years of
service to the local community has included numerous contributions while
staying true to his long stated philosophy of providing the best possible
learning environment with the least amount of impact to the general fund. In
2010, by continuing to work to keep our schools fiscally solvent during the
current unprecedented fiscal crisis, Deputy Superintendent Michael Christensen
has clearly been the person who had the most influence on the Greater Orange Community in 2010”.
* /O/N/N/ is the communications arm of :GoCo:
On May 8th, Christensen will be recognized and honored as the 2017 Association of California
School Administrators Region 17 Superintendent of the Year.
Text of Superintendent Michael Christensen's April 28, 2016 email to OUSD employees announcing his retirement:
Dear OUSD Employees,
After much consideration and deep reflection, I have decided to retire from the District this summer. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to serve with each of you, certificated, classified and leadership alike. Together, we managed to work through those terrible budget cuts of the Great Recession and celebrate the eventual restoration of numerous programs and the full school calendar. Most recently, the success of Measure S will have a profound impact on teaching and learning at our high schools for generations to come. I cannot thank you enough for your cooperation and positive attitudes throughout some very challenging times.
As I look for the appropriate words to express my feelings, I can’t help but think about us as an organization of people with the collective mission of serving our community. Much like fire fighters or law enforcement officers, we provide an essential service to any and all who need us. OUSD is “A District of Excellence” because of the hard work you do to support our students and their families. Over the past 20 years that I have been connected to the District, I have enjoyed building relationships with you as individuals and those who I haven’t personally connected with, well, that is my loss.
As I have expressed to the Board of Education, I am very proud of the work we have accomplished over my years as an employee of the District. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving the Orange Unified School District community.