Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foothills Sentry Coverage Continues

In the July issue of the Foothills Sentry's Canyon Beat column, Linda May celebrates the new Santiago Canyon bridge - and Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich write about Silverado Elementary School.


Meanwhile, down the road from the new bridge, a sad example perhaps of what happens when the community is disenfranchised and ignored, offers itself in the now-abandoned and empty historic elementary school. Silverado Elementary, which served the children of the canyon for over a century, held its final class session on Thursday June 11 and was formally shuttered the following week on Friday June 19, this the result of the OUSD board vote two months ago.

Reports indicate that about half the canyon's K-6 children will be enrolled in the fall at Chapman Hills Elementary, their parents opting for the long bus ride or providing their own transportation. Understandably, residents continue to express concern about the duration of the bus ride and its impact on their kids' education and health. A 6:30 am pick-up is scheduled for the children of Modjeska Canyon. Parents point out that this requires a 5-5:30 AM wake-up call for the youngest of them – and a school day (including transportation) that approaches 9 hours. Many children have been enrolled at Trabuco Elementary School in nearby Saddleback Valley Unified District while others have embraced other options, including homeschooling and private schools.

But in the wake of the vote, efforts to challenge the vote, the school's closure and transfer of students, many parents express disappointment at the failure of district representatives, including board members, to bother to show up on the last day of classes or to otherwise acknowledge the tragedy of closing the campus, arguably the heart of the canyon community. Further, the apparent failure of district managers to develop a plan for the closing struck many as problematic, especially in light of the seemingly disorganized or unsupervised closing process.

Sure, the joyful end of the normal school year is always tinged with sadness but the sight of classrooms packed up and cleared out for good was chilling. The staff and heroic soon to be former teachers of the small school could be seen working beyond the call of duty but community members wondered indeed where the on-the-ground physical services support from the district was. The task of dismantling a school is enormous and district services and support staff didn't seem in evidence. One of the perhaps best, if easiest

The best evidence of their absence was what was found in the overflowing single recycling dumpster and the two trash dumpsters: books. A picture tells a thousand words, but in this case the single word seemed to be "waste."

So, diving in where the district would not, some concerned parents and children spent a recent morning in the school parking lot "dumpster diving," rescuing furniture, art supplies, bulletin boards, workbooks and, yes, hundreds of books --- hardbacks, textbooks, art books, readers and paperbacks --- sorting through and arranging them in boxes. The salvaged treasure was driven to Santa Ana where volunteers in a tutoring program were grateful to receive it.

A blog post at meant to call attention to the failure of administrative planning at the district level seems to have brought unwarranted scrutiny on school staff, with still no acknowledgement of the problem or any effort to address it.

Activist parents and community members say they are grieved by the sight of the empty school, whose community garden is abloom in sunflowers. They say they are still working on creating a future for the school within OUSD or without it.

Consider writing letters to the Sentry to keep this issue before the public.

To read the Canyon Beat column in its entirety, pick up a copy or visit their website:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On the Road

My family will be heading out of town so posting will be intermittent for the next month or so...

Still, there's lots going on.

Most important is this upcoming meeting:
On Wednesday, July 15 at 7 p.m., you are invited to a community meeting at the Silverado Community Center. The purpose is to discuss the proposed school re-districting for the canyon area. IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE PROVIDE THEIR OPINION ON THIS ISSUE. PLEASE ATTEND THE MEETING.

Currently the canyons are in the Orange Unified School District (OUSD). As many of you know, OUSD has closed Silverado Elementary School and starting in September, will bus students to Chapman Elementary in Orange. This means that kindergarten students in Modjeska will be picked up by school buses as early as 6:30 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. class.

A group of concerned residents has been making inquiries about transferring to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Headquartered in Mission Viejo, SVUSD is Orange County’s fourth largest school district. SVUSD has twenty-six Elementary Schools, four Intermediate Schools, four High Schools, one Continuation High School, one Independent Study High School, and one Special Education School. It serves 35,000 students.

Our vision is to create a K-8 school to serve the canyons. SVUSD is willing to establish a committee that includes community representatives to work on fulfilling this vision.

The two questions before you now are:

1) Do you want the canyons to remain in OUSD?

2) Would you prefer for the canyons to join SVUSD?


Please attend the meeting or share your opinion. You can also send your thoughts to: The Inter-Canyon League, P.O. Box 301, Silverado, CA 92676.


The new edition of The Sentry should have an update - check out the Canyon Beat column.


As soon as I get more information, I'll post an interesting tale about fossils (on site at the school) that were given away on the day that some locals are already calling The Day of Looting. There's a happy ending here because the person who received the fossils recognized that they should probably stay in the canyon and handed them over to another educational institute. Whew.


Have a good summer - stay safe!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sublime Tomatoes!

CSA Meets SCC: Order Tanaka Farms Produce and Benefit the Silverado Children’s Center, Too!

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) will save the world. It’s a cooperative economic arrangement between local, organic, thoughtful produce growers and the rest of us. It removes the need to shop at dreadful superdupermarkets, saves energy and builds community. CSA keeps outfits as Orange County’s terrific Tanaka Farms in business and gets hearty, wholesome, fresh, in-season organic produce into your fridge. And now it’s part of canyon life because Silverado Children’s Center, always in need of your support, is now part of Tanaka’s “Fundraising for Schools” program. Do consider signing up to receive a bounteous carton of fruits and vegetables, delivered to the Center every other Thursday.

The Tanaka Farms folks currently deliver nearly two dozen of these cartons to subscribers, with different contents each time. The $25 cost includes $5 that goes to the Center.

For more information on the Tanaka Farms program, go to

To sign up right away, contact the wonderful and innovative Ms. Aimee Bryer, Director of the SCC at (714) 649-2214 or

Tell Aimee you’d like to help out the best day care center around AND support organic local agriculture, not to mention enjoy those righteous berries, beans, onions, lettuces, peppers and tomatoes you can’t find unless you go to farmers’ markets or pay twice as much at your local retailer.

Bon app├ętit!

Friday, July 3, 2009

In Case You Missed It:

from the June 23 OC Register and also reprinted in Canyon Life:

Protest continues over Silverado school closure

Two residents bring signs of protest to Santiago Canyon Bridge ribbon cutting.


SILVERADO CANYON – Canyon residents Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonka [sic] carried signs protesting the closure of Silverado Elementary School during Friday's Santiago Canyon Bridge ribbon cutting ceremony.

Residents continue to update the blog, Save Silverado Elementary School, documenting the closure of the century-old school. The latest blog post features pictures of the empty school.


For more (including photos), click here.