Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OC Register Coverage and Letters!

In today's OC Register, Fermin Leal writes about the redistricting proposal that OUSD will consider at Thursday night's meeting.

"There is almost unanimous support from this community to move into Saddleback," said Deborah Johnson, a parent of the former Silverado school.

Johnson says the proximity of schools in Saddleback Valley compared to Orange Unified, and other factors make sense for transferring the Silverado area. Ultimately, the goal is to have one kindergarten through eighth-grade campus that serves all the canyon communities in eastern Orange County, Johnson said.

To read the rest, click here.

Please consider joining concerned community members at the September 24 Thursday night meeting! 7 PM at 1401 N. Handy Street.

On a related note: Last week, the Register published a link to a datebase of the pensions given to local education administrators who earn six-figure penisons. The top recipient in the OUSD was the former super Thomas Godley who gets a monthy payment of $17,517.65 which works out to an annual payout of $210,211.80.

"Another member of the "100,000-plus" club, former Orange Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Godley collects $210,211 a year. He was the budget chief for Newport-Mesa Unified when a finance worker siphoned $3.7 million to buy such things as full-length fur coats in 1992.

Godley was one of several officials who received a vote of no confidence from Newport-Mesa teachers, although board members did not hold him responsible for the theft. Godley later became superintendent of Grossmont High School District in 1997, where he received another vote of no confidence from teachers at war with the school board."

For more details, click here.


In the wake of last week's road closure, concerned Silverado resident Laurel Ward sent this one to the OC Register:

Over the objections of local residents, the Orange Unified School District closed Silverado Elementary that serves the remote canyon communities of Orange County. As we argued, one of the main tragedies of this action is the long, winding bus ride on these narrow roads that our kids would be forced to endure. The bus route can take over an hour one way, and goes past the toll road intersection with Santiago Canyon, which is troubled by frequent closures. Last week the bus was observed driving poorly on Santiago Canyon road: weaving into the bike lane, driving at inconsistent speeds, trailed by a huge train of commuters and not getting to the right in the only passing zone. In a residential section of Silverado Canyon, the driver waved following cars around him (illegally) on a blind curve where there was oncoming traffic. Lastly, today, due to a vehicle fire, Santiago Canyon Road was closed to traffic in both directions, and the students stuck on that bus languished there for an extra 45 minutes. The OUSD has failed our children and betrayed the tax paying parents of this community by closing a school that has served this area for over a hundred years. Re-open Silverado Elementary!

And this letter was sent to OUSD officials:


To: Superintendent and School Board Members, Orange Unified School District

It seems probable that there have been multiple violations of the Brown Act on the part of Orange Unified Board Members and the Superintendent.

Over the past six months, Board Members have refused to meet with canyon residents on numerous occasions citing the Brown Act. But have they actually read it? The Brown Act forbids elected officials to meet and share information about public concerns outside of the public eye. However, it explicitly does not restrict elected officials from meeting with their constituents. The citations below are from the Attorney General’s office:

"Individual contacts or communications between a member of a legislative body and any other person are specifically exempt from the definition of a meeting. (§ 54952.2(c)(1).) The purpose of this exception appears to be to protect the constitutional rights of individuals to contact their government representatives regarding issues which concern them…

Accordingly, if a member of the public requests a conversation with an individual member of the board, who then acts independently of the board and its other members in deciding whether to talk with the member of the public, no meeting will have occurred even if the member of the public ultimately meets with a quorum of the body."
Given these clear guidelines, why have board members refused to meet with us under the guise of a possible violation of the Brown Act? We were told the Superintendent instructed them in this misguided denial of our civil rights. This action does appear to be a violation of the Brown Act.

In an earlier instance, prior to the vote to close Silverado Elementary School, a Board Member voiced publicly that the closure of the school was a "done deal". How would this Board Member know the vote was a "done deal" if she had not discussed the matter with other Board Members, in obvious violation of the Brown Act?
Communication from the Orange County District Attorney's office indicates there is reasonable cause to suspect Brown Act violations in these, and other instances. Interestingly, if an action by an elected body is accompanied by a proven violation of the Brown Act, the action is automatically nullified. That would be an intriguing turn of events.

Is this a relationship worth continuing? The situation has deteriorated to the point that Board Members will not meet with us, in mockery of their elected responsibilities. In response some are looking carefully at the potential illegality of the Board's actions. None of us in the Canyon Communities relish spending considerable time and energy on these matters, but we will if necessary. This is a sorry state of affairs, not productive for any of us.

The solution is to support the proposed redistricting of the Canyon Communities to Saddleback Valley Unified. Think of this as similar to a request for a divorce. There is no future for our community with Orange Unified. Why not just let us go our own way? Staying in a conflicted relationship is of no benefit to either party, nor to the children. Remember the children? The Canyon Communities' School children especially are being harmed the way things are.

Jeffrey Wilson and Marta Abello
Parents of two children now attending school in Saddleback Valley Unified School District


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to School Update: Bus Rides and Car Fires

Now that so many of us are back at school - whether Chapman, Portola Hills, Trabuco Elementary - or the school that is homeschool - it's time to revive the blog with the latest news.

When we last left off, Silverado Elementary had been closed, its students scattered to the four directions, many opting for the long bus ride to Chapman Hills Elementary in Orange. Silverado Elementary School remains closed, its once green grass field turning brown.

In Modjeska Canyon, where my family lives, the school bus picks up students at 6:30 am.

I see the school bus leaving the canyon in the afternoons, around 4:15-4:30. That's a ten hour day, some three hours spent in transit.

This morning that commute was extended an estimated 45 minutes when the inevitable happened - a closure on that two lane rural road. (UPDATE: the bus that carries the elementary school children was not delayed - apparently only the high school bus was.)

A car fire near Irvine Lake closed Santiago Canyon Road in both directions. As you may know, parents and concerned community members warned the Orange County Board of trustees that the bus would often face significant road closures, resulting in extended commutes, missed classtime and other problems.

Serena Marie Daniels and Bruce Chambers writing in the Orange County Register report:
"Firefighters worked to knock out a vehicle fire at Santiago Canyon Road next to Irvine Lake this morning, causing morning traffic to backup in both directions, police said...California Highway Patrol officer Alvin Yamaguchi said when he arrived, the smoke was thick and he thought the canyon was on fire but it never got the vegetation."

To read the rest, click here.

(photos by Bruce Chambers, from the OC Register)

Please consider writing letters to the OC Register about these issues - as well as letter to the OUSD trustees.

Send your letters to:

To contact OUSD trustees, see the sidebar to contact info.

Mark Your Calendar:

The OUSD board has agendized the proposal to redistrict the community affected by the school closure to the nearby Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

Please plan to attend the Thursday, Sept. 24 AT 7 P.M.

Consider writing to the OUSD trustees with your views.

More information soon.