Thursday, August 5, 2010

Redistricting Update

Although this blog has been dormant for a few months, the community has been moving forward. Thanks to all the folks who have done so much.

from the August 5, 2010 edition of the OC Register:


Residents of rural Silverado Canyon and surrounding areas could be asked to decide at the ballot box whether their community should secede from its assigned school district and be annexed to the neighboring one, under a proposal brought forward Wednesday by a group of locals furious over the closure of beloved but tiny Silverado Elementary School.

At a nearly two-hour public hearing Wednesday at Chapman Hills Elementary School in Orange, the group implored county education officials to let voters decide whether sparsely populated Silverado, Black Star, Ladd, Williams and Modjeska canyons should be annexed to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District...

...The public hearing was presided over by the Orange County Committee on School District Organization, an 11-member governing body housed at the county Department of Education. The group will decide in the coming months whether Silverado residents will get to vote on the secession issue.

An environmental impact report on the proposed annexation is expected to be ready in October.

"We won't make a decision until the fall," committee President Shirley Carey told the approximately 35 people in attendance...

To read the rest, click here.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Parent Testifies about Redistricting

Silverado Canyon resident and parent Jeff Wilson delivered the following remarks at the last OUSD board meeting:

I’d like to talk tonight about the move of my two children, a kindergarten and a second grader, to Trabuco Elementary. My family chose to be one of many who wanted to stay in a small, rural school similar to our own Silverado Elementary that was, of course, closed by a slim majority of board members. So we requested an interdistrict transfer and are pleased with our new school within the Saddleback Valley District. We would much prefer to have kept our local Silverado Elementary open with the opportunity to work to improve it, but that was not an option.

The main thing we notice about Trabuco Elementary is the difference it makes when the school district actually supports a school. Trabuco was refurbished a few years back, the buildings and facilities are top notch. The teachers are confident of job security, knowing their position will continue, and they plan accordingly with continuing academic projects and continuing curriculum from year to year.

The contrast with the last few years at Silverado Elementary under your leadership is striking. It is absolutely clear to me that the majority of the Orange Unified School Board intentionally starved Silverado Elementary for years. Starved! With no funding, with rumors of impending closure from year to year, with no interest in the programs, with leaving Silverado Elementary out as a listed option for open enrollment, it appears to me that the majority of you board members purposefully engaged in a campaign to reduce silverado elementary to a shadow of the distinguished school it once was, to the point where families began moving their children to other schools, fleeing the neglect by certain members of this school board. When you finally used the excuse of reduced state funding to close it, there really was very little left at Silverado Elementary. The majority of the board who voted to close the school had no interest in our work nor our plans to make Silverado flourish.

Even the board member whose jurisdiction included Silverado wanted it closed, and crowed gleefully that the vote to close the school was a “done deal” even before the vote took place.

Notice that I use the term “board member”, rather than the more official “Trustee”.

Wikipedia describes “trustee” as follows:

Trustees have certain duties - These include the duty of impartiality, the duty to account for their actions, the duty of loyalty, the duty not to profit, the duty not to be in a conflict of interest position, and the duty to administer in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Etc.

We who live within the boundaries Orange Unified District are the ones who entrusted you, the board members and superintendent, to protect the interests of our children. The majority of this board voted to close our school, and laws may have been violated in the process. In my opinion those individuals have not lived up to the elected responsibilities that come with the term Trustee.

Life is good in Saddleback Valley Unified School District. It was a good move for us.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Redistricting is on the agenda! The time to act is now.

The OUSD Board will meet on Thursday November 12 at 7 PM. At this meeting, the OUSD staff is scheduled to make their recommendations about redistricting the canyon community to Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

We are urgently looking for community members to speak to this issue at that meeting.

The two people who have been most stalwart in their public support, Dr. Deborah Johnson and Chay Petersen, cannot attend the November 12 meeting. We must have a presence at this very important school board meeting.

At the last meeting, the board members declared that they do not believe that the majority of the canyon residents support redistricting. So we agreed to circulate a petition to show them that the majority actually do support it. Debbie has written a petition that is currently being circulated. Some of you may have signed it at the community celebrations on Halloween. Volunteers are needed to circulate the petition in their neighborhoods.

Please talk to your friends and neighbors. We need people to not only sign the petition, but to write letters and emails in advance of the meeting and to attend the November 12 meeting. We need people to speak - very briefly - to this issue at the meeting.

We need to act to ensure that the needs of the canyon children will be met today - and in the future.

Below is Debbie Johnson's eloquent appeal which details the history and the rationale of this proposal. Read it and be inspired to write a letter of your own to the OUSD Board and Superintendent Drier. Check the sidebar for easy email links and mailing addresses.

September 24, 2009

Members of the school board, Superintendent Drier and members of the community:

In December 2008, we began a journey together. Motivated by the prospect of a new administration at Orange Unified and hopeful of reversing the declining enrollment at our community’s only school, a group of us met with OUSD administrators and outlined a vision for the future. Living in one of the most beautiful spots in southern California, a land where the mountain lions roam freely, chirping birds greet the sun and coyotes cross the roads, we sought to preserve the best of our land by passing on appreciation for it to our children and others.

At the time, our hope was to create The Silverado Environmental Science and Technology School, operated either as a charter or a magnet school within OUSD. Unfortunately, OUSD administrators never responded to our proposal. Instead the budget crisis intensified and discussions began about closing our school. You all know the ups and downs over the next few months. During that time, it became clear that the community didn’t have the funds, resources or skills to launch a charter. Hiring consultants would have cost thousands of dollars and we are not a wealthy community. We managed to raise about $20,000, but that wasn’t enough. Although several schools were initially proposed for closure, the only one actually shuttered was Silverado Elementary.

Closing the school created a tremendous hardship on our community. Established in 1903 when Joseph Holtz sold one acre to the Orange School District for $50, the school served as the site of community fairs, election voting, large-scale meetings and gatherings of local service clubs. Miles from the cities of Orange and (later) Lake Forest, the school provided a central meeting point for children, parents and community members. I used to buy my Christmas trees at the school every year and we all loved the regular fairs. School was where children throughout the far-flung canyons met and made friends.

With the nearest school miles away, families last month struggled with complicated logistics. They wrestled with questions such as: How can I get my son and daughter to school in time? Can my young child handle an hour-long bus ride? What will I do about child care? How early will we have to get up?

As the trucks hauled away the desks, chairs and other supplies…as our teachers moved to new schools or retired…our community began dividing. Students from outside the canyon area who had been attending Silverado went back to their home schools. A number of families organized a carpool and sent their children to Trabuco Elementary in the Saddleback district. Other families began rising hours earlier to get their children ready for a 6:30 a.m. bus pick-up.

Over the past months, the community had gingerly discussed the possibility of re-districting to Saddleback Unified. It was closer—Modjeska Grade Road was already in Saddleback. One community representative contacted Saddleback to ask if they would be interested in taking over the canyon area and how they felt about an environmentally-focused school. The reply was swift—Saddleback was very interested in environmental education (they were already doing it at Trabuco) and they had a vision for opening a K-8 school that served Silverado, Modjeska and Trabuco canyons. With Trabuco facing similar issues to Silverado’s declining enrollment, a school serving all three canyons could solve multiple problems.

I am here today on behalf of the canyon community, which includes Silverado, Modjeska, Williams, Harding, Ladd and Black Star canyons, to respectfully request that the Orange Unified School District transfer the canyon attendance area to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Here are our reasons:

1. Geographical Proximity
Schools within Saddleback are significantly closer to almost all canyon homes than those in Orange Unified. From a home near the entrance of Modjeska Canyon, Saddleback’s Portola Hills Elementary School is only 2.76 miles away. The nearest Orange Unified school, Chapman Hills, is 11.58 miles away. Nine miles represents a significant difference. Distances to the nearest Saddleback and Orange Unified elementary schools from various points in the canyons are in the table below:

Canyon Address Saddleback: Portola Hills
Distance/Time Saddleback: Trabuco Elem
Distance/Time Orange: Chapman Hills
Modjeska Entrance 28331 Modjeska Cyn 2.76 (6 mins) 6.05 (13 mins) 11.58 (16 mins)
Mid-Modjeska 28422 Modjeska Cyn 2.85 (6 mins) 6.75 (13 mins) 11.67 (16 mins)
Harding Cyn 17251 Harding Cyn 3.42 (8 mins) 7.31 (15 mins) 12.24 (17 mins)
Williams Canyon 28510 Williams Cyn 4.94 (9 mins) 8.83 (15 mins) 10.5 (15 mins)
Silverado end 31326 Silv Cyn Road 11.61 (22 mins) 15.5 (29 mins) 13.39 (24 mins)
Mid-Silverado 29772 Silv Cyn Road 9.93 (18 mins) 13.82 (24 mins) 11.7 (20 mins)
Black Star Cyn 27912 Baker Cyn Rd 6.92 (11 mins) 10.81 (18 mins) 8.72 (13 mins)

The table demonstrates that the nearest Saddleback elementary school, Portola Hills, is closer than the nearest Orange Unified school, Chapman Hills, to all points in the canyon except the very end of Silverado. From there, the difference between Saddleback and Orange is relatively insignificant—just 1.8 miles or two minutes’ driving time. Please note that times in the above table represent driving directly from one point to another---school bus routes take much longer.

As a result of the canyons’ distance from Orange Unified schools, many students, even those in kindergarten, are now boarding school buses as early as 6:30 a.m.

2. Unacceptably long bus rides for our young children
Educational studies set the maximum recommended busing time for elementary students at 30 minutes. Today canyon children are riding up to 1.5 hours each way, or three hours a day, going to and from school. Once the bad weather begins, these trips will take even longer. Many mornings, it is still dark when the children leave their homes. They wait outside with nothing to protect them against rain, sleet, hail and wind.

The long bus rides raise a number of significant issues:
• Safety is a primary consideration. There are no adults other than the drivers on the buses. Our young children have virtually no supervision.
• Canyon roads are winding and unsafe. Drivers regularly exceed the speed limit. In the early morning, especially January through March, heavy fog often reduces visibility on Santiago Canyon Road to zero.
• Food and drink are not allowed on buses. Many children leave home without breakfast and are hungry all morning.
• The buses have no toilets.
• The buses have no seat belts or car seats.

Because of the early bus pick-up, our children are losing an hour or more of sleep each night. Research has found that daytime sleepiness in children significantly correlates with lower academic achievement, higher absenteeism and reduced motivation in school.

3. Shared Community Characteristics
Recognizing that the canyons’ rural environment and lifestyle represents a unique asset, as long ago as 1974, Orange County developed the Foothill Corridor Policy Plan and community development plans for Silverado-Modjeska and Trabuco. All emphasized retaining the rural character and preserving its uniqueness. In 2001, The Irvine Company made a historic gift of 50,000 acres of public and private lands, much of which adjoins the canyons, for permanent open space. Currently the Irvine Company and the county of Orange are negotiating to transfer more than 20,000 acres near the canyons for a public park. The county also is taking title to the 3,500 acre Limestone Canyon Park across from the school.

Surrounded by open space, the canyon communities exist on a fragile wildlife/urban interface. Since the devastating Santiago Fire in 2007 (which jumped Santiago Canyon Road right near the school), the canyons have drawn together to work for our common good. Right now, the Inter-Canyon League is administering a $250,000 grant to remove hazardous trees and vegetation from private homes in Silverado, Modjeska, Williams and Trabuco canyons. Last weekend we participated in All Canyons Clean-Up, an annual event that brings together hundreds of canyon residents. In a few weeks, for the first time, the canyon directory will include Trabuco residents. Canyon leaders have begun discussing joint community governance; three years ago, residents paid for an initial fiscal analysis exploring the possibility of incorporating Silverado, Modjeska and Trabuco into a single entity called the Saddleback Canyon.

4. Philosophical Compatibility
Our dream was to transform Silverado into a cutting edge, innovative Environmental Science School offering a high quality education to students throughout Orange County. The school would provide a fresh, hands-on learning experience tied to nature and student-driven discovery.

Saddleback is already committed to environmental education. Students from throughout the district regularly visit Trabuco Elementary, where a Field Study Program offers science and nature study experiences aligned to grade-level science standards. The program involves guided trail studies and hands-on activities that increase learning of basic science concepts. To support the program, Trabuco houses a variety of animals and uses trails leading into O’Neill Regional Park.

An environmentally-focused curriculum is tremendously attractive to canyon residents. The community is also deeply committed to the concept of a K-8 school specifically for the canyons.

5. Limited Financial Impact on Orange Unified
Orange Unified’s own demographic experts predict a significant decline over the next seven years in the number of elementary-age students living in the canyons:

K-6 Resident Students
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
69 65.2 56.8 45.9 45.1 41.9 28.2 27.8

Last year the canyons had about 40 students in Orange Unified middle and high schools. Re-districting now would involve a total of about 100 elementary, middle and high school students. Within a few years, the total will decrease to fewer than 50 students.

6. Strong Community Support
In July 2009, 834 canyon residents received an email asking whether they supported re-districting from Orange to Saddleback. Sixty-five residents replied; the overwhelming majority supported the move. On July 15, the Inter-Canyon League organized a community meeting to discuss re-districting. Forty residents attended; all voted in favor of the transfer. Last week we received one letter opposed to the transfer. There is little doubt that re-districting has widespread support.

A few more points:
1. The proposed area to be re-districted does not include the planned development around Irvine Lake.
2. While we hope that our elementary school can re-open, we have received no promises. We are not making this request to get our school back—we are making it because we truly believe that re-districting is in the best interests of our children and our community.
3. While our dream is for an environmental school that attracts children from throughout Orange County, we have received no promises. The community supports the transfer even without the environmental concept.

We have met with the Orange County Superintendent of Education to discuss the transfer process. If the majority of both the Orange and Saddleback Unified governing boards agree, it can be accomplished relatively quickly. If one board does not agree, the request will be submitted to the county superintendent of schools in the form of a petition signed by 25% of the registered voters in the canyon area. The County Committee on School District Organization then will hold a public hearing in each of the affected school districts and an initial study, possibly including an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), would be required. If the County Committee approves the transfer and one of the governing Boards does not agree, an election will be called and voters in an area determined by the Committee will decide.

In summary, I want to tell you a story. A few years ago, I was managing a large program in Nairobi, Kenya. On the property, I had an elementary school; an orphanage for 70 abandoned, neglected and AIDS-affected babies, and a residential center for 100 children with severe disabilities. I ran everything from the U.S., flying over every three to four months.

During the four years that I ran the Center, I had three directors handling daily operations. Each one started the same way—absolutely committed to caring for the children. It wasn’t hard to love these kids. They were so needy. But within a month, sometimes two, the same thing happened. I began hearing less and less about the kids and more and more about the staff. The staff needed this; the staff needed that. Why did this happen, I wondered?

It wasn’t hard to figure out. All day long, staff members were at the director’s door. They told the director about their troubles. They asked for help. They complained about the salaries and about each other. It wasn’t long before each director was worn out by their problems. And where were the kids? Not hanging out at the director’s door. Far from it. They were in their beds or their classrooms. Pretty much doing as they were told. Especially the babies.

Why am I telling you this? Because all day long, you’re surrounded by teachers, administrators, and other professionals. They give you information; they define your options; they prepare your agendas and they write your briefing papers. I know that each of you cares about the kids. But I also know that your caring is channeled within a structure that has its own demands.

We in the canyon are not really a voice at your table. We’re outsiders—literally and figuratively. But we care about our kids just as much as you care about your’s. And we have been doing everything in our power to try to make sure that they’re safe and protected. But their future—and our community’s—lie in your hands.

There is little doubt that canyon residents will vote to support the transfer. You can put that to the test and set in motion the petitions, hearing and special election that will be required if you oppose it. Or you can approve re-districting now and save considerable taxpayer expense and community heartache.

We appreciate Orange Unified’s generosity in approving inter-district transfers this year. It is our hope that your generosity of spirit will continue and that you will approve our re-districting. By doing so, you will give our children a much-needed sense of stability. They have been through a lot this past year.

Thank you.

Deborah Johnson, Ph.D.
President, The Inter-Canyon League
Member, Save Our School Committee

(The photograph featured above is from the county archives. Silverado School, 1903. Left to right: C. Edinger, A. Hughes, Willie Shaw, Rob Shaw, Naomi Ann Alsbach-15years, Ruth Clara Alsbach-13yrs, Mary Elizabeth Alsbach (Liz)-12yrs, Ruby Lola Alsbach-7yrs. Teacher not identified. Donated in 1988 by Mr. Harvey Shaw, Santa Ana.)

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.


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: