Discussion about Downtown Property This Tuesday

3-17-16 Agenda

Image result for OUSD "Chaparral"After months of deliberation, the Board has finally decided to retain all elementary schools for the foreseeable future, and to expend Measure J funds on all facilities.

Now, consistent with recommendations from two 7-11 citizens’ committees, the OUSD Board will begin discussion of the potential sale or lease of all or part of the downtown property on Ojai Avenue.  This is a major conversation that must involve the community at large as well as the OUSD community.

The land as the potential to significantly contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the downtown area, as well as add to the amenities for Ojai residents.  But only if you participate in the conversation.

Green Heroes

Congratulations to Meiners Oaks Elementary for being a “Featured School” at the Green Ribbons School web site! Whether its their outdoor learning spaces, waste reduction program, or outdoor skills training, Meiners Oaks is at the forefront of healthy and sustainable learning and bringing important recognition to our District.  Go Mountain Lions!!

OUSD 7-11 Committee Holds Public Hearing

On March 17th, the OUSD 7-11 Committee will hold a public hearing to present and discuss their tentative recommendations regarding elementary school property to the OUSD School Board.  This is a very important meeting. 

Here’s the agenda: 3-17-16 Agenda

You may recall the 7-11 Committee was formed to provide advice and recommendations to the Board regarding surplus elementary school property. (There was already a 7-11 Committee held in the past to discuss the District office property where Chaparral High is located.)

It’s no secret that enrollment is down about 35-40% and may go lower still before stabilizing.  The falling numbers suggest that the District may have property or facilities that we do not need, and that we should not spend precious dollars on.  Especially now that the District has bond funds to spend on facilities improvement, due diligence requires that the Board investigate all possibilities of maximizing the benefits of the bond money.

The committee, comprised of volunteers from throughout the District, has been meeting for months and has reviewed voluminous data and reports.  You can find all the documents they’ve seen, as well as agenda, meeting minutes, and meeting videos here.

So, discussion has boiled down to these very important questions.

  1. Given ultimate enrollment at around 60% of the District’s peak, is there surplus elementary school property?
  2. If there is surplus property, what is it and what should be done with it?

The challenge for OUSD is the possibility that we actually are using more property than we can properly take care of.  The committee has concluded that there is surplus property.  There are options including:  sale, lease, repurpose within the District, or do nothing at all.

The Committee has been discussing a possible recommendation to close Meiner’s Oaks Elementary School.  But it wasn’t the only school mentioned for closing and it may not be the final recommendation.  This discussion has real implications affecting all students and families in the District.  Many questions have been raised about how this conclusion was reached, and what considerations led to it.  Many people feel that no schools should be closed, no matter that the consequences.

The meeting on the 17th is the first opportunity for the community and the committee to dialog about the committee’s potential recommendation.  Following the public hearing, the committee will continue its discussion, considering the feedback from the community.

As usual, the meeting will be recorded for later viewing, and I am told that Spanish translation services will be available as well.

Whether your children attend Meiner’s Oaks or another school in the District, this meeting involves you.  Please attend and share your thoughts, or watch the meeting and share by email.  Thank you!


7-11 Committee Deliberations Near Completion

The 7-11 Citizens’ Advisory Committee is nearing the completion of its deliberations.

You may recall that the School Board expressed a desire to maximize the benefits of the Measure J funds entrusted to us by the taxpayers to improve our schools.  With reduced enrollment in the future of the District, that means looking at all options before finalizing a plan on how to spend the money.

According to a recent enrollment study, the OUSD can soon expect to be about half the size it was during its peak enrollment, or about 2400-2500 students.  We have facilities for our former enrollment of over 4000 students.  What, if anything, should we do with excess property?

Prioritizing spending is an important step.  Spend the limited improvement money on all properties equally, even properties we may not need in the future?  Spend money only on the facilities definitely needed for the future?  How will any choice effect students and families?

A 7-11 Advisory Committee is one step in the Board’s information gathering.  Created back in September (see my earlier post about seeking volunteers) and comprised of volunteers from the community, it is a body formed by law to make recommendations to the School Board regarding options for surplus school property.  In this case, the Committee is reviewing elementary schools.

The Committee is scheduling it’s own public hearing on March 17th at the Chaparral Auditorium to present to the community what its likely recommendations to the Board will be, and to listen to public reaction.  It’s a very important meeting.

Despite any information to the contrary, as of this date the Committee has not completed its deliberations, and nothing has been presented to the School Board.  When their recommendations are complete, the Committee will present them to the Board in a public meeting.  I invite and strongly urge concerned Valley residents to attend the meeting or watch it on the internet.

You can find everything related to the Committee including agenda, minutes, documents reviewed, and videos of its meetings at OUSD 7-11 Citizens Advisory Committee.


Charter Schools in the News

There’s a lot of talk about charter schools these days.

Anaheim Union High School District Calls for Moratorium

In Orange County, the Anaheim Union High School District has called for a temporary moratorium on approval of new charter schools statewide until legislators correct what they call “overly permissive law that enables charters to operate on a business model whose main goal is to make money.”

“Although there is nothing wrong with making money, when it comes to public education, our children should be our first priority,” Superintendent Matsuda said. “While charter school proponents may say they care about kids, many charters operate in the shadows with no transparency, no accountability, and no public review.”

“All Californians should demand an immediate halt to approval of charter schools until the laws are fixed and accountability is restored” says the Board’s public statement.

Much of this reaction reflects the deep philosophical divide between the Anaheim Union board and the Orange County Board of Education (OCBOE) and specifically the OCBOE’s response to two controversial charter school applications in the Anaheim Union district.  The OCBOE has authority to grant charters without local consent.  According to the Anaheim Union Board, the OCBOE board president “believes in handing over control of our public schools to private organizations, and is moving forward approving just about all charters…”

Are Charter Schools the New Subprime Bubble?

In a recent interview, a professor of urban education at the University of Connecticut shares his concerns that the proliferation of charter schools could presage a bubble much like the subprime lending market, and could have the same disastrous effects, but this time on education not the financial market.

Preston Greene discusses his study saying that the the federal government is encouraging the expansion of charter schools with little oversight, and the result could be a charter school bubble that blows up in urban communities.  The concern stems from calls to increase the number of entities who can authorize a charter school.  Similar to the concerns expressed by Anaheim Union, Greene fears that the multiple authorizers with little or no “skin in the game” will ultimately increase the number of charters approved while degrading the overall quality of charters.

Greene sees signs that the bubble may already be bursting in some parts of the country where “charters have been sued for failing to provide students with disabilities with an education.”  Greene, like Anaheim, calls for more standards of accountability and transparency for all charters.

Valley Oak Charter in Ojai

Differing from the concerns of the Anaheim Union school board, Valley Oak Charter School in Ojai was not inserted into the community by suspect outsiders operating in secret.  And as a hybrid support school for home-based independent study, it doesn’t directly compete with OUSD schools.  We are fortunate that the school staff includes many individuals with a long and distinguished teaching history in Ojai.  Valley Oak makes its LCAP and other documents available on its website.


More Evidence that Art Matters!

Here’s an article from a few months ago about Peralta Elementary School District and how revitalizing art instruction has brought new achievement across the board.  Time for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art!, math).

An adoption we should seek!

Just learned about Turnaround Arts.  Turnaround Arts is a public-private partnership led by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the White House, U.S. Department of Education, and several private foundations. It is managed by Americans for the Arts.  Through the program, celebrities in the creative arts individually adopt schools and work directly with students and faculty.

Josh-GrobanFor instance, Josh Groban, having grown up with an arts upbringing, is passionate about arts education and exposing students to the arts. His adopted school is Chalmers School of Excellence in Chicago, IL. His most recent visit to the school included classroom visits, talking with students and working with them on arts integrated projects and performances.

Alfre-WoodardAlfre Woodard is also a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Involved with Turnaround Arts since the program’s pilot phase, she has visited, talked and read to, and worked with students on utilizing acting and the arts in their education at a number of schools, including ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans, LA, Noel Community Arts School in Denver, CO. With the expansion of Turnaround Arts beyond its pilot phase, Ms. Woodard has adopted St. Helena Elementary School in Greensburg, LA. In the latest expansion of Turnaround Arts, Ms. Woodard will be working with Kamaile Academy Public Charter School and Waianae Elementary School in Waianae, HI.

Jake Shimabukuro_ThumbnailThis is virtuoso ukulele artist Jake Simabukuro’s first year serving as a Turnaround Artist, and he will be working with Kalihi Kai in Honolulu, HI.

Adoptions are closed for now, but next round….!