When the Bell Rings…School Start Times

wp-image-1243661626You may have seen a recent article in the Ojai Valley News about the school board considering later starting times for high school students. It’s an ongoing and longstanding discussion nationwide. As this recent article on the website for the National Education Association says, compelling recent studies continue to suggest that there are real physiological reasons for adolescents to start school later, specifically after 8:30 a.m. The study points to higher graduation rates and better attendance. The study isn’t bullet-proof, but it’s pretty convincing.

Of course, there are a few caveats to every study. [The study] did not specifically measure the amount of sleep each student in the study got, but instead relied on prior research that linked later school times to more sleep. She also acknowledges that multiple factors play a role in graduation and attendance rates, but it is clear that there is a statistically significant difference between these rates after a delayed start time was implemented.

Complicating the issue are the real concerns of parents, especially working parents, who may have to make childcare changes or work schedule changes. Later start times mean later end times, and some parents worry that it means less time for sports and other outside activities, or homework.

OUSD administration would face bus schedule challenges, and would definitely face sports team transportation challenges. Some away games are pretty far away, and game start times already require athletes to leave school early on those days. A later start time could mean they’d miss more of their school day on away game days than they do now.

There are no easy answers, but the OUSD Board will soon begin discussing this proposal in earnest. What do you think?


School-to-Work Success at Oxnard College

Attending a community college can be about saving money; the first two years of a bachelors program can be completed for a far lower cost at a community college than anywhere else.  Graduates appreciate not starting life with crushing debt.

But there are other reasons to consider community college upon graduation, and one of those reasons is work!  Community colleges also provide work training and opportunities to their students who are seeking to enter the workforce right away.

Picture are Ventura County General Services Agency Director David Sasek (far left), Fleet Services Manager and Oxnard College Advisory Board member Peter Bednar (far right), and program students Anahe Partida, Heather Evjen, Daniel Calderon, Matthew Gallegos and Esteban Rodriguez (L-R front row).

Picture are Ventura County General Services Agency Director David Sasek (far left), Fleet Services Manager and Oxnard College Advisory Board member Peter Bednar (far right), and program students Anahe Partida, Heather Evjen, Daniel Calderon, Matthew Gallegos and Esteban Rodriguez (L-R front row).

A perfect example of this School-to-Work approach is at Oxnard College.  Beginning in 2015, and initiated by the hardworking faculty at Oxnard College, students in the college’s Automotive Technology and Auto Body and Fender Repair programs work four hours a day with Ventura County’s Fleet Operations Department while they attend classes at Oxnard College.

Their participation gives them real-world work experience, and has the added advantage of benefiting Fleet Services and saving money.

This is just one example of the multiple benefits of our county’s three community colleges.

Whether you want to enhance your current skills, gain inexpensive transfer units for your bachelor’s degree, or learn valuable skills that can help you build a career right away, community colleges are back, and have a lot to offer.

Important Correction!!

You may see the below public notice in the Ojai Valley News or elsewhere.  IT IS INCORRECT.  The hearing is NOT about any OUSD property.  The hearing is actually about the building currently housing City Hall.  Expect corrections soon.  Our day will come, but no date has been set yet for the next round of discussion about OUSD property.


9-1-17 OVN Ojai City Council Public Hearing Notice (2).jpg

Some Key Facts About Community Colleges…

Some facts about community colleges, including our own three great ones:

  1. California community colleges educate 70 percent of our state’s nurses.
  2. California community colleges train 80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency medical technicians.
  3. Twenty-nine percent of University of California and 51 percent of California State University graduates started at a California community college.
  4. Transfer students from the California Community Colleges to the University of California system currently account for 48 percent of UC’s bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  5. California community colleges offer associate degrees and short-term job training certificates in more than 175 fields, and more than 100,000 individuals are trained each year in industry-specific workforce skills.
  6. Nearly 42 percent of all California veterans receiving GI educational benefits attend a California community college for workforce training, to earn an associate degree or to work toward transferring to a four-year university.

Check out our Ventura County community colleges, we’re still enrolling! See if you qualify for one of our colleges’ First Year Promise programs — a virtually free first year of college. Can’t beat that!




Excitement at City Council!

Image result for loud arguingBased on an article in this Friday’s Ojai Valley News, you might think there was a near riot between the Ojai City Council and the OUSD Board of Education.  While the story is largely accurate, the description of threats being hurled is, with respect, literary license.  Still, the discussion was robust and at times loud.  As usual, when the facts are laid out, it’s not as dramatic as it sounded in the paper.

THE BACKSTORY:  For years, the OUSD has been meeting to discuss what to do with district facilities in the face of declining enrollment.  Beginning in 2015, a dedicated group of concerns parents and residents began meeting to discuss whether to close any of our schools.  Known as the 7/11 Committee, you can find all their notes and research material here.

After reviewing multiple voluminous reports and analyses, the committee ultimately concluded that the OUSD should surplus the downtown property, consolidate its operations into the remaining properties, and use the downtown property to generate desperately needed operations funding for the district.

The OUSD Board further deliberated over the committee’s recommendations, and ultimately agreed that we should preserve our neighborhood schools as long as economically possible.  As a result of that decision, the Board voted to leave all neighborhood elementary schools open.Image result for loud arguing

The Board also agreed with the committee recommendation to consider leasing the district’s downtown property to generate revenue for the district.  The Board was unanimous that it did not want to sell this important heritage property.

The first condition to talking to developers about the property was to offer it first to specific civic entities, including the City of Ojai, essentially giving them first right of refusal to negotiate.

The law says that the entities had 60 days to indicate their interest.  If anyone responded, we were required by law to engage in at least 90 days of good faith negotiation to attempt to reach a deal.  Those 90 days can be extended if there is a good reason to continue negotiations.

The City of Ojai sent us a letter saying they wanted to negotiate to lease the property.  Though they have requested a meeting to discuss an offer, no offer has been put forward formally or informally and there is no indication that one is forthcoming.  The city manager has reported that acquisition of the property is not in the City’s general plan, and there are no funds currently budgeted or available for the acquisition.

Because this is a heritage property, it’s not surprising that the Historical Preservation Commission was concerned about the property.  When we began our discussions in 2015, they began their campaign to impose historical designation on the property.  The OUSD Board knew of this in 2015 and discussed it with the City Council at their historic joint meeting at that time.  As was quoted during Friday’s meeting, the OUSD Board was told that it is rare that a historical designation is imposed on a property without the owner’s request…reasonable because, despite all protestations to the contrary, such a designation does create restrictions on the use of the property.

Members of the Council and the city’s attorney all sought to reassure the OUSD saying that the city would not impose such a designation on OUSD unilaterally.  The agenda for Friday’s City Council meeting contained an item to do just that.

WHAT HAPPENED:  What upset the OUSD Board members is that the move to designate came as a surprise to them.  It now appears that the city may have sent OUSD staff a copy of the notice we read in the paper, but there was no explanation of what was happening, no offer to discuss outside the constraints of the three-minute public comment limit, and no explanation as to why this was happening this way now, despite Council’s prior assurances.

The only reason legal action was mentioned was as something to avoid.  The OUSD Board members pleaded with the City Council to delay action on the item, both because we felt we were given poor notice, and because we were assured that we would have conversation about this before it was imposed on us.  Some Board members felt that there were alternatives possible to protect the vital elements of the property without discouraging potential developers by a blanket imposition of historical status.  Other Board members disagreed with the HPC’s reasoning.

It’s always regrettable when voices are raised, but both the Board and the Council take their responsibilities very seriously.  And when protecting things as important as student education and civic history, emotions can run high.  Couple that with some Board members feeling blindsided, and its not surprising that voices were raised.

WHAT NOW: Ultimately, the Council voted to return to matter to the Historical Preservation Commission for reconsideration with input from the OUSD.  We will have to wait and see whether the HPC changes their recommendation to designate the entire 8+ acres (including the bushes, trees, bus parking lot, and gas pumps) and reduces their recommendation to what city staff supported, or something different.

I still hope to attend a joint meeting of the Board and Council, with the HPC making its case, because I think this is too important to resolve in a regular Council meeting with its typical crowded agenda.  At such a meeting, the City can also address whatever issues remain surrounding its potential bid to lease the property itself.

Assuming the City does not lease the property, and we should get that clarification as quickly as possible, we can then partner with the City to strategize how to attract the right developer with the right plan for the heart of our downtown.  Done correctly, the repurposing of the OUSD downtown property will generate much needed revenue for the schools to support paying a living wage to teachers, and providing quality education for our kids, with resources not limited by our low enrollment, while at the same time energizing the downtown area and potentially providing valuable community resources.

BOTTOM LINE:  Everyone cares about Ojai and its heritage, including the OUSD Board members.  As Shelly Griffen said, “No one wants a Trump Tower on that property!”  It’s a big ambitious endeavor.  It will take all hands to make it work.  It truly has the potential to affect Ojai for decades to come.  That’s why it’s important to do it right.  Our community has the right to expect us as elected leaders to set aside personal issues and cooperate and collaborate for the ultimate benefit of the entire Ojai Valley.  That’s my intent.

Congratulations Class of 2017

20170616_195702Across the District this week, and finally at Nordhoff Stadium, students have been transitioning.  It was my pleasure and privilege to attend Nordhoff’s graduation tonight. and yet again this year, what I saw convinced me that Ojai Unified is something special and something to be proud of.

The camaraderie, respect, and maturity of the graduates was palpable, and not what I remember from my own high school days.  Much of the credit for that obviously goes to the students themselves, who represent Ojai well.  And credit goes to the parents who taught them.  And a lot goes to the dedicated teachers, staff, and administrators of the OUSD.

As we say goodbye to several key members of the OUSD family, and watch others step up to a new challenge, its a good time to take a closer look at the people who dedicate their lives to educating and nurturing our students.20170616_195707

Each individual brings their “A” game.  Every one of them works with limited resources, except their own creativity, and works miracles…all while juggling the incredible reports and analysis they are required to provide the State of California.  For every hour you see a teacher in class, there’s easily another hour you don’t see spent in preparation, documentation, assessment, and reporting.

So tonight I say congratulations to our high school graduates, and their parents and families.

Congratulations too to the faculty and staff of the OUSD for another brood well-tended.  They leave the nest as ready as they can be, and they have you to thank.  And so do we.

Special Meeting for Walk-through

photographed things he might be interested in . . .Sorry for the late notice, but the OUSD School Board is having a special meeting tonight at 6pm at the District’s downtown location.  The Board and attendees will walk the downtown OUSD property to get to know the parcel better.  This is preparation for exploring how the property might be put to an alternate use to fiscally benefit the school district while preserving the best elements of the property.  Come walk with us, and then join the discussion afterwards (the first of many!) about your thoughts on the property.