Charter school petition received
by Bret Bradigan
Budget, curriculum and construction were hot topics at the lengthy
April 2 Ojai Unified School District meeting, but before immersing
themselves in those weighty issues, board members received some
musical and essay inspiration from students.
The meeting got off to a "Hot Java Jumping" start,
with the Matilija Junior High School jazz band, under Don Orser's
direction, performing a 15-minute concert of big-band era jazz,
followed by John Zatkowsky's rousing oratory. Zatkowsky, winner
of the Optimist Club's Oratorical Contest for the second year
running, held forth on the topic, "If I Could Change the
World." He said, "If is a paralyzing word," and
proceeded to explain that even the smallest actions can change
the world in measurable ways. "Small actions can cause large
consequences," he said. "Choices make changes."
Parents involved with the Homeschool Resource Center at Mira
Monte School presented a petition for a charter school to the
board, having modeled their plans after a successful program
in Santa Barbara. They expect to serve between 17 to 30 home
school students, providing them with opportunities for field
trips, group learning with kids their own age, and other ways
to balance the benefits of home schooling with public schools.
"We want to do the sort of things that are so wonderful
about school," said one parent. The petition was presented
by Brock Bernstein. Assistant Superintendent Jim Berube, sitting
in for the absent Superintendent Van Riley, said the board needed
to hold a public hearing on the petition within 30 days, then
vote yes or no within 60 days. The public hearing on the charter
school will be slated for the April 23 special board meeting.
While the board's approval of a contract with the state to accept
$54,000 in Cesar Chavez Day funds was a formality, especially
since the event had already occurred, it did give them a chance
to hear how well the event went. Chris Smithers, the grant writer
and district's Service Learning Project coordinator, said that
350 people attended, with food, music, and booths explaining
Chavez' values, along with the well-received marionette show
produced by Chaparral students.
"It was an amazing, enriching program for everyone concerned,"
said Assistant Superintendent Tim Baird.
Board members werealso informed by teachers on the progress
of the kindergarten through sixth grade Language Arts/Reading
Program. As teacher Jenna Miller said, the program to improve
children's reading ability "is trying to give them a lifetime
of skills to help them live a longer, fuller life."
And the teachers were convinced that the key to improving scores
on standardized tests was improving reading skills. Linda McMichael,
a fifth grade teacher, also put in a pitch to get the district
involved with the Articulated Writing Program, which Baird said
was coming next year. It would "enhance what we're doing,"
Dr. John Hook, the Title 1 coordinator at Meiners Oaks Elementary
School, responsible for remedial training, said that "nearly
three classrooms of readers have been put back into the system
... We're literally trying to put ourselves out of business."
Board member Bob Unruhe asked the teachers how they felt the
district should spend any one-time money that might come available.
Books, they said. "The more books in the classroom, the
higher the reading score," said Miller.
Berube said that the calendar committee would form for the next
school year, starting in September, and concluding with their
suggestions to the board by March 1, in time to make needed adjustments
for the following school year. The committee would be made up
of two elected parents from each school, one from either the
PTO or PTA, and one from the site council. Chaparral High School,
though it has no parent groups, will still have two representatives.
Each board member may appoint up to two members, as well. The
committee would not determine the calendar, since that it negotiated
between the district and the Ojai Federation of Teachers, but
would make suggestions for the board.
Berube also gave the board a cash flow chart on how the next
installment of $6 million on bond issue money will be spent -
with the bulk of it going to three projects; at Nordhoff High
School, and San Antonio and Topa Topa elementary schools. Nordhoff
project, with new buildings and resurfacing the track to cure
drainage problems, has the highest price tag with an estimate
of about $4.7 million.
The district also voted to hire a construction manager to oversee
the projects, hoping to have greater accountability and flexibility.
The periodic budget cut update included plans to cut Nordhoff's
counseling team from the equivalent of 3.4 counselors - about
one for every 360 students - to 2.5, through relying on the career
counseling center, and having the current counselors teach more
classes. That would save the district $51,000, in addition to
the early announced savings of $107,000 for eliminating one administrator
position. Another planned cut is $141,000 from the transportation
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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