Moved to action
by Jesse Phelps
A community moved into action Monday night as The Nordhoff
Parent Association convened for its third General Meeting of
the 2002-2003 school year. Students, parents and community members
packed the Nordhoff cafeteria to take part in the discussion
to find some solutions to the drug abuse problem plaguing Ojai's
There weren't quite enough chairs to go around for an estimated
250 to 300 people, who first murmured and applauded the various
presenters and later took part in a lively discussion.
Association President John Kenyon introduced the agenda, welcoming
the concerned citizens of Ojai. Nordhoff Principal Dan Musick
also thanked the gathered throng, asking the 25 students in attendance
to stand and be acknowledged.
He stressed the importance of awareness, saying, "This is
a solutions-oriented evening. We're not here to point fingers
at who's responsible. We all are responsible for the solutions
... What can we do as a community of Ojai to take care of this
Capt. Gary Pentis, Ojai's Chief of Police, and Dr. Bruce Gladstone
taked about the new problem of opiate abuse, particularly the
dangers of OxyContin. "Our rates of abuse are much higher
than the national average," said Pentis.
Gladstone provided eight recommendations for how the community
can attack the problem, including the creation of the Ojai Valley
Substance Abuse Education Project, an organizational body made
up of concerned citizens, which could gather and distribute funds
to fight the problem.
He stressed the importance of education, data collection and
sharing, twelve-step programs, treatment options, getting physicians
involved in the process, and developing funding for those who
cannot afford treatment.
Gladstone's ASTER Foundation is taking donations to support the
drug education project. Time is of the essence and the foundation
needs monetary donations to make so many of the good ideas already
out there into realities. First up on the agenda is a drug awareness
class for Nordhoff students entitled "Introduction to Substance
Abuse and Addiction."
The class curriculum will be presented to the Ojai Unified School
District board of trustees Dec. 10 for approval and hopes are
that it can be offered in the school as soon as January.
Nordhoff students Ashley Thomas, Alexis Kenyon, Catie Schmidt
and Regina Bernaldo provided the meeting with both the youthful
perspective and a preview of many of the solutions that would
be debated throughout. They brought up the idea of random drug
testing for students and agreed that more activities are necessary
for kids. They also agreed that seeing people in the midst of
addiction would be a powerful deterrent.
Executive Director Caryn Bosson and Terry Mitchell of the Ojai
Valley Youth Foundation brought a little light to the proceedings,
a reminder of kid-centered creative and service-oriented outlets
already present in the valley.
"Our community has been working very hard for the last five
years to pull together and work with our young people, not just
for our young people," Bosson said, after receiving one
of the louder rounds of applause all evening.
The meeting came full circle in the second hour as Kenyon asked
everybody to gather into smaller groups, to share ideas under
the guidance of counselors. All in attendance were asked to express
their own experience and come up with some specific solutions
to be presented at the meeting's conclusion.
Proposals included increased youth activities, the acquisition
of money to fund anything from the reopening of the bowling alley
- that got loud applause - to the creation of a fund for treatment
of lower-income child addicts.
Assistant School Superintendent Jim Berube advocated for a neighborhood
watch, a crackdown on parents who supply kids and "coordinating
programs and funding sources in the valley to deal with this
The meeting concluded with a round of lively information sharing.
Talk turned again to the touchy subject of random drug testing.
Local educator Mike Krumpschmidt pointed out that in other areas
where testing has worked, "The results only go to the families.
They would not go to any other agency. I think a concept like
that has a chance. If the random drug testing results go elsewhere,
I don't think that concept has any chance."
Debate is sure to continue about the many issues and potential
solutions raised at the meeting, but an apparent groundswell
has begun and Ojai's parents are more aware of the dangers facing
"I know the Nordhoff Parent Association, it's always been
a goal of theirs to be a community group, not just be a booster
group," said Musick. "I think their dream, their goal,
is finally being realized. Unfortunately it had to happen with
something negative but if we can get positives out of this, I
think we're off to a great start here."
Kenyon agreed. "I'm just overwhelmed with the people and
at the outpouring of concern that people have. The latest deaths
that have happened have struck people in the heart," he
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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