OUSD board hears drug-use survey
by Bret Bradigan
Drugs dominated the talk at Ojai Unified School District's
Dec. 10 board meeting, as Terry Mitchell from the Ojai Valley
Youth Foundation presented results from the Healthy Kids Survey
about drug, alcohol and tobacco use among district students.
The anonymous survey, taken in 2000 and 2002, followed seventh-,
ninth- and 11th-graders, and showed striking declines in tobacco
use, while alcohol use was both up and down depending on grade
levels. Marijuana climbed slightly. Use of hard-core drugs such
as heroin, cocaine and LSD showed slight declines generally.
However, Mitchell pointed out that in most categories - whether
it was one-time, periodic or regular use - Ojai students exceeded
Samples ranged from 33 percent to 77 percent, but Mitchell said,
"There was a high enough response rate that we can be confident
in our data."
One ominous trend among seventh-graders, where, Mitchell said,
"All high-risk categories see increases ... (Those students)
are more at risk right now than seventh-graders two years ago."
Board member Bob Unruhe attributed the decline in smoking to
the widely seen anti-tobacco public service announcements. "It
seems to be making a dent, the kids see it no longer makes sense
to do it."
Mitchell said that this momentum needs to be sustained, and carried
over to other substances. "This trend with cigarettes, we
also really want to continue that."
Superintendent Van Riley gave the board an update on the district's
newly formed Drug and Alcohol Task Force. "This issue has
really come to the forefront recently," causing the district
to contemplate courses of action. The loss of the Drug Abuse
Resistance Education last year "left a big void," Riley
said. "We're scrambling around for (a way to reach) students
left out in the cold."
The heightened awareness has positive effects, he said. "It's
good that people are now aware of this issue," pointing
out the full house that attended the Dec. 2 Nordhoff Parent Association
Among the ideas brought out at that meeting and through the task
force are voluntary drug testing, where parents request that
their children be tested and the results released only to the
parents; heightened supervision around the school grounds and
at school events; and stricter policies for possession of drugs.
At present, Riley said students were suspended for three to five
days for possession of marijuana. "Tougher policies (are
being developed)" he said. "Students could be considered
for expulsion. Hopefully, they wouldn't then be so brazen with
drugs on campus.
"There's a lot of ideas out there," he said. "We
are going to make the campus safer than they are now."
Riley did caution that the new plans and procedures had to be
carefully thought. For instance, it would do little good to bring
in volunteer parents for patrols if they didn't have the training
to deal with confrontations.
After-school activities were also discussed. "That's a huge
issue," he said. "We need to keep our youth in structured,
Student representative Lauren Wyatt said that the drug issue
has dominated conversations lately among Nordhoff students. "Everyone
is talking about it, everyone is worried about it."
Bill Myly, representing Ventura County's ??????? Commission,
said that having a backup plan was critical to the success of
any anti-drug endeavor. "People don't have resources they
know about, or feel good about, to go to," he said. He also
suggested changing the "Drug-Free School" signs at
the schools to read, "Our goal is a drug-free school."
He said, "That chances the whole message, it tells people
there is a process in the works to do better."
Salary negotiations with California State Employees Association,
representing the district's 126 employees who are not teachers
or administrators, concluded with board's unanimous approval
and thanks for their sacrifices. Due to the district's declining
enrollment and subsequent budget crisis, the classified staff
delayed their 1.8 percent pay raise until January, in effect
reducing the raise to .81 percent and the cost to the district
Board member Rikki Horne said, "That shows tremendous collegiality,
that they gave up a piece of the pie." Newest board member
Pauline Mercado also noted their sacrifice. "We need to
recognize the cooperativeness of the CSEA. They really made a
That sunny note of conclusion was followed by the ominous clouds
of budget gloom gathering over Sacramento, where the governor
and legislature are seeking to slash $21 billion from the state
budget. Van Riley said preliminary reports coming in Friday indicated
the district could be hit as hard as $1 million or more, or about
$350 per student of the about $5,000 per student the district
receives in average daily attendance money. As the process progressed,
however, the figure dropped to about $100 per student, or about
$400,000 of the district's $25 million annual budget.
"It looks like we can get through this year without layoffs,"
Riley said, although the district has 15 vacant positions at
present. "We're looking hard at every single one of them."
Danielle Pusatere, the district's budget officer, gave an update
on district fund balances and revisions as part of a mid-year
review, during which she said that the lottery funds, contrary
to the perception of some, represent only about 2 percent of
the district's budget, or about $475,000 per year.
The board looked at an expanded schedule of 19 meetings next
year, but voted to hold to a typical schedule of 16 meetings.
Unruhe had requested the extra meetings to deal with special
subjects, such as testing or substance abuse, but board member
Kathi Smith said that board members "are free to add meetings
when any one of us feels it is necessary."
The meeting concluded with approval of governing board policies
and the superintendent's report. It began with the swearing in
of re-elected incumbents Kathi Smith and Rikki Horne and for
the first term of Mercado. As board tradition, Tim Peddicord
shifted seats to the board chairman's spot which was relinquished
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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