Drugs top NPA agenda
By Jesse Phelps
The main topics at the Nordhoff Parent
Association meeting Monday night were building construction and
self-destruction. Plans covered the tables of the proposed new
buildings to be raised on campus and plans covered the pages
handed to parents regarding ways to attack Ojai's youth drug
The first hour and a half of the meeting was dedicated to follow-up
from the NPA's earlier gathering regarding the drug issue. NPA
President John Kenyon mentioned that tragedy has struck again
in the valley and that the problems aren't going away.
Though the auditorium was about half full, a substantial decrease
from the full house in December, "I'm pleased with the turnout,"
Kenyon said. "The second meeting is never as full as the
Ojai Mayor Joe DeVito and Councilwoman Rae Hanstad attended,
as did Dr. Bruce Gladstone, who detailed the current efforts
of the Ojai Valley Substance Abuse Project. The project plans
to host a series of 12 monthly classes in the coming year, the
first of which takes place Thursday night at Chaparral High School
in room five at 7 p.m.
Shareen Torres, MSW, CADC II, of the Gladstone Counseling Center,
will talk on causes, effects, treatment and prevention of substance
abuse at the first talk. The second talk, scheduled for February,
will address marijuana.
Hanstad offered the city's continuing help in addressing the
problem of drug abuse, particularly through the acquisition of
grant money and by partnering with law enforcement and young
people through the youth commission. She said a town meeting
is in the works for spring of 2003.
Kenyon took time to detail six recommendations the NPA has made
toward attacking the problem of drugs and youth and he and other
speakers provided updates on the progress being made toward meeting
First, Nordhoff has hired an on-site counselor five hours a day
"for emergencies" but he already has a waiting list
due to overwhelming student demand. Plans are in the works to
increase availability of counseling at both Nordhoff and Matilija
Junior High School.
At the last meeting, Nordhoff students and other championed the
idea of voluntary drug testing and it seems that the school board,
teachers and parents listened. Following the lead of other California
high schools, Nordhoff will be instituting testing on a volunteer
basis. Parents and kids volunteer and are tested randomly at
intervals throughout the year. The cost is about $25 per student
and money is still being raised for the program.
The NPA recommended also that "punishment have a constructive
outcome" when kids are caught with drugs or under the influence.
Rather than suspending students, the NPA recommended the schools
send offenders to 12 step meetings, holding facilities (drug
tanks), meetings with family and school officials, and places
where they could perform community service.
Kenyon stressed that the Nordhoff Parent Association felt it
was important not to send kids already struggling "further
down the hole" but that it was also important to get the
message across in a clear and decisive manner. A first-time offender,
he said, shouldn't be denied an opportunity to get into a college
of choice because of a single mistake in high school.
Gladstone pointed out that there is a difference between dependent
kids and those merely experimenting, but warned that it can be
very difficult to tell when a child has reached the more extreme
Another NPA recommendation, a full-time substance abuse program
in schools, is in the works under the guiding hands of Greg Stafford
and Ojai Teacher of the Year Denise Thomas. Plans are in the
works to replace the defunct D.A.R.E. program with a series of
10 drug awareness sessions for all sixth grade classrooms in
the valley. Fifth graders will also get sessions and plans are
in the works to include fourth graders as well.
The last two recommendations, a student organization to monitor
drug use and OUSD in-services for teachers and staff, are still
in the concept stage. Apparently, student interest is strong
for the former and care would be taken to avoid the idea that
it's a spy program, as nothing would be reported to police or
Speakers stressed the importance of the final recommendation
because, though counselors are trained to detect red flags and
warning signs, many teachers still need education in this area.
Kenyon expressed his joy that the community is taking action
on the parent association recommendations and Ojai Unified School
District Superintendent Jim Berube urged the gathered throng
to attend this week's board meeting, which would include further
review of the ideas. "Almost every one of these (recommendations)
in one form or other is going to be implemented so I'm very happy
about that," Kenyon said.
The Ojai Valley News
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