How do you choose the right school for your child?

By Kimberly Rivers

Now is the time of year when parents realize that they are running late if they haven’t registered for kindergarten and if they are wanting to make a change for older kids they need to make some phone calls now. Over the past few months I have chatted with parents throughout Ventura County about schools, education and what they look for in a school for their child. And the common thread through all these discussions is that there is no one school that is perfect for every child, but that parents are seeking the school that works for their son or daughter. But what do they look for?

Some Things to consider (not necessarily in order of importance, each family knows what is most important for them):
-Academics/State rankings
-Experience level of teachers (prospective parents should be able to visit classrooms when in session, contact the principal to set up a day to visit)
-Services for students with special needs
-Programs/services for non native english speakers & assessment
-School environment (visit the campus when school is in session, and out. How does staff respond? What does the campus "feel" like?
-District environment (attend a school board meeting, meet with the superintendent)
-Matriculation (remember to check middle school and high school. Elementary parents sometimes forget to visit these schools as it may be years before their child attends them.)
-Student Assessment (some districts only rely on state tests, while others conduct their own periodic assessments based on district benchmarks)
-Music & Art programs
-Quality of School Counselors
-Credentials of Teachers, Principals
-Focus of curriculum (magnet school, focus, charter)
-Parent Involvement Encouraged
-Technology used in teaching
.... and so on...

Academics surely play an important role. Every parent wants their child to attend a school that will provide a quality foundation for learning, achievement and success throughout their lives. Schools and districts are scrambling to meet state requirements with ever shrinking budgets. Some schools are making it happen. Recently in FUSD we’ve heard board members ask District staff what the district needs to do in order to attract students. Having a quality program was the response. Yes, I agree with that. But for many parents, myself included the environment and culture of the district is equally if not more important.

Parents want to know that they and their child are welcomed at the school and not only when they are happy but especially when they have a complaint or concern. For several years this has been a struggle of FUSD. Some parents and staff report feeling that FUSD is a hostile environment for anyone who has questions or concerns. Over recent months the school board has heard from several parents expressing these feelings and seems either unwilling or unable to make any real changes, give any directives to staff, or even add an item on the agenda to discuss it. One way that the Board could make a change is to bring more of it’s business into the light of day. Recently the Board voted to approve the recommended action of serving notices on many staff members that they may not have a job next year. Yes, this is needed now because no one knows what is going to happen with the state budget. BUT, the Board made this vote in less than two minutes. No discussion. No questions. No mention of how it might actually affect the students. What is this year’s motto? Oh yes, “Students First”. Now I am sure that Board members made phone calls, had meetings and gathered info on their own time, but what they continually fail to do is report these findings to the public when the item is on the agena. The main reason they are sitting at that table is to hold public meetings in order to report on the processes they are involved in while making decisions. The public has the perception, and I think rightly so, that the Board is making it’s decisions before it sits down at Board meetings. This is not the way for a publicly elected body to conduct business. It is legally required and ethically necessary to have these discussions, provide information and explain their positions in an open and transparent manner to the public. If it’s on the agenda for open session the discussion MUST take place in front of the public. Remember that not only is the Board ultimately responsible for the District acting in a legal and forthright manner in ALL things, but also it is also responsible for the publics’ perception of how it does business. It appears that when a parent, staff member or resident perceives a level of deception the Board blames that person, instead of asking “How can we conduct business in a way to improve the publics perception?” the Board has the power to alter the way it conducts business and bring it out into the light of day. Board reports are not intended to inform the public about dinners, basketball games and art shows, but for the Board members to report on issues of concern, what are they doing about the issues that are brought to them. Ms. Rangel, you have tried to get AR on the agenda and you don’t seem to have support from fellow board member or staff, so prepare your own report and present during “Board Reports”. Mr. Garnica, you have asked staff about test scores (state and AP) you can find all this info online and report it promptly during “Board Reports”. (Sidebar: I do want to commend Mr. Garnica on actually having the where-with-all to want to see the actual contract the Board was recently asked to enter into. The actual text was not included in the packet prepared by staff. He and Ms. Rangel objected to entering into the contract "site unseen". I think that may be the only 3-2 vote of the school board in recent memory.) The public wants the Board to show leadership and get those administrators that sit around you to demonstrate why taxpayers should continue to pay their salaries. If you have questions, ask them in those public meetings, and don’t let them off the hook by saying “Don’t answer this now”. I think that the School Board changing the way it conducts business would do wonders for the publics perception.

Tearing down fences. FUSD has spent tens of thousands of dollars to put up fences around the schools. The idea is that this is for safety, and surely it is appropriate at many places on a school campus, around play areas and ball fields for example. But how does it make you feel when you walk onto a campus closed in by iron fences? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m walking into a prison. Have you ever walked onto a high school that does not have these fences? They are getting rare, but they do exist. Try it sometime. Imagine you are a student, which campus would you prefer? And I will suggest that this holds true whether the student is an “A” student or one who’s GPA is less than ideal. I have asked our local law enforcement officials to comment on the use of fences around school, and whether or not it has reduced crime on campuses, I expect their response soon. Piru Elementary alone has received over $19,000.00 in new fences this year, and I’ve asked about whether or not there were incidents that warranted those fences. Perhaps our community is a place where prison-like fences are needed around schools. If so, it makes you think. Is that the community you want your kids attending school in?

Parent Involvement Opportunities. My son attends school in a different district. A major reason for that is the environment on campus and throughout the district. When we go on campus, at his school, the middle school, or the high school, we are greeted with “hellos” and smiles. We feel welcomed. My experience on FUSD campuses is quite different. Parents I have spoken with share similar reports. They do not feel welcomed when they come onto campus. A school can offer many so called opportunities for parents to volunteer and help, but if parents don't feel comfortable and welcomed, they won't come. This seems like common sense. The experience of a welcoming environment is an intangible and sometimes hard to articulate experience, but it starts with culture. What kind of culture does this district cultivate when it comes to parental involvement? What kind of feeling do parents get when they call the office? Are they ever thanked for bringing something to the attention of administrators?

Choosing a school involves many things. Quality academics are just one aspect. I continue to hope that the FUSD school board will soon begin to model the type of open and accountable culture that the public has been asking for. Maybe then the district won’t have to worry so much about declining enrollment and will be able to lure students from other districts.

Next week: Transfer Options for Families in Ventura County



Recently on PBS I saw an excerpt about a man who who created You Tube videos to tutor his cousin in math. These are wonderful, and cover a variety of areas, from word problems to complex calculus. It is FREE, students can watch it over and over and over if they need to. Talk about building confidence. Some schools are even using his videos. Check it out.

You can go to the website and see the HUGE list of videos available for FREE !!!! here is the link:
and guess what.. he has videos organized by level, AND for the California Standards Test, in Algebra level I, level II and in Geometry !!! I'm so excited about this, I hope ALL math teachers see this. And all parents of kids starting to get to this level... this is such a wonderful tool and did I mention it is FREE !!!!

Here is an example of "Converting fractions into Decimals"...

these are so wonderful I just wanted to share a few more:


Services Reduction, Budget Planning

Here is a link to the video for the School Board's special meeting on March 8, 2011.
I was ill and unable to attend and continue to be thankful that the camera was present.

Some items of interest:
Public Comment (2:58-5:06), High School Health Ed Teacher Theresa Marvel speaking on the importance of maintaining rigor in the curriculum.

Services Reduction Actions: (time 12:00 starts) Superintendent Jeff Sweeney comments on the decisions being made now to create flexibility based on "Fiduciary Responsibility". Many staff members, teachers, admin will receive notices as required by the March 15 deadline. Board Members express their apologies regarding presenting notices.

As I listen to this, there is not one question asked by Board members. Not one. Again I wonder if they are having conversation away from the dias, but they should be reporting on their fact/information finding efforts. The public is not seeing any of the process that the Board goes through to decide what programs services and therefore what staff members are being noticed. And again I heard no discussion about how these decisions will affect students and classrooms.

And notice the dynamic between the Board members and staff. Who is in charge of deciding the agenda for meetings?
Who do you think should be in charge? Who is running those Board meetings anyway?



Fillmore Fire Department
Chief's Corner
Smoke Alarms
Rigo Landeros, 
Fillmore Fire Chief
Rigo Landeros, Fillmore Fire Chief

There are two important tasks that each of us need to accomplish on Sunday March 13. One is to reset our clocks by moving them ahead one hour as we adjust to daylight savings time. The other is to check and replace the batteries in our household smoke alarms. Accomplishing the first might save our jobs; accomplishing the second might save our lives.

Studies have shown that when working smoke alarms are present, the chance of dying from the fire is cut in half. The smoke alarms currently in use have saved thousands of lives, but several problems exist. First, the small percentage of homes without alarms have more than half of the fatal fires; second, it is estimated that a third of the smoke alarms in place are not working, often due to failure to replace a worn out or missing battery; and third, many homes do not have sufficient number of smoke to protect the home adequately.

The primary job of a smoke alarm is to protect us from fires while we are asleep. Therefore, our smoke alarms should be located between places where we sleep and the rest of the house. However that might not be enough.
In multi-story homes, fires on a floor level without a smoke alarm can grow too dangerous conditions before sufficient smoke will rise in a stairway to set off an alarm on the upper floor. Based on this factor smoke alarms should be located on each floor level of the home.

A closed door inhibits smoke from reaching the room on the other side, but it also prevents smoke from reaching a smoke alarm. This is particularly a problem in bedrooms. Those who sleep with their bedroom door closed should add a smoke alarm in the bedroom; especially if they smoke in the bedroom or there is a TV, air conditioner, space heater, or other major appliances in the bedroom that might start a fire. For those who sleep with the bedroom door open, the alarm in the hall outside will detect a fire in the bedroom.

Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or high on the wall. Alarms should be no closer than three feet from supply registers of forced air heating and cooling systems that might blow on the detector preventing it from seeing smoke, and no closer than three feet from the door to a kitchen or a bathroom containing a shower as steam can set the alarm off when the door is opened.

There are some places where a smoke alarm need not be installed. They include kitchens and garages where cooking fumes and car exhaust are likely to set them off. Nor need they be placed in unheated attics and crawl spaces where it can get too cold or hot for the electronics to work properly. Fires beginning in these areas are generally detected by the other smoke alarms in the structure and in sufficient time to escape safely.

Most alarms installed today have a life span of about 8-10 years. After that time, each unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase on the inside of the alarm so you will know when to replace it. Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm "Chirps", it is indicating that the battery is low and should be replaced immediately.

Special precautions should be taken with the very young, the elderly, the hard of hearing and very sound sleepers; they may not be awakened by a sounding smoke alarm. It is a good idea to hold a nighttime fire drill by setting off the smoke alarm and determining which individuals were not awakened. In such cases alternate methods could be devised to alert them such as assigning an adult to make sure that they are awakened in a real emergency. Individuals with hearing impairments can get smoke alarms with bright, flashing lights or vibrating signals. To awaken them, the light needs to be over the head of the bed and should be rated at least 110 candles. Such bright lights must be powered from house power, so if it is battery operated, it is probably not bright enough to use in the bedroom.

If you rent, talk to your landlord about placing a working smoke alarm in your home. You still need to buy a new battery at least once a year for the alarm.

Let’s all enjoy the spring weather and protect our loved ones by taking a few minutes out of our day and set our clocks and change our batteries on our smoke detectors on March 13, 2011.



Watch this short video clip here:

What do you think?
Is our education system broken?

How Does Your Neighborhood School Score?

SARC (School Accountability Report Cards) are available for the 2009-2010 school year. According to the California Department of Education ( " California public schools annually provide information about themselves to the community allowing the public to evaluate and compare schools for student achievement, environment, resources and demographics"

Each District is required to have the reports available for parents. Here is a link to the reports online:

What do you think? What grade would you give your local school? Post your comment here?
What looks good? What do you think should be improved?

Folks can request a print out of their schools report from the District. Forms should be available at each school, although according to recent information from the District attorney (see information this week in the Gazette) the District must respond to any written request that is presented. I would assume that the written request must be clear and legible so that the District knows what is being requested. But they must respond to an email request, and a particular form is not necessary. Although it might make it easier for District staff to respond to the request.


Here is an excerpt from this blog post on the Students First website, click the link to see the full post

by Ma'ayan Weinberg "Teachers bear the brunt of uncertainty"

All across the country, from California to Rhode Island to New York, budget cuts threaten the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers in the worst round of potential layoffs in decades. Just last week, it was announced that Providence, Rhode Island, for example, would send termination notices to each of the district's 2,000 teachers—a preemptive measure against a $40 million budget deficit. Meanwhile, Cleveland, Ohio projects laying off 20 percent of its teachers.

Meet Ma'ayan Weinberg, a third year high school teacher in Los Angeles, who has become accustomed to the annual spring ritual of budget cuts. Since stepping foot into the classroom three years ago, she has received a pink slip every single year. She managed to avoid losing her job because she teaches math, a difficult to staff subject. Here, she describes the threat of layoffs that are predicted for this year in not only in Los Angeles, but in districts nationwide.

During my first year as a teacher, I received a Reduction in Force (RIF) notice. As our school district faces budget shortfalls, they have turned to laying off teachers in the past years to cut spending. RIFs are used to notify teachers that they may not have a position in the coming school year. As a secondary math teacher, my RIF was later rescinded because the position is difficult to staff, but not before I saw the devastating effects of RIFs on not only my school, but my students.

I work in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) at a particularly challenging school, which suffers from high teacher turnover and a very young staff. As a result, more than half of our teachers received a RIF notice in any given year; meanwhile, other schools in the same district lost only one or two.

The first effect came with the first round of RIFs. We explained to our students what was happening, that we might not be able to return to the school next year. Our kids do not understand the seniority system. They could not understand why we would be let go when other teachers that did not teach were allowed to stay. In their minds, you are fired for not doing your job, not for being the last to get the job. The confusion was heartbreaking.

The second blow came the following year when teachers who did not want to be in our school were pushed in to fill the vacant positions. These were sometimes teachers who had made a conscious decision to no longer work in the classroom. After the RIFs, our open positions were their only option. At our school, you have to want to be here. You have to love the kids. That second year, students came to me upset because their teacher had no interest in them, did not want to teach them, and at times did not even show up to school for weeks or months at a time. .. continued on:

"We are at a point where the Superintendent needs to start thinking about a different way of operating the District"---Asst. Superintendent Mike Bush

I was unable to attend this study session but luckily the Gazette was able to send the big camera to record it.
(minus a few minutes at the beginning) : Please post any comments or questions.
And remember that the second Budget Study Session is set for Tuesday, March 8th at 6:30,

I"m still waiting for the new Board members to request a review and evaluation of District Administrative compensation packages. Here are some items in the video that I think are highlights:

In this video we hear Assistant Superintendent Mike Bush state for the worst case Budget scenario it would mean "hardly any cabinet, hardly any District Office staff, hardly any site administration, very high class [size], probably every third or fourth night clean, once every two weeks cutting grass, it's radical." Later in his presentation he states that the District needs to evaluate it's Administrator to Student ratio at the High School, which is now (due to declining enrollment, many at 11th & 12th grade) at 325 students per administrator. "That is at Piru levels" he states. The middle school is at about 800 students per admin. "It's something we need to look at" he suggests.

After Bush completes his presentation, Board Member Tony Prado asks "What are the other Districts doing to raid other Districts?" Here Prado is referring to those families who choose to leave FUSD for other Districts. Some we know leave because their children require special services that they struggle to get in Fillmore but are welcomed in Moorpark or other districts with space. Some families are concerned with the low academic performance of FUSD schools and exercise their legal right to leave the District to attend a better school. Bush correctly responded "The main thing to attract people from other Districts is to have a quality program." He hit the nail on the head with that one. Can you imagine? Students leaving a district to go to a better program? It's pretty hard to imagine that. I do apologize for my sarcasm there. But this is what many parents have been saying for several years. It is likely to take more than a brand new track to lure students to Fillmore, or convince them to stay. It may actually take a budget crisis for FUSD to realize the importance of having a quality program to attract students. A big issue with District run schools across the country is that they have always had an automatic stream of students. The quality of their program didn't matter. Student would come to their schools because they were the only option. Now parents are waking up. They have school choice. District of choice. They can take their child out of district, or out of their service area to other public schools that are better for their child. It seems that there may be a silver lining to this budget crisis, that Districts, including FUSD will get improve their programs and will work harder to provide the quality education that is a legal (and I think human) right of every child. I wish I would have been there because I would have applauded Bush's statement.

Some other items of interest:
The recommendation is to "overnotice" and then in May will have a better idea about what is going to happen.
Bush recommends that the Board approve a budget planning on a $340 per ADA reduction, with enough reduction in staff to be able to handle the $640 per ADA reduction that is a possibility.
One furlough day saves the District $118,000 which is roughly the same as increasing class size at the high school and reducing teaching staff by two teachers. Currently the high school is overstaffed by two teachers, by reducing teaching staff by two, it would increase class size by two students.

I wonder about the resources that are going elsewhere, for example, according to District reports provided during school Board meetings, the District paid $22,162.23 in legal fees just for the month of January 2011. How do those attorney's serve the students in the District? How are those legal services vital to a quality education? What kind of environment is being created that requires a district to pay such high legal fees? Just asking.

CNN "Why America's Teachers are enraged"

Here is a short post regarding the events in Wisconsin and America's teachers. This posting received over 40,000 comments on facebook. What a hot topic. What do you think?
She mentions the movie "Waiting for Superman" and that it makes claims that bad teachers are responsible for low test scores, I do not agree that the movie made that claim, but it is true that teachers and their unions seem to be under attack recently. Why do you think that is?

Here is a link to the posting on CNN's page:

And here is a link to that posts Author Diane Ravitch being interviewed on NPR:

And one more link to an older story with Ravitch, who was an advocate now turned critic of No Child Left Behind:


According to a story printed over the weekend, the non profit organization CalAware conducted an audit of Districts across the state. Many did poorly. FUSD received an "F", and it was noted that FUSD in fact did not respond at all to requests for information. School Districts are in fact required by law to respond to requests for public information. Here is a link to the article in the Ventura County Star:

What has been your experience in requesting information from FUSD?


Video Highlights from CIF competition. See match report following videos for full details.

Fillmore Wrestling CIF Conaway's First Match

Fillmore Wrestling CIF Orosco's First Match

Fillmore Wrestling CIF Zavala Second Match

Fillmore Wrestling CIF Conaway's Third Match


Flashes attend and participate in the CIF Southern Section Central Division Individual Wrestling Tournament this past weekend.

The host school was Colony High School in Ontario. The tournament was run extremely well with six mat of wrestling action taking place from 11 AM on Friday to 7 PM.
To advance to the Quarter, Semi and Finals on Saturday a wrestler would have to win three matches in the double elimination tournament. On average each weight bracket had about 30 wrestlers competing. By rough calculations that equates to 420 wrestlers participating in the tournament.

Flashes earning the right to represent their school were; Robert Bonilla, Mark Zavala, Kyle Castaneda, Jonathon Minero, Alex Rivera, Christian Conaway, Marco Vega and Sammy Orosco.

Wrestlers who had a bye the first round were; Minero, Rivera and Orosco.
Conaway won his first match by pin. The remainder of the Flashes lost their first match.

Zavala won his second match by injury forfeit. Orosco won his second round match by pin. Conaway wrestled the #1 seed and lost by pin, the remainder of the Flashes lost their second round matches.

Conaway won his third round match by pin in 25 seconds. Most of the other Flashes lost their third round matches and were eliminated from the competition.

Orosco and Conaway advanced to the 4th round. Conaway lost his fourth round match with less than 1 second remaining in the 1st period. Both Conaway and his opponent were wrestling like fighting snakes on the mat with each earning take down points, and back points and reversal points during the first period. The official questioned the timer to see if the pin call happened on the buzzer or after. It was ruled that the pin was at the buzzer which handed Conaway his fourth loss eliminating him from advancing further.
Orosco wrestled the #1 seed in his weight class for the fourth round. Sammy lost the match on points. Sammy went the full count with the #1 seed and wasn’t pinned, which was an amazing feat.

Orosco advanced to wrestle on Saturday but was handed his second loss by points.

Hats off to Flashes Wrestling and the Wrestlers for having a vision all season and staying focused on their goal. While the outcome wasn’t the dream finish some had hoped for they represented themselves with pride, wrestled full speed all year under a very aggressive 40 match season (not including League Finals or CIF ) and earned the respect of the Tri Valley League and beyond.
All of their success wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for Coach Bob Calderon who donates so much of his time, talent and resources. He’s coached Flashes Wrestling for 24 years and does so with passion for the sport and the kids. Coach Manual Ponce is the driving force for motivating and teaching the wrestlers. Coach Cal and Coach Manual work well together as can be verified by the number of dedicated wrestler who earned league championships.

Flashes CIF Video Match Highlights to be uploaded shortly.

Looking forward the Flashes will have their Wrestling Banquet and awards.

Concerns, Issues regarding Building/Inspection, Safety, Fire, to be brought before State Politicians

I have been contacted by someone with contacts at the State level who "will be speaking with the Politicians in Sacramento" in the coming weeks and specifically wants to hear from residents, parents, students, staff of FUSD on
any issues regarding Building, Safety, Fire etc within FUSD.

If you have any concerns regarding issues at any site, or with building/inspection etc.
Please write something up, indicate which site and please be specific about the problem or issue.

We need this info by the end of this week.
Please email to
or post as a comment here. I can only accept comments with names so that I can verify the issue, and contact you if necessary. If you send an email and indicate that you wish to remain anonymous that is fine.

Happy Monday, Kim


A select few Flashes Wrestlers will get an early start to their day Friday, February 18. Coach Bob will load up 8 Flashes that qualified to compete in the CIF Southern Section Central Division Individuals and will hit the road at 5:30 AM. The squad will travel to Colony High School in Ontario for the 8 AM sign ins, followed by the 9 AM weight check. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 11 AM.

To prepare for CIF Individuals the squad has practiced with other Tri-Valley League elite wrestlers who will be competing at the event. Fillmore, Nordoff and Santa Paula have been working out together and running drill after drill to fine tune their skills. The workouts have been good for many as the new routines have caused them to rethink their norms and try new skills.

Coach Bob provided some clarity to the wrestlers during a brief break on Tuesday. With his squad of wrestlers gathered around him he said, "It's up to you, if you want it you have to have heart and go out and get it. That doesn't apply just to wrestling that applies to life in general". Well said Coach.

For the 2010-2011 season Fillmore Flashes Wrestling has stood up to make a statement about who they are and what they are capable of. This coming weekend the Flashes will be tested. As with physically demanding sports, an athlete’s health can be a factor due to the length of the season, this may be the case this weekend. Win or lose, we know what is in the hearts of these young men.

Representing their League, their school and now themselves this weekend are:
Robert Bonilla
Mark Zavala
Kyle Castaneda
Jonathon Minero
Alex Rivera
Christian Conaway
Marco Vega
Sammy Orozco

Trivia. It's not uncommon to see military influence at large tournaments. Why would the Navy or Army have a presence at a wrestling tournament? During one conversation with an Armed Forces Representative it was gleaned that the members present were from elite sections of our military, Rangers and SEALS to reference a few. Sound strange? Their answer as to why they have a presence says it all. We know wrestlers are tough, they're physically fit, they are disciplined, they follow direction, they don't give up, they don't harbor ill will or linger on a loss, they get back up and try again and they do it over and over again. These are the same qualities that a successful Special Forces member must possess.

Lady Flashes control the mat

This week the focus is on our Lady Flashes Wrestlers. Female High School Wrestling is a sport recognized by CIF, in which female wrestlers can earn their Letter in. The sport is the great equalizer and the rules are the same for males as they are for females. Talent and ability is rewarded based upon the athletes performance. Today's video clips highlight some of the Lady Flashes at the Tri Valley League Finals. By all accounts female participating in the sport is on the upswing.

Alvarez vs Santa Paula Championship Match

F Zavala vs Santa Paula Championship Match

Rivera vs Nordoff Championship Match

Curriculum Audits at Piru and Middle School; Graduation Requirements; Budget Update Etc.

Below are several segments from the January 18, 2011 School Board Meeting. Our goal is to start recording all meetings, and get the videos posted promptly. You'll notice that we've "cut" it up so that you can watch the segments that you're interested in.
Remember the next meeting is February 15th at Piru Elementary School.

Future Farmers of America report by Brooke Aguirre and "Students First" award to Janice Schieferle

Curriculum Audit Report from Principals at: Piru Elementary School and Fillmore Middle School:

Student Rep (Sean Chandler) and Board Member Reports:

Discussion on Jeff Sweeney's suggestion to begin to examine graduation requirements:
Graduation Requirements

Budget Update:

Coach Calderon with his team.
Coach Calderon with his team.
Enlarge Photo

Numerous Flashes earn league Championships at the 2010-2011 Tri Valley League Individual Championship Tournament
On Thursday, 2/3/11, The Flashes Wrestlers traveled to New Jewish Community Center in West Hills for the Tri Valley League Individual Championships hosted by New Jewish Community High School. The Jaguars are year two into their wrestling program. Based upon the physical conditioning and team growth rate since last year their future looks bright. They did an outstanding job hosting the League Finals by all measurements.
Several of the Flashes wrestlers had their game face on early in the day. Some teams can be described as “mat rats”, always on the mat and moving. The Flashes have been called “mat possums” by Coach Cal. By all outward appearances they look dead then come to life at the Officials starting whistle. The Flashes are introverted and almost silent while waiting for the action to begin. They walk slow, but with purpose, heading to the score table. Yep, mat possums says it all.
Prior to each wrestler taking to the mat the team “sends out” their wrestler. It’s the equivalent of a lying on of hands sort of thing accompanied by a team shout of the wrestlers name or nickname and the team motto. Early in the season the team came up with the motto “DO WORK”. Fitting for a team who had their eyes on the prize and knew what it’d take to get there. And get there they did. Their effort can be seen by the Individual league results below.
First and Second Place in each weight category advance to CIF Individuals, for the rest their season is over. Expectations ran high amongst the Flashes Coaching Staff and the Team. Parents and Fans also had high expectations for a lengthened season. And the results are in:
105 Girls: Felicity Zavala 1st
160 Girls: Alexis Ramirez 1st
119: Robert Bonilla 2nd
130: Mark Zavala. 1st
135: Kyle Castenada 1st
140: Johnny Minero 1st
145: Alex Rivera 1st
152: Christian Conaway 1st
215: Sammy Orosco 1st
Additionally the League awards two wrestlers with MVP status based upon their record and effort throughout the season. Flashes Co-Captain Christian Conaway, 33-7, was awarded the Upper Weight Tri Valley League MVP by unanimous vote. The Flashes took home a Team tournament 2nd Place and 2nd Place in Team League Standing for the season.
The Individual CIF Southern Section Division Individual Tournament will be held February 19 and 20th. The location is TBA. “DO WORK” and Go Flashes!

The Egyptian Revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood

Welcome to the Global Issues and Terorism Blog site.
My name is Mark Trimble, I am a retired Law Enforcement Operations/Special Operations Commander. I have spent over a decade researching and studying Radical Islam and Terrorism. I work as an Independant Security Contractor during which time I have traveled to the Middle East to train with and be briefed by Israeli Military Intelligence,Israeli Intelligence, Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces, and high level members of the Israeli goverment. I have spent time in terrorist controlled areas of Gaza and the West Bank. I have also trained with members of the United States Army Special Operations Forces who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The premise of this Blog is to report terrorist activity in the U.S. and Internationally, and to evaluate the threat that activity represents worldwide.
Thank you for taking the time to review the Blog site. I welcome your comments and questions which can be addressed to

The Egyptian Revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood

The posture of the protests in Egypt has quickly changed over the past week. The protest movement started out as a legitimate positive pro freedom movement. This movement has been co-opted by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and turned violent.
The MB was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. Its expressed stated purpose was to 1) Implement Sharia Law worldwide, 2) Establish the Global Islamic State (caliphate). Former MB Supreme Guide Muhammed Akef stated in 2004, his "complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America." In 2001, the MB publication in London, called Risalat al-Ikhwan stated as its cover slogan: "Our Mission:World Domination." The MB has been one of the most anti-Western, jihadist supporting organizations in the Middle East for decades. They believe and have taught that Islam is the only answer, and violent jihad is the way. Osama bin Laden was recruited into the MB by a Syrian school teacher, and his deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri was also a a part of the Brotherhood until they joined forces to build the terrorist group al-Qaeda, an even more violent and radical Islamist group.

A person who has been been pushed to the forefront to take over leadership in Egypt is Mohamed ElBaradei. He is a Nobel laureate, who was born to a middle class family in Cairo in 1942. He was largely educated in the West. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Cairo; and he went on to earn an advanced degree in Switzerland and later a Ph.D. in International Law from New York University.
From 1997 to 2009 he was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is the United Nations nuclear watchdog. During that time the Iranians repeatedly lied to ElBaradei's face about the the development of their nuclear enrichment program. He either allowed the Iranians to lie to him or he did not know the differance. During those 12 years Iran dramatically accelerated their enrichment program in direct violation of U.N. resolutions and international law. Irans stated purpose for development of the nuclear bomb is to destroy Israel and the United States.
ElBaradei never indicated any concern as Iran built three secret nuclear facilities during those years. He seemed to never know or express care over Iran's nuclear ambitions until intelligence agencies called his attention to them.
ElBaradei in an interview with CNN on January 30th, 2011 flatly denied that the Muslim Brotherhood is a fundamentalist Islamic organization, claiming that this was "a myth that was sold by Mubarak (current Egyptian president) regime." He went on to deny that if the Brotherhood gained control of the Egyptian government they wouldn't create a radical Islamic regime that would be similar to what happened in Iran in 1979. In an interview with the German publication, Der Spiegel, ElBraradei said: "We should stop demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood," adding that "they have not committed any acts of violence in five decades. They too want change. If we want democracy and freedom, we have to include them instead of marginalizing them."
Egypt receieves the second most U.S. aid of any country in the Middle East, and their military possesses U.S. weapons.
If ElBaradei is placed in leadership in Egypt, with his history of either being inept or intentionally looking the other way has Iran developed its nuclear enrichment program, this could further destabilize an already fragile Middle Eastern region. He has been an apologist for Iran saying, "building trust" and more "negotiations" will actually stop Iran from getting the bomb and using it for their publically stated intent to destroy the U.S. and Israel.

Budget Breakdown and Site Budgets

School Matters Post

Questions received via email:

“How much of the budget is spent on Administrative salaries and compensation?”
- FUSD Teacher

“It may be helpful to show a breakdown of expenses in the District, including books and supplies, facilities [and so on]”. – Concerned Resident

First, I need to make a correction; in a previous blog post I indicated that the budget for FUSD is $35 million. But according to the projected, unaudited budget (I have requested a copy of the audited budget) dated June 2010 for this current school year the total General Fund budget is $30.7 million but remember budgets are fluid and ever changing, and in school districts they are based on how many students sit in classrooms each day, so we really don’t know the years budget, until the year is over. Make sense?

So if we first look at the pie chart included in the Unaudited Budget dated June 2010 the District reports that it spends 86% of its budget on personnel. According to another chart “management” (salaries only, excluding benefits) expenses makes up 6% of the total budget. Compare that to 42% for certificated employees (teachers) or 4% for books and supplies.
When we look at the actual numbers, based on a print out from the District office dated September 2010 here are the actual numbers, these numbers include salary and benefits representing the total cost to the District for each position.

Certificated Non Management Salaries: $12.4 million
Classified Non Management Salaries: 4.5
Management/Supervisor Salaries: 1.9
Employee Benefits 6.7
Books and Supplies 1.3
Operating 2.7
Capital/Other 0.3
Total Expenditures 29.7
Ending Balance 1.0
Total General Fund 30.7

Administrative Salaries, per report from District office dated September 2010.

Salary Total Expense
Superintendent: $144,046 **$180,293***

**Note: the salary was reported to me upon request. But I have been unable to obtain a report on the actual District expense of all of the benefits and compensation for the position of Superintendent. So, this number of Total Expense for the position of Superintendent is an estimate. Here is how I calculated it:
$144,046 salary
+$ 4,000 – car allowance, per contract dated 2006, $400.00 per month. The contract does not specify if this is paid for 12 months, or only for 10 months during the school year. I assumed that it would only be during the school year so I used $400 x 10 months= $4,000.00)
+$1200.00 – per contract the maximum paid annually for Term Life Insurance
+$1,829 MEDI *
+$920 SUI*
+$3,057 WC*
+$14,871 H/W*
+$10,370 STRS & STRSC*
• These are all estimates taken from the District expense for the Asst. Superintendent position, Educational services. I thought these numbers would be somewhat comparable, if a little on the low side.

=$180,293.00 Total Expense to the District ESTIMATED. Any additional expenses incurred associated with duties are compensated, as well as any additional costs of an annual physical examination not covered by the health insurance provided.
Salary / Total District Expense
Asst. Superintendent, Educ. Services $125,654 / $156,691
After Schl Prog. Coordinator/Stdnt Services $95,456 / $122,626
Asst. Superintendent, HR Director $96,082 / $123,293
Special Ed Coordinator $89,351 / $112,629
Asst. Superintendent, Fiscal Services $124,452 / $154,483
Director, Budget and Accounting $87,360 / $119,965
Director, Facilities and Construction $81,853 / $113,158
Director of Neighborhood for Learning $55,611 / $83,694
Director of Child Nutrition $70,973 / $98,034
Elem. Principal Piru $80,181 / $91, 836
Elem. Principal San Cayetano $92,259 / $110,800
Elem. Principal Sespe $92,259 / $118,986
Elem. Principal Mountain Vista $92,259 / $105,599
Sierra High Principal $81,119 / $115,315
Fillmore High School Principal $111,785 / $141,014
FHS Asst. Principal $87,054 / $110,036
FHS Asst. Principal $100,984 / $128,838

Sub-Total: $2,243,756
Superintendents Salary & Expenses= $180,293.00
Total: $2,424,049
There are some administrative positions that were not included in the report I received. I will be requesting these reports in the next few months. If there is a position that you are curious about, either request the info from the District office, or let me know. All information on compensation of any employee is a matter of public record.

Site Budgets: I thought this was an easy way view the Districts budget; again this is all based on the unaudited budget dated June 2010.

Site Budgets:

Mountain Vista:
Enrollment Projected: 554
Actual as of January 11, 2011 (per the ConAp): 578

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries; 1,650,414 / 1,555,191
Classified Salaries 101,079 / 101,230
Employee Benefits 506,705 / 530,320
Books and Supplies 33,267 / 16,210
Other Services 158,593 / 117,543
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 2,450,058 / 2,320,494

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated /10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 83,953 / 56,945
School Based Coordinated Programs 88,721 / 0
English Language Acq. Program 6,173 / 6,273
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 37,853 / 10,983
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 25,945
Total Expenditures 216,700 / 100,146

Enrollment projected: 346
Actual as of January 11, 2011 (per the ConAp): 306

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 1,028,231 / 992,526
Classified Salaries: 86,319 / 87,104
Employee Benefits: 330,166 / 341,676
Books and Supplies 18,143 / 18,268
Other Services 81,996 / 64,236
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 1,544,855 / 1,503,810

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated /10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 70,254 / 51,079
School Based Coordinated Programs 72,497 / 0
English Language Acq. Program 3,243 / 4,827
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 28,039 / 27,840
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 55,221
Total Expenditures 174,033 / 138,967

San Cayetano:
Enrollment projected: 482
Actual as of January 11, 2011 (per ConAp): 525

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 1,411,118 / 1,312,359
Classified Salaries: 106,246 / 110,882
Employee Benefits: 459,975 / 483,695
Books and Supplies 25,361 / 12,446
Other Services 126,971 / 113,693
Capital Outlay 3,750 / 0
Total Expenditures 2,133,421 / 2,033,075

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated /10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 68,486 / 49,218
School Based Coordinated Programs 76,621 / 0
English Language Acq. Program 6,277 / 6,067
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 28,506 / 28,361
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 53,218
Newhall Grant 10,097 / 0
Total Expenditures 189,987 / 136,864

Enrollment Projected: 470
Actual as of January 11, 2011 (per ConAp): 472

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 1,449,887 / 1.264,003
Classified Salaries: 115,502 / 114,046
Employee Benefits: 461,931 / 448,316
Books and Supplies 24,834 / 16,941
Other Services 72,658 / 70,975
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 2,124,812 / 1,914,281

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated /10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 62,658 / 49,792
School Based Coordinated Programs 79,041 / 0
English Language Acq. Program 7,219 / 7,188
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 31,310 / 31,067
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 53,902
Total Expenditures 180,228 / 141,949

Fillmore Middle School
Projected Enrollment: 766
Actual as of January 11, 2011: 806

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 2,238,901 / 2,158,758
Classified Salaries: 187,842 / 187,552
Employee Benefits: 716,065 / 760,320
Books and Supplies 46,031 / 30,244
Other Services 204,652 / 162,682
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 3,393,491 / 3,299,556

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated / 10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 128,854 / 79,552
School Based Coordinated Programs 127,523 / 0
English Language Acq. Program 30,340 / 28,689
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 42,836 / 42,622
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 86,103
Total Expenditures 329,553 / 236,966

Sierra High School
Projected enrollment: 60
Actual as of January 11, 2011: 68

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 297,187 / 282,896
Classified Salaries: 16,359 / 16,396
Employee Benefits: 111,949 / 118,849
Books and Supplies 10,302 / 4,111
Other Services 30,468 / 21,180
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 466,265 / 443,432

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated / 10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 8,119 / 7,467
School Based Coordinated Programs 10,991 / 0
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 4,137 / 2,319
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 7,581
Total Expenditures 23,247 / 17,367

Fillmore High School
Projected Enrollment: 1085
Actual as of January 11, 2011: 1082

Unrestricted General Fund 2009-10 Estimated / 2010-11 Proposed
Certificated Salaries: 3,064,767 / 2,886,396
Classified Salaries: 337,124 / 362,991
Employee Benefits: 1,031,160 / 1,063,312
Books and Supplies 197,562 / 105,209
Other Services 366,900 / 314,871
Capital Outlay 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 4,997,513 / 4,732,779

Restricted General Fund
Expenditures By Program 09-10 Estimated / 10-11 Proposed
Title I Basic Aid 150,020 / 98,725
School Based Coordinated Programs 164,003 / 0
Title II Vocational Education 26,984 / 24,142
Economic Impact Aid-LEP 38,632 / 38,389
Economic Impact Aid-SCE 0 / 106,728
Agricultural Vocational Education 9,979 / 9,939
California High School Exit Exam 0 / 0
Total Expenditures 389,618 / 277,923

So there you are.

Do you think the money is being spent well?

My next step on this is to get job descriptions of each of the administrative positions.

Remember School Matters.
Post comments below, or send questions and comments to:
Fillmore Gazette Attn: School Matters, 408 Orchard Street, Fillmore 93015

Thanks for reading.


At last nights School Board meeting Board members Tony Prado, Lucy Rangel ad Dave Wilde all commented on this video that Assist. Superintendent Director of Educational Services Katy Hadley showed at a recent workshop they attended.

The video did float around facebook a while back. Check it out:

So what do you think?
It seems a pretty daunting task to prepare students for jobs that don't even exist yet with technology that will be outdated by the time they graduate from high school.
But what about the idea that instead of preparing students for jobs.... (Ok let's really get outside the box here) public education needs to shift its goal to preparing students to become.... thinkers, problem solvers, and entrepreneurs. To provide them with skills to think on their feet and to meet the demands of whatever is thrown their way. What about preparing students to have the confidence to question the status quo? To imagine that success is not always defined by the amount of money you make or what corporation your work for but by what you contribute to your community or even something as seemingly small as making a child smile.

I was recently listening to an author from India being interviewed about the great progress happening in India. He spoke about how every single successful person he knew in India, who had risen up out of the chaste (or class) of their parents... every single one worked for themselves. They created their own job. This got me thinking, in the US we hear all about job creation, and many expect our governments to seemingly wave a magic wand, or maybe a dollar, and *poof* create hundreds of thousands of jobs. But what about the idea that folks need to start preparing to climb out of that box, to think about filling the needs of their community, and creating their own jobs. Doesnt' work for every single person, but think about even the effect of a small shift. Hummmm.

Look around our world. Egypt. Tunisia. Los Angeles. And sometimes even yes, our own Communities of Fillmore, Piru and all of Ventura County. Public Education needs to shift its goals, challenge students to build their confidence in ways that they can find their passion, their contribution, their voice and take it out into their community in a positive way. It’s beyond jobs. It comes down to do we want kids trained to get an A, B or a C (I think our current system even trains some kids to get D’s and F’s…) or do we want them to be confident enough to fail… and keep going…. and get up again and keep going.

What would they do if they knew they would not fail?

What would they do if there were TRULY no stupid questions?

Maybe they just might solve the world’s problems that we don’t even know exist yet.
Just maybe.