Letters to the Editor
April 15th, 2010

To the Editor:
I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the success of Fillmore High School's twelfth annual arts show "Art Unleashed". It takes a lot of people and a lot of hard work, dedication and talent to coordinate an event such as this. Thank you to Fillmore Lions Club, Fillmore High School ASB and Lucy Quezada-Romero for your donations and for being a patron of this event for the past 12 years. Thank you to the Administration at Fillmore High School for your ongoing commitment to this event, and to Principal John Wilber who has seen to it that we get what we need to keep the show going year after year… To the staff and teachers at FHS who supported the student’s efforts and allowed students to take part in hanging the show…To the custodial staff- Larry, Baldo, and Tony thanks for helping with breaking down the show. Special thanks to Greg Godfrey and the fantastic members of the Fillmore High School Concert Band and the Fillmore High School Jazz Band who played at the event- the musical concert helped to make the evening a resounding success… To Mary Ellen Wortham and FHS photo department and Mr. Henry Beltran and the woodshop classes for your artwork. … To Josh Overton, the drama department and the poetry club for the outstanding performances. Thank you to the parents and the community who attended the show and helped to make this a special night for the students. Last, but not least, to all the student artists, actors, poets, and musicians who put in numerous hours preparing for this event, hosting and cleaning up after a long day and night- especially my Art students and former students who came back to help- thank you- without you there couldn't be a show. I am very proud of all of you.
Rosalind Mitzenmacher
Fillmore High School Art Department

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To the Editor:
Dear Honorable Gallegly,
I feel compelled, as it is in my core nature not ever to give up, that after my call today to your office for advice or assistance with the GMAC mortgage Company who has violated my 30 fixed rate mortgage contract, and after getting the generic redirect to two agencies (one the Cabrillo Housing Authority for migrant workers and another to an agency who's call center's unfortunate ability to speak English clearly....I could not understand) from your staff, that I as of today am throwing my full vote(s) and donations to the Tea Party movement and candidates.
In short I and my wife have all documents, statements, letters, phone records, etc.; to prove we fulfilled all our obligations to GMAC for over 23 years without missing any payments; however they changed my interest rate and maturity date for my house without cause or proof that I have asked for numerous times in writing. And even the CA. State Department of Corporation has ignored my request for a finding, but has told me over the phone that I am correct in my complaint, however I presume for some political or economic reason they choose not to pursue this with GMAC.
Well if you have bothered to read this far, I and my family have all been "dyed in the wool Republicans" however as of today I quit. And I will council my family to do likewise.
Sincerely,
Joe D Blaylock
Fillmore

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To the Editor:
As a resident of the city of Piru and a former Piru Elementary School student I felt compelled to make my voice heard in support of Piru Charter School.
When my homeschooled child came to me interested in attending public school I began researching how our local schools were performing academically.
In my research I discovered that Piru Elementary School only ranks 11 according to API scores (0 being worst and 100 being best). With Further research attained at www.greatschools.org I was able to make a comparison based on API scores between those schools within a 10 mile radius of our city. The results are as followed:
School Name followed by API score: Piru Elementary 739; San Cayetano Elementary 706; Sespe Elementary 770; Barbara Webster Elementary (Santa Paula) 740; Santa Clara Elementary (Santa Paula @ HWY 126) 936; Campus Canyon Elementary (Moorpark) 818; Walnut Canyon Elementary (Moorpark) 854; Castaic Elementary 857.
Because my child’s education comes first I sought out to find a school that would challenge him.
When it was brought to my attention there was a petition to convert Piru Elementary into a charter school I felt a spark of hope as I had visited Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School located in Castaic.
I knew that charter meant a required API score of no less than 800. It meant smaller classroom sizes. It meant funding would be controlled by the charter school therefore; any needs of the school could be met in a prompter manner.
What I know it does not mean is that minorities will be deported if not here legally nor will they lose their homes as I have heard many non-charter members use as what I call a bullying tactic. As I sat amongst families of Indian and Hispanic descent everyone at the tour was encouraged to enroll their children and no one was told that they could not enroll their child if they were not here legally.
To the teachers who have challenged the Fillmore Unified School District I say thank you for being selfless and putting the needs of the children of Piru first!
To the Fillmore Unified School District I say you should be ashamed of yourself; Piru Elementary School did not run itself into the ground!
Finally, to the Piru community let us come together in support of change for the best interest of our children! Let us give the children of Piru the opportunity to be the next lawyer, the next astronaut, or even the next president of the United States of America. Why not? In America anything is possible.
A Piru Charter School Supporter

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To the Editor:
Yo soy mexicana-americana. Mi padre de Mexicali. Sin cambio en la escuela de primaria de Piru, los hijos de Piru tendrá que trabajar más duro para aprender lo que es necesario para llegar a la Universidad. Piru Elementary School hoy sólo ocupa el 11 en el estado (cero ser peor y un centenar de ser mejor) de acuerdo con los exámenes de que cada niño toma anualmente. Esto no es bueno. Recuerde por qué llegó a este estado-para una vida mejor para usted y su familia. Concedamos a los hijos de Piru la oportunidad de ser el abogado siguiente, astronauta o incluso el próximo Presidente de los Estados Unidos. ¿Por qué no? En América, todo es posible. Hacer oír su voz – apoyo Piru Charter School.

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To the Editor:
As a member of this community I am very sad and disturbed by what is going on in Piru, in regards to converting Piru Elementary School to a charter. Lets face it we all pretty much want the same things for our children in regards to education. And its easy to say that we all have our own childrens best intrest at heart. As parents we can weigh the options and decide what is best for our children. So why are parents, students, community leaders and half of the teachers being railroaded into a charter school.
Even though the majority of parents dont beieve it is whats best for their children, the charter petitioners have totally disregarded what they want, and are continuing to fight the communitys wishes. Are these practices going to be applied to your new charter if allowed to convert Piru Elementary School in the fall? Is this really whats best for our children?
A charter school should be a collaberation between founding members, teachers and parents. What happened to the collaberating? ARe you only collaberating with a select group of parents that dont represent the majority of the school? Who will protct the ununionized teachers or the students from this type of collaberation? What if a parent has a dipute with a teacher or founding member that cant be resolved locally? Will that student be disenrolled from your charter school like has been done in the past?(Yes it has been done google it)
Yes you can say test scores went up when Mrs. Jolley came to Piru school. im sure she did her share, but what about the rest of the hard working teachers (which Piru will loose half of) if converted in the fall. I wonder how the rest of the teachers feel when they constantly hear that Mrs. Jolley singlehandedly raise Pirus test scores? Come on now you dont think people really believe that.
Maybe this charter will pass or maybe it wont I cant see the future, but what i do know is the petitioners have caused alot of bad feelings in a tight knit comunnity. I dont see how all this negativity will be turned into a positive place for our children the children of Piru Elementary School. But you reap what you sew and whatever the State decides you have to live with, and everything that you have created.
One more thing if you knew the people of Piru you would know they are pretty easy going, you could say they dont easily get involved in somthing thats not their buisness. Also they dont get their feathers ruffled over politics. so how are you going to open a school in a community that you cant even show up to a meeting with parents and community leaders without calling the authorities on them, when people peacefully disagree with you?
Respecfully Written by a concerned Parent
(name withheld in fear of retaliation to my child)

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To the Editor:
I would like to correct some misinformation that you printed in your paper April 7 concerning the Piru Charter School hearing in Sacramento on April 6.
You wrote that “approximately 70 anti-charter persons were bussed from Piru to Sacramento by the school district for the purpose of protesting the charter.”
Having worked closely with Piru’s Parents with Power group, I can guarantee that the Fillmore School District did not charter the bus nor send the parents to Sacramento.
This was purely a grass roots effort springing from the parents themselves. They earned their own money for the chartered bus by means of yard sales, taco sales, and private donations. No one on the bus had been in any way encouraged by the FUSD to go to Sacramento.
To incorrectly state that the parents had been “bussed…by the school district” is to trivialize the tremendous amount of independence and courage Piru Parents with Power displayed in their heroic effort to save the school they so dearly love.
I did not see any evidence presented by your staff writer, so I trust his was an error of assumption, rather than of false information, since there is no information to support his mistaken assumption.
Thank-you for printing this correction in your paper.
Sincerely
Christina Wilson
Fillmore
Ms. Wilson:
The Gazette did not state that parents had been “bussed…by the school district”. Please do not misquote my editorial. I inquired as to who paid for the trip. If I implied that the district had done so, I was wrong in my implication. Parents who worked to pay their way are to be congratulated for their service, and I'm glad the district did not pay for the trip. It's always good to differentiate between news and opinion.
Martin Farrell

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To the Editor:
Hello. I was wanting to inform you of the good news/letter from the Ventura County Indian Education Consortium. This letter informed me that my daughter Heaven Aparicio 2nd grade at Mtn. Vista was honored as Indian Student of the Year for her school. Only 1 student from each of 140 schools is specially honored. I am hoping the Fillmore Gazette will take notice and also honor these special students from Fillmore by taking a picture with a small article. These students will be honored in Newbury Park on May 7, 2010 6:30pm, with over 500 people in attendance. My hopes are that these students (my daughter included) will enjoy the positive attention & strive to continue to achieve great accomplishments In the years to come.
Thank you,
Naomi Aparicio

 


 
Letters to the Editor
April 8th, 2010

To the Editor:
I find it puzzling that an anonymous letter writer could be responding to a letter to the editor that was published on the same day. I refer to Gayle Washburn's letter on April 1, and the letter immediately following. Does this person who chooses to criticize and withhold his or her name have special access to letters before they are in print?
Sincerely
Susan M. Cuttriss
Fillmore
[The letter was submitted to someone who could offer another view to Ms. Washburn’s opinion letter. We have done this in the past when “facts” are being presented to the public and it is important for both views to be available in the same edition, without a week’s time lapse. An example of this would be with the Piru Charter issue. The Gazette submitted the Charter proponent’s letters/articles to the school district for a response to be published in the same issue. The goal in doing this is to present the public with both views on the issues. - the Editor]

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To the Editor:
Support our local services
Today I received a very detailed advertisement from Pacific Aire, a company that sells and services furnaces and air conditioners. The advertisement was presented as a personal letter from "The Schneiders" in Camarillo. As far as I know, Pacific Aire is a legitimate company. However, the people of Fillmore and Piru should know that we have an excellent local company, Fillmore Air Conditioning and Heating Inc. which is owned by Mike VanDeMheen. Mike has taken care of my home’s heating and air conditioning needs for many years. He does installation, repair and service on all major brands. He is honest, very competent, and his prices are fair. Last week, I called him because my furnace wasn't working. He replaced the igniter. Would Pacific Aire have tried to sell me a new furnace because mine wasn't working? Probably. Mike and other repair people in Fillmore have worked hard to earn their good reputations. They understand that a good reputation is a must for a successful business in a small town. Before signing any contracts with a big company, get a local estimate. You may be very surprised. If you need heating or air conditioning work, call Mike at Fillmore Air Conditioning and Heating.
Mary Ford
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
April 1st, 2010

To the Editor:
In his March 24th editorial, Farrell tries to politicize the unfortunate realities of the current economy. He opines that Measure H/I resulted in property owners not paying their CFD taxes. He quotes an anonymous Gazette reader. “These properties have been paying taxes for CFD No. 1 since 1992 and now after 18 years they have stopped paying taxes”
For the record, this CFD was formed in 1990 to build infrastructure for the failed North Fillmore Industrial Park. In 1999, there were also several defaults which resulted in Griffin obtaining various properties in the North Fillmore Industrial Park and after the rezoning from industrial to residential, they built the Hometown development.
Over the years, there have been many defaults and transfers of ownership on these properties. It is disingenuous to blame Measures H/I for the current economic state of housing, commercial development or business defaults. According to Bank Call Reports, $44.5 billion of construction and land development loans are delinquent throughout the US.
Also, the property owners and potential homeowners would have been required to fund an additional $18 million in debt for infrastructure costs. It’s possible that Measure I prevented that additional debt.
Gayle Washburn
Fillmore Council Member

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To the Editor:
Mrs. Washburn was the sponsor of Measure I, prior to the election she proudly shouted the benefits of the measure. She and then citizen Walker, who worked to limit growth planning three times in North Fillmore, are now seeing the savage outfall of their coffee table plan. Yes, it’s true, property owners have been paying taxes on their land prior to the CFD. Additionally they have been paying CFD taxes on top of their normal tax amounts since it was formed. It’s not a coincidence that we’ve now had foreclosures, local property owners walking away from their investment, because the investment has little or no worth with Measure I forced upon them. One property owner spoke to the ills of the Measure, relating to the council how the Measure reduces his family’s security, but his words fell on the deaf ears of Washburn and Walker.
Griffin’s successful development in North Fillmore has nothing to do with Measure I and the impact it’s had on our local citizens and businesses. What is disingenuous is Mayor Pro Tem Washburn’s effort to hide the facts and shield herself and her cabal like group from criticism for their privately concocted scheme. Now that the real effects are being felt by local Fillmore residents it’s time she admit that she’s ruined families financial savings, limited freedom, increased density planning over the remainder of Fillmore, drove up sewer rates and conspired with her like minded group to control things they know little about.
Name withheld by request

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To the Editor:
On Mar 18, 2010, The Ventura County Star published an article about the #1 goal of the Fillmore City Council which is Economic Development. This goal could strengthen and help Fillmore in so many ways.
The March 23 Council meeting broadcast on Channel 10 seemed to be a strange debate about high vacancy rates of new properties on Highway 126, debt, and risk. Councilwoman Washburn stated, "We didn't qualify for 'iBank' funding for the waste water treatment plant, how can we qualify now?" It was state revolving funds, which is allocated each year, and can’t be counted on for large multi-year projects, not "iBank" as was stated.
The Highway 126 vacancies discussed by Mayor Walker are not industrial properties as the business park would have, they are small retail and office space.
One of the business park developers proposed that the city take his funds, select a contractor and administer the work to study alternatives for funding the business park infracture. That concept as moved by Councilmember Conaway finally passed despite Councilmember Brooks elementary school technique of repetition, repetition, repetition. Is Councilmember Brooks comparing fellow Council members and the public watching the meeting to elementary school students?
Seven days prior to this meeting the Council said economic Development was Goal #1. At this meeting their actions said Economic Development really isn't important enough for Brooks Washburn and Mayor Walker to even have an options study done at the developer’s expense. How can the council make informed decisions if they are not willing to look at alternatives?
Ray Johnson
Fillmore

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To the Editor:
I’m at a loss for words but I feel I need to express my concern and frustration over the disagreement between the teachers union FUTA and Fillmore Unified School District. It seems to me that all of us have, or should have, the well being of STUDENTS as our first priority. If this is the case then how is it even a possibility, a worst case scenario that Mountain Vista Elementary could loose 48% of its teachers?
Imagine what your life would be like if you were forced to lose 48% of your family and friends. This example is only slightly exaggerated, as the teachers and staff of a school spend countless hours working and planning together, even spending time together outside of school. This bonding is what creates the community atmosphere of an elementary school. Four years ago when Mountain Vista opened its doors these teachers began their work creating a wonderful environment for children. Now that the school is beginning to feel settled almost half of the teachers may be laid off? How does this make any sense?
Another point I want to bring up is the number of students that will be leaving the district because of these standoffs. Parents are tired of waiting to see what next year will bring. Families are looking elsewhere for their child’s education. With private school registrations beginning soon we may loose many students if this is not settled now. My children are in Fillmore schools because I believe in the quality education offered here and I want my children to have the benefits of a community school but I’m looking around.
My youngest daughter will enter 4th grade next year and I’m very worried about who will be teaching in the fall. Currently Mountain Vista’s entire 4th grade is composed of a strong group of young teachers who may loose their jobs. Will the entire grade level be replaced by teachers who either didn’t choose to teach 4th grade or didn’t choose to move to Mountain Vista? What am I supposed to do as a parent? I’m asked to support the schools and teachers but now I don’t feel like those who are supposed to protect our teachers and students are doing their job correctly.
Please keep class sizes small and keep our teachers jobs safe. Highly trained employees are our greatest resource!
Kelli Couse
Fillmore

 

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Letters to the Editor
March 25th, 2010

To the Editor:
Can you do some checking and write a story about the hiring practices in Fillmore Unified. Many of us who are parents at the middle school are concerned about the recent moves of Mr. Shefierle, and Mrs. Godfrey. How come these moves were made without those positions even being opened and other people interviewed?
Some of us tried to talk to teachers during the break, but all they would say is that is the way it is in Fillmore. Mr. Schefierle's mom is Mr. Sweeney's secretary, and so the Schefierle's never have to interview, even when Mr. Schefierle became vice principal and principal he was just "appointed", as was Mrs. Schefierle when she was named principal of the C school, vice principal of the high school and principal of Mountain Vista. Soon, lots of people think Mrs. Schefierle will be appointed to be superintendant...without an interview!
What is going on here, and who is responsible? It seems like we have Fillmore royalty? Our schools are not doing very well right now and maybe we need to quit practicing nepotism, and make sure we are looking for the best people. If that is the Schefierles, then ok, but let us be fair and don't think parents don't notice.
We don't think Mrs. Godfrey would have been parent's first choice, but that Mr. Caroll will do a good job. Can we reopen these positions? If not, Mr. Sweeney should be reprimanded.
Please investigate this for us! Our kids deserve better.
FMS Concerned - not Hoodwinked – Parents

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Fillmore USD BP 4112.8 Personnel Employment Of Relatives
The Board of Education desires to maximize staff and community confidence in district hiring, promotion, and other employment decisions by promoting practices that are free of conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety.
(cf. 4030 - Nondiscrimination in Employment) (cf. 9270 - Conflict of Interest)
The Board prohibits the appointment of any person to a position for which his/her relative maintains management, supervisory, evaluation, or promotion responsibilities and prohibits an employee from participating in any decision tha singularly applies to any of his/her relatives.
(cf. 4111/4211/4311 - Recruitment and Selection) (cf. 4115 - Evaluation/Supervision) (cf. 4215 - Evaluation/Supervision) (cf. 4315 - Evaluation/Supervision)
For purposes of this policy, relative includes the individual's spouse, domestic partner, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and the similar family of the individual's spouse or domestic partner.
In addition, the Superintendent or designee may determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to appoint a person to a position in the same department or facility as an employee with whom he/she maintains a personal relationship when that relationship has the potential to create (1) an adverse impact on supervision, safety, security, or morale of other district employees or (2) a conflict of interest for the individuals involved which is greater because of their relationship than it would be for another person.
(cf. 4031 - Complaints Concerning Discrimination in Employment)
An employee shall notify his/her supervisor within 30 days of any change in his/her circumstances that may constitute a violation of this policy.
Legal Reference:
EDUCATION CODE
35107 School district employees
FAMILY CODE
297-297.5 Rights, protections, benefits under the law; registered domestic partners
GOVERNMENT CODE
http://www.gamutonline.net/DisplayPolicy/517794L 3/17/20
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To the Editor:
Dear President/Chairperson, School Site Council:
As a parent of children that attend Piru Elementary School, and on behalf of our parents community, I hereby request that answers to the questions already submitted to the Piru SSC be provided and addressed at the next SSC meeting of...2010. Please address the following items on the Agenda for the next SSC meeting set for March 23, 2010. A request was submitted in writing on ____ please consider this request our second and last request.
Please submit a copy of all minutes, agendas for the academic year 2009/2010.
In addition, on behalf of the parent’s community of Piru elementary, I would like to request that SSC make available to all:
1 - A copy of the SPSA
2 - Minutes and agendas of SSC meetings for the academic year 2009/2010
3 - Minutes and agendas of the ELAC meetings and Migrant Committee for the academic year 2009/2010
4 - The process of the SSC election (time and place) and a copy of the ballots showing the results for the parent/community side.
5 - A copy of the nomination process for the SSC election along with the ballots and the letters sent to our parents explaining the nomination and election process.
6 - A copy of the Budget and the expenditure reports of all categorical funds up to date.
7 - A detailed expenditure reports of all Title I funds with minutes showing approval of these expenditures.
8 - A request for money allocation for three (3) parents attending the Title I Conference.
9 - A summary of the Williams Case complaints’ filed and a monitoring of the District’s responses.
10 - The parent community would also like for SSC to help us organize a training session on all complaint procedures including the Williams Case. We would like to request the use of the school facility and that an invitation is sent to everyone involved in our leaning community at large. We have received the commitment of expert speakers and need a confirmed date from the SSC as well as a budget allocation for the costs incurred to serve our parents.
I would like for these items to be delivered to me as soon as possible and this written request to be included in the agenda of the 23rd meeting. I would like to remind the SSC Chair that it is the obligation of the SSC to be compliant with State and Federal Laws while representing our community. I do hope that all legally elected SSC representatives understand their fiduciary responsibility towards our tax paying community and are willing to immediately respond to our community’s request without further delay.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Sincerely,
Rita Avila
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
March 18th, 2010

To the Editor:
Council Member JAMIE BROOKS: BELIEFS OVER FACTS
Council Member Brooks expressed (a belief) that he felt the City should not have recycled the water from the new sewer plant. He stated that (he believes) the cost is too much and will be a burden on the citizens for many years to come. No one is happy about paying our sewer bill, however Council decisions of this nature should be made on the facts not on one’s beliefs.
The decision to recycle the water instead of discharge to the river was made by the City Council after much careful consideration and study.
In 2004 the City had a comprehensive engineering Project Report prepared which studied both options: river discharge and recycling. If Council Member Brooks had read this detailed report he would have seen the 20-year lifecycle cost was the same for both options but not environmentally equal.
With the river discharge option the City would pay millions of dollars of Mandatory Minimum Penalties because the treated sewage would regularly violate the boron, chloride, TDS, Bis-2 and other limits polluting the Santa Clara River. These pollutants can only be removed with expensive reverse osmosis which would double the cost of a river discharge sewage treatment plant.
The City Council wisely pursued the water recycling project and obtained a $3,050,000 water recycling grant which made the water recycling the cheaper option by $3 million. There are other benefits to the recycled water as well.
By recycling the water the schools will see lower water bills in future years saving precious money for educating our children. Recycling the water reduces demand on the limited quality potable water supply in Fillmore and reduces the potable water system improvements that will be needed in the future. It also helps drought proof our community. Using the recycled water uses less energy than the potable system so there is a net energy savings.
I will grant Council Member Brooks that recycling the water is expensive but not recycling the water was more expensive and would have been a greater burden on the citizens according to the Project Report that I read.
Name Withheld

To the Editor:
Fillmore Mid-Year Budget Review
There are many ways to present a budget. For many years, I was the budget awards chair for a statewide municipal finance officers association and during those years saw many types of budgets. Each budget is designed to meet the distinct needs of the city in managing its finances. My role in Fillmore is to present to the City Council and the citizens of Fillmore the best and most easily read document I can develop. There are many challenges facing Fillmore; mainly because of the state of the economy. Focusing on how to face those challenges is more important than entering a debate about the merits of one budget format over another. I look forward to working with the City Manager, staff and Council to present the 2010-2011 budget.
Anita Lawrence
Transitional Finance Director
City of Fillmore

To the Editor:
Thank you for covering the Midyear Fiscal and helping to get the word out about the City’s finances. We want residents to be aware of how their tax dollars are spent. However, there was a statement which should be clarified. The paper reported that there were “some things budgeted more than once by $9 million, meaning the new budget which took place under interim finance director John Wooner and Interim CM Larry Pennell contained over $9 million in errors.” It is not accurate to say that there were $9 million in errors. Yes, the budget format was substantially revised and some entries needed to changed. However, the actual NET change proposed in the Midyear was $1, 433,515 to the City’s operating and Capital budget.
The City uses the midyear to reflect different types of changes in the City’s budget. Sometimes new grants are received; sometimes money needs to be redistributed in the budget from operating to Capital or vice-versa; and revenues need to be increased or decreased. All reasons why the budget did go up or down.
We want your readers to know that the General Fund is projected to end the fiscal year with a positive balance of about $1.15 million. The City also has another General Purpose Reserve (General Fund) of $1.5 million. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify what was written in the article.
Best Regards,
Yvonne Quiring
[Editor’s Note: “Some things were budgeted more than once by $9 million.” Anita Lawrence, Interim Finance Director, Council meeting, March 9, 2010. If Ms. Lawrence statement did not mean that “some things were budgeted more than once by $9 million” please explain what it did mean. If the $9 million was accurately allocated and counted for in the budget then there was no reason to move the money to other accounts. Was the $9 million accurately reported in the budget the council majority approved? Wanda Castel de Oro]

To the Editor:
Traveling toward Piru, heading Eastbound Hwy 126, I took to relevance of the beautiful, green Santa Clarita River Valley. It also dawned on me that it was also the 82nd Anniversary of California's 2nd largest Natural Disaster- the St. Francis Dam Disaster. Why that occurrence is imprinted into my memory is because I've heard so much on how it shaped the communities of Camulos Ranch, Piru, Buckhorn, Bardsdale, Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Saticoy. Literally, hundreds of people perished. Farms and livestock washed away. Homes, bridges, power lines gone. Total devastation in these communities bestowed shortly after Midnight, March 12th 1928. An Engineering failure caused the dam to break in the San Francisquito Canyon.
Think of it. Picture ourselves in that Era. A Life where there were no Cell Phones, little or no vehicles, not much Public Safety resources, really no warning of what was to come. Imagine being asleep in bed with our loved ones; at a moments notice, being washed away down a path of destruction, only where gravity pulls millions of cubic feet of water, up to 75 foot waves crashing. Knowing how to swim or stay afloat was of little importance to some, compared to wondering where your loved ones MIGHT be. Some families were found immediately. Unfortunately, some were never found at all.
I for one am a 3rd Generation of a Local Family that miraculously did survive. I am the Great-Grandson of the late Frank Savala. Many locals might remember this man's name still. He was a Rancher out in East Guiberson Road, near Torrey Canyon. He worked and raised his family out on Claude Baker's Ranch. It was to his strength and survival that he lived a Blessed Life with my Nana Sophie.
During the Disaster, Tata Frank, his 2 brothers- Mike and Albert, fought to survive by grasping onto a bed frame and floating downstream. Their Mother, Antonia Savala was found dead, still holding on to their baby brother- Jose. At that time, my Tata Frank was going on the young age of 17 years old. Damn! I ask myself, "What would I have done?" What if my Tata didn't survive? Would my Family have still existed? I thank God for he and his brothers' survival. I also pray that my Family Name- Savala, is never forgotten! Let us remind ourselves how fortunate we are to wake up each day, living in this beautiful River Valley. Let us also never forget the Families, victims, and survivors of this Disaster, who helped shape our surrounding communities. And, let us not forget the 82nd Anniversary of the St. Francis Dam Disaster.
I dedicate this Memory to the entire Savala Family. May God Bless us all!
Thank You,
Bobby Castaneda
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
March 11th, 2010

To the Editor:
The following is an excerpt from a letter delivered to the Fillmore Unified School District office earlier this week.
Dear Superintendent Sweeney and Fillmore Unified School District School Board,
On February 17, 2010 a group of concerned parents from Piru Elementary School submitted complaint forms under the Williams Act. First, we submitted our Williams Act forms to our Principal, Leticia Ramos. She accepted, initialed and dated each complaint form. We then tried to submit these same forms to the Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) office. Katy Hadley refused to accept our complaint forms. Her basis for this refusal was the FUSD School Boards policy on uniform complaints. Our complaint forms were then literally, thrown back at the parent delivering them and she directed her secretary to make the parent 10 copies of the proper form. The five parents available at that time promptly filled out the FUSD Williams Uniform Complaint Procedures form and returned them to Mrs. Hadley’s secretary along with the original complaint forms. Mrs. Hadley was not in the office when we returned.
The following is an excerpt from the California Department of Education (CDE) website regarding Williams Act Complaint Procedure.
Williams Settlement complaints regarding instructional materials, emergency or urgent facilities conditions that pose a threat to the health and safety of pupils, and teacher vacancy or misassignment may be filed anonymously. Schools shall have a complaint form available for these types of complaints. Schools will not reject a complaint if the form is not used as long as the complaint is submitted in writing.
Your Local Educational Agency (LEA) clearly is in non-compliance with this Educational Code. Why does FUSD feel it is expectable to deliberately break the law?
As elected officials the FUSD School Board has an obligation to serve the best interests of the children and community at large. As parents we would like to know why the FUSD school board has a board policy 1312.3 in place that is in blatant violation of state law 4621(c) and 4680(c).
It is the responsibility of your LEA to insure that our children are educated to the fullest of their potential and in a safe, hazard free environment. Your LEA must also function in compliance with State and Federal laws.
As parents and community members we want to know what you are going to do to remedy this problem.
Sincerely,
Concerned Piru Elementary School Parents

 
Letters to the Editor
March 4th, 2010

To the Editor:
I wanted to say what's right with Fillmore. On Saturday, February 20, I was surprised to see ambitious young women picking up trash on my street (Burlington) and the bike path by River Park. I asked them what group and cleanup event they were with and they said Big Brothers and Big Sisters. They were giving a day of service to the community for a free day at Disneyland. What a pleasure to see youth creating value.
Philip Ray
Citizen of Fillmore

To the Editor:
Since June 14, 1777 Congress proclaimed the "Stars and Stripes" the national standard of the United States. This standard became the symbol of presenting our "patriotism and devotion" to our country by displaying the flag. But over time the displaying of our flag has become drastically less and less. Observation has shown that on any one of our designated holidays, maybe ONE out of every ten house-holds here in Fillmore display the flag. It is sad that we as Americans do not take the time to show we are proud to be Americans.
It matters not what your political persuasion is or that the economy is in such a sad state of affairs, there is no reason we can't show our pride and patriotism. The United States is still the greatest county in the world.
The cost of a flag is minimal. There are numerous organizations/stores which flags can be purchased. Displaying our flag is not limited to certain holidays only. They may be displayed year round. On our next holiday, as you leave and return from work or home, look around your neighborhood as to just how many flags are displayed. NOW HOW ABOUT YOURS?
Concerned Americans
Ray and Judy Dressler
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
February 18th, 2010

To the Editor:
One of the newest laws for highway driving was effective Jan. 1, 2010 and includes a hefty fine when you pass a car pulled over by the CHP for a traffic violation. NOW you are required to move into the empty lane to your left or slow and pass at only 20 miles per hour in this situation. All motorists should be aware of this new law and follow it or face a big fine. There has been very little about this for public information so many are not aware of it but it needs to be followed.
Marie Wren
Fillmroe

To the Editor:
Re. Rich McKee’s front page comment in last weeks Gazette concerning the Brown Act: McKee’s original claim was triggered by a complaint involving an improper email from our interim city manager that was responded to by three council members. The impropriety of the email was quickly spotted and “cured” prier to the complaint and McKee’s original demand; the City rightly claimed that his lawsuit was groundless. McKee dropped that issue and filed on grounds of an improper closed session meeting based on a technicality that the city settled out of court.
McKee inferred that last year the City paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees because of the City Attorney’s bad legal advice that gets the city sued. I looked at every dollar for legal fees paid out in 2009 and found McKee to be absolutely wrong in his claim and his denigration of the City Attorney. The biggest part of the money paid for the cost of litigation was around $220,000 (this figure may be reduced to $155,000) for the sales tax issue. It has nothing to do with poor legal advice from the City Attorney and if we don’t pursue it we could lose over $1 million a year for around fifteen years.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
February 11th, 2010

To the Editor:
Dear friends,
Soroptimist International of Fillmore and the "S" Club of Fillmore High School invite you to attend a meeting to be involved in a Community Service Picnic. We are trying to organize a good old fashioned picnic with games and hopefully a lot of community involvement. We invite you to attend our informational/organizational meeting to learn how you can showcase your non-profit organization at our picnic. Our goal is to get Fillmore more involved in it's organizations and inform people of the opportunities out there for them. Please see the attachment for your invitation letter and remember to save the date: Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm at Fillmore High School, Room # 49.
If you know of any non-profit organizations out there please pass this letter on them as well so we can get as much involvement as possible.
Thank you everyone and we hope to see you there!
Kathy Vargas
Soroptimist International of Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
February 4th, 2010

To the Editor:
In response to the editorial comment regarding Clarence Freeman, the “present” Pole Creek debris basin is not of the same design Mr. Freeman commented on all those years. The current basin has been redesigned and is much larger due to requirements set out by Ventura County Watershed Protection District. Maybe they listened to Clarence after all.
Patti Walker
Citizen of Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
January 28th, 2009

To the Editor:
Mr. Freeman was a great man. I work for the Boys & Girls Club, one day one of the club members needed to interview an engineer. We looked in the FIllmore phonebook and found Mr. Freeman's name. I called him and asked him if we could interview him over the phone and he said, I can do better than that, and he came to the club and spent about 2 hours with the club member talking about his experiences and his schooling. What a great man!
My question is in regards to this statement:
I keep remembering the warnings of the late, great, Clarence Freeman, may he rest in peace. I’m hoping his conclusions were wrong, but he was a very intelligent man with great experience. We’ll see.
What warnings did he make? Did it have anything to do with the river or the new basins?
Thank you.
Cindy Escoto
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I am beyond anger when I go to are local Laundry mat and lose $7.00 of my hard earned money. I know it may be only 7 bucks but to lose it and not get my clothes washed makes me mad! I went to the so-called new laundry matt by the Dollar Tree. They are suppose to have all new washer/dryers! Well I put my money in and I had to wait until the cycle ended and had no clean clothes! It just took my money and didn't turn on.
There was no number! No nothing! Who runs these places?? Its funny they sure make money off us people that rely on these crappy places!
Jennifer Pillado
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
January 21st, 2009

To the Editor:
On December 23, 2009, my husband’s birthday, I went to the Bardsdale Cemetery to take him flowers. To my shocking surprise the manager and his friends or workers were playing golf on the cemetery lawn over the grave stones. I was very hurt and thought that was very disrespectful and rude.
Don’t they know the difference between a golf course or park and a cemetery? I hope they will show their respect to the dead in the future.
Frances Limon
Santa Paula

 
Letters to the Editor
January 7th, 2009

To the Editor:
I noticed your article in last week's edition regarding yard sale signs. When I worked for the City, they were a problem too. The solution was simple. Three of us salaried employees that worked in town made it our little chore to go around on Saturday mornings and remove the signs. It wasn't too long before people figured it out, and then they put their signs on their cars and parked them in certain places where people could see them. This became a win-win deal. They were in compliance with the law and got to advertise their yard sales. At the end of the weekend they took their cars and their signs home. And the rest of us didn't have to put up with their signs all over town all the time. On Saturdays, Captain Al Huerta would visit all the yard sales in town and make sure they had their permits. Those who didn't got to buy one from Al on the spot. No fines, just made sure everybody had what they needed.
Maybe that's the answer to the problem today, too.
Vance Johnson
Fillmore

A Million Thank You’s
To our Fillmore Citizens that supported our downtown merchants by shopping locally throughout 2009. Especially during the Holiday Season. Because of you there are new business’s now opening. We look forward to seeing you and your friends in 2010.
Thank you and God Bless Downtown Business Merchants.

To the Editor:
To Fillmore Residents:
Pacific Clinic’s Transitional Age Youth (TAY) walk in center is now meeting at 600 Saratoga St., Fillmore. Located at the Chocolate Church, TAY offers goal Management, great Social interactions, and Wrap. Wrap is the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. You make your own creative plan for wellness: a way to take better care of yourself and understand your behaviors, making the most of your life. Must be 18-25 to participate, enjoying the company of others. There are computers available for job search, school, and leisure time. We also offer: peer support, homeless outreach, indoor/outdoor activities, and classes in independent living skills, study skills. In addition to those services there is staff available to help with employment, transportation, community linkage support, and more. We meet every Tuesday from 10:30 -2:30pm. Please tell a friend or family member about this program, it could be a great tool in some one’s life. They can learn to make better choices and gain an understanding of themselves. We have great staff on board with Peer Supporters who work with members helping them understand themselves and brainstorming solutions to make the right choice. We also have Case Managers who oversee, as well as, support member wellness. We work towards one goal: helping those in need to teach, listen, and provide mentorship. For more information, please call us at 805-240-2538 or visit us at www.myspace.com/TAY_tunnel our home office is located at 141West 5th St suite D in Oxnard 93030.
Frederic James/Marilee Rust
Pacific Clinics the (TAY)

To the Editor:
A small technicality in the Realities column from December 31, 2009 needs attention. In referring to the year 1906, the word isn't "Ott". It is Naught. According to Webster's Dictionary, Naught has several related meanings. One of which refers to the number 0 (zero). So 1906 would be properly referred to as Naught 6. We don't commonly use Naught anymore.
Larry Jennings
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
December 31st, 2009

To the Editor:
Sespe 4-H would like to thank all of the citizens of Fillmore who donated socks to our holiday community service “Sespe’s Sock Box.” A special thanks to Marcia Hereema and all the members of the Bardsdale Methodist Church, the staff at the Santa Clara Valley Bank, the window clerks at the Fillmore Post Office, Fillmore City Hall, El Dorado Mobile Home Park.
Our club gave away 350 pairs of socks, and we couldn’t have done this without the help of caring Fillmore citizens. Thanks again!!
Sue Maynard
Sespe 4-H

 
Letters to the Editor
December 24th, 2009

To the Editor:
Correction to my statement to the city council on December 14, 2009: The owner of the Fillmore Gazette did not say that I had a favorite abortion clinic; my apologies to him and the council members. With that exception, however, I stand behind my statement in its entirety.
Sincerely,
Bob Stroh

* * *

To the Editor:
To Stop the Confusion
I am disturbed over some recent events involving one persons campaign for Sheriff of Ventura County. Dennis Carpenter has kicked off his campaign going by the name of "Carp".
Anybody that has lived in the county for more than 10 years may remember the REAL Carp, aka Larry Carpenter. He's had that nickname since high school. Any fact checkers can take a look a Fillmore High Schools 1964 yearbook, and see that's it's true. His official signature is Carp and has been for many years. That can also be checked by looking at his drivers license, or the many documents signed by him throughout his years as Sheriff of Ventura County. His logo has also been to have "Carp" in cursive over the Sheriff's badge. Guess who also decided to adopt that for his logo.
Several times a week my Father is approached by people asking him if he is part of Dennis Carpenter's campaign. I'm writing this to set the record straight, and to stop the confusion.
NO my Dad is not running for Sheriff. Been there done that.
NO, Dennis Carpenter is NOT a relative.
My Dad is NOT involved in nor does he support Dennis Carpenter's campaign.
My Dad had not yet publicly endorsed any candidate for Sheriff.
There's is only one Sheriff Carp, and that's my Dad, Larry Carpenter.
You may have heard the term "bait and switch"...... well, don't get hooked.
Margo Carpenter,
Daughter of Larry "Carp" Carpenter

* * *

To the Editor:
In a December 10 letter, ashamed FUSD employee took me to task for not citing a Stanford CREDO report on charter schools in greater detail. This week, ashamed employee says the same Stanford report is fatally flawed and should be ignored. This new attitude is based on what ashamed employee refers to as “the Hoxby report.” There is no Hoxby report. What there is is a memo written by noted charter school advocate Caroline Hoxby.
Ashamed employee refers to this memo as being “from Stanford University.” Caroline Hoxby is an economist at Stanford, but she wrote her memo all by herself. This is in no sense a report from the university.
In contrast, the 2009 Stanford CREDO report, is a peer reviewed study. It was produced by CREDO, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, and is widely considered the best and most detailed study of charter schools ever done.
Hoxby, in her memo, accused the CREDO report of methodological flaws. This critique was answered in detail by the CREDO researchers in a paper called “Fact vs. Fiction: An Analysis of Dr. Hoxby’s Misrepresentation of CREDO’s Research.” They write:
“The memo, “A Serious Statistical Mistake in the CREDO Study of Charter Schools,” by Caroline Hoxby, does not provide any basis whatsoever for discounting the reliability of the CREDO study’s conclusions. The central element of Dr. Hoxby’s critique is a statistical argument that is quite unrelated to the CREDO analysis. The numerical elements of it are misleading in the extreme, even had the supporting logic been correct. Unfortunately, the memo is riddled with serious errors both in the structure of the underlying statistical models and in the derivation of a bias.”
Hoxby is controversial figure in academic circles, and her own work has been criticized for methodological flaws. She was the center of a controversy in 2005, when Professor Jesse Rothstein from Princeton flat out accused her of fudging data in a paper about charter schools.
Ashamed employee suggests that we ignore the Stanford study (which looked at 70% of all charter school students in the United States.) Instead we are referred to a paper on the charter schools of New York City which just coincidentally happens to be co-written by the same Caroline Hoxby. This study itself asks the question, “Is New York City a typical environment for charter schools?” It also answers the question: “Nothing about New York City is typical!”
Ashamed employee wants us to ignore the best and biggest study of charter schools ever conducted, because one controversial professor of economics wrote a memo critical of it, a memo that was systematically refuted by the authors of the report. Instead, we are supposed to extrapolate the results of a study by the same pro charter partisan about New York City’s charter schools, and assume we would get similar results in Piru.
Greg Spaulding

 
Letters to the Editor
December 17th, 2009

To the Editor:
In response to L. Durand's Letter; He wrote ....."The fact that the district can support the soccer program is BECAUSE of the football program. The revenues taken in by the football program is given to the ASB. This revenue pays for the soccer program, swimming program, track program and basketball program etc. Without the funds raised by the football program her child and many others would probably have to pay a large amount of money so that the high school could have a soccer program."
Don’t try to take all the credit Mr. Durand! Our soccer kids pay for their share, sell their share of shirts, sell their share of dinner tickets and still have to pay money to be involved in soccer! Please don’t make it seem like the football team carries all the sports! Contributions come from everywhere, especially our sponsors, which have nothing to do with the football team!
How tacky is looked for us to be playing on a field that was shorter than we normally play on! How tacky it looked that we had a perfectly good field behind us and we couldn’t even use it! How tacky that we had to sit on the ground or stand! Let’s just hope we didn’t have a person in a wheel chair show up! Where in the world would we have placed them! Also, how inconvenient it was to find a restroom. Thus the reason for us having access to the field! All those problems would have been taken care of. So you see it has more to do with the football team needing to practice on the field!
That’s wonderful that the football Flashes made it (at the time) to the next round but the soccer team is also representing our school! Please don’t make it seem like the coaches didn’t know about the game, they knew, they did have access to schedules and they could have turned to their right and see the two teams warming up and obviously getting ready for a game!
I think all our Flashes teams/sports matter, but if it comes to hosting a game, let us give that team/sport priority! Flashes Football does not come first... The Flashes do!!!!
I also want to add a thank you to the Girls Flashes Soccer team, they have been out there on most of the home games cheering on the Boys Flashes Soccer team!!! Way to support your fellow soccer players!!! Good luck Flashes!!!! :)
Christina Carrial-Vasquez

* * *

To the editor:
Ashamed FUSD employee has struck again! Ashamed employee wrote a lengthy letter last week, directly criticizing me, by name. But, once again, ashamed employee neglected to sign his or her own name. Since I am not privy to ashamed employee’s secret identity, the only way to communicate seems to be through the pages of the Gazette. So, here it goes:
Attention Ashamed Employee:
Thank you for the compliment at the end of your recent letter. I do take exception however, to the rest of your letter. You claim that my opening argument is that “there just aren’t that many charter schools in Ventura County.” You characterize this argument as too dumb to waste time on. Since you don’t explain exactly what makes this argument too dumb to waste time on, it is a little hard to respond to, but I’ll try.
To begin with, you have misrepresented my argument. Here is an exact quote from my article: “Of the eleven charter schools in the county, only four are elementary schools with site based instruction. Two of them are in Camarillo, one is in Thousand Oaks, and one is in Ventura. “
I further note that each of the four charter elementary schools is one option among many, in relatively large communities. Three of the four elementary charter schools in Ventura County were start ups. That is to say, they started in facilities that were not currently in use. The fourth elementary charter (Meadow Arts, in Thousand Oaks) took over a school site that had been slated to be closed due to under-enrollment.
My point was that Piru would be the only elementary charter school in the entire county of Ventura to take over an existing successful running school site. This is more than unusual. It is unprecedented. It is unprecedented because it is a really bad idea.
It is a bad idea for multiple reasons. To begin with, conversions simply don’t perform as well as start-ups. A 2003 RAND Corporation study of charter schools in California (Charter School Operations and Performance: Evidence From California) found different results for charters schools depending on whether they were start ups or conversions. Start up charters had better results than conversions. In this study, charters that were conversions from conventional schools (which is what the Piru petitioners intend to do) did not improve student achievement.
In addition, charter schools are not intended to replace (or in this case displace) the local elementary school; and certainly not when the overwhelming majority of parents have indicated they oppose the charter. Successful charter schools find an appropriate site, and garner significant parental support for their project. The Piru petitioners have done neither.
Charter schools are supposed to be opt-in programs, that parents may choose to send their children too. Placing a charter in Piru, taking over the only neighborhood school in a small community, makes it an opt-out program, completely counter to the whole idea of charter schools. Of all the elementary schools in FUSD, Piru is the worst site for a charter school for this reason. It is the only site where students who do not wish to attend a charter would have to be bussed down the highway to attend a non-charter school, rather than finding a relatively close alternative school in town.
In regards to the Stanford CREDO National Charter School Report (2009) I cited, you are absolutely correct that you can find differences in achievement among various sub-groups. For example, on page 6 of the full report you find this statement: “Charter schools have different impacts on students based on their family backgrounds. For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” Since 91% of Piru’s students are classified as Hispanic, you would think this is would be an important bit of information. But, I guess the charter school petitioners forgot to mention it in their presentation to the school board.
You are also correct that charter schools have had relatively better results for children in poverty and English language learners. For example, on page 27 the report states “We see positive results for charter school students in poverty – these students realized statistically superior learning gains in reading compared to their TPS (traditional public school) peers… The magnitude of the difference was about the same as was seen for the overall reading effect, .01 standard deviations, though here the sign is positive. While significant, the effect is small.”
In the context of this quote the word “significant” means statistically significant. That means the results are not likely to be due to chance. It does not necessarily indicate that the results are practically important, since, as noted, the positive effects for those particular subgroups is small. And since there is enormous variation in results among charter schools, there is no guarantee that these results would be replicated at Piru.
According to Piru School’s 2007-2008 School Accountability Report Card, non-English learning Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, Asians and African Americans combined make up 52% of Piru’s students. All of those sub-groups tend to perform, on average, either more poorly in charter schools or no better in charter schools.
The Stanford report also noted that “the effectiveness of charter schools was found to vary widely by state. The variation was over and above existing differences among states in their academic results.” California is cited as one of four states that had mixed results or were no different than the gains for traditional school peers. Obviously, 100% of Piru’s students live in California.
Also according to the Stanford report, “students generally experience a significant negative impact on learning in reading in their first year of charter enrollment, in the range of -.06 standard deviations.” While this negative impact tends to disappear over time, that would be cold comfort to the families of Piru whose children are currently enrolled, and would likely experience this decline.
On page 9 of the report we read this conclusion: “This analysis shows that in the aggregate charter schools are not advancing the learning gains of their students as much as traditional public schools.”
Another important study, by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), titled “A Closer Look at Charter Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling” (2006), and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reached this conclusion: “After adjusting for student characteristics, charter school mean scores in reading and mathematics were lower, on average, than those for public noncharter schools.”
In 2009 the Center for Education Reform published a report on accountability in charter schools. They found that 13% of all charter schools ever opened have subsequently closed. 41% of those closures were due to financial difficulties, often due to declining enrollment (a distinct possibility in the case of Piru, since dozens of parents have already indicated their intent to un-enroll their children if Piru becomes a charter school.) 27% of the closures were due to mismanagement. 14% of the closures were due to poor academic performance.
Charter advocates routinely overstate the effectiveness of charter schools, cite only the data that supports their case, while rationalizing or ignoring data that undercuts their case. They like to cite only the studies or even just portions of studies (as you did in your last letter) that support their position, while ignoring the overall picture.
I argued that “the body of research on charter schools is less than impressive,” and I absolutely stand behind that statement. The research on charter schools does not justify a radical change of governance and personnel in a school that is making solid academic gains. Piru charter advocates like to speak of converting Piru to a charter school as “the next step of school reform.” Variations of this phrase are repeated no less than seven times in their petition. Unfortunately, there is no compelling evidence that this next step would necessarily be an improvement.
Incidentally, a group of parents and teachers from Piru recently visited Fenton Avenue Charter School in San Ferndando Valley. Fenton is characterized as “one of the oldest and most successful charter schools in the state of California” in a recent Gazette article about the trip. Now, I am sure Fenton is a nice school, but between 2007 and 2009 Fenton’s API scores rose by exactly zero points. In fact, between 2007 and 2008 its score dropped seven points. The next year Fenton (“one of the most successful charter schools in the state”) regained those same seven points for a grand total of zero improvement. Over the same time frame, Piru (as a non charter school) saw its API scores climb by 71 points.
As noted in the Gazette article, Fenton has high percentages of students from Hispanic families, second language learners, and students receiving free or reduced lunch. This is likewise true of all the schools of Fillmore, including Sespe. Last school year, on the 2009 API test Sespe scored 770 points. Fenton’s score was 747.
There is an even closer match between the demographics of Fenton and Piru. In the words of Chris Pavik’s article on their trip, Fenton has demographics that “almost exactly mirror those of Piru School: 87% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, 54% are in the English as a Second Language program, and come from a primarily Hispanic community.” The two schools also have almost identical API scores. Fenton last year achieved an API score only eight points higher than Piru’s (747 for Fenton, compared to 739 for Piru.)
My point about district administration is that Fillmore is at almost exactly the median for a district of its size in both the number of administrators in the district, and the portion of district money allotted to administrative services. The claim, made by representatives of our teachers’ union, was that Fillmore is uniquely overstaffed compared to comparable districts, and that district administrators have given themselves huge raises, up to 48%. This is completely untrue.
In the penultimate paragraph of your letter you credit me with saying that Piru is the most successful campus in the district. Unfortunately, you have habit of misquoting me. I never said Piru is the most successful campus in the district.
Here is an exact quote of what I said in that regard: “Charter schools are typically started for one of two reasons. 1.) The charter embodies a distinct educational vision, for example a commitment to open education, or an emphasis on technology or the arts; or 2.) the charter replaces a failing school. It is hard to see for which of these reasons the Piru charter is being proposed. The philosophy and approaches to education articulated by the charter team seem perfectly fine, but not at all out of the mainstream of educational practice. And they have seen three years of solid growth in their state testing scores, so the school, in its present configuration and personnel could hardly be considered failing.”
The jump from “three years of solid growth” and “hardly considered failing” to “the most successful campus in the district” is, I am afraid, a product of your still rather active imagination. (I won’t even discuss your odd penchant for conspiracy theories concerning John Garnica.)
In terms of API test scores, the most successful elementary school in FUSD is Sespe. It has seen greater growth overall, and has achieved higher scores than any other elementary school in the district. Since the start of API testing in 1999, Sespe’s scores have climbed by 243 points. Piru, over the same time, improved by 197 points. Last year Piru and Sespe improved by almost identical amounts (fifty-two points for Piru; fifty-one for Sespe), but Sespe’s API score last year was also 31 points higher than Piru’s. Sespe had a score of 770, while Piru’s score was 739.
I did not say, and do not agree, that Piru is the most successful school in FUSD. All the schools in FUSD are excellent, with terrific dedicated staffs. My point was that Piru has been experiencing success as part of Fillmore Unified. Your theory seems to be that if a school has been experiencing success, the best way to continue that success is to radically change the governance and personnel.
In fact, your point about Los Angeles Unified converting schools into charter schools due to, as you say in your letter, “declining student achievement”, makes my point for me. Piru has not seen declining student achievement, but rather the reverse, as a part of FUSD. There is every expectation that it would continue to do so as part of FUSD. On the other hand, breaking apart a successful team of teachers and experimenting with a charter is a much riskier proposition.
One last comment: It is unusual for any newspaper to publish anonymous letters. You have submitted two, and in both instances you harshly criticize me. You misquote me and mischaracterize my arguments. You accuse me of being a “hired gun” for the district, and “a true champion of the status quo.” You call my arguments “ridiculous” and “dumb.” And you have done all this from the safety of anonymity.
This hardly seems fair. There are basic principles of fair play, and you are breaking them. I don’t mind being disagreed with. That is certainly your right in a democracy. But if you feel compelled to write another letter mentioning me, please have the courtesy and the courage to sign your name.
Greg Spaulding

* * *

To the Editor:
Response to Spaulding:
Greg,
Yes. I do think some of your arguments are “ridiculous” and “dumb”, you do act like a “hired gun” for the district, and you do support the “status quo”. And yes, “I’ve done all this from the safety of anonymity.” It has nothing to do with “fair play”, “courtesy” or “courage” Greg. The newspaper is protecting my identity in order to prevent retaliation from my employer. Fillmore Unified administrators have a track record of unethical behavior targeting individuals who speak out against them. Conversely, you routinely rise in support of district policies and have nothing to worry about. Being good friends with the Garnica’s doesn’t hurt either.
You continue to use selective evidence to back your anti-charter position and hypocritically accuse charter-supporters of doing the same. For example, from page 6 of the CREDO study you cite, “For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” You leave it there and attack Piru charter founders. These findings are contradicted in the more accurate NYC Charter Schools Report, “On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86 percent of the Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English.” This is just one example of Blacks and Hispanics outperforming traditional public schools. Regrettably, the data you cite in most of your recent letter is flawed. The Hoxby report, also from Stanford University, found the CREDO report, “contains a statistical mistake that causes a biased estimate of how charter schools affect achievement.” And, “the CREDO study violates four rules for the empirically sound use of matching methods to evaluate charter schools' effects.” In other words, the CREDO data and conclusions are faulty. Regardless, I challenge you to convince one NYC charter school parent to pull out based on your analysis their child would do better in a traditional public school. Good luck!
Despite countless studies with contradictory conclusions, one thing is clear. Fenton Charter, Piru Charter, the 250 new charter schools in Los Angeles, the state of California, New York State, the Presidents’ Bill promoting charter schools (I could go on and on) all indicate policymakers, parents and educators want out of the public school rut. Then again, this could all be part of my “rather active imagination.”
The point of my original letter (which Sweeney and Board Members failed to directly respond to) was not to get into a charter debate. It was to point out a pattern of poor ethics, poor management, and poor decisions by Sweeney, Bush and Townend. Board Members routinely prefer a tall glass of Sweeney Kool-Aid to thinking for themselves. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s harmful.
I disagree with you Greg, and as you said, in a democracy, that is my right to do so. My criticisms were never intended to target you personally, and if you felt attacked or harmed by my remakes, I sincerely apologize.
We need more Geoffrey Canada's and fewer Jeffery Sweeney's. See http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5914322n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnAre...
An Ashamed FUSD employee

 
Letters to the Editor
December 10th, 2009

To the Editor:
To the Communities of Piru and Fillmore:
While the Piru Neighborhood Council realizes it has no jurisdiction over the policies which affect our local school, we do wish to express our concern and disappointment that we could not bring both the petitioners for the Piru Charter School and parties concerned by the proposal to a forum that would allow the public to ask questions of both sides.
We chose a format that we hoped would avoid conflict, and planned to have the public write their questions down. The PNC Board would then have taken turns asking questions of the groups concerned with the school. We invited everyone on November 5th and reminded them on November 12. On that weekend, a petitioner called me, requesting assurance that the meeting would not be confrontational, which I gave. Then I received a text message November 16 stating that “the two-sided format doesn’t work for us”.
The general Piru Community, and apparently many parents and teachers, were unaware of the proposal to break Piru School away from Fillmore Unified until after the petition had been officially recorded and a special Board of Education meeting scheduled the night of our October meeting. We postponed ours to allow the public to attend the District’s October session, and later that month received a request from the Charter petitioners to appear at our General Meeting November 18.
The Piru Neighborhood Council Executive Board met on November 3 to finalize our agenda, and agreed on several points: taking a position for or against the proposal was outside our area of concern as defined in our by-laws; we had a duty to try to provide the community with information that would help them decide what position to take; four out of five Board members felt that another presentation was unnecessary, as the petitioners had already explained their ideas in a well-attended public meeting.
The Piru Community has gone from a total lack of information to an abundance of discussions, rumors, statements that are incomplete or unclear, and contradictory “information”; we are now in a state of confusion. The PNC regrets that the opportunity to clarify information and reduce confusion has been denied to the public, and hope that when the issue is finally resolved, the result will be a healthy thing for the school and the community that depends on it.
Respectfully,
Janet Bergamo, President
Piru Neighborhood Council

To the Editor:
I really feel sad that a parent of a student in the Fillmore Unified School District is pitting one school team against another. Christina Carrizal-Vasque feels that soccer was slighted because the Fillmore Football team won league and then went on to successfully go to the second round of the playoffs. She asks does football come first? Yes, when a team has been successful they are given the opportunity to continue to use the field to practice and play. Why did the soccer coach schedule a PRACTICE game when he/she knew there was a good possibility that the football team would go to the playoffs just as they did last year? The football coaches probably had no idea that a game was scheduled. When the soccer team has won an gone to the playoffs every effort has been made to give them support including usage of the field for practice and games. Should the football team not be afforded the same opportunity?
Perhaps, Christina does not understand that we are in bleak financial times. The fact that the district can support the soccer program is BECAUSE of the football program. The revenues taken in by the football program is given to the ASB. This revenue pays for the soccer program, swimming program, track program and basketball program etc. Without the funds raised by the football program her child and many others would probably have to pay a large amount of money so that the high school could have a soccer program. Football happily supports all the other sports and the more successful the football program is the more funding other programs have. The football program wishes all teams continued success. I hope this misunderstanding and criticism of the Football program was the result of lack of information. The Fillmore Flashes of 2009 deserve nothing but praise. I attended all but on game and the football team and their coaches well represented Fillmore. They were fantastic!!
I am saddened that Christina is not happy for every team’s success. A positive supportive letter congratulating the football program and thanking them for all they do to financially support the many wonderful sports programs at Fillmore High School would have been more appropriate. The school and all the teams are equally important and deserve all the parents support not criticism. Go Flashes!!
L. Durand
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Attention Greg Spaulding:
Your arguments against a Charter School in Piru are flawed. The most ridiculous might be your opening argument that “there just aren’t that many Charter Schools in Ventura County.” I won’t waste anyone’s time describing how dumb that is and move right into what you describe in your own words as “the most relevant question, how charter schools perform.” You cite a Stanford University study: 37% of charter schools report gains worse than traditional public schools, 17% report gains better than traditional public schools, and 46% demonstrate no significant difference. You also claim that I have a “rather active imagination.” Is it just my imagination or did you “forget” to include any positive information from the report about Charter Schools? Since you chose selective information from the study, I’ll do the same. You failed to mention the report concludes “Nationally, Elementary and middle school charter students exhibited higher learning gains than equivalent students in the traditional public school system.” Piru Charter is an Elementary school with plans to add Middle School. The report goes on to conclude “In addition, some subgroups demonstrated greater academic growth than their traditional public school twins. Specifically, students in poverty and ELL (English Language Learning) students experience larger learning gains in charter.” Many Piru students are low income and ELL. According to the study, there are good arguments for a Charter School in Piru. Why would you not include such critical findings from the report? I guess it was also my imagination that Board Member Garnica gave you a big smile and congratulatory handshake after the Piru Charter hearing.
Since you brought up your email regarding administrative overstaffing and claim it “put the issue to rest”, let me state, for the record, you did not put the issue to rest. Fillmore Unified, along with public schools throughout the nation, is clearly overstaffed at the top. This bloated bureaucracy takes money away from students and forces bad decisions onto principals, teachers and students. These problems are compounded in Fillmore with unethical administrators, a weak superintendent, and a school board unwilling to think for themselves and question their actions. Is it just my imagination or did one administrator just slither away in the middle of the night? What? No going away party for Townend?
You are a true champion of the “status quo” Greg. Perhaps it’s this type of “inside the box” thinking that keeps our schools trapped in state improvement. After decades of increasing district administration resulting in declining student achievement, the LA City Board of Education voted against the “status quo” by converting 250 campuses into charter schools. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Apparently the LA Board of Education is tired of acting insane.
One thing you are right about Greg. Under the leadership of Richard Durborow, along with the great work of Piru teachers, parents and community, Piru is the most successful campus in the District.
Regardless of what happens outside the classroom Greg, you are one of Fillmore’s finest teachers and we are fortunate to have you. Thank You.
An ashamed FUSD employee

To the Editor:
Recently our city council was remediated in a Brown Act workshop as a result of a settlement between the City of Fillmore and Richard McKee of Californians Aware. Evidently the county’s district attorney was satisfied that our city council cured its ills and with how it handled its unintended violations. But why the settlement unless the city was more guilty than innocent? And why would it agree to pay Mr. McKee’s attorney’s fees for something unintended?
What hasn’t happened is an apology, or has our council become politically calloused? We’ve all been bumped into in a crowd and typically, both parties exchange an apology. Here, our city council hasn’t seemed to notice where it steps or how it can brush public contact aside.
We’ve seen enough of the acrimony surrounding this legal embarrassment. Isn’t it time that our city fathers just walk circumspectly and move towards the civic matters that improve our community?
Bert Castel de Oro
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
December 3rd, 2009

To the Editor:
Several years ago our then City Attorney Roger Myers, gave me $50 to buy Marie Callender Pies for some needy families for their Thanksgiving Dinner. Since then I have had donated "Pie Money" given by more and more Fillmore people each year. These people that give are people that aren't going to be home or they just share and extend their Pie Order. Last year we changed the plan to giving to the "seniors". So we sent the pies to the "Meals on Wheels" and the for the people that have their lunch/dinner at the Senior Center. Antonia said the seniors were very happy with their pies and that the pies were delivered that Tuesday just in time to be cut and served.
So thank you all that have given in the past and the ones that donated this year (again): Marge Le Bard,
Dani Steiger, Martha Gentry, Patrick Maynard, Bev Haase, Jane Kampbell, Jim Herbert, Don Downey, Trinka Reynolds (Mortgage).
Very Sincerely,
Raelene Chaney
Grad Nite Live

To the Editor:
El Dorado: Some of our residents received a Rental Agreement. The idea that the board of the HOA has formed a committee to “negotiate the Rental Agreement” is obviously absurd. To begin with it is not a “lease” it is a Rental Agreement. And they can’t honestly think that the owners will sit down and even talk with them, let alone negotiate with them? These so called HOA members think they own the park! These people and some town residents don't realize the money the nincompoop’s have cost the city ($20,000+). El Dorado’s chaos and discord is directly attributable to their actions. Because of their previous rent control demands we got Measure F. Because of their insults and accusations of the owners and management, now we are only offered a rental agreement instead of a lease. What is next, an all age park? Please wake-up. They are destroying this park and the enjoyable life style we used to have. Their Collective Stupidity will destroy us all. El Dorado has two enemies: Those who want to destroy us from the outside and those who created this mess will destroy us from within.
A Concern Citizen of El Dorado
Raul Torres

To The Editor:
Attention Ashamed FUSD employee:
Your misconception is that two district office employees can control the thoughts and minds of so many. You would have us believe that anyone who shares an opinion that might be in agreement with Dr. Bush’s or Mr. Sweeny’s position then that thought must have been place there by them. You have them in control of the thoughts of parents, teachers, and board members. You would have us believe that only a fortunate few like yourself has been able to escape their powerful ability to transfer their cognition to another. Do you wear some special helmet that deflects their thoughts or is your skull just naturally thicker than rest of ours?
Not ashamed to be an employee of FUSD,
John Schaper

To the Editor:
I am writing in response to a recent anonymous letter, signed “ashamed FUSD employee.” The author was not willing to sign his or her name, but was willing to write critically, by name, about other Fillmore Unified School District employees. In particular, the anonymous letter writer mentions me in connection with a petition to recall Fillmore Unified Teachers’ Association (FUTA) president, Theresa Marvel. This isn’t exactly accurate. There is a petition, but it is not to recall Ms. Marvel, it is to call for a vote to recall Ms. Marvel.
Oddly, “ashamed employee” makes no mention whatsoever of a second petition. There is also a petition to call for a recall vote for FUTA vice-president Chris Pavik. I am a cosponsor of both petitions. In fact, there are cosponsors from every school site in the district, except Sierra High School. This recall campaign is widely supported throughout the Fillmore Unified School District.
In an online comment, “ashamed employee” accuses Superintendent Jeff Sweeney of “attempting to orchestrate the removal of Marvel.” This is completely false. Mr. Sweeney had absolutely nothing to do with instigating or encouraging a recall vote.
The anonymous writer also states in online comments that “the petition to recall Fillmore Teacher's Union President Theresa Marvel was signed by a small group of union members well connected to you [Sweeney], Bush and School Board Members.”
I don’t know how many the letter writer considers a small group. The minimum number of signatures needed to force a recall vote is 48. We collected the signatures of 78 Fillmore teachers for the recall of Ms. Marvel, and 86 for the recall of Mr. Pavik. We quit gathering signatures early, since we had more than enough to force a vote.
“Ashamed employee” characterizes me as “Bev and John Garnica’s good friend and apparent “hired gun” when it comes to issuing detailed emails and public statements supporting school board decisions.” I readily admit to being friends with the Garnicas, but I categorically deny in any way being a “hired gun” for the district. That’s a figment of “ashamed employee’s” rather active imagination. Anything I have ever written, any analysis I have ever done, any opinions I have ever expressed, are completely my own. No district administrator or school board member has ever suggested that I write on any topic, or has assisted me in any way.
Greg Spaulding

To the Editor:
Soccer v. Football
I find it every sad that while attending last nights JV Soccer game I had no where to sit but on the ground! I turn around to see a beautiful field behind me empty of soccer players, but plenty of action going on with the football players! I understand that the football team has made it to the next round but it is really necessary for them to take up the field while the soccer team is hosting a game? How embarrassing for the Fillmore Soccer team to have to play on this felid when we have a perfectly good field! How embarrassing for us to have our parents, fans and community members sit on the ground! Does football come first? Why did the coaches feel the need to use it during the soccer team’s game time! Shouldn’t it be whoever has a game gets to use it and if it is a practice session then you are voted off! Why couldn’t the football players use the baseball field for practice! At one point that’s all they had to use! But now it is only good enough for the soccer players to host a game!
What’s more important here? There have been times where the soccer team has gone to the playoffs or have made it all the way too! Is The football team special compared to the soccer team!? What will happen at next week’s tournament? Will this happen again!
I will say that the Varsity game was allowed to use the field for their game and so many people showed up and the seats were nearly full with fans, parents, and community members! How great it looked!
Note: the pictures of all the standing fans, parents and students who attended the JV game! No one is supposed to be standing behind the goalie but there are several students there!
Unfortunately, our Flashes did not win!
Christina Carrizal-Vasque
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
November 26th, 2009

Attention School Board Members: Time to stop being led around by the nose by Jeff Sweeney and Mike Bush and time to start thinking for yourselves.
First, you followed Sweeney down a legally confusing and morally bankrupt path leading to Townend’s misconduct going unpunished and rewarded. Instead of firing Townend, as Sweeney had the legal right to do, he “granted her request” for a new position where she’s not doing a damm thing and continues to receive her same superintendent level salary and benefits in excess of $100,000 a year. And to make things worse, Sweeney hired an expensive consultant, in the middle of a budget crisis, to take over Townend’s responsibilities, depleting the district’s already reduced operating budget. Furthermore, some district employees, who are still adjusting to last rounds salary and benefit cuts, are now being asked by Sweeney and Bush to give up their healthcare benefits entirely. What a mess.
Second, Sweeney was advised by the Ventura County Office of Education to approve the new Piru Charter School because “if you don’t approve it, the state will” and “don’t waste any money on legal fees trying to fight it.” Instead Sweeney and Bush (known as the “Charter Killer” referring to the charter school he defeated during his tenure in Santa Paula) did just the opposite. They fought it and fought it hard. They demoted Piru Elementary School Principal Richard Durborow (who oversaw the most improved campus in the district) for considering going charter. Bush and Townend rigged the Piru Principal Election Committee to block another charter school supporter, Susan Jolley, from becoming Piru’s next principal. Sweeney and Bush used Piru teachers sympathetic to the district’s anti-charter position to intimidate charter-supporting teachers, indicating that “if they backed out now, no harm would come to them”. Sweeney prohibited any talk or meetings about going charter on school grounds, forcing charter supporters to go “underground” setting the stage for the district’s “information war” spreading fear and uncertainty amongst Piru parents. These same parents were bussed to the Piru Charter School hearing to make sure board members witnessed overwhelming anger and dissatisfaction over going charter. Its ironic that board member De la Piedra stated “We don’t like the division” while sitting next to the people who caused it. By pitting long time friends against each other, Bush and Sweeney have caused permanent damaged to the Piru community.
So, what happens now? Lacking any axes to grind or “Charter Killers”, and happy to take advantage of the Sweeney Bush blunder, the County of Ventura or State of California will approve the new charter school and receive monies (monies that Fillmore Unified could have received) for providing services to the new school. More unethical behavior and bad decisions will now lead to further depletion of Fillmore Unified’s budget, reducing services to our children and guaranteeing more salary and benefit cuts to Fillmore Unified teachers and staff. Another mess.
Third, it looks like Sweeney and Bush have led you down yet another unethical and potentially illegal path. Just last week, a petition was submitted to recall one your most vocal critics, Fillmore Teachers Union President, Theresa Marvell. The petition was signed by a group of teachers not only sympathetic to the school board, but related to several school board members and Bush himself. The petition signers include Rene Bush (Mike Bush’s wife), Bev Garnica (School Board Member John Garnica’s wife), Magaly Dollar (School Board Member David Dollar’s daughter in-law), Greg Spalding (Bev and John Garnica’s good friend and apparent “hired gun” when it comes to issuing detailed emails and public statements supporting school board decisions). But somehow, I have a feeling you already know about all this. Shame on you.
What bad decision or unethical behavior will you be involved with next? Time to get rid of Sweeney, Bush and Townend once and for all.
An ashamed FUSD employee

Response by Jeff Sweeney, FUSD Superintendent
It is unfortunate that the letter submitted by the anonymous “ashamed FUSD employee” stoops to the level of personal attacks, name-calling and the dredging up of old issues in an apparently misguided attempt to garner sympathy and support for the Piru Charter School proposal. While I could respond to each and every one of the misstatements and unfounded allegations contained in the letter, that would serve no purpose but to further inflame and divide the community.
The letter’s author attempts to ascribe unsavory motives to Mike Bush and myself, and blame the failed charter attempt on an alleged inappropriate agenda by the two of us. As was clearly evidenced at both District Board meetings, as well as in other forums during the District’s consideration of the Charter, the overwhelming feeling of the entire community, particularly including Piru parents and District employees, was strong opposition to the Charter. The Charter itself contained a number of flaws and misleading and/or incorrect information, much of which is specifically addressed by the Board’s Resolution of Denial.
But the most fundamental cause of the Charter’s failure was the fact that it was demonstrably unlikely to be successful because the Charter petitioners failed to garner virtually any support for the Charter proposal. The families whose students attend Piru School, and most District employees, opposed the Charter. The families made clear that they simply would not send their children to the proposed Piru Charter School. Without students, the school obviously would fail.
The bottom line is the petitioners did not present the District a workable and potentially successful charter proposal, and for this reason, the Charter was denied. Mr. Bush’s and my purpose in recommending denial of the Charter was only to protect the interests of all District students, including the Piru students. The petitioners have the right to appeal the District’s decision, if they so choose, and that decision and the ultimate fate of the Charter request are now out of the District’s hands.
On a final note, I am aware that the membership of the Fillmore United Teacher’s Association submitted a petition for the recall of their current president, Theresa Marvel, and vice president, Chris Pavik. This recall effort was not instigated by the Board, Mr. Bush, nor myself, and it is not within our control, but, rather, is an internal decision for the FUTA membership. The District will, of course, continue to work for the best interests of the District, including its students and employees, with Ms. Marvel and whomever else may serve in leadership positions in FUTA.
I hope that we can all move forward from here in order to continue to provide the quality education that all of our students deserve, rather than concentrating on past disputes.
Sincerely,
Jeff Sweeney
FUSD Superintendent

 
Letters to the Editor
November 19th, 2009

To the Editor:
The most important responsibility I have as a board member is to review and study any and all situations that concern students who attend Piru and Fillmore schools and to vote or work towards anything that I believe will be in their best interest.
I voted to deny the Piru Charter School after many hours of studying the situation along with my fellow board members. Unfortunately, the Piru Charter was presented once the process had begun without any notification to our district. The petitioners failed to include administration, certificated, classified and more importantly parents and community members in the planning, the design, and the decision making processes of the petition that was submitted.
I am not opposed to charter schools; however, I am without a doubt opposed to this petition creating the Piru Charter School. I am not opposed to “something new” as was stated at the meeting held in Piru although that “something new” must be in the best interest of our students, which I did not find in this proposed Charter. The presenters stated that there were “great things” this Charter would provide, yet they failed at both meetings to provide us with what these “great things” would be. The Charter only replicated the current instructional offered at Piru, with the promise of reducing some classes in the upper grades and even the reduction of the upper grades classes were not guaranteed.
Another factor in my decision was the lack of support demonstrated by the community. At both the October 21 and the November 9 meetings in Piru, there was very little support for the Charter. Eighty-five percent of the speakers at our public hearing on October 21 spoke against the Charter. Over 200 attended that meeting and even those who did not speak, were against the charter because they were excluded from the planning process and did not see how the Charter was going to improve upon the great progress the school has made. Their fear was that it was going to derail that progress.
Piru is a successful school making great strides in achievement. There are a select few who now wish to take credit for this success, and such prideful boasting is an insult to everyone's hard work. I have observed time and time again the combined efforts of everyone who is employed and volunteers at the site, and I have witnessed the positive results they have accomplished.
Simply put, the Piru Charter was overwhelmingly not supported by the community and without support it cannot be successful.
Virginia A. de la Piedra
FUSD Board Member

To the Editor:
Piru Charter School Moves Forward…
Despite what some may think, the plans for Piru School to become an independent charter school, run by a Board of Directors composed of Piru parents, community members and staff, continues to progress. It is the intention of the petitioning group that Piru School will open as an independent charter school next school year. In the State of California, approval of a charter petition is a multi-stage process. By law, the petition must be submitted first to the local district. However, since most local districts have an inherent bias towards preventing any competition or loss of control or loss of funding, the California charter law has built into it the provision that County or State Boards of Education may also approve a charter even when a local school board has turned it down. The Piru School charter petitioners want what is best for the children of our community, and believe that it is important that parents have the right to choose their child's school. We welcome questions and/or enquiries about the plans for the upcoming year.
Sincerely, Chris Pavik
You may reach the Piru School Charter Petitioners with your questions at: pirucharterschool@earthlink.net or you can reach us at our address: Piru Charter School, P.O. Box 555, Piru, CA 93040.

To the Editor:
I am writing concerning the FUSD Board of Education’s recent decision to deny the Piru Charter School Petition. For me, this decision was a simple one to make for the following reasons:
1.) The lead petitioners failed to involve the Piru community in the process. I could have voted for a Charter School if the petitioners had simply ensured the success of the school by getting buy-in from the parents and community. As made evident to me by the hearing on Oct 21st, they did not do this. The standing-room-only crowd that overwhelmingly opposed the charter on that night made a huge impact on everyone that attended. It was glaringly obvious that the petitioners did not involve more than just a few parents. They also did not involve Piru staff other than the petitioners. Nor did they involve the wider community of Piru. In short, they totally misunderstood one of the key ingredients necessary for the success of a charter, especially one in a small, remote town like Piru: You need community buy-in.
3.) The petition itself did not bring anything new to the Piru School or community. One petition supporter complained saying, “When are we going to start talking about all the great things this charter school is going to do?” Well, we gave them all the time they wanted to make a convincing argument about those great things at the Oct. 21st meeting. We also gave them unlimited time to counter the problems identified by Superintendent Sweeney in his recommendation to the board at the Nov 9th meeting. Yet they could not articulate any of these “great things” to me or any other board member well enough to get even one vote. I could have voted for a well-thought-out, innovative charter petition. This one was neither.
John Garnica
President, FUSD Board of Education

To the Editor:
I am writing this to possibly save you the time and frustration that I recently went through. I received an e-mail from Bank of America (it said.) It informed me that someone has been trying to access my on-line banking and would I try to open my banking account to see if was still active and everything was OK. It said that if I didn’t access my account it would automatically be cancelled in six hours. The letter had an official place to “click” and it led to an equally official Bank of American on-line sign in page. I was to enter my on-line ID and pass-code. Now, I didn’t fall for this for two reasons: One, I do not have an account with Bank of America and two; If I did, I am not that dumb to be taken in by this scam. I am sure that there are a few in thousands that might fall for this and that is all they need to clean out an account with little effort spent on their part.
Thinking that law enforcement would like to have their e-mail address and possibly back track them somehow, I called the District Attorney. After three passed calls I finally got someone that said they were not interested and I would have to call my local law enforcement. If they thought it was important they would get in touch with us. I called our local Sheriff Department and told them the story. They immediately said they were not interested as there are so many scams they cannot possibly take the time to run them down. They just hope the public is aware and doesn’t fall for this sort of thing.
I thought, maybe Bank of America would want to know that someone is using their system to get some illegal money. I called Bank of America with a number I got from Google. I tried for about ten minutes and could not get a “live” person. Then I called the branch in Santa Paula and again could not get a live person. I finally gave up and took a copy to my local bank, gave it to them and told them to pass it on to B of A if they knew how. You can’t say I didn’t try to be a good citizen but sometimes you wonder if it is worth the effort.
It is no wonder we have so much of this going on if there is no one to pursue the bad guys. You would think there would be just one place you could call to report things of this nature. The D.A. and Sheriff’s departments sure didn’t refer me to anything. Its open season on us folks; so be aware and suspicious at all times.
John Heilman
74 year native.

To the Editor:
The recent Brown Act violations now admitted by the Fillmore City Council illustrate how easily elected officials can impede the public’s right to be involved in the decision-making of their local government. From the facts, it can be argued that the Council acted improperly to avoid embarrassment. That is, they violated the Brown Act in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment of having to admit they had violated the Brown Act.
Now, by executing a settlement agreement to end the lawsuit McKee v. Fillmore City Council, the City Council will remedy errors in judgment by agreeing to a 2-hour retraining on the requirements of the open meetings law.
However, there remains an even greater concern for the residents of Fillmore, and all the citizens of Ventura County - - a District Attorney’s Office either ignorant of the law or willing to compromise itself by sanctioning these obvious violations.
Acting on no formal complaint, but only an opinion piece in the local newspaper, the District Attorney says his office instituted an “investigation” into Fillmore’s actions. Then the office issued a baffling 5-page opinion, which included legal interpretations long ago repudiated by both the courts and the California Attorney General’s Office.
For example, the DA says it was proper when the Fillmore City Council included the opposing party to pending litigation in a closed session to discuss the issues and reach a settlement. Yet, in more than 30-years of opinions, the courts and the Attorney General have said such a closed session with a potential plaintiff violates the Brown Act.
The DA also says that the Council may cure its violation of denying the public an opportunity to comment prior to the Council taking action, by offering the public a chance to comment after the Council’s vote had already been announced. However, the Attorney General’s pamphlet on the Brown Act says, by the plain language of the statute, the public is always guaranteed the right to provide testimony before any action can be taken by the Council.
Why would the DA distort the law to support the City Council? It couldn’t be politics, could it? Is this evidence of an attorney “good old boy” network at work?
In this regard, it should not go unnoticed that the DA never contacted those making the allegations of Brown Act violations, even though we filed suit more than a month before his Office issued its opinion. However, while investigating these open meeting violations, the DA’s Office had no problem finding time to meet secretly with the attorneys representing Fillmore.
It is precisely this type of corruption that severely weakens the public’s ability to retain control over their local government. Fortunately for me, I live in Los Angeles County where DA Steve Cooley’s Public Integrity Division has a proven track record of vigorous Brown Act enforcement, most likely the best in the State.
I suggest that at the next election, the people of Ventura County should assure themselves a District Attorney who is more interested in protecting the public’s rights, than the backsides of political cronies.
After all, the promise of a government of, by, and for the people depends on the ability to exercise control over its elected representatives. Or as the California Legislature stated clearly when revising the open meeting law, “complete, faithful, and uninterrupted compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act is a matter of overriding public importance.”
Richard P. McKee
Richard P. McKee is president-emeritus of Californians Aware, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the public’s right to open government by enforcing the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.

To the Editor:
The District Attorney’s Office agrees with Californians Aware that the Brown Act (public meeting law) is an important right of the public. Each year we investigate and evaluate a number of potential violations regarding city councils, school boards, and other legislative bodies. We take this responsibility seriously and take appropriate action, including sending warning letters.
Regarding the allegations against the Fillmore City Council, we obtained and reviewed all of the pertinent documents and video recordings. We concluded that the council violated several provisions, including an exchange of e-mails that constituted an improper “serial meeting,” and irregularities regarding a closed session to address the original violation. We do not agree that Councilman Conaway was a “potential plaintiff” who should have been excluded from closed session discussions – he had not threatened to sue and was never a party to any litigation in this matter.
The Brown Act specifically provides that a public body may not be sued to void its actions unless it is first given the opportunity to “cure or correct” the violations. The city council did so here by discussing the issues in a properly-noticed open session, including an opportunity for public comment. A lawsuit by the DA against the city would have been an unnecessary and inappropriate expenditure of public funds because the council took prompt action to resolve the problems and no additional violations were threatened.
I understand that Californians Aware disagrees with some of our conclusions, although the inflammatory tone of their comments is unfortunate. Public access to the meetings of legislative bodies is a hallmark of our democracy and the District Attorney’s office will continue to ensure that this right is honored.
Very truly yours,
MICHAEL D. SCHWARTZ
Special Assistant District Attorney
Ventura County