Today, the following comment was submitted via email to all School Board Members, and to the Fillmore Unified Teachers Association (FUTA) and the Fillmore chapter of California School Employees Association (CSEA),

FUSD Board Members, FUTA and CSEA Presidents,

I wanted to make this statement at tonight’s board meeting but business is taking me out of town. It’s regarding a proposal for the budget cuts that I believe all parties should seriously consider. I’m hoping one or more board members will ask Mike Bush to run a few scenarios with actual numbers to see what it looks like. Even if you don’t fully agree with or see challenges to the proposal, I believe it’s necessary to consider all options.

Thank you and here is the statement:

April 19th, 2011

My name is Scott Duckett.

I’m speaking tonight as a private citizen concerned about the budget cuts. At a recent board meeting, both board members and cabinet members requested that any ideas regarding budget cuts be brought forward. In response to that, I’d like to make a proposal. The proposal has been heard by at least one board member; however I want to make sure it’s heard by all board members and union leadership, and has an opportunity to be publically vetted. Before I tell you what the proposal is, I’d like to first tell you the top three reasons why this proposal should be considered.

The first reason to adopt this proposal is NOT ONE SERVICE TO ONE STUDENT WILL BE LOST. Not one athletic program, not one classroom, not one thing students enjoy now will be lost. The repeated goal of board members to keep the cuts as far as away from the students as possible will be realized.

The second reason to adopt this proposal is NOT A SINGLE DISTRICT EMPLOYEE WILL LOSE THEIR JOB. Nobody. Not one person. All layoff notices would be rescinded.

And the third reason to adopt this proposal is IT’S FAIR TO ALL DISTRICT EMPLOYEES. No one individual or group caused the budget cuts, and under this proposal, no one individual or group will be forced to take more cuts or lose their job. In other words, all cuts are equal across the entire district.

Here’s the proposal. Every district employee, from the Superintendent on down, takes an equal percentage salary cut. The exact percentage everyone takes depends on the size of the budget gap. I didn’t have actual numbers to work with, so I made some estimates. If salaries and benefits make up roughly 90% of the district’s $30 million dollar budget, that’s approximately $27 million in salaries and benefits. If everyone district wide took a 3% salary cut, the district would save $810,000. If everyone took a 5% cut, the district would save 1.3 Million. If everyone took a 7% cut, the district would save nearly $2 million dollars, and so on.

I understand this proposal is unique, and will come with its own unique set of challenges. But I believe going through another round of “budget cuts business as usual” will only result in the painful process where seeing now and that we’ve all witnessed over the past few years. It’s a process that results in cuts that are often unfair to individuals and groups within the district, it results in valued district employees losing their jobs, and ends with cuts being made that directly affect students.

Thank you.


"Your childs education and the State budget" Michelle Kolbeck

Tonight FUSD School Board will meet and is slated to vote on graduation requirements. That is how they have listed the item on their agenda that has the potential to cut programs, reduce class requirements for graduation and combine programs. FUSD is grappling with the same budget issues as other districts although I think that FUSD has one large hurdle that it still has to overcome, a general lack of accountability and transparency. Over the past year the School Board has heard from several parents bringing issues ranging from concerns over special services, to the lack of parent involvement. School Board members have attended school site council meetings regarding issues of accountability and lack of clarity. If the District wants the community to understand the situation, they need to work harder and better at creating a welcoming environment for community members to be involved (you need not have a child in the District to be a stakeholder or to get involved) and for demonstrating accountability when mistakes are made.

Here is an editorial in the Ventura county Star written by a Santa Paula Elementary School Board member, it is brief, and doesn't go into much detail, but at least it is a school board member working at communicating with the Board and attempting to communicate with the public and Kolbeck openly encourages the public to volunteer and donate to schools. Districts must reach out, and the public is going to need to see a shift at FUSD to a system that is more welcoming and ready to work with the community.

An excerpt:

"At a recent elementary school board meeting it became apparent that the "state of the state" has finally come to roost in Santa Paula.

Even though the Santa Paula Elementary School District board had pink-slipped a quarter of the teacher staff in March (approximately 50 out of 200), the public had yet to feel the effects of the state of the California budget. This is because nothing really changed as their child still went to the same school, had the same teacher, had the same classmates, etc.

However, during the time allotted for public comments, the SPESD board listened to students, parents, community members and staff about their concerns for programs that may no longer be available to them next year.

Read more:


Are you ready to Trunk-or-Treat?! Calling all groups, clubs and organizations that are interested in partaking in a FREE family-friendly Halloween activity! On September 24th the Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting an informational meeting at City Hall in the Council Chambers from 5:30pm-6:30pm. We invite you to join us on Monday September 24th to answer any questions and accept registration for spots available at our Trunk-or-Treat event.
Registration packets are available for pick up at City Hall on the 2nd floor in the Parks and Recreation Department. Feel free to call 805-524-1500 ext. 713 or for more information.

"Rethinking Popular Culture and Media" A Rethinking Schools Publication

First, the Fillmore High School art show is on Tuesday, April 12 6:30-8:30pm at the Veterans Memorial Building. The show is titled "Drawn into the Arts". Who are you going to bring?

Second, I've come across this interesting looking book "Rethinking Popular Culture and Media" Edited by Elizabeth Marshall and Oslem Sensoy. Just reading the summary is thought provoking.


Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is a provocative collection of articles that begins with the idea that the “popular” in classrooms and in the everyday lives of teachers and students is fundamentally political.

This anthology includes outstanding articles by elementary and secondary public school teachers, scholars, and activists who examine how and what popular toys, books, films, music, and other media “teach.” These thoughtful essays offer strong conceptual critiques and practical pedagogical strategies for educators at every level to engage with the popular.

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media features over 45 articles, divided into 6 sections:

1. Study the Relationship Between Corporations and Schooling
2. Critique How Popular Culture and Media Frame the Parameters of Historical Events and Actors
3. Examine the Connections Between Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality and Social Histories in Popular Culture and Media
4. View and Analyze Representations of Teachers, Students and Schools
5. Take Action for a Just Society
6. Use Popular Culture and Media to Transgress.

Writers include Wayne Au, Bill Bigelow, Linda Christensen, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ellen Goodman, Herb Kohl, Gregory Michie, Bob Peterson, and Renée Watson.

Praise for the book:

“Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is essential reading for all educators. Its gripping essays are written by teachers courageously helping students of all ages grapple with our media-saturated, commercially driven society. Their passion and experiences provide fodder, hope, and roadmaps for anyone committed to using the classroom to help children think critically and live creatively.”

—Susan Linn, Harvard Medical School, Co-founder and Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, author of Consuming Kids: the Hostile Takeover of Childhood (New Press).

“This superb collection is based on the editors' belief that popular culture is a place where young people’s identities are both expressed and shaped by forces beyond their control. The starting point of any defense and reaction to this environment is critical reflection. The essays collected here will provide teachers and educators with an invaluable resource to think creatively about their own pedagogical activities in the classroom. Should be required reading for anyone dealing with issues of young people, media and popular culture.”

—Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Founder and Executive Director, Media Education Foundation

Here is a link to more information:

And I just had to share this great NYTimes Article about Construction class for kids.

Here is an excerpt:
"After reviewing the plans with the workers, Ms. Winsor, 50, supervised them as they laid out two-by-fours for the front and back walls and then hammered the studs and plates together with three-inch nails. Next, she watched as some of them raised the walls and sheathed them in plywood while others used an electric jigsaw to cut bases for the portico columns. Finally, one of the carpenters used a screw gun to attach a flagpole to the roof and secure the pediment to the freshly painted facade.

At quitting time, the workers removed their protective headphones, put their tools back in their holsters and cleaned up their work stations. Then they gathered up the wooden toys they had made during break and ran to the door to greet their parents.

“Good job today,” Ms. Winsor hollered cheerfully at Oscar Markowitz, a 5-year-old boy with orange hair, flushed cheeks and a big grin, one of a dozen children (including the reporter’s son) participating in a weeklong camp she was holding at Construction Kids, her workshop on Flatbush Avenue. "

Here is a link to the full article:


FUSD Preparing for State Tests

I don't always have space or time to get every item in the articles that are published in the paper, so here are a few items that are of interest that were brought up.

According to FUSD Educational Services Director Katy Hadley FUSD is preparing for the "testing window" which starts next week. This is a block of days based on when the school year begins and ends, usually about 85% of the way into the school year. This is laid out by the State Department of Education. Here is information on the tests and dates:
Hadley indicated that they expect several schools to make "safe harbor" this year, but there is also a 67% proficiency benchmark that schools will feel pressure to reach.

This can be a stressful time for students and families (and school staff) as the schools are assessed based on the scores. Some things that families can do to support students in being well prepared for the tests:

1. Review the letter that will be sent home. It will list dates and information about testing at that school.
2. Talk to students about the importance of the tests, both for themselves and for their school. This is the time to show what they know.
3. Answer any questions students have about testing. For first time test takers, (second grade) it can be a bit scary and they don't want to mess up. Making sure they know what happens during the test can help them be calm and focused. Talk to your teacher and/or principal if you have questions.
4. Have student get to bed early the night before.
5. Wake up in time to have a good breakfast and to not feel rushed.
6. All tests should take place before lunch, so don't schedule any doctors appointments or make other appointments for student on testing mornings (or afternoons for that matter, so they can focus)
7. Encourage students to do their best but find a balance. We don't want students to get so stressed about doing well that they are nervous and distracted.
8. Make sure the child wears comfortable clothing on test day.
9. Keep the family schedule simple around testing time. Maybe less on the daily calendar on test days, so the student can relax before and after testing.

What does your family do to prepare for testing?
Remember (good or bad) part of the score is test taking skills, teachers will cover this in the days leading up to the tests, but students will encounter many different kinds of tests during their educational career (and life for that matter) remind them that one day they'll probably take a drivers test, maybe the SATs to get into college, or law or medical school entrance exams. Developing good test taking skills, and finding what works for them can be helpful. Things like breathing exercises can help to relax some students.

At the School Board meeting last night (April 5) the importance of the testing environment was brought up. John Garnica suggested that the District notify all staff of testing days to ensure that no leaf blowers are being used within earshot of classrooms during testing times (I would hope that it's normal district practice to not use leaf blowers during any classroom instruction... I wonder what the cost of gas for leaf blowers is for the district? Oh dear going off on a tangent again) Mr. Garnica also spoke about covering cheating and being clear with staff that everything is "on the up and up". He referred to a recent article in USA Today (below) regarding irregularities in Washington DC.
Here is a link to the complete article:

Here is an excerpt:
Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes' students scored "proficient" or "advanced" in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes' staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district's elementary schools, Noyes' proficiency rates fell further than average.

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Hello All,
Hope you are enjoying the decent weather. I wanted to share a few helpful things I've recently learned about. First I wanted to make sure folks know that the FUSD School Board has a meeting tonight, April 5 at 6:30 at the District Office on Sespe. You can view the agenda here:

First bit of info:
Last week at the Bullying Prevention forum hosted by FUSD (see this weeks Gazette for my article on this important forum and issue) a woman from Interface Children and Family Services spoke about bullying and a parenting program they have that families can be referred to through their school. Interface is based in Camarillo, but has an office in Santa Paula and operates within FUSD as well. This looks like a wonderful organization creating programs for families who may in a serious situation, or just needing a bit of support and guidance. See their website for more info or contact your local school principal for a referral to "Triple P" (Positive Parenting Program) They even help parents learn to motivate their kids to do homework. Check it out:

Next bit of info: "An online charity connecting you to classrooms in need"
This is a fabulous idea that all teachers and schools should know about. A teacher or school can post a "need". This may be for anything the school or a classroom needs. For example, I happen to know that a teacher at Fillmore Middle School has "fetal pigs" on her wish list. This teacher could add this item on DonorsChoose and explain the lesson and why it's important. The site has a way to indicate if the school has a large population of low income, or English learner students. Then the public can search on the site for projects and causes that they want to donate to. I searched on it, and right now there are many schools and projects listed throughout Ventura County, but none from FUSD. This could be another tool for teachers, principals and even PTO's to get projects and events funded. ** Teachers, let me know when you've posted something there and I can direct folks to it... it takes a village


Click here to get your free eBook today.

Cast of Glee : Get It Right / Pink: Perfect

March was recently named Bullying Prevention Month by a resolution passed by California state lawmakers. Nickelodeon has launched a anti bullying campaign. I hope that our communities can use all the tools we have to build every childs self esteem so that no child feels the need to bully and no child feels victimized when others behave badly.

I'm posting two "video" responses to bullying. At least that is my interpretation of these videos. The first is from the TV show "Glee" and the second is a music video by Pink. Pink's video has some strong images (and a strong word in the Title), but in my opinion it presents ideas that communities, schools, parents and kids need to talk about. When was the last time you told a child (boy or girl) that they were perfect to you?


Sespe Elementary is hosting a Parent Involvement Night on
Sespe Elementary is hosting a Parent Involvement Night on "Bullying & Cyber Bullying" on Wed. March 30

FUSD seems to have an ongoing struggle to open it's arms to parents and the community at large. When parents come forward with concerns, or even with specific requests that the district do a better job at involving the community both the Board and District display little interest and effort in making any changes.
To be fair, individual schools seem to be making an effort by having parent involvement nights (Sespe), creating Parent and volunteer centers (Piru), and by sending in articles to the local paper about various events (San Cayetano), but this District needs improvement from the top and across all sites, a real change in the culture.
So what specifically would help? What does the public want the District to do in this regard?

Well I have been seeing what other Districts in our area are doing, here are just a few examples, none of these Districts operate in a perfect way, but these small efforts would be a great step for FUSD:

-Ojai Unified: Holds District office organized Parent Forum nights every month with posted topics including "bullying", homework, etc. The topics were picked based on what parents wanted. These forums are free and open to the public.

-Santa Paula Elementary District: They are looking for a new superintendent, and they held a Public Forum early in the process to hear what the community wanted in it's new superintendent, they posted this information online here:
Here is what their request for input says: "The Santa Paula Elementary Board of Trustees is seeking your thoughts on the personal qualities, professional skills, knowledge and experience desired of the new superintendent of schools for our district. The board would appreciate it if you would take a few minutes to reduce your thoughts to writing. The board will consider this information when making its decision on whom to employ. Please see attachment below. "
They even post the recruitment brochure online for all to see and learn about the process involved in hiring for this position.

-Santa Paula Elementary District: Board member profiles online. During the recent campaign for FUSD school board I was surprised that many people 1. did not know that they voted for their local school board members and 2. They did not know who was on the Board or that you didn't need to be a teacher (in fact some folks don't think that teachers make good school board members because they are too "entrenched" in the current status quo but that's another story). At the link below, SPED posts profiles and photos of each Board member, this is a small step in reaching out to the public, letting them know who their elected trustees are, and making a small connection:

-Santa Paula High District: Superintendent background, profile, goals etc. Posted online. This goes a long way to connect the public to the Superintendent. If the District wants the community to recognize that the schools are a vital part of the community then the person in the leadership role for the district needs to be "out in the community" a good way to start that is for the background information and specific goals of that person to be public. The public shouldn't have to search and search for this information. It should be easily accessible. An example:

-Providing Choices & Options: Ventura Unified School District: VUSD has many options for parents. They have homeschooling programs (K-8), open classrooms (K-8), dual immersion programs (K-12 avail), charter schools, magnet schools. Having options and choices shows a willingness from the top (school board) to serve the needs of ALL students within it's boundaries. Of course VUSD is a larger district, BUT FUSD is getting ready to build a new school, might it make sense to find out from the community what options/choices could be provided that are not currently available?

-Budget available online: Many area Districts have their most recent complete (usually from previous school year) budget posted online. Demonstrates a true desire to engage the public, provide transparency (as required by law) and just a general feeling of not wanting (or needing) to hide anything.

-Community Budget Forums: Several Districts have had community forums on this topic. While FUSD has held "Board Study Sessions" which is a good effort for the Board to get educated about the issues it is facing, the tone and structure of these sessions has done little to get the community in on the conversation. The subject of these study sessions is not even included in the public agenda. Other Districts are having "Community Forums". Events specifically designed for the community to take part in the discussion, to hear from all affected. Some Districts directly ask community members what ideas they have about ways to help. Here's a link to OUSD Budget page of their site, it asks "How can you help?

There are a number of ways that community members can help in this situation. You can:

1. Write to your legislators and let them know your feelings regarding state funding for our schools.
2. Work with your local PTA/PTO or the Ojai Educational Foundation to help generate funding for the district.
3. Make a direct contribution to the OUSD.
4. Help generate additional ideas and solutions for the district’s financial problems.

***Did you know that Fillmore Middle School does NOT have a PTO? Community members can even form their own (separate from the district) organization to raise money and fund school needs (that is what the OJai Education Foundation does, a non profit org, not under the control of any school, it raises money and gives based on it's own mandates as determined by it's board.... is this something Fillmore area residents/parents are interested in? )

And those are just a few examples that I could find quickly online. What are some specific (remember we need low cost options) things that YOU think FUSD should do to reach out to the community/parents to get them more involved?
People are assets. IN this time of declining financial resources we MUST demand that our schools use all the resources available to them, people are a valuable resource, perhaps the MOST valuable.

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The City of Fillmore is looking for volunteers to help with Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday September 15th from 9am-12pm. The Coastal Clean Up volunteers will meet at Sheills Park & take a short walk over to our Sespe Creek bed to do our part in keeping our waterways clean. For more information/to register 805-524-1500 ext. 713 OR email

The Associated Press,

A story of a principal taking things into her own hands... or feet :) A smile for your friday:
Here's the link to the full story story at CBS:

Local Principal Sells Shoe Collection To Save Jobs

March 24, 2011 5:09 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Worried about possible layoffs, school principal Michele Miller spotted a potential solution in her own home.

The principal of Jackson Elementary in El Dorado Hills, a suburb east of Sacramento, decided to part with most of a shoe collection gathered over the past 15 years.....

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ABC News: "Principal Turns Failing School School Around, One Student at a Time"

"I can teach you how to be a good teacher, but I can't teach you how to care" - Anthony Smith, Principal.

Just check out this article and watch the news segment. What a great example of leadership on site. This strong leader had 9 years to create this change. Consistent quality leadership.
"Failure is not an option"

I like the story of the partnership between local business and the school to motivate and hold student accountable. When they know folks are watching and paying attention they will rise to meet the expectations.

95% graduation rate with nearly 100% of graduates going to college.
If they can do it, so can we.

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So right now not only are we focused on the events in Japan, which I hope we can all find on a map, but the events in the middle east are pulling the world's attention as well.

Do you know where the country of Georgia is?
What about Israel?
Do you know where Turkmenistan is ?
What about Syria?

Here is a great little "game" to test your knowledge. What about your kids? Do they know where Iraq is? What is your score? (Mine was 65% although I think that they don't take away points for mistakes, because I made a bunch of them)

There is a great PDF for Teachers of the maps with question sheets as well.

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