Tired of your school selling candy to raise money?

Ventura County Public Health is working with VUSD to promote healthier and greener options for groups that fundraise. They are hosting a FREE event for groups who want to find out about fundraising options that include healthy and green options. Perfect for PTO's, Booster Clubs, Athletic teams or any group that does fundraising for youth related activities.

What: Healthy & Green Fundraiser Showcase... A FREE EVENT!

When: April 14, 2011 4:00 - 7:00pm

Where: Ventura County Office of Education-Camarillo

Full Press Release:

Thursday, April 14, 4:00 – 7:00
Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center
5100 Adolfo Road, Camarillo

A showcase of healthy and environmentally green fundraising ideas, activities and vendors is scheduled for Thursday, April 14, 2011 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center at 5100 Adolfo Road in Camarillo. This inaugural event is co-sponsored by the Advocates for a Lifestyle of Exercise and Nutrition in Ventura County (A LEAN VC) and the Ventura Unified School District Healthy Schools Project. Parent, teachers, students, administrators, coaches and the community at large are invited and welcome to attend this free event.

This showcase will model and demonstrate a variety of vendor products that are not only healthy and/or environmentally green, but are also popular products that will sell well and bring in much needed funds for parent groups, booster clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Many of our youth serving organizations are not only facing reduced revenues from fundraising, but also an increased focus on providing our youth with healthy and environmentally appropriate activities and products. Also highlighted will be examples of successful fundraiser activities that don’t involve selling a product that have been implemented by teachers, parent groups and coaches throughout Ventura County.

Several guest speakers will also present information at the Healthy & Green Fundraiser Showcase, including local Ventura County pro-surfer, Mary Osborne. There will be a balance of emphasis on both health and wellness and healthy environments – how to make money for your organization while helping the community stay healthy and clean! “The committee has worked hard to bring in local vendors and products to this event as we recognize the importance of local involvement in nutrition, wellness and the environment” said Anne Thille, Project Director of the Ventura Unified School District Healthy Schools Project.

“Visitors are welcome to come by anytime between 4:00 and 7:00 to visit vendor booths, hear our distinguished guest speakers and gather information about many of the available healthy and green fundraisers” said Nancy Maxson, the event coordinator. The first 100 visitors will receive a reusable bag to gather materials and information. In addition, each person will receive a ticket for a series of drawings that will be held throughout the event with prizes donated by participating vendors.

There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome. For more information or to become a vendor, please contact Nancy Maxson at (805) 641-5000 ext. 1135. For more information on A LEAN VC, please contact www.healthyventuracounty.org .


How do you choose the right school for your child?

By Kimberly Rivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Transfer Options for Families in Ventura County



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

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

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

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


Click here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H9SHK55 to get your free eBook today.

Services Reduction, Budget Planning

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

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

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

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

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



Watch this short video clip here: http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/02/09/020911-news-education-day1-3-6/

What do you think?
Is our education system broken?

How Does Your Neighborhood School Score?

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

Each District is required to have the reports available for parents. Here is a link to the reports online: http://www.fillmore.k12.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=216

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN "Why America's Teachers are enraged"

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

Here is a link to the posting on CNN's page: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-02-20/opinion/ravitch.teachers.blamed_1_bad...

And here is a link to that posts Author Diane Ravitch being interviewed on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/28/134134735/Op-Ed-Rage-Simmering-Among-Ameri...

And one more link to an older story with Ravitch, who was an advocate now turned critic of No Child Left Behind: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124209100


According to a story printed over the weekend, the non profit organization CalAware conducted an audit of Districts across the state. Many did poorly. FUSD received an "F", and it was noted that FUSD in fact did not respond at all to requests for information. School Districts are in fact required by law to respond to requests for public information. Here is a link to the article in the Ventura County Star: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/feb/24/school-district-public-access-rat...

What has been your experience in requesting information from FUSD?