Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chula Vista charter school getting high marks for efforts

Chula Vista charter school getting high marks for efforts
By Ashly McGlone
December 30, 2010

The Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School, where students sporting uniforms learn about English diphthongs and the nuances of Spanish, could be easily mistaken for a pricey private campus.

The 12-year-old school has risen from the black sheep of the Chula Vista Elementary School District to a model education system and is ranked among the district’s top 10 in student achievement, according to Principal Jorge Ramirez.

The school has raised its Academic Performance Index nearly 200 points from 680 in 2005 to 878 in 2010, exiting the federally sanctioned Program Improvement status in 2008 and evading the revocation of its charter.

“We were working hard, but we weren’t working smart. Now I can say we are working smart and hard,” Ramirez said.

The 800-student campus is the only school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District that offers a dual-language immersion program where preschoolers through eighth-graders spend half of their day in English-only courses and the other half in Spanish-only courses...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chula Vista elementary district plans for $6 million deficit

School deal with police questioned
Community letters: on school funding, library hours and more
The San Diego Union-Tribune
January 6, 2011

...In response to “Funding deal reached for police at schools” and “Elementary district plans for $6 million hole” (Local, Dec. 29): One article states that the Chula Vista Elementary School District is projecting a $5.9 million deficit in next year’s budget. Right above it is an article stating that the Sweetwater and Chula Vista Elementary school boards are choosing to pay $915,000 to supplement the School Resource Officer program.

My question is where is Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano’s allegiance in all of this, since he also serves on the Chula Vista Elementary school board? Does he care more about saving his School Resource Officer program or about serving the needs of Chula Vista elementary school students?

The city is facing a deficit and so is its elementary school district. One of Bejarano’s jobs on the school board is to oversee teachers, who contribute 8 percent of their salary toward retirement. However, his police officers pay absolutely nothing toward their retirement.

Bejarano should convince his police officers to pay their fair share toward their retirement to help reduce the city’s deficit instead of using money from the school district to supplement a police program.

Harvey Petty
Chula Vista

Chula Vista elementary district plans for $6 million deficit

By Ashly McGlone
December 28, 2010

The state’s largest elementary school district is looking at a $5.9 million deficit in next year’s nearly $193 million budget, according to preliminary estimates.

Chula Vista Elementary School District officials said the deficit could rise if the state makes additional midyear cuts.

No cuts, however, are proposed to next year’s budget, according to assistant superintendent of business services Oscar Esquivel. He said the district’s reserve — currently at $31 million — will help cover the shortfall.

State law requires the district to set aside an amount equaling 3 percent of its general fund — about $5.7 million — in reserve.

Some $1.1 million of the district’s reserve was used to satisfy the deficit in this year’s $192 million budget.

Managers are taking seven furlough days this academic year and next, classified staff are taking two to six furlough days and teachers are taking 5.5 furlough days.

Also, this year is the first year the district’s cap of 20 students per class has been removed. Average class sizes this year are 19.9 children for kindergarten through third grade, up from 18 students last year, and 28.9 children for fourth through sixth grade.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Study claims big Chula Vista reserves

Study claims big Chula Vista reserves
The city says the funds are restricted, can’t be used to avoid cuts in servces
By Wendy Fry
December 26, 2010

Calling plans to slash public services disgraceful, an economist hired by Chula Vista’s police union performed a study of the city’s financial condition and reported Chula Vista has an “exceptionally high” reserve ratio and hidden financial resources.

At a public forum last week, budget analyst Peter Donohue said the city began the 2009 fiscal year with more than $33 million in general fund reserves — about 23 percent of that year’s operating budget. The study claims the city had $154 million in unrestricted net assets at that time.

His report, which also examined the city’s bond rating and internal cost-allocation plan, concluded that Chula Vista has the financial resources to mend its $18.5 million budget hole without cutting public services.

“I wish it were true, but it isn’t,” City Manager Jim Sandoval responded. He said the city’s available reserves are currently at 7.2 percent of this year’s $133 million general fund. Municipalities typically set aside 7 percent to 15 percent of their budgets for unanticipated expenditures and economic downturns.

In June 2009, the redevelopment agency owed the city about $23 million. That outstanding loan amount was included in the General Fund reserves, but it was not available for spending.

“(Donohue) is insinuating those are spendable resources and they’re not,” said city finance director Maria Kachadoorian.

She said the redevelopment agency’s outstanding loan accounts for the difference between city’s calculation of its reserves and Donohue’s estimate. A $10 million repayment from the redevelopment agency was recently used as a one-time source of income to balance Chula Vista’s current budget.

The Chula Vista Police Officers Association paid about $20,000 for the Donohue analysis. Donohue, who has a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas, began examining the city’s finances in November. He said his study does not reflect the most current fiscal reports because those haven’t been released.

“City officials’ refusal to maintain police protection is hard to understand,” his study said. “Chula Vista residents and businesses should question reduced spending on services, including critical public-safety services.”

Donohue said the city has about 150 funds with a total of $154 million in assets, but Kachadoorian said all revenues can’t be lumped into operating costs. The excluded ones include sewer revenues and money from bonds issued for redevelopment.

About 32 police officers received layoff notices in October. A recent agreement between two South County school boards and the Police Department allowed that number to drop to 23 targeted layoffs, about 15 percent of the police force.

Sandoval, the city manager, said that altogether, 101 positions must be eliminated citywide by Jan. 7. “We’ve been through four years of cuts with no impact on public safety,” he said.

Donohue contends that city administrators are overstating the city’s financial difficulties.

“Sometimes jurisdictions have a particular political agenda and the actual numbers don’t support the agenda,” Donohue said. “The sky was about to fall on you guys for a number of years now. It hasn’t yet.”

While ongoing labor negotiations between the city’s two public-safety unions haven’t been successful, the three other employee unions in Chula Vista have agreed to wage concessions. Their pacts include contributing the 8 percent employee share of their pensions, forgoing contractual raises and accepting a less-generous benefits plan for new hires.

Planned service reductions


Civic Center branch to be closed Sundays and Mondays.

South branch to be closed on weekends.

Eastlake branch to be open only from 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

•Recreation centers:

All the centers to be open only two days a week. Hours will vary.

Loma Verde center to be open Mondays and Wednesdays.

Otay center to be open Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Veterans center to be open Fridays and Saturdays.

Montevalle center to be open Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Other centers’ hours will be available on their websites.


Park-ranger program to be eliminated.

Graffiti-abatement team for private property to be eliminated.

Tree-trimming services provided on emergency basis only.

Custodial services at Rohr Manor and Ranger Station to be eliminated.

Holiday lighting for Starlight Parade and downtown Third Avenue to be cut.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Democracy, anyone? Popaditch supporters tread on Bob Filner

Some people in Chula Vista are sore losers.
Video from Chula Vista Star-News

2010 Election Wrap Up
posted by: Carlos Davalos
Grannies for Gunny Pop.

Go ahead and to take her sign from her. She dares you.

The loudest and most boisterous supporters of the night were, by far, the men and women who wanted to see Republican Nick Popaditch unseat Rep. Bob Filner in their battle for the 51st Congressional District seat.

Chanting “Pop-a ditch! Pop-a-ditch!” throughout most of the evening, the Marine gunnery sergeant’s followers relentlessly waved their campaign signs and shouted Popaditch’s name any time a Filner supporter crossed their path.

But the usual civil political rivalry that’s found at Election Central turned tense quickly as Popaditch supporters chased down the Congressman and surrounded him in the Golden Hall lobby. At one point Popaditch squared off with Filner and called him a “Damn liar.”

In the 60s Filner marched during the Civil Rights movement. He spent time in jail for his role in the Freedom Rides. Undoubtedly the New York native has been shouted at and down by people with different perspectives.

But that was more than 40 years ago. Since then it’s hard to guess when the last time it was that Filner was chased down by a mob and the candidate they were supporting. It was a surreal moment.

One observer said Popaditch had dead eyes. In reviewing the video, Gunnery Sgt. Popaditch reminded me of a great white shark. His is a massive presence. But with all that said it was the crowd that was predatory.

Chula Vista has millions at its disposal

"...In related news, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano announced Wednesday that the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater Union High School District have agreed to pay $915,000 toward the School Resource Officer's $1.9 million program through the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The funding will save eight positions."

Chula Vista has millions at its disposal

Allison K. Sampite
Dec 25 2010

During a press conference Wednesday, an independent financial analyst revealed that the city of Chula Vista has tens of millions of dollars available for any legal use they choose, including saving police officer positions.

...In related news, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano announced Wednesday that the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater Union High School District have agreed to pay $915,000 toward the School Resource Officer's $1.9 million program through the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The funding will save eight positions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Castle Park and Juarez-Lincoln schools are moving to Year 2 of Program Improvement

The API scores don't tell us if individual children are making progress. Sometimes the scores are simply a result of the brightest kids moving out of one school and into another. Castle Park Elementary and other schools suffer from "brain drain" as a result of staff problems. The parents of the brightest kids are often the first to get their children out of a troubled school. After they were transferred out of the school, teachers like Peg Myers (currently president of Chula Vista Educators teachers union) and Robin Donlan worked hard to spread the impression that there was something wrong with the school. The problem was Peg and Robin and their power-hungry associates, and the school is still suffering from their power grab.

"...Castle Park and Juarez-Lincoln schools are moving to Year 2 of Program Improvement..."

Schools Achieve Historic Firsts: A record number of schools top the 800 benchmark on the state’s Academic Performance
By: Chula Vista Elementary School District
September 13th, 2010

...Heritage Elementary posted the highest API score in the District at 916, followed by Olympic View at 914, Arroyo Vista Charter at 902, Thurgood Marshall at 901, and Salt Creek at 900. Closely on their heels was Veterans Elementary at 897. Leonardo da Vinci Health Sciences Charter School, the newest charter in the District, was the lowest performing out of 45 schools. Da Vinci recorded an API of 742. Clear View Elementary, formerly a charter, grew by 29 points as a noncharter, posting an API of 854. The federal government identifies Title 1 schools for Program Improvement status if they have not met “adequate yearly progress” goals schoolwide or for target populations for two consecutive years. Greg Rogers and Fred H. Rohr elementary schools are entering Year 1 of Program Improvement; Castle Park and Juarez-Lincoln schools are moving to Year 2 of Program Improvement. Mae L. Feaster and Karl H. Kellogg schools made “safe harbor,” meaning they remain in Year 1 of Program Improvement.

Of special note was Parkview school’s exit from Program Improvement. Parkview Principal Bonnie Nelson earned high praise as among the select few principals in the state to have moved two schools out of Program Improvement during their education careers. Nelson had previously led Palomar Elementary out of Program Improvement.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sweetwater moves toward stricter grad requirements

Plenty of the teachers didn't meet these requirements when they were in high school. If the teachers were capable of bringing the kids up to this level, it would be a different matter, but instituting these requirements in the present situation just means more kids are going to fail. Why is the ACLU getting involved in this? I ask this as a card-carrying liberal. Sadly, I believe the answer is that the ACLU is trying to get publicity and drum up support. I am familiar with several of the leaders of the San Diego ACLU (including Kevin Keenan and David Blair-Loy), and my experience is that these individuals are not so much interested in the success of students or in holding schools accountable for following the law, but rather in advancing their own careers.

Sweetwater moves toward stricter grad requirements
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Ashly McGlone
December 17, 2010

It may get harder to graduate from the Sweetwater Union High School District.

The Board of Education this week voted to require that students meet University of California and California State University admission requirements before they can earn their high school diploma.

No timeline has been set. The requirements include 15 college-prepatory classes in seven academic areas.

Waivers will be available for special needs students and those not fluent in English who enter high school during their junior and senior year.

Trustees opted against a timeline that would have required the courses beginning with the freshman class of 2012.

The resolution passed in a 4-1 vote. Trustee Pearl Quinones, citing her 20 years as a dropout prevention counselor, voted against it.

“Not one size fits all ... What about the ones that don’t want to go to college? All they want to do is graduate.”

According to a presentation by Maria Castilleja, executive director of curriculum and instruction, one-third of last year’s graduates completed the so-called A-G courses.

Nearly 22 percent of seniors currently taking A-G courses are passing with the B average or better, the standard required for university admission.

Students must achieve a C or better in an A-G course in order to receive credit for graduation.

Unknown is how much the transition will cost the district in new textbooks, teacher reassignments and training. The district is looking to cut $23 million from next year’s $320 million budget.

Castilleja said that the board’s move underscores the district’s commitment to college readiness.

In June 2009, San Diego Unified School District became the first district in the county to require A-G standards for graduation, beginning with the 2010 freshman class, but an external audit in September revealed that some 34 percent of students still don’t have access to the courses they need to meet those requirements. Grossmont Union High School District offers A-G courses but does not require them to graduate. Some 37 percent of Grossmont’s 2010 graduates completed the A-G course sequence.

The ACLU has been pushing for districts in California to adopt UC standards. Districts in Los Angeles and San Jose, among others, have made the switch.

Teacher’s union president Alex Anguiano spoke in favor of a gradual transition, suggesting the district begin by ensuring foreign language and art classes are offered at the middle schools.

Residents Karen Janney and Stewart Payne urged caution, saying the district needed to look at data and seek input...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Compton parents pull parent trigger

Chula Vista has something in common with Compton--Richard Werlin, the administrator who made a mess out of Castle Park Elementary School.

Compton parents pull parent trigger
Parents demand to bring in charter operator
By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

Today, parents at a Compton Unified elementary school will become the first in the state to use a new “parent trigger” law. They will demand that an outside charter school operator be brought in to take over their low-performing school. Organizers predict that parent groups in other districts, fed up with poor achievement and unsuccessful district reforms, will follow the lead of McKinley Elementary parents.

Confident that they have more than the majority of families’ signatures needed to exercise their right, the parents plan to drop off their petitions at the Compton Unified’s central office. The petition asks the board specifically to bring in Celerity Educational Group, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that runs four charter schools, starting next fall.

The Legislature passed the “parent trigger” law in January as part of legislation to strengthen the state’s unsuccessful Race to the Top application. The provision was pushed by Los Angeles Sen. Gloria Romero and opposed strongly by the California Teachers Assn. A half-dozen other states are considering adopting California’s law.

Under parent trigger, a majority of parents within a school can request one of four reform options similar to models that the Obama administration is requiring for failing schools: closing it down, transforming it through a longer day and other changes, restarting it with mostly new teachers and a new principal, and converting to a charter school. Most parents are expected to pursue the latter option, and the burden will be on district trustees to justify why they shouldn’t agree to that choice.

Schools that have failed to make targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law four consecutive years qualify for the parent trigger – about 1,300 of the state’s 10,000 schools. The law capped the number of parent trigger schools at 75. Getting enough signatures, amid expected opposition of teachers and districts, could prove daunting in many cases.

Last month, the Little Hoover Commission endorsed the parent trigger in a report on charter schools, saying: “This latest development expanding opportunities for parents to petition to convert existing schools into charter schools is another step in the right direction, … The Commission believes that parents should have the opportunity to petition to convert poor-performing schools into charter schools.”

Parents at the 500-student McKinley Elementary have been organizing since the summer, according to Ben Austin, a member of the State Board of Education and a leader of Parent Revolution, a non-profit organization that that lobbied for the law and has sought out parents to take advantage of it. Austin said he’s confident McKinley leaders have gathered signatures of 62 percent of parents. Under temporary regulations adopted by the State Board of Education, parents are entitled to one signature per student.

“It’s been an uphill fight,” Austin said. “The district holds all the cards. Only it knows the enrollment numbers and controls contact information for parents.” Organizers had to counter lies by opponents, Austin said, that a charter school would charge tuition and exclude special education students.

McKinley Elementary, with low-income minority children, scored in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide, with an API score of 684, an increase of 26 points from 2009. African-American children’s scores dropped seven points to 635.

The district itself has struggled for years. Only 47 percent of students graduate, and only 3 percent of seniors – one tenth of the statewide average – have passed enough courses with high enough grades to qualify for a four-year public university.

In a scathing evaluation of the district this fall, a state District Assistance and Intervention Team concluded, “We remain deeply concerned about the commitment to student achievement across the district, and have grave reservations at this time, about the capacity of the District to make significant gains for students.” The report cited a focus on “adult issues as a priority before student needs;” a lack of civility and respect for people in meetings and during school visits; and a failure to hold adults accountable for their work and for unethical behavior.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Controversial Southwestern College Prez Raj Chopra Resigns

Controversial Southwestern College Prez Resigns
November 30, 2010
Voice of San Diego
by Emily Alpert

The controversial president of Southwestern College announced his resignation today, leaving roughly a year and a half before his contract was set to expire. Raj Chopra, whose resignation is effective today, will get the equivalent of six months' salary, according to a press release issued by the college.

From the release:

"I believe some important objectives have been achieved," Chopra said. "The College, in spite of unprecedented financial problems at the state level, remains in good financial standing."

To understand what Chopra meant to the school, read this terrific piece written by Southwestern College students and contributors Sean Campbell and Lyndsay Winkley earlier this year. It explains why Chopra was so controversial, calling it "an almost constant battle since Chopra was hired in August 2007."

The president has acted unilaterally to enact massive budget cuts in the face of deep financial troubles, breaking course with previous administrations who involved faculty in decision-making. Now, three pro-Chopra board members are facing a recall, faculty is complaining of a culture of fear and California's college accreditation commission is threatening to shut the whole place down if the campus environment does not change.

The blunt and confrontational Chopra has a long history of turning around troubled districts and educational systems — and of igniting brutal labor clashes. And he's drawn more scrutiny here for accepting a pay increase while laying off long-time employees, cutting classes and for apparently boosting a paragraph from Southwest Airlines' CEO in his Thanksgiving letter to employees.

Hundreds of college employees have united against Chopra and are taking out their frustrations on three members of the Southwestern board. In the crosshairs are trustees Jean Roesch, Terry Valladolid and Yolanda Salcido.

Salcido lost her spot on the board in the November elections; Valladolid kept hers and a third trustee, Jorge Dominguez, lost his spot as well. The press release from Southwestern College said that Chopra stepping down would allow the new board, which comes in next month, to choose a new leader.