Sunday, June 22, 2014

Around South County: Around Laguna Niguel & Beyond....

The City of Laguna Niguel is continuing its' vibrancy ever more.    One of the most enticing developments over the last thirty days has been the adoption of the Healthy Parks Ordinance.   All smoking will be outlawed at all City-Owned Parks and facilities--and it is off to its' second reading.  This will include E-Cigarettes as well. 

This was also the Month that saw the City honor all who serve it and naming its' Citizen of Year for 2013:   Carol and Amy David.   Their service to the Community is what continues to strengthen Laguna Niguel ever more.  Examples of it are seen every day as PTSA volunteers help staff schools, Faith Communities staff food pantries, sports leagues ever so strengthened and organizations such as the Scouts are served by dedicated selfless volunteers.    It was a tribute to the wonderful work done @ the District as the latest edition of CAPO Talk, the District Newsletter, noted that, how the "...Class of 2014 Earns Millions of Dollars in Scholarships as 
Parents, teachers, and students alike have reason to celebrate this coming week. The Capistrano Unified School District Class of 2014 has racked up more than $3,000,000 worth of scholarships! Students from the District's six comprehensive high schools are going to be matriculating at some of the most coveted colleges and universities in the world including, Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame, and UC Berkeley to name a few. With new scholarships being reported by students and faculty each day, a complete listing of colleges and scholarships will be posted to the District website on Graduation Day (June 24, 2014). "  

The City has also launched the revamp of the Parks with Crown Valley Park.   There will be periodic construction delays as noted in this .  It is part of a seven-year effort to transform the City infrastructure.    There will be delays as Construction gets underway.    As the final budget was approved in time for the beginning of the Fiscal Year, a key component of the budget was the Annual Police Service Contract that constitutes almost 30% of the City Budget (Almost 11 Million Dollars).     The adoption of the $ 108 Billion Dollar State Budget also brings a sense of stability that has lacked in years past.  

It is also crucial to note how the Orange County Register has been at the forefront of helping the Community.  Their School Laptop Program launched in 2013 was just one example of such commitment.   Hopefully the Orange County Register will continue its' innovative programs in such ways despite its' recent cutbacks that have included buyouts and a potential sale of the iconic headquarters in Santa Ana.

Further North in Mission Viejo, there is a "studio" in the Kaleidoscope.    It features a little project launched by the City of Mission Viejo called "Bears Around Town" back in 2012.  
The studio features Bears that also honor the various vibrant communities that call Mission Viejo home.  It is just one more example of the vibrancy of South County that is ever so as Summer begins.   

View of the Week: On the latest from Capistrano Unified School District

The School year is ending on June 24.       Dr. Farley, the Superintendent that has done so much to stabilize the District, is retiring and the District has selected its' new Superintendent : Kirsten Vital.  It has been a fabulous year for the School District in numerous fronts.

It was also gratifying to see how much progress has been made on the Local Control Accountability Formula (LCAP)  as the funding transformation continue with the passage of Proposition 30.  Although some would argue that the money was a "shifting around", the need to create a sense of stability was absolutely vital which was ever so evident in the sea change seen in Schools after the commotion of the last number of years.

The biggest strength has been the active and vibrant engagement of the Parents.   We here @ "Outsiders" were able to be privy to some wonderful work by the Legislative Advocacy Team of the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) on LCAP and the recommendations the committee filed with the District Leadership as Summer looms:    

Last week the CUCPTSA Legislative Team conducted a study of the current draft of the 2014-15 CUSD LCAP.  Following that meeting on Monday, June 9th, we shared the following comments with Superintendent Farley and his staff and are providing a summary of those comments below for your review.   We acknowledge and thank all involved at the district office for their exhaustive and continuing efforts in completing this first year LCAP.    We look forward to the completion of the LCAP on or before June 30, 2014 and are committed to partnering with CUSD in its successful implementation next year. 
  • Strongly applaud and support the restoral of 180 day school year
  • Stongly applaud and support the reduction of class size at all levels and look forward to seeing this trend continue.
  • Glad to see LCAP outlines how our district is addressing needs and providing services to boost achievement of ELL students.
  • Applaud the addition of VAPA Coordinator!
  • We applaud the reinstatement of Healthy Kids Survey and are excited to see the results of the Ready Set College survey!
  • Excited to see expanded coursework and more CTE pathways and to learn more about exact programs and courses, which will be offered. 
  • Excited to see spending on AVID identified.
  • We are glad to see the district establish a plan and set a baseline to identify at-risk students (academically, socially, and behaviorally) and look forward to seeing more counselors, supervisors, etc. on our school campuses in the future as a result of the development of this plan.
  • We believe that family engagement holds the key to successful students and strong schools.  We applaud any district effort to improve and expand family engagement. We particularly encourage the district to implement the School Smarts Parent Engagement and Leadership Academy.
  • We support actions to enhance online and other communication vehicles, including websites, online surveys, and various digital tools that create two-way conversation and information dissemination between district, parents and community.
  • We ask the district to show a current baseline measurement for metrics and goals.  This may be difficult, but it was unclear as to what baseline would be used for annual measurement of success.
  • Student input was included in stage one of the plan; we would like to see continued student input gathered via “student only” forums not as part of public or school site forums that are inclusive of general population.
  • We ask that the district implement the School SMARTS Parent Engagement program at our schools, which encourages continued participation in school leadership from its graduates.
  • We ask the district for expansion of coursework and more CTE pathways included at the middle school level in the future.
·       Re: Goal 1- we ask the district for an improved counselor-to-student ratio, as it was a common theme in stakeholder input. 
·      Re: Goal 2- we addressed need for additional academic counselors above, but there is a need for additional High School Counselors to address the needs of emotional / social issues. 
·      Re: Goal 3- we ask the district for expansion of the AVID program, and that it be offered to all interested students.
  • In many of the “What actions are performed” sections, it is difficult to identify exact resources and expenditures being utilized for a specific goal.
  • Re: Goal 5 – we ask the district to make two separate goals for Technology and Facilities, for accountability and expenditure clarification.
  • Under Facilities, we would ask the district for a plan to identify “Level 1” or highest priority facility issues that jeopardize student safety, and commit resources to correct.
  • Under Facilities, we ask the district to create a goal and plan to identify funding resources for long term/high dollar improvements in the district.
  • Under Technology, we ask the district to provide a detailed action plan and expenditures related to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD.)

These recommendations--if adopted--will provide a very strong foundation for the School District to continue to be among the leaders in the State and the Nation in thinking ahead and to insure that the interests of the Children always come first.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Around South County: As Always Engaging.....


It was a very busy week around South Orange County.    The June 3 primary election was held.  The turnout was low--but based on Statistics from the Registrar of Voters,  the final tally of turn-out will be around 24%..  Scott Lay built out a very nice tool that shared some real time data during the elections statewide.

A number of races were settled and a number of races have gone into runoffs.   What was gratifying to see though was how the Community was ever so vibrant.  Today saw the Firefighters out there in their annual campaign to "Fill the Boots" for the fight against Muscular Dystrophy in Laguna Hills .   Aliso Viejo Middle School had its' Falcon Olympics that saw kids competing in various events and parents who came out to support the kids:
Laguna Niguel is about to get another "Fresh Food" outlet.    The folks who own Wholesome Choice in Irvine are about to launch a second one for South Orange County.   It will be directly across almost from Whole Foods--but the interesting dilemma is that it will cater to a different cadre of the Community (including a very vibrant and engaging Persian Community).    It will be located in the "now" Ralphs Supermarket on the corner of La Paz and Aliso Creek that will be shutting down on July 3.

Laguna Niguel will also have its' annual dinner for all volunteers and the Citizen of the Year will be chosen.     We will have an update on it later on .    What was a bit disconcerting was to see the Orange County Register going through another series of cutbacks. Hopefully they will be able to insure that their mission to serve is not impacted too great.

As the Weekend looms, the  admonition from the Persian Poet Hafez is one worth remembering especially as the primary election season heats up.    The need to be ever so hopeful is as vital as ever.

Monday, June 2, 2014

On the Eve of Election Day 2014: Brief Thoughts

It is primary day tomorrow in California.   Orange County will also go to the Polls as well.  There are over 1125 Polling Places throughout Orange County.     It has been quite an election campaign as a number of key County-Wide offices are up for grabs.   We look forward to commenting on Election in South County later this week to discuss the results and assess a day in the exercise of Democracy.