Simi Education Foundation’s New Partners

I know young teachers, not only in Simi Valley, but in other districts who are extremely talented, extremely dedicated, and extremely at risk of losing their jobs due to the state budget crisis.  Funding for education in general, not only for teachers’ salaries, faces cut backs that you’re sure to feel if your children are enrolled in public schools.

The Simi Valley Education Foundation’s history goes back over 20 years, having been instrumental in thousands of dollars in both monetary and school equipment donations.  I can recall getting involved in the business community years ago and seeing other business owners making their involvement in supporting the foundation a primary objective.  As the May deadline for anticipated layoff decisions approaches, I’m not only getting more concerned about the fate of our schools, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that the Simi Valley Education Foundation will become an even greater source of relief to our local school system.

Participating and donating has become a whole lot easier lately thanks to the Education Foundation’s Affinity Partner program.  By simply buying services from Affinity Partners, your qualified purchases can contribute to donations to the Foundation.   Are you a fan of Woodranch Bistro?  Stop by on Sunday and 20% of your food purchase will be donated to the Education Foundation.  Gotta have your Jamba Juice?  Me too!  Swing by on a Monday and mention the Education Foundation so 20% of your purchase can be donated!

I’m very interested in participating as well.  I’d like to see what I can put together to help raise funds for the Education Foundation… in the meantime, I’ll be participating by patronizing the published Affinity Partners.  You can do the same by viewing the list at the link below!

New Simi Target Store Too Expensive

The cost of doing business in Simi Valley might be a bit too expensive if you’re a big box store like Target.  Of course, the need for a new Target store at Madera and Los Angeles may be open for debate (a Target exists at Sycamore and Cochran and nearby the proposed new location in Moorpark).  Nevertheless, Target has been trying now for a while to get the new store rolling and it’s been slow going.

According to an article in The Ventura County Star, Target is going back to the city and asking for new terms in an effort to reduce construction costs.  So far, the requirements have included a million dollar plus storm drain system overhaul, two bus turnout lanes, and landscaping requirements that will make the new Target store look like every other new building and shopping center constructed in Simi Valley in the past 5 years, with faux towers and faux stone facades.

New Target Store

New Target Store

From The Star:
If at least $2 million can’t be shaved from Target’s plan to build in the west end of Simi Valley, store officials say they might have to scrap the project.

The company hopes to renegotiate the terms of its contract to remove some of the city requirements that make the project “financially unfeasible,” said one Target official.

“Target is not exempt from current economic conditions,” said Anna Anderson, a Target spokeswoman.

But she added Target is working with city officials to find something “mutually acceptable.”

So in this economy, the current plan is too expensive.  Will the City of Simi Valley be flexible?  They should be.  Despite the argument that another Target isn’t necessary, they’ll be successful in that space, resulting in sales tax revenue and new jobs in Simi Valley.  The city can also stand firm and keep the plan as-is, which may very well result in Target walking away from the deal.

Interestingly, the most expensive portions of the proposed development include infrastructure enhancements, like the storm drainage improvement.  However, with the newly developed Target store comes a new assessment of the property’s value which will undoubtedly result in an increase in property tax for the shopping center.  It seems reasonable, in an effort to keep the project moving forward, that the city might consider contributing to infrastructure costs to keep this rolling and bring these new jobs into town.  Time will tell…

In the meantime, enjoy this amateur video of mine from about 7 months ago while we geared up for local elections, and hear my borderline obnoxious view on government influence on local construction.

Simi Valley Homeless

I received this email several weeks ago:

Subject: Re: We want to be found. We need a room. We have a dog and up to 600. A month. No one is listening. We are disable. Fighting a S.S.I. Case almost 3 years. Help the homeless.

We have been homeless 5 years. A fall from grace and now we cant find a room because we have a dog! We are good people. The homeless situation has become downright scary. We could tell you indepth show you our camp, our tent in the wash at easy and madera. We are about 20 in numbers now. How we have lived and how people just are not giving enough in simi. Food bank at Sonrise is so bad we dont even go anymore.  Tired of rotten food and so little for the trip. What is going on in this town. We can afford 600. For us and our Rotti. You can find me at costco with a sign trying to get someone to listen.

I would love to get someone’s feedback on this.  I was very moved by this email.  However, though admittedly I have been very detached, I’ve always been under the impression that Simi Valley has resources that go beyond normal expectations for the homeless.  Am I wrong?

I know Simi Valley has the Samaritan Center, the drop-in facility for the homeless where people can go to shower, get clean clothes and something to eat.  I’m also familiar with the local food bank, which the writer makes an unpleasant reference to in her letter.

During the course of the next several months, I plan to educate myself more on the homeless situation in Simi Valley, and the response.  I suspect that I will be pleasantly surprised.  If anyone has any news, info or guidance to offer me that might assist me, please do let me know!

Nicole Barr, Simi Valley Teacher

From the Acorn:

I am writing as an English teacher at Royal High School in the Simi Valley Unified School District.

I think I bring a unique approach to the current crisis facing our schools, state and nation.

I am a product of all California public schools for all levels of my education. I have also taught abroad in the Netherlands. There, I saw the rigor in curriculum and expectations that are so lacking in California schools.

This is mostly because the Netherlands practices what it says it believes in. The Netherlands realizes free education is not free. We do not.

What I did not enjoy about the Netherlands was the lack of job security and benefits. It is ironic that as I write this letter today I have received an initial pink slip after having gained tenure in my district.

As a young teacher, I work tirelessly to develop as an educator and to improve the quality of learning for my students. Now, I worry for the students whose education will be seriously underfunded.

And I worry for myself, since this is what I am meant to do and may not be able to next year. I am also a new homeowner, who might now add to our state’s problems by going on unemployment and possibly losing my home.

In this current situation, it depresses me to my core to see all my students anxious about their education, their school and even my job.

I feel that as a society we have failed them and will continue to fail them until it is too late, while they are voiceless in the background hoping we make the right choices for them. This voiceless group deserves one, which is obviously not being heard by those supposed to act on it.

However, on the May 19 election we, the voters of California, have an opportunity in passing Propositions 1A-1F to show these students where our priorities lie: in their education over a little extra money in our pockets.

I send this letter to inform you how we, the people affected by budget cuts, feel. I send this letter to urge you to do what is right for California. I send this letter not to be political, but to remind you to support schools.
Nicole Barr
Simi Valley

Jamie Snodgrass, Simi Valley Teacher

From the Acorn:

I would like to take this opportunity to express my dissatisfaction over our current educational crisis.

On Fri., March 13, I received my reduction in force letter (pink slip). For me this letter represented disappointment, anxiety, anger and fear.

I am the mother of two young children with a husband who has not been able to find permanent work since last August. Losing my job will lead to tremendous financial hardship for my family.

I have given four years of service to my current high school and two years at a private middle school. Over the last six years I have improved my teaching skills.

I analyze what I do well and what needs to be altered. I attend conferences, trainings, take additional college courses and collaborate with my colleagues. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a Master Teacher, preparing someone else to be an educator.

Unfortunately, due to the organization of our system I am in jeopardy of losing my job with all of my hard work and dedication being dismissed because I am only being judged on my seniority.

Up until a few months ago I had no question about sending my two young children to our local public schools; this has all changed for me. I want the best for my children, and I do not believe that they will receive the best education here in California.

I tell my students daily that my job is to make them educated citizens so that they are able to make educated decisions for themselves as well as their country.

How are they going to be able to become the informed citizens we hope for them to be if they are being stripped of their opportunity to receive a highquality education?

The recently passed state budget cut $11 billion from education. To prevent further cuts and to get us out of these tough economic times we need Propositions 1A1F to pass in the special election on May 19.

Californians need to realize that many of the propositions are dependent on each other, if they fail the state is going to have to create a new budget. If we ignore our current economic crisis our educational system is going to be headed in the wrong direction. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for us to stand up for education.
Jamie Snodgrass
Simi Valley

Simi Valley Teachers Screwed

Interestingly, it seems the same teachers union that’s supposed to protect the employment rights of teachers is screwing the ones without seniority, despite whether or not they have exemplary employment records.  It’s true, in the City of Simi Valley, teachers without seniority are at risk of layoffs even if they outperform senior teachers.

My son attended a public Simi Valley school and we had a very hard time with his teacher.  He faced some behavior challenges in class and his teacher was in her last year before retirement and frankly, didn’t want to deal with him.  She plopped him in a corner and waited for the school year to end, much to our horror.  The next year, he was taught by a much younger, much more passionate and caring teacher who was proactive in turning him around and worked with us to turn him into a star student.  She was exceptional… and she could very well be at risk for losing her job, while the first teacher we experienced ultimately would have kept her job.

THAT is wrong, and Simi Valley students deserve better!

I read this snippet in an article in the Simi Valley Acorn.

“I’m (probably) losing my job when I know I’m putting in 110 percent and somebody else is not,” Snodgrass said. “That’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Moving out of California?

Snodgrass and three other teachers at Royal were hired in August 2005. She was the only one to receive a pink slip, she discovered, because she lost a tiebreaker.

For teachers who were hired at the same time, the district follows seven tiebreakers, including prior tenure and multiple degrees.

“I don’t feel confident at all,” Snodgrass said about her job stability.

Snodgrass has two children, ages 1 and 2. Her husband, Bryan, is an assistant director in the movie business but, she said, his job doesn’t provide a steady stream of income.

Now Snodgrass is thinking about moving her family to New Mexico—a tough decision for the Simi Valley native and Royal High graduate who was thrilled to find a job teaching in her hometown.

“We would not want to move,” she said. “If the situation doesn’t change for us, it might be necessary.”

On May 15, Cameron, Snodgrass and other teachers who received pink slips will learn for sure whether or not their jobs have been eliminated. By state law, that’s the last day SVUSD can terminate positions for the 2009-10 school year.

Since experiencing a bad teaching experience at a Simi Valley school, we’ve been very invested in who teaches our children early in their educational career.  This budgetary crisis and seniority versus performance issue has me concerned as the parent of Simi Valley students.  I suspect many feel the same way.

Healthcare in Simi Valley

Is it just me, or is the Simi Valley healthcare community getting some kind of a shakedown?  Rather, are the Simi based medical groups at war with one of them taking a hit?  It certainly seems that way from my perspective.  As a not-so-proud participant in an HMO program, my primary care physician is with Community Medical Group of Simi Valley and the past year has been one of many surprise departures.

For years, my doctor was a terrific doctor with Community Medical Group named Dr. Michaels.  I found him to be knowledgeable, kind and sensitive to my medical concerns.  My wife started seeing him as well based on my recommendations.  After years of reliable medical service, Dr. Michaels suddenly disappeared.  The people at the appointment desk weren’t talking, other than to say he was no longer with the medical group.  With no forwarding information available, I began to see Dr. Lee, also a terrific physician in the same office.

Dr. Lee quickly got up to speed on all of my medical issues, specifically my occassional break-out of hives and my chronic sinusitis.  I became just as satisfied with Dr. Lee as I was with Dr. Michaels.  I later learned that Dr. Michaels had moved to Regal Medical Group of Simi Valley.  Because I had established a rapport with Dr. Lee, however, I chose to stay with Community Medical.  Then, Dr. Lee left the group… and joined Regal Medical.

When a couple of doctors that you depend on suddenly jump ship and land in the same place, it definitely makes you think.  Should I be concerned?  I recently learned that Dr. Whyte, one of the best pediatricians for Community Medical Group, who treats my children, is also moving to Regal Medical Group.  Uh oh.  What does all this mean?

I’m curious to know if anyone else has any insight into the migration of all the outstanding physicians from Community Medical making their way over to Regal.  Are any members of Community Medical Group of Simi inclined to make the switch to Regal Medical Group?  Have you done so already?  And if so, how was the transition?