Josie’s Concerns

Josie Hirsch is running for one of the open seats on the Simi Valley Board of Education and she’s got some concerns. She posted these remarks on her campaign’s Facebook page, but she shared them with me as well. Public safety is everyone’s concern, and Josie is especially concerned that our kids may be in danger. I’ll let her explain in her own words…

Our Kids Are In Danger

Simi Valley used to be the safest place to live in the US. Now we are ranked in the top 35 places to live. We are no longer safe, and our property crimes continue to rise.

With only 103 street cops on our streets, lets do the math. That rounds Up to 15 officers on the streets of Simi Valley ever 24 hours. If they work 12 hour shifts, we are lucky to have 7 officers on the streets. If they work 8 hour shifts, we have only 5 officers at a time on the streets of our ENTIRE valley. Do you feel safe now?

How about our kids? The DARE program is gone. Gang problems in our schools are increasing, drugs are everywhere, just ask the high school students. These children are telling us they are scared. They are asking parents to drive them to Oak Park so they do not have to go to our schools. What is the district doing about it? One Wood Ranch parent wrote to the Board and Superintendent here in Simi Valley explaining why they were leaving SVUSD and received a letter back wishing her son better luck in Oak Park.

We ,the citizens of Simi Valley must raise our voices to the city and school board and demand more officers. With almost 127,000 residents, we should have 127 officers on the streets, plus the officers who keep the police force optimized from the desks.

Once elected to the Simi Valley School Board, I will fight along side my friends and parents to work with the city council to get to police coverage we need in this community and the police presence we need at the schools, so the gangs, drug users and dealers, and bullies know we mean business. We want our city safe for our children.

Josie Hirsch
Candidate for SVUSD School Board

Arleigh Kidd Goes Online!

The Simi Valley School Board candidates are not only racing for a seat on the board, they’re racing to stake their claim in cyberspace. Arleigh Kidd, candidate for the Simi Valley School Board, has taken his campaign online with a new website. He sent me a link to his website via Facebook, the social media network that is reshaping the online landscape of campaigning on the internet.

From 1990 until 2005 I worked as a social studies teacher at Valley View. While there I continued coaching basketball as well as being a department chair, Quiz Bowl coach, peer mediation coordinator and member of the School Site Council. From 2002 to 2005 I was also elected by my fellow educators to be the President of the local association. Also in 2005 I received an Honorary Service Award from the Simi Valley PTA for my work on behalf of the children of Simi Valley, it was a great honor for me.

In 2005 I was offered a job as a staff person for the state teachers association. I now work consulting with educators and assisting them in long term strategic planning. I also do trainings for educators in areas like the Brown Act and School Site Councils and in reading school district budgets. I am not a member of the local teachers association or state teachers association and I do not work for the local teachers association. I am also not management and not a part of governance.

According to his website, he’ll be joining Jeanne Davis and Bob Huber at an event in Simi Valley at 3:00pm. Brian Dennert will be covering the event, conducting interviews and likely including pictures and video. To find out more about this event, upcoming events, or for more general information about Arleigh Kidd’s campaign for Simi Valley School Board, check out his new website:

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.

Greg Stratton Speaks!

Last week, I read an article describing Debbie Sandland as being “visibly perturbed” about being passed up for the nomination of school board president.  Evidently, there’s an unwritten rule among trustees that the previous year’s clerk be nominated as the current year’s board president.  Last year’s clerk was Sandland.

But protocol was broken last week when Eric Lundstrom, a first term trustee, received the majority vote.  Uh oh!  Protocol was broken?  Yikes!  And Sandland doesn’t like that at all according to last week’s article in the Acorn:

“I think it’s my turn,” she said. “It’s a natural progression.”

DiFatta agreed with her fellow board member.

“There shouldn’t be any debate,” DiFatta said. “The clerk of the board (Sandland) has done a great job, and unless she’s not interested in being president, we should move the clerk to president. I certainly hope this board doesn’t go toward the culture of previous boards that were divisive and mean-spirited.”

I love that!  Breaking away from tradition gets this old timer to utter the words “divisive” and “mean-spirited!”  Really Janice??

What really moved me was the response from former Simi Valley Mayor and former School Board Trustee Greg Stratton.  I like Mr. Stratton for several reasons that I’m not afraid to admit.  1) I bought a condo from him about 10 years ago, 2) he used to work with my father, 3) he’s a well respected member of the community and 4) he was never afraid to openly voice his concerns about the school district and our board of trustees.  He speaks openly in a letter to the Acorn this week:

Obviously their definition of “recent memory” does not go all the way back to 2004, when they broke protocol and denied me and Carla Kurachi our turns as board president and clerk. They taught Rob (Collins) well that the leadership decision is purely political. I’m sure he remembers back that far.

By the protocol, Eric (Lundstrom) should have been clerk last year. Apparently they forgot that part of it then, but now they conveniently remember the rules.

I don’t know how they each can make the statements they made without being afraid of being struck by lightning for twisting the truth.

Read his letter by clicking here.

Update: Brian Dennert discusses the issue here.

Simi Valley Headlines – December 5, 2008

Simi Valley Police Get a Pay Raise

Simi residents Al and Nan Kay believe that Simi police work hard for their money and the couple has no problem with the community’s cops getting a raise.

“I think it’s great,” Al Kay, 42, said. “They deserve all the money. They do a good job.”

Denise Rusiecki, 62, had mixed feelings though.

“I realize we need them but these are tight times,” said Rusiecki, who has lived in Simi for 35 years. “It’s tough justifying them getting raises when there are people that can’t afford to buy food and are losing their homes. It’s a tough call.”

Read more here…

School District Employees Lose Their Jobs

Simi Valley Unified School District, which has already shed $187,577 from this year’s budget, notified 16 classified employees this week they will be fired.

The 16 employees—including 11 custodians, four clerical workers and one information technology staff member—were given 45-day notices that their jobs have been terminated.

And more cuts may be on the way soon.

This is awful. While this opinion may not be well received, I think it’s hard to justify pay increases for (already well-paid) police officers while school employees get terminated.

Read more here…

City Council says ‘Wait a minute’ to Simi Couple’s farm animals

Miller explained that the Bridle Path HOA has covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that prohibit homeowners from keeping certain animals and that just because the planning commission approved a conditional-use permit does not make it OK.

“The CUP doesn’t trump the CC&Rs,” he said.

Williamson, who serves as treasurer for her own HOA, agreed.

If I can possibly get away with it, I will never again live in a community that is governed by an HOA. Then again, I wouldn’t have 8 cows and 2 pigs living in my backyard either.

Read more here…

Barbra Williamson Campaign Finances Challenged by The Star

Glen Gerson donated $3,000 under the names of three separate corporations, including The Vineyards, in this year’s council race. He said he gave money to Williamson after she asked him for support in her bid for a fifth term.

“When a local politician comes up and says ‘Donate to my campaign,’ I’m going to do it,” Gerson said. “We make donations to have people leave us alone.”

I’m fascinated that the Simi Valley Acorn doesn’t touch this story. It makes me wonder if they think it’s a wild goose chase.

Read more here…

If you have some SImi Valley government news that you’d like to share with my or publish for my readers, please contact me.

C4 Bond Oversight Committee

Big thanks to Brian Dennert for posting an article about the call for committee members for the C4 Bond Oversight Committee.  I applied.

I found that one of the compelling statements made in the forum for school board candidates this election was in reference to C4 Bond spending.  Challengers said, “bad job” while incumbents said “not really.”  And while the debate is certainly much more intense than that, either time contraints or a pre-conceived questions ultimately left any details on either side up to the imagination.

I have school age children and this really means something to me.  I recently read a public posting from an unnamed School District employee urging parents to donate $100 per family for much needed funding — and this was recently.  It made me think of the C4 Bond issue.  Where is that money going?

So… I applied as a member of the committee.  We’ll see how that goes.

Brad Jashinsky for Simi School Board

I honestly don’t know why anyone wouldn’t vote for Brad Jashinsky for School Board. As the father of two school aged children, these issues mean a great deal to me and I think Brad has a solid head on his shoulders and offers up terrific leadership skills. See for yourself. Watch the video above!

Brad Jashinsky for School Board

Brad Jashinsky, fellow Simi Valley resident and computer technology guru, is running for school board this election.  I’m thoroughly impressed by his website.  Seriously, this is a guy who understands the importance of technology and it shows in his online presentation.

Brad promotes GATE and special educational programs, proper spending of taxpayer funds and the use of technology to facilitate the education process and bridge the gap between parents and teachers.  SOLID campaign, in my humble opinion.  Brad can certainly hold his own.  Check out his impressive thread on Brian Dennert’s blog.

Check him out!  I’ll have to see if I can get an on camera interview with this guy.  I’m definitely intrigued.

Simi Politics Headlines – 9/19/2008

State Senate candidate opens campaign office in Simi
Former Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson has opened a campaign office at 196003 Sequoia Ave., Simi Valley. The office will serve as home base for Jackson’s volunteers in Simi Valley.
read more…

Incumbent says he will continue push for more vocational programs. Collins wants to see more cooperation with adult school.
The leading vote-getter in Simi Valley Unified school board’s 2004 election is back in the 2008 race. Simi Valley Unified board president Rob Collins, 65, hopes his experience and deep roots in the education community will catapult him to another four-year term on Nov. 4.
read more…