The following is a story by the Foothills Sentry newspaper, a Voice of OC media partner covering Orange, Villa Park, Orange Park Acres, Anaheim Hills, North Tustin, Silverado Canyon, and Modjeska Canyon.

This story was published in the Sentry’s August 2016 edition.

Over these past years, I have seen most of the Orange Unified School District (OUSD) board members fail to provide adequate administrative procedures and fulfill their civic duty to our community and, more specifically, duty to our children. Sadly, the OUSD board majority members have been implementing their own agendas for reasons unknown, and they have not taken into consideration what the OUSD community is asking of them, let alone listening to them prior to making decisions or taking action.

Elected and appointed office-holders need to remember that the chairs they occupy are not theirs, but belong to the community. The officeholders are merely the voice of the people — their responsibility is to echo the voice of the community. Furthermore, public representatives must serve the whole community, regardless of the citizenry’s social or economic status. Officeholders must work for the whole community — even for the citizenry that does not vote and residents who did not vote for them. All must be represented equally, especially our children. The OUSD board must get out of the real estate business (false starts, money spent, time wasted at Peralta, Walnut) and get back to doing schoolwork.

While there exists a “positive trend in the decline in Orange County’s high school dropout rate to 5.7 percent last year from 9.5 percent four years earlier,” and while “schools are reaching out more aggressively to students in danger of dropping out and are offering them alternative education programs,” there is still a lot of work to be done. “Less than half of Orange County’s third-graders last year met the state standards in English language and literacy, and only 51 percent met the math standards. The lag continued through 11th grade, with less than two-thirds meeting literacy standards and only 39 percent meeting math standards.” (OC Register, June 26)

This data is serious, and the forecast is even dimmer. This is a strong indication that the board majority is not focusing on what is important to benefit our students and enhance our community.

One of the things that must be brought back to the Orange Unified School District is trust. Trust that board members are hearing what the community is asking for. Trust that board members will work with each other and with the community. Trust that a midterm vacant seat will be filled with a suitable appointee. Trust that bond measures will be financially acceptable, and detailed enough to understand. Trust that existing facilities and resources will be properly maintained. Trust that personal agendas will not over-ride community needs.

Trustees must ensure that all district schools — not just four — are upgraded with today’s technology and facility standards. They must ensure that our students, from kindergarten through high school, receive not just an adequate – but a superior – education. Our students must be competitive with the rest of California school districts; they must be prepared to enter universities if they choose to do so. However, we as civic leaders, educators, and business owners must keep in mind that all jobs and all people, regardless of social standing, job title, or the type of work they do, are of equal importance.

Not all high school students choose to attend a university. That does not mean that he or she is less intelligent than one who does attend.  It just means that they have chosen a non-university career or to delay one. It is therefore of equal importance that trustees ensure that students who intend to enter the work force directly out of high school are offered a curriculum that provides the skills they will need.

This November, voters will have an opportunity to elect a more responsive school board, with individual members who represent the entire community.  That means individuals prepared to work with school administrators and other electeds to enhance the Career Technical Education (CTE) program that exists in our high schools, and incorporate CTE courses with core academic classes to provide students with a pathway to post-secondary education and/or career skills to propel them into the workforce.

To accomplish this, we must revitalize our schools and implement new learning tools. These tools include new computer technology, science labs,  efficient classrooms, and functional infrastructure. This is where bond money must be spent.

Having been dyslexic since childhood, I fully understand the requirements for special needs children. I understand that an OUSD school board member must not only earn the trust of the community, but also represent the needs and demands of the entire community – dyslexic or special needs, college-bound or career-oriented.

Daniel Correa currently serves on the Orange Planning Commission. He has announced his intention to run for OUSD Trustee Seat, Area 2 in November.

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