Superintendent of Schools

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May 2015

Student Assessments Meet the Digital Age at Orange Unified School District

Assessment season is in full-force at Orange Unified, and students in grades 3-8 and 11 are actively engaged in Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Assessments for English Language Arts and Math. These computer-based assessments are embedded with skills required of the college and career world and provide students with an opportunity to collaborate, solve problems, justify their thinking and respond in a more creative way than our previous statewide paper-pencil assessments. By the end of May, the District will have successfully tested over 20,000 Orange Unified students. The smooth deployment of these paperless assessments is a testament to the past two years OUSD has worked to build up technology infrastructure in support of 21st century teaching and learning.

Scores from this year’s SBAC Assessments will serve as a baseline for future growth, and results will be provided separately for Math and for English Language Arts. Results of OUSD students’ performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessments, as well as other statewide assessments, will be released in the coming months. The scores will tell you how your child is doing with the new State Standards, which focus more on real-world skills like critical thinking and problem solving than previous standards have. 

Your child’s results will be mailed home in a Student Score Report during the summer. This report will include an overall score, a description of the student’s achievement level for English Language Arts and Math, and other information. The overall score will indicate the student’s proficiency for each subject and ranges from 2,000 to 3,000 points. A breakdown of the score is also included in the report and will provide individualized information on your child’s academic strengths and potential challenges.

The new assessments are fundamentally different from the former paper-pencil tests and are based on updated learning standards, involve different types of questions, and assess different skills and levels of testing. For these reasons, scores from the current assessments cannot be compared to scores your child previously received on the STAR Program tests.

Staff eagerly awaits feedback from the new assessments, which provide our students with an opportunity to show off the hard work they have put into learning 21st century college and career standards. Information gathered will be used to shape future student learning and assist in individualizing instruction to meet the needs of each of our students.​ 

Any questions about testing should be directed to your school or the office of Research & Assessment at (714) 628-5457.

For the latest news and updates from Orange Unified, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools
superintendent@orangeusd.org

March 2015

Dear Parents and Community Members:

The past seven years of economic downturn have led to hardships nationwide, including within our home State of California. Reduced funding caused OUSD, like many other school districts, to be forced to cut back on spending. Regretfully, programs that were beneficial to students ended when there were no longer funds available to maintain them.

Last year was the first time since 2007 that the State ended its fiscal year with cash left over in its general fund, and the improving economy led the Board of Education to ask staff to design an action plan for the possible restoration of the elementary music program, a program cut during the budget downfall.

A District Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) Committee consisting of teachers, administrators and District staff was formulated and charged with the task of determining what steps would be necessary to restore music at the elementary level. The VAPA Committee held numerous meetings to discuss the scope of the elementary music prior to the 2007 funding cuts and the pros/cons of the previous program. All elementary school teachers and administrators were surveyed to glean their feedback on the previous program and, more importantly, what they envisioned the new program should entail. In addition to the numerous committee discussions, pertinent information was gathered from a myriad of school districts to understand their varied, successful art program models.

In September 2014, the District VAPA Committee presented their findings on four plausible models for elementary music restoration and the associated program costs to the OUSD Board of Education.  In order for any one of these models to be effective, successful, and sustainable, it was agreed that the program must be aligned to District-wide objectives.

In order to better define those objectives it was necessary to update the OUSD District Visual & Performing Arts Plan, which included two days of strategic planning facilitated by The California Arts Project and the Orange County Department of Education.  Stakeholders, including parents and community partners, looked at different focus areas included within the arts plan created in 2007 and analyzed the current strengths and weaknesses in each of the focus areas.  Through collaborative and consensus-building activities, stakeholders were able to define the goals and objectives they envisioned for Orange Unified regarding the arts.  All stakeholders were in agreement that the foundation of the plan should be Arts for All - equitable access to a quality arts program for all OUSD K-12 students.
Following the development of the District Arts Education Plan, District-facilitated focus groups, consisting of targeted stakeholders, looked at the District Arts Education Plan and provided additional feedback on plausible models that truly provide students with the opportunity to compete in the global economy.  Through this process, stakeholders agreed that providing students with instruction in music-only would not be in alignment with our District Arts Education Plan.  Instead, based on the plethora of feedback gathered from all stakeholders over the 18 month process, a recommendation to the Board included the Implementation of the 21st Century Integrated Arts Wheel for the 2015-16 school year.  In the initial implementation year, 5th & 6th grade students in all 27 elementary schools will receive 90 minutes of instrumental music or participation in an arts wheel where they will have the opportunity to experience theatre arts, visual arts, dance, general music/choir and/or STEM & Art Integration.  This model has an initial cost of an estimated $2.5 million and was graciously approved by the OUSD Board of Education on March 12th.  It is expected that the program will expand in future years to include more grade levels. 

All stakeholders are excited that OUSD is on the cutting edge of Arts Education, providing 21st Century learning opportunities that enable students to see that they have purpose, voice and the ability to contribute to society! 

Anyone wanting additional information about the program or how to donate instruments for our students should contact the Curriculum & Instruction Office at (714) 628-5452.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for ongoing District updates.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools
superintendent@orangeusd.org


May 2014

Dear Parents and Community Members:

It’s an exciting time within Orange Unified as we continue to march forward on our quest to provide first-rate facilities to our students and teachers. 

On March 8, the Board of Education received the results of a statistically reliable survey of voters in the District to assess the feasibility of placing a bond measure on the November 2014 ballot. True North Research Inc. reported to the Board that approximately 64% of the electorate stated that they definitely or probably would vote yes to modernize the District’s comprehensive high schools. While there is more work to be done to educate the public about the needs of our schools, the positive polling results show we are heading in the right direction, earning the support of our community.

At the same meeting, the Board also received a report on possible language to provide assurances and protections to the taxpayers so that any funds raised would go to modernizing the campuses for which the voters intended them. In order to accomplish this, the Board placed language in the resolution that mandates bond funds be divided equally, so 25% of the funds received must be spent at each of the four comprehensive high schools – Canyon High, El Modena High, Orange High and Villa Park High. Additionally, language assuring that bond proceeds will not be used for maintenance of school facilities, school operating expenses, nor teacher and administration salaries was added to the ballot proposition draft.

To provide assurances that funds are available to provide for ongoing maintenance of the renovated facilities, the Board is also considering placing language in the ballot resolution that will require an additional 1% of all general fund revenue be allocated to facilities maintenance for the life of the bonds. This is all in addition to the protections already in law, such as forming a Citizen’s Oversight Committee to provide annual reports to the Board and public on the bond program’s fiscal and performance audits.

CARE (Community Advancement through Renovation for Education), the grass-roots citizens committee advocating the modernization of our high schools, continues to advance the cause through fund raising and community outreach.  Anyone interested in learning more about CARE can find them on Facebook at CAREforOUSD or on the web at www.CAREforOUSD.org.

The next step is for the Board to decide on the final ballot resolution language and the amount of the bonds.  They may take action in June to place an item on the ballot in the November general election to see if the voters want the District to sell bonds and use the proceeds to modernize our comprehensive high schools. 

I encourage you to stay up to date on the events surrounding this issue and other important District communications by visiting the District’s website (www.orangeusd.org) and following us on Facebook at OrangeUnifiedSchoolDistrictCA.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools
superintendent@orangeusd.org

Please Click Here for the Official Letter


April 2014

Dear Parents and Community Members:

The anticipation continues to build!  For the past eight months, each of the District’s four comprehensive high schools has been developing facility master plans with an architectural firm: Orange HS with Lionakis, Canyon HS with GKK Works, El Modena HS with Harley Ellis Devereaux, and Villa Park HS with LPA.

During the development process, numerous meetings were held with community members and District staff, who provided voluminous input towards the creation of newly modernized campuses that are unique to each school and community. In conjunction with each community’s vision for their campus, the architectural firms developed global plans that create not only great 21st Century learning environments, but facilities that will also serve our community.  These plans were unveiled by each firm to the Board of Education, and the communities as a whole, at on-location Board of Education meetings. 

In an effort to promote transparency and allow easier access for the community, staff and students to attend meetings and provide further input on their respective school’s facilities master plan, the Board of Education decided to take their February and March meetings on the road to each high school.  The overwhelming response and attendance at these Board meetings has far surpassed everyone’s expectations. The visioning that has taken place developing the plans has been amazing.

In late January, a brochure and survey concerning high school facility priorities was mailed to households in the greater Orange community.   In addition to completing and returning the survey by mail, there was an option to complete the survey on-line.  The survey asked respondents to prioritize five areas for facilities modernization based on their importance:  1) Update classrooms to 21st Century learning standards; 2) Modernize aging science labs and equipment; 3) Upgrade aging facilities with green, energy efficient building components; 4) Upgrade/modernize aging athletic facilities; and 5) Modernize/build performing arts centers.  While all the priorities received support, the greatest priorities are clearly for updated classrooms and modernized science labs.  These results mirror what the architects learned through the master plan development process. 

As a result of the master planning process, a grass-roots effort has been mounted by community members to advocate for the modernization of our high schools.  They have selected the name CARE – Community Advancement through Renovation for Education – and have registered with the State FPPC to advance this cause through fund raising and community outreach.  Anyone interested in learning more about CARE can find them on Facebook at CAREforOUSD or on the web at www.CAREforOUSD.org.

The next step in the process of implementing the high school master plans is to conduct a scientific poll of the community to determine the interest of the District’s voters.  The Board retained the services of True North Research to develop and conduct the polling, which will take place during April with the Board receiving the results at the May 8th meeting.  Depending on the results of the poll, the Board may consider taking action as early as June to ask voters in the November general election if the District should sell bonds and use the proceeds to modernize our comprehensive high schools. 

I encourage you to stay up to date on the events surrounding this issue and other important District communications by visiting the District’s website (www.orangeusd.org) and following us on Facebook at OrangeUnifiedSchoolDistrictCA.   Additionally, the designs for each high school can be found on the District’s website at www.orangeusd.org/facilities/plan/.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools
superintendent@orangeusd.org

Please Click Here for the Official Letter

 

January 2014

Dear Parents and Community Members,

It is an exciting time at Orange Unified School District. We are starting to develop plans to upgrade aging classrooms, science labs and school facilities at each of our four comprehensive high schools: Canyon, El Modena, Villa Park and Orange. Each of these schools is working with an architectural firm to identify urgent needs and opportunities for improvement.

By utilizing state facility funding programs and other creative sources, we've managed to upgrade five of our elementary schools and two middle schools. Unfortunately, there are no more funds available to continue the upgrades and our aging high schools have significant needs. In fact, recent professional engineering assessments indicate that just basic building and infrastructure improvements at our high schools will cost approximately $200 million. Moreover, this amount could grow to over $270 million in ten years as the problems grow increasingly worse and construction costs escalate. In other words: We must act now to keep our students safe and keep costs under control.

Even our newest high school, Canyon, is over 40 years old. It needs extensive plumbing and electrical upgrades; earthquake safety and campus security upgrades; and improved access for students with disabilities. The problems at our oldest high school, 60-year-old Orange High, are even more extensive and urgent. In addition to basic upgrades needed to make each of our four high schools safe and functional, the outdated science labs and classroom technology make it difficult for our teachers to deliver a modern curriculum and prepare students for college and a demanding job market. We must promote our schools to a level of excellence that our students and community demand and deserve.

For years, our maintenance staff has done their best to keep our aging facilities functional. However, the facility needs today are greater than simple maintenance. Our high schools are due for improvements that will allow them to serve another generation of students. Unfortunately, the State of California does not provide school districts with the funding needed to keep up with basic building code changes, let alone the upgrades necessary to create a 21st Century learning environment.

Community input throughout this process is essential and your opinions are important. Please complete the survey ranking your facility modernization priorities at www.orangeusd.org/facilities/survey.

Thank you in advance for your time and input. Together we will ensure that our amazing teachers and students have the safe, modern campus facilities, classrooms and science labs needed for a high-quality education.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools
superintendent@orangeusd.org

Please Click Here for the Official Letter

Welcome to the Orange Unified School District website where you can read the latest news from OUSD and other information about our district.

On behalf of the Board of Education, administration and district staff, allow me to extend an invitation to visit our website. OUSD is committed to providing you with easy access to important information about your school district.

OUSD prides itself on its parent and community relationships fostering a family atmosphere in our schools. I hope that the OUSD community will find our website useful in disseminating current information and as an avenue to contact us with any questions or concerns they may have about the school district. We are continually looking for ways to effectively communicate with our students, parents and community.superintendent

Thank you for visiting our website, and I hope you’ll make it a regular stop whenever you’re online.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Christensen, MBA
Superintendent of Schools

Email: superintendent@orangeusd.org

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