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    By Pat Lynch

    CVUSD Board Member Jenny Fitzgerald recently attended the local Conference on Public and Private School Options where fellow board member, Sandee Everett, was a guest speaker. Rather than spending her time meeting the speakers and building bridges for CVUSD, Fitzgerald appeared angry the whole time, according to witnesses, and consistent with Fitzgerald’s social media post she made following the meeting.

    Mrs. Fitzgerald attended the event with an entourage of community members that belong to Indivisible Conejo, the local version of the national alt-left organization of Indivisible funded by George Soros.

    CVUSD Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald
    CVUSD Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald

    Fitzgerald’s social media post, made to her official school board Facebook page, criticized the attendees and speakers of the event by stating, “I’ve been to church a lot in my lifetime – a lot. Never once has it felt like such a contrast than it did today as I sat in a place of worship while hatred and vitrial [sic] were spewed about children.”

    Fitzgerald failed to give examples of the hate and vitriol about children. But her comments regarding Mrs. Everett’s presentation have been fact checked and were found to be inaccurate, to be generous (see article: CVUSD Trustee Fitzgerald Blasts Trustee Everett in Deceptive Social Media Rant). Fortunately, the event was recorded and Fitzgerald’s comments can be measured against what actually took place.

    Mrs. Fitzgerald is not only a publicly elected official, but also a member of the California Bar which requires the highest standards of honesty. If her report was as intentionally inaccurate as it appears to be, this did not fair well for Mrs. Fitzgerald’s credibility and professional persona. In fact, according to the California Bar Association rules of conduct, Rule 8.4 states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or reckless or intentional misrepresentation.” Fitzgerald’s misrepresentation of Everett’s presentation certainly appeared to be intentional.

    Fitzgerald’s opinion was in stark contrast to the 150 plus other attendees that heaped praise upon the event and its organizer, Dr. Robert Lee who holds a doctorate in Physics from UC Berkley. For a local elected official to write such a hateful post regarding an entire group in the community seems bizarre and unconscionable.

    Hopefully Trustee Fitzgerald’s rant will not further alienate members of the community that are deciding whether to keep their children in public schools.

    CVUSD HISTORY OF DECLINING ENROLLMENT

    CVUSD Official Enrollment Projections
    CVUSD Official Enrollment Projections

    CVUSD has had declining enrollment since 2008 when the board chose to close two elementary schools that were subsequently re-opened as charter schools, MATES and Bridges. The CVUSD school board majority at the time fiercely fought against the parents – first in closing their schools and then fighting against their ability to re-open as charter schools.

    Maybe not so coincidentally, the declining enrollment directly coincides with current Board President Connolly’s tenure on the school board. Connolly began her board service by fighting against MATES and Bridges, and she is known to be hostile toward community members that do not agree with her decisions on the board. Many feel that her ongoing hostility has directly contributed to the mass exodus of the school district during her tenure. Here are some salient facts about CVUSD declining enrollment:

    • CVUSD lost about 1,000 students to MATES and Bridges and has been in a free-fall ever since, losing between 100 and 350 students per year.
    • Declining enrollment is now causing a budget crisis for the district. CVUSD is projected to have a more than $6.8 million deficit this school year.
    • The district gets about $10,000 from the state per student based on average daily attendance (ADA). Therefore, for every student the district loses, the budget crisis worsens.
    • According to census data, there are approximately 24,000 school-aged children living in the Conejo Valley. Only about 17,000 of those will be attending CVUSD this fall. Another 1,000 students come to the CVUSD from outside the district bringing total enrollment up to just over 18,000.
    • Roughly 1,000 students living in CVUSD boundaries opt to attend a different public school system such as Oak Park and Las Virgenes. Another 1,000 attend one of the two public charter schools in the Conejo Valley. That leaves about 5,000 students that either home school, are enrolled with a charter school outside of the Conejo Valley or attend a private school.
    CVUSD 2019-20 Operating Budget Deficit of $6.8 Million (from presentation by Victor Hayek)

    Mrs. Everett has repeatedly called for the superintendent and board to consider offering a much more innovative and flexible CVUSD home school program that actually meets homeschool student needs and competes with the programs parents are finding at public charter schools. At a recent board meeting Everett requested that the district open up CVUSD sports, music and other extra-curricular programs to those who homeschool through the district in order to increase the numbers dramatically. The current CVUSD home school program has rigid curriculum and classroom requirements and only has about 10 students enrolled. In stark contrast, Bridges has a homeschool program of over fifty students.

    If the CVUSD brought in 1,000 new students through an innovative and effective homeschool program – that parents in the homeschool community could trust – that would be a $10MM income increase for the district and would immediately solve the current budget and enrollment issues.

    CURRENT ATTITUDES TOWARD CHRISTIAN AND OTHER SCHOOLING OPTIONS

    The current board majority, as demonstrated by Mrs. Fitzgerald’s comments, does not understand the homeschool or religious school community and appears not to want to build bridges with them. Fitzgerald’s behavior in her rant on social media most likely caused serious relationship damage with this community and will only serve to make these parents more leery of CVUSD. Many of them have already had negative experiences with the district and that is why their children do not attend. Bringing families back into the district will require more inclusive board members, such as Mrs. Everett, that are open-minded to solutions that will resolve concerns and welcome students back.

    CVUSD Trustee Sandee Everett
    CVUSD Trustee Sandee Everett

    Parents searching for options outside of the CVUSD are looking for excellence in education, opportunities for their children to participate in music, sports, science labs and other programs, transparency, flexibility, respect, and more options regarding how required controversial material is presented. Unless the CVUSD board realizes this – and starts thinking outside of its ideological bubble – enrollment will continue to plummet. The inevitable result will be school closures and teacher layoffs in the near future. It is tragic that this could be so easily avoided.

    With a new controversial comprehensive sexuality education and HIV prevention law being imposed on public and charter schools, trustees, teachers, parents and the community need to be informed about it.  The district should take actions to ensure that everyone knows what is actually required by law, knows their rights, and understand the extreme extra content that is being pushed into the curriculum by special interest groups such as Planned Parenthood and the California Teachers Association. The board should care more about what will best fit the values of the community – and much less about state union and political agendas. Otherwise they will not be able to preserve the public school system as a place parents can trust.

    School board members should value all students and seek to find ways to bridge differences, effectively resolve parental concerns, and work to make it possible for every student – not just a few – to feel comfortable and safe at school. Mrs. Fitzgerald would do well to collaborate with Mrs. Everett in trying to increase enrollment rather than wasting her energy engaging in juvenile and dishonest attacks.

    Follow Pat on Twitter

    The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


    Pat Lynch is a resident of Ventura County


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    5 COMMENTS

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    Vadim
    Vadim
    2 years ago

    Pat,
    Thank you for your article. Great info.
    I will spread around.

    Vadim
    Vadim
    2 years ago

    Barry,
    Thank you very much for your efforts doing the audit and exposing the truth of current financial affairs of CVUSD

    Barry
    Barry
    2 years ago

    I have performed an audit of CVUSD, looking at the past 10-20 years, looking at lowering test scores, lowering ADA (250 students), out of control funding, spending and hiring. We spend more than 10K per child in public education. According to the Governors budget in 2018-19, we taxpayers spend 17K per child, or 221K per child. Average is 2 children per family, number for K-12 education is 442K. The 10K does not include the millions/billions in bond money we pay twice in infrastructure, money moved to salaries, pensions and health care. It also does not include Adult Education, Child Development, Cafeteria, Self Insurance, Bond interests, etc. This district receives over 50M in funding per year in other sources other than General funds. Salaries, pensions cost (20% plus a year), health care cost out of this world, best taxpayers can buy. We spent 50M on benefits per year. I have the numbers, all the numbers, its staggering, know where all the money is being spent. Lawyers, consultants, other schools, software that does not help, the expenditures are staggering and out of control. No one monitors, controls, evaluates, justifies any expenditures, no one at this district cares, its tax dollars. Its a free for all, on our dime. I have the numbers, its mind blowing how overspending has not changed test scores it 40 years, quality of education is declining, is why children are leaving this district, with no solution from an unqualified board.

    Sarah
    Sarah
    2 years ago

    I’m happy to see the truth recorded here. As an attendee of this event at Godspeak Church last week, I’m truly sad for this community of faith that was basically called un Christian and harshly judged by Mrs. Fitzgerald. Her behavior is grounds for board bylaw violations.

    Layla
    Layla
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article. It is accurate and a valid representation of how parents such as myself feel about what is happening in the public schools. I wish more board members would follow Mrs. Everett’s example and think about the parents and children, and not the politics.

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