JUST THE FACTS | Conejo Valley School Board Proposed Curriculum Policy | BookGate


By Deborah Baber Savalla

Here is a FACT opponents of the recently proposed Conejo Valley School Board policy on education curriculum do NOT want you to know: Books including To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Empire Falls, Bluest Eye, Lord of the Flies, and Snow Falling On Cedars CAN BE TAUGHT under the Conejo Valley School Board (CVUSD) policy Sandee Everett proposed at the School Board meeting held Tuesday, November 7th. Judging from some media reports and from SOME teachers’ actions and words displayed at the Board meeting, most people would be unaware of the truth concerning the proposed amendment to Board Policy 6161.1- Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials. Most people would be left in the dark about the high value the policy would bring to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the broader taxpaying, salary-source citizenry.

The opposition is made up of adult activist educators who do not recognize the FACTS because the FACTS about this policy amendment CANNOT be molded to fit the negative, name-calling narrative they want people to believe.

Lora Novak was recently interviewed for an article that appeared in the Thousand Oaks Acorn newspaper. She is the English Department Chair at Westlake High School. Teacher Lora accuses elected Board member Sandee Everett of “bait and switch” tactics. Teacher Lora said: “Our integrity as teachers and our professionalism is under assault and that is unacceptable.” Teacher Lora has her OPINIONS. So do her students.

Some among those student-children accuse Teacher-Lora of “playing favorites” and leaving out students who “need the most help”. Teacher-Lora is also referred to by some of her minor children-students as “God” and/or a “Goddess”. Of course we know the truth is somewhere in-between these extremes because WE are rational, reasonable adults. However, if you read about or listened to the OPINIONS of just one point of view, you would believe that Teacher Lora Novak is either an incompetent, bullying, cruel teacher or a genius who sits at the right hand of God! Of course, she is neither.

Teacher Lora

Academic Joe













Here is another FACT.

Westlake Academic Decathlon Team Coach Joe Nigro has a face. You would not know what his face looks like, however, judging from Academic Joe’s 2-month old updated profile picture on the High School website. Academic Joe is another example of the adult activist educators schooling students in the District. My OPINION of Academic Joe is that he fancies himself a writer. I do not know how else to explain Academic Joe’s over-the-top, hyperbolic, distorted, incendiary, subversive remarks appearing in the same article as Teacher Lora’s.

“If you want to fight back against this nightmare becoming your reality, it is critical that everyone show up to the board meeting…Heck, get your friends in other departments or at other schools to come because they’re next; get parents who support our cause to show up in big numbers; get anyone who has concerns about the impending lack of diversity in our curriculum and who doesn’t want their kids to just read safe books written by only dead white guys. This is our last line of defense against impending doom, and it’s not too late: if we go down, ‘at least we die with a harness on our back.’” 

(All added emphasis is mine. I did so to illustrate why I have the OPINION I do of Academic Joe!)

Teachers and the teaching of literature in all areas of public education are not one-size fits all enterprises! Not every teacher is equipped to teach STEM book-texts (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Nor is every teacher capable of or interested in teaching books the California Department of Education (CDE) cautions are: “…published for an adult readership and thus contains mature content.” 

The proposed policy amendment is rooted in education code and CDE best-practices policy suggestions. It recognizes that teachers are expert in many ways. Under the proposed amended policy the teacher who is expertly-able to handle teaching books the CDE cautions that “Before handing the text to a child, educators and parents should read the book and know the child.”  WILL BE ABLE TO TEACH THAT BOOK! That passionate, expert teacher simply needs to answer some CDE questions and present his or her argument FOR the book to others. If that gifted teacher convinces others of the book’s value in a child’s education, then by all means THAT teacher SHOULD teach THAT book!

Here are more FACTS that further demonstrate the absurdness of the opposition’s hysteria fed by misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies!

  • There are 8,094 books on the CDE’s (California Department of Education’s) approved literature list.
  • Thirty percent (30%) of the titles, or 2,545 books, are identified for grades 9-12.
  • Of these books, only 8% or 211 volumes carry a strong, unequivocal advisory annotation about giving that volume to a child.
  • This leaves 2,334 titles to choose from, NONE of which would be subject to this policy’s parental notification requirement.

Here are more FACTS about some of the 211 books “…published for an adult readership…” which the amended policy would require active parental notification and permission in advance of their child reading the material.

  • Some books contain language so foul those passages could NOT be broadcast over the airwaves.
  • Some books contain graphic descriptions of sex acts that if sent to a minor a person would be found guilty of the same CRIMES disgraced Anthony Weiner has been convicted of.
  • Some books contain vivid portrayals of CHILD-RAPE and other brutality meted out to minors.
  • Some books contain lurid passages about father’s raping their ADOLESCENT DAUGHTERS and “enjoying” the “forbidden act”.

Elected Board Member Sandee Everett’s thoughtful, comprehensive, collaborative policy amendment is NOT an OPINION piece as are Teacher Lora’s and Academic Joe’s observations and remarks. The policy is NOT a call for censorship nor is it a cry to ban books as some of the children-students were encouraged to claim at the Board meeting. Those narratives are FAKE NEWS calculated to obscure the policy reality.

The policy amendment IS Education Code. The policy amendment ALIGNS with the California Department of Education (CDE) recommendations for instructional material. The policy amendment takes into account the CDE’s BEST PRACTICES suggestions for selecting material including allowances for material that is NOT on their list and that some ADULTS MAY find objectionable.

If you are like Teacher Lora and Academic Joe in decrying and arguing against this policy amendment, then you are arguing AGAINST the California Department of Education! And that is another FACT!

Deborah Baber Savalla is a former book publishing executive in New York City. She believes in moral clarity which leads to personal responsibility that results in small government. 

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Nah, they’re just really good teachers.

William Hicks

What do Lora Novak and Joe Nirgo have in common? Could it be an overinflated view of self encouraged by a strident Teachers Union?