Thursday, February 15, 2018

ALL CVUSD RELATED LETTERS TO ACORN FEB 16 '18

During the last school board meeting, trustee Betsy Connolly appeared to relish criticizing fellow trustee Mike Dunn.

Rather than speak with respect and civility, she gloated, yelled, blamed and bashed. Connolly called Dunn a monster, then bragged about marginalizing and disenfranchising an elected official, as if Dunn's constituents don't matter.

Her tirade then turned to other fellow board members, where she was condescending and treated them with contempt.

Apparently Betsy Connolly is arrogant enough to believe she is the only board member capable of doing the job.

She has sharply criticized Dunn's presidency while conveniently forgetting that Dunn is the one that led the charge to hire the new superintendent, who has been an excellent choice. (Connolly's disastrous superintendent would still be here if she were in charge.)

Under Dunn's leadership, CVHS ended up at its ideal location (Janss Road), rather than disrupting Horizon Hills, TOHS, Carden and the Waverly adult school.

Dunn has always supported transparency and informing parents of their right for an alternative option, especially when a book contains mature/adult content, while Connolly has always opposed it.

Perhaps this is why Connolly only held on to her seat by a mere 170 votes in this last election?

There are people who want Connolly censured for her recent posting of a picture of a public speaker on social media and then pretending to her friends she was afraid of him. If she were really afraid, would she post a picture of him and then mock him in a public post that he could see?

We try to teach our kids not to cyberbully, and then a board trustee models this bad behavior.

Residents respect Dunn for putting up with Connolly for years. Sandee Everett and John Andersen seem to work fine with Dunn.

After observing the board for some time, it seems Connolly is the difficult, caustic board member with an inability to work with others respectfully.

If Betsy Connolly can't control herself, what business does she have censuring a fellow trustee for his behavior?

Amy Chen

Parents have always been able to opt out

At the Nov. 6 school board meeting, a commenter asked why anyone would take issue with the new district literature opt-out policy. I was too cowardly to find her at the meeting and answer in person, but the question stayed with me.

As the mom of a recent CVUSD grad, I know that every semester I received packets of information, including titles that may be used in class. I know that every semester I could have asked to opt my kid out of reading a particular title.

Still, some in the community desired a new policy and a codified opt-out process. This is a valid issue for the board to study and address.

We were all told that a committee made up of district employees would draft a policy that the board would consider, but Mr. Dunn cast aside the policy they submitted and refused to place it on the board agenda. Instead, he demanded a vote on a policy written by one board member.

Once speaker after speaker made bad-faith arguments about attacks on parental rights and read aloud texts chosen to shock, the vote was held.

And although Mr. Andersen clearly understood that the process had been corrupted, he chose to vote yes. While the policy may be in line with his views and he was elected to vote according to those views, it remains a huge disappointment that he did not see fit to take a stand for respectful conduct and process that night.

So my issue is two-fold: the bad-faith argument on which so much of the advocacy for the policy is based, and the trashing of process and protocol in passing this policy by then-president Mike Dunn.

My great sadness is that you have been convinced by some who say the district would otherwise be teaching your kids pornography and denying you access and influence in their education.

It's my hope that next year our board will be made up of a majority that makes honest arguments, respects process and conducts their business with respect and integrity.

Laura McLean
Thousand Oaks

District's concerns go beyond lit list

Instead of parents distracting our board with fear of a child reading that another child masturbates (and ignoring the fact that this character may actually make a child feel less alone or weird for wanting to do it too), we need the school board to focus on real concerns.

Such as the teacher who told us at parents' night in a CVUSD middle school that she did not take home student papers and grade them because she taught too many classes. This teacher had students hand their papers to the child next to them to "correct" them.

Or how there are not enough seats in the high school advanced classes, so they limit those allowed to take them in middle school. (I was told that my child could not even try an honors class because her state test scores were not high enough to guarantee success.)

So we placed our child in private school so she could determine what her strengths and weaknesses were and decide where she wanted to apply to college. She learned she was smart, became a mostly A-student, took honors and AP classes, got accepted into every school she applied to with merit scholarships except one, and is now an A-student in a worldrenowned college program.

Don't you want the board to figure out how to help your child? Literature enables students to master language, craft arguments and express ideas. It also exposes students to people, places and situations that are both different from their own and relatable, eliciting emotional responses.

Understanding the lives and minds of others creates important life skills such as empathy and compassion, leading to discussions of how we get along with those we may disagree with or even judge for the betterment of our communities. Sherman Alexie's book is not salacious; it is heartwarming.

The threat to CVUSD's reputation is not a mom who wants award-winning literature taught. It's the authoritarian actions of its board that endorses censorship and threatens those who disagree with their reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.

Susan Kaufmann
Westlake Village


Parents have always been able to opt out

At the Nov. 6 school board meeting, a commenter asked why anyone would take issue with the new district literature opt-out policy. I was too cowardly to find her at the meeting and answer in person, but the question stayed with me.

As the mom of a recent CVUSD grad, I know that every semester I received packets of information, including titles that may be used in class. I know that every semester I could have asked to opt my kid out of reading a particular title.

Still, some in the community desired a new policy and a codified opt-out process. This is a valid issue for the board to study and address.

We were all told that a committee made up of district employees would draft a policy that the board would consider, but Mr. Dunn cast aside the policy they submitted and refused to place it on the board agenda. Instead, he demanded a vote on a policy written by one board member.

Once speaker after speaker made bad-faith arguments about attacks on parental rights and read aloud texts chosen to shock, the vote was held.

And although Mr. Andersen clearly understood that the process had been corrupted, he chose to vote yes. While the policy may be in line with his views and he was elected to vote according to those views, it remains a huge disappointment that he did not see fit to take a stand for respectful conduct and process that night.

So my issue is two-fold: the bad-faith argument on which so much of the advocacy for the policy is based, and the trashing of process and protocol in passing this policy by then-president Mike Dunn.

My great sadness is that you have been convinced by some who say the district would otherwise be teaching your kids pornography and denying you access and influence in their education.

It's my hope that next year our board will be made up of a majority that makes honest arguments, respects process and conducts their business with respect and integrity.

Laura McLean
Thousand Oaks

Parents, teachers want what's best for kids

I'm a bit tired of seeing the phrase "let parents parent" in relation to CVUSD's created-in-haste board policy regarding literature taught in grades nine to 12.

There's nothing a school and its teachers want more than for parents to "parent" their children. The suggestion that language arts teachers are prohibiting that based on literature being taught in the classroom is ludicrous and melodramatic.

This week marks my 19th year teaching English at Westlake High, and there has always been an alternative assignment option should parents deem a novel or play in conflict with their personal values.

The ignorance shown by parents' lack of knowledge relating to curriculum is embarrassing. All literature choices are, and have been for years, clearly listed on the CVUSD website, each high school's website and, more often than not, both on a teacher's web page and in his or her course outline.

If you want to know what is being taught in the classrooms, it's easily accessible, so please stop acting like you've been victimized, misled or hoodwinked.

Parents are absolutely in the right to know what their kids are studying in their classes, but the suggestion that schools and teachers are anything but transparent is insulting, misguided and wrong.

I model good character. I teach literature that builds character. I encourage being a compassionate human being through the use of common themes in literature that connect us all, so I disagree that this is just a parent's job.

I have known nothing in my two decades of teaching in CVUSD but teachers who dedicate themselves day in and day out to doing what's best for kids in multifaceted ways, and I'm tired of the righteous and condescending attitude directed at teachers from what is, luckily, a small number of parents and community members, but a number nonetheless.

It's time to stop drawing a divisive line in the sand because at the end of the day we all want what's best for our kids, both in and outside the classroom.

Leslie Bird
Newbury Park

Dunn and his supporters try to play victim

It's interesting to see people like Dunn supporter Emily Gonzales repeatedly play the victim when she and Mike Dunn are the ones who actually mistreat others. I have firsthand experience with Mr. Dunn via Acorn letters from a decade ago.

I've also seen this as a teacher with students who bully others; when their bullying behavior is called out, they're the first to claim they're the ones being victimized. It's a twisted pattern of deflection and projection.

Emily claims there are people "with no experience in education" who have gotten involved in the recent controversial censorship matter. Does Emily see the irony in her comment in that it is the very people with the most experience in education—CVUSD classroom teachers—whose authority and expertise are undermined by this policy?

It's disconcerting that those of us who stand against censorship and against Dunn's fascist, bullying conduct and who protect our First Amendment rights are labeled by Emily as "protagonists" and "oppositionists" with a "fierce and intolerant ideology seeking to silence and push out parents from the educational process of our own children." This is a fundamentally distorted assessment of reality.

I'm a public school teacher with 23 years of experience in education who also has three children attending CVUSD schools. I have total faith in and respect for my kids' teachers and trust their professional judgment when choosing literature for students to read.

Furthermore, I grew up in Thousand Oaks and attended CVUSD schools until graduating from Thousand Oaks High School. Growing up in the '80s, we kids attended our extraordinary CVUSD local schools and everybody's parents worked; absolutely nobody interfered with what our teachers were doing in the classroom.

Parents in those days had the utmost respect and support for CVUSD educators and there was certainly never a mean-spirited, bullying ideologue constantly creating embarrassing, divisive drama on our school board.

Emily's allegation that teachers unions are responsible for the chasm in our community is truly laughable when the very man she supports on our school board, Mike Dunn, is solely responsible for this chasm and is the one who is truly the "unethical ideologue."

Tina Aschenbrenner
Thousand Oaks



Thousand Oaks


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