Making good on statements made last month, the Oxnard Union High School District (OUHSD) has filed an appeal against a county committee decision that would allow voters to choose whether or not to create a K-12 school district in Camarillo. If passed, the change would remove about 3,000 high school students from OUHSD and place them in the Pleasant Valley School District.
Now, the issue goes before the California State Board of Education, reversing the provisions of Assembly Bill 780, which allows school district reorganization to be determined locally. It is a scenario Ron Speakman, co-founder of Camarillo Unified, feels does not bode well for unification advocates.
“AB780 was written so local matters could be looked at from a local level by people who understand the area,” he says. “Once you take it up to Sacramento, typically those who have the most money wins. In this case, that is Oxnard.”
Currently, once Camarillo students graduate from eighth grade, they are dispersed across three high schools — Adolfo Camarillo, Rio Mesa and Frontier — all of which are under the jurisdiction of the OUHSD. Proponents of unification wish to incorporate Adolfo Camarillo High School into the PVSD, creating what they perceive to be a smoother transition of curriculum and a greater sense of community within the city.
Opponents argue that such a re-organization would result in a negative financial impact for Oxnard and tip the ethnic balance of the OUHSD, while also taking out the district’s only National Blue Ribbon School.
In December, the Ventura County Committee on School District Organization voted 9-1 in favor of putting the unification issue on a ballot. For Speakman and other unification supporters, the decision is a culmination of years of petitioning to remove about the high school students from the OUHSD and redirect them to the Pleasant Valley School District.
“It removes from the district a group of higher performing students, which is a different form of segregation,” says Tom Griffin, an attorney for the OUHSD. “It tends to segregate the lower performing kids that are harder to teach, and because they’re harder to teach, they’re more expensive to teach.”
The district also opposes the designated voting area, which would exclude Oxnard residents.
As outlined in AB780, all appeals are reviewed by the state board for final determination. If the board rejects the appeal at its July meeting, the issue could be put to voters before the end of 2007. Should the board uphold the appeal, the movement toward unification would, in effect, have to start all over again.
Whatever the outcome, Speakman says the issue will not die any time soon.
“The city of Camarillo has felt for almost 40 years that they should have the right to govern themselves,” he says. “The opinion won’t go away, and it won’t matter what Oxnard does.”