Category Archives: Tustin Unified School District

Local Activist to Receive Award

JacksonIf you live in Our Town Tustin, you probably know, or at leaast heard of, Tyron Jackson. Jackson is a local celebrity who has used his fame and talents to assist the most needy in our community. One of his most recent gigs was a life-size card to the troops thanking them for their service. Tyron has been the recipient of numerous awards.

On May 20th, Jackson will receive another award from the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, Tustin Unified School District. The Making a Difference Award is being presented to Jackson for his work with special education students in the school district where he works. According to a copy of the letter he received, the award recognizes “individuals who have exceeded the expectations in serving students with special needs”.

Tyron will receive the award at their 10th Annual Recognition Event, Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM in the Hicks Canyon Elementary School, Irvine.

Congratulations, Tyron. Keep up the good work!

On The Agenda(s) May 13 & 14, 2013

Video ErrorYou may have noticed that I have been writing a few stories from around the county rather than about our town Tustin. That’s because, like many of you, I have been patiently waiting the production of the video for the May 7, 2013 meeting. Unfortunately, it looks as if we may be waiting quite awhile. As happened several months ago, the city has either delayed placing the video on their website, for some reason or, there were technical problems. My sources say that it is the latter. If the video does show up, we will report on it. In the meantime, here is the rundown of the upcoming Tustin City Council Special Council Meeting on May 13th as well as the regular Tustin Planning Commission on May 14th.

City Council Special Meeting

I’m not sure why the single item on the City Council Agenda was so urgent that our good councilpersons needed to fill an extra meeting to approve it. This is the same Item that appeared as Item 5 on the April 23, 2013 Planning Commission agenda last month. The Planning Commission did, with some amendments, approve the General Plan Amendment and Land Exchange Agreement between the city and South Coast Community College District. This is pretty much a straight land swap but it also calls for a new street that would add traffic to the area. The city of Irvine related their concern over the change in traffic patterns but were assured the Average Daily Trips would remain under the total that would trigger a new EIR. Of course, the residents in the Legacy may differ with that when the new street is built.

In any case, this appears to be pro forma and we are not really sure what the hurry was that a special meeting had to be called. Hopefully, the city will have repaired its video equipment before the meeting so we can all find out what the urgency was.

Planning Commission Meeting

It would appear the tour Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack spoke of last meeting did not come to fruition. There have been no notices published on the city’s website as she said there would. Maybe before the next meeting.

Only one item of realy interest on the agenda tonight. That is a Public Hearing for a variance to construct an additional bedroom on an existing house without having to add additional garage facilities. The house is located in the neighborhood North of Irvine Blvd. and East of the 55 Freeway. Several remodeling and additions have been completed over the years and the staff are recommending, due to space considerations, approval of the variance. Unless there is some outrage by the neighbors, I doubt there will be much to discuss here.

The only other item on the agenda is the staff Summary of Projects

Mixed-use Hotel Project – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that construction is well along on the new hotels near the Microcenter. This, to me, is the single biggest and most important project of the year, business-wise. Kudos to Elizabeth and her staff as well as the planning commissioners and the former city council for have a sense of vision when it came to this project. Several changes have been made to the original plans, all of which have been thoughtfully considered before approval. This project is not just a direct moneymaker but will generate income for the city and our businesses, indirectly, as well.

Goodwill Industries of Orange County – This project, a high-end secondhand store, met with opposition from former Councilwoman Deborah Gavello, who said she had issues with the type of store. In discussions with her, we found she had issues with Goodwill Industries (she’s not the only one). Staff are reporting the makeover of the store in Larwin Square is nearly finished and we look forward to seeing it open.

A new florist has opened its doors in an old florist’s habitat on the corner of El Camino Real. For years, we saw the dated florist shop as rather anachronistic, even for Old Town. We only shopped their once before taking our business elsewhere. The new shop, Elegant Hive Distinctive Flowers and Gifts opened last month with little fanfare. We look forward to a long future for the owners of this boutique flower shop.

Vintage Lady – The building nearly burned down last year. It has been a long process to restore this historic building. Old Town Tustin’s Nathan Menard contributed heavily in time and effort to getting this project going again.

Newport Avenue Bicycle Trail Reconstruction Project – OK, we have ridden this trail hundreds of times over the years and did not see a problem with it. But, if you want to make it look pretty, go ahead. It’s grant funded through OCTA funds.

Rawlins Reservoir – Construction of the replacement reservoir has begun and will be completed by the summer of 2013.

Tustin Legacy – Over 1000 apartments in three separate complexes are scheduled to be built in the next few years at the Legacy. As well, staff are reporting the Columbus Square neighborhood to be complete with the addition of 124 homes and townhomes that have been built and occupied (is it time for TUSD to reconsider reopening Heritage?). Additionally, the Fire Station 37 Relocation construction has been awarded to Erickson-Hall Construction Company. Groundbreaking took place in February. It will take about a year to complete.

The Bad – Graffiti. The city doesn’t say whether there is an upward or downward trend but reported 1634 incidents for the first four months of this year. From experience, I can tell you there is a surge in gang and tagging activity in Orange County. Tustin’s gang population is comparatively low but, remember, we live next door to the city with the highest number of gangs, per square mile, in Orange County.

This should make for a fairly quick night for our intrepid commissioners. Unless they have absolutely nothing to do with their private lives, I make the meeting at way under an hour.

Can We Get It In Four Part Harmony?

fat_lady_singsDid you hear it? Yesterday, the fat lady sang. And, with that, another chapter in the sordid history of the Tustin City Council is over.

After nearly three years of threats, court appearances and dirty pool, the Tustin Unified School District and the city of Tustin have settled their differences. The trial, scheduled to begin today, was narrowly averted when the two sides agreed to sit down one last time in an effort to mend fences and mediate their problems. A brief joint press release was issued shortly thereafter:

TUSTIN, Calif. – The City of Tustin and the Tustin Unified School District are pleased to annunce that they have reached an amicable resolution of the litigation regarding the City’s review of TUSD’s grading and drainage plans.

The two agencies are pleased to announce the case has been resolved, and agree that the resolution of the case benefits both of the agencies and the public.

The press release is a bit underwhelming. The city and school district first began having problems in 2010 during a construction at Heritage School and Tustin High School over the inspection and approval of grading plans. The city demanded the school district submit their plans for the schools to the city’s planning department. The school district originally submitted their plans “as a courtesy” but subsequently withdrew them and refused further submittals saying they were not required to obtain permits, grading or otherwise, from local authorities for construction. When it was rumored the city would physically halt any further grading efforts, possibly with arrests, the school district filed the first of a series of lawsuits.

The city quickly filed a countersuit and, later, another separate suit against the school district in an effort to halt a change in use of the new Heritage Elementary School built on the old MCAS base property. That lawsuit was heard last year in Riverside Superior Court where the judge chided the city for filing what amounted to a retalatory lawsuit against the school district. The school district won handily and focused its efforts on the original lawsuit which had, by then, been continued twice.

The lawsuit was also a contentious point of the Tustin City Council elections. Candidates sparred back and forth with then Mayor John Nielsen attempting to back pedal from his previous hardcore stand against the school district, saying that he favored resolution of the lawsuit. Candidate Allan Bernstein publicly called for term limits for school board members. The third member of “Team Tustin”, Chuck Puckett,  was the only cool head among them, joining Tracy Worley and David Waldram, a Tustin High school teacher, in calling for reconciliation and resolution to the issues. Worley and Waldram both believed the entities’ differences were the result of a personality conflict between the school district and councilman Jerry Amante.

The Orange County Register, which broke the story on-line last night, said there is a 10 page agreement outlining how the two sides will handle future school construction for the next 15 years. Among other things, the school district agrees to submit grading plans and pay plan check fees for grading only. No other permit or construction fees will be paid to the city. In return, the city agreed to limit their comments and checks to two submittals. According to the story, there are no plans coming up for future upgrades to schools that would require plan checks by the city.

Both sides agreed to publish a joint press release. No other information came from the city other than a comment by Mayor pro tem Chuck Puckett who told the Register, “All I can say is we’re happy with the agreement.” We think it satisfies both parties and the residents of
Tustin. We’re extremely pleased with it.”

All we can say is, it’s about time. The lawsuits were the fruit of former councilmember Jerry Amante’s reign of terror in the city. When news of the tiff between the city and school district first arose, it became clear to most of us it was a power struggle by the little dictator to maintain control over all things in the city. And, while the Register maintains the cost of the lawsuit was just over $1.5 million dollars, Our Town Tustin received information the total cost of all the lawsuits (including the previously settled Heritage lawsuit) was over $2 million dollars and counting.

So, did the recent change in staff and councilmembers have anything to do with the settlement? Most certainly the exit of Amante could only help matters. The addition of veteran councilman Chuck Puckett was a plus, in our opinion. Previous discussions with him on the issues led us to believe he would press for a settlement if elected.

Ed Connor, the attorney for Tustin Unified School District also applauds City Manager Jeff Parker and Schools Superintendent Greg Franklin, who both came on board their respective agencies in 2011, for directing the lawyers to  “stop banging heads and to get this resolved.” Parker, who appeared to walk softly around Hizzoner Amante, seems to have become more of the manager Tustin needs under the new regime. We look forward to seeing more of that aspect of him.

The new year has started off with a bang. A somewhat bland city council has taken their first bull by the horns and, applying commonsense, has hammered out an affable agreement to the benefit of all. Maybe it is not just the economy that is turning around.

Foothill High School to Host Annual Knights Dinner Theater

Knights on the Radio

February 12-16, 2013

Tickets on Sale January 28th or buy on-line

Knights Radio 1

(Yes, this is a shameless and blatant advertisement for a program my daughter will be in – ed.) If you are a Foothill High School parent, particularly if (like me) you are the parent of a kid in one of the many music programs the school sponsors, you have already heard of the annual dinner theater the choir program puts on at the school. Last year, the public was treated to “Knights on Broadway”, a stunning production with featured singers and a great ensemble that captured the lights and excitement of Broadway. Showcasing excerpts from a variety of hit Broadway shows past and present, the students and faculty produced a professional, polished show with a highly reasonable price tag.

This year is no different as the cast and crew present “Knights on the Radio”. I can’t tell you much about it, other than it is one of three themes the music program Knights Radio 2rotates through over a three year period (the other two being Movies and the aforementioned Broadway). From their website:

The Knights Dinner Theater runs for one week every spring, and rotates around the themes Broadway, Radio, and Movies. Most students in the choral program view it as the highlight of the year, and willingly put in dozens of rehearsal hours in order to produce the best show possible. The show grants students the opportunity to experience what it’s like to perform in a professional-grade production.

Combining the efforts of dedicated parents, alumni, and all choirs, the production develops a strong sense of camaraderie within the program. Knights Dinner Theater has become extremely popular at Foothill and throughout the community, and Knights on Broadway 2012 was the best show to date, attracting over 1,000 guests. With top-notch music, dining, and entertainment, this experience is not to be missed!

Knights Radio 3If my daughter’s frustrations and temperament are any indication, this year’s show will likely be outstanding in both content and artistry. Many of the kids belonged to the Dickens Carolers who performed numerous times over the Christmas Season. All of the choir programs, from Madrigal Singers to the Beginning Women’s Ensemble will be participating. I can tell you from experience the food and entertainment are worth many times the ticket price.

So, come on out for a nice evening, a good dinner and some great entertainment. The kids will perform and the parents and teachers will be serving a catered dinner (don’t you feel relieved it won’t be cafeteria food served by the lunch lady?)


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