Category Archives: Tustin Unified School District

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?)

Our Top Stories of the Year

Gnome-More-JerryHow quickly time flies. Our Town Tustin has been blogging for about a year and a half and the past year has kept us busy in our little corner of the county. Here are some of the top issues we have covered in 2012:

“Team Tustin’s” Hate-Filled Campaign – In what was probably the most contentious election to mark our city in year, the Republican led “Team Tustin” showed they could stoop as low as necessary to achieve their ends. Eight hit piece mailers went out against Tracy Worley and David Waldram nearly all of which were funded by a mysterious entity calling itself Tustin Residents United. Funny thing is, not one dime of money came from any resident of Tustin. Yet, thousands of dollars funneled in from the Orange County Business Council’s BIZPAC and other similar committees, all of whom had indirect ties to Nielsen and his team. While Nielsen, Puckett and the Podiatrist Councilman looked like the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil monkeys, Worley & Waldram held their heads high during a clean campaign.

Jerry Amante’s Use and Abuse of Power – Go ahead, believe our city fathers are not corrupt. If you do, I have a bridge to sell you. Early in the year, the

Courtesy of Pepperdine.edu

Courtesy of Pepperdine.edu

Orange County Grand Jury issued a report accusing then mayor Jerry Amante and another councilman of attempting to coerce Brandman University officials into squelching a report critical of city manager compensation. The Grand Jury rightfull found the two were attempting, for their own gain, to get Chapman University President, Jim Doti, to pull the report before it could get out. Doti, acting the part, was simply aghast at the report (…here are your winnings, sir…). The city subsequently answered the charges with the usual, we didn’t do nothing wrong, it’s free speech. Selective use of rights, to say the least.

TUSD vs. The City of Tustin vs. TUSD – It is sad the city and the school district have, together, wasted well over $2 million dollars on lawsuits which have clearly become the hallmark of Jerry and John’s tenure on the city council. What originally amounted to a personality conflict, exploded into multi-million dollar multiple lawsuits against each other over control of construction. The highlight, of course, was when the city, under Jerry’s direction, sued the school district for having the nerve to transfer another school and administrative offices to a new school on the MCAS property. Armed with some of the lamest arguments heard by first year law students, the city was laughed out of a Riverside court and told not to darken their halls again. The other shoe drops first thing in 2013 and I am taking bets on the outcome.

courtesy of srbranson.edublogs.org/>/i>

courtesy of srbranson.edublogs.org/>/i>

John Nielsen’s Unracism – In “Dear John”, we exposed the bigotry (among other things) of then mayor John Nielsen. In an attack on the First Amendment as well as the city schools, Nielsen attempted to defend his decision to allow a court document claiming Tustin schools were overcrowded and minority-ridden. Claiming he was a pillar of the community, he extolled his virtues all the while, filing for divorce and using the legal system to swat at TUSD officials. Oh yes, and the divorce appears to be proceeding nicely with new recent filings.

Cell Towers in Cedar Grove – The City Council didn’t seem to be able to get this lawsuit thing right. First, they continue to chase windmills with the lawsuits against the school district. Then, when they actually had a chance to stand up for the citizens of our community, they folded like a deck of Vegas cards. The cellular towers in Cedar Grove were one of the most high profile issues of the city and the city council, led by Jerry and his Kids, refused (or were in cahoots with) to fight T-Mobile over the installation. There was no effort, no transparency and no noteworthy action on the  city council’s part as they acceded tot he demands of Jerry’s business partners.

North Tustin 1, Catholics 0 – Unlike the Tustin City Council, the folks in North Tustin were more than willing to fight for what they believe in. When the Diocese of Orange, led by Bishop Tod Brown, banded together with the County to try and slip in a zoning change, the Foothills Community Association rallied the troops and sued them to stop the rezoning of diocese owned land that would allow them to build a senior living center on property originally zoned for a church. The city could learn a thing or two from these folks. Now, if they can stave off annexation.

Fairbanks vs. Hizzoner – In another embarrassing fiasco for the city, Jerry Amante and his mouthpiece, Elizabeth Binsack, were finally defeated once and for all in their attempt to prevent a jim_ho_nicholsonhomeowner from exercising his property rights. By abusing their power and the appeals process, Amante proved, once again, who calls the shots. Too bad it cost $83 thousand dollars to make his point. Then he lost anyway.

The Demise of Redevelopment – Seeing Through the Magic of Redevelopment as it related to the MCAS property was pretty signficant. Backed by the California Supreme Court, Governor Jerry Brown dealt a double death blow to the worst kind of corporate welfare imaginable. We pointed out that everyone was in on this deal with Democrats handing this gift over to Republicans years ago. Now, the other shoe drops as the state is demanding $263 million dollars from Orange County and its cities. Tustin has already coughed up $7.5 million but the state wants more.

Dear Assemblyman Donnelly – One could call this the biggest goof of the year. Jeff Donnelly, Assemblyman for the 59th  District, appeared to have a problem with guns and telling the truth. When he was caught in possession of a firearm while attempting to board an aircraft bound for Sacramento at Ontario Airport, he was detained by the police and TSA. His lame excuse was that he had received death threats and forgot the gun was in his bag. OK, except for the fact the gun was only partially loaded and sitting in a carry-on bag, the guy didn’t even have a concealed carry permit from what is arguably one of the easiest counties to obtain one. The Brady Bunch certainly did not have anything on this clown.

Silent Bob and Darth VaderLindburgh and Silent Mike Strike Back – Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack, can’t do enough to for Old Town Tustin. In fact, it is a toss up whether it was Binsack or Amante that actually wanted to slap down the Fairbanks family over the apartments located on their historic property. I imagine it was a free for all when she colluded with nearly the entire city council over allowing the owners of the Wilcox Manor to open an events venue at their residence. Armed with pretty stickers and hauling people in from around the county (very few from Tustin itself), Lindburgh McPherson and “Silent Mike” Demoratz sought a CUP by subterfuge and chicanery. When they were called out on the apparent fib they told about their parking arrangements, they sought to turn the tables on their Facebook page by saying their detractors turned everyone against them. They didn’t seem to get it through their heads that no one in Old Town wants a three ring circus at the end of their cul-de-sac.

Next year is already beginning to shape up as the new Tustin City Council opens the first meeting with a how-to on city affairs. As much as we hated Jerry Amante, he could at least keep us entertained with his self-serving diatribes and rants against Deborah Gavello. Now that they are both gone, we can only hope Mayor Al Murray and the Podiatrist Councilman will be able to look up at the audience as they read from their scripts in the coming year. I hope they have good editors.

Tustin’s Wish List – 3 Items to Watch in the Coming Year

fingerscrossed(This column appears in the December 20, 2012 Tustin News – ed.) The post-election lull is in full swing here in our town Tustin. Following a contentious battle for three seats on the city council, the new supermajority, led by our new Mayor Al Murray, will have to hit the new year running. If we had a wish list of issues this council will have to tackle, it would start with these three.

Tustin Unified Lawsuits – January rings in a new year and 28 days later the city goes to trial in the original lawsuit with Tustin Unified School District. Earlier this year, the city increased the schism between the two with another lawsuit against the school district for changing the use of the Heritage Elementary School. Originally built to service the residents on the MCAS property, the district decided to temporarily house continuation schools and administrative services there when they couldn’t find enough school age kids to open the school as originally planned. The city opposed the move with ill-contrived legal arguments that were laughed out of court. Even with a change of venue, the city could not get past poor legal arguments and lost the suit a few months in.

That leaves the original lawsuit brought by the school district which has been continued at least twice. And, even though there is still time to resolve this without a trial the city is likely to lose, there may not be a will. During a harsh campaign season, Mayor pro tem Chuck Puckett was largely non-committal and Councilman Allan Bernstein was beating the drum loudly against the school district, vowing stay the line on the lawsuits. We suggest now that campaign season is over, they put away the war bonnets and sit down one last time. It seems over two million dollars of taxpayer money could have been better spent elsewhere.

The Hole in the Budget – For the past few years, the city council has been relying on reserves to balance the budget rather than make hard decisions regarding finances. Although they touted several budget cutting measures this year, including the golden parachutes for 35 retiring employees, it remains to be seen what -if any- money will have been saved. Lawsuits with the school district have drained over a million dollars from city coffers and, if the city loses the lawsuit in January, they will likely be forced to pay out another million or so to the school district for their attorney fees.

A New City Council Supermajority – There was a lot of glad handing at the latest city council meeting when new councilmembers Puckett and Bernstein were installed and John Nielsen rejoined them for a second term. Councilmember Al Murray, now a veteran, was chosen to be the first African-American mayor of the city. And, in a move that surprised no one except Councilmember Beckie Gomez, newly installed Councilmember Chuck Puckett was given the Mayor pro tem position as a final slap in the face to what is left of the liberal base on the dais. Chief combatants, Jerry Amante and Deborah Gavello, are history leaving a supermajority of pro-business councilmen to tend the city.

Before they sell the city to the highest bidder, however, they might remember that only 400 votes separated the winners from the losers. The voters have little tolerance for the antics of the past few years and there is another election coming only two years from now. The redeeming quality of the council overall is the experience that all but one brings to the table. Puckett is not only a council retread, he has kept his hand in city politics as a planning commissioner and has stayed active in civic affairs. Not so for freshman councilman Allan Bernstein, an unknown who clawed his way to victory as an Amante-backed business advocate with no civic or political experience. To make his mark, he needs to tone down the rhetoric heard during his campaign and focus on learning the job.

The city council should take the time in the new year to reflect on a true vision for this city that will benefit the residents who live here. Finding a true fix to the budget and mending fences with the school district would be a good start.

Our Picks for the School Board

(Updated to reflect a late email from Monique Ketteringham-ed.)

Tammie Bullard – Incumbent

Francine Scinto – Incumbent

James Laird – Incumbent

I knew there was something we forgot. Hey, come on, how many voters truly look at who is running for the school board? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t and, during the contentious issues we have had between the TUSD and the city of Tustin, they deserve a once over. Face it, even the candidates themselves didn’t even think it important enough to spend a few dollars on a website as I have not been able to find any for any candidate.

There are five candidates for three seats on the Tustin Unified School District governing board. They are, Francine Scinto, Monique Ketteringham, Dr. Elias Teferi, James Laird, and Tammie Bullard. Of the five, only the three incumbents bothered to file candidate statements. All three of them promote the fact that TUSD, under their guidance, has maintained a low student to teacher ratio, increased relevant student scores and run an efficient budget. They are also long time members of the board, Scinto and Bullard both holding seats for the past 16 years. Laird has been a member of the board since 2004.

None of them has raised the issue of the ongoing fight between the district and the city of Tustin and that is a bit of concern.

There also appears to be some concern over the actual residence of school board member Francine Scinto. Earlier in the year, a commenter mentioned that Scinto may not actually live in the district. They cited a Google search that indicated Scinto lives in south county. We did our own Google search and it came up with an address in North Tustin. So, at a recent event (which was held in her neighborhood in North Tustin, by the way) I asked Scinto about her residence. She adamantly denied living out of the district at the time. The person making the accusation has not sat on her heels. She may also run a website that posted this a few days ago. Still no solid proof. Just accusations. I’ll let you be the judge.

Tammie Bullard is also a long time member of the board. She has been board president multiple times and continues to advocate for a fiscal conservatism and low class size.

The two upstarts in the race have neither websites or candidate statements. There is not much information to go on regarding their reasons for entering the race. Dr. Elias Teferi, who lists his occupation as Independent Educational Consultant, has put up a few signs in public places but has not made any further efforts in his campaign. He also endorsed Measure S, the school technology bond.

Monique Ketteringham responded to an email inquiry, saying she entered the race late and was not able to muster enough financial support to place a Candidate Statement on the ballot. Ketteringham says her priorities include supporting the arts within our district, tending to infrastructure, and seeing Measure S through. “I feel our school district needs a new, fresh voice on the board, someone who can relate to the needs and concerns of the parents and students that make up our community.” She is running a grassroots campaign, meeting and greeting people door to door as she, by her own admission, has not been able to do much fundraising prior to the campaign.

Both of the challengers are Democrats while all three of the incumbents are Republican, if that should matter to anyone in a non-partisan race.

There is an old adage that if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The current Tustin Unified School District governing board continues to do a good job in raising standards and pertinent student scores for academics while maintaining sound, fiscal policies. And, while I do not subscribe to Measure S, the technology bond, I believe their stewardship over Measure G demonstrates their capability to be responsible in the use of tax money. We’ll take the incumbents in this race.