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OUSD Newsletter 1/27/2019
OUSD Newsletter 1/27/2019
Linda Jordan
Monday, February 11, 2019

District News

Please visit The Ojai Unified School District website here for updates, including information on scheduled Board and Special Meetings. and upcoming opportunities to serve on committees.

New Website Launches February 1st


OUSD’s new website featuring LiveFeed news and user-friendly, ADA-compliant design launches February 1st

OUSD is pleased to announce the launch of another installment of its communications initiative, a new website platform integrating messaging across multiple channels.   A months-long project, the selection of a website platform had several unique qualifiers, noted David Rogers, Director of Operations.  “The selection process required the platform to benefit our stakeholders through design that provided an intuitive user experience, with easier access to timely information, such as; school announcements, emergency closures and district news,” said Rogers.

"Additionally, as the platform is built with ADA compliance in mind, we were confident Apptegy was the perfect choice for our District's centralized communication system," said Rogers.  One example of the platform’s ADA functionality is that the website discerns small details like font color and images to deliver a more positive user experience to all stakeholders. 

With much of OUSD’s Leadership team investing time in communicating to their stakeholders via multiple platforms, the website selection team sought a better solution; a unified communications strategy with centralized delivery of messaging. “Ultimately, this model frees up our Principals to focus more readily on primary tasks such as staff and student needs, student learning and outcomes,” said Rogers.

The new platform will launch on February 1st.  For more information on OUSD's new website, please email Director of Operations David Rogers at


Vaping - An Emerging Issue Among Our Students


Juul pods come in many different "flavors" and are marketed as a better choice for smokers

Ojai Unified School District is holding a parent meeting to discuss the dangers of e-cigarette use, also called vaping.  This informational event will be held Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 5:30 in the evening in the Matilija Auditorium.   While this meeting is intended for parents, students are also welcome.

At this forum, we will be hearing from a panel of professionals regarding the impact of vaping. While we hope parents can attend the meeting to give us ideas and thoughts, we have also created a survey (link provided here) to ensure parents have an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.  The survey will take no more than three minutes to complete, and will convey information to participants, as well as provide Ojai Unified School District with valuable information regarding awareness and understanding of the use of e-cigarettes.

As one of OUSD’s goals outlined  in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is student wellness (goal #4),  we also plan on using the information from the completed surveys to determine actions and next steps for educating students about the dangers of vaping.  Parent input will help the District to address this issue, and maintain the health and wellness of our students and campuses.

While we hope parents can attend the meeting to share ideas and thoughts, this survey is the next best way to make sure your voice is heard.

For more information on the dangers of e-cigarettes, please visit the US Surgeon General’s warning here


Education Initiatives

Dr. Sherrill Knox, OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, presenting Middle School Concept at open forum in May of 2018.  Click the above image to view the video in its entirety

In the Fall of 2019, Matilija will welcome sixth graders for the first time as it adopts a Middle School format.  Although the reconfiguration of our schools from K-6th and 7th -8th grades to a true Middle School configuration may seem like a fast-moving project, it has been a topic of discussion and study in our District for more than four years, noted Sherrill Knox, OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.  “As all changes we consider typically are, this review had a beginning in how well we were serving our students and teachers with the older configuration,” said Ms. Knox.

One impetus that prompted this review was the State of California’s adoption, in 2010, of Common Core educational standards.  “It’s important to understand that the way the new standards were created is around a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 configurations,” said Ms. Knox “As the curriculum that is approved by our state Board of Education, and the textbooks that are published around those standards, are built to a K-5 and 6-8 configuration, our 6th grade elementary teachers have less options for curriculum unless they want to choose a program that is completely different from their K-5 colleagues".  This makes it difficult for collaboration and 5th/6th combination class teachers.  “We foresaw as a District that the older configuration would continue to limit our choices of approved textbooks and, therefore learning opportunities, in the future,” said Ms.Knox.

Additionally, as we reviewed the potential for reconfiguration we discovered decades of research by educators around the question: How do we best educate the 11-14 age group?  “That question was the foundation of a lot our Sixth Grade Configuration committee meetings” said Ms. Knox. “We were able to discern from  reviewing this research that much of what 11-14 year-olds need is Social Emotional Learning components balanced with their academic learning needs”.  For example, junior high schools tend to be more subject-oriented, and middle schools tend to be more student-oriented – see graph below.  The middle school has a true emphasis on educating the “whole child’, noted Ms. Knox.

“Because we want to make sure our district is able to deliver those learning opportunities for our 11-14 year olds, the thing I’m most excited about is our new advisory period,” said Ms. Knox.  This new component is a built-in part of the middle schooler's day. The students in this advisory period would daily participate in a smaller group,  and stick with that teacher throughout the year, affording the teacher an opportunity to be their advocate and build a strong relationship and connection with the students.

For more information on the review, and supporting documents and videos, for Sixth Grade reconfiguration please follow this link  

Junior High vs. Middle School Configurations

Junior High

Middle School



Emphasis is on cognitive development

Emphasis is on both cognitive and affective development

Organizes teachers in subject-based departments

Organizes teachers and students in interdisciplinary teams

Traditional instruction dominates

Experiential approaches to instruction

Six to eight class period per day

Allows for block and flexible scheduling

Provides academic classes

Provides exploratory, academic and non-academic classes

Offers study hall and/or homeroom

Offers advisor/advisee, teacher/student opportunities

Classrooms arranged randomly or by subject or grade level

Team classrooms in close proximity


 The above table indicates key differences between  Junior High Schools and Middle Schools as outlined in the book Introduction to Middle School, by S.D. Powell, 2005  

Nutrition Services – Free Meals Made Available


All OUSD families should have received Nutrition Services’ email notification (below) of free or reduced-price meals for families affected by the government shutdown.  

“We wanted to ensure our OUSD families affected by this shutdown knew we were here to support their children’s nutritional needs, regardless of their ability to pay for school meals” said Julie Chessen, Director of Nutritional Services.  “Since some families may not be receiving an income, even if it is temporary, they may qualify for free or reduced-price meals.”

Ojai Unified School District’s efforts to support our community during times of uncertainty is evident in all our Nutrition Services staff is doing to ensure our students have access to good nutrition, regardless of any external factors that may affect our operations, noted Ms. Chessen.  “We are proud to be part of the Ojai Unified family and fully committed, without hesitation, to supporting the Ojai community.”

Please see the application process, below.  For more information on OUSD Nutrition Services, including menus, commitment to sustainable practices, please visit Nutrition Services page here

Free or reduced-price meal application - choose one of three options

1) submit application online at:

2) complete the paper meal application and return directly to the Nutrition Services office or to your school cafeteria (you can pick up a paper application at your child's school), or

3) mail an application to the following address: 

Ojai Unified School District

Nutrition Services

P.O. Box 878

Ojai, CA 93024

If you have any questions, or need help completing the application, please call the Nutrition Services Department at (805) 640-4300 ext. 1079 or  We are happy to assist you.


San Antonio School – Molly’s Pilgrim

2nd Grade School Project, Molly’s Pilgrim Art Board

"At San Antonio, our 2nd grade classes read and discussed the book Molly's Pilgrim prior to Thanksgiving, in an effort to demonstrate to our students the diversity in our nation’s beginnings,” said Robin Monson, San Antonio Principal.

After reading the book, and as an example of a multi-discipline project, Mrs. Eck's second graders each crafted a doll from a clothespin, dressing it in the traditional clothing of the doll’s country of origin.  Each student also presented a story about the doll’s “life” in its native country.  The project remains in the classroom, with the dolls connected to a world map, showing the origins of each family in the class. 

“We believe this project was an important opportunity to demonstrate to our students the incredible diversity of our classroom, and our nation, “said Ms. Monson. “Classroom discussions during and after the project focused on country of origin, and how each of us has contributed to the makeup of our country.”  Other topics of classroom discussion included geography, language and family and cultural traditions.

For more information on Molly’s Pilgrim, please visit link here 

For questions about San Antonio, please email Ms. Monson at


Matilija – Enrichment Classes and Peer Tutors


(l) Peer tutors, from right to left, Jordan Yates and Harmony Wright, work with peers every Thursday in Enrichment Classes.

(r) Science Teacher Mr. Brown with student Dylan Blacker, working on his Science Career presentation in “Genius Hour” Enrichment Class.  

“We’re very proud of our Enrichment and Peer Tutor programs at Matilija,” said Javier Ramirez, Matilija Junior High Principal.  This year, Matilija has a large group - 36 students – who have volunteered as Peer Tutors. “This program gives our students an opportunity to give back to their peers, and learn leadership and mentoring skills in the process,” noted Mr. Ramirez.  

Students who opt-in to the Peer Tutor program are prepared to help with Math, Science, English, and Social Studies, offering their skills to fellow students working on in-class projects or homework during Thursday’s Enrichment Classes. “The other piece of this initiative is that 7th and 8th graders have an opportunity to sign up every week for open enrichment classes,” said Mr. Ramirez. “This allows the students an opportunity to build their day around their educational needs”.  The broader offering of options each week also encourages students to ‘try’ a new subject and discern if they would enjoy including that subject longer-term in their choices later in their educational path. This week’s Enrichment Class offerings included: Student-Directed Performance Auditions, Notebook Organization and Homework Help, Coloring, Seasonal Activities, Final Chemical story, Genius Hour, and Scale Factor Re-teaching

For more information on Enrichment classes or Peer Tutoring at Matilija, please email Carol Paquette, Assistant Principal, at


Chaparral High School – Hospitality and Tourism

In the interest of providing career-pathway education to OUSD’s students, Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) has been added as a course available at Chaparral.  “The HTM course is one of our school’s four Career Technical Education pathways approved, and provided for, by the Ventura County Office of Education,” noted Chaparral Principal Becky Beckett.  

“As hospitality is the number one industry in the Ojai Valley, it seemed a perfect fit for our soon-to-be graduating students,” said Ms. Beckett.  “By providing this course, we are encouraging our students to discern if this is a good career choice for them to pursue, moving forward." 

There are many entry-level jobs available in our county, but also the possibility for advancement through on-the-job training, continuing education, or both, said Ms. Beckett.  “We were very pleased to have Vanessa Jimenez, the Human Resources Director at the Ojai Valley Inn, as a guest speaker to the Hospitality class in the Fall of 2018.  We hope to see increased growth in the interest for this class, and career-building opportunities at Chaparral and OUSD”


Nordhoff  High School

The Greater Good Leadership Program


Beginning Fall of 2019, The Greater Good Leadership Program will be available as an elective to all students in grades 10, 11 and 12.  This new one-year course of work will give students an opportunity to underscore, analyze and study, and act upon 18 character traits determined to be meaningful to today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.  “We’re very pleased to offer a new curriculum to support our initiative on Leadership, Inclusion and Character Trait Development” said Dave Monson, Nordhoff High School Principal.

The research-based curriculum is being taught in over 500 schools nationwide. The course combines classroom and optional outdoor experiences, and carries University of California and California State University-approval as a G elective. “This is an extremely interactive course,” noted Mr. Monson.  “Teachers will encourage students to discuss, research, blog, write, interact, and provide feedback, and students will have an opportunity to see what it means to take responsibility for actions, and earn others’ trust and respect.

“Ultimately, the goal of this course doesn’t end in high school,” said Mr. Monson. “We are adopting this curriculum, with the hope and confidence that our students become more successful in their next steps; from post secondary education, through career, relationships and life.”  As the class is being funded through a private grant, the cost to the school district is minimal.  This course supports a growing body of research around  the concept of educating the whole child. “Students are more than readers, thinkers and writers," noted Mr. Monson. "They bring unique social and emotional  behaviors that cannot be separated from who they are as students. We need to consider teaching [students] important values and traits that help them develop and grow as whole people." Optional wilderness summertime experiences include the Golden Trout Wilderness School, which offers a High Sierra Wilderness experience to further develop and explore character leadership skills.

To view Principal Monson’s presentation of this new course to the OUSD School Board, please view recording of January 23rd meeting,here  

New Online Reporting System

A new online reporting system has been added to the safety measures already in place at Nordhoff High School.  “As our student and staff safety is always paramount in everything we do, we’ve implemented a reporting system designed to ensure we can respond quickly and effectively to any safety concern,” said Principal Monson.   This reporting system resides on the Nordhoff school website, and is also accessible here

The online reporting system will allow staff, students and parents to report any issues that could negatively impact Nordhoff’s school culture or student safety.  “We’ve built this system to be responsive, with an assurance of anonymity, and we appreciate information that can help maintain a healthy, positive campus climate,” noted Mr. Monson.  For more information on Nordhoff's Greater Good Leadership Program or Online Reporting System, please email Principal Dave Monson at

For information regarding OUSD's communications program, please email