The board of the Ventura Unified School District, bowing to vehement opposition from parents and teachers, has backed down from a controversial plan to redraw school boundaries.
The board decided at a meeting Tuesday night to table the proposal, which was devised by a group of district administrators, and to start again next fall with a new committee that would include parents.
"I don't think there's one board member who would implement this plan lock, stock and barrel this year unless you want to get hung," said board member Barbara Myers, who suggested forming the new committee. "I don't feel we have a plan. We have a proposal from which to work--a draft."
The proposal so antagonized parents that approving it could have killed the district's chances of getting the city's voters to pass a proposed bond measure to raise money for badly needed new schools in eastern Ventura, board members said.
"If you go with what you have now, what you have out there is negative people who are not going to support a bond issue," Myers said.
The decision to table the plan followed a 3 1/2-hour hearing during which about 30 parents and teachers denounced the proposal.
Many of the speakers urged the board to delay a vote until more research is done on how much redistricting would cost, possible environmental effects, and how programs, such as a bilingual program at Will Rogers Elementary, would be affected.
Until that research is done, said parent Bob Maxwell, "It's simply not fair to disrupt our lives like you're doing."
Parents said the plan had made enemies of people from different neighborhoods because exceptions were made for some schools and not others.
Children from Poinsettia Elementary, for example, were scheduled to transfer to Loma Vista Elementary two miles away, but administrators later changed the proposal to allow them to stay. And parents from Juanamaria, Saticoy and Junipero Serra elementary schools would have been given a chance to draw their own boundaries.
"I feel like you have pitted us against one another," said parent Suzy Brown, who with other parents of Montalvo Elementary School students complained that their school was unfairly treated.
Administrators proposed the plan in January in an effort to bring order to the current haphazard boundaries in the 15,000-student district and to allow more children to go to schools close to their homes.
However, some parents of elementary students were upset because the plan would have assigned their children to schools farther from their homes than those they now attend. In a series of hearings, dozens of parents told school officials that they opposed the plan.
On Wednesday, some parents said they were pleased that parents will be included in formulating a final proposal.
"I like the idea that there's going to be somebody from my school there defending us," said Montalvo PTA president Meri McNally. She said she hoped that individual schools would be able to help choose parents to represent them.
In an interview Wednesday, Supt. Cesare Caldarelli said the committee "is going to be building on the work that's already done. . . . The process of seeking a new proposal will reconnect our community and, hopefully, we'll come out with a plan" a majority can support.
The district will look for volunteers to serve on the new committee and to bring a new plan back to the board, perhaps as soon as next January.
By Wednesday morning, several parents had already called the district to volunteer, said administrative assistant Jean Rudolph, who helped draft the proposal.
"We'll go back and reinvent the wheel, I guess," Rudolph said.