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Misinformation Surrounds the Dissolution of Norwalk’s South East Regional Occupational Program

By Brian Hews

At tonight’s South East Regional Occupational Program (SEROP) Governing Board meeting, the Board will officially vote on removing administrative and certificated staff at the SEROP, the vocational school located directly across from John Glenn high school in Norwalk.

The move follows a vote by the Board to dissolve SEROP in 2016.

The move will save the ABC Unified School District, who financially supports some operations at SEROP, over $3 million per year and allow SEROP teachers, who are not union members, to move from lower to higher paying union positions complete with all benefits a union member receives.

Sources tell HMG-CN the “onboarding process” has already begun; all SEROP teachers have been contacted and told they have “good paying union jobs waiting at ABCUSD.”

The plan for SEROP employees was crafted and has the support of the local ABCFT Union that operates within the ABCUSD.

But a deliberate and politically motivated misinformation campaign about the closing of SEROP affecting the Academy is causing anxiety among Academy students, parents and staff, and infighting between school board members.

One source of anxiety is that some families think that SEROP and the Academy are one-in-the-same; they are not.

The SEROP offers vocational courses for adults wanting to become pharmacy technicians, dental assistants, among other vocations.

SEROP’s website indicates, “our mission is to provide students with exemplary and rigorous career technical education that will support academic achievement.”

The Academy is a “Military and Law Enforcement High School” which operates on the same campus as SEROP.

Students are called Cadets and the academy, according to its website, takes students from “25 different school districts,” and is operated similar to other high schools.

“The SEROP and the Academy are two separate schools,” a high-level ABC source told HMG-CN, “dissolving the SEROP will not close the Academy.”

But that is not what certain Norwalk La Mirada School District School Board members and staff have Academy families believing.

The misinformation campaign has been so effective that parents involved with the Academy started a petition website that states, “in 2016, ABC Unified decided to withdraw from their partnership with the Norwalk La Mirada Unified School District (NMLUSD) and thus pulled it’s funding of Southeast ROP.”

The site has received over 1,100 signatures.

And a letter obtained by HMG-CN from NLMUSD Superintendent Hasmik Danielian to Academy families employs additional misinformation.

The letter states, “You may be aware that the funding model of our Southeast Academy is changing. Since 2000-2001, Southeast Academy has been jointly supported and funded by NLMUSD and ABC Unified School District through the Southeast Regional Occupation Program (SEROP). However, ABC Unified has elected not to continue in this partnership.”

But that is not true; the two organizations receive funds to operate from separate sources.

The Academy receives “ADA” money- Average Daily Attendance-from the state, basically receiving money based on how many students attend the school during a designated time period.

SEROP is completely different, receiving its funding from tuition paid by attending students and other sources, not ADA money.

SEROP can be dissolved, its programs and teachers can be absorbed into the ABCUSD, and the Academy’s ADA will not be affected.

Further, a financial audit obtained by HMG-CN by the accounting firm of Varinek, Trine, Day, and Co., LLP, looking into the dissolution of the SEROP indicated that the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) has not been consistently passed through to the Academy since 2001.

From 2001-2007 the ABCUSD operated SEROP, but since 2008, NLMUSD has operated the campus, with ABCUSD supporting some SEROP overhead items costing $2-3 million per year.

Since 2008 the NLMUSD has been receiving ADA (Average Daily Attendance) monies from the state.

But the audit stated, “the ADA has not been consistently passed through from the District(s).”

“The ABCUSD ‘benefitted’ from not covering the cost of the Academy program by approximately $1,688,756 over the years of operations through 2008 and that NLMUSD ‘benefitted’ by $3,029,518 from the years of operation from 2008-‘17. The difference between these two ‘benefits’ means that one district has benefitted from withholding the apportionment more than the other. In effect, NLMUSD has benefitted $1.3 million [$3.0M less $1.7M] more than ABCUSD. This means that a financial imbalance has occurred between the two Districts with regard to the implementation of the exchange of funds to operate the Academy.”

This is likely the source of the misinformation campaign, as the cash-strapped NLMUSD, according to the audit, will owe ABCUSD $1.3 million.

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