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Trustee in Orange: Plan A 'Vendetta'

Move to eliminate two jobs in the school district is purely political, trustee says. Superintendent counters that recall isn't a factor.

October 31, 2000|LOUISE ROUG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Orange school board is moving toward eliminating two positions--those of the risk manager and public relations spokeswoman--in a move that one board member claims is a "vendetta."

Bill Lewis, a member of the Orange Unified School District board of trustees who supports the recall effort against board President Linda Davis, Vice President Martin Jacobson and member Maureen Aschoff, called the move to eliminate the two positions retaliatory.

Two district staff members--Barbara Bowen, risk manager, and Judy Frutig, communications director--were told last week that their departments would be eliminated as part of a restructuring.

The recommendation by the superintendent said the elimination would save the district about $200,000 annually, but Lewis questioned the district's motive.

"This was pure politics," he said. "It's despicable."

Neither Bowen nor Frutig could be reached for comment Monday.

Lewis, Bowen's boyfriend, said the proposed elimination was retribution for his support of the recall effort.

"They started attacking me and my colleagues, eliminating their positions. . . . They don't like the messenger, so they're going to shoot the messenger's allies."

Supt. Barbara Van Otterloo said Bowen and Frutig were informed of the elimination of their departments Friday, adding that the recommendation is part of an ongoing effort to make the district more efficient.

"I know there's a recall going on . . . [but] my recommendation is not political," Van Otterloo said. "This reorganization has nothing to do with the recall effort."

In the last year, the district has gone through contentious contract negotiations and seen an exodus of more than 240 teachers--a sixth of the teaching staff. And the school board received national attention when it denied the application of a gay student support club to meet on campus, a case that was recently settled.

A group of parents and former teachers began the recall effort in July. To recall the three board members, the group would have to gather more than 14,000 valid signatures before Jan. 11.

The board is scheduled to vote on the recommendation at its meeting Thursday.

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