VUSD Superintendent has resigned

Creswell did apologize for his remarks.

Surprising many, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent David Creswell has announced that he will resign after serving as Superintendent for only 16-months.

The announcement came after several weeks of controversy surrounding a sermon that came to light that he delivered while an elder at Redeemer Baptist Church in Riverside in 2016. Creswell worked for the Fontana Unified School District at the time of the sermon. Only School Board Trustee Mary Haffner called for his resignation.

Creswell will continue to be on district payroll until Aug. 22, 2019, the end of his contract. Creswell will be available to the district during that time to provide assistance to district management as requested.

In the sermon, Creswell gave examples from a high school yearbook of a gay couple and a transgender woman and made remarks that some in the community have deemed to be hurtful toward the LGBTQ community.

In the sermon he stated he was looking through a high school yearbook when on the superlative page under “Best Couple” he saw a gay couple embracing. He said, “Oh, boy. Here we go. Here’s our world.” He went on “Most Changed” was a transgender woman who was pictured in makeup and a dress.

“This is the definition of most changed? This is the definition? There’s a growing sector of our culture, of our society, that says that’s good and that’s normal, and not only do they embrace it, we’re now celebrating it.”

Creswell did apologize for the remarks after meeting with people in the LGBTQ community in Ventura.

Creswell said he’s received a lot of messages since his announcement asking him to reconsider his decision. Many in Ventura do not feel that he should have resigned.

‘My decision was not made in haste,’ Creswell wrote. ‘I have thought, processed, and spoken with a lot of wise and caring people. My wife is at the top of that list. I did hurt people with what I said. Some can heal from that. Others cannot, and I can respect that. I will be working with the school board on an exit plan that will include my resignation. I am proud of everything that I have said and done here in VUSD and have enjoyed working with a gifted group of people. I know that you will continue to work for the future of every student.”

Creswell, who joined Ventura Unified in August of last year, said the job of the superintendent is a tough one, and one that takes ‘everything you have when you have full support. Clearly I am not in that position.”

He is the second superintendent to exit before his “term” was up after former Ventura Unified Superintendent Dr. Trudy Arriaga retired. Michael Babb was removed in 2017 after being fired (4-1) by the board.

Superintendent David Creswell’s last day on the job will be Dec. 21. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeff Davis will serve as interim superintendent. Davis will serve as interim until the board selects, once again a permanent superintendent.

Sabrena Rodriguez, school board president, read a joint statement. “We are grateful for his 18 months of service to the students and community of Ventura Unified. During his tenure, we boosted test scores, enhanced and diversified our curriculum, improved attendance, graduation and college readiness. We want to recognize that during Dave’s tenure as superintendent we adopted history and social science text that focused on ethnic and social justice and the contributions of historically marginalized communities.”

New City Council Members seated for the first time as three members depart

The new face of the City Council. Photo by Richard Lieberman

by Richard Lieberman

At the last most recent city council meeting, a large crowd gathered to honor three outgoing members whose service spanned nearly seventy years. Attendees also saw Ventura history in the making as the new council members were seated. Never before in Ventura history has the council been composed of such a diverse group.

Outgoing members Jim Monahan and Mike Tracy and Mayor Neal Andrews presided over the council for the last time as elected officials.

The evening was the first-time council members representing Ventura districts were seated. Members Sofia Rubalcava representing District one, Eric Nasarenko in District four, Jim Friedman in District five and Lorrie Brown in District 6.

Lorrie Brown is the first African American to join the council and Rubalcava the first Mexican-American to join in recent years. This is also the first time a majority of the board is female.

After taking their places, the board’s first act was to unanimously choose Matt LaVere to be Mayor. The second vote was to choose Rubalcava as Deputy Mayor. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Ventura are picked by the council rather than a public vote.

“Our job, our duty, is to the city as a whole,” said LaVere after becoming mayor. “What is best for Ventura always has to be our mantra; and I think if we set that example, future councils will follow us” he added. “The council looks different, thinks differently and has members from different backgrounds, and that diversity and collective experience will be the board’s biggest strength.”

Commenting on long term member Jim Monahan LaVere stated “The night Monahan was sworn in for the Ventura City Council in 1977, I was nothing but a sparkle in my mom’s eye.” LaVere, a Ventura native grew up hearing Monahan’s name in his household. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think the two would serve together. Council members spoke of Monahan’s willingness to provide tours of the Westside, where he was raised, and his eagerness to provide historical references.

Mike Tracy never got a tour of the Westside neighborhood but said, “he appreciated Monahan’s support in 2009 when he first ran.” “He told me all the secrets” even though they were running against each other.

Members thanked Tracy for his straightforward and candid style and his humor. “You have kept us laughing while you have kept us thinking.” Said council member Christy Weir.

“Neal is a guiding force when it came to his focus on those less fortunate, including people who were homeless or had mental illness.” Andrews also brought valuable expertise to organizational management.”

Council member Cheryl Heitmann shared memories of the time they served on the county’s advisory board for mental health and thanked him for bringing the Scottish Seaside Highlands games to the city.

Retiring member Neal Andrews said disagreeing was good in that it could lead to a better outcome. He urged the council to work together and to remember they served the people of Ventura.

Monahan said, “the years went by in a flash.” He added that he was sorry for everyone that lost their homes in the Thomas Fire and hoped to see them rebuilt. “It won’t be whole until we get everyone back in their homes again.”

Mike Tracy urged the new council to empower city staff. “Tell them what we want done and then hold them accountable and then get out of the way. Get to know the staff but don’t meddle.”

Nasarenko said serving another term a “privilege” and said he looks forward to working collaboratively on behalf of all residents.

Brown said she planned to focus on the refinement of the city’s general plan, which helps guide growth in the city, and helps spur development off Johnson Drive. “I plan to serve the people of Ventura with the intent to highlight issues ignored in the past on the east side but not them exclusively.”

Returning council member Friedman, who served on the council from 1995 to 2003, said it was like Yogi Berra who once said : “It’s Déjà vu all over again” He said he got a good sense of the pulse of the community from visiting 2500 homes in the district. “I look forward to working with my colleagues collegiately and cooperatively to get some good things done here.”

Rubalcava spoke in Spanish and English. She encouraged people to bring their passions and interests and get involved. “This doesn’t work without you,” she said” There’s seven people up here who are making decisions but we need your input, we need your vision and we also need your work.”

Nearly 73 percent of registered voters casted a ballot on this last election up from 26 percent in 2013. The top vote getter in the election was Brown, who received 3,533 votes. Rubalcava received 1,767 votes.

A new and vibrant time has come to the council. Here at the Breeze we wish our new council members the best of luck in their new positions and congratulations to Ventura voters whom we believe have chosen wisely.

Members emails: They would love to hear from you.

  • enasarenko@cityofventura.net;
  • cheitmann@cityofventura.net;
  • mlavere@cityofventura.net; mayor
  • cweir@cityofventura.net;
  • srubalcava@cityofventura.net; deputy mayor
  • jfriedman@cityofventura.net;
  • lbrown@cityofventura.net;

Thomas Fire documentary premieres at Museum of Ventura County

by CAPS Media

Over the past year, CAPS Media in collaboration with the Museum of Ventura County went into the community and spoke to many who were affected by the Thomas Fire. We interviewed over 70 people and let them share their stories. Neighbors, friends and First Responders were invited to various locations throughout the county and into the CAPS Media studio to record their stories. From these powerful stories we created a 90-minute documentary.

The Perfect Firestorm is our documentary film that chronicles these personal stories of survival and healing during and following the devastating Thomas Fire. Screenings of the film are free and open to the public with an RSVP required on Sunday, December 16 at 12pm and 3pm at the museum’s pavilion at 100 East Main Street in Ventura. Due to limited seating, reservations are required. Email events@capsmedia.org and indicate the time of the screening you wish to attend.

The Perfect Firestorm was produced in cooperation with Ventura City Fire and Police, Ventura County Fire, Sheriff’s, Office of Emergency Services and other agencies. The year-long project is based on dozens of first-person interviews with fire fighters, first responders, residents and others impacted by the tragedy. In addition to sharing their heartfelt, inspiring and at times tragic stories, the citizens of Ventura County provided CAPS Media with hundreds of photos and videos recorded during and after the fire to help tell the story.

The Perfect Firestorm is a companion production to CAPS Media’s Thomas Fire Stories Project, the series of half-hour, first-person stories that airs every Friday night on CAPS Media. All the interviews conducted for the series and documentary air as stand-along stories on CAPS Media and on KPPQ-LP at 104.1fm.

“CAPS Media is privileged to produce the series and film,” said Patrick Davidson, Executive Director of CAPS. “and extremely fortunate to have the tremendous cooperation and unprecedented access to remarkable stories and supporting material for the project. We have county and city media including video, photos and dispatch calls. The Ventura community responded rapidly by sending us hundreds of personal photos and video of their first-hand experiences. And, as this is a collaborative with the Museum of Ventura County, we have an equally special agreement with television affiliate stations to utilize news coverage of the fire.”

Storytellers recounting personal stories include Ventura County Fire officers Chad Cook, Dustin Gardner, Vaughn Miller, John Spykerman, as well as County CEO Mike Powers, OES Director Kevin McGowan, City Fire Chief David Endaya, City Police officers Mike Brown and true citizen-heroes including Debbie Brokaw, Kat Merrick and her Local Love project, Jake and Jenny Dilbeck, Trevor Quirk and Upper Ojai Relief, Jason Collis and Dr. Susanne Lammot’s World Kitchen/Chef Relief Project, Lance Korthals, Clark Tulberg of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Sean Anderson and many more inspiring storytellers.

All of us at CAPS Media offer our heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to everyone throughout Ventura County who suffered personal tragedy caused by the devastating fires of the last two years. We celebrate the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of fire fighters, law enforcement personnel and other first responders who tirelessly battled the devastating fires.

The Perfect Firestorm is a tribute to our entire community of heroes who, in the face of an overwhelming crisis, responded with astonishing calm and then opened their hearts, hands and homes to rescue neighbors and strangers and together rebuild their lives. We also thanks those in the media and support services who helped provide vital information to all of us in the community. Our community came together. Please contact CAPS Media at capsmedia.org or at 805.658.0500 for information about the screenings and about how to join and become a member. Our mission is to create an engaged and informed community through participation in electronic media.

REMEMBERING ~ Flames of Compassion

Remember the Fire ~ Flames of Compassion

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

The fire and brimstone atmosphere that raged through California scorched not only land but has wreaked havoc with our psyches and emotional state of being. The aftermath and collective mourning of precious lives lost, houses and earthscapes are palatable. Venturian’s memories not long passed have re-kindled in the air thick as smoke.

On November 8, 2018 three fires broke out. The Hill Fire, Woolsey and Camp Fires combined scorching nearly 250,000 acres, displaced thousands, claimed more than 80 lives, destroyed 14,000 structures, 993 people are unaccounted for and it took 6,400 firefighters round the clock to slay the beasts. The 18-day Woolsey Fire alone impacted Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Chatsworth, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Malibu, torching 96, 949 acres.

Barely holding back tears, Paradise Town Council Member Melissa Schuster shares, “The entire town of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now.” Paradise Hero, Kevin McKay drove 22 stranded elementary school students to safety

Affected was the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills known as “Western Town” where hundreds of movies and television shows, including HBO’s Westworld have been filmed. Amidst the devastation and tragedy heroes have emerged.

Hollywood Stuntman Ardeshir Radpour saved 300 horses from the Woolsey wildfires, but he doesn’t consider himself a hero. Radpour shares, “The horses feel what we feel and have a heightened sense of awareness. They don’t understand the noise and don’t have a voice for themselves. It’s just what we need to do as human beings to help each other out.”

Hearts are swollen with despair and aching from the abundant suffering in our own back yards, neighboring counties and globally. Yet, all walks of life are united and ignited with the flame of compassion! We have walked in their shoes, lost what they have lost and felt what they have felt.

From the many caring residents, business owners and heroes, their light of empathy burns brightly, snuffing out the fear with their generous optimism, support and helping hands of service so ultimately we can find healing within the unimaginable loss.

Sharon Campbell

Local intuitive artist Sharon Camphell shares, “One candle can light up a whole room. It costs nothing to smile, say hello and make amends with people you love. We do adapt and we are stronger than we think.”

Tim Callaghan

Tim Callaghan, founder and owner of No Limit Fitness, well-traveled and Veteran shares, “As a one year resident of Ventura, I have noticed in the wake of disaster, the hearts of this area are connected in a way where strangers are neighbors and neighbors are family.”

“Mo” owner of Silver Trends says, “We will never forget. With help comes change. Consoling with one another helps make our lives a little better. Our mentality and perspective needs to change from me me me, to we we we. “

Ayn Devera

Owner of Inner Soulstice Wellness Ayn Devera quotes, “When our energies are aligned we can produce anything. We must connect, share how we feel, lean in towards the discomfort, then we can empathize and from that space of commonality that we are the same creates change.”

Tina Thayer

Tina Thayer owner of Paradise Pantry shares her feelings and people that arrived devastated and disheveled into the hearth and home vibe café, “I am trying to process the sadness and feel heartbroken for all the loss and happy to serve the weary travelers so they may rest, drop their shoulders and eat a meal.”

Anna Bermudez

Anna Bermudez, Ventura Museum curator quotes, “Preserve the history of Now” “Along with our exhibits, the museum has come to be so much more, a public community gathering place where people feel safe to reflect, remember and heal ”

Musician and icon Neil Young who lost his home speaks out, “Hopefully we can come together as a people to take climate change on!”

Each of us has value in the lives around us! Shine on!

REMEMBERING ~ Serra Cross Park

On a beautiful Sunday, Dec.2 a dedication was held at Serra Cross Park located in Grant Park to celebrate the repairs made after the Thomas Fire destroyed the area. It featured great jazz by the Cabrillo Middle School Jazz Band and welcomes by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere, Chief of Police Ken Corney, Fire Chief David Endaya and others. Citycouncil Member Christy Weir was the moderator and Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann was there to greet those attending as were other dignitaries. Fr. Tom Elewaut from the Mission San Buenaventura gave a blessing to the Park. Several painting by local artists were bid on at the silent auction to raise money for upkeep. New landscaping, and grass made the area look as good as it did prior to the Thomas Fire. Even though the area is now usable Grant Park remains closed, but, by reservation Serra Cross is available for private events.

The Serra Cross Conservancy encourages everyone to enjoy the park and welcomes events ranging from family picnics to educational field trips to weddings and memorial services. The site, with its unique character and spectacular views, is very popular for private events. If you are interested in holding your event at the Cross contact Amber Weir at info@amberweir.com.

Serra Cross

 

REMEMBERING ~ City Memorial Ceremony

On Monday, December 3, the City of Ventura held a ceremony in observance of the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire. The ceremony was held on the front steps of Ventura City Hall proceeding the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Comments were made by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere and Fire Chief David Endaya, followed by a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives. Traditional bagpipe music was played by the Ventura City Firefighters Pipes & Drums Corps. Handheld battery candles were held to show support and reflect the strength of our community.

Remembering the Fire ~ City Memorial Ceremony

The evening included good food, good people, and good conversation

On Nov. 10, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura held 51st Annual Great Futures Gala & Auction “Havana Nights”, at the Four Points Sheraton celebrating 80 years of serving local youth.

The evening included good food, good people, and good conversation, all for a good cause! Supporting your community’s youth! A cocktail reception of champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a spectacular Silent Auction was held before heading into the ballroom where even more fun was had! Fine dining, hearing from this year’s honorees, and bidding on the all-exciting Live Auction.

J.D. and Amber Drury honored at ”Havana Nights.”

Opening comments were made by Board President Maria Ventura and the 2018 Youth Of The Year Marco Cardenas, from Buena High who thanked the Boys and Girls Club for the wonderful contribution that they have made to his life.

CEO Patti Birmingham stated “it is my sincere hope that as you enjoy the excitement, laughter and kinship of the evening, that you too will feel like a part of our family and know that you are making a difference. All proceeds raised this evening will be used to provide academic success, character and good citizenship and healthy lifestyles for the members of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Ventura.”

The evening honored to outstanding community leaders J.D. and Amber Drury. In 2010, they were asked to create a thrift store that would be a source of funding for the Boys & Girls Club. They then established the Avenue Thrift Store located at 222 Ventura Avenue.

J D is also known for presenting Ventura’s summer surf festival the Surf Rodeo and on occasion can be heard performing with his band Raging Arb and the Redheads. Both he and Amber graduated from Ventura High School.

He stated “we are very proud of our contribution of almost $400,000 so far the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Ventura. Amber and I, along with manager Micci House, and our staff are dedicated to maintaining the quality reputation and popularity of the store. Our ever changing inventory is the key to our success and we would like to remind you how much we appreciate your continuing contributions. Amber and I invite you to visit the store on Ventura Avenue, we are open seven days a week. Thank you so much for your continued support.”

The cost to provide critical services and to run all four of the boys and girls clubs is $150,000 per month with the cost of services for one child per year is $2,500. Parents are only asked to pay $50 a year for annual membership. No child is turned away for lack of ability to pay and many can’t.

Visit bgclubventura.org for more information about the Club.

Misconceptions about the Ventura Botanical Gardens

One day the Ventura Botanical Gardens will again look like this.

by Barbara Brown Ventura Botanical Gardens, President
www.venturabotanicalgardens.com

Over the last few weeks since the Merewether Welcome Center opened, we’ve heard some misconceptions about the Gardens. Most of them come in the form of questions, so we thought we’d share them here:

Isn’t this public land?

In 2012, VBG built the first garden pathway and installed the first plants on brushy slopes that previously had no access. In 2015, VBG was granted a long-term lease for the land and took on the challenge of building and maintaining it through private funding, grants and donations. Part of our long term general plan included paid admission. Many cities opt to engage in public/private partnerships when they do not have taxpayer funds to develop or maintain a property or asset.

Why do I have to pay for a public trail?

 Most hiking trails, like those in the Santa Monica Mountains or Los Padres National Forest, were built, funded and maintained through ongoing taxpayer dollars. VBG does not receive ongoing funds from either the City’s annual budget, the state budget or the federal government. Over the past 18 months, it’s become clear that the Gardens need support from the people that visit it. We’d like to continue free access, but we can’t do that and provide for short or long term sustainability. With an interest in being as inclusive as possible, we offer free access on Tuesdays along with free scheduled guided tours. Children age 18 and under are also free, as are EBT card holders, and educational groups.

The cost of $7 per visit is too high. Couldn’t it be more like $2 per visit?

A great deal of thought and consideration was given to the cost. Comparative research was done between other non-governmentally funded gardens and we felt this pricing model the best for balancing sustainability and affordability. For those who visit the Gardens often, the $45 annual membership fee is equivalent to $3.75 per month. If you use it 4 times in a month, that’s equivalent to 93 cents per visit. Many were visiting every day or even twice a day, so for frequent visitors, the cost becomes significantly less than $2.

I like to visit in the morning and in the evenings. Can you extend the hours?

We are considering extending the hours when funding becomes available,

Why are dogs only allowed on Tuesday and Wednesday?

In the interest of being inclusive, rather than exclusive, we want to ensure that anyone visiting our garden can enjoy it free of distraction. We’ve had many complaints about dogs, but we don’t want to exclude them entirely, so we have opened up two days a week for dogs. In addition, because we are an organization about plant conservation and education, we have to balance environmental and conservation issues.

How did the gardens fare after the devastating Thomas Fire?

The entirety of the Gardens burned and every plant was, in some way, touched by the fire. The good news is that some of the plants survived. For example, the pepper trees at Summit Plateau look almost untouched. Most of our plants, however, were burned and many to the ground.