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Why No Home Football Field

Why can't we have a home football field at El Cerrito High School?  What an insult to the taxpayers who funded the new school and to the school's team who just won the state's northern division championship.
Ruby MacDonald December 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM
Congratulations to the Gauchos, but as the children of our state now rank 49th or 50th on nationwide achievement indicators due to a more than 30 year history of revenue depleting choices (e.g., Prop 13) of the voters -- only some of whom are football fans -- we need to invest in the academic, rather than recreational, futures of our children. The more devastating insult to more taxpayers is to see their children NOT graduate from El Cerrito High School or to NOT be able to get into college if they want to.
Michael O'Connor December 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Rumor has it that construction of the new football stadium will begin in January. Of course, similar rumors have circulated for the last five years. The bond money used to finance physical plant construction can be had with a 55% vote of the public. Because of Proposition 13, a two thirds vote of the public is required to locally increase school funding. Money won't cure all the failures of the education system, but it surly wouldn't hurt. The Albany School District now has about 500 students who LIST their home addresses as El Cerrito. Many other El Cerrito kids attend private schools. When so many motivated families have bailed on the WCCUSD, expect the district to continue to stumble along.
Tom Nixon December 13, 2013 at 10:10 AM
I did not want to argue the relative value of sports in our schools. I merely questioned why, if the athletic field was included in a bond measure passed by the voters, has it not been built.
Michael O'Connor December 13, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Tom, there is not a simple answer to your query. The district is large and disjointed. Promises were made to many constituents. The elected board members must vote on decisions proposed by the facilities subcommittee. Untold millions were squandered ( in my opinion - details, if you care to ask ) in the ECHS project, and in response, other pockets of influence united in support of "more critical" projects. In short, over promissed, over priced, back room shenanigans. Your WCCUSD in practice.
Tom Nixon December 13, 2013 at 02:42 PM
It's too bad if that's the case. Because when I voted for the bond measure, I fully anticipated that the field would be included in the project. Home games are a great opportunity for the community to come together. They can give the students a reason to be proud of and stay in their school, things that benefit us all. If we build it, they will come and they might even stay to graduate.
Michael O'Connor December 13, 2013 at 04:12 PM
The original plan, despite very strong suggestions otherwise, only provided for "the restoration of the unused grass field", previously the baseball field. The professionals involved claimed that there was only room, and funding, for a walkway to the decrepit football facility and two forty yard "soccer fields" suitable only for young children. I spent one hour with a tape measure and an 8 x 11 sheet of paper to sketch out something close to what is being built. I must say that there was little interest in the project by anyone connected with the school, and the plan only glacially moved forward when I brought in neighboring sporting interests who were offered access to the finished facilities. That was over seven years ago.
Ruby MacDonald December 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Michael, I'm sure the readers would love to know exactly why you wrote that "untold millions were squandered" in the construction of ECHS! Tom, we really need to think beyond whether ECHS gets a new football field and focus on the wider issue of sports in public high schools for the sake of all K-12 students in this country! Food for thought from Amanda Ripley's article in Sept. 18 issue of the Atlantic Monthly (google Amanda Ripley and The Case Against Football...).
Michael O'Connor December 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM
Ruby, it is a tale that MOSTLY unfolded before a disinterested public, often at open meetings with few bothering to attend. In such an environment, back room deals, power plays and broken commitments will invariably take place. Because I was loosely involved in many of the events, I have a very strong view of the process, and my opinion is just that, mine. The whole story would be very time consuming to reconstruct,and an incomplete effort would just lead to more uninformed, TeaBagger like table thumping.
best bookkeeper December 14, 2013 at 11:46 AM
i attended those meetings and heard the promises. Ten years later, we continue to hear how ECHS got the theater (which the contractors and a handful of vocal parents wanted) and now doesn't deserve the football field. Millions were wasted on ECHS design, redesign, eventual construction . The temporary campus--rented units expensive every month-- stood empty for more than a year because the Board couldn't decide to move forward. The whole program benefits builders and consultants who (surprise!) fund Board elections.
Tom Nixon December 14, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Ok Ruby, I read it. As she points out, we've had high school football since 1900. But she doesn't acknowledge that for the vast majority of years since then, we've also had the best educational results in the world. I ask. Of all the adverse influences our school system has faced recently, do you really think sports is an important one of them? It's true that the athletic program competes for funding dollars. But funding alone can not solve the cultural issues that undermine your best intentions. Even if we tripled the school budget, we couldn't buy a parent's commitment to their own responsibility for their child's success at school. I've seen the results of abandoning industrial arts in our schools, a population without the basic skills to fill manufacturing and technology jobs. I would hate to see us abandon sports now also thinking that it will improve scholastics. The fact is that even without a football field, since the new El Cerrito High School campus opened, it's graduation rate has gone down and it's dropout rate has gone up. I wonder how Ms Ripley would attribute that to football?
Ruby MacDonald December 15, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Glad you read the article, Tom. You're right that cutting out football or any one change won't solve everything because getting education back on track is unbelievably complicated. (So we can't conclude anything from the observation you cite in your second to last sentence.) Many aspects of our current system have to change, including greater parental involvement, for that to happen. But as a former teacher who had to contend with some of the most academically challenged kids obsessing over sports with no time or effort left for studying and preparing for their future sans football, I agree with Ripley's observation that football often is allowed to suck up the attention and energies of too many students (and teachers) to the detriment of the futures of the students. How about at least moderating the football hysteria that grips schools when fall rolls around?
Giorgio C. December 16, 2013 at 09:35 AM
Greater parental involvement? Then schools need to be accessible to working parents. We had a teacher at my daughter's elementary school who protested when we said we wanted the School Site Council meeting held closer to 4:00 or 5:00 instead of 2:00. This teacher complained about how tired they are at that hour. Are teachers only getting paid to work until 3:00 now? Some SSC meetings are held in the evening and this teacher was complaining about a 4:00 meeting? Think about us parents who have to use our work vacation time (or sick leave?) for these meetings. It is not easy getting away from work for every meeting and then having to stay home on minimum days and holidays. It appears todays 2-income household parents are having to fight for opportunities for such parental involvement.
Ruby MacDonald December 17, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Michael, I wonder whether ranting without specific examples of "back room dealing for illicit gains" is a disservice to the cause of improving K-12 education. The East Bay Express ran the kind of article by Ellen Cushing a few years ago that you're suggesting we need more of. How about Chevron funding this type of investigation, in addition to funding the creation of WCCUSD's new 5 year plan? Giorgio, your input is valuable but irrespective of the teacher whose actions galled you, at what time did the SSC finally decide to meet? As for being tired, how many "professional" jobs do you know of that require non-stop, high level engagement and often without the opportunity to sit down for 7 hours and only hourly 7 minute bathroom breaks for limited facilities and one 40-50 minute "free period" and a 40 minute lunchtime in which to hurriedly finish the ever increasing number of tasks assigned by the administration and necessary to doing a good job--like calling parents, monitoring hallways, meeting with parents and students or other teachers, tutoring students, correcting papers, working on lesson plans? Maybe you need to take your complaints to the SSC and save your more constructive comments for this forum.
Giorgio C. December 17, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Ruby, My comment is constructive and relevant. You commented on parent involvement and I chimed in. In a recent survey, parents asked that schools be more accessible to working parents. As a former district science teacher (Richmond High), I know all about the hard day of a teacher, especially after teaching all of those lab classes without any assistance whatsoever. I always made time for parents and my students. I am currently still a government employee and also know my responsibility to the public whom I serve. A Site Council meeting is only one day per month. It is one of the few opportunities where a parent can be involved with the decision making process pertaining to their child's school. Teachers should accommodate parents. Parents, in turn, will be more supportive of teachers and the public education system as a whole. It's a win-win.

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