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Disputed Contract for Police in Schools Back to Council

The delayed contract between the City of El Cerrito and the West Contra Costa school district for three city police officers to be assigned to schools goes back to the City Council Tuesday, with concessions from the city.

An attempt by the City of El Cerrito to secure more favorable terms in funding city police officers assigned to El Cerrito High School and Portola Middle School was rejected by the West Contra Costa Unified School District, according to a report from the police department.

As a result, the City Council is being asked to consider at its Tuesday meeting a contract that continues the previous level of funding, which the police department says does not cover all the city's costs.

Approval of the contract, which was supposed to have been in place on July 1, when the last contract expired, was delayed because the city and the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) could not agree on the terms.

The city assigns two officers full-time to the high school and one officer full-time to the middle school. They are designated "School Resource Officers" (SROs). The presence of the officers at the schools has been enthusiastically welcomed by both sides, who see a significant improvement in security and the learning environment.

In the past, the district allocated $420,000 per year to cover the officers' salaries on a one-year contract and said it would be willing to agree to the same terms this school year.

Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the council in June that the $420,000 figure was what it took to support three officers a few years ago, and that the city responded with a request closer to the cost for this year, asking the district to pay $470,000. She also said the city asked for a three-year contract.

However, she told the council in June, schools Superintendent Bruce Harter was concerned about the continued uncertainty of school funding, which hinges to a subtantial degree on the outcome of proposed tax measures in the November election.

The report submitted by Moir and police Capt. Michael Regan for Tuesday's council packet says, "The WCCUSD refused to enter into the agreement as proposed by the Chief of Police and under the terms of the agreement presented at City Council on June 19, 2012. The WCCUSD held firm that the contract could not exceed a one-year term, and the reimbursed rate could not exceed $420,000 annually."

The full cost of top-step police officer in the current fiscal year is $179,409, the report from Moir and Regan says. The agreement also doesn't cover the costs of a fully equipped police car (more than $60,000) or laptops, tablets, additional portable radios or cell phones, the report says.

The report nevertheless asks the council to approve the agreement.

"Since the inception of the SRO program, the feedback has been tremendously positive and the increased security in and around the schools is measurable," the report says. "The SRO's are constantly praised by members of the community, school administration, and students. The program has made a true difference to the City and School. Even though the City,does not recover the full costs associated with funding the program, the investment by the City towards this effort is needed and will have a positive impact on the community."

The report is attached to this article.

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best bookkeeper October 14, 2012 at 02:30 PM
$179,400...now compare that with your salary and benefits. do the police draw full pay for patrolling the campus all year--schools are open fewer than 200 days/year? since more than half of the students are from outside EC, seems like EC should only be responsible for half the cost. think we would need these police if all students were from EC?
Michael O'Connor October 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Without the SRO's, the schools mentioned would be serious trouble spots for the community. Unless El Cerrito chooses to leave the WCCUSD, there is no other option than signing the old contract. In a year the funding sources may be different. Time will tell.
Charles Burress (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 08:00 PM
The report from Chief Moir and Captain Regan says the SRO officers take vacations and attend mandated training during the summer, so presumably they are paid during that time. The report also says the role of the SROs during the summer is an "issue still under discussion." The school district wants to have an officer present during summer school, but the city believes that would not be covered in the contract, the report says.
Jean Womack October 15, 2012 at 05:27 AM
As a former substitute teacher I can only express my sincere admiration for school police officers who made it possible for me to function in my job as a teacher who took over briefly in an emergency, and then went on to another emergency somewhere else a few days later. It's quite a challenge to take control of a classroom quickly so that the kids can get some school work done in the absence of their regular teacher. So what often happened to me in San Francisco was that the kids would act up until I call the security guard . Then he or she would put his head in the doorway and tell the kids that it was all right for me to be there. Now just think about that. Those kids were telling the police officers everything that was going on in the school instead of taking the law into their own hands to drive to substitute away. My safety was really in the hands of those police officers who were willing to believe that, as a credentialed teacher, I had the ability to direct the class in the positive direction.. Well, that's an experience with a school officer that you might not have thought about. I think that they are worth their weight in gold . Raising the money to pay them is not my department but some people are very good at it, like Dr. Harter, for example. I hope he continues to support the police at Portola and El Cerrito high school.
John Stashik October 15, 2012 at 03:55 PM
A sad state of affairs when cops are needed to keep order in schools. Bad parenting to say the least. Thugs raising thugs? It is troubling.
Mike October 15, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I wonder if much of the need for police in schools is caused by high class sizes / low staff to student ratio. Kids (teenagers included) have always had a knack for getting in trouble when supervision is weak and the student-teacher relationship is spread too thin. At what point does the fallout from high class sizes cost more than reducing them in the first place? The fact that we are spending money on police instead of teachers is tragic. That said, criminal behavior in school should not be tolerated. I understand that there should be consideration for the fact that minors make mistakes and do stupid things, but under no circumstances should students feel that assault, battery, theft, vandalism, false imprisonment, or drug use will be overlooked. Failing to obey a teacher should always result in a disciplinary action, even if half the class needs to be punished. Tolerance of any amount of violence and disrespect in the student population fosters a subculture of violence and disrespect. If the staff-to-student ratio in a school is too low to monitor and enforce discipline, or if staff have a lax or inconsistent to maintaining discipline, we are creating a hazardous situation for our kids. We don't allow large public events to happen without adequate security provisions, and by the same token we should consider a school where the staff can't maintain discipline a serious and immediate public safety issue.
Mike October 15, 2012 at 06:52 PM
BTW, I don't buy the argument that thugs raising thugs is the cause of this problem, even though we may have to remove a serious criminal from a school now and then. I think folks may be too quick to blame "undesirables" and external elements. This problem even pops up in private schools where the parents are primarily wealthy, highly educated upstanding members of the community (i.e. not thugs) but where a teacher may have issues enforcing order. The problem is allowing a mob mentality to spread unchecked due to lax discipline or insufficient staff. If you leave kids to deal on their own with this situation, it may bring out the worst in some- they may form gangs and commit shocking acts in self defense and retribution.

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