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Schools Parcel Tax, Police in Schools: Topics at Council - School Board Joint Meeting

The El Cerrito City Council and West Contra Costa school board will hold a joint meeting at City Hall Tuesday for an overview of the ballot measure to boost parcel taxes for education, police officers in schools and other issues of mutual interest.

The , Measure K, will be reviewed at a joint meeting Tuesday night of the El Cerrito City Council and the school board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Police officers in the schools

The special meeting, at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito City Hall, will also include discussion about the three El Cerrito police officers assigned to schools in the city — two at  and one at .

The school district has paid for these School Resource Officers in the past but gave notice last year that it may not continue funding them past June 30 this year. El Cerrito has been keeping three vacant positions in the police department in order to be able to absorb the cost of paying for these officers if the school district funding is not renewed.

Parcel tax ballot measure

On the parcel tax, property owners in the West Contra Costa school district already pay a parcel tax for schools. The measure on the June 5 ballot asks voters to extend and increase the parcel tax for schools. It requires two-thirds approval.

The current tax, first adopted by voters in 2004 and renewed with 79-percent voter approval in 2008, is 7.2 cents per square foot of building area and is due to expire June 30, 2014. The new tax would be increased to 10 cents a square foot, effective July 1 this year and last five years.

New schools in El Cerrito

Also on the agenda are presentation and discussion of the school facilities and bond program. The district is rebuiling Portola Middle School on the site of the former Castro Elementary School and is planning to rebuild Fairmont Elementary School.

Other items

The two bodies also plan to discuss after-school programs at the schools. The city sponsors a number of after-school classes and programs at schools in El Cerrito.

The meeting agenda, which is attached to this article, also includes remarks by Mayor Bill Jones and board President Charles Ramsey.

Marty April 02, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Unless the possibility of placing Portola on the Wiindrush campus is discussed tonight, as several commenters here have suggested, and considered in a diligent manner thereafter, I will not vote for a parcel tax. Failure to explore this option would be confirmation that neither the city council nor the school district is capable of creative thinking that might benefit both the community and the students, and save money, but instead rely on a tired tax and spend strategy.
Local Mom April 02, 2012 at 06:21 PM
I see the general point, but the Portola designs are done. We the taxpayers have already paid for them, plus we the taxpayers already own the new site. Can't imagine it would be cost effective for the taxpayers to switch horses in midstream. What I really hope they get into is the police officers. How on earth can the district justify removing them ... seems like an obvious ploy to get the city to fund them indefinitely. Sigh.
Michael O'Connor April 02, 2012 at 07:15 PM
The District had almost completed planning, with a sham public outreach effort, for the El Cerrito High School campus when the then superintendent threw out those plans and insisted on a terrible design of her choice. After the subterfuge was exposed at a school board meeting, her nearly complete plans were also thrown out, and a another set was drawn up. Plans are about 10% of the poject's cost. Do not fear exploration of any new idea because of drawings. The Windrush site may not have enough space to meet state requirements, however.
Marty April 02, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Absolutely correct, Michael. I think many times preliminary designs are drawn because Sacramento needs them to review the project, to have some show-and-tell for board meeting and to get public support for tax measures to build and operate it, and many other reasons; some legitimate, and some because of poor decison making as in the case you cite. Often the "as built" design is quite different than those early, or even the final plans--as evidenced by the miillions of dollars in change orders and cost overruns in almost every project the district (and other agencies, to be fair) undertakes. Regarding space: Castro doesn't meet the state criteria, unless the current field areas and Cameron site are included, which WCCUSD say aren't. They are to remain in public use; at least that's the promise WCCUSD made.
Marty April 02, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Don't quote me, but I believe in its court filings in the CEQA lawsuit, the district agreed to provide police at Portola as a mitigation measure. I don't know if they can pass that obligation onto the city.
karen April 03, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Although a creative option- Portola is made up primarily of two buildings- the historic site of the former orphanage, and the gym, attached to that is the 'middle school' which had 6 classrooms designed for roughly 20 students, a library, and a locker area. The historic building would probably not pass muster by the state architect- additionally those classrooms are designed for 15-20 k-5 students. The debt owed on the platinum LEED 'middle school' would make that an exorbitant price for 6 classrooms that could only hold 4 Portola sized classes.
Giorgio C. April 03, 2012 at 03:25 AM
When I taught at one district high school, the need for campus police officers was clearly evident. Gun and gang violence was not uncommon. Can someone please tell me why Portola middle school needs a police officer. Why does El Cerrito need 2 police officers? One district school has a high number of parolees. I understand why this school might need police officers. Some schools have a high degree of gang activity, so again, I see the need for law enforcement. Where can I find the metric that is being used to make such decisions with respect to school safety? I have seen the expulsion data, but I would also like to see the accompanying information that articulates why the local police agencies are unable to meet the needs of some of these schools. This metric could include response times, etc. Are these decisions being made as a result of some national standard or simply out of fear?
Judy April 03, 2012 at 04:18 AM
The parcel tax conversation and the SRO conversation are two different discussions that will take place at tomorrow night's joint meeting. The parcel tax has never paid for SROs. It funds essential classroom programs such as class size reduction at elementary and high schools, science labs, and technology training.
Giorgio C. April 03, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Thanks for the clarification. At the town hall meetings, safety was grouped with the other priorities presented to us for the straw poll/survey. We were asked which were most important to us, irrespective of funding mechanism.
Michael O'Connor April 03, 2012 at 04:50 AM
An overwhelming number of the students at ECHS are not residents of El Cerrito, so there hasn't been much support for paying officers from the city coffers. The same goes for Portola. The ECPD has extensive records of actions taken at the schools. I witnessed, personally, the completely out of control chaos that was El Cerrito High School until the ECPD was able to calm things down. They first arrived on campus the morning after I forwarded an email to the ECPD, the EC City Council, the WCCUSD Board and a few other select folks, from the mother of a very upset parent. In it, she detailed the events surrounding the shooting, with a pellet gun, of her son in front of ECHS, as school let out on the first day of class. Dozens of witnesses "saw nothing", and the injured student was located across the street from the campus, so the WCCUSD joke-of-a-security crew, with the cooperation of the ECHS Administration, decided not to report the incident to the police, or in fact, pursue the incident in any way.
Giorgio C. April 03, 2012 at 04:59 AM
A child (not sure where) died this year when shot with a pellet gun, the pellet striking his heart. Can you provide a date of the incident so I can request all relevant records via the public records act? Thank you.
Carolyn April 03, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Regarding Michael O'Connor's statement above: "An overwhelming number of the students at ECHS are not residents of El Cerrito, so there hasn't been much support for paying officers from the city coffers. The same goes for Portola" In the spirit of adding some facts to this discussion.... according to the Go Portola site, in the 2010-11 school year (most recent year data is available), 59% of Portola students came from feeder schools in El Cerrito / Kensington (i.e., Madera, Harding, Fairmont, Kensington). http://goportola.org/documents/

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