Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Schools to find funds for safety


Feeling the aftershocks of Santa Barbara School Districts’ budget crisis, administrators Tuesday focused on finding funding for school safety.
How to keep students safe from injuries at football games and from gangs and violence in the hallways took up much of the discussion time at the 7 p.m. meeting at the 720 Santa Barbara St. Administration Office.

The Board of Education voted 5-0 to allocate $10,000 to each of the district’s three high schools to pay for ambulances and medical assistance at football games. Ambulances at the games have so far been paid for by parents and fundraisers, Nan Verkaik, Santa Barbara High School athletic director, told the board.
“Not only do you have the players on the field, you have 3,000 people in the stands. We’ve had people have heart attacks in the stands.”
“This is a very, very serious issue to fulfill,” added Paul Turnbull, assistant superintendent of secondary education.
The board’s decision comes a year after Dos Pueblos High School football player Brad Ebner was seriously injured in a football match on campus.
After being tackled by the opposing Righetti High School team, Brad stood up and then collapsed on the field, suffering a massive stroke and eventually entering into a coma. Had it not been for the ambulance at the game, paid for by parents of football players, Brad — who is still recuperating — may not have survived, Aaron Solis, San Marcos High School Activities Director told the Daily Sound at the meeting.
Brad’s near death influenced Board Member Annette Cordero’s decision, she said.
“Watching that young man be taken out on a stretcher… it just reinforced for me the importance of having an ambulance ready there. I understand the financial concerns, but safety really seems like a legitimate cost for the district.”
Board Member Robert Noel drew a connection between the amount of money allocated to the football teams and the amount of money Santa Barbara Junior High School teacher John Houchin requested during public comment for reinstatement of the school’s Curriculum Council, eliminated during May budget cuts.
“We are making a value judgment here about what’s important,” Noel said. “I support the idea of a Curriculum Council, but if I had to make a decision between Curriculum Council and student safety, it wouldn’t be a hard decision.”
Reinstating the Curriculum Council — a body of teachers and administrators who would meet to discuss school programs — would cost about $50,000 and go toward paying those involved, Houchin said.
Michael Gonzalez, district director of compliance and categorical problems, also briefed the board on the gang and youth violence problem in Santa Barbara schools.
“We need to get some sense for what is actually going on,” he said. “We need to sit down with the parents and students to establish a violence-free atmosphere at our schools.
We’re very fortunate that there’s been no day-to-day effect [from violence] in our schools.”
Gonzalez’s presentation was a follow-up to his earlier request that the board hire a gang intervention specialist. Other ideas include starting a parent education program, installing more video cameras at schools and fencing-in the campuses.
“The city’s perspective and the SBPD’s perspective is that this is not strictly a gang-related problem. This is a youth violence issue that needs to be addressed. I would urge us to look at it in that light,” Gonzalez said.
Before making a decision on the matter, the board asked for more information on the youth violence problem and what other cities have done to combat it.
Tuesday Gonzalez gave the board his priority list for preventing youth violence at local schools and handed out literature on a variety of programs in other cities that the district could replicate.
Noel said he strongly disagreed with Gonzalez that hiring a specialist should be the first step toward keeping kids safe.
“First, foremost, the bottom line has got to be to keep weapons off campus,” Noel said.
“It doesn’t do any good to have the person, the paradigm you’re talking about, if we have weapons on campus.”
Board President Nancy Harter said the issue needed to be discussed at length.
“I agree with you that we don’t want weapons on campus, but we may vary on how we go about accomplishing that,” she told Noel.
The board again opted to take no action on Gonzalez request, but instead decided to hold a community workshop sometime in January focusing on gangs and youth violence in Santa Barbara’s schools.
At the meeting administrators also looked into a new possible source of funding for the district. On behalf of a group of Santa Barbara residents, Lanny Ebenstein suggested that the board consider putting a parcel tax — a special flat-rate property tax that benefits school districts — on a city ballot in the future
Santa Barbara Teacher’s Association President Layne Wheeler said the union would support a parcel tax.
The board decided to research the tax further and address it at a February or March meeting.
In a ceremony at the start of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis and Turnbull awarded the district’s students who scored highest on the state standardized test last school year. An excited group of students and parents were on hand to watch the young scholars receive the awards. The event, as well as the rest of Tuesday’s meeting, will be rebroadcast at 5 p.m. Saturday on Channel 18.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this board has the arrogance to consider a parcel tax at a time when the school district is under the gun for mishandling the money they already have! Poor management has to be addressed and fiscal responsibility assured so that this school district focuses on what is important -- providing a quality education for our children!