2007 October update on San Leandro Schools 
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Report on San Leandro´s Schools, by Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro School Board Trustee
San Leandro Schools Newsletter by Trustee Stephen Cassidy, October 2007

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

1) What are some of the positive things occurring at San Leandro High School?

2) What is happening with the money the voters approved for Measure B?

3) Has any construction work at our schools occurred with the Measure B funds?

4) Is the district seeking matching school construction funds from the state?

5) Are the City and School District working together?

6) What is the school district's residency verification policy and how is it being enforced?
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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I welcome our students and teachers back to a new school year.  I wish to provide you information on our school district and issues facing our public schools.  I am speaking solely on behalf of myself, not for the school board or district.  I hope you will find the newsletter of interest.

Stephen Cassidy

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I have listed below answers to some common questions I am asked concerning our schools: 

1)  What are some of the positive things occurring at San Leandro High School?

The San Leandro High School Class of 2007 earned $2 million dollars in college grants, financial aid and community scholarships.  A large source of donations came from the San Leandro Scholarship Foundation.  I thank the Foundation's directors and its supporters.

For the second consecutive year, Harvard and Stanford universities accepted the top two seniors.  Fifty-five seniors were accepted to University of California campuses, and almost 120 seniors are continuing their studies at California State University campuses. 

Last year, the percentage of students taking the California High School Exit Exam for the first time and passing the English section of the test increased sharply (by 11 percent), with even greater gains recorded by African American and Latino students.  The high school's Academic Performance Index (API) jumped 25 points to 685, one of the larger increases by a high school in Alameda County in 2007 and the largest increase of any nearby high school.

The high school features several academies including ones on business and marketing and multi-media enterprises.  These are schools within the high school where groups of students take a focused course of study starting in 10th grade taught by a small group of teachers. 

This year a new academy based on the concept of service learning is commencing.  Called the Social Justice Academy, the curriculum includes social science courses, including economics and government, as well as English and forensics (debate).  Start-up funding for the academy comes from a California Department of Education grant of $250,000 over three years for developing small schools.  It is a highly competitive process to obtain these grants.  San Leandro was the sole high school in Alameda County to secure this grant last year.

Students in the Social Justice Academy will work with local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Davis Street Family Resource Center to create and implement projects to address key social issues in our community.  The academy is one of many ways in which the high school is fostering social responsibility and leadership skills among students, and promoting critical thinking and life long learning.

Students at San Leandro High School can take up to eleven Advanced Placement courses:  AP English, AP Government, AP U.S. History, AP World History, AP Calculus, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish, AP French, AP Computer Science and AP Studio Art.  In addition to its strong academic departments, the high school features an outstanding sports program and offers one of the most comprehensive career and technical education programs in Alameda County, with classes in metal, wood making, auto, multimedia and business. 

San Leandro High is one of a handful of high schools in the Bay Area that has been selected by the Jefferson Awards based on the outstanding public service of its students.  Last year, 76 seniors were recognized for having contributed more than 50 hours each in service to our community.  This year more than 1,200 students are participating on academic, service and other clubs.  More than 800 students are competing in athletics.

Finally, on the topic of student safety, two years ago the school board approved a series of fences and gates for the front of San Leandro High School at the request of the principal and school personnel.  The project was completed in September 2006.  The objective was to assist school security personnel in deterring unauthorized non-students from entering the campus, and reducing graffiti and vandalism on weekends and school breaks. 

This objective was largely met last year.  No significant fights arising non-students entering campus occurred and the number of incidents of �tagging� and amount of graffiti on campus dropped sharply.  In my opinion, the fences and gates have also improved the appearance of the school.

2)  What is happening with the money the voters approved for Measure B?

Measure B is a $109 million bond for school construction projects approved last November.  The money can not go for school programs or to pay for teacher or administrator salaries. 

The district promised the voters that the tax rate for the bond would not exceed $39 per $100,000 in assessed (not market) value of their properties.  Because of this cap on the tax rate, the district can not issue all of the Measure B bond at once.  Instead, the bond will be sold in series over several years, which in turn means the construction projects under Measure B will also occur over several years.  The first series of the Measure B bond was sold earlier this year and generated $29 million, which was placed in an interest-bearing account.

To date, the largest expenditure of funds has been for the purchase of the land for the new 9th grade campus near San Leandro High School.   The cost was $6.2 million for the old Ford lot between Bancroft and East 14th Street across from San Leandro Hospital.  The purchase came after six months of negotiation with the seller.  The price agreed upon was the fair market value of the property.  To defray the cost, the district expects to receive an almost $3 million grant from the state dedicated to the acquisition of new school properties.

For the past seven months, different teams of teachers, administrators, parents, neighbors, business and community leaders and city officials have been working with architects and construction managers in planning the new 9th grade campus, as well as the Arts Education Center for the high school and other projects.  A tremendous amount of work has taken place, all to ensure that the design of the new campus and other projects meets of our students today and in the future.  At the same time, the district is aware that the cost of construction projects can escalate with time and has fast tracked the design process.

The final design of the 9th grade campus will be reviewed by the school board in the coming months and then sent to the California Division of the State Architect, which approves all school construction projects.  Once approved by the state architect, the project will be put out bid and construction will commence.

3)  Has any construction work at our schools occurred with the Measure B funds?

Yes.  Last summer the district replaced and repaired roofs at San Leandro High School, Garfield, Monroe, McKinley, Roosevelt and Washington Elementary Schools, and the roof on the multi-purpose room at Jefferson Elementary School (which is not part of the new school building).

In addition, the school district used Measure B funds to replace the athletic field at Bancroft Middle School and install a state-of-the-art artificial turf field.  The new field features a running track and soccer field, and will dedicated on Monday, October 8, 2007, at 3:30 p.m.  Please come and celebrate the opening of the new field.

4)  Is the district seeking matching school construction funds from the state?

Yes.  The state spends billions generated from voter-approved state wide bond initiatives on school construction projects.  To qualify for this money, however, school districts must pass their own bond measures to serve as the local match for the state funds.  Because of Measure B, San Leandro is now eligible to receive funds that otherwise would be spent building new schools in other districts.

As noted earlier, the district expects to receive almost $3 million from the state for the purchase of the land for the new 9th grade campus.  The district also applied for $8 million in grants for the renovation of the shop classes and career technical education program at San Leandro High School.  No final decision on these grant applications will be made until next year.  However, the first stage of the grant process has been completed and the district received extremely high scores for its applications. 

The district is aggressively seeking every possible dollar in state construction funds it is eligible to receive, and committed to spending these monies wisely.  The district could receive $20 million in state construction funds bringing the total spending under Measure B to almost $130 million.

5)  Are the City and School District working together?

Yes. A prime example is the new athletic field at Bancroft Middle School.  This is a joint project with the City of San Leandro and the District, and made possible through a $1 million grant from the state and $800,000 from Measure B funds.  The City of San Leandro has served as the construction managers for the project, helping reduce the cost of construction.  City officials have also been deeply involved in the design process for the Measure B projects.

This year I have served as the co-chair for the City of San Leandro and San Leandro Unified School District Liaison Committee.  The other co-chair is Mayor Tony Santos.  With our fellow council members and school district trustees, we have met on a regular basis. 

The committee is looking at several new opportunities including the possibility of operating the gym at the new 9th grade campus as a joint use project.  If agreed upon, this would allow the city use of the gym for its Park and Recreation Department while providing the school district additional funds for school modernization projects.

6)  What is the school district's residency verification policy and how is it being enforced?

Responding to longstanding community concerns over students enrolled in San Leandro schools on falsified residency papers, two years ago the district reviewed and upgraded its residency verification requirements and supporting documentation.  I worked closely with the district office on this effort.  I examined the district's policies, requested a board presentation that revealed several deficiencies, and offered multiple recommendations to tighten residency verification procedures and documentation.

Parents and guardians of all middle and high school students (both new and returning students), Kindergarten students and any other students new to elementary school must provide proof of residency.  Three current and original documents are required, including a renter's agreement or deed of ownership.  Parents must come to registration with of all the required documentation.

Since the Fall of 2005, the district has conducted more than 1,025 home visits to verify residency.  Last school year, almost 100 students were denied enrollment due to insufficient proof of residency.  Almost 175 students over the past two years and this school year were removed due to falsification of residency determined either through a home visit or other means.

Please keep in mind that residency verification is a concern in Berkeley, Castro Valley, Hayward and many other Bay Area communities.  This is not an issue unique to San Leandro.  Also, not all residents of our city appreciate that San Leandro has become one of the most diverse communities in California.  I welcome this diversity, which is reflected in our schools even more than the adult population of San Leandro.

Much has been accomplished, and more work remains. Residency verification is a task that must be done year round.  The district is committed to strictly enforcing residency requirements.  Any suggestions you have on this topic are welcome.

by Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro School Board Trustee
scassidy@sanleandro.k12.ca.us should you wish to contact me.

You can reed my last letter on line at this link.


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