Report on San Leandro´s Schools, by Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro School Board Trustee
I wish to answer several questions that I am often asked concerning our public schools. Please note, I am speaking for solely for myself, not the school district or board.
Question: What are some of positive things occurring at San Leandro High School?
The San Leandro High School Class of 2007 earned over $1.8 million dollars in college grants and San Leandro Foundation and community scholarships. For the second consecutive year, Harvard and Stanford universities accepted 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 increased sharply.
In addition to its strong academic departments, San Leandro High School features an outstanding sports program and has one of the most comprehensive career and technical education programs in Alameda County, with classes in metal, wood making, auto, multimedia and business.
This year, the school will be offering a new program, called the Social Justice Academy, which is based on the concept of service learning. The curriculum includes social science courses, including economics and government, as well as English and forensics (debate). Unique to the academy, students must 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.
Question: What is the school district´s residency verification policy and how is it being enforced?
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. Students will not be assigned to a classroom until proof of residency has been established.
Since the Fall of 2005, the school district has conducted more than 950 home visits to verify residency. Last school year, almost 100 students were denied enrollment due to insufficient proof of residency. Another 144 students over the past two years were removed due to falsification of residency determined either through a home visit or other means.
Question: What is happening with the money the voters approved for Measure B?
Measure B is a $109 million bond that can only be used for school construction. 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.
The district is committed to not exceeding the tax rate. This means though that the district can not issue all of the Measure B bond at once. Instead, the $109 million bond must be sold in four series over several years, which in turn means the construction projects under Measure B will 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. The district expects to receive a grant of almost $3 million from the state in grant dedicated to the acquisition of new school properties.
For the past six months, teams of teachers, administrators, parents, neighbors and community members have been working with the architects and a construction management firm in planning the new 9th grade campus, as well as the Arts Education Center for the high school and other projects. The district is mindful that the cost of construction projects can escalate due to delay. We have fast tracked the design process, while ensuring meaningful community involvement.
Once the design of the 9th grade campus has been completed and approved by the school board, the plans must be reviewed and approved by the California Division of the State Architect, which oversees all school construction projects. The process of design, approval by the state, breaking ground and completion of the campus will take at least four years.
Question: Has any work actually occurred with the Measure B funds?
Yes. This summer the district replaced and repaired roofs at Garfield, Monroe, McKinley, Roosevelt, Washington Elementary Schools and San Leandro High School. Also, in conjunction with the City of San Leandro and with monies from a state grant, the school district has tapped into Measure B funds to replace the athletic field at Bancroft Middle School. The new field will feature a running track and soccer field, and will be finished in late September or early October.
Question: Is the district seeking matching school construction funds from the state?
Yes. The state spends billions 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 the voters supported Measure B, San Leandro is now eligible to receive funds that otherwise would be spent elsewhere in the state.
As noted above, the district expects to receive almost $3 million from the state for the purchase of the land for the new 9th grade campus. We also applied for $8 million in grants for the renovation of the shop classes at San Leandro High School. The district is aggressively seeking every possible dollar in state construction funds it is eligible to receive, and committed to spending these monies wisely. In total, the district could receive over $20 million in state construction funds.
by Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro School Board Trustee
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