Jan 10 2012

School Board Candidates Discuss Issue 3: Working Together With the City

PCA posed a series of  six questions to candidates for the Piedmont School Board in the upcoming election on February 7.   Following are their responses to Question #3.

3.  How do you see the city and school district working together to solve problems during the next 4 years?  Please provide specific examples.


Response by School Board Candidate Sarah Pearson

Good relations between the schools and the city are essential in Piedmont. The  best outcomes result from everyone working together. The city council and school board need to collaborate on a number of issues such as sports fields, pools, gyms, facility use, recreation programs, schoolmates and safety. The maintenance and  replacement of Witter field is a major issue that requires city/school cooperation. The  Recreation Department runs middle school sports, and I am currently on a committee that is examining how to improve this program. The police department and the schools need to work together to address the ongoing problem of underage drinking and substance abuse.

I am pleased to have the endorsement of every member of the current city council as well as seven former mayors and nine former school board members (all of whom are still living in Piedmont). One of my strengths is getting along with people and encouraging people to express and respect differences of opinion. I believe that my ability to bring people together will serve me well on the school board. I hope I might help restore civility and a sense of community to our town.

Response by School Board Candidate Rick Raushenbush

The District and the City have a long history of working together for the benefit of Piedmont’s citizens.  The City Recreation Department runs the wonderful Schoolmates program at school sites.  The City Recreation Department runs programs at District athletic facilities and the District uses City tennis courts and the pool for high school athletics.  The District provides schooling for a number of City employees’ children and the City contributes funding for a teacher.  The City contributed a portion of the cost for the new Becker Field at Havens School.

Over the next year, I hope that the District and the City will address two issues.  First, to maintain the District’s athletic facilities for the use of all Piedmont residents, we need to set aside money to replace certain facilities as they wear out, including but not limited to the Witter Field artificial turf and track.  This must be a community effort, with City involvement.  Second, we need the help of the City Police Department to enforce traffic laws at the El Cerrito Avenue exit from a District parking lot and to enforce the District’s permit requirement for organized weekend use of the District’s athletic facilities.

Response by School Board Candidate Andrea Swenson

During the next four years, I expect and predict the city and school liaisons will meet on a more regular basis. The City and School District must deliberately look for opportunities to establish and develop successful partnerships. We must explore how the city and schools can share and benefit from existing local resources.

The Every 15 Minutes anti-drunk driving program is an excellent example of the City and the School District working together. When I co-chaired the first Every 15 Minutes program 4 years ago, the Piedmont City Council gave permission to close city streets for a drunk driving accident re-enactment.  Representatives from the Piedmont Police and Fire Departments cooperated in planning and preparation during the six months before the re-enactment and, provided instrumental on-site support during the 2 day program.

Response by School Board Candidate Sunny Bostrom

One vital area is the safety of out community.  People often say they moved to Piedmont for the schools.  The basis of our successful school system is our legendary safety, thanks to the undying vigilance of our police professionals and alert citizens.  When there is safety in our streets and homes, the teachers and librarians and parents and grandparents and scout leaders and coaches and ministers, imams, rabbis and priests can function most effectively grooming the next generation of hopefully happy, productive and ethical young people.  Now, Piedmont is unique on several ways: we are one of the richest cities in America and we are completely surrounded by another city; in our case Oakland which is the 6th most dangerous city in America as far as murder, rape and burglary and robbery are concerned.  Last year Piedmont experienced an increase in burglaries of over 100%.  (The first 9 months of 2010 there were 27.  The first 9 months of 2011 had 68.)  We need to actively explore the option of installing 24/7 digital cameras which could be easily and inexpensively installed to deter crime and when crimes occur, to aid our excellent professionals in the Piedmont Police Department in promptly apprehending the often violent perpetrators.  A high number of the crimes happen within a 3-block radius of Grand Avenue and Oakland Avenue by the Oakland-Piedmont border.  This would be an excellent location for cameras, as would Oakland and Highland Avenues, Moraga and Highland, Moraga Avenue and Piedmont Avenue,  Moraga Avenue and Highway 13 entrance, upper Blair Avenue, Schools, Playgrounds etc.  Just last week a man tried to abduct a little boy in Montclair.  Last month a man grabbed Jewelery off of two Piedmont women on Oakland Avenue in two separate incidents.  The man who posed as a floral deliveryman and raped the 8-months pregnant Piedmont mother with her little children in the house on Highland Avenue might have been either deterred or caught more quickly-it took a year.  The man who murdered the woman on Carmel might have been deterred, The man who murdered the young daughter in her house on Estates Drive might have been apprehended.  The man who killed the mother and daughter on Ashmount Avenue, one block from Seaview might have been caught.  The men who locked the tiny children in the bathroom while they tied up the parents in their house on Magnolia last year might have been deterred.  These events hurt families and especially children.  The impact of crime and fear impacts the learning process and is therefore a directly impacts the schools.  We care about children and each other.  This one improvement will make everyone in our city safer.  Regarding one particular burglary.  In October of 2009, one of the most valuable treasures in the world was stolen from a house on Highland Avenue.  It was a Gutenberg Bible, one of 23 in the world with an estimated value of $125 million dollars.

Response by School Board Candidate Jon Elliott

I’ve watched these agencies work together for a number of years, usually very effectively.  Each has different tasks and primary responsibilities, and different laws govern.  When they overlap,  they work together best when the professionals and elected volunteers start from the position that they all serve a single community, then apply their distinct perspectives and resources to work out how best to do so.  They are less effective when they start from the narrower perspective as the City or the District.  For example, attempts to address long-term funding for replacement of artificial turf fields initially were stymied by inter-agency bickering, but eventually moved forward to a reasonable community-wide basis for funding.  Similar ups-and-downs have complicated efforts by the District and the City’s Recreation Department to share one another’s youth sports facilities.

Issues about shared use and funding will continue in the coming years.  These will include ongoing negotiations about P.E. and team use of the City-owned Piedmont pool now that it is under direct City management, while also balancing priorities with lap-swimmers, private swim-teams, and recreational family use.   There are no ‘right’ answers, but we need workable allocations of scarce resources among parts of the community and reasonable funding plans for operating, maintenance, and replacement costs.

As a School Board member, I would add a steady and calming voice to dealings between the agencies, and a fair and rigorous mind to decisions about allocation and funding.  I am committed to full, open, and public discussion of these matters.

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