Officials with the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which runs schools in Richmond and neighboring West County cities, do not plan to close Richmond campuses or postpone capital upgrades as city leaders feared.
So the council this week rescinded its order to hire a consultant for up to $10,000. In addition, the council nixed a resolution that would have urged the school district not to yank funding for upgrades to Leadership Charter, Nystrom Elementary, Gompers and Kennedy highs and Richmond College Preparatory schools.
"When we acted on this item, we did it based on information we had at hand," Councilman John Marquez said Tuesday night. "It is very clear it was not the correct information, because it was not up to date."
A frustrated City Council took action Feb. 19 amid continuing financial trouble at West Contra Costa Unified. The district plans to cut $10.4 million from next year's budget to offset state reductions in education spending. It is looking at closing schools. The school district also is running out of money from Measure J, the $400 million construction bond passed in 2005, and needs to postpone or cut projects.
A Jan. 23 document listed several Richmond schools as potential targets for funding delays, upsetting City Council members. Acting on that information, the council voted to hire a consultant to look into seeking charter status for local campuses, saying residents consistently back school bond measures and deserve stable neighborhood schools.
But they were working with outdated information. The school district's bond facilities committee met Feb. 11 and recommended that upgrades to Pinole Valley High be postponed, school board member Charles Ramsey told the council.
The full school board is expected to consider the recommendation and finalize its budget March 19.
"When we hear (the city's) resolution, it gives to the board and others the wrong impression that we're not thinking and looking out for Richmond," Ramsey said.
In addition, school board member Madeline Kronenberg said the city's plan to adopt a resolution to spare Richmond schools from cuts could hurt Richmond children, some of whom attend schools that are not physically in the city. Forty-eight percent of students at El Cerrito High and 42 percent of students at Pinole Valley High live in Richmond.
"You're asking me to put off a particular project," she said. "That may be a project that is mostly populated by Richmond children."
City Councilwoman Ludmyrna Lopez said she called and e-mailed district staff to check on whether the board had decided which projects would be funded, but her inquiries went unanswered. So city officials took action based on the information they had.
School officials accepted partial blame for the communication breakdown.
"We haven't done our part by keeping the entire council informed. I apologize for that," Ramsey said.
The city has sought joint meetings with the school district, but those meetings have not come to fruition.
Councilman Nat Bates told Ramsey, "Your chairperson refused to cooperate and call a meeting."
Ramsey said: "And we're going to correct that."
No Richmond schools are slated for closure because of budget cuts, Ramsey said. He could not guarantee that will always be the case.
Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.