MARTINEZ -- After keeping dissatisfied parents in suspense, Martinez Unified School District trustees surprised them by allocating Measure K funds to mitigate the dangerous traffic jams at John Swett and John Muir elementary schools.
At the lengthy June 23 meeting, among items the board approved were a flurry of school improvement projects, the 2014-2015 budget, its Local Control and Accountability Plan, a pipeline study of the district's corporation yard as possible a new Vicente/Briones campus site, and an architectural analysis of the three elementary schools.
For months, parents have badgered the board about spending Measure K money at Alhambra High School for "wants," while health and safety "needs" at three 50-year-old elementary schools languished on the back burner.
The traffic situation and young students sweltering with no cool roof or cooling system have been among their complaints at John Swett Elementary, but vocal parents have primarily lobbied for spending equity among all of the district schools.
It appears the board was listening when John Swett parent Julie Betti spoke at the last meeting.
"Those 1,500 (elementary) students matter to the MUSD system. It's time this board provides a clear commitment to the needs of these schools," she demanded.
Funding allocations were approved for traffic, paving, parking and other projects at John Muir, John Swett and Las Juntas elementary schools.
"HVAC upgrades (air conditioning)" appeared in the John Swett section as a "self-identified priority," on a revised school district master project list, and the board discussed alternate cooling solutions, but concluded that it could be nine months to two years before kids are comfortable when there is hot weather.
There was consensus about the need for more information on features and costs of a cool roof, portable air conditioners, upgrades to the present system or a completely new heating and air conditioning system -- but no commitment.
Parents seemed placated by the board's intent to address the issue.
The use of Measure K moneys used to pay for architectural studies -- completed at Alhambra High, and proposed at the older elementary schools -- prompted discussion when board member Denise Elsken opposed funding the elementary study.
Trustee Kathi McLaughlin recalled past criticism of the board's "piecemeal" approach to Measure K spending, and parents, and two former school board members questioned how Elsken could justify the expense for the high school and not for the older elementary schools.
"It is a waste of money," she said. Trustee Bobbi Horack said, "I don't want to go on assumptions. I want some solid data."
The elementary study passed on a 4-1 vote.
Board president John Fuller kept the approvals coming as trustees worked to standardize safety measures at all of the district schools. Ten portable radios for each school, safety locks (door hardware upgrades), six-foot fences and window coverings that allow students to see out while outsiders cannot see in were all authorized, although scheduled installation dates will vary.
A decision on standard installation of single point-of-entry gates (with an emergency push bar for exit), and the proposed purchase of $5,000 worth of security cameras for every school was postponed until August to get more information and because of privacy concerns.
Board vice president Deidre Siguenza claimed that security cameras are not high priority, and the board has not determined who will be watching or investigated potential legal ramifications.
"There is a difference between security and safety ... I wonder how our parents, staff and children would feel about being observed?"
Among other board actions at the final meeting before summer break included changes in interdistrict student transfers, an increase in developer school facility fees, approval of labor agreements for various groups, a small paving project at Alhambra High School and more.
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.