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April 23, 2010

Sports fields could go brown, kids could lose their counselors as the school district and city face tough budget times

When my son was in kindergarten he was having a tough time.  A couple years earlier, our lives had been turned upside  down because of a major  family crisis related to my husband’s mental  illness (a subject I’ve dealt  with previously). After the three of us moved in with my parents in Walnut Creek, my father’s health started to decline.  He died the spring before my son started kindergarten, and my father’s death affected my son in subtle, unpredictable ways. My son’s kindergarten teachers noticed that he was angry, acting out, and suggested he see on one of the counselors who worked part time at the school..

This service was amazing. The counselor was a talented, insightful intern from John F. Kennedy University who would soon open her own practice in Walnut Creek. My husband and son went to the sessions together, and those weekly sessions helped my then 6-year-old get over his anger and feel better about himself and his father and about  being in school. The sessions also helped my husband and son reinforce their bond and, overall, help our family recover from a tough couple years. 

The Walnut Creek School District provided this counselor to my son’s school, and provided counselors at other campuses  in the district. But the district couldn’t do it alone. A $30,000 matching grant from the City of Walnut Creek makes this service possible. 

Now, with our tough budget  times, the city may not be able to contribute that grant. This agreement to help pay for school counseling services is just one of the partnerships between the school district and the city that are at risk.

The future of these partnerships, which benefit schools and families in our community, was the topic of a special joint meeting between Walnut Creek School District and Walnut Creek city officials Wednesday.

Walnut Creek is facing an $8 million deficit this fiscal year. The school district has already cut $1 million from its $24 million budget.

Mayor Sue Rainey said the city values its partnership with the schools, and always wants to do what it can to help them. “The city of Walnut Creek values our schools and education. That’s one of the reasons people move to Walnut Creek: for our school systems. “

But she added that the city can’t know how much, if anything, it can contribute to the district for counseling  and other services right now. The city is in the process of finalizing next fiscal year's budget. So, is the school district. Unfortunately, Rainey added, things don’t look too promising.

“It’s getting bloody,” said Rainey said. “This time we are really, really feeling it. We may have to cut some support to the school district.”

Another partnership at risk is the maintenance of the athletic fields at the district’s six campusus. 

The Walnut Creek School District has been using some of the $20 million from the 2002 bond measure to renovate or replace the six sports fields at its schools.  Four schools now have new and improved fields that are safe and state-of-the art and which are used by the schools’ students and by sports leagues throughout the city. Two more fields will be fixed up this summer. 

But the city may not be able to afford the $100,000  it annually provides to help maintain those fields. That’s been the arrangement for a number a years under a partnership the city has with the school district.  Without the city’s help, the school district isn’t sure where it will come up with the money to prevent those fields from turning brown, says Patty Wool.  And,  she added, all that money the district spent on fixing up those fields will go to waste.

Other partnerships in question are the crossing guards that are provided at key locations in both the Walnut Creek and Mt. Diablo Unified School districts. The city’s police department pays $110,000 to contract with a company to provide those crossing guards. This year, as in past years, the city is warning both districts that this money is not guaranteed and might not be available next year.

Other partnerships discussed Wednesday  are ways in which the city uses Walnut Creek School District facilities to run some of its arts and recreation programs—for  example, the Arts, Adventures and Academic summer camp that  will take place this summer at Walnut Creek Intermediate. However, some  partnerships don’t necessarily cost money, or a lot of money, such as the district  working with city and the library to make the library a resource for WCI students who can easily walk  from campus after school.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uggghhhhh......this is what happens when you spend $40 million dollars you DON'T have on a library. Not to worry though!!! Maybe they will offer counseling and many other cut services from a counter in the new library!

What about the increased cost of operating a larger library than we had before? Do you think that will get cut in the budget woes process?!?

Anonymous said...

In regards to the fields, why don't the people who actually use them, soccer clubs and baseball/softball clubs, pay for their upkeep. When my kids were at Parkmead, they were not allowed to play on the fields during recess, only the blacktop. I recently asked a current Parkmead student if that was still the case, and was told that it was.

I agree that counselors provide a very important service and everything possible should be done to save them. The city of WC has money. However, public art, the damn library and hiring consultants are much higher on their list than schools.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

The leagues that use the fields do contribute some to the upkeep. That was mentioned at the meeting. They contribute in different ways and at different levels. I don't have that exact information available. Sorry

Anonymous said...

So let me get this right Neiman Marcus, but no funding for our youth. I live on the (dark side) of Walnut Creek - you know the "yganacio valley" high school MDU school district - managed to get transfer to college park for my daughter. Is OK but very grim; all teacher with less than 7 years getting laid off. Counselors telling kids: forget about college - you will need a 4.2 GPA. California will hit rock bottom in 2013. Very upsetting for teens to hear this - many coming home in tears. Thanks for the Blog CIS - cover some stories on the North side of town. We pay WC City taxes....just deal with different socio-economic issues. Go over to College Park and interview some teachers. Your blog is highly respected and read by many of us. Thanks for doing this.

Anonymous said...

How much did the city pay that consultant several months ago to figure out names for the different sections of downtown?

What a waste of time and money.

WC has money, they just use it for stuff that ridiculous consultants and Neiman Marcus.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Dear everyone,
Thanks for your input. 9:44 a.m. in particular: I know I definitely need to move over to the "dark side." I'm afraid I end up doing more on WCSD because my son's in the school, and I hear more. But, yes, I definitely need to do better about covering issues in the MDUSD. Please feel free to e-mail me with any story ideas, or thoughts I people I should talk to.

As a matter of fact, I would be interested in talking to a newer teacher, who is enthusastic, but who just doesn't have the time put in to stay...

You can always contact me at crazyinsuburbia@gmail.com

jules said...

Anon 9:44

Ok I live in that area too, but have a Concord address. I am trying to not be angry with you because of your comment. How in the world did you get a legal transfer to College Park? They are impacted and have been for years. We choose YV and soon our second son will be graduating. Our oldest is a Senior in College and our youngest is on the College track too. We have had a very postitive experience and both are receiving a good education. I have not heard of one of my son's teachers saying anything negative or the comments your College Park teachers are saying. We have a high level of students accepted in top Colleges, Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkely, Davis, Cal Poly, St. Mary's, Pomona, UOP, Pepperdine and many into State schools.

I am curious, what facts have you based your opinion? I really would like to know. YV is not perfect, neither is any other high school. It is very diverse but the students are very tolerant, accepting and have great school spirit. Yes we have a lot of very poor families, but their students are not the problems ones.

Please, inform me and provide facts. I am always at the school and am happy to address your concerns with the administration.

On subject, everyone who uses the fields should pay for the upkeep, that is what it is going to come too. We are all in this together and everyone must do their part/

~YYZ said...

The ignorance in this thread is evident.

The local school districts are separate and independent entities and not under the jurisdiction of the City of Walnut Creek nor are they funded by the city's budget.

Your disgust should be directed to the school boards which oversee the school.

Anonymous said...

We all know that the city of WC and the schools are different. However, WC makes a big deal about how good its schools are and how much they support the schools. As former PTA president, I can tell you that they support the schools when it is convenient for the city.

I don't want to hear how the city has no money to give the schools, but spends it instead on stupid stuff.

Yes, the school boards need to also be accountable, but I think that the WCSD has been very fiscally responsible going back to the Mike DeSa days.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:57

You need to read ALL the blog entries. It is clear that you are mistaken.

Convenient? Hardly. The school boards need to be more efficient and not spend money like slobbering democrats.

Anonymous said...

Since when is it the function of our schools to provide free psychotherapy to the students and their parents? This is clearly something families should pay for out of their own pockets. If they need counseling, they should pay for it.

Our biggest problem is mission creep. The schools should stick to the basics and leave the rest to the parents.

Anonymous said...

Ya know...the schools have never ever shied away from from using the kids to extract more money from the community. Then when they get it they don't take good care of it. An example that I can recall, is when we all endured the power shortages and brown outs, the school in my neck of the woods routinely left the computers/monitors and tv screens on 24/7, even over the weekends. Was surprised when I mentioned to the principal, I got an email from a teacher that clamed she didnt have time to shut her computer down before leaving.

YYZ is correct, and the schools expect the field to maintained by the city, in return when there is a "problem" with the gounds, like say garbage or any other accessory (think porto potty) The district will fall back on "we don't have to obey the municipal code".

I would like to think the District would see a value in upholding the community standards (muni code) in exchange for services like lawn mowing BY THE CITY. But they don't, they want to be treated like private property when it is to their benefit, and public property when there are liabilities.