School Board Restricts Use of Facilities
School Board members (l-r) Dollar, De La Piedra, and Wilde discussing the issues at Tuesday's meeting.
School Board members (l-r) Dollar, De La Piedra, and Wilde discussing the issues at Tuesday's meeting.
Al Huerta spoke at last night’s school board meeting, in favor of public use of the new track and field.
Al Huerta spoke at last night’s school board meeting, in favor of public use of the new track and field.
Pictured above (l-r) Eagle Scouts Brian Mckeown, Daniel Landeros, Michael and David Watson. The boys received “Be the Change” honors for their campus improvements throughout the school district.
Pictured above (l-r) Eagle Scouts Brian Mckeown, Daniel Landeros, Michael and David Watson. The boys received “Be the Change” honors for their campus improvements throughout the school district.

Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) School Board held the open session of its regular meeting August 19, 2008, at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Office. The Board implemented a new Public Use of Facilities Policy, approved a consulting contract to improve student achievement at Fillmore Middle School (FMS), and honored four local Eagle Scouts.

In keeping with this year's theme, "Be the Change," the Board honored four Eagle Scouts: Brian McKeown, Michael Watson, David Watson, and Daniel Landeros. The Scouts had improved the signs at the high school farm, the batting cage at the high school, and the landscaping at the high school and San Cayetano. Principal Jan Marholin of San Cayetano also thanked Brain McKeown and Troupe 406 specifically for their work on the landscaping in front of the school.

Also, several members of the public were present to argue that the public should be allowed to use the new FHS track. Several speakers mentioned the need for not only a flat surface, but a surface with measured distances. Reducing knee injuries was also a popular theme.

Everyone agreed that the track had been used by the community in the past, everyone agreed that the community would like to continue using the track, and most of the speakers were hoping for a compromise that would allow public access to the track without significantly increasing the risk of damages.

There was some debate about whether earlier campaigns had assured the public that the track would be for public use. City councilmember Scott Lee explained that people confused the pool initiative with the stadium improvements because the money that the city paid for the pool land was used to partially fund stadium improvements. In the end, it was determined that the decision to improve the track was not finalized until long after the bond and parcel tax had been approved, and that only a small portion of funding for the track came from funds related to Measure E and the pool maintenance parcel tax.

Lee said that the city does not provide enough recreational facilities for the community. He mentioned that the pool development is on schedule, the skateboard park has been fast-tracked, and a 20-acre park is in development. He noted that the park will not have a track, because a track was not planned and would be too expensive to add.

Fillmore Fire Chief Adolfo "Al" Huerta said that he has been waiting for a high quality track all his life. He started running at age 13, and since his knee surgery two weeks ago his doctor recommends not running on asphalt, concrete, or hard-packed dirt.

Juan Carrillo added that adults and children need someplace to go for recreation. John Scoles spoke about the positive influence a public track could have on the city's youth. He said that political issues aside, "there is a reasonable expectation for public use". He understands the risk of damages, and believes the public should have limited access.

Ray Johnson, who use to coach track, said that he and former superintendent Mario Contini had discussed the need to restrict items from entering the track area but not restricting people. He pointed out that the track is too soft for skateboards and in-line skates to roll well, and thinks that skaters would not be interested in using the track because it would be too slow.

Oralia Herrera urged the Board to contact other school districts that allowed public access to school tracks and try to implement their solutions. Bush explained that FUSD staff had already interviewed other districts: Conejo does not allow the general public to use their track, but does allow organizations to use it under the Civic Center Act; Ventura College allows students to use the track when a P.E. teacher is present to supervise; public donations built the stadiums at Buena and Ventura high schools, and although they allow public access, they have not solved the problems involved—a bonfire destroyed one of their football fields. Herrera suggested motion sensors, cameras, patrols, gated turnstiles, and that the Board give the public a chance. Board President David,Dollar explained the liability and security risks involved in letting the general public use the track. FUSD cannot afford to let the general public on the field while students are practicing. Organizations using the track would need to pay for the insurance and supervisory staff required to limit damages and

Pablo Suarez asserted that the community needs a safe place to run, but added that he was already in the process of starting an athletic club. He indicated that FHS students were more likely to vandalize the track than the general public.

Evaristo Barajas explained that, unlike Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo, smalltown Fillmore cannot afford to have completely separate facilities for public recreational and school use.He mentioned the joint-use park as a good example of shared resources, and called for more cooperation and open communication between the City and FUSD. Barajas claimed that the Parks and Recreation Department was unaware of the track issue until very recently. He stated that prohibiting access would not prevent damages. He believes the community would appreciate access to the track and is willing to work around the school's schedule, which makes the track unavailable for non-school activities most evenings. There was discussion indicating that when the City and FUSD share facilities, FUSD pays more for City facilities than the City pays for FUSD facilities. The Board will work with the City Council to ensure that any future sharing is equitable.

Those present discussed the possibility of the City and FUSD cooperating to build a cinder track at FMS in an area that has been designated for construction and will need to have turf replaced. Asst. Superintendent of Business Services Michael Bush claimed that placing track on that land would actually be less expensive than replacing the turf. Allowing public access to a cinder track would be less of a financial risk than allowing access to an all-weather track and artificial-turf field.
Boardmember Tony Prado suggested that citizens form a committee to work with the City and FUSD to work out a solution. Scoles mentioned that he would be willing to be on a citizen's committee.

The Board approved Bush's recommendations for public facilities use. The public will only have access to the track through the Civic Center Act. This allows organizations to apply for permits specifying dates to use school facilities. According to his recommendation: "All Civic Center Act applicants permitted to use the track and field shall name the District as an additional insured. District staff [are required] to be present during use of track and field." There will be a charge of $125 per hour for use of the track and field. There is only one organization, Raiders Football, that currently has a permit at the old rate. That permit will be honored, but all new permits will fall under the new rate. The Board approved a new fee schedule for other facilities as well.

There was general agreement that an organization could be formed to rent the track under the Civic Center Act for $125 per hour, and that the City and Parks and Recreation Department should be approached and asked to cover at least part of the cost, including insurance.

The Board also approved Bush's recommendations regarding pre-schools, an after school program, Ventura College, and the Neil Schmitt Family Resource Center. The District will negotiate a contract extension for one classroom for the Schmitt Center. If the Center uses any other facilities it will be at the rate on the fee schedule. The Board is canceling the contract with Stone Soup, which had provided some after school care. Stone Soup staff may be laid off if necessary. The two San Cayetano Headstart pre-school leases will not be renewed when they expire this year. The FHS Headstart program will continue as is, and the District will look into operating FUSD pre-schools at San Cayetano and Piru. Ventura College has been using FHS classrooms at no charge. They will be charged according to the new fee schedule, but will be allowed to finish current classes without being charged rent.

The Board discussed at length an agreement between the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE) and the FUSD Governance Team before approving the $15,000 contract for District and School Achievement Analysis Support Services. The language of the contract is vague, and Board President David Dollar expressed concern that the arrangement was too similar to a previous consulting arrangement regarding FHS. The previous arrangement did not significantly improve student achievement at FHS. After discussion, the Board decided that this contract was significantly different and would benefit the District and Fillmore Middle School (FMS). Assistant Superintendent Katy Hadley explained that the previous consulting services addressed broad issues and did not provide for sustainable growth. This contract will provide deeper analysis and sustainable changes. She emphasized the responsiveness and availability of VCOE's staff. This agreement is part of a multi-year process. Last year, the consultants audited the curriculum. This year, the consultants and FMS will work together using the curriculum audit to develop a road-map which will inform staff development plans. Hadley noted that the FMS staff wants this arrangement; unlike the previous arrangement which was forced on FHS staff. The FMS administration will hold FMS leadership accountable for implementing the process. This process was successful in Piru.

Garrett Reilley is this year's Student Representative from Fillmore High School (FHS). He is the ASB Speaker of the House, and will be attending the Board meetings as a non-voting member of the Board to facilitate communication between the Board and ASB. He said students were impressed by the new lockers and freshly painted locker area near the library. He informed the Board that there are several new teachers at FHS, a new ASB advisor, and four foreign exchange students. ASB is determined to increase school spirit, and is planning a back-to-school rally.

Several board members said that Clay Roberts, the keynote speaker at the Staff Welcome-Back Day, was excellent. Boardmember John Garnica praised Joe Ricards for his work with the students participating in the Ventura County Fair. Garnica mentioned that the classrooms in FHS's science building were over-warm at 9 a.m. He hopes that facilities improvements will include air-conditioning. Superintendent Jeff Sweeney thanked Clay Roberts, the cleaning crews, administrators, and teachers for the positive environment that was ready for the students on the first day of school.

The Board approved the consent agenda, including an update to the list of who can act for the superintendent when he is absent or unavailable. Next in command are Michael Bush, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, then Katy Hadley, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, then Evalene Townend, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Student Support. Two additional back-ups were also listed.
The Board approved Policy and Adminstrative Regulation updates, the extension of Assistant Superintendent contracts, the Migrant Speech and Debate Coach stipend, and ratified a copy machine lease agreement. Garnica abstained from voting on the stipend due to a potential conflict of interest. The Board approved a change order for a modular classroom building at San Cayetano. The Board approved the Notice of Completion for the Mountain Vista hardscape and playground equipment. Facilities Director Bob Sube reported that the football field is expected to be ready for practice on Monday, the San Cayetano kindergarten fence is finished, and work is starting on the new roof for the FHS barn.

The Board will be evaluating the Superintendent's job performance within the next two weeks.