What’s ahead for local schools?

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Parents meet consultants about future of schoolsPart Two

By Patric Hedlund

Fifty-five energetic, engaged parents, business people, school staff and teachers came together as a focus group August 20 to share hopes, dreams and realistic ideas about the future for Mountain Community schools.

The group huddled together on the benches of children’s lunch tables in the Frazier Park Elementary School cafeteria. They spoke and listened to each other thoughtfully from 7-10 p.m., exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the El Tejon Unified School District (ETUSD), its campuses, administration and the community.

Architect Tim Haley and project manager John Storey from Sacramento-based Public Consulting Group (PCG) asked questions and invited comment in a variety of ways—both in discussion and through silent, anonymous ‘post-it’ notes on brainstorm sheets taped to the walls.

Last week we reported that community members were asked to introduce themselves in broad strokes, raising hands to reveal they represent a stable population of nearly 50 homeowners who had lived on the mountain for over 10 years. Their ages were diverse, from young parents to grandparents. About 29 currently have children in the schools; 20% are employed in the school district.

There were heated comments at the outset, peppered throughout the evening, about distrust of the superintendent and the board of trustees, who were said to have lost the public’s confidence due to rudeness, poor communication, lack of Fashion Statement fact-based deliberation and inadequate transparency on issues of deep concern to the community.

As if to illustrate a major source of that problem, Superintendent Katherine Kleier went before KBAK-TV cameras before the meeting, misstating facts to the population of Kern County about her own district. She said ETUSD had seen a decline of “more than 50 percent of its students.” That is untrue, but parents this week joked darkly that the superintendent is on her way to making it true

Consultants’ Task

The PCG consultants said they are tasked with delivering a facilities assessment for the school district. The $14,500 report is to assist the board in making a decision about “mothballing” one ETUSD campus as a cost-cutting measure during a time of declining enrollment.

Monday afternoon Storey and Haley had visited Pine Mountain Learning Center, briefly stopped at El Tejon Middle School, Frazier Mountain High School, the El Tejon Continuation High School and Frazier Park Elementary.

“We have data sheets for every part of campus maintenance; mechanical, electrical, the paint on the walls, deferred maintenance…. We’ll go into the relocatables and every space we can get into. make a walk-through of the district’s buildings on Tuesday, in addition to the public input on Monday night. We hope to talk to principals, teachers and maintenance staff” during the site visits, John Storey said.

“We step into every classroom. We have to look at every facility. We are not evaluating people, we are evaluating facilities…,” Tim Haley added.

“Will there be enough time?” a parent asked. Storey replied that he’d been to over 1,000 schools and that “we’re pretty quick” to be able to assess the conditions. Haley, the architect, said he knew exactly where the durable red-tile roof at El Tejon School leaks, by seeing how the building settles.

“By tomorrow night at 6 p.m. we’ll be done with our site assessments,” Storey said, “and then we go back to Sacramento to do our homework to generate a report…. We are looking at demographics: where is this district going to be in 25 years? How much money is there out there? What are we going to have to spend to bring our schools up to grade?

“Your issues are something we need to know about. We want to generate options—including information technology. That is difficult to achieve in some facilities because of lines and power available. Each site is issued a score, to generate options to be part of a facilities plan. We’ll write a draft and final report, and then make the presentation to the board.”

As mentioned last week, there was a request that the report also be submitted to the community in its entirety.

Community Input—Brainstorm Wall Posts

The consultants asked questions about general perceptions regarding security of ETUSD facilities, overall fitness of facilities and the playfields. The options were only “Poor,” “Good,” and “Excellent.” Within those limits, “Good” was the most frequent answer for all questions.

Concerns expressed about receiving full information from the consultants leads us to publish the full list of anonymous comments posted on the walls about the school facilities.

Below are comments from the wall posts, made by the community group on August 20.

ETUSD—District Concerns

  1. Board meetings not welcoming to parents or their concerns
  2. We lost students to poor management of district’s facilities
  3. Get rid of superintendent
  4. The current board should not be allowed to make decisions that impact us [election in Nov.]
  5. The super. is not listening to the community. This study is her last effort to get what she wants before a new board comes in (hence, Nov. deadline)
  6. Excellent teachers get pink slipped while teachers who roll with the punches and are "yes" men keep their jobs
  7. No community input! Do not take super. at her word for any community info
  8. Pink slips new teachers, new blood always [first to go]
  9. [District] refuses community help—makes it impossible
  10. Safe environment—rural, beautiful, spacious
  11. ‘Poverty thinking’ will not break out—fear of new thinking
  12. Smaller class sizes
  13. Talk to other school districts to find out [reasons for and numbers of] interdistrict transfers + students who have left this school district, find out why they have left
  14. Talk to realtors of those who have listed houses [for those that have left] to ask why they left
  15. Need smaller class sizes

Frazier Park Elementary School—Positives

  1. Aesthetic presentation
  2. New rooms are well-designed, functional and beautiful
  3. Large campus
  4. New classrooms
  5. Computer lab
  6. New buildings
  7. Great location central to most communities
  8. New buildings, new infrastructure
  9. School is in town
  10. New classrooms
  11. Competent principal for FP school and El Tejon
  12. New construction and upgrade
  13. Beautiful grounds and new technology
  14. Extra land to expand
  15. Frazier Park school has a great location central to most communities
  16. New classrooms are nice—but no ventilation provided for off-gassing of new construction
  17. Great principal very proactive in getting grants for school
  18. Nicely done and better security
  19. Location is in center of town
  20. New primary playground eqpt.
  21. The principal
  22. New classrooms
  23. Communication; recorded calls
  24. Good location, new classrooms, great staff
  25. The center of town
  26. New buildings
  27. New classrooms
  28. Good location; good facilities
  29. Playground

Frazier Park Elementary School—Negatives

  1. Send survey to every student in district
  2. think the board is wasting our money with this study
  3. The play area is too small now with new classrooms
  4. Needs more grass
  5. Lack of campus security; anyone can walk on
  6. Field is too small and rocky; field is full of gopher holes and pits
  7. Field is full of gopher holes and is not safe
  8. FPES water fountains are bad
  9. Frazier Park school NEEDS a functioning performing arts area. El Tejon is the only school that has this
  10. Too much asphalt in play area
  11. Old textbooks
  12. Safety concern: Frazier Mountain internet weather cam pointed to kindergarten playground
  13. Overcrowded! not any fields or large play areas
  14. Basketball courts are dangerous; grass areas are full of ankle-breaking holes and rocks
  15. No safe area for 5th and 6th grades to run and play sports during lunch, recess or P.E.
  16. No shade on east side of playyard, more shade on west playground
  17. Insufficient fields; obsolete portables; extremely poor layout for new building
  18. Overcrowded
  19. No separation between kindergarten and other grades 20) AB 300 building within 1/4 mile of fault line (earthquakes)
  20. Split classrooms

El Tejon Middle School —Positives

  1. Needs huge renovations
  2. Best design, most useful fields
  3. Best environment
  4. Large fields for play; historical; lots of space; maintenance locations there for bus barn and gas tank
  5. Small school
  6. Beautiful setting
  7. Wildlife, mountain views
  8. Large facility in beautiful location. Lots of space to work with
  9. Wildlife
  10. Historical background of El Tejon
  11. Large campus with room to expand
  12. Fields[used] by AYSO and FMLL
  13. Historical value, community history
  14. It’s been here forever
  15. Lots of open area; beautiful natural setting
  16. Send survey to every resident
  17. Lots of open area, beautiful natural setting
  18. Nice views except for closeness to freeway
  19. Beautiful trees, beautiful historical buildings

El Tejon Middle School —Negatives

  1. Send survey to every student in district
  2. If closed, would ET then have to be brought up to code to reopen? That won’t happen, therefore leaving us with only 2 sites when enrollment rises, which it will eventually
  3. By I-5
  4. Old school; things falling apart and not being fixed
  5. No developed sports or music
  6. No technology lab; old buildings
  7. Very limited in sports facilities
  8. Air quality report states the air is so bad it could cause premature death and breathing problems
  9. Too close to freeway
  10. Pollen from oak trees and cottonwoods
  11. Bat and bird poop
  12. Safety concerns: air quality at middle school and ease of access to school playgrounds from highway
  13. School site is hard to supervise; keep secure
  14. Water and plumbing issues
  15. It is loud due to freeway noise
  16. Too far from town
  17. No air conditioning
  18. Run down classrooms
  19. Too close to freeway
  20. Facility too large for only two grades
  21. Tejon fields are not part of the school
  22. Very poor field conditions: gopher holes and trenches
  23. No safe area for kids to run and play soccer during recess.
  24. Bad air quality report
  25. Close to gasoline/diesel emissions
  26. Poor food choices; no real food; it’s canned or frozen
  27. No air or swamp cooler
  28. Near freeway; not utilized to fullest capacity; facilities need updating
  29. Lack of air-conditioning and poor heating
  30. Chemical spills on freeway next to school
  31. School may not be usable in future due to code compliance, if closed
  32. Proximity to freeway: exhaust fumes; toxic spills; easy access for kidnappers
  33. Little gym; no changing facilities
  34. Old and crumbling walls
  35. Not age-appropriate for high school students; facilities are not up to par for sports, has no locker rooms
  36. Closeness to freeway; poor air quality
  37. Tiny gym
  38. No Lockers; no locker rooms for PE, no outdoor lighting
  39. No technology lab, old building
  40. Very limited sports facility
  41. Too close to freeway

Frazier Mountain High School —Positives

  1. Sports programs
  2. Robotics
  3. New principal = New Hope :-)
  4. Has a variety of classrooms in decent condition
  5. Better infrastructure than other facilities
  6. Football field; large gym; air conditioning; nice classrooms
  7. Great mural
  8. Sports programs
  9. Cafeteria
  10. Size of tech lab
  11. Library size
  12. Large office
  13. Ag center
  14. Yay! We have a high school
  15. Locker rooms
  16. Biology labs
  17. Great ag facility
  18. Gymnasium with bleachers
  19. Ample parking
  20. Football stadium
  21. Gym
  22. Ample parking
  23. Further from freeway and better air quality
  24. Gym with locker rooms and bleachers
  25. Football field
  26. Technology lab
  27. Land to expand
  28. Larger office, library and grounds
  29. Only facility that would accommodate high school and their activities

Frazier Mountain High School —Negatives

  1. FMHS track needs to be redone
  2. Renovate outdoor tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts
  3. Needs some "TLC"
  4. Portable toilets on football field
  5. All athletic fields need some help
  6. Roof needs some maintenance
  7. Away from community
  8. Middle school kids too young to be with kids at the high school
  9. Lack of campus security; anyone can walk on
  10. Has grounds in need of repair
  11. No music
  12. No track & field or cross country
  13. No drama or poetry
  14. No electives for imagination
  15. Water supply; well breakdowns
  16. No permanent restrooms at football stadium
  17. Has the ability for extra curricular but closed doors w/o staff or professional community
  18. Limited electives
  19. FMHS earthquake fault
  20. Outdoor basketball and tennis courts at high school not used or functional
  21. Technology and software at high school outdated
  22. Curriculum, course of studies outdated
  23. Not enough books in library
  24. Hot water not turned on at high school in bathrooms or locker rooms; kids not able to shower after sports or wash hands with warm water
  25. Students and teachers have to go from building to building on stairs in rain and snow
  26. Not utilizing all assets and community… should be offering more
  27. High school has many ways to separate junior high and high school students
  28. Only 1 security officer on campus
  29. No one trained and available to operate technology
  30. If there is no high school, there will be no kids, parents will take them off the hil
  31. Isolated and hard to get to
  32. Cement stairs [to classrooms]- hazard of slipping in snow
  33. Mold in ceilings
  34. Needs a new roof for snow runoff
  35. When high school opened they had a grant writer. They got rid of that position when FMHS stopped extras
  36. Need grant writers for the extra curriculum needs
  37. Science labs not operational

Continued Next Week
Next week: Visions for the future of ETUSD schools.

This is part of the August 31, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.