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Faced with a projected $122 million deficit for next fiscal year, spending is not all that San Diego Unified is tightening. The district is also tightening security at the Education Center in Normal Heights.

Since September, the district, under the direction of superintendent Bill Kowba, has been installing cameras throughout the campus as well as installing a key-card system on entry doors. And because doors will be closed throughout the day, San Diego Unified is also placing new ceiling fans inside the buildings for better ventilation.

The cost to boost security at the education center is estimated between $450,000 and $500,000 for the entire project, with some of that money paying for disability "accommodation." Funding is from two federal grants and the rest from Prop MM funds and the State Schools Utility Fund (SSFF). Contractors will be brought in to install some of the fans, says San Diego Unified's deputy superintendent of business Phil Stover.

And yet this occurs as the school district looks to sell off some excess properties, including the education center. In a study from Jones Lang LaSalle, the center was one of 27 properties that may be sold as a way to generate revenue.

But developing the site could take years to happen, if ever, says Stover. Now, the most important thing, he says, is to protect employees and boardmembers.

"Our employees do not feel safe. That is the bottom line," wrote Stover in a May 17 email. "We have had physical altercations with intruders in the building and average one criminal type activity here a month. Unfortunately, in this day and age we need to protect our board and our superintendent at board meetings. All of our employees deserve to be able to work in a safe place.

Stover says that the money could not be used elsewhere, like to help fill the massive budget gap. "No operational dollars have been used to accomplish this. We have not used any money we could use to pay down our deficit or employ teachers.

"We have had support for this project on all fronts. The unions were all queried prior to beginning. The police have been engaged, risk management is represented and we vetted it through the Ed Center employee building committee. The board has been trained and informed at each step. Our goal was to improve our employee's security at a reasonable cost and in an unobtrusive manner that didn't turn our building into a fortress. In this day and age it is almost impossible just to walk into any governmental building and roam around at will. We are trying to resolve this issue without going too far."

In each email, Stover stressed the fact that no operating funds were used and that none of the funding "could cure layoffs" in the future.

An earlier article misstated the total cost of the project at $710,000. That was the total amount spent to secure several buildings throughout the district, not only the Education Center.

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 May 22, 2012 @ 1:07 p.m.

"Our employees do not feel safe. That is the bottom line," wrote Stover in a May 17 email. "We have had physical altercations with intruders in the building and average one criminal type activity here a month.

Please name one, JUST ONE incident where an "intruder" hurt somone, or an employee was injured over a lack of security.

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monaghan May 22, 2012 @ 9:30 p.m.

What an appalling expensive unnecessary project. The tone-deaf School District is verging on insolvency and proposing to sell off irreplaceable school properties at fire-sale prices and yet honchos take it upon themselves to spend on "security" for 4100 Normal Street, a headquarters filled, not with children, but bureaucrats?

This is the kind of rumor-becomes-fact that keeps the SDEA teachers union adamant about making any further salary concessions to the District and makes parents despair over the District's essential honesty about any published budget. It also send a terrible message to the community about openness and accessibility of the education establishment: lower the portcullis!

I know people who worked at that building during more turbulent times than these when even hyper-militant (and very controversial) Superintendent Alan Bersin didn't dare propose such an idea. Obviously, this is made possible by the astronomical increase in federal funding for "homeland security" paranoia and, since the money's offered, why not spend it? Maybe the School District "campus" over in peaceful University Heights will also get its own "eye-in-the-sky" Predator drone.

Meanwhile, let's find out who on the elected Board of Education voted for this project and which contractors cashed in on this outrageous boondoggle. Surely buttoning down the Education Center with cameras and badges and locked doors is the biggest "criminal" act among all those fictions cited by Business Superintendent Phil Stover.

Well done, Dorian Hargrove.

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