Ken Leighton 5:45 p.m., July 27
San Diego Unified's Efforts to Secure Administration Building
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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