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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Superintendent Hammond Says He Doesn't Want to Close Emerson

After over a hundred people spoke on Monday night at a jam packed Emerson Junior High Multipurpose Room. After the Superintendent and Bruce Colby painstakingly pointed out that that the cuts were real, the crisis was real, changes had to be made. After one by one, the Superintendent and Bruce Colby dispelled notions that they had emergency reserves. After one by one, they discredited any of the possible remedies offered up by the public and school board member alike. After they pointed out that even a new parcel tax would benefit the budget only in 2009.

After all of that school board member Susan Lovenberg asked a very simple but key question of the Superintendent, I've heard what we cannot do, what will your recommendation be?

After all of that, the Superintendent before a dwindling audience got up and said, he did not want to close Emerson. He would recommend against it. The remaining audience roared in delight.

Board Member Tim Taylor then said that he needed to see how they were going to make this work fiscally on Thursday night.

Let us step back a second. Back in January, Superintendent James Hammond worked long and hard with the Valley Oak petitioners in an attempt to get the Valley Oak Charter School approved. But he could not convince his board to take a leap of faith.

I met with him a few days after that meeting and he was as genuine as could be. The only thing he regretted was that he didn't have a few more days to convince the board to take a chance on the Charter School. He believed in it. He was truly remorseful that he was unable to convince the board about it.

I had always liked James Hammond, on that day, I recognized however that Hammond was a man of compassion and principle. So I believe him when he says he does not want to close Emerson Junior High. I guarantee you he believes that and I guarantee you he will find a way to make the numbers work.

The difference between the 4-1 to reject the Valley Oak Charter Petition and a possible vote to keep Emerson over is that it seems that Richard Harris and Susan Lovenburg support keeping Emerson open. Whether they get a third vote is another question. Richard Harris seems to believe it however, he apparently was telling parents not to worry, they would not close Emerson. I am not certain how he could know that for certain given Brown Act restrictions, but at the same time, I may also believe him.

On the other hand, they are going to have to find another $400,000. This is not a situation they can exactly play around with. If they do not get it right, if they do not cut enough, the County will take over the district. This was a point made over and over again last night.

I am all for creative solutions, I am all for keeping Emerson open, and I believe in Superintendent James Hammond, I just want to see the numbers. I am with Tim Taylor, show me how the numbers work and I am all for it. I am all for making it work. Hopefully come Thursday night, we will all believe.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting