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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Hard choices, good choices?

Dear Editor:

I am responding to the recent posting by Bruce
Harter, Superintendent of the West Contra Costa
Unified School District, "Hard Choices."

I conjoin my posting with the recent letter sent
to the residents of El Cerrito by Superintendent
Harter, regarding the Portola relocation.

In the letter sent to the residents of El Cerrito,
Superintendent Harter says, "...While the school
(referring to Portola) is a safe place for students to
be right now, the California Department of Education
will not approve a renovation of the current building
nor allow the district to construct a new school on
the current site."

A year or so ago the State did a soils study at
Portola and found that it is a slide area which would
cause the building to slide downhill and collapse. In
effect they condemned the school. How is this school
safe right now?

When my son first entered Portola in fall of 2000 I
became aware, due to the efforts of a previous
citizens committee, the District Disaster Planning
Collaborative, that had been constituted by the
District to look at facilities, that Portola had been
designated by that committee as one of the most
seismically dangerous schools in the district, if not
in the state. I joined the Disaster Preparedness
Committee at Portola and we prepared a resolution for
the PTA that was passed, that stated that parents and
teachers warn of an "extreme earquake hazard" at
Portola. An article in the West County Times, on
February 10, 2001 reported that, "...District
Officials and trustees say they are aware of the
potential problem and plan to study the seismic safety
of Portola as early as this summer..."

The study was never done. The reason I am bringing
this up at this time is that there remain 600 people
at Portola. I am sure that many of them don't want to
move and hope that the earthquake won't happen. I too
hoped that the earthquake would not happen during the
two years my son was there. But the statement by
Superintendent Harter that, "...while the school is a
safe place to be right now..." confounds me. I simply
don't know how he can say this. Is he psychic? Does he
know something about earthquakes that the rest of us
don't know?

I do fault the district for not doing proper
planning and performing engineering studies before
they put their plan together for reconstruction. They
did not. I simply cannot accept the excuse that
Superintendent Harter is new and therefore exempt from
accountability. His statement to the residents of El
Cerrito indicates an awareness of the danger. This
problem should have been part of an original planning
process and not part of a crisis management plan. I
realize that the Superintendent was not here back
then, but many others were and I am sure he has been
informed. Hard choices?

Hard choices.... good choices never realized if each
new administrative team can just say the last guy did
it and be exempt from accountability.

Rebecca Hazlewood

El Cerrito

Run dates: 2007-01-07 - 2007-01-21

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