Monday, April 22, 2013

Fire set deliberately does $300,000 damage to computer lab building at Rice Elementary School

A more serious fire in the 1990s destroyed an entire wing of classrooms at another school in Chula Vista Elementary School District, Castle Park Elementary.

Temporary fixes sought in wake of suspected arson
By Caroline Dipping
April 25, 2013 Updated

Computers destroyed at Rice Elementary

For students and staff at Lilian J. Rice Elementary, despite a fire that destroyed the school’s computer lab and damaged the adjacent library over the weekend, school was in session Monday, but students did not have access to the library or computer lab, which share a wall in the same building, nor will they for the foreseeable future. A preliminary estimate of the structural damage was $300,000, and more than 30 computers were destroyed, said Anthony Millican, spokesman for the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

“There is concern about upcoming online testing of students in grades 3-6,” Millican said, referring to standardized state testing that takes place next month. “That is one of our biggest potential impacts, which may be addressed by obtaining mobile carts of computers for student use.”

Telephones were working Monday, but Internet service was down throughout a significant part of the campus, Millican added. Staff reverted to old-school communications, making paper copies of documents and lessons and being team oriented, he said.

“I think parents, students, and staff recognize how difficult it is to get this kind of equipment to begin with, let alone seeing rows of computers completely damaged,” said Rice Principal Ernesto Villanueva. “The building is cordoned off with yellow caution tape.”

The fire occurred about 8 a.m. Sunday at the school on L Street near Fourth Avenue and is believed to have been deliberate, according to Chula Vista police. The blaze was put out within 15 minutes. No one was injured.

Rebuilding the computer lab may be synchronized with a future face-lift of the campus that will be funded through Proposition E, a $90 million bond approved by Chula Vista voters in November. Whether it will be restored to its original look and utility has yet to be determined.

One of the oldest schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, Rice Elementary was built in 1938 and modernized in 1996. It has more than 700 kindergarten through sixth grade students. The campus is also home to Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschool for children affected by family violence, and a new family health center that provides the community with affordable health care.

Fire Damages Chula Vista Elementary School
The fire did $300,000 in damage to the computer lab, according to officials
By Christina London
NBC News
Apr 22, 2013

The fire started in the computer lab at Rice Elementary on Fourth Ave. in Chula Vista.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire at an elementary school in Chula Vista.

Crews were called to Lilian J. Rice Elementary School around 8 a.m. Sunday. No one was injured.

According to the Chula Vista Elementary School District public information office, the fire was mostly contained to the computer lab. The estimate for structural damage alone is $300,000.v Classes took place Monday as usual. Students weren’t able to use the computer lab or library, which shares a wall with the lab.

District officials have promised to rebuild the lab.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

What to do if the public might not approve spending for new offices for Ed Brand? Call in Plan Nine Partners

See all Ed Brand posts.

Dear Ed Brand: If you're afraid the public wouldn't approve spending tax dollars on new offices for district administrators, maybe you should just stick with what you can afford.

Latest plans for ill-fated L Street land deal
Who can say no to soccer?
By Susan Luzzaro
April 9, 2013

During public comment at the March Sweetwater Union High School board meeting, Jacqueline King, a resident of Chula Vista who has worked in real estate development for 36 years, addressed the trustees regarding the district’s quirky surplus property deal on L Street.

King asserted that the district has “an abominable record of managing property” and regarding L Street transactions, “the layers of ownership and the crazy financial deals that you [Sweetwater] put together…are being looked at not only by the state but by the federal government as well.”

In 2004-05 the Sweetwater school district, with superintendent Ed Brand at the helm, concocted a complex real estate scheme to purchase property on L Street in Chula Vista—ostensibly to build a new district office and corporate/bus yard.

On February 1 2005 the loan agreement for L Street was signed. The property was purchased for $25,415, 000 in variable bonds, with another $8,235,000 in variable bonds to finance the payments and interest for subsequent years. But the name on the loan documents is not Sweetwater Union High School District, rather Plan Nine Partners LLC. (The property is now said to be worth $12 million.)

On the same day, February 1, 2005 the district signed a lease agreement to lease back the property from Plan Nine.

In 2004, in anticipation of the land acquisition deal, the district tied several pieces of surplus property (Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Moss Street) to the ill-fated L Street property in a land exchange agreement signed by Ed Brand and Marc Litchman of Plan Nine Partners LLC/California Trust for Public Land.

Regarding these elaborate transactions, one source suggested the point was to circumvent the education code and public participation: “The district could have gone by the high road — they picked the low road.”

The high road — or what normal California school districts do, is dispose of surplus properties (like L Street in Chula Vista or Third Avenue) in accordance with California Education Code (Section 17388), often referred to as the 7-11 plan.

This means that an advisory committee of no fewer than 7 and no more than 11 parents, students, and members of the business community meet and decide the best use of the district property and take their recommendations to the trustees.

In a recent interview, Litchman of Plan Nine Partners/California Trust gave his interpretation of the logic behind this byzantine deal-making.

Litchman said that initially, in 2004-2005, the district wanted to develop district headquarters on L Street. However, district offices cannot be built with school bond construction money.

So the idea was to develop condos or apartments on some of the district’s surplus land and use the capital generated to build district headquarters on L Street.

The district, according to Litchman, brought him into the deal because they wished to avoid the 7-11 education code process which would have made the district’s surplus property available for other public entities to purchase. Litchman also said the process is lengthy and expensive...

Rick Werlin, Libia Gil and Francisco Escobedo are still pals; the culture of silence continues at CVESD

See all Francisco Escobedo posts.

An open letter to Pam, Larry, Rick, Libby, and Francisco:

Pamela B. Smith
Larry Cunningham
Francisco Escobedo
Rick Werlin
Libia Gil

Congratulations to board members Pamela B. Smith and Larry Cunningham. You have done an excellent job of socializing new board recruits into CVESD's culture of silence. It seems Chula Vista Elementary School District maintains many of the policies of administrators Libia Gil and Rick Werlin all these years after they left under cloudy circumstances.

I found this on Rick Werlin's Facebook page:

Rick Werlin recently got me thinking about CVESD's culture of silence when I noticed the above image on Rick Werlin's Facebook page. It says, "Everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack."

I have a sneaking suspicion that Rick Werlin's pals helped him haul all his baggage up to the attic, and now Rick tries not to think about all that stuff mouldering away just above his head.

Here's the problem, educators.

Even with a pal like new superintendent Francisco Escobedo, whom you can trust to maintain your system of secrecy, your issues aren't resolved.

In fact, even with your pal Daniel Shinoff using the taxpayer-funded courts in his five-year effort to shut down my website, your issues still aren't resolved. (That pesky Constitution is the problem. You thought being VIP educators trumped the Constitution, didn't you? Sorry, that only works within your school district.)

I would suggest that all of you unpack that baggage again in the context of a truth and reconciliation meeting.

Yours truly,
Maura Larkins