Board approves $154,811 to outfit new spring teams
What might have been a routine action item for School Board trustees – the approval of bids to provide athletic equipment for Sobrato High School – turned into a lively discussion, finally passing on a 6-1 vote.

The purchases would include equipment necessary to field teams for spring sports. Trustees finally voted to approve the purchase from athletic Supply of California for $129,816.25 and Ridell for $24,994.75, for a total of $154,811.

Trustee Peter Mandel voted no during last week’s board meeting.

“What would you do if you had half of this budget,” Mandel asked Sobrato Principal Rich Knapp.

“We’d have to drop sports,” Knapp replied.

Mandel cited the financial state of the district, the possibility that there might have to be more budget cuts, when he told Knapp that in the business world, managers are frequently told to “scrub” their budgets.

“If you were told to go back and scrub this, what would you do,” he asked Knapp.

Knapp told trustees the money being spent to equip Sobrato sports was part of the FFE, or furniture, fixtures and equipment budget that comes with building a new school. He said a comparison could not be made to Live Oak High, which has established sport programs and needs replacement equipment, not to stock the entire program. He also cited fund-raising and support of Live Oak’s Athletic Booster Club.

“Live Oak (sports) is funded by the athletic boosters,” he said. “A Sobrato booster club has been formed, but they don’t have $10,000 in their budget this year, and Live Oak has well over $50,000.”

Mandel said the reason he wanted to trim money from Sobrato sports was to redistribute it to other district needs. Trustee Mike Hickey said he could understand what Mandel was trying to do, but it wouldn’t be fair to Sobrato students.

“I had similar concerns and talked to the superintendent about that six or seven months ago’” he said. “If we are specifically singling out Sobrato sports, then we have to go to every school and say, for example, “Okay, you have a $50,000 budget, then you give us an itemized budget and we’ll approve it.’ Are we going to expect the Social Studies department, for example, to bring to us everything they are doing? We can’t single out one organization.”

Mandel said the money in question is bond money, “our most flexible money.”

Trustee Julia Hover-Smoot said Hickey’s examples weren’t applicable in this case.

“The moneys in this case are bond moneys, not money there for individual school plans,” she said. “This is a great area to recapture money that hasn’t been spent.” Trustee Kathy Sullivan disagreed.

“When you are talking about bond money, you have to remember one of our promises to the community was to create two equal schools,” she said. “If you take away money from Sobrato …. you do a disservice to the community as well.”

Mandel replied that the two schools, Live Oak High and Sobrato High, are already unequal.

“One school has definite building problems … but what you’re talking about is destroying programs before they’re even started,” Sullivan said.

Knapp jumped into the discussion, telling trustees he and his staff had worked to cut corners as much as possible.

“I think there’s some misconception that we didn’t think a lot about this’” he said. “For example, chairs … A comparable chair in Live Oak’s office priced out $210 for the same chair. We made a decision that that was too much money and took the library chair instead, at $70 per chair and did that throughout the school.”

Hickey said other new schools have much higher FFE budgets.

“I remember the original FFE, everybody kind of laughed and said no way you could actually do it,” he said. “Everyone said it would cost $7 million or $8 million. Other schools are spending considerably more.”

Knapp agreed.

“Evergreen Valley (high school) had an $11 million FFE budget,” he said. “Ours started at $5 million, was reduced and then reduced again to $3.6 million by my staff and I … Peter, I think you raised good issues. I’ll go back and do it again, try to get it down more; I’ve done it twice already … The hardest compromise I made was in the library, where I went from $250,000 to $150,000. We’ve made compromise after compromise after compromise to stay close to the number I was given.”

Marilyn Dubil covers education and law enforcement for The Times. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or phoning (408) 779-4106.

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