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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Friday, February 16, 2007

JT: Tax Hike Needed For Security

Cross-posted at Texas Hold 'Em Blogger.

I just knew this was coming. I’ll bet you did, too.

The Racine Journal Times has a Debatable topic today asking if Racine Unified needed to boost security in its schools in wake of the sexual assault of a six-year-old boy at Red Apple School and should yet another tax hike referendum be scheduled to obtain the money to make the necessary security improvement.

Typically, the online version of this topic has no other information than a question which reads: “What do you think? Should Unified boost security?”

The call for a tax hike referendum is in the print edition:

Following Tuesday’s sexual assault at Red Apple Elementary School, a school security expert noted that modern school buildings are designed to control and monitor who enters schools; older schools, like Unified’s buildings, are not.

But again, updating the design of the distrct’s schools would cost millions of dollars that Unified doesn’t have — unless voters approve a referendum.

Should the Racine Unified School District hold a referendum to heighten security in its buildings?

Hopefully at some point the JT web people will add that information so commenters can make informed comments.

Of course, it still won’t prevent idiots like this:

We have to pony up as the citizen’s of Racine and pay the extra 20 dollars a year on our property tax bills so Unified has the money for security and infrastructure.

Excuse me, but I’ve been “Twenty-dollars a year’d” and “Five dollars a month’d” to death here. Never mind the $1.75 billion bomb that Gov. Jim Milhous Doyleone dropped on state taxpayers this week.

Currently, we spend over $10,000 per pupil for Racine Unified, arguably the worst run school district in the state. While the number of students has decreased since 2000, the amount of spending per student has increased, and the amount of spending per staff member has increased ever faster.

No one can argue that Racine Unified doesn’t have enough money (H/T to Rep. Frank Lasee). In 2004, it received a total of $213,044,315 in combined local, state and federal funding, a 26.13 percent increase over a five-year period.

Perhaps if Racine Unified reduced the amount of money it spent on consultants — usually well-connected cronies of Superintendent Tom Hicks — and halted the renovation of Hicks’s office and made the teachers contribute something to their Rolls Royce health insurance and benefits plan — like people working in the real world have to do — maybe there would be enough money to increase security.

It all comes down to priorities. And Racine Unified continues to prove its priorities lie with taking care of the educrats, administrators and teachers instead of the students. And then run to the taxpayers and scare them into coughing up more money.

Two years ago, they threatened to cut all extracurriculars if the taxpayers didn’t fork over more money. The cost of extracurriculars was $1.25 million; coincidentally (hmmm? ya think?) a group of Hicks’s cronies were paid consulting fees totalling $1.25 million to draw up the ideal classroom, including wall-to-wall carpeting and individual bathrooms. Somehow, they overlooked the valet parking and room service.

In other words, the money for extracurriculars wound up in the pockets of Hicks’s consultant cronies. Most of you with at least room temperature IQ could draw that conclusion. Cut out the wasted consultants and the district could have funded extracurriculars.

How much other waste and graft is in there? How much money is being circumvented into the pockets of consultants who are pals of Hicks and other higher-ups in the district? Heck, they hired two groups of consultants to make recommendations for the way in which the district operates and what does Hicks do? He recommends hiring consultants to study how to implement the recommendations of the consultants.

But the Journal Times started the drumbeat for another referendum today. It also added this article about how the district schools are outdated.

RACINE - It’s hard to know who’s entering and exiting a school building when the main office can’t view the front doorway.

Yet that’s the case for most of Racine Unified’s aging school buildings, some of which date back to the post-Civil War Reconstruction. Red Apple Elementary School, where an intruder sexually assaulted a 6-year-old boy Tuesday, was constructed in 1872, with a major remodeling in 1921.

With main offices in some of Unified’s schools tucked well into the interior of buildings - in some cases placed on a second floor - the school designs reflect times when security wasn’t a concern. Times have changed.

“It poses a huge challenge even when you do have a buzzer entry system,” said Dan Thielen, principal of Gilmore Middle School, who has served as principal at a number of Unified elementary and middle school buildings.

Even in the early 1970s, the construction of Gilmore Middle School - the last completely new building constructed in Unified - didn’t include a main office near the doorway. It’s down a hallway near the building’s center.

Get ready … here comes the push for construction of new schools. It’s subtle, but obvious to the trained observer:

New school construction takes a completely different approach to locating the main office.

“If it’s a new school that we’re working on, we design the main entrance to the building so that it goes through the general office area, so that anyone coming in would have to walk through that area before they could get into the building,” said Dick Johnson, president of Richard L. Johnson Associates Inc., a Rockford, Ill., architectural firm that specializes in elementary, secondary and college facility planning and design.

These designs often incorporate inner doors that lock with the first bell, allowing children inside but then securing the facility from other people entering. The doors still allow people to exit at any time.

“A secure entrance prevents someone from coming in without being checked out,” said Abie Khatchadourian, a partner with the architectural firm Plunkett Raysich Architects and head of the firm’s K-12 division.

Secure entrances have become standard practice in school design.

Additional security measures incorporated into new school design include security card entry and hallways designed for better lines of sight.

The agenda is clear as a bell: build new schools — which now look like this, this or even this — and jack taxes through the roof so the educrats can have even more money to spend.

Giving this inept, incompetent school district run by a collection of nincompoops even more money to spend when they don’t even have a plan to run anything is like providing an alcoholic a case of Jack Daniels.

The little birdies have told Fred at RDW that the suspect entered the building through a service/loading dock area door by custodial staff.

The reasoning is to shift blame away from the district and build public support for more funding of school maintenance.

Just shameful that Racine Unified would try to divert attention away from its own malfeasance and incompetence to try to drum up support for yet another tax hike referendum.

Says Kenneth Trump, a school security expert:

Any type of security technology is only as good as the weakest human link behind it. The first and best line of defense is a well-trained and highly alert staff and student body.

RUSD doesn't care. For them it's all about the money. Divert attention from the district's own incompetence and scare the taxpayers into coughing up more money to be used for consultants and benefits of district employees.