Santa Rosa school board votes not to buy West College Avenue property

Santa Rosa school district officials on Wednesday formally halted their pursuit of a West College Avenue property where they had envisioned starting a charter high school for career and technical education.

Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Socorro Shiels had signaled that decision Friday in a statement, after which board members had also spoken publicly about their intent. So Wednesday’s action was taken without discussion as part of the board’s consent calendar.

On a night when teachers appeared before them to say their schools are in desperate need of funds for repairs, that officially put a stop to the district’s increasingly controversial plan to purchase the property owned by the Sonoma County Water Agency with revenues from a school bond that voters approved last year. The property was to be auctioned for $6.1 million. That proposal had infuriated teachers and parents who repeatedly spoke out against it after it was made public in early November, when the board enthusiastically supported negotiating with the Water Agency to buy the site.

Board members said last week they needed to reverse course because they did not have time to build a consensus to go forward with the plan among community members, including teachers and parents.

On Wednesday, while they thanked the district directors for changing their minds, about a dozen teachers and parents painted a grim picture of school conditions and said relations between the district and teachers needed mending. They were applauded by a full audience of supporters.

Ola King-Clay, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association, played a photographic montage of broken school toilets and collapsing classroom ceilings set to a soundtrack of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” and called for more “openness and transparency.”

Shiels referred only briefly to the controversy, thanking teachers for their input.

“I’m appreciative for the important community conversations that have taken place,” she said, adding that there was a “renewed appreciation for career and technical education.”

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