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News report from massive protest to keep 2 public schools open in Santa Cruz California.

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Kids, parents rally for schools

Kids, parents rally for schools


February 9, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ - They came in Radio Flyers, strollers, atop shoulders
and grasping parents’ hands a legion of children fighting for their
Marching from the city’s west and east sides Saturday, they joined
teachers, city leaders and parents at the Town Clock to rally for
protection of all six elementary schools in the Santa Cruz City Schools
The event, organized by the just-formed “Save All Our Schools”
campaign, was held to protest trustees’ decision to shutter Bay View
and Branciforte elementary schools last week.
The school district is facing a $4.5 million shortfall. In November,
trustees voted to close two schools to save the district $860,000.
The board will reconsider whether school closures are necessary at a
special meeting Tuesday.
At least 500 people turned out to bring together a community torn
asunder in recent days.
“We’re trying to get past all the divisiveness that’s happened in the
past week,” said Ted Altenberg, a rally organizer and Bay View
parent. “We’re about building unity and working with the board to find
Rally speakers stressed the cohesion and strong neighborhood ties
that develop around a school. Breaking that net only hurts children,
speakers said.
“What we want to do when we come to the end of this is say Santa
Cruz rose to the occasion .... and did the right thing for our kids,”
Mayor Emily Reilly told the crowd.
The rally was a multicultural event with each speaker followed by a
Spanish translator and numerous Spanish-language signs such as
“Escuchen la voz de los nińos” listen to the voice of the children.
At some times, the event sounded more like an NPR pledge drive than
a rally as campaign organizers urged participants to give to a fund
that will be handed over to the district to ease cuts. Rallyers
responded, giving more than $32,000. About $100,000 had been
raised before the event.
“Now is your chance to pony up! Now is your chance to double what
you give,” said Bay View parent Glen Schaller.
“To those who much is given, as Robert Kennedy put it many years
ago, much is expected,” said Bay View parent Sheila Coonerty, whose
family pledged $1,000.
Bay View students said school closure has been all the talk among
kids at lunch and recesses, and many have posted signs around the
campus. Fourth-grader Sara Wesmuller worried her little brother, 4,
wouldn’t get to have the kindergarten teacher she did if the trustees’
decision is followed through.
“He really wants her,” Wesmuller said.
Natalie Williams, also in fourth grade, said she and her friends would
miss walking to school every day. The pair, along with friend Naomi
Baxter, said it felt good to join the rally Saturday.
“It feels like we’re doing something,” Wesmuller said.
Felix Robles, a trustee who voted against closing Bay View and
Branciforte, told the crowd to use the rally as a catalyst for positive
“I’m hoping the splintering that is happening in our (city) ... will stop
and bring us together for a cause that is about the future of our
community,” he said.
The special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mission Hill
Junior High.
Contact Jeanene Harlick at jharlick (at)


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