Conejo District May Return Deans to 3 High Schools

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Citing the need for safe schools, administrators in the Conejo Valley Unified School District are recommending that the position of dean be restored at the district's three high school campuses.

The deans will help enforce campus discipline. The positions were eliminated over the last eight years, along with two other administrative positions at each high school, as tight state budgets cut deep into local school spending.

But now, with enrollment at nearly 5,500 students on the three high school campuses combined and with growing community demand that campuses be free of weapons and drugs, the time has come to revive the positions, administrators said.

"We're just concerned about safety," Supt. Jerry C. Gross said. "I would rather have a little more coverage than end up being sorry later that we didn't bite the bullet and get some extra supervision."

Richard W. Simpson, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the district budget was cut by a total of $9 million to $10 million during the last several years.

"And at the same time, we have a community that is demanding and expecting that we provide safe schools and safe activities," he said.

This school year, state funding was increased by 3.73%.

If adding the positions is approved by trustees at tonight's regular meeting, the deans will be charged with working with student discipline problems, advising student government leaders, supervising extracurricular activities and simply being a visible presence on campus. The deans, who would be hired before June, would have a salary of nearly $52,000 per year.

The district board meeting, to be held at 1400 E. Janss Road, will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

The board, which briefly discussed the proposal in the fall, is expected to support returning deans to Westlake, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park high schools.

While other districts, including those in Simi Valley, Ojai, Camarillo and Oxnard, have police regularly assigned to high school campuses, schools in the Conejo Valley do not.

In the Conejo Valley, sheriff's deputies visit campuses periodically for classes or educational seminars, but are not regularly assigned to patrol schools.

Simpson said the deans would take care of the district's discipline needs and be more versatile than having paid, full-time officers on campus.

"When we have an issue that requires police presence, we've had rapid, efficient response," Simpson said.

Since September, deputies have answered more than two dozen calls at the three high schools, said Patti Dreyer, senior deputy with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. Those figures include calls made from campus for crimes that may have occurred on the way to or from school, Dreyer said.

There were six calls about thefts, vandalism and burglaries at Westlake High, 15 at Thousand Oaks High and three at Newbury Park High. There were two narcotics-related calls at each of the three campuses, and one call each for disturbances at Westlake and Thousand Oaks.

"We don't have school cops," Dreyer said. "But when the school has information that there will be a fight after school, they notify us and we send beat cars."

In Simi Valley, two police officers are assigned full time to work with the two high schools and three intermediate schools. Those officers run a program called GUARD, a curriculum designed to keep students away from gangs.

But Simi Valley Police Lt. Tony Harper said the officers do not amount to campus cops.

"We're not even close to that stage," he said. "But we are staying on top of the gang problem in town."

In the Oxnard Union High School District, there are three assistant principals who help with security issues at the district's three high schools. The Oxnard Police Department provides one youth services officer who is assigned full-time among the three campuses. The cost is shared by the city and school district, said Rafael B. Gonzales, district director of instructional support services.

And for the first two months of any academic year, the Police Department assigns an officer to each high school campus on a daily basis, Gonzales said.

"We want to make sure [students] know that we feel very strongly about having a safe environment," he said. "We want them to start off right."

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