The Berkeley Board of Education welcomed Javetta Robinson as the school district’s new deputy superintendent-chief financial officer at their first meeting after summer break Wednesday.
Robinson, who most recently served as chief financial officer for the Oakland Unified School District, replaced outgoing deputy Eric D. Smith, who helped the Berkeley Unified School District attain greater financial stability and a balanced budget.
District superintendent Michele Lawrence informed the board that Smith was leaving to return to his family in Southern California, from where he had been commuting the last two years.
“We are in a stronger position than we were before and there are many challenges ahead, but I am sure we are going to have a great year,” said school board president Joaquin Rivera.
Robinson brings ten years of public education experience to Berkeley. She started her career as an internal Auditor for Sacramento Unified and then went on to spend two years at Compton Unified in Southern California as the chief business officer.
“Since Ms. Robinson’s path has crossed mine more than once in our careers, I was able to call on a few administrators whose judgment I know and trust and they gave her the highest recommendations,” Lawrence said in a statement. “Combined with what I’ve seen of her work in Berkeley I am confident in her abilities and the contribution she can provide to Berkeley.”
The board approved a fee that would allow community groups to use the Berkeley High School East Campus field once it opens in September.
Although the board approved the decision to look at an alternate “Curvy Derby” option for the field earlier this year, BHS and B-Tech students would be able to use it as an athletic field once it opens next month.
If the board decides to implement the Curvy Derby plan, the current field will be replaced with a regulation-sized baseball diamond which would coexist with an open Derby Street.
Since no rental rates exist for East Campus, district staff looked at fee schedules charged by the University of California and the City of Berkeley in order to establish the school district’s recommended fee.
The hourly rates for the city fall between $15 and $35 while those for UC range from $40 to $200 per hour.
BHS rents out its turf at between $36 (direct) and $102 (market) per hour. Based on this comparative data, the board approved a direct rate of $35 per hour and a market rate of $90 per hour.
Lew Jones, facilities director for the district, explained that the direct rate pertained to youth and religious groups while the market rate was for everybody else.
Board member Karen Hemphill questioned whether the community would be free to use the field during non-school hours.
“I would hate to see the field sitting there and the community not being able to use it,” she said. “If I lived in the neighborhood and wanted to play frisbee there, will I be able to do that?”
“The casual Frisbee player does not cause as much of a problem,” said Lawrence. “But organized groups would get this charge ... This is a new field and we have to have new dollars to take care of it. We have to make sure that the glass is removed and the dog feces cleared up. Somebody has to be hired to mow the lawn and clean it up. We need additional custodians to take care of that. The field has to be ready on Monday morning or the next time the athletic team wants to use it. And the money for that has to come from somewhere.”
Hemphill stated that recreational facilities for the youth in South Berkeley was important, especially since the neighborhood lacked in them.
Hillside surplus property
The board approved the issuance of an RFP to hire a real estate consultant to study the Hillside Surplus Committee report before they marketed the property.
The property—which is 2.85 acres—has a split-level three-story wood frame building and a portable building. Designed by Walter Ratcliff and built in 1926, the main building of the Hillside property has been designated a city and state landmark.
Hillside has housed BUSD students in the past. It can no longer do so because a trace of the Hayward Fault is located under the main building.
According to the staff report, it could take up to two years to dispose of the property.
“I cannot wait two years,” said school board member Shirley Issel. “This property is rotting. I have a problem with the timeline.”
Board president Joaquin Rivera directed staff to look at ways to revise the current timeline to make the process move faster.