David Vanderveen’s column of last week (“Tennis Courts and House Parties”) prompts my airing of a similarly sad tale of the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s (i.e., the board’s) often close-minded and hypocritical approach to certain student and parent constituencies. It too is a tale of big money, bad management, and a lack of the very respect and responsibility, which the LBUSD demands of the client base it is supposed to serve.
One would think that the minimum standards of safety and the optimal standard of high-quality facilities for the best of competition would be consistent goals that the LBUSD would strive for throughout its campuses. But like the tennis courts, safety and maintenance at certain playing fields have been ignored and mismanaged, even after hundreds of thousands of our school tax dollars have been spent on them.
In 2009, parent pleadings finally resulted in a “respectable” varsity softball field on school grounds being built at Thurston, and to the tune of a reputed $150,000. This was due to the dilapidated, unplayable condition and (even more) peripheral location of the (former varsity, now JV) field at El Morro (no wonder the softball program had died!). While partly enabling the recent resurgence of LBHS softball over the last two years, the Thurston field has been neglected by LBUSD Facilities, is unsafe, and is in decline due to the lack of an installed watering system and of any basic routine maintenance policy. After-the-fact irrigation projects were supposedly undertaken by Facilities to correct the problem, but the pipes remain unconnected due to faulty management of the original design and installation, resulting in greater and greater costs. Despite the A.D.’s repeated statements to correct the situation, the dirt infield is dry, cracked and hard, continuing the unsafe playing conditions. Field conditions at ELM are even worse, and the lack of properly caged dug-outs for players’ protection there represent an even greater health and safety threat.
Kids see right through this; they know when adults – whether teachers or out-of-town parents – don’t treat their property with responsibility and respect. That is the case with the softball fields. It seems even worse when considering the LBUSD funds that are likely available to address these conditions with simple solutions to preserve the Thurston investment. Softball parents have spent thousands of their own dollars to help maintain the fields, and parents and coaches have complained in writing for years of unsafe playing conditions, but to no avail.
It is shameful that the board, A.D. and Facilities are delivering a clear message of non-responsibility to tennis and softball players and their families, that safety and quality doesn’t matter, and that pride in, respect for and care for all of our shared, important facilities is only on their terms.
Rick Putnam, Laguna Beach