Trustees approved a proposal to build a building that would merge all 450 district support operations employees at the Sheridan location.
By Cynthia M. Herrera
Ralph Velasquez, a founder of the Phoenix Program at St. Philip’s College Southwest Campus, asked the district to remove the barbed wire that surrounds the campus and change its name during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the regular board meeting Tuesday.
The Phoenix Program is a vocational program that trains seniors in the San Antonio Independent School District for careers in commercial transportation, allied construction, manufacturing technology and hospitality.
Students enrolled in the Phoenix Program are from lower-income households, Velasquez said.
He did not suggest a new name for the campus, but he said it should
represent what the campus offers and should be a name students would be proud to say.
He said visiting county judges and administrators from West Texas thought the campus was an alternative school because of the barbed wire at the entrance and the name of the facility.
“Children are supposed to go somewhere confidently, not confining,” Velasquez said.
He said that he wants the barbed wire to be taken down and the campus to have a name that reflects the education it offers.
The website for the Alamo Colleges states that Southwest Campus was established in 1987 and is part of St. Philip’s College as a center for technical training programs.
“Branding is very very important and if you give a good, strong, positive brand to your institutions, you’re going to have success coming out of that,” Velasquez said. “Right now, they don’t want to go to the prison because it looks like a prison.”
He was accompanied by Tom Sandoval, founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
In another citizens-to-be-heard presentation, history Professor Mike Settles questioned how funds being used to rebuild district offices are better serving students.
The Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee on May 12 recommended a proposal that the full board approved at the May 19 meeting to construct a headquarters to house district support operations, or DSO, that would cost $30 million.
The committee selected this option of four presented by John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management.
The other three were to repair and renovate current DSO buildings, which would cost about $46.9 million; purchase the McCullough Tower 2 and its parking lot for $58.9 million; or build on the Playland Park site at 2222. N. Alamo for $67 million. The Playland Park option would consist of four new buildings and a 1,000 space parking garage.
The proposed building at 201 W. Sheridan would merge all 465 employees who work in the current DSO buildings.
According to the presentation, the plan will enhance the community as well as the new San Pedro Creek redevelopment plan that will take place between half a block from the west side of the Sheridan complex.
The webpage for the San Pedro Creek Improvement Plan says it will cost $175 million and is a 2-mile creek, running from Fox Tech High School to the Alazan/Apache Creeks near Interstate 35 and the stockyards.
According to a video on the webpage, the creek was converted into a drainage ditch in 1921 after a flood. San Antonio River Authority and the Bexar County Commissioners Court entered the agreement on Feb 18, 2014.
As of February, the design for the redevelopment plan is 40 percent complete with an anticipated 100 percent completion design and beginning construction by March 2016.
The completion year is anticipated to be 2018 for San Antonio’s 300th year anniversary.
Settles said that to serve the community, that money should go toward students not the administration.
“Our students pay more, they get less while more and more goes to administration,” he said.
During Settles’ five minutes, he distributed excerpts from the district’s 2013-14 comprehensive annual financial report to the board that he said would prove the administration was growing.
Included in the excerpts were also annual reports from universities and colleges in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Settles said he wants the board to investigate the issue and if they need statistical proof to ask him.
“I brought these figures up last time. No one paid a bit of attention,” Settles said. “I saw a few administrators shake their heads, Dr. Leslie bent over and talked to Mr. Zarate, and half laughed as if this was a joke.”
He also said that many programs and services have been removed from the colleges since the chancellor was hired. They include fewer counselors, librarians and work-study students. The college’ health center staff was discontinued.
Before Leslie began as chancellor in 2007, enrollment rose by 41 percent but now is declining Settles said.
In other news, the board approved two new degrees at St. Philip’s College.
One new degree allows students to transition from a licensed vocational nurse to a registered nurse upon completion of the program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
Another degree approved by the board is an associate of arts with concentration in international studies.
The degree is being established as an option for students in partnership with a new early college high school at Brackenridge High School in SAISD.