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City, CUSD team up in joint strategic plan
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City and school district officials have expressed a desire to work more closely together to the advantage of both organizations and taxpayers.

The Ceres City Council and Ceres School Board met at a special meeting on Feb. 26 and talked about ways to fulfill a joint mission statement: "In a partnership with our citizens, together, we will achieve a safe, livable and vibrant community."

Mission expectations, outlined by the joint gathering, include having an educated citizenry, an engaged community, academic excellence for students, greater community access to technology and an interest in economic development.

Mayor Anthony Cannella said he wanted to get the city involved in a collaboration in response to the gang problem in Ceres, thinking there might be something the city could do. He and other city officials attended a recent League of California Cities conference and were excited to learn about one city's success with an anti-gang program introduced to kids as early as the second grade.

Cannella said the two elected bodies want to see a comprehensive gang program to educate students on the dangers of gangs. The two agencies also would like to see formation of an after-school loitering prevention program.

"We don't have a (gang awareness) program," said Supt. Walt Hanline of the Ceres Unified School District. "We're going to try to develop and implement it over the next year. Particularly at the junior high level."

Ceres Police will offer assistance in developing curriculum.

Hanline is glad that the progress of the strategic plan will be tracked, such as measuring incidences of gang involvement.

"This is not like a typical strategic plan where everybody comes together and kind of kumbaya's and we put it on the shelf and it's not measured and nothing gets done," said Hanline. "We are interested in a product driven plan. We're going to produce something."

Cannella also said the city and CUSD want to explore maintenance of parks and school grounds on a joint basis.

"We could work together and that basically reduces costs significantly," said Cannella. "We can serve our constituencies better. We all serve the same people."

Cannella said the two agencies have been talking about the concept for years with nothing done.

"We want our respective manager and district superintendent to check into it to see if it's feasible and see if it saves the taxpayers' money," said Cannella.

If the city is going to attract good-paying jobs, Ceres must develop a pool of workers who have the skills to get and maintain jobs the mayor said. He said the city and school district will be talking about making greater progress in workforce development, with an emphasis on manufacturing jobs.

"We need to train our kids to develop good skills," said Cannella. "I think one of the problems with industry today is they don't want to come to the Valley because there's not a trained workforce. They get people who take too much work to get up to speed. So with workforce development the district is doing just that ... we can train our kids to go out and be productive, be valued employees and we can get some good-paying jobs in Ceres."

An added benefit to improving schools will be that more parents will want to move here, too, he said.

The two agencies plan to share lots more information to give each a better picture of Ceres' state of affairs. Reports will be swapped on better ways to share facilities, as well as student status. City officials are also interested in seeing if printing facilities owned by CUSD could result in a savings to city taxpayers. The two agencies also aim to engage in long-term planning for future school and park sites as well as recreational facilities and trails.

The specifics of working together will be worked out on a special "two plus two plus two" committee that consists of Cannella, Councilman Guillermo Ochoa, board trustees Betty Davis and Eric Ingwerson as well as City Manager Brad Kilger and CUSD Superintendent Walt Hanline. The group meets next on April 8.