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Measure U backed by classified employees
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Members of the Ceres chapter of Classified School Employees Association (CSEA) have voted to support Measure U.

The CSEA executive board members, by a unanimous vote, had previously recommended suppprt for the measure.

The majority of those who attended the meeting agreed that the main selling point of Measure U is the vocational program upgrades that would provide students who won't attend college the training that will lead to obtaining a career with a suitable life wage. Some members stated they wished the program had been in place to benefit their children who have graduated from Ceres High School.

Sharon Lemons, an official with CSEA, said she became sold on Measure U when Jay Simmonds, firector of Educational Options for CUSD, shared that gang-related activities has dramatically decreased at Ceres High School since the opening of a second high school that eased overcrowding.

"It is paramount we provide a safe environment for our students," said Lemons. "Our elementary after-school programs service an estimated 2006 students every afternoon and we need the increased space Measure U will provide."

CSEA president Craig Barnhart addressed concerns of some members who talked about the timing of the measure in an economy that has many worried.

"We understand the difficult economic times have had a tremendous impact on our classified employees who are at the bottom of the pay scale ... however, CSEA believes in and supports what is in the best interest of the students."

He stated that if Measure U passes, the resulting expansion will definitely have an impact on members' already significant workload, but Measure U is a win-win situation for our students."

If approved, Measure U would allow CUSD to issue $60 million in bonds to upgrade all Ceres schools and designate $25 million for a third junior high school. Matching funds from the state would also be provided to help pay for the upgrades.

The measure would place an assessment of up to $60 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation annually for 30 years. Property owners within CUSD already pay $30 per $100,000 for Measure J, passed in 2001 for construction of Central Valley High School. If the new bond measure passes, a property with an assessed valuation of $200,000 would be assessed by another $120 per year.

The measure would allow all five recently built schools - Sinclear, Berryhill, La Rosa, Adkison, and Hidahl - to receive a library/computer lab/ classroom complex. The feature wasn't built originally because CUSD didn't have enough money.

Measure U would also allow CUSD to replace aging portable classrooms and upgrade bathroom facilities at the older schools.

CUSD officials will be concentrating on two aspects of Measure U: improving vocational education at Ceres High School and adding a third junior high schools to avoid overcrowding.

A big chunk of the bond funds would pay for $25 million of a $30 million junior high school somewhere on the east side of Ceres. A new school would allow the existing two junior schools to stay at a manageable side. CUSD would like to open a third junior high in August 2011 or 2012.

CHS would also receive a $3.8 million 8-classroom wing and replacement of portables. The interior of the small gym and the Doghouse structures would be rehabilitated.

Measure U would also help pay for a $10.5 million 16-classroom wing at Central Valley High School. CUSD aims to have the new wing completed for the 2010 school year. The new building will house 400 students.

Most of the schools would see a replacement of older portable classrooms with more permanent modular classrooms. Hanline said that the modular classrooms would look like permanent buildings and set on concrete pads and have a life of 80 to 100 years.

CUSD officials remain optimistic that the measure will pass despite the economic condition of the Valley. Two independent phone surveys taken in July indicated that support if Measure U is about 58 percent. It needs 55 percent to pass.

The Ceres Citizens for Measure U Committee is seeking volunteers for its citywide precinct walk scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18. The campaign is also planning a get out the vote efforts for election day and the weekend before election day. Those interested in volunteering are urged to contact the campaign office at 484-6432.