10 More Questions About the SLUSD Health Center

10 more questions to ask about the SLUSD health center in the wake of today's SL Times article.

So the San Leandro Times was kind enough to post a front-page spread detailing the health center a little further (http://ebpublishing.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5247:city-to-loan-money-for-health-clinic-&catid=50:san-leandro-news&Itemid=131). This article has answered some of my questions, and raised others. With that in mind, now I ask:

1) Which Bond is the $500K Coming From?

It's my impression that specific bonds are given for specific reasons. What was this $500K doing sitting idle? Why couldn't this money have been put towards the issues that instigated the necessity for Measures M and L?

2) How Much More Money Does the District Have Laying Around Unused?

It stands to reason that if $500K could be mustered for the superintendent's pet project, there is potentially more waiting in the wings. How much is there, and why don't we know about it?

3) What Happens After Attendance is Improved?

Cathy states that "absentee rates are proven to go down when a district has a clinic", but what happens once the kids are back in the classroom? Standardized test scores continue to languish below the minimum state standards. The Patch is graced with Mr. Heaverl'y regular testimonials as to the extreme, fundamental problems plaguing our schools. So far there are no solutions coming from the district.

4) What's A Milder Word For Fleecing?

The mayor intimated here on the Patch how important he believes the health center to be (http://sanleandro.patch.com/blog_posts/supporting-purchase-of-girls-inc-building-zero-net-energy-building). However, according to City Manager Chris Zapata, this arrangement will be "financially beneficial to the city", stating that the the district will be paying a "higher interest rate than [the money] is earning in the city's bank account for its reserve fund". Though the reserve fund accrues at a paltry percentage lingering below 1, the district will be charged between 1.5-5% over the course of the 15-year loan. Why not just charge the district the same percentage as what it's accruing in the bank account? Mayor Cassidy, who supported Measure L (http://sanleandro.patch.com/articles/measure-l-parcel-tax-advocates-make-case), should know better than anyone that every cent the district can scrape together is indispensable. If the money's just sitting in the reserve otherwise, what's the harm?

5) Doesn't This Still Mean the Health Center is Redundant?

Councilman Michael Gregory pointed out that the students' families still have access to and the choice to use more conventional medical services. Cathy countered by stating that "complicated life circumstances" prevents some from having "proper access" to health care. A vague assertion, and I still ask why a district in a region so richly populated with free medical assistance as the Bay Area needs this facility.

6) Where's the Remaining Funding Coming From?

According to the Times article, "the services would be sustained mostly through insurance reimbursements".  So the rest is being covered by who/what? Will the district be asking our permission to divert any funding intended for classroom purposes towards this endeavor?

7) Will the Facility Even be Able to Handle the Volume?

If the facility will be primarily staffed by volunteers coming from the Alameda County Medical Center, I wonder if the district can even hope to meet the demand it potentially faces. With all the schools in this district, that's a lot of students to serve. However, another thing to consider is...

8) Will There Be Enough Volume? And is This the Right Spot? 

A good chunk of the students who go to SLHS are forced to commute (either on their own or driven by their parents) half-way across the city just to go to school. Why not pick a more centralized location?

9) What Happens if the District Does Default on the Loan?

With the district's budget in a perpetual state of flux, as well as the dependence on grants, insurance reimbursements, and an unknown mystery source, the sustainability of this project is fragile at best. It seems strange to borrow $1.1 million when you've just asked property owners for emergency funds.

10) When Did Health Services Become the Priority?

Cathy and her friends have certainly been busy pulling strings and dancing between raindrops, but why aren't we seeing all this energy and resources being aimed into the classrooms, instead? I find it odd that the district can part the ocean to get a health center but can't wrangle a single cent for teachers and supplies. They tax us extra to keep classes and burn the midnight oil to fulfill personal ambitions.

Well, there's ten more questions, SLUSD.

Still waiting...

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Rob Rich February 10, 2013 at 05:51 PM
The original "20 Questions" only permitted "Yes" or "No" answers, perhaps that's why this blog was cut in two. While I don't pretend to have professional background or skills on this topic that meet or exceed those of artists, writers or gamers, I will take a stab at one of the questions: Redundancy (asked twice). If students access important health services they wouldn't have otherwise accessed in a timely matter, then it will be providing a valuable service. From Massachusetts to Texas to right here in California this is precisely what school based health centers do. http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/community-health/primarycare-healthaccess/school-based-health-centers/ http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/schoolhealth/healctr.shtm#2 http://www.schoolhealthcenters.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/SBHCs_Proven_Impact_Learning.pdf Why they improve access is a good question, worthy of study.
Robert Marrujo February 10, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Between the two blogs, these are not all yes or no questions. I also never asked for anyone's "professional background"; you seem to be confusing what I wrote with what Leah wrote. Regardless, since the district is financially unstable, it's highly questionable whether or not they should be attempting this new venture. Its funding is tenuous and could easily disappear, which would theoretically leave SL taxpayers with the bill.
Robert Marrujo February 10, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Stating that the center will provide a "valuable service" is an overly simplistic rationalization. There are many things the district could do to alleviate the struggles of low income families. Stop charging lab fees for art and science classes, remove fees for sports programs, fund all field trips, provide the entirety of a student's supplies, and many more. Is it realistic to expect those things in a cash-strapped district? No matter how great it would be if they could do those things? Of course not. Funds and resources need to be focused on top priorities, and this health center is not one of them.
Rob Rich February 11, 2013 at 12:38 AM
No Robert, you didn't ask for anyone's professional background, I was merely trying to honor yours. Sorry I conveyed that poorly. Of course various needs must be prioritized. You & I disagree about this one, just like we did on Measure L. At the risk of being "overly simplistic," some of the reasons to support this include: Attends to unmet health care needs by placing health care where the kids are and when they need it. Supports students by providing a safe place to talk about sensitive issues such as depression, family problems, relationships, and substance abuse Supports the school environment by helping children stay in school and by identifying and addressing health problems that may intervene in the learning process Supports families by allowing parents to stay at work while attending to their child’s routine health care needs Saves money by keeping children out of hospitals and emergency rooms Teaches students to be better health care consumers Strengthens the connection between the community and the school http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/schoolhealth/healctr.shtm#2
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 03:48 AM
I never claimed to be a professional. "Attends to unmet health care needs by placing health care where the kids are and when they need it. " Not all the kids in the district will find this convenient, for the reasons I state in the blog above. "Supports students by providing a safe place to talk about sensitive issues such as depression, family problems, relationships, and substance abuse" Noble, though I have already stated that the district does not seem financially able to be prioritizing this over basic classroom necessities that they continuously ask us to support through various measure, bonds, etc. Also, there are a multitude of these resources available to students and families already, right here in the Bay Area. It shouldn't be anymore inconvenient to go to those places than it will be to go to this health center. "Supports the school environment by helping children stay in school and by identifying and addressing health problems that may intervene in the learning process " Cathey states it will improve attendance. I've questioned if that will be enough to improve academic success, as the SLUSD is continuously seeing low test scores and is perpetually unable to financially support its facilities. If the kids are healthy and ready to learn, it will mean nothing if the district isn't ready to properly educate them.
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 04:03 AM
"Supports families by allowing parents to stay at work while attending to their child’s routine health care needs " This is a very odd statement. Without going into the various arguments about parental responsibilities and so forth, this health center by no means promises parents the chance to avoid going with their kid to the doctor. There is wiggle room for what forms of direct care a child is able to receive without parental consent. If the center is claiming to offer dental, mental, and basic traditional health related services, then the parent will need to be present just like for any other doctor's visit. Free doesn't mean above the rules, unless there's some sort of special thing happening because the district is running it. "Saves money by keeping children out of hospitals and emergency rooms" Saves who money? Not the district, and by extension, the taxpayer, particularly given there is a component of the center's funding that has yet to be accounted for. If the children aren't going to this facility they'll be going to any of the numerous others, funded (predominantly) by tax dollars; there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 04:05 AM
"Strengthens the connection between the community and the school " Considering the students in the district should be coming from our community, I should hope that there is already a strong connection without the lure of free health care. But then, when you have rich mommies and daddies scared to intermingle their children with the "scary kids" in the SLUSD and shuttling them off to private schools, all while the district is taking in any and every out of district kid whose parents have the wherewithal to sneak them in, perhaps some community building is in order. Cutting and pasting from something found off a Bing search isn't doing anyone any favors and just shows a refusal to look at our situation, with our kids, and our community, and finding the solutions that will turn things around. The SLUSD needs to take a breath, step back, and refocus on fixing the problems in the classrooms before doing anything else.
Rob Rich February 11, 2013 at 04:48 AM
That's all well and good, it's just that whenever anybody does try to refocus on fixing the problems, you sit back & take potshots from the comforts of your home computer. No doubt the world would be a better place if you were King, but in the meantime, as member a messy Democracy, I await your tangible proposals & your ongoing efforts.
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 05:46 AM
I didn't know that asking legitimate questions was considered "taking potshots". I also didn't know typing something on the Patch was an inappropriate way of voicing my OPINION as someone who is a citizen of San Leandro. Should I perhaps join the city council or school boar before I dare show any signs of dissent? I apologize that I don't have the unlimited resources and time of Rob Rich, but I'm just someone who works eight hours a day and barely has time to say hello to my family before having to go to sleep and repeat the process. "Messy Democracy" shouldn't mean doing something for the sake of doing it, or not taking a long hard look at our own situation before proceeding.
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 05:50 AM
Considering you remember my opposition to Measure L, I would think you'd also remember some of the numerous suggestions I've made as to what I think could help the district. Because I don't entertain people with conveniently selective memories, I'll direct you to go re-read and re-inform yourself before you continue. I will say that focusing on gang prevention, removing out of district kids who have been snuck into the SLUSD, and not passing kids from grade to grade if they're not legitimately ready would be a minute step in the right direction.
SLPatcher February 11, 2013 at 06:17 AM
So what exactly is the problem Rob Rich, you want everyone to just accept this idiotic proposal for a health clinic the school district can't afford to even start, let alone keep going, because you live with your head in the clouds, hoping we can all live in one big, happy utopia? Not gonna happen. God forbid anyone voice their dissent on a project that makes zero sense, right? Let's all just act like sheep and go along with it for the sake of being politically correct, right? How about we start asking questions that make sense, like what this guy Robert has been saying. Like, why is the school district crying poor and begging us on hands and knees to pass measure L, and then turning around a couple of months later and taking out a loan with the city for a project they can't afford to start or run on their own? What happened to all the cries of "We have to cut essential classes!" "Our teachers are underpaid!" "We can't afford supplies!" If they can't afford basic crap, how are they gonna pay back this loan to the city on top of all of the necessities they need to be able to provide? And what is the city doing loaning out money from an emergency fund? Isn't the point of an emergency fund to stay IN THE FUND, in case of an EMERGENCY? Idiots.
Rob Rich February 11, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Please remember that a student health center is not something the District just dreamed up. The Patch reported on it from the joint School Board/City Council meeting in Sept. 2011. While I haven't done "a Bing search" on it, whatever that may be, I have tried to educate myself on the issue & I'm convinced it is a "best practice" that we should adopt. Of course some disagree & prefer that scarce resources be directed toward other goals. Robert has, to his credit, suggested a variety of worthwhile topics. I'm all for asking tough questions & voicing opinions. A next step, in this messy democracy of ours, might be to try to support an issue in a tangible manner to increase the likelihood that it will bear fruit. Unlike the Patch, that may involve some compromise.
Robert Marrujo February 11, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Until the district figures out how to make each campus successful, until there's some money in the bank and they stop coming to SL taxpayers like an ATM machine, and until free health services in the Bay Area become scarce, the health center is a waste of funds and resources. I don't see how "compromise" fits in here, as the district and council's collusion doesn't give San Leandrans any choice one way or the other; they're taking from the reserve fund AND making us pay it back for a center we've thus far had little to no say in. No vote, no say, just open your wallet. "Messy democracy", indeed.
Rob Rich February 11, 2013 at 08:56 PM
You're right, compromise is pretty much only needed when you are trying to work with others to create something positive. Critics needn't be bothered with it. In any case, we have a fundamental disagreement because I think the district can and should work on multiple fronts simultaneously. Suicide, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse, to name a few, won't necessarily wait until district-wide test scores have reached some undefined threshold.
SLPatcher February 12, 2013 at 01:24 AM
That's funny, and who is the school district and the city trying to work with to "create something positive" Rob, because it surely wasn't us, the taxpayers, who had little to no say in this project to begin with. And what I find hilarious is that you can't address the simple questions posed regarding this clinic, namely, what is the city doing loaning out emergency funds to a supposedly broke school district that CANNOT pay for basics, like supplies and keeping classes from being cut, without crying for yet another parcel tax? What sort of message does it send, when the school district cries poor one minute, and then goes and takes out a loan with the city the next, with illusions of grandeur for a project they can't even start on their own, let alone be able to continue to fund in the future? It's not at all unrealistic to assume that once this clinic opens, at some point in the near future the SLUSD is going to come with their hands out asking for yet another parcel tax to be passed in order to help pay for something they knew they couldn't afford on their own. But we're all just supposed to hold hands and sing the praises of this oh-so-wonderful project without asking any questions, right Rob? We should all turn a blind eye to the glaring issues and pretend everything is a-ok, all for the sake of the children, right?
Rob Rich February 12, 2013 at 02:00 AM
"SLPatcher," as noted above, asking questions is important, though asking them on the Patch seems like a funny way to seek responses from the District or Council. Here's an idea! If you have questions for them, why not ask them yourself? Finally, in response to your question, no, I don't really see us holding hands or singing together. Sorry.
SLPatcher February 12, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Thanks for the non-response Rob, it proves that you can't deny the idiocy of the supposed rationale behind this clinic, nor the lack of wisdom or foresight demonstrated by both the city and the SLUSD. You can go back to dreaming of your non-existant utopian fantasyland and expecting everyone to be ok with footing the bill for someone else's poor decision making.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 04:02 AM
You are still showing signs of confusion. There is no compromise taking place, because at this point there is no foundation for one. I've asked twenty questions that are necessary for me and any other reasonable taxpayer to make an analysis from which to build a compromise, if one exists. Do you think compromise is when one person asks you for something that you know nothing about and have no option to say anything but yes? That's called a demand. Given that the questions I've asked are reasonable and help clarify some of the mystery surrounding the center, exactly how do you propose moving forward without this necessary information?
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 04:10 AM
Who said the district can't work on multiple fronts? I've simply suggested that this particular front is financially unfeasible for multiple reasons you have ignored/refuse to acknowledge. "Suicide, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse, to name a few, won't necessarily wait until district-wide test scores have reached some undefined threshold." Are you also denying that there are not multiple, free resources available to teens and parents across the Bay Area that help to fight these issues every day? Are you aware of the various resources that the SLUSD website links to for students that covers these various topics? Do you know anything other than you'd like to do something "nice", regardless of reality?
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 04:16 AM
Think about this for a minute; the people you claim to want to help with the health center are those who literally work two jobs and can barely survive from paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they can't afford to take a bus to and from city hall a couple times a month because they don't have the cash or the time. But they decide, here, on the Patch, to ask questions or keep up to date with the community. Would you be grandstanding to them because they can't be like Rob Rich and give an encouraging wink to the mayor or a great, big thumbs up to Cindy Cathey in person? What does the Patch exist for, then? "Messy democracy" means that the conversation can happen anytime, anywhere, especially for those without the ability to be in person for every meeting the city or district has.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Really, at this point I don't know how to break this down more for you. Doing nice things is great. I think if the district bought pets for every student to have at home, the soothing warmth domesticated animals can provide might help them sleep better. I think that there should be a full-fledged employment resources center at the high school that systematically sets up graduates with legitimate career opportunities immediately following high school if they aren't going to attend four year universities or trade schools. I think that an ice cream machine in every hall would keep student and teacher morale really high. But before any of that? Teachers, councilors, passing test scores, and money in the bank. You're putting the cart before the horse, and acting indignant about it because, gee, wouldn't it be swell even though it doesn't make sense? Ridiculous.
Rob Rich February 12, 2013 at 04:35 AM
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I wholeheartedly deny your mischaracterizations. What I can't deny is your outrage. When some people have questions they feel strongly about, they do some research.
Rob Rich February 12, 2013 at 05:03 AM
Robert, I agree the Patch offers tremendous opportunities for "the conversation [to] happen anytime, anywhere, especially for those without the ability to be in person for every meeting the city or district has." What I disagree with is evinced by your ice cream machine analogy. I think you belittle the value of access to health care that this program promotes.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 05:35 AM
I used the ice cream analogy to mock the simplicity of your thinking and your inability/refusal to grasp that just because something would have value to the district, that doesn't mean it's affordable/feasible given the current financial state of the district. You continue to ignore this point because you have no defense for it. I also keep telling you free healthcare is readily available in the Bay Area. You continue to ignore this point because it's glaringly inconvenient for your argument.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 05:39 AM
I didn't know someone needed to do research to ask where the reamining funding will come from. Or why the district is focusing on this and not improving the situation in the classrooms, first. Or why the city is lending money from an emergency fund and then having the audacity to try to make some profit off of an entity with no expendable assets. The more you ignore the points I'm making the more ridiculous you make yourself look. Do you actually care about this issue? Are you understanding what I'm typing? Are you reading what I'm typing? I'm reading what you type and countering it with logic; what are you doing?
David February 12, 2013 at 12:33 PM
We have S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program), we have Medi-Cal, we have "free" clinics, and of course if SL is somewhere near the national average, we have 92% of US citizen residents with health insurance of some sort or another. Can we say 92% of SLHS students graduate?
Rob Rich February 12, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Robert, you're right. I never pretended to answer all of your questions. I took a stab at your claims of "Redundancy," attempting to demonstrate the value of a school-based health clinic. To the extent you are seeking a fair & open financial accounting, I'm with you. The process of school financing is exceedingly opaque, and your efforts to shine light on this corner of that puzzle are helpful. I also acknowledge that there are other health care venues that teens can access. Where we part ways is the assumption that because there are other facilities, therefore access is adequate under the circumstances. I find the body of work on the topic pretty compelling that school-based health centers significantly increase teen access to health care, including mental health, substance abuse, & reproductive health services. In light of our challenges, you urge the district to focus on the the basics. Perhaps you will let us know when it is OK to start incorporating best practices? No, I haven't found that part of your argument persuasive. Not even when you mock the simplicity of my thinking with tales of free puppy dogs.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Still nothing to say about the fact that the district can't afford it, has no viable means to make it work long-term, or any sort of rationale as to why it should take precedent over the basic needs that the district has yet to fulfill? Yeah, didn't think so. Also not sure how access is inadequate at this point (considering we're talking free health care in Bay Area). Still avoiding, still not reasoning; why are you even bothering to type if you're not going to do either? Do you think I'm not going to notice? One more try, then I'm just going to ignore you.
Robert Marrujo February 12, 2013 at 05:01 PM
The key problem is you're insisting on the value of the center but not acknowledging or understanding how that alone doesn't make it worth undertaking. Unless you think teachers and books should play second fiddle? The reason being because the basic necessities of the school district have to come first. That's your only clue, so try really hard this time.
Robert Marrujo February 13, 2013 at 07:34 AM
Haha, well, I guess that doesn't matter so long as we do "nice things" and damn the consequences /reality/etc. Pretty sad, isn't it?


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